Russian source Rybar claims Russia has retreated from Pyatykhatky, which would mean they are finally falling back to their first line of defense in this axis.
(More context in today’s update below.)
Russia has an extensive network of entrenched defenses across the entire front line, but particularly in southern Ukraine, where Ukraine’s biggest strategic victory would be won—the severing of the “land bridge” connecting mainland Russia to the Crimean peninsula.
Brady Africk has done unbelievable work using satellite imagery to map out these defenses:
Ukrainian forces pushing south haven’t even reached the first line of those fortifications, as breach operations are brutally difficult and expensive in blood and equipment.
But Russia’s destruction of the Kakhovka dam opens up an intriguing new possibility, as entire swaths of former reservoir empty out.
With the Kakhovka dam gone, the reservoir is emptying out.
What’s intriguing is where some of this new land is showing up.
Here is the reservoir before, with the red signifying Russian control:
The reservoir south of Zaporizhzhia city is emptied out and is open, drying land. And given the location of the original riverbed, there seems to be plenty of room for that eastern part of the reservoir to continue draining.
In other words, an entire new open approach seems to be opening up south that bypasses Russia’s meticulously prepared defensive lines.
Of course this will be muddy for a while, and approaching wide open mud flats in plain view of enemy drone surveillance might be prove ultimately prohibitive. But at the very least Russia should be nervous, and will likely expend effort fortifying the newly exposed areas.
But longer term, this will extend the active front, as what was once an impassable reservoir will eventually revert to that original Dnipro river. And Ukraine has dam control further up the river, meaning it could cut the river’s flow, narrowing it even further ahead of an attack. That could put the Kakhovka Nuclear Power Plant at Enerhodar (the narrow chokepoint on the west edge of the map above) in play for a Ukrainian counter attack, not to mention opening up new avenues south to Crimea.
Would be ironic if Russia’s bizarre decision to blow the damn doesn’t just cost their precious Crimea its water supply, but also allows Ukraine to bypass many of their defenses.
He says his Jewish friends say Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy isn’t a Jew. I don’t think that’s how it works...
This is actually right near the reservoir’s edge:
As you can see in this map, Lobkove isn’t on the first line of Russian defenses, which is immediately south, but not before routing through the settlement of Pyatykhatky. Yet Russia is doing the exact same thing they are doing in Makarivka, further east of here—furiously counterattacking the Ukrainian advance instead of retreating to their perfectly fine defensive line to the south. Control of the town has see-sawed back and forth over the past seven days. Sure, this slows down the Ukrainian advance, but it’s exponentially easier for Ukraine to destroy Russian forces out in the open, than to root them out from entrenched defensive positions.
It is utter bizarre that Russia insists on fighting for territory in front of its defenses. If Lobkove was that important, like Makarivka, then Russia would’ve built its trenches in front of the settlement. Truth is, Lobkove isn’t important, but the approach to the south is. Russia is defending the strategic city of Melitopol, not the irrelevant town of Lobkove.
Yet here is Russia rushing reinforcements to hold Pyatykhatky, when their line is right there next door. Russian war reporter WarGonzo reports:
It is reported from the field that the enemy is still on the outskirts of the settlement and has entrenched himself in several houses, where in the morning light armored vehicles approached along with the infantry. You can't hear the shooting battle in Pyatikhatki, our artillery is working on enemy positions.
As mentioned earlier, if we allow even more delay in cleaning up the village, then the Ukrainians will bring in such a number of personnel and equipment that the settlement will have to be abandoned.
Oh my god, let Ukraine occupy this nothing-burger town! Make Ukraine truly pay by having to breach the significant defenses next to it.
We are truly lucky that Russia is this stupid.
Whatever time Russia buys today, Ukraine will get back on the back side after it breaches these lesser-manned trenches.
I have two favorite kind of war videos. The first is soldier coming home to wife/husband/child/mom/dog videos. The other is stuff like this:
I can see sporadic “Ukraine Update” stories for a year after the war ends, just of videos of Ukraine rebuilding. And you might all get tired of them and readership and commenting might fall off, but I won’t care, because this is what makes the entire sacrifice worth it.
And if you’re wondering why Russia wouldn’t simply destroy this bridge once again, the answer is simple—Russia would rather kill civilians by targeting residential apartment blocks, than hit militarily significant targets. It’s been inexplicably that way the entire war, and Russia doesn’t seem to have any interest in adapting. It would rather throw a genocidal temper tantrum than actually try and win the war.