Major combat appears to begin as Russia takes Kremmina, along with diversionary efforts to launch false-flag strikes in Moldova. Air bombardment continues. Russia continues to attempt tactical encirclements with little success, partially because of the continuing issues of logistics and the “tyranny of distance” with comparatively long lines of supply.
The long table is back:
- Russian forces continue to make slow but steady progress south from Izyum and northwest of Rubizhne, but Russian offensive operations elsewhere along the line in eastern Ukraine remain unsuccessful.
- Fighting continues in Mariupol, where Ukrainian defenders apparently still hold positions beyond the Azovstal Plant.
- Russia and/or Russian proxies have staged false-flag attacks in Russian-occupied Transnistria, possibly to threaten a (very likely unsuccessful) attack on Odesa, possibly to destabilize Moldova.
Russia will stop supplying gas to Poland and Bulgaria from Wednesday. Warsaw has refused to pay its supplier, Gazprom, in roubles and earlier announced that it was imposing sanctions on 50 entities and individuals including Russia’s biggest gas company. Bulgaria, which is almost completely reliant on Russian gas imports, said it had fulfilled all its contractual obligations with Gazprom and that the proposed new payment scheme was in breach of the arrangement. Andriy Yermak, the chief of staff to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said Russia was “beginning the gas blackmail of Europe”.
Russia’s defence ministry warned of an immediate “proportional response” if Britain continues its “direct provocation” of the Kyiv regime, after the UK armed forces minister, James Heappey, described Ukrainian strikes on Russian soil that hit supplies and disrupt logistics as “completely legitimate”.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he believes Russia is trying to destabilise the situation in Moldova’s Transnistrian region after a series of explosions there, adding that Ukrainian armed forces were ready for a possible escalation by Russian troops in the temporarily occupied territory. “The goal is obvious – to destabilise the situation in the region, to threaten Moldova. They show that if Moldova supports Ukraine, there will be certain steps,” Zelenskiy said in his latest national address. Russia has refused to rule out Moldova’s breakaway region Transnistria being drawn into the Ukraine war
Zelenskiy said the “free world has the right to self-defence” after predicting that Russia intends to not only seize the territory of Ukraine but to “dismember the entire centre and east of Europe” and “deal a global blow to democracy”
Russian forces conducted precision missile strikes against five Ukrainian railway stations in central and western Ukraine on April 25 in a likely effort to disrupt Ukrainian reinforcements to eastern Ukraine and Western aid shipments. A series of likely coordinated Russian missile strikes conducted within an hour of one another early on April 25 hit critical transportation infrastructure in Vinnytsia, Poltava, Khmelnytskyi, Rivne, and Zhytomyr oblasts. Russian forces seek to disrupt Ukrainian reinforcements and logistics. The Kremlin may have additionally conducted this series of strikes—an abnormal number of precision missile strikes for one day—to demonstrate Russia’s ability to hit targets in Western Ukraine and to disrupt western aid shipments after US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s surprise visit to Kyiv over the weekend. However, Russian precision strike capabilities will remain limited and unlikely to decisively affect the course of the war; open-source research organization Bellingcat reported on April 24 that Russia has likely used 70% of its total stockpile of precision missiles to date.
Local Ukrainian counterattacks retook territory north of Kherson and west of Izyum in the past 24 hours. Russian forces continue to make little progress in scattered, small-scale attacks in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian forces are successfully halting Russian efforts to bypass Ukrainian defensive positions around Izyum, and Russian forces are struggling to complete even tactical encirclements. Local Ukrainian counterattacks in Kherson Oblast are unlikely to develop into a larger counteroffensive in the near term but are disrupting Russian efforts to completely capture Kherson Oblast and are likely acting as a drain on Russian combat power that could otherwise support Russia’s main effort in eastern Ukraine.
#Russia is staging false-flag attacks in #Transnistria, Moldova... Russia may also seek to destabilize #Moldova itself, however.
Main effort—Eastern Ukraine
In other words, it shouldn’t be terribly difficult for Ukraine to take Crimea once it starts experiencing success on the Kherson front, which it already is: even as I am writing this, Ukraine announced that it destroyed the Russian command post for the Kherson region, with some fifty military officers inside at the time, claiming to have killed two generals and badly wounded another. If true, this would be a devastating blow to the command-and-control dimension of Russian operations in the region and we may be witnessing a momentum shift on this front as I write this.
How to Take Crimea: The (Coming?) Siege of Crimea
So given all this, how should Ukraine proceed?
Well, first and foremost, they should find a way to take out the pride of recent Russian infrastructure achievements, the Crimean Bridge. This would make it far more difficult to supply Crimea and Russian forces that have invaded further into Ukraine from Crimea; with the anti-ship missile threat looming for the Russian Navy, that leaves the treacherous land corridor from the Donetsk, subject to Ukrainian partisan attacks and Ukrainian military raids, counterattacks, and air, drone, and missile strikes. The destruction of the bridge will also further weaken Russia’s low morale, not just its pathetic logistical efforts.
Then, it could be possible for Ukraine, now getting reinforced by heavy weapons and troops that were victorious to the north, to launch an attack to break through the Kherson front and advance to the Crimean border, cutting it off from other Russian forces. Yet, as Russia seems keen on an offensive in the area, it would be wise to first allow Russian forces to smash themselves into pieces as they have with their offensives elsewhere. Unlike, say, the situation in Mariupol, where a small number of Ukrainian defenders have held on heroically despite the odds and inflicted outsized casualties on Russian forces, the Russians will find far more, better-rested, better-equipped, and better-supplied Ukrainian troops near Kherson. If the Russians are stupid enough to attack and repeat their failures near Kyiv and elsewhere in the north, the Ukrainians can play defense and inflict heavy casualties before launching their own counterattack.
Among the briefers were Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters, the senior U.S. military officer in Europe. “Time is not on Ukraine’s side,” Milley said in comments to the group that were provided to reporters traveling with him. “The outcome of this battle, right here, today, is dependent on the people in this room.”
A Ukrainian delegation at the meeting in Germany headed by Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov thanked the donors and appealed for more artillery and weapons to repel Russian bombardment and stop their advance on the ground. “We need weapons,” Reznikov tweeted after the meeting. “Modern weapons. A large number of modern heavy weapons.”
Austin appealed for a sustained effort to protect Ukraine, telling reporters that Tuesday’s meeting will evolve into a monthly discussion to improve collaboration, transparency and understanding of what is required. Ukraine’s military needs to be strengthened “for the long haul,” he said, and that must be “done right.”
Since the Russian invasion began, the United States has sent 1,400 Stingers, the man-portable air defense missile system produced by Raytheon, to Ukraine, and the Defense and State departments have scoured the arsenals of other nations that have purchased them in search of more. In an earnings call Tuesday, Raytheon chief executive Gregory J. Hayes said the cupboard is virtually bare.
The U.S. defense official described a bonanza of information the American military has gleaned about Russian “tactics and procedures” by watching “how they perform in combat” since the Feb. 24 invasion. “We call it ‘free chicken,’” the official said. “What would take years and years for the intelligence community to find out [about] how they do things, we’re getting free every day,” allowing the military to “create profiles that will help us for years and years.”