The expected Russian breakthrough has yet to happen, what with the adapting defensive tactics of the Ukrainian armed forces. Even as the anticipated 9 May Victory Day celebration in Moscow will be unrelated, the attempted erasure of Ukrainian national symbols in occupied areas continues. Weapons transfers continue.
- A Ukrainian counteroffensive out of Kharkiv City will likely alleviate pressure on parts of the city that have suffered the most from Russian shelling and may force Russian troops from Izyum to re-deploy northward to support forces maintaining the partial encirclement of Kharkiv.
- Additional Russian forces are deploying to the Izyum front but are unlikely to enable any major advances.
- Russian troops did not make any confirmed advances to the southwest or southeast of Izyum or to the west of the Donetsk-Luhansk frontline.
- Russian forces in Kherson are pausing major offensive operations to improve their tactical positions and regroup to prepare for a renewed offensive to capture the administrative borders of Kherson.
Russian occupation forces in Mariupol announced plans to consolidate their control over the city and intend to return Ukrainian citizens forcibly deported into Russia at some point in the future.
- Main effort—Eastern Ukraine (comprised of two subordinate supporting efforts);
Supporting effort 1—Kharkiv and Izyum;
Supporting effort 2—Southern axis;
Supporting effort 3—Sumy and northeastern Ukraine.
The Axe Files with David Axelrod
Ep. 487 — Amb. Michael McFaul
As a high school student in Montana, Ambassador Michael McFaul became interested in Russian affairs while working on a debate team assignment concerning trade sanctions on the Soviet Union. He first visited the Soviet Union in college and went on to serve as US Ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014. Ambassador McFaul joined David to talk about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s paranoia over the expansion of democracy around the world, the rise of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, what he sees as potential outcomes for the war in Ukraine, and how Putin’s attempts to tighten his grip on power may actually accelerate the unraveling of his leadership.
2/ Weather Impact. The 10-day forecast for eastern Ukraine favors Russian offensive operations.
Steady higher temps (17-23 C) will continue to dry out areas with extensive mud, slightly improving offroad movement. Cloud cover will not degrade VKS sorties or UAV operations.
3/ Kharkiv OD. Ukrainian forces continue to conduct successful counterattacks to the north and east of Kharkiv, slowly pushing Russian forces toward the Russian border and Siverskyi Donets. Russian forces in the area are not adequate to slow Ukrainian attacks. #Kharkiv #Lozova
Recent Ukrainian attacks in east Kharkiv may be attempting to push Russian forces away from the Siverskyi Donets and towards the Russian border to improve conditions for an eventual push toward Velvkyi Burluk & Kupyansk.
Severodonetsk-Donetsk OD. Russian forces maintain a steady yet grinding pace in gaining ground against Ukrainian forces along the Siverskyi Donets Line. If steady success can be maintained, Russian troops may be able to achieve a breakthrough in the coming weeks. #Donbas
6/ However, the recent redeployment of the 4th & 17th Ukrainian Tank Brigades to the Severodonetsk Salient provides a powerful combined arms reserve to blunt any Russian penetration of Ukrainian defenses.
7/ So far, Ukraine’s mobile defense throughout the Donbas region has sufficiently disrupted Russian attempts at a general breakthrough. Coupled with counterattacks in the Kharkiv area, Russia will find it difficult to continue sustained offensive action.
Zaporizhzhia OD. There has been little activity in the Zaporizhzhia OD over the last 48 hours. Russian forces continue shelling of Ukrainian positions along the defensive line running from Vasylivka, through Huliaipole, to Velyka Novosilka. #Zaporizhzhia #Melitopol
Mariupol. Russian forces conducted a series of assaults from 22-28 April to seize the Avozstal north complex and the M14 Highway, however the M14 Highway in the Azovstal area appears to still be under Ukrainian control. #Mariupol #Azovstal
10/ Social media posting in recent days still show Russian troops combating isolate pockets of resistance throughout Mariupol. Russian forces use artillery as direct fire weapon systems to reduce remaining strongpoint defenses.
Odesa-Kherson OD. Russian forces have shifted their activity in the past 48 hours from expanding the Kherson defensive perimeter to consolidating gains made around Oleksandrivka and Tavriiske. It is likely Russia will still show their “KPR referendum” in early May. #Kherson
12/ Aerospace Assessment. Russia continues to employ long-range strike (primarily missile attacks) against key points of communication and infrastructure targets in western & southern Ukraine.
13/ Ukrainian refugees total 7.56+ million with 5.8+ million in countries bordering Ukraine, another 1.73+ throughout Europe, and 7.5+ million internally displaced people throughout Ukraine (1.4+ million in eastern & 228K in southern Ukraine).
14/ The UN brokered a deal to evacuate a small number of civilians from the Azovstal area, but hundreds more remain under siege. The commanders of the Azov Regiment & 36th Marine Brigade continue to appeal for a larger evacuation of civilians & wounded.
15/ Overall Assessment. Russian momentum may be nearing a critical inflection point. If successful Ukrainian counterattacks in the Kharkiv region continue it will force the Russians to shift already limited resources from the Severodonetsk-Donetsk OD to stabilize the Kharkiv OD.
16/ With three tank brigades in the Severodonetsk-Donetsk OD concentrated against the Russian main effort from Izium to Popsana, the Ukrainians will be able to reverse Russian gains if they are forced to pull troops to secure their GLOCs to the north.
17/ We once again see the Ukrainian General Staff employing the principal of continuity by exploiting Russian vulnerability in command & logistical support to keep Russian forces under unrelenting pressure through a well-executed mobile defense as they advance.
18/ This pressure denies Russian forces the ability to regain equilibrium through their current offensive, as evident of the daily slowing progress of Russian forces. Ukraine’s mobile defense may be able to force the Russians to once again seek disengagement to prevent disaster.
19/ These maps have been created by me based off the most reliable information of activity in the Ukrainian Theater of War from a variety of sources. Errors will be corrected as soon as they are identified.
20/ Information regarding Ukrainian units are meant to be general, are based on Ukrainian General Staff statements and social media posts, official Ukrainian government press releases, and local news. It does not depict current unit movements. END
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Lets look at losses. Using claimed Ukrainian losses of Russian equipment as a gauge of combat intensity, it seems that the last 10 days have seen a major increase of fighting with much heavier losses being suffered (presumably by both sides).
I made this chart showing claimed losses over 2 day periods between 14 April and just released information for today. Losses really leapt up after 18 April when the Battle was said to have started. The rise in tank loss rates was approx double and in APC losses more than 75%
If these Ukrainian claims are at all accurate (it should be noted that documented, photographed claims of Russian losses are about two thirds of those claimed, so they certainly should not be out by much) then the Russians have lost 217 tanks and 404 APCs since the battle started
Even if they are exaggerrated by 20 percent, Russian losses would be extreme, around 20 full strength BTGs worth? And according to the Pentagon, the Russians have 92 BTGs in Ukraine.
That means they could have lost 20% of their tanks and APCs in Ukraine since the battle started (that’s if the BTGs were at that point close to full strength. If they were considerably weaker, it could be higher).
And what have the Russians gained for this large loss? Incrementally a few kilometres here and a few kilometres there. Here is the situation as mapped by @War_Mapper
a few hours ago and on 17 April.
There have been some small extension of the Russian lines heading south of Izyum and towards Lyman, but the pace is such that unless Ukrainian forces are actually close to collapse, the chance of a large scale encirclement is very small.
Pentagon intelligence also claims two things which are slowing down Russian advances. They are still suffering significant logistics problems (they need to stay close to their supply dumps) and they still dont have air superiority over the battlefield.
And now some worrying signs are creeping in for the Russians. 1st, there are indications that the Ukrainians are starting to deploy the loitering munition UAVs (Switchblade type) that were sent just a little while ago. This could be a major Russian problem
And UK MOD estimates are that problems are exhibited across the board for Russians, maybe most worryingly for them, morale problems are occurring.
