According to statements that Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials have made on state-run media, there are three goals for the “special military action” in Ukraine.
One is to secure all of Donetsk and Luhansk oblast and bring them into Russia. The idea that either will be an independent “people’s republic,” or that there might be some kind of referendum to determine their fate is now old hat. They’ll just be part of Russia. And like it.
The second is to secure a land bridge between the Donbas and Russian-occupied Crimea. Mariupol still sits in the middle of this space like a big middle finger to Putin’s ambitions, but except for the resistance still striking out from Azovstal, this is the one part of Putin’s plan that is more or less going to plan.
The third goal is … denazification … or demilitarization … or something like that. Which Putin seems free to redefine at every speech. At the moment, it seems to be simply an excuse to kill anyone who opposes being ruled by Russia. Which is a number roughly equal to everyone.
Of course, those goals have only the loosest connection to what Russia is actually doing in Ukraine. Fighting is going on far outside the Donbas, and Russia now appears to have decided that Kherson is an independent republic. Strike that. Russian protectors. Strike that. Russian colony. Putin is also continuing to fling missiles everywhere in Ukraine, almost all of them at civilian targets. When the first “hypersonic” missile was launched into Ukraine, it was a big deal. Now Russia has launched somewhere around a dozen, mostly into Lviv, Odesa, and other cities in the west. These seem to have no objective other than causing death and destruction. He’s killing people, because he can.
The US Department of Defense assesses that Putin’s plans have not changed from the beginning. Sure, he lost the Battle of Kyiv, but that was just a setback. Yes, capturing the Donbas and a land bridge to Crimea is the bare minimum that Putin can call a “victory.” But there’s absolutely no reason to think will stop there if those Putin goals are achieved.
In fact there is no red line, neither in the sense of goals achieved, or materiel losses, that will cause Putin to call a stop. He won’t stop if 50,000 Russian soldiers are dead. He certainly won’t stop if his forces enjoy enough success to achieve goals one and two. Putin will stop when he is made to stop. When it becomes clear that every day the invasion continues, things are going to get worse for both Russia and the Russian military, and most importantly, that they’re going to get worse for Vladimir Putin.
Another day, another attempted bridge crossing. And once again, the tally of Russian losses is simply amazing.
From the images just along the riverbank, it was hard to tell just what a devastating defeat Russia suffered in that thwarted attempt on Wednesday, but with a chance to review additional images, it’s clear that the losses were even greater than thought.
Translations from Russian sources actually put the number of lost vehicles at 78.
The M777 howitzers sent by the US have gotten most of the attention, but there are other systems that have been provided to Ukraine that could also make a huge difference. Among them are M113 APCs. We last saw them in Georgia, being lined up for shipment.
Now they are actually rolling through the mud in eastern Ukraine, and it looks like some Ukrainian troops are enjoying the ride.
As with Popasna, Rubizhne is one of those locations where Ukrainian forces have repelled one advance after another during weeks of heavy fighting. The city has gone down almost street by street, but in the last few days it was clear that remaining troops were being forced to step back to the south, especially after Russian forces captured the village of Vojevodivka, which guarded the road connecting Rubizhne and Severodonetsk.
Capturing Severodonetsk is a major goal for Russia, as it is now the only large Ukrainian holding on the east bank of that ubiquitous Siverskyi Donets River. With forces pushing up from the breakthrough at Popasna, and Severodonetsk under attack from three sides, Ukraine has to be considering pulling back from these easternmost areas under its control. Reports indicate that Russian troops are now pushing into the city from both north and south.
Progress out of the Izyum salient continues to be all but nonexistent, and the fast action of Ukrainian forces north of Kharkiv has caused Russia to shift some tactical groups north to protect against a possible breach of their supply lines. But in this one area, Russia seems to be grinding out yardage, and it’s not clear that Ukraine is capable of holding this last position east of the river. Ukrainian commanders on the ground at Severodonetsk say they expect an “all out ground assault” by Russian forces within the next day.
Pulling surprises out of their helmet seems to be a Ukrainian specialty. They need a big one in Severodonetsk.
MilitaryLand.net’s daily analysis for day 78…
- Ukrainian forces have retreated from Rubizhne towards Severodonetsk and Pryvillia. Along the way, Ukrainian troops blew up a bridge connecting Rubizhne and Severodonetsk, though based on images, this was a small bridge and shouldn’t be expected to form a major obstacle to Russia’s advance.
Russian troops attempted to break through Ukrainian lines near Novoselivka, “but the attack was repulsed.” Read that as Russia losing more men and equipment.
Ukraine has moved some forces that were still up around Sumy to support the eastern area.
Russian forces failed in an attack on Zelene Pole, and in an attack on Marinka, and in an attack on Avdiivka. Again, read each of those failures as having a cost.
The two ends of the line — around Kherson and Kharkiv — had no significant changes of positions on Thursday.