Impossible to tell what losses both sides are actually taking. Ukraine’s counteroffensive will succeed or fail not on territory gained, but on who has the manpower to maintain operations.
Oooh good news.
These are the vehicles that Russian propaganda have shared over and over again, from different angles, since the debacle. The fact that they don’t have other footage of destroyed Ukrainian equipment suggests that things have gone better elsewhere along the front.
What’s interesting here is that a Russian soldier took pictures of himself next to the vehicles in broad daylight, suggesting that they’d be able to take the vehicles for themselves. It’s noteworthy that they never did.
Mark Sumner wrote about the place yesterday, in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, on the road to Melitopol. It’s a tiny nothing kind of place. Its name literally translates to “five huts,” and it’s close to being accurate. Yet after liberating the settlement over the weekend, Russia has been furiously counterattacking it. And that’s weird for one simple reason. Look at the map:
Pyatykhatky is the last settlement before Ukraine hits Russia’s first lines of defense around Zherebyanky. As such, all Russia has to do is sit in those covered, protected positions, under cover of artillery and extensive minefields, and dare Ukraine to push forward. And if Ukraine does, and clears one of those lines, there’s plenty more behind those.
This is the most heavily defended corner of the map. Both Russia and Ukraine know that if Ukraine punches through here, Russia is in deep trouble. But getting through those lines will be a long, bloody slog under the best conditions. Or maybe not, because Russia is sacrificing its men and equipment out in the open fields between Pyatykhatky and Zherebyanky!
We’re seeing this all over the front: Ukraine picking off counterattacking Russians out in the open field, obviating the need to destroy them in protected positions.
So why are they doing this? There can only be two reasons:
Political: Putin doesn’t suffer any lost territory, and is demanding Russia take back anything lost. He claims this is Russia, after all, having illegally annexed the region. Or some local generals want to ingratiate themselves by heroically taking back what is claimed. Either way, the end goal is the same: Make Putin happy.
Military: Perhaps Russia has no faith in its prepared defenses, and literally thinks it can do a better job of halting the Ukrainian advance out in the open. Ukrainian artillery outranges Russia’s, and their Western gear is more accurate. Maybe they feel like sitting ducks in those trenches, or maybe they’re undermanned, or maybe they just don’t know how to properly use them. There’s an art and a science to proper defensive emplacements, with overlapping fields of fire and vantage points, etc.
Whatever the reason, so long as Russia keeps fighting ahead of its defensive lines, it will certainly slow the Ukrainian advance, but not in any way that ultimately delivers Russia’s war aims. Just like bombing civilian rather than military targets, Russia is failing War Fighting 101.
Meanwhile, one retired Ukrainian general is claiming that Russia has thrown 90% of its reserves into stopping the Ukrainian advance, while Ukraine has only committed 25% of its forces. The latter is clear enough. We’ve only seen three of the 12 Western-equipped storm brigades thus far. If Russia has committed the bulk of its forces already, then things are certainly looking up for Ukraine. I’ll remain skeptical until proven otherwise. As of now, Russia’s tactics may be wasteful and idiotic, but they have effectively slowed the methodical Ukrainian advance.
Ultimately, Ukraine is trying to reach Melitopol, and is pushing into the Vasylivka-Tokmak-Melitopol defensive triangle. I mean, look at this monstrosity:
Remember, Ukraine is just now approaching the first defensive line. Unless that extensive layered network of defensive trenches are sitting empty, the task ahead is monumental. We have to hope that Ukraine chose to attack directly into this because it knows something that we don’t.
Kind of related: Russia has instituted a curfew in Vasylivka. Ukraine isn’t too far off.
Good news! Some creative accounting just freed up another $6.2 billion in aid for Ukraine.
Despite the MAGA teeth-gnashing, the bulk of our aid to Ukraine has been surplus gear that was in storage or being phased out. It’s saving us money not having to keep this stuff around. Yet since the war began, the Pentagon was counting the replacement value of the equipment, rather than its book value. It would be like donating your 30-year-old Honda to charity, then claiming a tax writeoff for the cost of a brand new Honda.
That $6.2 billion isn’t just a nice chunk of change for Ukraine, but with the proper revised accounting, that money will go further. So how about a couple hundred more M2 Bradleys, and lots and lots of new tanks?
A new aid package will be announced today. It will likely be more ammunition, as Ukraine can’t get enough ordinance. But it sure would be nice to get some new hardware into the mix.
The reason the U.S. hasn’t offered anything more than replacement vehicles is likely simple: logistics and training. Ukraine simply doesn’t have the capacity to support more Western gear at this time. Ukraine certainly isn’t publicly asking for more armor. Its public pleas are for more air defenses and F-16 fighter jets.
Ford released its 2024 Super Bowl commercial early:
Dramatic footage of a daytime HIMARS strike on a Russian base.
How did Ukraine discover this base? Apparently, some helpful Russian soldiers posted some easily geolocated pictures.