There has been no further updates on the big news of the day—reports by Russian sources that Ukraine had crossed to the east of the Donets River, directly threatening Russian supply lines at Vovchansk. Ukraine doesn’t announce liberated towns until days after the fact. Russia doesn’t know what half its troops are doing at any given time, why give them a head’s up? It also prevents the embarrassment of losing territory after announcing a liberation. One more reason: Ukraine doesn’t want people prematurely streaming back to their homes until the area is clear of invaders, mines, booby traps, dead bodies, and other dangers.
NASA FIRMS satellites track forest fires … and war fires. Let’s see what it tells us.
There are two supposed crossings over the Donets, east of Kharkiv. The first is at Staryi Saltiv, where a long bridge was expeditiously repaired, and the second was further north at Rubizhne, where Ukraine reportedly laid a pontoon bridge. This tells us that only the Staryi Saltiv crossing is seeing action large enough to be picked up by satellite heat sensors.
Looking at the FIRMS imagery, something is happening at Ukrainian-held Bazaliyevka, east of Chuhuiv, bordering Russian-held territory. If something is happening there, I could find no report about it anywhere. The forested area east of Izyum remains on fire, as Ukraine reportedly pushes toward Izyum’s western edge.
In the Lyman-Severodonetsk axis, Russia continued to edge closer to those two cities:
As Russia’s war machine falters, its ambitions shrink by the week. I’ve trotted this image out the last few days because it really brings home just how pathetic those “victories” above are to Russia’s war effort.
Meanwhile, this video Monday night from Russian state-run TV’s number one show is getting a great deal of attention:
Every time he’s on, everyone jokes “off to the gulag it is!” Yet he returns. Julia Davis claims they keep him around to “help temper the expectations, while other pundits promise fast, easy victories.” Kamil Galeev has a nice thread on this Mikhail Khodaryonok: “Out of all people in the room he is the most sober one. Why? Well, may be because he's the only one with the substantial military experience. He's a career officer of the air defence who turned to a pundit career only after retirement.”
You may also remember Khodaryonok as the author of a prescient February 2 article in a Russian military publication warning against the war, “Some representatives of the Russian political class today claim that Russia is able to inflict a crushing defeat on Ukraine in a few hours (called shorter terms) if a military conflict begins. Let's see how such statements correspond to reality.” His predictions were controversial in Russia—that “[n]o one will meet the Russian army with bread, salt and flowers in Ukraine,” and warned that even Russian-speaking Ukrainians would resist. He mocked the idea of a blitzkrieg that would take out Ukrainian defenses in hours. He reminded readers of the “open shock” of Russian aircraft losses to Ukrainian defenses in the 2014 war, and how air superiority didn’t help Russian in the First Chechen war or Afghanistan anyway.
He predicted that “There is no doubt that some reincarnation of Lend-Lease modeled and likeness of World War II will begin on the part of the United States and the North Atlantic Alliance countries,” and that “There may be an influx of volunteers from the West, of whom there may be a lot.” And to those who scoffed at the quality of Ukraine’s military, he had a sage warning, “If until 2014 the Armed Forces of Ukraine were a fragment of the Soviet army, over the past seven years a qualitatively different army has been created in Ukraine, on a completely different ideological basis and largely on NATO standards. And today very modern weapons and equipment are coming and continue to arrive in Ukraine from many countries of the North Atlantic Alliance.”
He concluded, “In general, there will be no Ukrainian blitzkrieg. Statements of some experts such as ‘The Russian army will defeat most of the units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in 30-40 minutes’, ‘Russia is able to defeat Ukraine in 10 minutes in case of a full-scale war’, ‘Russia will defeat Ukraine in eight minutes’ have no serious reason.”
In print and on TV, he’s been the sole voice of reason inside Russia’s tightly controlled media bubble. For whatever reason Putin keeps around, it’s too bad no one is actually listening to him.