April 19, 2024

At the onset of the full-scale invasion, Ukraine had only around 1,500 soldiers defending the south against 20,000 invading Russian troops, General Andrii Sokolov, who led the southern defense in 2022, told Ukrainska Pravda on Sept. 18.

“The southern grouping of troops was founded on a rotational basis. That is, some people came to be replaced by other people later,” the former deputy commander of the Southern Operational Command said in an interview.

Namely, the 59th Motorized Brigade counted only 1,300 troops as it was pulled back from the Donbas in December 2021 and was restoring its combat capabilities, the general said.

“The recovery process had not yet been completed when they were assigned to our group… The staffing of this brigade was about 60%.”

Artillery and sapper units were also reportedly incomplete as they were conducting training in other oblasts. The general said he had the 137th Marine Battalion under his command, which was staffed only at around 50% with 250 soldiers, some of whom were conscripts.

According to Sokolov, the defense plans counted on at least two brigades to be deployed in the south in the case of an escalation, or even four, including two Territorial Defense brigades.

However, the general said that in reality, he had received only the incomplete 110th Zaporizhzhia Brigade of the Territorial Defense Forces under his command at the end of the first day of the invasion.

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Explaining the lack of available forces, Sokolov pointed out that other formations were preoccupied by the concentration of Russian forces all the way from Crimea to Belarus. He also noted that some of the units that were meant to be deployed to the south were not yet fully assembled.

When the full-scale war started, the 59th Brigade did not even have enough time to move to the defensive lines while Russian forces invaded with 20,000 troops, possessing 20-25 times more artillery, aircraft, helicopters, and other equipment, Sokolov said.

Russia captured Kherson and much of the adjacent oblast during the first weeks of the full-scale war, making it the first and only regional center Moscow conquered since Feb. 24, 2022.

Ukraine retook Kherson and the right bank of Kherson Oblast during a counteroffensive last fall.

According to Ukrainska Pravda’s sources, the State Bureau of Investigation and the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) are investigating the steps of the military that led to Ukraine’s defeat in the south in the spring of 2022.

Read also: How Russia’s humiliating defeat in Kherson came to be

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