Ukraine update: Bakhmut survives wave after wave of attack and is still Ukraine

Ukraine update: Bakhmut survives wave after wave of attack and is still Ukraine

This is a reminder: We do not know what’s happening in Ukraine.

That fog of war doesn’t just obscure the details of what’s happening right this second along the road between Kuzemivka and Nyzhnia Duvanka (which is something I would very much like to know this morning), that fog creeps in everywhere. It hides from us the experience of people still trying to go about their lives in Bakhmut, and it obscures the goals of those sitting in conference rooms in Moscow or Kyiv. 

Videos, images, and Twitter posts may give us the impression that we have a grip on events, but they are tiny flashes in the darkness—a landscape glimpsed in lightning flashes as the train rolls through a stormy, unfamiliar country. All of us, at the top of the page and in the comments, are doing our best to piece together those flashes, pass them through a filter of research and experience, and put together something that looks like a complete picture. But it’s never going to be a complete picture.

Today seemed like a good day for this reminder simply because it’s a day when so little specific information seems to be coming through from the areas that have dominated the headlines: Kherson and Luhansk. 

On a large scale, very exciting things are happening. There continue to be signals that Russia intends to withdraw its forces from the area west of the Dnipro River, which would allow Ukraine to liberate the largest city, and only regional capital, occupied during Russia’s latest invasion. Messages on Telegram and Twitter show Russian units which have been ordered to reposition to the eastern portion of Kherson, across the river. Or to move farther into Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Videos have shown Russia massing civilians in Kherson for reported deportation to points unknown. There have even been images showing Russian military forces being sent east at Nova Kakhovka—right below that dam Russia is threatening to blow.

But at the moment, there is no clear sign that the actual front in Kherson, either the line of villages where Russia dug in from Bruskynske to Mylove, or the southern part from Snihurivka on down, is collapsing. No great evidence that fighting has stopped, or that Ukrainian troops have advanced into areas abandoned by Russian forces.

Such reports could start rolling in at any time, but until they do, please take caution in taking reports of Russian relocations at face value — especially when those reports are coming from Russian sources. Yes, pundits on Russian state TV seem to already be bracing for the loss of Kherson; the loss of the bridges across the Dnipro (and into Crimea) would seem to make supplying forces in the west problematic, if not impossible; and everything we’re seeing reinforces the idea that Russia is preparing to pull up stakes and go home with as many washing machines as they can carry.

Just … take care in buying wholesale into the idea that Russia is going to surrender Kherson without an extended fight. When Ukrainian troops are being cheered along Perekopska Street and accepting flowers in Fountains Park, it’ll be real. Until then … just be cautious about anything that seems too friendly to your own position.

Up in Luhansk, Russian efforts to assault settlements east of Lyman appear to have failed. Torske, Terny, and the whole line of towns and villages liberated by Ukrainian forces two weeks ago are still flying Ukrainian flags on Friday. However, there’s little news from further north of any progress Ukraine is making toward Svatove.

One of those places where there has been a lot of news this morning is the area around Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast. Throughout the night and morning, wave after wave of Russian assault has broken up against what has to be the most fought over—and devastated—point in the entire invasion so far. If you haven’t already seen this image of what things are like near the front in Bakhmut, take a look.

I have friends there from what they telling me we will have a lot of movies on the defense of Bahkmut in few years. Slava to the defenders of Bakhmut 🇺🇦🇺🇦💪💪. pic.twitter.com/8OvJ69v1Df

— 🇺🇦 Knukli (@11Knuk123) October 21, 2022

On Thursday, Russian forces continued to hit the area both north and south. And it’s at the southern end of the line where Russia appears to be making actual gains. According to the Ukrainian Telegram channel DeepState, Russia has occupied the village of Odradivka, which is the latest in several advances that Russia has made in this southern area of the battle.

Bakhmut Area. (open in another tab for a closer look)

In the last two weeks, Russia has managed to move the front line south of Bakhmut by about 3km. It’s a tiny change in the overall war, but it’s significant here, especially as it is gradually allowing Russia to strike the defenders in Bakhmut from a new direction. No one in Ukraine has fought longer, harder, or against more desperate odds than the defenders of this city.

On Friday morning, there were reports that Ukraine was staging some kind of counteroffensive along this same line, somewhere between Siversk (about 20km north of the map above) and Bakhmut. It’s too early to tell if this is true, or whether any such counteroffensive has been effective. But keep your fingers crossed, because these guys need some relief.

Bakhmut warriors hold their ground. My friends unit in Bakhmut have losses yet they repel attacks. Glory to the heroes

— WarMonitor🇺🇦 (@WarMonitor3) October 21, 2022

Even with all the Russian forces in the area, headed up by Wagner and their horde of prison reject cannon fodder, here’s one of the most amazing images from this front.

#Ukraine helicopters patrolling #Bakhmut. This is timestamped lunchtime today, showing the Defenders still have air support and are able to adequately defend the town.#Artemovsk #Donetsk #Donbas #Ukraine credit: TG Tsaplienko pic.twitter.com/IxqSjArZ2a

— Tim White (@TWMCLtd) October 21, 2022

That Ukraine is still conducting air operations at all is one of the great wonders of this war. Knowing that Russia has neglected combined arms discipline in favor of a rigid “artillery is the king of the battlefield” attitude is one thing, but that they would fail to recognize the need to establish air dominance, in spite of dozens of examples of how this affects a modern battlefield, is just baffling. Someone needs to find whatever military genius in Russia determined that Russia didn’t really need to expend that much effort on air support and build him a statute. In Kyiv. Or maybe Bakhmut.

