Aside from the confirmation of sinking the major capital ship, Moskva, and the associated postage stamp sales, the preparations for a major land offensive in the east continue. Mariupol is nearly lost to the Russians. Warfare could become more conventional given the eastern battlefield terrain.
Lots of eyes today on the explosion yesterday aboard the Russian warship Moskva. The Pentagon confirms the ship “experienced an explosion,” and that the vessel is still on fire as it makes its way east to the Black Sea port of Sevastopol for apparent repairs.
The senior U.S. defense official said the Moskva was roughly 70 to 75 miles south of the port city of Odessa in the Black Sea when the explosion occurred. The Pentagon is not yet offering an assessment for what caused the explosion.
No clear assessment for Russian casualties.
New, notable detail today: Four or five other Russian warships dispersed off the coast of Ukraine have pulled farther south away from the coastline, the senior U.S. defense official says.
It “very well could have been an external source like a missile” that caused the explosion on the Moskva, the senior U.S. defense official says.
But he notes there are other possibilities: A mishap with ordnance on board, the propulsion system, etc.
The senior U.S. defense official also did not rule out that the ship struck a mine on the ocean’s surface.
Contradicting Ukrainian claims, the Pentagon assesses that the Moskva has not sunk.
“It does appear that this is a significant fire that they’re battling,” the senior U.S. defense official said of the Moskva. “But what’s underneath that fire, how much hull damage there is, we just don’t know.”
Other news: Ukrainian troops will likely receive training on the expanded arsenal of weapons the Pentagon is sending in Europe, the senior U.S. defense official says.
Gen. Tod Wolters, the chief of European Command, is examining options to train Ukrainian forces, the senior U.S. defense official said.
Plan appears to be to take Ukrainians who already have familiarity with a given weapon and teach them how more sophisticated versions the U.S. is providing differ. That goes for 155mm Howitzers, counter-artillery radar and Sentinel air-defense radar, official says.
“We do not assess that it’s going to take longer than a few days, max, to get them trained up on those systems,” senior U.S. defense official says.
The training will come after the Biden administration vastly expanded Wednesday the kinds of weapons it will provide the Ukrainian military.
The senior U.S. defense official also disclosed for the first time that a small group of Ukrainian troops who had been in the United States for schooling when Russia invaded Feb. 24 received training not on armed Switchblade drones, as previously reported.
Those Ukrainians also received training on coastal defense surface drones Biden first approved Wednesday, the senior U.S. defense official says.
Raises the question: What *else* did those Ukrainians receive training on?
“They did receive training on that particular system, so some of that training already has occurred,” the official said.
Other news: Shaping operations are underway in the Donbas region. Battalion tactical groups not really moving in, but enablers, including artillery are, official says.
U.S. also now observes Russian helicopters being staged just over the Ukrainian border in Russia.
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Where are those forces now. Well best intelligence has them on their way from their withdrawal points to around Belgorod, in Russia, for rest and refit. In the US DOD briefing two days ago it was stated that these forces were still on their way.
And there are these persistent reports that Russian forces are finding ways to avoid going back to Ukraine.
Add this to the fact that these forces, if they can be rested refitted, will need a significant period to deploy into Ukraine, as the road system is still working against them.
The Russians seem to be stuck by this slow motion redeploy. They are continuing their low level attacks in the Donbas. But with not enough forces to press ahead a lot, but unsure when they can receive major reinforcement. They are suffering regular attritional losses. (See ISW).
At the same time they are struggling in the air.
Long story short; those who talked about both the Russian Army now fighting smart according to their excellent doctrine and somehow making major gains by May 9 are looking decidedly ‘optimistic’ by Russian standards.
What it actually is looking at is Russia suffering a constant drip, drip of losses, making small gains, and instead of building up massive force for one effort, feeding forces more slowly over a poor road network. All without air dominance.
So people need to be very careful before taking about a major, large and powerful Russian offensive kicking off soon.
A picture of a bunched up convoy on the way to Donbas. No longer spread out as in pictures a few days ago, looks like a little traffic jam.
And the location puts it on a really minor road.
Another picture of a Russian convoy moving towards Izyum, though not 'at a breakneck' speed--to put it kindly. The Kyiv forces after resting and being resupplied are still a long way from reaching battle.
If this is actually what Russia ends up doing; they are strategically bankrupt and haven’t learned a thing. Just drip feeding forces as they become available is a recipe for Russian failure.
And personally think this is right; Give Ukraine ranged weapons. Artillery, UAVs, fixed wing aircraft, things to allow them to attack around Russian formations. keeps Ukrainian casualties down too. Should matter more than tanks.
