Ramzan Kadyrov, the warlord chieftain of Chechnya and a staunch Vladimir Putin ally, has claimed whole and full Russian management of Severodonetsk. He claimed full management of Mariupol about two dozen occasions (no exaggeration) earlier than Russia truly, lastly, expelled all Ukrainian defenders. In different phrases, he’s stuffed with shit.
So the struggle continues as Ukraine reinforces town, whereas observers scratch their heads in confusion. Why is there a lot effort expended on such an non-strategic metropolis? I’ve definitely contemplated the query the final two days (right here and right here). Why not a 3rd day in a row? However we’ve been trying on the query from Ukraine’s viewpoint. The Institute for the Examine of Warfare is similarly perplexed, however approaches it from Russia’s viewpoint.:
Russian President Vladimir Putin is inflicting unspeakable struggling on Ukrainians and demanding horrible sacrifices of his personal individuals in an effort to grab a metropolis that doesn’t advantage the associated fee, even for him […]
Putin is now hurling males and munitions on the final remaining main inhabitants heart in [ oblast, Severodonetsk, as if taking it would win the war for the Kremlin. He is wrong […]
Severodonetsk itself is essential at this stage within the struggle primarily as a result of it’s the final important inhabitants heart in Luhansk Oblast that the Russians don’t management. Seizing it should let Moscow declare that it has secured Luhansk Oblast totally however will give Russia no different important navy or financial profit. That is very true as a result of Russian forces are destroying town as they assault it and can management its rubble in the event that they seize it.
Numerous individuals will die for a pile of rubble, all within the title of propaganda. Russia needs it to declare all of Luhansk Oblast captured, and Ukraine needs it to disclaim Russia that propaganda victory. If Ukraine needs to bleed Russia, there’s a vastly extra defensible place actually throughout the river at Lysychansk.
Ukraine has made a behavior of exceeding expectations. Let’s hope they do it once more in Severodonetsk.
Russia’s salient at Izyum remains to be caught lifeless within the water, and the one at Popasna is struggling, happening three days with none main beneficial properties.
When you’re Russia, Bakhmut is the apparent goal, a crossroad for a number of main freeway supplying Ukrainian troops within the Severodonetsk salient. It is just 32 kilometers (20 miles) from Popasna, but Russia has solely superior half that distance within the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance. Observers are marveling at Russia’s new “mixed arms” capabilities on this offensive, however what they’re actually saying is that Russian artillery and air assist are softening defenses earlier than Russia tries to march in. Ultimately, that solely appears to work for them so long as their artillery is close to provide railheads, and so long as their plane don’t have to go too deep into Ukrainian territory. Russia’s drawback is that the deeper they stretch into Ukrainian territory, the extra uncovered they get to Ukrainian artillery, notably the deeper-range American/Canadian/Australian M777s and French Caesars. Capable of outrange Russian weapons, we’ll see an increasing number of of this:
This image under tells you all it’s worthwhile to do in regards to the primacy of artillery within the Battle of the Donbas. Farmers shall be harvesting shrapnel for generations.
Western allies are flooding Ukraine with extra artillery weapons. A few of them are even surprises, just like the American M109 self-propelled gun (lastly!):
The U.S. by no means introduced these, so it exhibits that weapons shipments have continued unabated. With over1,000 M109s within the American arsenal (and who is aware of what number of older variants in retirement), the U.S. can critically bolster Ukraine’s defensive and offensive capabilities. The U.S. is ending up supply of 107 M777s and their provide automobiles drawn from the Marine Corps inventory, since they’re transitioning to HIMARS rocket artillery. However there are nonetheless one other 900 or so M777s left in American arms, so between the 2 platforms and MLRS/HIMARS, the U.S. has a buttload of heavy steel to share.
