The big frontline news in Ukraine today is, as it often has been and was yesterday, the lack of big frontline news.
The liberation of Kherson City and frantic retreat of Russian forces across the Dnipro will likely result in a long operational pause along that southern front as Ukrainian troops consolidate new defensive positions facing the river while sussing out just how far Russian forces have fled. HIMAR systems and other reinforcements from the Kherson offensive are now being dispatched to Donbas frontlines.
Russia, in the meantime, continues to sputter along with attacks that appear premised on killing Russian troops and conscripts as efficiently as possible while making no actual gains. That's not new either, but a momentary pause by Wagner Group mercenaries in their continual but near-pointless attacks on Bakhmut is a bit unusual. Are they running out of prisoners to use as cannon fodder, or just pausing to consider what a new flush of Ukrainian defenses might mean for their little privatized slice of the war?
Who knows, but the pause in Wagner's attacks on Bakhumut weren't matched in Pavlivka, to the south. Russia is continuing to shove troops and equipment into the same Ukrainian trap that already wiped out Russia's 155th Naval Infantry Brigade. Over and over, Russian commanders send insufficient numbers of poorly geared troops into uncoordinated attacks against Ukrainian defenses that quickly mop them up.
It's self-evident why Russia found it necessary to mount a large-scale mobilization. Russian commanders don't know any method of warfare that doesn't depend on piling up Russian bodies until the defenders simply run out of ammo to shoot them with. It's also evident that even at this late date, Russia simply can't reform a kleptocratic military culture in which individual commanders work for their own self-glory (or more often, self-preservation) while thumbing their nose at whatever larger tactical plans their own bosses dream up.
This operational pause by both sides isn't likely to last long. It seems most likely that the action will resume just as soon as the Ukrainian forces that have liberated Kherson and the north side of the Dnipro have been resupplied and repositioned to the likely new Ukrainian priorities: an offensive to cut off Russian troops in and everywhere west of Melitopol, and another to neutralize Russian supply routes passing not just through Svatove, but Starobilsk to its east.
When that might happen, and along what routes, is purely in the realm of speculation. Winter will put new constraints on both attackers and defenders, but Ukraine is much, much better situated for new assaults than Russia’s depleted and newly conscript-stacked forces are.
In Poland: It's now looking more likely than not that the missile(s) that struck inside Poland's borders was a Ukrainian air defense missile. That's the current NATO thinking, and it's backed up with competent sleuthing—even if not everyone is convinced yet.
Russia has been cavalier in targeting locations close to the Poland-Ukraine border, and with missile systems inaccurate enough to suggest that Russia doesn't particularly care if Poland takes some damage. It follows, then, that a Ukrainian missile defending Lviv might end up chasing one of those strays across the border itself. There's also speculation of possible human error being involved, but we'll put that down as pure theory, for now.
Outside Ukraine: Ukraine has kept a well-maintained list of its most urgent military necessities, from infantry vehicles to anti-missile systems, but in the wake of Russian attacks on the nation's energy infrastructure there's a new top-line request going out: replacement parts to, literally, keep the lights on. Russian's bumbling and seemingly uncoordinated missile attacks (and, now, Iranian-supplied drone attacks) have of late been doing steady damage to Ukrainian electrical grids and gas networks, and there simply aren’t enough replacement parts in the whole of the country for what's being damaged.
The new Ukrainian request to its partners, then: replacement parts, and as many as can be secured. Ukrainian winters are cold, and a lack of heat or electricity could result in mass civilian casualties or a need for large-scale evacuations of cities nowhere near the current frontlines.
Because some of these parts, whether they be industrial-scale generators or specialized pipeline parts, tend to be big and expensive, there aren't necessarily big stockpiles of the things to be had. It's going to be a worldwide scramble to find and ship them. Here's hoping Russia, with their obsessive desire to commit war crimes and cause widespread civilian damage for the sake of doing so, is running low enough on those missiles and drones that they can't commit to larger-scale infrastructure attacks—but the damage already being done is dire enough to make this a top priority for the Ukrainian war effort. Blackouts are already commonplace in Kyiv and elsewhere; if that continues, civilian deaths will assuredly follow this winter.
We're now in the second week of election overtime and there are still plenty of major races yet to be decided—as well as tons more great news for Democrats to exult over on this week's episode of The Downballot. On the uncalled races front, co-hosts David Nir and David Beard dive into a pair of House races in California and several legislatures that could flip from red to blue, including the Pennsylvania House. Speaking of legislatures, the Davids also go deep on what the astonishing flips in Michigan will mean for progressives and particularly organized labor.
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