Whether by battlefield success or strategic Ukrainian retreat, Russia is seeing some success in the Lyman-Severodonetsk axis.
It seems fated Russia eventually swallow up Lyman and Severodonetsk, just off the right edge of the map above—they are the last two remaining Ukrainian strongholds north of the Donets River. And given Russia’s severe troubles fording that river, Ukraine will have more defensible territory on the southern bank when and if they’re pushed back.
That Russian Popasna salient on the bottom-right of the map above could be more problematic. There’s no river down there to provide fall-back protection if Ukrainian defensive lines collapse. Luckily, Russia has been unable or unwilling to fully exploit that breakthrough, but they will continue their drip-drip-drip of of cannon-fodder charges until Ukrainian defenses are worn through. Or at least, that’s their hope.
Quick aside: Remember when everyone (including the Pentagon and UK intelligence) said Russia had a big, massive offensive in store for the eastern Donbas after their humiliating Kyiv retreat? Remember how I laughed off the possibility, given Russia’s complete inability to demonstrate any ability to launch large-scale coordinated attacks? I don’t pretend to always be right, but I am so glad I called this one correctly. Our biggest fear should be Russia learning from its mistakes. (And maybe nuclear annihilation, on further thought...)
Not going to lie, I have no idea why Ukraine fights so hard for Lyman and Severodonetsk. Neither have any particularly strategic value. They’ve both been mostly emptied of civilians, flattened by Russian artillery. But Russia’s gains in the area (like everywhere else on this front) have come at a frightful cost, so perhaps there’s no reason to abandon meticulously created defensive emplacements until they actually need to abandon them? Russia is certainly telegraphing uncertainty about its ability to capture the city, leading to those disastrous bridging attempts to surround Severodonetsk.
Those rash, desperate river crossings underscore just how Severodonetsk is to Russia’s war planners at the moment. It clearly needs a victory to parade on state TV, to motivate flagging morale, and to give its aimless slog purpose. The victory doesn’t need to be strategic. In reality, it would be an even smaller target than its already shrunken territorial ambitions:
Russia is running out of troops and heading to the point of culmination, a word you’ll be hearing more and more—the point where an army is so degraded that it can no longer fight. Ukraine went on the counter-offensive around Kharkiv, and Russia had nothing. This supposedly mighty superpower, the world’s second-best army, pathetically retreated in the face of lightly armed territorial defense troops. Russia couldn’t even muster any reserves from Belgorod, just a stone’s throw away. They’re running on fumes.
Russian private military companies are reportedly forming combined units with airborne elements due to significant losses in manpower. Denaturing elite airborne units with mercenaries is shocking, and would be the clearest indication yet that Russia has exhausted its available combat-ready manpower reserves. The Russian 810th Guards Naval Infantry Brigade is reportedly receiving personnel from other Black Sea Fleet units, including navy ship crewmembers. Newly formed or regrouped units are unlikely to be effective in combat.
Russia has had to withdraw at least some of its forces from the Izyum salient—its largest concentration of troops in all of Ukraine with about 20-25% of its total battalion tactical groups—to guard its critical supply hub at Kupiansk. Russia shouldn’t overly sweat it, because Ukraine is pressing directly on Izyum instead from the west and likely its northwest.
NASA FIRMS satellite imagery is quiet today, but it’s also been raining. Cloud cover can obscure sensors, and wet conditions can suppress fires. Or maybe everyone took Sunday off, who knows. Fog of war, and all.
Meanwhile, Russia is having a tough time with people doing shit despite its threats. There’s Kyrgyzstan:
Finland and Sweden, of course:
There was Poland.
They’re threatening UK:
They even threaten a singing competition.
Russia is a bankrupt nation with a bankrupt army and a bankrupt leader who has lost his mind. They dominated their region and struck fear into its neighbors by pretending to have a functioning superpower-class military. Instead, the only acceptable responses to threats like the ones above look like this: