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Russo-Ukrainian war, day 56: The Battle for Donbas escalates, Russia is preparing to annex occupied regions

Ukraine war
Russo-Ukrainian war, day 56: The Battle for Donbas escalates, Russia is preparing to annex occupied regions
Article by: Hans Petter Midttun
Heavy fighting in the Donbas area. “Azovstal” plant in Mariupol has been almost destroyed, Ukrainian fighters are pulling people out of the rubble. In occupied regions, Russians are preparing “pseudo-referendums” for justification of annexation. Ukrainian Air Force: “Ukraine did not receive new planes from partners!”
Morning report day 56 – April 20

The report is based on media reports, expert analyses, and official information posted online.


According to information from the General Staff:

“The Russian Federation continues its full-scale armed aggression against Ukraine.

The Russian forces are trying to continue offensive operations in the Eastern Operational Zone in order to establish full control over the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

The Russian forces continue to launch missile and bomb strikes on military and civilian infrastructure throughout Ukraine.

Ukraine war

In the Volyn and Polissya directions, the enemy did not take active action. The threat of rocket-bomb strikes by Russian aircraft on objects on the territory of Ukraine with the use of the territory, airfield network, and airspace of the Republic of Belarus remains.

  • Certain units of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus continue to carry out tasks to cover the Ukrainian-Belarusian border in Brest and Gomel oblasts. Carry out engineering equipment of positions and observation posts.

In the Siversky direction, there were no signs of the Russian forces forming a strike group to resume offensive operations. The protection of the Ukrainian-Russian border in this direction is carried out by the enemy in an enhanced mode. Measures of engineering equipment for bases in the border areas with Ukraine are underway.

In the Slobozhansky direction, Russian forces regroup and replenish their reserves. The partial blockade of Kharkiv and the shelling of the city continue.

  • In the Izium direction, the enemy attempted an offensive in the direction of Sulyhivka, Dibrivne. The enemy is trying to conduct air reconnaissance of the offensive with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles “Orlan-10”.
  • Russian units attempted an offensive and stormed south of Izium. They were unsuccessful, suffered losses and were forced to retreat to their former positions.

In the Donetsk and Tavriya directions, the Russian occupiers continue to shell the front lines of our troops and search for weak points in the defense along the entire line of contact. Fighting continues in the areas of Kreminna, Torske, and Zelena Dolyna. The Russian enemy regroups in order to further attack in the direction of the village of Lyman.

  • Russian forces are trying to launch an offensive to advance deep into the village of Popasna. After attempts by the Russian occupiers to storm Rubizhne and Sievierodonetsk, about 130 wounded enemy soldiers were taken to the local hospital in Novoaydar. The exact number is currently being clarified.
  • In the Donetsk direction, near the town of Marinka, as a result of a counteroffensive by Ukrainian troops, the Russian enemy suffered losses and retreated. Units of the Defense Forces of Ukraine regained control of the settlement.
  • In the Donetsk direction, Russian forces carried out assaults in the area of the Marinka settlement.
  • Russian force’s main efforts are focused on capturing the city of Mariupol, continuing the assault in the area of the Azovstal plant.

  • The enemy is fighting in the settlements of Velyka Novosilka, Rivnopil and Storozheve and continues to provide logistical support to troops.
  • Ten attacks by the Russian forces were repulsed in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts over the past 24 hours and twelve tanks were destroyed, twenty-eight armored vehicles and one artillery system were destroyed.

In the Pivdennyi Buh direction, Russian forces are concentrating their main efforts on maintaining the occupied frontiers and shelling the positions of our troops. Conducts hostilities in the area of the settlement of Oleksndrivka.

  • In the future, Russian forces will continue to fire on the positions of our troops and conduct hostilities in order to reach the administrative borders of the Kherson oblast.

The Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has hit nine air targets in the previous day: one plane, one helicopter, six UAVs of various types, and a cruise missile.”

