Ukraine update: Russia asks for ‘green corridor’ to evacuate encircled troops north of Kherson

Ukraine update: Russia asks for ‘green corridor’ to evacuate encircled troops north of Kherson

Back in early May, I wrote an update on Ukraine in which I insisted that that the tide had turned and that Ukraine was about to do big things in Kherson and Kharkiv. Which, yeah, that didn’t exactly pan out. Though to be fair, at the time Russia still occupied some areas right outside of Kharkiv, and Ukraine was just beginning the move that would net Staryi Saltiv and drive Russian forces back to the border in some areas, so … it wasn’t completely wrong.

However, this time I’m on a little more solid footing in saying that the war as a whole is pivoting. As in, this is a position apparently supported by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

Western weapons supplies are beginning to have an effect in Donbas, Zelensky says. Ukrainian fatalities down to 30 a day from 100-200. Ukraine used to be able to fire 1,000-2,000 shells to Russia’s 12,000 daily. Now it can fire 6,000 as Russia experiences shortages.

— Yaroslav Trofimov (@yarotrof) July 22, 2022

As kos has pointed out, it’s been two weeks since Russia has notched a territorial gain worth noting. They’re no longer grinding out the kind of slow advance under a screen of artillery they’ve managed over the last five months. Russia still seems to be continuing the “reconnaissance by fire” tactic of sending out fragmentary BTGs in hopes of hitting a weak point, but these are being routinely repulsed. 

Maybe Russia is playing — is there a Russian equivalent of “possum?” Otherwise it certainly appears as though they have punched themselves out. And when it comes to bringing in more forces from elsewhere, forget about it. There’s long been an assumption that what Russia has invested in Ukraine is a significant portion of their military. It’s only recently that it’s become evidence just how significant.

NEW from Senior U.S. Defense Official on the war in #Ukraine: Russia has committed nearly 85% of its military to the war in Ukraine… It has removed military coverage from other areas on their border and around the world.

— Nick Schifrin (@nickschifrin) July 22, 2022

According to that official, Russia has still not figured out how to make effective use of combined arms. But then, that’s not a huge surprise considering kos’ discussion of the lack of training given to Russian soldiers. Putin has been tossing undertrained infantry and ancient equipment into a meat grinder and telling them the only way out is to advance. That worked as long as the number of troops and the number of artillery shells was great enough to overmatch the Ukrainian forces standing in their way. That no longer seems to be true.

If you don’t trust U.S. intelligence (which could be true for a number of reasons, including some connected to the founding of this site), then how about Canadian intelligence or U.K. intelligence, both of whom agree Russia is “running out of steam.”  

Above all else, Russia continues to have logistic problems that are limiting their ability to resupply, reequip, and reinforce front line units. A second wind is always possible, but it certainly appears unlikely. Right now Russia seems to have extended itself to the limit of its strength. It’s not fighting to advance so much as it is to hang on.

Meanwhile, Poland is sending Ukraine more fighting vehicles …

BREAKING: Poland has donated another large batch of BMP-1 Infantry Fighting Vehicles to the Ukrainian Army. 🇵🇱🇺🇦

— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) July 22, 2022

The U.S. is sending more of the recently sainted HIMARS and a s***ton of the mysterious Phoenix Ghost drones.

🇺🇸Biden has signed a new $270 million military aid package for Ukraine, media reports citing White House spokesman John Kirby. The package includes 5 more HIMARS and 580 Phoenix Ghost drones.

— ТРУХА⚡️English (@TpyxaNews) July 22, 2022

And the U.K. is actually training new sailors and providing new ships for the Ukrainian Navy.

Ukrainian sailors are being trained onboard a Royal Navy Sandown Class Minehunter off the coast of Scotland. (Image via @Brian_D2016)

— UK Defence Journal (@UKDefJournal) July 22, 2022

Let’s see. New weapons are coming by the land. Check. And air. Check. And sea. Double check. The U.S. also made clear on Friday that it is considering providing U.S. fighter jets to Ukraine, with reports that some Ukrainian pilots are already training in F-16s and other reports that the U.S. is considering sending along the scary, scary A-10

On the other hand Russia, which has already tossed 85% of its military into Ukraine, might want to think about who is sharpening knives out there along their 35,910 miles of border.

