Third Russian airbase hit in two days. It looks like Ukraine has gotten itself some ability to strike back at Russia, and it’s kinda hilarious.
For an overview of the active front, click here.
For my Sunday piece on Ukrainian offensive options as the ground freezes, click here.
Meanwhile, Russia is pushing west from their pre-invasion occupied territory in eastern Donbas (keyed purple on the maps). Today, let’s take a closer look at the Battle of Bakhmut.
Russian Telegram milblogger Rybar announced today that “The AFU continue to suffer heavy losses in the battle of Bakhmut,” which is dark comedy. The Battle of Bakhmut began on Aug. 1, and Russian, Wagner mercenaries, and local Donbas militias have banged their heads against Ukrainian defenses ever since, for over four months now. If Ukraine is suffering “heavy losses” in Bakhmut (which they likely are), than what is happening to Russia?
Well, we know. We’ve even posted some of the videos of mass Russian casualties in the approaches to the town. Ukraine General Staff claimed over the weekend that Russia is losing hundreds of men attempting to storm the city daily.
The city’s defenders are some of Ukraine’s biggest heroes. They’ve been undermanned, under-equipped, and under-supported. While HIMARS worked other corners of the map and the best-equipped Ukrainian forces liberated wide swaths of Kharkiv and Kherson oblasts, thousands of Ukrainians hunkered down in their trenches in eastern Donbas mowing down wave after wave of Russian soldiers while outgunned 5-1 or even 10-1 in artillery.
But now, with Kherson city’s liberation, Ukraine freed up tens of thousands of their best soldiers to redeploy to other parts of the front. And Bakhmut is finally getting some love.
Ukrainian artillery is flooding into the area, including precious longer-range self-propelled guns like the Polish Krab.
HIMARS, the crown jewel of Ukraine’s military might, is finally in action around the town, likely using anti-personnel rockets to eliminate Russian troop concentrations and Wagner mercenary command and control centers. .
Armored vehicles are flooding in.
As is fresh infantry.
Meanwhile, Russian efforts against Ukrainian defensive positions have been whittled down to squad-level advances.
I read somewhere (can’t find link now) that Russians claim this is on purpose—that large-scale attacks are too easy to spot and destroy with artillery, so Russia is trying to sneak up on Ukrainians in small groups. If there was ever a heaping pile of Copium, that’s definitely it. No one charges defensive lines with six soldiers and no armor or artillery/mortar support because they think it’s the best idea. So ridiculous!
This video below gives us a fantastic overview of the battle from inside Bakhmut. I can’t believe there are still civilians scrounging some kind of survival in the town.
There’s lots of talk about the “right bank” and “left bank” of the river. This is what people don’t seem to get. Even if Russia breaks through Ukrainian defensive lines, there’s no way they’re crossing the river that runs through the eastern third of the city.
There’s a hill to the east of the river that's shown in that video, currently held by Ukraine, that would be valuable if Russia took it. They’d have visibility into town, so Ukrainian forces wouldn’t be able to easily cruise around like they do in the video. But if Russian forces can’t get past the trash dump on the eastern edge of the town, what makes anyone think they could cross an actual river? (Though admittedly, I don’t know if it freezes in the coldest parts of winter, which could be a factor.)
Russia launched another wave of missiles at Ukraine, but this attack seems to have mostly fizzled. Ukraine claims 60 of the 70 Russian cruise missiles were shot down, and there’s even dramatic video of one of them going down.
This missile was shot down by a German Gepard air defense system. Ukraine has declared them their most prized air defense system. Ironically, it’s been decommissioned, as NATO moved to nearly all-missile air defenses. Yet this machine-gun-style system makes it deadly effective not just against ballistic missiles, but slower-flying drones. It doesn’t make sense to use million-dollar missiles against $20,000 drones. So maybe this war will resuscitate systems like the Gepard.
Interesting side note: Sourcing ammo for these is challenging. Germany can’t pass on their leftover ammo (which is literally useless, as they’ve handed over all of their Gepards) because it was made in Switzerland, and the Swiss refuse to authorize it, claiming it would violate their neutrality. A defense contractor in Norway appears to have started making more ammo, however. Yet another reminder that this is a war of logistics, not weapons systems.
Here’s a great thread from a German who served with these:
Ukraine hit two Russian air bases, hundreds of kilometers from the front lines.
Russia claims they were hit with Soviet-made drones, and there is one ancient unmanned aircraft system around, so maybe Ukraine used those. It would be more fun if the drones were homegrown, however. Ukraine announced last week it was in final testing stages of a long-range suicide drone. What better test for a new weapons system than two airbases hosting the strategic bombers launching cruise missiles at Ukrainian civilian infrastructure?
Russia claims air defense got them all, but it was the debris that caused all the damage, and all 17 of Russia’s targets in Ukraine were hit even though 70 missiles were launched.
This is a bloody picture of the hit on Dyagilevo showing a damaged strategic bomber. But it’s a close crop, so hard to really tell the extent of the damage. Here’s an unconfirmed report on the situation at the two airfields. I’m including the link, because it’s chatter from the Russian side, but all caveats apply.
I’m not crying. YOU’RE crying.
(Umm, not sensitive content … at least not that kind of sensitive.)
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