This is a reminder: We do not know what’s happening in Ukraine.
That fog of war doesn’t just obscure the details of what’s happening right this second along the road between Kuzemivka and Nyzhnia Duvanka (which is something I would very much like to know this morning), that fog creeps in everywhere. It hides from us the experience of people still trying to go about their lives in Bakhmut, and it obscures the goals of those sitting in conference rooms in Moscow or Kyiv.
Videos, images, and Twitter posts may give us the impression that we have a grip on events, but they are tiny flashes in the darkness—a landscape glimpsed in lightning flashes as the train rolls through a stormy, unfamiliar country. All of us, at the top of the page and in the comments, are doing our best to piece together those flashes, pass them through a filter of research and experience, and put together something that looks like a complete picture. But it’s never going to be a complete picture.
Today seemed like a good day for this reminder simply because it’s a day when so little specific information seems to be coming through from the areas that have dominated the headlines: Kherson and Luhansk.
On a large scale, very exciting things are happening. There continue to be signals that Russia intends to withdraw its forces from the area west of the Dnipro River, which would allow Ukraine to liberate the largest city, and only regional capital, occupied during Russia’s latest invasion. Messages on Telegram and Twitter show Russian units which have been ordered to reposition to the eastern portion of Kherson, across the river. Or to move farther into Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Videos have shown Russia massing civilians in Kherson for reported deportation to points unknown. There have even been images showing Russian military forces being sent east at Nova Kakhovka—right below that dam Russia is threatening to blow.
But at the moment, there is no clear sign that the actual front in Kherson, either the line of villages where Russia dug in from Bruskynske to Mylove, or the southern part from Snihurivka on down, is collapsing. No great evidence that fighting has stopped, or that Ukrainian troops have advanced into areas abandoned by Russian forces.
Such reports could start rolling in at any time, but until they do, please take caution in taking reports of Russian relocations at face value — especially when those reports are coming from Russian sources. Yes, pundits on Russian state TV seem to already be bracing for the loss of Kherson; the loss of the bridges across the Dnipro (and into Crimea) would seem to make supplying forces in the west problematic, if not impossible; and everything we’re seeing reinforces the idea that Russia is preparing to pull up stakes and go home with as many washing machines as they can carry.
Just … take care in buying wholesale into the idea that Russia is going to surrender Kherson without an extended fight. When Ukrainian troops are being cheered along Perekopska Street and accepting flowers in Fountains Park, it’ll be real. Until then … just be cautious about anything that seems too friendly to your own position.
Up in Luhansk, Russian efforts to assault settlements east of Lyman appear to have failed. Torske, Terny, and the whole line of towns and villages liberated by Ukrainian forces two weeks ago are still flying Ukrainian flags on Friday. However, there’s little news from further north of any progress Ukraine is making toward Svatove.
One of those places where there has been a lot of news this morning is the area around Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast. Throughout the night and morning, wave after wave of Russian assault has broken up against what has to be the most fought over—and devastated—point in the entire invasion so far. If you haven’t already seen this image of what things are like near the front in Bakhmut, take a look.
On Thursday, Russian forces continued to hit the area both north and south. And it’s at the southern end of the line where Russia appears to be making actual gains. According to the Ukrainian Telegram channel DeepState, Russia has occupied the village of Odradivka, which is the latest in several advances that Russia has made in this southern area of the battle.
In the last two weeks, Russia has managed to move the front line south of Bakhmut by about 3km. It’s a tiny change in the overall war, but it’s significant here, especially as it is gradually allowing Russia to strike the defenders in Bakhmut from a new direction. No one in Ukraine has fought longer, harder, or against more desperate odds than the defenders of this city.
On Friday morning, there were reports that Ukraine was staging some kind of counteroffensive along this same line, somewhere between Siversk (about 20km north of the map above) and Bakhmut. It’s too early to tell if this is true, or whether any such counteroffensive has been effective. But keep your fingers crossed, because these guys need some relief.
Even with all the Russian forces in the area, headed up by Wagner and their horde of prison reject cannon fodder, here’s one of the most amazing images from this front.
That Ukraine is still conducting air operations at all is one of the great wonders of this war. Knowing that Russia has neglected combined arms discipline in favor of a rigid “artillery is the king of the battlefield” attitude is one thing, but that they would fail to recognize the need to establish air dominance, in spite of dozens of examples of how this affects a modern battlefield, is just baffling. Someone needs to find whatever military genius in Russia determined that Russia didn’t really need to expend that much effort on air support and build him a statute. In Kyiv. Or maybe Bakhmut.
And damn, look at that Su-27 go. All the fourth-generation fighters, east and west, seem to have that death-on-a-stick look just nailed. Hope you turned down your speakers before clicking on this one.
Someone needs to resurrect all the old Star Trek clips in which Chekov claimed something was invented in Russia. They’d probably be run as straight news on Russian state media right now.
Comments are closed on this story.