Disinformation continues as strong as the anticipated Russian offensive in the southeast of Ukraine around Luhansk. Another attack on Zharkiv may be in preparation. More brutality against civilians has been revealed. There are 4.5 million displaced persons, the majority of which are in Poland.
April 2 – “If we compare the Winter War [Stalin conducted against Finland] and the Russian ‘special operation’ in Ukraine [Putin is carrying out now], Moscow historian Boris Sokolov says, “the similarities” in expectations, conduct, and quite likely outcome “are striking.”
In a detailed comment for The Insider, Sokolov provides case after case in which what Stalin expected, did, and then was forced to accept anticipates to an amazing degree the same situation in which Putin finds himself today. The details are interesting, but it is the conclusions that are critical (theins.ru/history/249528).
“In 1939,” the Moscow historian writes, “the USSR started a war with Finland, whose scenario now looks surprisingly similar to the invasion of Ukraine. The war with Finland was also supposed to be a rapid blitzkrieg, the success of which was ensured by the overwhelming superiority of the USSR's armed forces.
“The Finnish War,” he continues, “was also presented as self-defense and a response to provocations. The propaganda also spoke about the benefits of the invasion for the civilian population, and the USSR planned to install a puppet government in Finland as well.
“Finally, that war, which too had been badly prepared, ended in total failure, with the troops suffering from lack of supplies and frostbite, being poorly motivated and sustaining much higher casualties. Ultimately, the USSR abandoned the conquest of Finland and limited itself to insignificant territorial gains.”
Immediate items to watch
- Russian forces will renew offensive operations in the coming days southeast from Izyum, possibly diverting first to the southwest to avoid Ukrainian defensive positions, in an effort to reach and seize Slovyansk.
- Russian forces have bisected Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol and will continue efforts to complete the seizure of the remaining pockets of Ukrainian resistance.
- Russian forces may conduct attacks to seize Rubizhne, Popasna, and Severodonetsk in the coming days, although they may wait for reinforcements and for Russian troops to complete the encirclement of this area along the Izyum-Slovyansk-Debaltseve road.
Russian forces made territorial gains in Mariupol in the past 24 hours and continued to reinforce operations along the Izyum-Slovyansk axis but did not make other territorial gains. Russian forces bisected Mariupol from the city center to the coast on April 10, isolating the remaining Ukrainian defenders in two main locations: the main port of Mariupol in the southwest and the Azovstal steel plant in the east. Russian forces, including a convoy of hundreds of vehicles captured in Maxar Technologies imagery on April 8, continue to reinforce Russia’s offensive in Izyum to link up with Russian positions in Luhansk Oblast.
- Russian forces bisected Mariupol from the city center to the coast on April 10, isolating the remaining Ukrainian defenders in the southwestern port and eastern Azovstal Steel Plant.
- Russian forces again made little to no progress in frontal assaults in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts but continue to cohere further reinforcements.
- Maxar Technologies satellite imagery captured hundreds of Russian vehicles in Kharkiv Oblast redeploying to support Russian operations near Izyum.
- Ukrainian counterattacks may threaten Kherson city in the coming days or weeks.
The next four weeks — leading up to an annual Victory Day celebration in Moscow — are a crucial and intensely dangerous period in Russia's war on Ukraine, U.S. officials and others familiar with Russian military history tell Axios.
Why it matters: May 9 is a major holiday in the Russian Federation, with the country closing down each year to mark its World War II victory over the Nazis. That makes it a deadline with significant symbolism in Russian domestic politics.
- Russia either may be repelled in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region by then and forced to claim false victories — or have used a brutal assault to cinch a strategic win.
- Any momentum would feed a push westward toward Kyiv.
What they're saying: A senior Defense Department official told Axios on Thursday the U.S. and other allies are rushing myriad forms of military assistance to Ukraine knowing the stakes of the next month.
- Separately, retired Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a former infantry officer and National Security Council director of European affairs, told Axios on Sunday: "This is, actually, a bit more of a dangerous situation, more of a turning point, than anything we've seen thus far."
- "Russia can achieve objectives here," said Vindman, a Ukraine-born, naturalized American citizen and Iraq combat veteran who testified at former President Trump's first impeachment trial.
- "I think that, if Russia were to lose, it would be spent" and only able to hold the territory it had. "But, if they succeed, I fear, it's a recipe for a protracted war, and Russia will not stop at limited gains. Protracted war is a recipe for spillage over into, potentially, confrontation with NATO."
What we're watching: Russian forces on Friday were accused of firing a missile on civilians at a train station as they tried to flee the onslaught in the Donbas.
- This weekend, the BBC and New York Times reported Russian President Vladimir Putin had consolidated control of his country's military effort under a general known for his brutality in Syria.
- National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that "we will continue to take every step we possibly can to help the Ukrainians succeed on the battlefield and to improve their position at the negotiating table."
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba pleaded for all forms of weaponry ahead of the Russian assault.
"We propose to the West and to NATO a fair deal," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "You provide us with everything that we need, and we fight so that you don't have to step up in the fight ... when Putin decides to test Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty."
- Vindman said Ukraine needs a resupply of traditional artillery, as well as drones and multiple-launch rocket systems.
- "Why are we leaving it at a coin-flip, instead of tipping the scales heavily in Ukraine's favor and making sure they win this next battle?"
Flashback: The Kyiv Independent said on March 24 that Russian troops were being told the war must end by May 9.
- It cited intelligence "from the general staff of the armed forces of Ukraine."
The Russian Defense Ministry is reportedly offering cash bonuses to incentivize forces withdrawn from northeastern Ukraine to reenter combat operations. Radio Svoboda published images of a document on April 10 that it reported was issued by the Russian Ministry of Defense on April 2 offering specific bonuses for Russian troops in Ukraine. The document specifies large payments including 300,000 rubles for destroying a fixed-wing aircraft, 200,000 for destroying a helicopter, and 50,000 for armored vehicles and artillery. Radio Svoboda stated the payments are intended to coerce units withdrawn from the Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy regions to reenter combat. We have previously reported several instances of Russian soldiers refusing orders to return to Ukraine after being pulled back.