Lots happening today, so bonus update!
On Monday I briefly addressed rumors out of pro-Ukraine Telegram that Russian forces had abandoned two key villages near Izyum, the site of a pontoon bridge and a key supply route for forces pushing toward the twin fortress cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.
Unfortunately it’s not likely true. “The occupiers tried to establish control over the settlement of Bohorodychne by assaulting them,” Ukrainian General Staff reported on Sunday, virtually rolling their eyes. “And again, traditionally, without any success.”
Given that Bohorodychne is still being actively contested, it’s unlikely Russians abandoned the two towns helping supply that assault.
A couple of days later, it’s looking like those rumors were amazingly true. Something is happening in Izyum. To recap, the reports were that Russian forces ransacked the two towns of Yaremivka and Studenok, loaded up their loot, and hightailed it out of town.
Turns out, satellite imagery is lending support to those reports, with OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) Twitter maven DefMon reporting that the pontoon bridge at that location is now gone.
Russia’s efforts to push down that location is now severely compromised. Not only is the new supply highway under relentless Ukrainian artillery cover, but we all know what happens when Russia has to extend its supply lines. This is particularly costly because Yaremivka has a major railhead to supply that region. The loss of that pontoon bridge renders it useless.
I’d love to know whether Russia simply pulled that bridge (perhaps to deploy elsewhere), or whether it was destroyed. Heck, maybe it was looted by those same marauding Russian troops for scrap metal. “Comrade general, we’re sorry to report the hohols destroyed the bridge!” as they load up the pieces for resale on the black market...
Ukrainian General Staff reported yet another Russian attack on Bohorodychne yesterday (along with yet another successful Ukrainian defense). So that means Russia hasn’t surrendered that advance just yet. But there are other indications that a shift in this region is underway.
That local Telegram channel posted what it claimed was a picture of that targeted fire.
That same Telegram account has been reporting Russian activity for several days. Here is Monday:
It’s all very curious. Perhaps Russia has decided maintaining a military presence in what is deep inside their lines is no longer tenable with their southern axis under increasing pressure. Maybe they think that Izyum supply direction is adequate enough. Maybe this is a first step toward a “good will gesture” in the entire region. But what it definitely means is that Russia’s effort to encircle Slovians and Kramatorsk is even more dead than was already the case—and it was already dead. Check it out:
Russia took several months to take Dovhen’ke, population 800. Bohorodychne had a pre-war population of 794, and now Russia is stuck there. What makes anyone think Russia could push another 30 kilometers down to Slovyansk, pre-war population of 111,000, or next-door Kramatorsk, 157,000? If a few farm houses and barns are giving Russia fits, imagine hitting real urban infrastructure. And unlike Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, these two strongholds aren’t isolated on distant salients. They would remain well-supplied under full artillery coverage.
Yup, the Izyum approach is dead dead.
Ukraine continues to shape the battlefield around Kherson. Here is Russia’s supply bridge from the south:
And here is the one that supplies it from the east, in the direction of Nova Kakhovka:
Watch us wake up to these bridges being gone.
Russian forces in Kherson city and around it are going to see their supplies begin to dwindle. And once Russian artillery can’t get the shells they need, Ukraine’s path forward becomes infinitely easier. In fact, there’s a real question whether Russia sticks around or risk mass annihilation. And without bridges, that retreat would have to be on foot, leaving all their military equipment behind.
Remember how it’s been weeks since Russia notched any gains? The dry streak is over. They have now pushed out Ukraine of the last remaining salient on the Donbas front, southeast of Bakhmut.
Those locations are not contested anymore, Ukraine has withdrawn. You know me, I don’t like Ukrainian defending any salients, so I am now happy to see a nice flat defensive line from Toretsk, to Bakhmut, to Sivers’k, with great artillery coverage. Russians have to bring up guns to support advances, and Ukraine’s longer-range guns can take them out, while their shorter range guns can pound any Russian advance.
I’m going to call it—this will essentially be the furthest Russia will advance along this line. Sure, they may grab a hamlet here or there as Ukraine shifts defenses around for maximum leverage, but the big picture is finished. Russia will not take Toretsk, Bakhmut, or Sivers’k.
I span would do nicely, actually. Especially since the bridge can keep getting hit. All we need is it cut off from vehicular traffic. The whole bridge (which is around 1 km long) doesn’t have to come down to make that happen.
Local Russians on Telegram are laughing at official Russian propaganda:
Russia’s puppet mayor in Kherson:
Tanks and heavy military equipment can still cross no problem! But cars, uh, find somewhere else please.