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Oleksii Arestovich, the military adviser to the President of Ukraine and one of the central pieces of the Ukrainian resistance, anticipates a long stagnation of the war with Russia. He also spoke of the risk of Russia using a tactical nuclear weapon.
For a key figure in the Ukrainian military resistance, Oleksii Arestovich has a surprisingly thin protection – a single bodyguard. “Some are afraid, but I am very excited about everything that is happening. It’s incredible, “he said.
Two months after the start of the war, the 46-year-old is already a celebrity in all Ukrainian homes with a TV. His daily reports on what is happening from a military point of view have managed to reassure an entire nation in the darkest moments, and even bring out some smiles, through the more muted style of expression. If for some it is a “national antidepressant” or even a sex symbol, there are those who consider him an accidental gambler, even an impostor, remarks the British publication The Economist in the portrait he dedicates.
Like his boss, President Volodymyr Zelensky, it seemed unlikely that a man like Arestovich would ever get to a war bunker – from acting, in the case of the president, or psychology, respectively – to a defining place at the table. the history of their country.
Arestovich is trained as a military intelligence officer and fought twice in the Donbas after Russia’s invasion in 2014. He is even known for some prophecies – he said since 2019 that Russia will invade Ukraine in several directions until 2022. And it was precisely in the darkest detail. In May, Arestovici had over 800,000 followers on Facebook and 1.4 million followers on YouTube.
The predictions he makes now don’t sound right at all. In an interview with the British magazine, he also talked about the duration of this war with Russia – he hinted that it could last until 2035. Then he came back with clarifications, saying that it was just one of the darkest scenarios that journalists they took over without context.
The decisive phase of the war, he believes, will take no more than two or three weeks. A major battle is already taking place in the Donbas, where Russia is trying to defeat the resistance of the elite Ukrainian troops by “small and large pliers maneuvers”. The little ones are looking to encircle the towns of Severodonetsk, Lysiceansk, Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, Arestovich details. Wider siege operations could bring Russian troops closer to the Dnipro, the capital of the Dnipro district and the Dnipropetrovsk region in the middle of the country.
In fact, since the beginning of April, there have been reports from the United States, the United Kingdom, as well as from NATO command, according to which the Kremlin, after giving up the conquest of Kiev, is preparing to attack in the southeast of the country – Russian troops from Donbas and those in Kharkov will head east to converge on the city of Dnipro, which will become the strategic epicenter of the clash.
Russia has mobilized about 25,000 troops and support personnel to force the main line of attack through the city of Izium. It’s just not enough to defeat the Ukrainian defense, Arestovich says, especially if it receives long-range artillery and radars already delivered by Westerners in time.
Most likely, the next phase will be a period of stagnation, he anticipates. And as the vegetation covers most of Ukraine, “we will find very good places to camouflage and start doing what we know best – to set traps for them and kill them, one by one,” the councilor threatened.
He also believes that this is a phase that could provide a good time to resolve the dangerous situation in Mariupol, where Ukrainians are surrounded in a siege of more than two months. At the beginning of May, about 2,000 soldiers and 1,000 civilians resisted in the perimeter of the Azovstal factory. This time, the councilor refrained from promising that the blockade would be broken. The Ukrainian army is too far away, and the Russians are too advanced for that. The only hope is that things will go so badly for the Russians in other areas that they will negotiate and accept a humanitarian corridor for the captives in the siege. It’s all about “if”. All he knows for sure is that the Ukrainian soldiers still have ammunition, food and medicine for a few weeks, not days, as some of them claimed.
On April 12, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he was canceling the bombing of the factory, which did not happen – the blows continued, only less intensely. If he doesn’t get a victory in Mariupol or other cities, he may decide to climb, Arestovici suggests. “I don’t think the use of a tactical nuclear weapon in Moscow is out of the question.”
The more than two months of resistance have exposed the weaknesses of the Russian army to the maximum, especially those that are best seen when it is put in the context of a new challenge. Until 2014, the two armies were somewhat similar – the same equipment, the same corruption and decay, but also the same rigidity in approach. “The Ukrainian army in 2022 is completely different,” Arestovich said.
In part, this is due to different tactics – the commanders improvise on the spot, using as little footprint as possible and simple logistics chains. But the most important difference is the mood. “We are like Cossacks. We laugh when we destroy a Russian tank “, compares Arestovici.
Obviously, Ukraine also has weaknesses, and the largest is the size of its army, much smaller than the Russian one. Arestovici does not want to talk about other vulnerabilities. At the insistence of journalists, however, he says that the biggest challenge facing the Ukrainian army now is to remain human. Russian soldiers have destroyed and killed everywhere they went, on a scale that may never be fully known, and the Kremlin is not only concerned with military fighting on the territory. “They want us to become like them, to turn us into demons. We are not allowed to allow this, “Arestovici said.
Oleksii Arestovich was born in Georgia, and before becoming an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was a blogger, actor and politico-military commentator.
ROLES. A graduate of the Odessa Military Academy, Arestovich organized psychological seminars and courses for the Ukrainian army before the war. In addition to his position as Presidential Adviser, he is also a spokesperson for the Trilateral Contact Group for Ukraine and an Information Policy Adviser. LAST. Arestovich was a member – a decade and a half ago – of a far-right organization in Ukraine, “Bratstvo” (“Brotherhood”).
This article appeared in issue 139 of . magazine.