How Russia is creating a Museum along the highways of Ukraine

It’s been some time since we checked in at Oryx to see Russia’s verified losses in this war. That’s not because the rate of loss slowed down, but mostly because fighting in the east has left a lot of wreckage in places where it’s tough to document, resulting in an ever-increasing disparity between what Russia has actually lost and what has been captured on video.

But it seems worth mentioning that at this point photographically verified data shows Russia has lost over 4,750 vehicles. That includes 873 tanks. Those tanks now range from a T-62 manufactured somewhere in the mid 1960s, to a pair of T-90M tanks that were manufactured after 2016.

Still, that’s not quite everything Russia has made in the last sixty years. There is also the brand new T-14 Armata whose appearance has been so far limited to Moscow parades. In the last few days, there are rumors that Russia is thinking of sending one or more of its half dozen or so T-14s to Ukraine, maybe to give people something to talk about other than trainloads of rusty Cold War rejects. 

Pro-Russian sites are eager to see their new superweapon in action. On the other hand, several Ukrainian commentators are also excited. After all, destroying the first T-14 ever to enter battle with a Javelin would be a story-to-tell-the-grandchildren.

Of course, Russia could always go the other way.

I have been joking before that it won’t take long until Russia pulls out T-34 to fight in Ukraine. Now look what we have here in Lysychansk. This Russian WW2 fetish reached unhealthy levels. #Ukraine

— (((Tendar))) (@Tendar) July 11, 2022

This particular T-34 doesn’t really seem to be a World War II veteran. It looks more like early an Korean War version. Thoroughly modern!

Ukrainian grain will flow through Odesa

After weeks of negotiation, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, and the UN signed an agreement on Friday allowing Ukrainian grain to be exported from a trio of ports near Odesa. Or actually … they didn’t.

Ukraine signed a grain agreement with Turkey and the UN. Russia signed a grain agreement with Turkey and the UN. And when you put the two together, they are both halves of a reasonable solution, made without ever having a Ukrainian and Russian negotiator sign the same piece of paper.

Under the agreement, only ships carrying fertilizer or grain can access the port, and Russia promises not to stop or damage these ships as they leave the protection of missile batteries on shore. Russia is also not supposed to follow or harass the ships in route. All commercial ships originating in Odesa will be halted for inspection before entering the Bosporus, with Russian, Ukrainian, and Turkish inspectors going on board. That probably means a Russian and Turkish inspector going on at one time, and a Ukrainian and Turkish inspector going on at another.

There are, naturally enough, concerns that the deal is some kind of setup by Putin. If the agreement holds, it will help remedy an already growing shorting and price increases due to Ukrainian grain being off the market (or stolen by Russia). But there are concerns that Russia will play games, either by holding ships for extended periods during inspections, or by halting ships with claims that war materials are on board. Either action could make it impossible to find ships willing to visit the ports, and so slow transport that the agreement holds little value.

It shouldn’t take long before this is tested. On Friday evening, Russia hit Odesa with a missile. It might as well have carried a note saying “we can’t be trusted.”

No ‘Green Corridor’ for troops in Vyskopillya

Another day, another Kherson map. And if this one looks as if little has changed, that’s genuinely the case. However, there is definitely something underway that demands attention.

Two Russia locations at the northern end of the map are now nearly surrounded.

While most of the action recently has been at the southern end of the map, attention on Friday turned to the north. First, that Ukrainian bridgehead across the Inhulets River south of Davydiv Brid is not only still there, it appears to be in control of more villages than previously acknowledge. Reportedly, the area of Ukrainian control is “expanding,” but whether that’s true and how far it has gone won’t be clear until some additional towns or villages report in as liberated.

At the northwestern tip of the area under Russian control, the town of Vysokopillya has been an area of conflict for weeks. This town is reportedly home to a Russian command HQ, and it has served as the launching point for past attacks on Kryvyi Rih to the north. Some reports on Friday indicated that Russian forces in Vysokopillya had been completely cut off by Ukrainian forces pinching in from both sides to block their line of reinforcement or retreat. A similar claim has been made about the nearby town of Arkhanhel’s’ke. 

