The war continues and the disinformation battle continues with Russia claiming that they are on a humanitarian mission. Russian forces have improved their tactics and continue to rely on artillery bombardment. Severodonetsk has yet to be captured and a Ukrainian withdrawal to avoid encirclement is underway. Ukraine is conducting counterattacks in Kherson.
Main effort—Eastern Ukraine (comprised of one subordinate and three supporting efforts);
- Subordinate Main Effort—Encirclement of Ukrainian troops in the cauldron between Izyum and Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts
- Supporting Effort 1—Kharkiv City;
- Supporting Effort 2—Southern Axis;
- Activities in Russian-occupied Areas
Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine
Subordinate Main Effort—Southern Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk Oblasts (Russian objective: Encircle Ukrainian forces in Eastern Ukraine and capture the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)
Russian forces unsuccessfully attempted an offensive operation southeast of Izyum, likely in an effort to advance toward Slovyansk or Siversk. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces retreated after attempting to advance to Pasika, approximately 20 km southeast of Izyum. Russian Telegram channels reported that Russian forces successfully seized Pasika on May 28, but ISW cannot independently confirm this claim. Russian forces did not attempt to advance directly south of Izyum and are likely prioritizing an advance north of Lyman. The Ukrainian General Staff also noted that Russian forces continued launching air and artillery strikes on settlements near Siversk, approximately 30 km west of Severodonetsk. Russian forces from Izyum may join units in Lyman to conduct an offensive on Siversk or pursue a separate drive on Slovyansk. Russian forces are also reportedly transferring additional artillery and military equipment via Kupyansk, approximately 40 km west of the Russia-Kharkiv Oblast border.
Russian forces continued ground assaults on Severodonetsk’s northern neighborhoods and have not fully encircled the city from the west. Luhansk Oblast Administration Head Serhiy Haidai reported that Russian forces seized a hotel and advanced to Severodonetsk’s bus terminal on May 27 and continued fighting with Ukrainian defenders in the area on May 28. Haidai stressed that Russian forces have not isolated the city, despite damaging a bridge along the Lysychansk-Severodonetsk road. Haidai indicated that Ukrainian forces may withdraw from the area to avoid getting surrounded. Pro-Russian milblogger Alexander Sladkov (who has 850,000 followers) criticized Russian military commanders for beginning the Battle of Severodonetsk before fully encircling Ukrainian troops. Sladkov also criticized the lack of coherent offensive tactics among Russian commanders, despite their successes around Lyman.
Russian forces launched ground assaults west and east of Popasna but did not gain access to the Lysychansk-Bakhmut nor the Lysychansk-Hirske highway. Russian Telegram channels reported that fighting continued over Komyushuvakha, approximately 8 km east of Popasna, with the aim of allowing the Russians to launch an offensive on Zolote and secure the T1303 highway to Lysychansk. Haidai reported that Ukrainian forces secured positions in a settlement along the T1303 highway, likely to hinder the Russian drive on Severodonetsk. Haidai also noted that Russian forces have yet to seize the T1302 highway from Bakhmut to Lysychansk despite repeated attempts to secure the road from positions northeast of Popasna. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces attempted to advance toward Bakhmut from settlements approximately 25 km southwest of Popasna. Russian forces will likely continue offensive operations on Bakhmut as well as the T1302 and T1303 highways to isolate Ukrainian forces in the Severodonetsk-Lysychansk area.
More information: Russians have reportedly begun releasing water from the the Dnieper dam (which is marked with the dam icon just south of the arrow labeled 20 east of Kherson). This would suggest that Russia could be preparing for the possibility of blowing the dam.
This is a series of events that almost exactly mirrors the events that lead up to the 1941 destruction of the Dnieper dam, in which the Germans moved into Tomaryne and Beryslav and simply sat there and waited until Stalin ordered the destruction of the dam.
(I think this is called the Dnieper dam, and now I've said the word so many times I cant even remember if its the right word, it might be called something else, but its that dam I marked on the map.)
You can read about the destruction of the dam in 1941 here. It was a major tragedy that killed many civilians. Blowing the dam today would be even worse and kill even more civilians.
• • •
Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, has said that Russia’s absolute priority in the war against Ukraine is to capture Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts; he added that people who live in other Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine will have to "decide their future" themselves.
Source: Lavrov in an interview for French TV channel TF1, cited in the Kremlin-aligned Russian news media RIA Novosti and in TASS
Quote from Lavrov: "The liberation of Donetsk and Luhansk oblast, which the Russian Federation recognises as independent states, is an absolute priority."
Details: At the same time, the Russian minister said that in other Ukrainian territories where Russia is conducting its "special military operation", the people who live in those territories will have to "decide their future" themselves.
