Mykola Melnyk, an expert of the Leviathan Analytical Group, volunteered to go to the front in the first days of the war. Now, the senior lieutenant of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is in hospital after being seriously injured. But he actively maintains pages on social media, helps his comrades-in-arms, and advises on current political processes. We got in touch with Mykola and talked about the most painful issues that concern the military at the moment.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What did you do, what experience do you have, what do you do today?
Since 2014, I have been an active participant in the Revolution of Dignity, a volunteer, and a member of the Right Sector Ukrainian Volunteer Corps. I took part in the defence of Avdiivka from 2017 to 2020. In peacetime, I was engaged in entrepreneurial activities, worked in local government and state authorities. As they say, a little bit of everything. The fate of our country, which has been going through periods of various turbulence for almost a decade now, requires us to be involved in different roles and formats depending on the situation and period. In addition to the above, I am also an expert at the Leviathan Analytical Group.
Since the beginning of the Russian Federation's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, I joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine and am now an officer. I held various positions, reaching the rank of "company commander". I am currently undergoing treatment after being seriously injured.
Over the year and a half of war, there have been many hits to civilian infrastructure, from high-rise buildings to entertainment centres. Why do you think this happens all the time? Is it done on purpose or is the narrative about "Russian precision-guided missiles" just a myth?
In my opinion, the attacks on Ukraine's civilian infrastructure are part of a strategy of moral pressure aimed at lowering the morale of the military and simply intimidating civilian Ukrainians. The Russians live by the myth that people live in the south-east of Ukraine who are supposedly understand the arrival of the "Russian military boot". And the more victims and destruction there are in this area, the more, in their opinion, the population will get tired of the war and the idea of the independence of the Ukrainian state.
Putin's Russia has always used this tactic: in Georgia, the Chechen campaigns, Syria, and so on. Strikes have been launched everywhere, including on civilian infrastructure, to exert moral pressure. Our task in this situation is to grit our teeth and move towards victory.
Don't you think that today society has developed a double attitude to air raids: everyone is used to the fact that most shelling occurs at night, and, for example, MiGs with daggers take-offs during the day are nothing more than a formality for half an hour or an hour. Won't this turn into a disaster for citizens, and does it make sense to classify air raids according to the degree of threat?
If the siren works, it warns of danger. Everyone decides for themselves what to do. You either think you're lucky or you put off what you're doing and go down to the bomb shelter.
I believe that if you are aware of the air raid alert, the state has fulfilled its function of promptly informing the population. Then you are responsible for your own life and the lives of your loved ones. If we have a category of people who are "fed up" with air raids, they should understand that they will be more vulnerable when the missile arrives sooner or later. Air defence warnings should not be disregarded in any way, because the Air Force will never "train the population" or turn on warnings for no reason. It is very important to understand and treat with all responsibility. If there is a siren, there is danger.
Many military analysts and officials have announced the entry into Crimea by the end of 2023. In your opinion, does the situation in the south allow such predictions to be made?
Military analysts, being media and public figures, are mostly focused on social media statistics, likes and reposts. There is a demand for certain messages in our society. There are things that our people just want to hear, regardless of the objective reality. And if you meet this demand, you are popular. Videos in which someone says that we will not liberate Crimea by the end of this year, or that there will be heavy losses, or that it will be very difficult will not get millions of views among the Ukrainian audience. Nobody likes bad news. That's why we now have a whole range of "Arestovych on minimum wage" who say that "2-3 weeks and the Russians will fall", that "by the end of the year we will liberate Crimea or Kuban". In most cases, these experts have nothing to do with the armed forces and rarely use official sources of information or statistics, constantly referring to someone's posts on social media.
Today, we need to be able to soberly assess the potential of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the Russians in a particular area and not create illusions. The popularity of such experts is based on flirting with Ukrainian society without telling it the truth. And the truth is quite harsh - we are still losing the war.
We remember how the counteroffensive was postponed due to unfavourable climatic conditions, namely wet soil and mud. In your opinion, will the autumn rains be able to stop the advance of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in different directions?
The reason for the problems with the advance in different directions may be not so much the climatic conditions as the insufficiency of those who will be involved in counteroffensive operations. Today we have losses of manpower and equipment. Unfortunately, the brigades involved in the fighting along the entire frontline from Slobozhanshchyna to the South need additional staffing and coordination. We need to carry out a constant rotation to maintain the combat capability of these brigades, otherwise our offensive potential will be levelled.
Of course, we have reserves for defence that will prevent the occupiers from advancing deep into Ukrainian territory. But, in terms of offensive operations, these reserves may not be enough to make any major breakthroughs. Therefore, I would not expect a change in the pace of our advance until around October.
Recently, we have seen a new Russian tactic using smoke machines on the Crimean bridge. How effective can such maneuvers be in the future in the fight against Ukrainian weapons?
Everything will depend on what weapons the Ukrainian army will be equipped with. If we use the latest high-precision weapons, then even 30 smoke machines will not be a significant obstacle to our missiles.
As a military expert, what would you call a "weapon of victory"? Perhaps some specific type of equipment, machinery, etc. that has proven itself on the battlefield better than expected?
We have a certain amount of precision weapons, UAVs, foreign equipment, etc. But I would call the Ukrainian people the main weapon of victory.
It is the Ukrainians and their will to freedom that are the main reason for the Kremlin's strategic defeat in this Putin adventure. And it is up to Ukrainians to decide whether to continue to fight to the end or to kneel down, as it was 100 years ago. I believe that nothing new is happening to us compared to the events of that period. And the conditions are more favourable: Poland has no territorial claims against us, and the entire civilised world is united in supporting Ukraine. The choice is before us: either we will win or we will give in, and all the best of our nation will be exterminated.
Front News Ukraine