Indications are that the best interpretation for the most is that both towns are almost cut off. There remains a Russian presence in the towns. In fact, it’s a sizable presence, as Vysokopillya has been an important staging location and a depot for both supplies in addition to a command center. It appears that what remains of three BTGs is still split between the towns. There are more Russian forces just over the line in that area of Russian occupation. Ukraine is trying to sever the last lifelines into those Russian occupied locations and take all the ground around them, but as of the end of daylight on Friday in Ukraine, they didn’t seem to have quite accomplished this.

However, even if Ukrainian forces don’t seem to have occupied all the ground that would technically make this an encirclement, that seems to be all it is — a technicality — because Russia clearly can no longer get new troops or supplies into those areas. Even more critically, as Ukrainian forces press in, Russia can’t get out

For all intents, the encirclement is effective. This is clear, because Russia has had the audacity to ask for a “green corridor” for surrounded troops. The same kind of corridor it refused to open so many times for trapped civilians. The same kind of corridor Russia has offered, then used as a convenient means of attack.

And Ukraine has provided a clear answer.

Ukraine refuses the enemy’s request for a green corridor for thousands of soldiers to exit Kherson region. Ukraine demands their surrender of troops and equipment otherwise they will be eradicated.

— Euromaidan PR (@EuromaidanPR) July 22, 2022

However you define encirclement, what’s happening in Vysokopillya looks like a huge loss for Russia. This is Ukraine taking a significant target, against significant opposition, in an area where Russia has been dug in for months. Russia has even transported pillbox structures to Vysokopillya to provide hardened firing points.  

As OPINT blogger @DefMon puts it …

My conclusion regarding the Vysokopillya situation is I might have to redefine my definition of encirclement, for me it has been completely surrounding the enemy. No matter which words used to describe the RuAF situation, the seem to be knee deep in shit.

— Def Mon (@DefMon3) July 23, 2022

Stay turned for updates. If Ukraine is able to take Vysokopillya, especially if they capture a large number of Russian forces in the process, it’s going to be a big deal.

Saturday, Jul 23, 2022 · 1:41:43 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

This is a Russian convoy traveling over the bridge near Nova Kakhovka. They are going east. Out of Kherson oblast.

#Дарьевка, Херсонская обл., 23/07/22: Так мост не снести (с) ЛА

— Necro Mancer (@666_mancer) July 23, 2022

The regular spacing of those impact craters is fun. It’s like Ukraine is drawing an underline under the precision of the HIMARS.

Saturday, Jul 23, 2022 · 2:03:56 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

No casualties in Odessa strike Russian forces directly targeted the grain terminal

— WarMonitor🇺🇦 (@WarMonitor3) July 23, 2022

Saturday, Jul 23, 2022 · 2:12:45 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Note the location on this bridge. Even though it’s over the Inhulets River, it’s not to the west near Davydiv Brid or along that part of the front. 

Strike on the bridge across the river Ingulets, Daryevka, Kherson region.

— Special Kherson Cat 🐈🇺🇦 (@bayraktar_1love) July 23, 2022

This is actually along the main highway running north out of Kherson. Taking out this bridge separates the city from the bridge at Nova Kakhovka, making it more difficult for Russian troops to move between the two bridges … or to escape.

Again, Ukraine seems to be moving, step by step, to isolate Russian forces in Kherson oblast.

Saturday, Jul 23, 2022 · 3:41:57 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

This is not the only report of Russian positions in Kherson being abandoned. In both the city and in surrounding villages, long-held Russian checkpoints are reportedly suddenly empty.

Kherson locals report that one of the big Russian checkpoints was empty today. Checkpoint at the exit through the Antonovsky bridge.#Kherson #Ukraine

— Special Kherson Cat 🐈🇺🇦 (@bayraktar_1love) July 23, 2022

Saturday, Jul 23, 2022 · 9:08:04 PM +00:00

Mark Sumner

Blinken- “The United States strongly condemns the Russian missile attack on the Ukrainian port of Odesa today… the attack casts serious doubt on the credibility of Russia’s commitment to yesterday’s deal”

— OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) July 23, 2022

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