Anyway, there may be heavy preventing round Popasna, however Russia seems contained as Ukraine rushes extra reinforcements to that entrance. Russia took Lyman a few days in the past, however it seems that Ukraine continues to function within the thick forests south of town. It’s an fascinating resolution, provided that Ukraine blew all of the bridges in that course, and people troops may’ve have been simply withdrawn to extra defensible positions. However as long as Russia has to maintain troops round Lyman looking these guerrilla-style defenders, these are forces that may’t be moved to Severodonetsk itself. And every little thing on this space appears calibrated towards bleeding Russia’s struggle machine dry whereas shopping for time for Western weapons to reach and reserve forces to spin up.
Ukraine’s Kherson counter-offensive, which I wrote up yesterday primarily based on Russian social media stories, was formally confirmed by Ukrainian Basic Employees.
Ukraine usually doesn’t announce their strikes. They by no means did round Kharkiv, ready a number of days to even announce the liberation of any cities. They definitely by no means introduced the counter-offensive placing stress on the Izyum salient from the west and northwest. So why announce this one?
The Kherson space is Russia’s least resourced, principally a handful of sunshine infantry models (like airborne, naval infantry, and Rosgvardia—Putin’s repressive nationwide guard). The world is so weak, Russia has been sending museum-relic T-62s to bolster its southern method. If Russia is susceptible anyplace, it’s down right here. So there’s an excellent likelihood Ukraine’s counter-offensive is a feint, designed to panic Russia into peeling off essential forces from the Donbas entrance to bolster an uncovered Kherson and, maybe extra importantly, Nova Kahkovka—the supply of water for your entire Crimean peninsula.
It’s a win-win for Ukraine—Russia reinforces this southern method, it takes stress off defenders within the Donbas. Russia ignores it, and Ukraine has a possibility to retake critical territory and make a multitude of Russia’s efforts to annex Kherson Oblast into Russia. Time will inform how this shakes out.
On one other notice, you could have seen quite a lot of Ukrainian MiG-29 movies the previous couple of days.
Ukraine immediately seems to have dozens of MiG-29s within the air. The official rationalization is that western allies despatched “spare elements” to restore MiGs destroyed throughout Russia’s preliminary bombardment of Ukrainian airfields wink-wink. Between Poland, Bulgaria, and Slovakia, there have been 55 potential MiG-29s for Ukraine, although lots of these had been reportedly not in airworthy situation. Can be nothing to disassemble them into “spare elements” to reassemble again in Ukraine. The truth is, I’d wager on it.
One final little bit of circumstantial proof—when was the final time Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy or anybody else begged the West for MiG-29s? The truth is, the previous couple of weeks have all been about MLRS, MLRS, MLRS. Odds are good allies have emptied their shares of Soviet-era plane for Ukraine, so it may possibly now give attention to different wants.
Biden’s help announcement subsequent week ought to show extremely fascinating. Along with extra artillery cannons and MLRS rockets, look to see if the U.S. bolsters Western shipments of Harpoon anti-ship missiles from Denmark and the U.Ok. Denmark doesn’t have the longest-range variations of the missile, however it has uncommon land-based launchers. If the U.S. supplies the latest variations of the missile, Russia’s huge naval base in Sevastopol, on the southern tip of Crimea, will immediately be in vary and in play.
It should even be fascinating to see if Patriot air protection rockets are included. The issue is coaching—upkeep technicians require a year training only for fundamental proficiency. If the US supplies them, Ukraine will want Western contract personnel to deal with upkeep and on-the-job coaching. Lastly, Ukraine’s greatest want except for artillery is armor. American tanks are a logistical nightmare, even utilizing jet gas to energy its turbine engines. Sustaining them requires six months of training for fundamental proficiency. However M2 Bradley infantry preventing automobiles may very well be a better carry (the U.S. has over 6,000, and so they’re being phased out), to not point out a whole lot extra Humvees, M113s, and different armored transport automobiles.
Getting Ukraine extra heavy tanks is a critical problem with no simple options—a subject for one more time.