Zelensky’s take on the need for weapons. Wants mostly ranged weapons, tanks the Ukrainians are comfortable with and armored vehicles to protect their infantry.
Reading this thread, the contrast between the clarity of Ukrainian strategic understanding and the chaos of Russian behaviour is really something.
Wow; that is quick. If the UkrainIans can get decent ranged weaponry in 48 hours that can make a big difference in the Donbas. Especially considering it will take the Russians weeks to start feeding in the Kyiv refitting forces.
Biden's transcript of his promise of aid to Ukraine is fascinating. Helicopters listed clearly. Lots of range weapons, APCs. Only thing missing from Zelensky's preferred list was fixed wing aircraft. Considering Polish visit today, maybe those are coming?
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Russia this week sent a formal diplomatic note to the United States warning that U.S. and NATO shipments of the “most sensitive” weapons systems to Ukraine were “adding fuel” to the conflict there and could bring “unpredictable consequences.”
The diplomatic démarche, a copy of which was reviewed by The Washington Post, came as President Biden approved a dramatic expansion in the scope of weapons being provided to Ukraine, an $800 million package including 155 mm Howitzers — a serious upgrade in long-range artillery to match Russian systems — coastal defense drones and armored vehicles, as well as additional portable anti-air and antitank weapons and millions of rounds of ammunition.
“What the Russians are telling us privately is precisely what we’ve been telling the world publicly — that the massive amount of assistance that we’ve been providing our Ukrainian partners is proving extraordinarily effective,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the sensitive diplomatic document.
A senior Western official on Thursday could not confirm that the Russian Black Sea flagship had been hit by a Ukrainian missile, as the Ukrainians say, or was badly damaged in an accidental fire, as the Russians say. But the official said that either version displayed significant Russian incompetence.
Given the importance of the cruiser, the Moskva, it is almost impossible to believe that a fire would be allowed to reach the ammunition magazine without extraordinary failures on the part of the crew, the official said.
And if it were a Ukrainian cruise missile that hit the ship, as seems credible, that displays almost more incompetence and carelessness, given that the Moskva was equipped with a sophisticated, three-layer defense against a missile strike.
However it happened, so much damage to such an important ship is a deep embarrassment to the Russian Navy and will do much to boost Ukrainian morale as a bigger fight looms in the Donbas. It will also make it harder for Russian to resupply its forces from the sea or to provide artillery cover for them, the official said.
The Ukrainian account seems more plausible, said Mark Cancian, senior adviser for the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Although warships are prone to experiencing explosions, "given that there’s a war going on and the Ukrainians have this anti-ship capability, it’s more likely that it was caused by these cruise missiles,” he said.
The notion that Ukrainian missiles hit the Moskva reinforces “the image of hardened resistance by the Ukrainians” and sows “more doubt in the minds of Russian servicemen,” particularly the sailors serving on Russian warships off Ukraine’s southern coast, he added.
The damage to the Moskva is more significant because of previous Russian naval losses, said James Black, an expert on the Russian military at the Rand Corp. Last month, Ukraine’s navy said it hit a Russian amphibious landing ship in Berdyansk, a Ukrainian port that Russian forces have occupied.
Regardless of what caused the damage to the Moskva, “it will likely be seen as poetic justice by Ukrainians and their supporters,” Black said.
The western official said they did not know what caused of the serious damage to the missile cruiser, but cast doubt on the Russian claim: "I am not aware previously of a fire onboard a capital warship which has led to ammunition magazine exploding as a consequence.... 1/
The official continued: "Were that to have been the case - were it just to have been an accident - it is a remarkably inept piece of control by the Russian military. I find it difficult to believe that that would have been the case in this instance." 2/
By contrast, the western official had this to say about Ukraine's claim that it hit the Russian flagship with Neptune anti-ship missiles: "The claim by the Ukrainian forces I think is credible." 3/
Either way, the taking out of Russia's Black Sea flagship from wartime operations is clearly bad news for Moscow. The western official said: "The fact that it has been damaged to a point where it is either inoperable or under tow is a significant blow..." 4/
The western official continued: "And shows I believe the risk that Russia is taking in terms of its overall operations." 5/
The western official said: "If it is the consequence of a Ukrainian operation, it shows the determination, ingenuity & initiative of the Ukrainian forces in order to be able to strike at Russian forces where perhaps they previously thought there were invulnerable" 6/
The official added that the loss of the Moskva will have "a significant impact of Russian maritime operations"
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