https://twitter.com/Cyberspec1/status/1523101404209946624Today marks the end of the twelfth week of Putin’s War in Ukraine. As I’m going to be away for a few days indulging my passion for the Seven Years’ War and sharing whiskey with good friends, I’m going to leave my overview of where the war stands today.
First, a quick overview. Below is an animation that shows the war’s first 80 days.
A lot of equipment arrived in the war zone this week. This is an old Polish Army T-72, upgraded with a reactive-armor package. I think this night light/comfort blanket for tanksers can be used with modern anti-armor munitions.
⚡️Polish tanks have been handed over to Armed Forces of Ukraine and are currently at the front. This is the T-72M1R, and T-72M1R as they look with ERA elements installed. pic.twitter.com/JzMfsXLR0x
— Flash (@Flash43191300) May 19, 2022
American M777 howitzers make an impact.
M-777 howitzers in action. Part of the United States’ most recent $800 million care package for the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The United States sent all but one of its 90 Howitzers, and many are deployed to the front lines. @GeneralStaffUA pic.twitter.com/B012LeV8uT
— U.S. Embassy Kyiv (@USEmbassyKyiv) May 15, 2022
The first light MRAP-style cars have appeared.
— Arslon Xudosi 🇺🇦 (@Arslon_Xudosi) May 15, 2022
Sources in the US and Britain claim that several senior Russian officers were dismissed for their poor performances. Perhaps we ought to adopt this policy.
(1/7) Russia has dismissed senior officers who, in Russia’s view, have not performed well during its initial invasion of Ukraine.
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) May 19, 2022
It is necessary to expel General Putin.
Senior Russian commanders fired for military failures – The Times of London https://t.co/HDOk8pZxEr
— John A. Clark (@jclarkcni) May 19, 2022
There were eyebrows raised after Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky resigned as commander of the Territorial Defense Force, without any explanation.
1/ so… every one reporting “Zelensky replaced the commander of the Territorial Defense Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine” 15/05/2022
Not saying : Zelensky fired Yuri Galushkin. The reasons are unknown. #Ukraine #UAarmy
— J. comme JéJé 🇫🇷 🇺🇦 #UkraineMap (@HeliosRunner) May 16, 2022
Here’s a little speculation. There is no doubt that General Galushkin did yeoman’s work in preparing the Territorial Defense Forces (TDF) for the early days of fighting (keep in mind, it only came into being on January 1, 2022). His staff, and his subordinate commanders knew. However, there could be friction between the upper command echelons. The TDF is assigned to a local area, sort of like a “home guard” unit in the Civil War. I can imagine there is pressure from above to move these forces from where the Russians aren’t to where they are. Social media has been filled with complaints from TDF members that they were being moved from their homelands to areas under attack. There is always the possibility that some TDF units could be converted to regular army. This is something Galushkin and the TDF might not have supported. The 16,000 volunteer foreigners who have arrived in Ukraine are another possible cause of friction. They are protected under the Geneva Conventions as well as the International Covenants. International Convention against the Training, Finance, and Recruitment of MercenariesThese men were required to enlist in the Ukrainian Army. While some elements of foreign origin are doing very well, others have never had to serve in the military. The TDF could have some difficulties integrating foreign soldiers. Don’t overlook raw politics when evaluating general officer assignments. The game is played by generals as well as many politicians.
Let’s take a look at the map and refer back to my post; Ukraine’s Future Depends on These Three Fights That Russia Must Win.
Credit: Twitter Critical Threats
Credit: Twitter Critical Threats
Fighting around Kherson was low-key. There are small victories being made by the Ukrainian offensive. According to reports, Russian troops are preparing defense positions. No further talks have been made about an amphibious landing of Odesa and Kherson. The “terrorist” attacks in the Russian-occupied Moldovan region of Transnistria have ceased. Ukraine has designated a brigade-sized unit to maintain Transnistria under surveillance. This force is in addition to the territorial defense forces and more than enough to combat any potential threat from that direction. You can read Putin’s decision to expand the war with Ukraine to achieve his objectives for more details.
Reports of Russian soldiers being assassinated in Kherson or Melitopol are increasing. A Russian armoured train, which was near Melitopol, was attacked earlier in the week.
MELITOPOL TRAIN – The Ukrainian SOF have allegedly sabotaged an armoured train transporting RU troops close to the occupied south city of Melitopol. News of this attack came just hours after word that several ‘high ranking’ RU officers were killed by partisans in the city center. pic.twitter.com/gbFAZ1nwX7
— Chuck Pfarrer (@ChuckPfarrer) May 18, 2022
Remember that the Ukrainian Special Operations Forces dropped a bridge in Melitopol.
The Ukrainian SSO was credited with destroying the rail bridge in Russian-occupied territory near Melitopol. https://t.co/s2BNcJPX6N pic.twitter.com/v0NiXm1ZdA
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) April 28, 2022
The surface noise in this area conceals much more. A unit that starts digging into the ground for a temporary stay can lose its offensive mentality and become more vulnerable to an attack or defeat. Your fortifications must end, just as the French proved in 1940.
The Russian Army has taken Mariupol. It appears that as many as 1,700 Ukrainian soldiers may have given up, according to the multiple stories. Although this removes the thorn from Russia’s side, the Russian Army held the line for 80 days. It also tied down and destroyed about 20 combat tactical units (BTG), which could have been deployed on other operations. READ MORE: Mariupol surrenders to Russia’s Army after an epic 82-day siege.