According to Lavrov, the environment created by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine "banned Russian education, media, culture, and the use of the Russian language in everyday life." In contrast, Lavrov claimed that in the environment that Russia will foster, those who live in Russian-occupied territories "will be able to raise their children however they want, not how Zelenskyy and his team want them to."
Lavrov also tried to argue that the extended duration of Russia’s "special operation" in Ukraine was due to the absolute ban on any attacks on civilian infrastructure that the Russian military has to observe. However, it has been widely reported that Russia has been destroying civilian infrastructure in Ukraine since the beginning of the war.
2/ Sir Michael Howard wrote in “The Uses and Abuses of Military History” that military institutions normally get the next war wrong, mostly for reasons beyond their control. As such, an important virtue for military organizations must be adaptability to unexpected events.
3/ In March I explored the concept of adaptation in war, as well as how Russian transformation efforts since 2008 appear to have paid minimal dividends for them at the tactical & strategic levels.
4/ In the last few weeks, the Russians have made steady, if slow, progress in the conduct of its eastern offensive in the Donbas. The Russian advances is an indication that they are learning from their earlier failures.
5/ Before exploring this in detail, a short detour is necessary to define a framework for exploring where the Russians have learned. I will use some of the principles of war.
6/ Military organisations use these principles to instruct soldiers, develop common tactics, and to organise combat & support formations. The principles are, in effect, maxims that represent essential truths about the practice of successful wars, military campaigns & operations.
7/ In the context of this exploration of Russian learning, three principles of war in particular stand out. These are: selection and maintenance of the aim; concentration of force; and cooperation.
8/ In any military action, the aim must be simple, widely understood and within the means of the forces available. The initial Russian war aims were broad ranging and did not count on massive western military aid to Ukraine.
9/ It quickly became clear that these aims were beyond Russian military capacity. The Russians were using an invading military that was smaller than that of the state it was attacking, and it failed.
10/ More recently, the Russians – as highlighted in briefings by senior Russian officers - have consolidated their aims to narrower objectives in the east. And they have shifted their forces to give themselves a better chance at achieving these tighter strategic goals.
11/ Concentration of effort. Success in war often depends on achieving a concentration of military force at the most time and place. This should then be supported by efforts such as information operations & diplomacy to magnify the impact of the concentrated military forces.
12/ In the first weeks of the war, the Russians sought to prosecute their war against Ukraine on four ground fronts in the north, northeast, east and south of the country. Another front was the clearly disconnected air and missile attacks against Ukraine.
Because of the failures around Kyiv & Kharkiv, the Russians have had to reassess this approach. 1st, they realigned the deployment of their forces, so they had fewer ‘fronts’ to support. 2nd, the Russians have focussed their offensive operations in one part of Ukraine.
The Russians are using this concentration of combat forces to bludgeon their way through Ukrainian defences, destroy military units and population centres, and to capture additional territory.
15/ But in stripping forces from other regions, and focussing on the east, it has made the Russians vulnerable elsewhere. The Ukrainians have thus launched a counteroffensive around Kherson.
16/ A final principle of war is cooperation. Early in the war, it was clear that the Russian Army and the Russian Air Force were poorly aligned. At the same time, the Russians showed an inability to effectively use combined arms operations on the ground.
17/ The operations in the east demonstrate a degree of learning in this regard. The Russian air force sortie rate has improved, and it is concentrating much of its efforts to support ground operations in the east.
18/ At the same time, the coordination of Russian ground forces has improved. They have moved slowly and cautiously, used their advantage in artillery well, and have been careful not to expose their logistics to attack to the degree they did in the north.
19/ And at the higher level, the Russians have appointed a senior Russian general as the overall commander of the Ukrainian campaign. He has overseen a brutal and destructive approach in the east, but the Russians are likely to see their limited gains as major successes.
20/ But sustaining tactical learning to generate an operational advantage will be a significant challenge given other Russian leadership shortfalls. And is it too little, too late?
21/ This begs a larger question: what might be the impact of this Russian tactical learning be on the overall conduct of the war? And given the intensity of Russia’s eastern operations, will they remain capable of offensive operations after the next few weeks?
22/ This depends on Russian logistics, Ukrainian defensive strategy, the inflow of western aid, and the conduct of Ukrainian offensives elsewhere that might draw away Russian forces. And short-term tactical adaptation (though hard) is simpler than long term strategic adaptation.
23/ Murray, Knox and Bernstein have written “it is more important to make correct decisions at the political & strategic level than at the tactical level. Mistakes in operations and tactics can be corrected, but political and strategic mistakes live forever.”
