Ukraine Update: When political goals trump military ones

Ukraine Update: When political goals trump military ones

As noted this morning, Russia went from attacking in too many axes during the war’s first season, to …. attacking in too many axes in this second phase. 

Right now, Russia is attempting to advance toward:

  • Mykolaiv
  • Kryvyi Rih
  • Zaprozhzhia
  • Sievierodonetsk
  • Slovyansk/Kramatorsk
  • South, east, west, and northwest of Izyum (seriously)
  • Pushing out from Donetsk
  • Mariupol

Well, you can add Moldova to the list, as a series of Russian false-flags are laying the foundational groundwork to declare the breakaway region of Transnistria an independent nation, like Russia did with the two “republics” in the Donbas—Luhansk and Donetsk. Once done, Russia can justify yet another invasion, because this one is clearly going so well. 

This lack of focus is truly hampering Russia’s war effort. Take a look at the Izyum salient, one of the rare corners of Ukraine where Russia seems to be getting its shit together. In today’s update, the Institute for the Study of War, the authors note that Russia seems to be getting its shit together: 

Russian forces have adopted a sounder pattern of operational movement in eastern Ukraine, at least along the line from Izyum to Rubizhne. Russian troops are pushing down multiple roughly parallel roads within supporting distance of one another, allowing them to bring more combat power to bear than their previous practice had supported.

Rubizhne is to the east of Izyum, and it’s true, Russia seems to be making slow (bloody) progress southward. But take a look at where Russia gained territory today—it’s northwest of Izyum!

Updates: 🇷🇺 attacks today focused around Rubizhne, Popasna, and Mar’inka. Clashes also continue in areas around Izyum. 🇷🇺 occupies Spivakivka and possibly also captured Zavody. pic.twitter.com/sbpGKVtPct

— Ukraine War Map (@War_Mapper) April 27, 2022

Here is Russia, finally moving and taking ground, and they decide to splinter off part of their force to make a move in an entirely different direction. There’s no strategic road or rail in that direction, no lines of communication to cut. Those forces are now forming a new salient exposed to artillery and ambushes from Ukrainian forces to its west. Are they trying to push Ukrainian artillery out of range of the main supply lines north of Izyum? Maybe, but that line can easily be hit further north, and like everything else this war, this push is unlikely to be fully resourced to both hold this territory, and keep pushing. And by diluting the invading force, Ukrainian defenders have an easier time eliminating them. 

And that’s not all! There are two additional pushes from the Izyum salient—one to the east, toward Slovyansk, which makes total sense. If it’s successful, it would connect to Russian forces to the east and Izyum would no longer be a salient, dependent on those exposed supply lines.

But there is another push, this one to the southwest, toward Barvinkove

The objective of the Russian advance toward Barvinkove is not immediately obvious, as it leads Russian troops further away from their comrades pushing on Slovyansk. The road continues southeast from Barvinkove to the Donetsk Oblast boundary, however, and it is possible that Russian forces from the Izyum axis are meant to take up positions along much of the boundary to support claims that Russia has “secured the borders of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts” even if the Russians have not actually secured the entire oblast itself.

Russia has irrationally pushed toward Kryvyi Rih down south, seemingly because it’s Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s home town. This seems to be a similar situation—a move based on political calculations, rather than sound military strategy. The best way to “secure the border of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts” would be to destroy all Ukrainian defenders in those oblasts. But if Vladimir Putin want to park some troops on a border hamlet to declare victory, who will dissuade him of the notion? So Russia’s formidable formation splinters even further.  

Same with Russians dying trying to storm the Ukrainian-held fortress at the massive Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol. Russia’s best bet would be to contain those Ukrainians as best as possible, and divert the rest of the forces elsewhere to the front. Putin even claimed that was the plan. But Russian forces haven’t left Mariupol in meaningful numbers and haven’t stopped assaulting the plant. Putin wants full control of the city for his May 9 victory parade, no matter the cost in lives. (Most are Chechen or Donbas conscripts anyway, so Putin cares even less.)