Credit: Twitter Critical Threats
The occupied territories north of Kharkiv were a null zone when I was writing the essay about upcoming critical battles. Kharkiv was under no danger of capture, and the Russians didn’t have the available combat power in that area to do anything but hold onto their gains. It was an error. Most of the land above Kharkiv had been cleared within the last week. (Russian Troops Retire From Ukraine To Russia: Plans for Redeployment and the Start of Collapse?). This counteroffensive was used as a springboard by the Ukrainian Army, who crossed the Siversky Donets River near Staryi Saltiv to create a gradually expanding bridgehead. On the above map, that would be approximately where the road symbol south of Rubizhne–the city of this name due east of Kharkiv–joins the heavy red line. You can see it clearly on the below map.
Credit to Ukraine War Map, Twitter.
This requires the Russians to move troops that could be used in offensive operations near Izyum to defend against the Ukrainian attack and protect their line of communication with Russia (Russia Suspends Most Offensive Operations in Reaction to Ukraine’s Surprising Counteroffensive).
Fighting in Donbas represents the only area of progress. Russian fanbois on social media are constantly talking about “cauldrons” and encirclements, but that doesn’t appear, at least to me, to be what is going on.
When looking at the Russian advances, there isn’t evidence of a pincer movement to cut off Ukrainian troops. The movement appears to be more concerned with clearing out the Ukrainian resistance along the front. The Russian salient projecting south of Izyum, which would be key to any significant attempt at encircling the Ukrainian forces in Donbas, hasn’t shown any advances in several days.
Although the Russians might be bolstering their troops, rebuilding damaged units and stockpiling supplies for a major offensive I don’t believe that this is a likely scenario. Izyum salient has been frozen as a result of the Ukrainian river crossing. Since it runs parallel with the river and stream networks, the Izyum saltient to south is the Russians’ best option for advance. For the forces moving from the east, they must deal with crossing or bridging water obstacles.
I also don’t believe that the Russians have the manpower for a major effort right now. Only 106 BTGs remained in combat out of 120 that crossed the border February 24th. There are currently 14 BTGs that have been lost to the war. The remaining BTGs have served in combat for 3 months, with very few casualties being replaced and limited equipment replacement. Many of these BTGs consist of skeleton forces. According to both the US and the Brits, the Russian invasion force lost about a third its strength. That would mean the 106 BTGs are able to support 80 soldiers. Additionally, the bulk of losses will come from infantry or armor units, which means that it is necessary to convert supporting arms soldiers like communications artillery and air defense into infantry.
Although I believe the Russians have a lot of manpower at the bottom, their slow movement is a sign that something else may be happening. The Russians are at the ends of an inextricable logistic chain that runs from Russia to the front lines. Every bullet, every borscht drop, every potato. Every liter of diesel must be shipped by rail and then loaded onto trucks by hand. Then it is driven to the forward distribution points. The diesel is again transferred to the front by hand. The failure of Russia’s military to use the logistical advances made in the West over the past 30 year should make up half of the narrative of this conflict. This article has more details on Russian logistics. Twitter threadSee this article. A side note: The Ukrainian Army may face some similar problems when it switches to offensive operations as the NATO-style transport allocations are closer to Russian norms than NATO norms.
In a post two months back, I stated that the Russian offensive was at a point of no return. The point at which the resources and momentum are not available to conduct the planned operation is called the culmination point. Russia lost significant territory since the posting of it and has been forced to defend itself. There have only been two offensive actions: small-scale strikes in western Donbas, and the difficult mopping up in Mariupol. Even the river crossing fiasco was a limited attack that didn’t have enough power to move more than a few hundred meters had the operation been successful (Russian Brigade Gets Annihilated in Failed River Crossing Attempt and Other News From Putin’s War).
Russia is currently training and releasing soldiers from active service. Rumours are circulating that Russian Army veterans have been offered 6-month contracts. If true, this smacks of more desperation that a plan. We don’t have a great feel for the Ukrainian personnel situation. But, I feel that those who replied to the appeal were men. levee en masseThe troops ordered by President Zelensky are on their way to the front. They have been in the military for nearly 90 days and it is now that they can begin to learn basic skills as well as more advanced techniques.
Footage showing IDF vets training Ukrainian forces in Ukraine, taken by Israeli television.🇺🇦
It is absurd that the Russians misunderstand the Ukrainians to be ‘Nazis.pic.twitter.com/yEyK7apayQ
— Jimmy (@JimmySecUK) May 19, 2022
A part of the Ukrainian Army’s training regimen for soldiers🇺🇦
— UKRAINIAN WAR (@ukrainianwar24) May 12, 2022
Ukr is training to fly M-777 howitzers. pic.twitter.com/Ncdbe3XCl9
— Tony (@Cyberspec1) May 8, 2022
It is an speculative venture. Although I think that Ukraine is in the best of times, it is not certain. The imponderables are there as always. What happens when Russia demands a cease-fire immediately? France and Germany might be able strongarm Zelensky, forcing him to agree to a deal that will result in the forfeiture of some territory. I think the Russian Army is on the cusp of a 1918-German-Army-on-the-Western-Front-style collapse that doesn’t preclude a precipitate retreat by the Ukrainian troops being pummeled by Russian artillery on the Donbas front. Is there a political moment that will result in the reduction of Western aid to Ukraine? Vladimir Putin will have a Tommy DeVito moment. I’m sure someone will add, “what if Putin pops a nuke?”
In the coming month, I believe that new Ukrainian brigades are going to start appearing at the front. Also, I suspect there will be an offensive near Russia’s border in order to block Russian supplies from Belgorod and Donbas. This would force Ukraine to evacuate large swathes of its territory. East of Kherson, and the push to regain pre-February 24, Black Sea coast would be my second choice. The final piece is occupying Russian puppet states of Donetsk, Luhansk. This has been made easy by the Russians using the “separatist” military and militia forces as cannon fodder. Russians will withdraw and there will literally not be anyone to stop the Ukrainian advance.