Ukraine update: All unquiet on the eastern front

Ukraine update: All unquiet on the eastern front

Two days into what Ukrainian officials have officially labeled “the Battle of Donbas,” there are reports everywhere … though what they mean is difficult to interpret.


Near Izyum, where Russian forces have been gathering over the last two weeks, and which was expected to be the northern end of a north-south pincer movement, Ukrainian forces have reportedly advanced from the west, retaking some of the small villages on the outskirts of the city. A similar story is coming from Mariink, a suburb of Donetsk, where Ukrainian forces have driven Russian troops from an area of the town they formally occupied.

Reports also continue to come out of Popanas and Rubizhne that a number of attempted Russian advances have been repulsed. Reports indicate that a number of vehicles have been damaged and drones shot down in these failed attempts.

The U.S. reportedly will deliver seven additional planeloads of weapons to Ukraine within the next day, with getting artillery systems to the front lines a high priority.

Area of activity in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday.


Ukrainian forces have retreated from the town of Kreminna, stating that it offered a poor defensive position. Russian forces have reportedly occupied the town and Russian armored vehicles have moved rapidly to the west to at least partially occupy the town of Zarichne. These locations could potentially position Russia to push further west, so that—should those forces in Izyum actually move south—Slavyansk could portentially come under attack from multiple directions. Or Russia could move south from Kreminna with the intention of cutting off Rubizhne. In any case, word that Russia has taken any location is never good, even though this seems to have happened more as the result of Ukraine repositioning its forces rather than direct conflict.

In Mariupol, Russian forces continue to compress the area in which the approximately 1,000 remaining Ukrainian fighters are located. During the day on Tuesday, Russian forces captured what could be the last armored vehicles in control of the Ukrainian forces, as the troops retreated further into the maze of the Azovstal metal works. However, so far there doesn’t seem to be any sign that Russia is repositioning the forces they’ve held in Mariupol as they continue efforts to bomb Ukrainian resistance from its last stronghold.

Russia continues heavy shelling at locations all along the boundary of the area under their control. 


Near Kherson, Ukrainian forces are apparently advancing, but reports indicate that Russian troops have heavily mined the roads inside and outside the city. This is greatly slowing the Ukrainian advance, and attempts to remove mines will under enemy fire are always extremely difficult.

In a Pentagon briefing, U.S. officials indicated that they believe Russia’s efforts in the Donbas are concentrated at Izyum and at Donetsk. An additional two Battalion Tactical Groups reportedly entered Ukraine within the last day, and Russia is reportedly staging air support for the region out of both western Russian and eastern Belarus.

After days of near stasis, there does seem to be genuine movement, and we’re likely seeing the maximum exertion from Russia as they try to turn their isolated actions into something that approximates a coordinated effort. Why they are choosing to do this at this time, when the weather still restricts movements, likely results from political pressure to get something accomplished by May 9 than it does any change in conditions on the ground.

Tuesday, Apr 19, 2022 · 7:46:24 PM +00:00

Mark Sumner

A New York Times video that gives a glimpse into conditions in the towns just on the Ukrainian side of the front. 

Tuesday, Apr 19, 2022 · 7:48:03 PM +00:00

Mark Sumner

Assuming this is the much-discussed MiG-19s from Poland or other sources, and that what’s being talked about here is a U.S. deal to replace those planes with something newer, like F-15s.

NEW: @PentagonPresSec said just now Ukraine “have received additional aircraft and the aircraft parts to help them get more more aircraft in the air” recently

— Paul McLeary (@paulmcleary) April 19, 2022

Tuesday, Apr 19, 2022 · 7:53:56 PM +00:00

Mark Sumner

In the Donbas, Russia is fighting very close to its own border, and often from positions it has occupied for 8 years. The Pentagon believes this will relieve some of the difficulties Russia has faced with logistics. There is also concern that the 11 BTGs currently in Mariupol could be redeployed in the next few days as the last holdouts are killed or forced to surrender.

There are also reports that Russia is deploying their own S-300 systems in the Donbas to protect against Ukrainian planes — though it’s unclear if these systems are effective against observation drones and loitering munitions.

Here’s the 🇷🇺 gameplan, in a nutshell: 🇷🇺 military is “trying to learn and adapt to some of the mistakes they made earlier in the war,” especially Kyiv, per sr US defense official said. Russia intends “to come both from north & south and to cut off the Donbas,” official added

— Jack Detsch (@JackDetsch) April 19, 2022

Tuesday, Apr 19, 2022 · 7:59:08 PM +00:00

Mark Sumner

Oddly enough, at the afternoon Pentagon briefing, DOD officials say that they do not believe that Russia’s major offensive is underway. This is, by their estimation, more softening up Ukrainian positions with shelling and continuing the probing attacks that Russia has conducted over the last month. 

The Pentagon now estimates 78 BTGs in Donbas, though it’s unclear if all are at full strength.

Russian missile attacks have actually declined, with an average over the last few days of about 30 per day across Ukraine. However, because of bad weather limiting visibility, the Pentagon may have undercounted.

Tuesday, Apr 19, 2022 · 8:39:08 PM +00:00

Mark Sumner

Exactly what this means is (quite deliberately) open to any number of interpretations.

Pentagon spokesman continues that the US has helped w/ the “shipment of some additional spare parts that has helped with their aircraft needs, but we have not transported whole aircraft” for Ukraine

— Paul McLeary (@paulmcleary) April 19, 2022

Tuesday, Apr 19, 2022 · 9:51:00 PM +00:00

Mark Sumner

The UK is providing Stormer vehicles to Ukraine, another step up the anti-aircraft ladder.

You can read more about how the Stormer vehicles work here. The Netherlands also pledged to give armoured vehicles to Ukraine today too.

— Samuel Ramani (@SamRamani2) April 19, 2022

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