The second phase of the war began yesterday. Heavy bombardment and encirclement in the east will occur with some consequential movement in attack and counter-attack as the putative 9 May deadline approaches for the Russians. The campaign of brutality and atrocity continues with Russia prepared to annihilate the remaining defenders of Mariupol. New fighter jets are apparently going to be arriving for the Ukrainian Air Force. Disinformation flourishes.
Phase 3 could be CBW or tactical nuclear weapons, including an attack on Chernobyl or another facility, releasing radioactivity.
- Russian forces will likely continue attacking southeast from Izyum, west from Kreminna and Popasna, and north from Donetsk City via Avdiivka.
- Russian troops and aircraft will continue to pound the Azovstal facility, and Russian officials may declare victory in Mariupol even before the facility is fully cleared.
- Russian forces will likely increase the scale of ground offensive operations in the coming days, but it is too soon to tell how fast they will do so or how large those offensives will be. It is also too soon to assess how the Russians will likely weight their efforts in the arc from Izyum to Donetsk City.
First off, DoD officials briefed on weapons going into Ukraine.
The turnaround from U.S. to the battlefield in Ukraine is moving as quickly as 48 - 72 hours.
But we're not getting much fidelity on whether U.S. is providing 🇺🇦 enough ammo.
Russian missile launches into Ukraine have plateaued around 30 a day over the course of the 54-day conflict.
That's way down from the 50 a day average 🇷🇺 was firing in the early going.
But Ukraine has been obscured by clouds, limiting U.S. visibility.
The Pentagon is being much more conservative in describing Russia's military operations in Donbas than Zelensky.
U.S. thinks this is a prelude to a bigger offensive, with 🇷🇺 still adding troops.
🇷🇺 is now up to 78 BTGs in Ukraine, up 13 from last week.
The US will deliver SEVEN planeloads of military aid bound for Ukraine to the region in the next 24 hr from Biden $800m package. Another flight arrived yday.
🇺🇸 is prioritizing deliveries of artillery systems, after Zelensky asked for as many as possible
The U.S. sees Russia's focus so far on Donetsk and Izyum
But this is a bit more conservative than Ukraine's military, which is describing Russian attacks all along defensive lines in and around Donbas, including in Kharkiv, Luhansk, and Donetsk.
Russia added 2 battalion tactical groups into Ukraine in the last 24 hr, US believes.
🇷🇺 is massing aviation & combat support in Belarus & Western Russia.
That's a lesson learned from the Kyiv campaign, where Russia lacked proper logistical support.
Russia still has a lot of its arsenal left for the Ukraine fight, including aviation & ballistic missiles.
But it's down to just 65 % of the 120 BTGs it started with before the invasion.
Perhaps up to 20 % of them were refitting outside 🇺🇦 recently.
Russia has a shorter logistical tail to fight in Donbas, since it is right on the border and more conducive to tank warfare, officials said.
But it still has 11 BTGs tied down in besieged Mariupol, which 🇷🇺 wants to seize to build a land bridge to Crimea.
U.S. believes that Russia is targeting last holdout at Mariupol's steel factory with long-range fires.
🇺🇦 said Tu-22M3 long-range strategic bombers are firing on Mariupol.
It's not clear 🇷🇺 pilots are entering 🇺🇦 airspace with air defense still active
Here's the 🇷🇺 gameplan, in a nutshell:
🇷🇺 military is “trying to learn and adapt to some of the mistakes they made earlier in the war," especially Kyiv, per sr US defense official said.
Russia intends "to come both from north & south and to cut off the Donbas,” official added
That's it for today. If you enjoyed this, there's more in my story with @RobbieGramer up on @ForeignPolicy about Russia's early campaign in the Donbas. Russia Tries for a Do-Over of Ukraine Invasion in the Donbas
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Russian and Ukrainian officials announced that the next phase of the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on April 19. Russian forces conducted intensive artillery and air bombardments of many areas along the front line from around Izyum to Mykolaiv but relatively few ground offensive operations. Russian forces continue to receive personnel and equipment reinforcements as well as command-and-control and logistics capabilities even as they conduct air and artillery preparations and some mechanized advances.