And what the hell are those sudden provocations in Moldova? Russia thinks more war is justified, given the current state of his armed forces? If you think Ukraine’s supply lines are stretched, just imagine trying to resupply forces in yet another country, with no port access for ocean resupply, and airspace contested by Ukrainian defenses. As Kamil Galeev has repeatedly written, Putin (and any Russian leader) derives domestic credibility by promising empire. He was never going to stop at Ukraine, and he wouldn’t stop at Moldova. Georgia can’t be feeling so great. And even supposed ally Kazakhstan canceled its own May 9 celebration, apparently to keep forces available for a possible Russian invasion. How can you trust the neighbor who keeps saying your independence from the Soviet Union was illegal 

Meanwhile, down south: 

Around Kherson, 🇷🇺 forces occupied Oleksandrivka while 🇺🇦 resecured Novopetrivka and some of the surrounding area. pic.twitter.com/fXiAmjR226

— Ukraine War Map (@War_Mapper) April 27, 2022

I keep describing this area as a tug-of-war in a mudpile, with the two countries trading territory on a near-daily basis. The terrain is flat, open, and unforgiving for exposed forces. Anyone pokes their nose too far outside of home base, and artillery pushes them back. I mean, look at it, the only cover in sight are some cherry blossoms!

Spring. Glory to #Ukraine ✊🏻🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/5QSIpjdxd4

— Canadian Ukrainian Volunteer 🇺🇦🇨🇦✊🏻 (@CanadianUkrain1) April 26, 2022

Snihurivika, to the north of Kherson was Russian occupied soon after the fall of Kherson. Then Ukraine took it in their big offensive that pushed Russia out from the Mykolaiv area and ended Russia’s designs on Odesa. Then Russia grabbed it back a couple of weeks ago. And here we are today, with Ukraine just outside the town once again. Meanwhile, to the west of Kherson, Russia pushed Ukraine out of Oleksandrivka again for what must be the third time. Don’t worry! Ukraine will pound the town into dust with artillery, Russia will retreat, Ukraine will move in, and the cycle will begin once again. 

Of course, you might wonder, “why is Russia devoting resources to retaking the approaches to Mykolaiv, when it’s supposed to be focusing on the Donbas region, but also pushing toward Kryvyi Rih and threatening Moldova?”

Yes. Exactly. Why? 

As usual, none of it makes sense. 

Wednesday, Apr 27, 2022 · 2:33:33 AM +00:00 · kos

Plot twist! Belorussian dictator Alexander Lukashenko might actually be the smart one.

How does Lukashenko get away with such behaviour? By playing an idiot. Here for example he shows how the Special Operation is going “accidentally” disclosing how Ukraine will be divided after the victory (Do we know it’s the real plan of partition? Idk. But that’s a statement) pic.twitter.com/fLFpgmnDqI

— Kamil Galeev (@kamilkazani) April 24, 2022

Turns out, Putin needs Lukashenko more than the other way around.

Wednesday, Apr 27, 2022 · 2:39:57 AM +00:00 · kos

What was I saying about artillery and the wide open expanses of the Kherson region? 

Ukrainian forces take a few artillery shells that just miss their position pic.twitter.com/WkTQISCgNV

— OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) April 27, 2022

Wednesday, Apr 27, 2022 · 2:42:22 AM +00:00 · kos

Those Ukrainians in the trenches above in Kherson region are lucky that Russia is so corrupt and incompetent, that they can’t do air fuses, that would explode above the ground, showering those trenches with shrapnel. The amazing story in this thread: 

This is going to be a long thread 🧵on artillery logistics in the Ukraine war. It will explain what we should be seeing, but are not. To get there, I need to start with calling myself out with being wrong and why I think that was. I was wrong on Russian artillery ammo👇👇 1/ https://t.co/4bUC2ueu73

— Trent Telenko (@TrentTelenko) April 23, 2022


Wednesday, Apr 27, 2022 · 2:54:17 AM +00:00

·
kos

A munitions depot is on fire near the village of Staraya Nelidovka, according to the Governor of Belgorod Oblast. No casualties amongst the civilian population. pic.twitter.com/NHlfS6puYR

— Doge (@IntelDoge) April 27, 2022

Nice. This town is just southwest of Belgorod, Russia. 

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