• • •
2/ The cost of gas is surging across the US, but drivers shouldn't expect any action taken by President Joe Biden's administration to bring down prices at the pump ahead of summer driving season. (@MktsInsider)
3/ The White House is staring down a global energy crunch sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, as well as domestic supply strains across energy commodities.
4/ "There are very few tools the US administration has because the biggest drivers for gasoline prices are driven by global fundamentals," @mattvsmith01, lead oil analyst at @Kpler, told Insider.
"You can make decisions on domestic supply, but if it doesn't have an impact on the global picture, it won't have an impact at the pump," the top oil analyst explained. (@mattvsmith01
6/ Gas prices have blown past record after record in recent weeks. On Friday, the average gallon of gas in the US hit $4.599 — roughly 51% higher than a year ago, according to AAA data.
7/ Even prior to the war in Ukraine, however, supply was tight. "[Before February], US inventories were low compared to historical benchmarks — for crude, gas and diesel," @mattvsmith01 said.
8/ About 59% of the price of gas at the pump comes from the cost of crude in global markets, but the additional release of barrels, or even increases in US production, would only add a "proverbial drop in the bucket" said Fed economists.
9/ "Biden can't really control global oil prices even though they've given it their best shot with the strategic petroleum release," @mattvsmith01 said. (@MktsInsider)
10/ Biden could move to implement a Federal tax holiday on gas to ease prices, or temporarily suspend some regulations on ethanol and smog. But these changes will largely be ineffectual, the analyst said. (@MktsInsider)
11/ The Biden Administration is "in a fairly desperate situation" with sky-high gas prices ahead of midterm elections, top oil analyst @mattvsmith01 explained. "It may be an impossible task."
• • •
Overall, using Ukrainian claims of Russian losses at an indicator, there has been a real crop in combat intensity across Ukraine in the last week. Now fewer Russian losses are being claimed than before the Battle of Donbas started. Here are tanks and APC claims.
We are seeing a significant decrease in combat intensity, and much of that is in the Donbas. Its worth noting that between 55-65% of all claimed Russian losses are in this theater (that’s from comparing Ukrainian communiques). This is a major theater drop.
My guess is that the Russians are simply running out of front line combat vehicles in that area (and much of Ukraine). Was interesting to see that the Pentagon on 26 May said they calculated Russian tank losses at approx 1000. defense.gov/News/Transcrip…
Pentagon estimates of Russian losses have actually not been high, so such a claim is worth noting. Its also considerably higher than osint photographic claims, while below Ukrainian claims of more than 1300.
This is a huge number in any rational understanding of modern war. I also think it indicates that the Russians are running short of vehicles (instead of the Ukrainians losing the ability to destroy them) because of what is happening in the Donbas.
First off, the great breakthrough at Popasna has basically stalled (its now been 10 days since it was claimed). Russians have been unable to capitalize on the opening their artillery made, and are once again having trouble moving. One map.
Since the breakthrough the Russians have moved barely 10-15 kilometres--and that was mostly at the start before stalling.
Maybe even stronger evidence of them running out of vehicles is that they seem to have abandoned the (sensible) plan of trying to cut off SDonestk before attacking. Indeed, they seem to be trying to take the city now with direct frontal assaults. Hard to see them preferring this.
Dangerous, costly and not worth the effort for Putin except out of political desperation.
That you would assault a city before surrounding it, starving its defenders of supplies and even bombarding it more is a sign that they believe that they cant do this. My guess is that they cant do this as they dont have the vehicles to encircle the town soon.
Russian advances seem mostly artillery based (which limits their potential). They can at times blast holes in the Ukrainian lines, like they did in Popasna, but they dont have the vehicles to exploit, and those that they try to press ahead get chewed up by defensive firepower.
Think this also points to a real problem in war reporting in the Donbas. There is lots of talk about overwhelming Russian artillery in the Donbas--but in and of itself, that only tells a small part of the story.
I tried to think through some of these questions in this @TheAtlantic
article. The destruction of tanks and APCs on the battlefield is returning these advances to WW1 levels from WW2.
And of course there is alot of macro evidence that the Russians are scraping the bottom of the barrel for front line armored vehicles. The movement of T-62s to the theatre has well documented, that is really desperate.
Same for APC, with the Russians having to deploy ancient BMP-1s. Ukrainian communiques talk about facing both of these.
Long story short. Either the Ukrainians are basically on the point of collapse in the Donbas and the Russians are about to storm ahead--or the Russians are running very short of vehicles and getting a little desperate. My guess is the latter.
Does seem that the Russian move out of Popasna has really stalled, if Ukrainian claims are to be believed. There was talk of the Russians being about to cut this road more than a week ago.
Head of Luhansk administration has tweeted a map showing the Russians being pushed back towards Popasna quite markedly.
• • •