The Russians have not fully set conditions for a large-scale offensive operation. The Russians have not had enough time to reconstitute forces withdrawn from the Battle of Kyiv and ready them properly for a new offensive in the east. The Russians appear to be still building logistics and command-and-control capabilities even as they start the next round of major fighting. The tempo of Russian operations continues to suggest that President Vladimir Putin is demanding a hasty offensive to achieve his stated objectives, possibly by “Victory Day” on May 9. The haste and partial preparation of the Russian attack will likely undermine its effectiveness and may compromise its success.
Russian forces appear to be attempting to conduct a wide encirclement of Ukrainian troops along axes from Izyum to the southeast and from Donetsk City to the north even as they push west from Popasna and positions north of Severodonetsk. Russian ground offensives in the last 24 hours occurred around Izyum, Kreminna (north of Severodonetsk), and from Donetsk City toward Avdiivka. Only the advance to and possibly through Kreminna made significant progress. An encirclement on this scale would likely take considerable time to complete against Ukrainian resistance. Even if the Russians did complete such an encirclement and trapped a large concentration of Ukrainian forces inside one or more pockets, the Ukrainian defenders would likely be able to hold out for a considerable period and might well be able to break out.
The Russians may alternatively try to complete several smaller encirclements simultaneously, each trapping fewer Ukrainian forces and therefore taking less time to complete and then reduce. Coordinating such operations is complicated and beyond the planning and execution capacities the Russian army has demonstrated in the conflict thus far.
- The next phase of the Russian offensive in Ukraine’s east has reportedly begun, largely with artillery and air bombardments supporting a few small-scale ground offensives.
- Russian officials and media are likely preparing to declare victory in Mariupol in the coming days, possibly before Ukrainian forces in the Azovstal facility have been fully defeated.
- The Russians may be attempting a single wide encirclement of Ukrainian forces from Izyum to Donetsk City or a series of smaller encirclements within that arc. It is too soon to assess the intended Russian scheme of maneuver.
- Russian operations continue to proceed hastily, as if President Vladimir Putin has set an arbitrary date by which they must succeed. Putin may have decided that he will announce a Russian success and the completion of the operation on Victory Day, May 9. The haste with which Russian forces are moving may compromise the success of their operations.
One result could be that the Russians declare victory over the Nazis because the Azov battalion is the primary defender of Mariupol. They will soon run out of ammo. Russian surrender demands have been met with refusals.
In his most extensive comments to Western media, Maj. Serhiy Volyna of the 36th Separate Marine Brigade, whose forces have been holding out in the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works against a Russian force that vastly outnumbers them, told The Washington Post that his soldiers would continue “to conduct combat operations and to complete our military tasks as long as we receive them.”
Speaking over a crackling connection made possible by satellite, he said his forces would not repeat the mistake made by others of trusting Russian guarantees of safe passage, only to see the Russians break their word and open fire.
“No one believes the Russians,” he said.
The Soviet-era iron and steel plant, one of the largest metallurgic factories in Europe, stretches over four square miles along the city’s waterfront. It now serves as a fortresslike shelter. Before becoming a key battleground, it played a dominant role in the city’s economy, providing livelihoods to tens of thousands of people.
Inventories will run out very soon and inflation will soar. (2/11)
Sergei Sobyanin, mayor of Moscow: 200,000 people are at risk of losing jobs in Moscow alone. (3/11)
Andrei Belousov, deputy prime minister [this one wasn't reported in the West, but it's crucial]: economic stimulus to fight the crisis without risking further inflation is limited to 7-8 trln rubles and the government has already reached this limit. (4/11)
Thus there's not much room to further stimulate the economy financially. (5/11)
Overall: economic sanctions are very effective at disrupting the Russian economy. Whether they can weaken the war machine is another matter. There are two factors: 1) overall military budget, 2) dependence on imports in the military-industrial complex. (6/11)
Regarding the first factor: I don't think anything short of complete energy embargo can reduce military spending, and even that might not do it. (7/11)
Second factor is trickier, however. Military production is very opaque and no one will disclose import dependency there, obviously, but there is some indirect evidence. (8/11)
E.g. Dmitry Rogozin, then deputy prime minister, admitted in 2014 that 640 Russian military products require components from NATO and EU countries. (9/11)
There were plans to substitute most of these imports by 2018, but, knowing the general ineptitude of Russian economic policy, I seriously doubt that this goal was reached. (10/11)
Bottom line: logistical and other export-oriented sanctions likely disrupt supply chains in the military industry and therefore should stay. (11/11)
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