Could Russia simply lose this thing on the battlefield?

A statue in Lyiv, wrapped to help protect it from damage.

At the start of Saturday, Mariupol remains surrounded. An agreement to allow civilians to evacuate the heavily-shelled city was violated by Russian forces that into those trying to escape. Now the reduction of the city continues. If Mariupol falls, it will leave Russia in complete control of a large, connected section of southern and eastern Ukraine, giving them more flexibility in the movement of troops and armor, and new positions from which they can fire into cities deeper in Ukraine.

Elsewhere, Russian troops occupy the center of Kherson. Sumy is thought to be fully encircled. Guns and missile batteries across the border in Russia continue to fire into battered Kharkiv.

By Friday evening, Russia had fired over 500 missiles into Ukraine. Some were medium-range missiles launched from nearby in Russia or Belarus. Some were ballistic missiles fired from much farther away. Those missiles have smashed up homes, apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, and television stations. They’re burned people alive on the grounds of a Holocaust memorial. And they’re just a fraction of what has been pumped out by GRAD systems that fire dozens of small missiles a minute.

By most measures, the over 160,000 Russian troops now in Ukraine are steadily, if more slowly than expected, taking control of the country. Worse, Russia has openly adopted the tactic it used in Chechnya, Syria, and Georgia; the tactic of grinding civilians areas into bloody dust until resistance collapses. All over Ukraine, cities are getting that Grozny look: streets full of rubble, burned out cars, buildings looking as if they’ve been gnawed by Godzilla-sized rats.

And still, the outcome on the ground seems somehow less inevitable by the day. Even as Russia is drawing in its forces, sending even more equipment to the battle, and calling in its most experienced generals to take direct command in the field, the prospect that Ukraine might just win this thing—not in a “after 10, or 15, or 20 years of guerilla fighting” sense, but 10, or 15, or 20 days from now—seems entirely… thinkable.

All over Ukraine, both on the ground and in the air, there are signals of hope as well as signals of despair. And there are even more reasons to think that Russia is a paper bear, its cruelty the only thing it has left.

Saturday, Mar 5, 2022 · 2:08:18 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

One definitely not good sign — images of a Ukrainian camp outside Kherson give a clue as to how horridly forces withdrew from the area, leaving behind huge amounts of ammunition, vehicles, and supplies. And yes, at least some of this imagery was supplied by RT, so don’t be surprised if we eventually learn that part, most, or all of this was simply staged for propaganda purposes.

Saturday, Mar 5, 2022 · 2:12:25 PM +00:00

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Mark Sumner

Russia continues to loose aircraft. In this case, the pilot has been taken prisoner and is being interrogated. I’m skipping over footage of the pilot being taken, and being questioned. However, if Ukrainian sources are accurate, this particular pilot appears to be experienced in bombing civilian locations.

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Saturday, Mar 5, 2022 · 2:16:37 PM +00:00

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Mark Sumner

When it comes to keeping track of the equipment that has been visually identified As lost or captured on both sides, Oryx has become the go-to site for the most accurate list. Their numbers are never going to match up to the totals claimed in the field, but these are vehicles that have been identified and confirmed.

Saturday, Mar 5, 2022 · 2:22:54 PM +00:00

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Mark Sumner

That plane shot down was identified as a Sukhoi Su-30 — one of Russia’s most advanced fighter jets. The version taken down, the Su-30SM, has special modifications that are designed to make it even more nimble and special weaponry designed to strike targets on the ground.

But this advanced “4+ generation” fighter isn’t the only aircraft Russia has lost in the last few hours. A helicopter was shot down outside of Kyiv. The pilots of that craft are also reported to have been captured.

And there’s this. I have no confirmation for this at all. I’m running it anyway.

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Saturday, Mar 5, 2022 · 2:36:35 PM +00:00

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Mark Sumner

At this point, a reported 60,000 volunteers have gone into Ukraine to fight against Russia. That includes volunteers from across Europe, and the US, and places as seemingly unconnected from this conflict as Japan. It can be expected that some of these troops will have combat experience. It can be expected that some of these troops will never had so much as taken a camping trip.

How these forces will hold up in battle, or how well they will coordinate with Ukrainian regulars and territorial defense forces is unknown. But it would certainly be great if by stabilizing the situation in “southern and eastern Ukraine” it means that some of these forces are going to relieve besieged cities and towns like Mariupol.

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