The last time territory publicly changed hands in Ukraine was July 9, and before that, July 6. Both times, they were tiny settlements in the Donbas, as Russia continues its bloody crawl toward Sivers’k—a town Russia should’ve taken a long time ago.
While not as isolated as Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, Sivers’k puts Ukrainian defenders in a bind—bring up artillery to help suppress Russian batteries, and they are vulnerable to counter-battery fire from three sides. Defending a tougher salient cost Ukraine at least 4 precious M777 howitzers in Lysychansk, and while the map isn’t as dire this time around, it’s still not an ideal defense. Yet Russia is stalled, pretending it is undertaking an “operational pause.” In reality, Russia is 1) exhausted from the effort, 2) still unable to cross the Donetsk river north of Sivers’k, 3) having to extend its supply lines, something they suck at doing, and 4) dealing with HIMARS’ systematic destruction of supply depots, dramatically exacerbating those supply problems.
Meanwhile, even Russian assessed gains over the past few weeks might be overstated. While the map above has Bilohorivka under Russian command, we saw this on Saturday:
Hryhorivka is also supposedly under Russian control, yet last night’s operational update from Ukraine’s General Staff said this:
In the Slovyansk direction, the enemy shelled civil and military infrastructure near Zakitny, Hryhorivka, Tetyanivka, Zvanivka, Minkivka, Raigorodka and others with barrel and jet artillery. [Emphasis mine]
Russia doesn’t shell towns under its control, and Ukraine doesn’t lie about the location of Russian shelling. All it takes is mastering their code. “Enemy shelled X” or “The enemy fired at our positions in X” means Ukraine controls X.
“Enemy tried to advance in the direction of X” means all the towns behind X are in Russian hands. Ukraine’s General Staff will never actually announce the loss of a town, they’ll just report Russia’s new advances beyond that town.
Sometimes, they’ll be purposefully vague like this, from last night’s report: “Ukrainian soldiers competently repelled another reconnaissance attempt with a battle near Berestove and Bilohorivka.” So … where exactly is “near”? Who controls Berestove and Bilohorivka? If it’s Russia, Ukraine is not quite ready to concede it.
As for Ukrainian offensive operations, forget it. Ukrainian General Staff only announces liberated towns if their forces are well beyond the town in question. They don’t like to be embarrassed by announcing the liberation of a town, only to lose it a few days later.
Anyway, that was a digression. We were discussing …. Bilohorivka. Twitter OSINT expert Def Mon, who always brings receipts, has decided to place Bilohorivka back under Ukrainian control based on geolocated combat videos.
We were also discussing Sivers’k and Russia’s inability to capture it. This isn’t a big town like Severodonetsk or Lysychansk. It’s a village, pre-war population 11,000. Yet for whatever reason, Russia is stuck. But don’t worry, they now have an excuse:
The Russian Telegram account Operation Z: Military commissars of the Russian Spring, with nearly 900,000 subscribers, claims Russia has given up on a direct assault on Sivers’k, opting instead to “create another cauldron for Ukrainian militants. There is still a lot of work to complete the encirclement, but already there is a strong artillery preparation in order to close the cauldron around the city.”
“Another cauldron”? This is hilarious. Russia keeps announcing cauldrons that will allow the capture of thousands of Ukrainian defenders, and Russian Telegram and Twitter dutiful trumpet fake successes in doing so. Yet if they couldn’t close cauldrons with far better conditions north of Popasna, Severodonetsk, and Lysychansk, what makes them think they can do it here? Let’s zoom in:
Remember, there’s a very good chance Russia doesn’t even have control of Bilohorivka and Hryhorivka. But even if they do, surrounding Sivers’k will … it’ll take a long f’n time given Russia’s glacial pace of advance. Their inability to cross the Donetsk river to the north compounds their misery. That Telegram post betrays Russian failure—they simply can’t storm this dinky town.
Now, Russia will almost assuredly take
Slovians’k Sivers’k at some point in the future, but with Ukraine nipping at Russia’s southern front, the invaders have tough choices to make over the deployment of their limited troops. And the longer Slovians’k Sivers’k (and Bakhmut to the south) hold, the better it is for the Sloviansk/Kramatorsk defense.
Russia doesn’t have twice the trucks. This is devastating to their war effort.
So a dirty secret about war is that a seriously injured soldier, one that can’t return to battle, is even more catastrophic to the war effort than a dead one. The injured soldier requires resources to evacuate, treat, and rehabilitate, and remains a festering reminder to a nation of the ongoing war.
Ralph Peters, a retired colonel and Fox News personality (he’s a winger) wrote a book back in the early 1990s called The War in 2020 which has, as a central thesis, a devastating weapon that severs a body’s motor control from its brain, leaving soldiers fully paralyzed from the neck down. From a military standpoint, this is far worse than a weapon of mass destruction that could kill those same soldiers.
All that to say, 50,000 dead and wounded is a devastating number, regardless the ratio between the two.
Russia is a shithole, where 30% of the population doesn’t even have internal plumbing, so they’ve been really leaning into their repressive brand of religion to justify their superiority over a clearly more prosperous West, with their fancy McDonalds and shit. Lately, their anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is really amping up.
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