And damn, look at that Su-27 go. All the fourth-generation fighters, east and west, seem to have that death-on-a-stick look just nailed. Hope you turned down your speakers before clicking on this one.

Our aviation ! 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/7o9cmkV9Nc

— ТРУХА⚡️English (@TpyxaNews) October 21, 2022

Someone needs to resurrect all the old Star Trek clips in which Chekov claimed something was invented in Russia. They’d probably be run as straight news on Russian state media right now.

Russian propagandist Solovyov wonders what value the West has given to the world and “what did these people create”? He says this into a microphone from the Chicago brand Shure, on the table he has an iPad from Apple,he has an iPhone 13 pro max, he wears an Apple Watch Ultra… pic.twitter.com/r7Dv4z6lSo

— MAKS 22🇺🇦 (@Maks_NAFO_FELLA) October 21, 2022


UPDATE: Friday, Oct 21, 2022 · 8:24:39 PM +00:00

·
Mark Sumner

Reuters reporting that troops along the front line north of Kherson are reporting a decrease in Russian artillery and troop movement. This could be supply shortages, or possibly mark the beginning of withdrawals in the area.


UPDATE: Friday, Oct 21, 2022 · 8:22:57 PM +00:00

·
Mark Sumner

More reported strikes near the Antonivskyi Bridge at Kherson. Not sure about the target, as barges seemed to be broken apart after last night’s barrage.


UPDATE: Friday, Oct 21, 2022 · 7:03:40 PM +00:00

·
Mark Sumner

Continuing to see reports that:

  • Many small villages that had Russian forces a week ago are now empty.
  • Occupation government offices in Kherson are closed.
  • Russian banks that had been established in Kherson for the exchange of money are closed.
  • Stores and vendors in Kherson are openly pricing goods in hryvnias rather than rubles.

All of this should be considered unconfirmed. But boy … there is a lot of it.


UPDATE: Friday, Oct 21, 2022 · 6:44:25 PM +00:00

·
Mark Sumner

Always nice when Russia supplies the new stuff. To Ukraine.

Trophy T-90A tank pic.twitter.com/8AS4Y0onkB

— ТРУХА⚡️English (@TpyxaNews) October 21, 2022


UPDATE: Friday, Oct 21, 2022 · 5:53:26 PM +00:00

·
Mark Sumner

Tossing one tweet out of Andrew Perpetua’s thread on today’s fighting in Bakhmut just as an example of how small scale and detailed the fighting has been in this area. Those following this battle have become intimately familiar with locations like the drywall factory, the asphalt plant, and the auto parts store and the fighting has moved along some of these streets building by building—and not always in one direction.

In Bakhmut, Russia is attacking Patrisa Lumumby Street (10), and they seem to have had some success. They claim to have captured the furniture factory (A) and the ceramic factory (B). Neither capture is confirmed. Ukraine controls the drywall factory (C) and the winery (D). pic.twitter.com/cVB7n0h56s

— Andrew Perpetua (@AndrewPerpetua) October 21, 2022


UPDATE: Friday, Oct 21, 2022 · 4:40:48 PM +00:00

·
Mark Sumner

If you’ve ever been in a frustrating conversation with a tankie, try this educational thread to both illuminate what they’re talking about — and how the standard claims are a huge distortion.

A common Twitter exchange: Tankie: Stop arming Ukraine! Reasonable person: What exactly do you suggest instead? Tankie: Pressure Ukraine to implement the Minsk accords! So what are the Minsk accords, and why is the tankie line on Minsk ridiculous? A thread.

— Neil Abrams (@neil_abrams) October 21, 2022


UPDATE: Friday, Oct 21, 2022 · 4:01:07 PM +00:00

·
Mark Sumner

Nothing really new here, but now it’s official. All of these towns are north of that Bruskynske to Mylove line by at least a few kilometers.

🇺🇦💪 Operational command in the Kherson region confirmed the liberation of Novodmitrovka, Kostyrka, Chereshnev, Novonikolaevka, Novopetrovka and Blakitne. These towns were all confirmed visually already and are located N/NW of Tryfonivka.

— NOËL 🇪🇺 🇺🇦 (@NOELreports) October 21, 2022


UPDATE: Friday, Oct 21, 2022 · 3:30:36 PM +00:00

·
Mark Sumner

It’s starting to look like that territory Russia just occupied, may be the same territory Ukraine just took back from them.

Russia attacks Bakhmut, but Ukraine counter attacks. Take note that Russia now claims they *lost* ground in the southeast of Bakhmut. Look at Soledar, the counter attack was so successful it drove Russia almost entirely out of the town.

— Andrew Perpetua (@AndrewPerpetua) October 21, 2022


UPDATE: Friday, Oct 21, 2022 · 2:47:31 PM +00:00

·
Mark Sumner

Somewhat unrelated item, but … saildrone explorers are automated boats that operate using both wind and solar power. They’re pretty neat little tools, which skim around the world’s oceans gathering data on temperature, salinity, winds, and ocean acidification. They also aid in tracking animal migrations.

They may be unmanned boats, but they belong to NOAA, making them U.S. government vessels. Meaning that this is unlikely to go over well.

#UPDATE: Tasnim reports Iran has seized two unmanned US surface vessels in the Red Sea. Probably the Saildrone Explorer that they tried to capture a few weeks ago.

— ELINT News (@ELINTNews) October 21, 2022


UPDATE: Friday, Oct 21, 2022 · 2:41:00 PM +00:00

·
Mark Sumner

Russia’s most important strategic assignment continues. 

Denazification and liberation of the washing machine by the brave russian soldiers. pic.twitter.com/YVPhKiaHuZ

— Saint Javelin (@saintjavelin) October 21, 2022

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