A sign that Russian defeated troops into action from the Kyiv front might not have been the wisest choice.
Long story short. Unless the Ukrainians have been degraded to the point that their resistance is about to crack, and the Russians start moving swiftly to encircle their forces, its likely the Russian effort will peter out because of such high losses with little gains.
Finally, the plateauing of Russian losses followed by the decline in the last few days, could indicate a lessening in combat intensity as the failure of the Russians to break through combined with the high losses starts to filter through.
Another worrying sign for the Russians are growing reports (and pictures) of accurate, long range artillery fire by the Ukrainians. Considering Ukr artillery capabilities should grow over the coming weeks, this will add to Russian losses.
Turns out that this strike revealed more than just effective long range artillery. Ukrainians claim they killed another Russian general. Showing continuing Ukrainian intelligence strength
update does seem to indicate a slowing in Russian advance on the Izyum front. If this continues for a few days, the losses could be cutting into Russian ability to maintain offensive operations
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Still voices speak (without evidence) that Russia is some large military power that can almost dictate terms in Ukraine. This article in @guardian might be the worst. No evidence given on Russian strength, but an assumption Russia can fight a long war.
People seem to be forgetting that societal mobilization and long war has enormous political, economic and military risks for Russia. It’s not just about calling soldiers to the ranks--its about training them and equipping them. Russia is not in the best position to do this at all.
Russia has no training system to handle some mass infusion of untrained personnel. They already have called up this year's normal conscript soldiers (Only 135k because of Russia's demographic crisis) and they are right now being trained.
If they want to train more--they need to set up a training system first to handle more soldiers. This normally takes many months in an efficient system. Only once you have the training system, can you start actually creating your new army.
Just as an example, it takes the US in WWII, even with preparations under way. more than 6 months to start expanding significantly its pool of trained personnel. and its not til more than a year that the numbers really take off.
So the Russians need to train the trainers, then train the new soldiers. According to this @ISW
report, Russian training takes somewhere between 3-6 months.
Here is the whole report--also points out that Russia is struggling with getting reserves.
So under exceptionally efficient systems, you might expect a large army expansion with well trained soldiers in 9 months. Could Russia do that--doubtful. Probably poorly trained, unmotivated conscripts could be produced, but thats it.
Then you have to equip them. Again, all this blasé talk about Russia going to full mobilization misses the fact that Russia is economically weak and now operating under sanctions.
The Russians are already suffering shortfalls in replenishment. It would again take a very efficient and well planned economy to ramp up production under these sanctions. SO arming the new mass army with new weapons will be hard.
Sure, they can get all their oodles of equipment that has been sitting around in storage for years, not being maintained, etc. Their front line stuff has already shown weaknesses. Imagine what the second-line stuff is like
So Russian mobilization requires the establishment of a training system that doesn’t exist and the growth of arms production that is being crippled. It would also require an admission by the Russian government that they are losing the war. That’s a political risk.
Is interesting to note that when they called up this year's conscripts, they said they would not be sent to Ukraine. There are stories of Russian army recruitment stations being burned too. Will people actually want to fight and die in this war? Questionable.
And while the Russians are assembling this force of hastily untrained, not well equipped, and politically questionable conscripts to fight in a war that they have been calling a great success--the Ukrainians will be getting more and better equipment from NATO.
Ukraine is already upgrading its training and will beat the Russians to the punch by getting better prepared soldiers to the front lines months earlier--and that’s if Russia acts now.
So understand Russian societal mobilization is not something that can be simply bandied about. It requires action and preparation that the Russian government is clearly reluctant to do. Stop talking about it like its easy and Russia is some large power. Neither is true.
And Russia has to start now. Waiting till May 9 is even too late. Ukraine has already started its societal mobilisation in training and equipment.
Interesting time reference by Pres Biden in the announcement of the massive $33 billon aid package. Wants to make sure Ukraine has significant success within 5 months. i.e. before Russia could do a wide scale mobilisation, were it so inclined.
Attaching this thread here, so you can see more about the package and the timing issue.
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