Vessel Sparta 2 (Russian flag) (IMO 9160994) on April 17 entered Bosporus on the way from Tartus (Syria) to Novorossiysk. The ship belongs to one of the subsidiaries of the Russian Ministry of Defense, LLC OBORONLOGISTIKA, and carries military equipment – APCs and possibly Russian military units used in military operations in Syria. It happened despite Montreux convention provisions prohibiting supporting war using the seaway of the Black Sea, the Centre for Defense Strategies reports.

Türkiye announced that it is ready to provide vessels for evacuation from Mariupol and safe passage of Turkish and foreign commercial ships stuck in Ukrainian ports since February 24, 2022, the Centre for Defense Strategies reports.

Russia unleashes the ‘Battle of Donbas’ in east Ukraine, and seizes a city, the Reuters reports. “Ukraine said the new Russian assault had resulted in the capture of Kreminna, an administrative center of 18,000 people in Luhansk, one of the two Donbas provinces. Russian forces were attacking from all sides, authorities were trying to evacuate civilians and it was impossible to tally the civilian dead, Luhansk Oblast governor Serhiy Gaidai said.”

“Azovstal” in Mariupol has been bombed and almost completely destroyed, Ukrainian fighters are pulling people out of the rubble, – Deputy Commander of the Azov Regiment Svyatoslav “Kalyna” Palamar.

“Heavy bombs are being dropped all over the Azovstal plant and there are a lot of people under the rubble now. We don’t know what the situation is, but Azovstal has been bombed and destroyed almost completely. We are pulling people out from under the rubble …

We will fight, we will use every cartridge we have left, but we call on the homeland to save civilians, the wounded and take away the bodies, Kalyna said.”

The Russian armed forces intensified offensive operations in eastern Ukraine. This was announced by the spokesman of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Oleksandr Motuzianyk, who spoke at a briefing at the Media Center Ukraine, the Ukrinform reports. “The Russian armed forces have intensified offensive operations in eastern Ukraine. The main goal is to establish full control over the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and maintain the land corridor toward the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea,” Motuzianyk said. According to the official, air and missile strikes on civilian targets throughout Ukraine, in particular in the western regions, have not stopped. Over the past 24 hours, Russia’s tactical and long-range aircraft have made at least 49 sorties.

Ukrainian paratroopers destroyed the armored group of the elite motorized rifle brigade from Tomsk, the Ukrainska Pravda reports. Recently in an area of intense fighting, Ukrainian paratroopers defeated and destroyed the armored group of one of the units of the 21st separate Guards Red Banner Omsk-Novobuzhskaya Motorized Rifle Brigade of the Central Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (Tomsk), Airborne Assault Command Press Center claims.

919 settlements in eight regions of Ukraine were liberated from occupation, the Ukrinform reports. More than 900 settlements have been liberated from occupation in Zhytomyr, Zaporizhzhia, Kyiv, Mykolayiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Kherson, and Chernihiv oblasts. “More than 11,000 settlements are located in the de-occupied territories of Zhytomyr, Zaporizhzhia, Kyiv, Mykolayiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Kherson, and Chernihiv oblasts. More than three thousand settlements were or are still under occupation. Currently, 919 towns and villages have been liberated from occupation,” Deputy Head of the President’s Office Kyrylo Tymoshenko said at a briefing, an Ukrinform correspondent reports.

Ukrainian General Staff has reported on the Russian manning and logistic challenges:

  • Due to heavy losses, the Russian forces withdrew the battalion tactical group of the 237th Tank Regiment of the 3rd Motorized Rifle Division of the 20th Guards Combined Arms Army of the Western Military District from Kharkiv Oblast to the Permanent Deployment Point (Soloty, Belgorod Oblast) to restore combat capability.
  • The Russian forces continue to suffer significant personnel losses. In order to solve the problem of recruiting units under contract, the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation decided to sign short-term contracts for three months and simplify the form of a psychophysical selection of future candidates. These measures did not lead to the desired effect.
  • According to available information, since the beginning of the 2022 year, only 130 contract servicemen have been selected to serve in 42 units of the Southern Military District. 22 of them have already refused to participate in the so-called “special operation” in Ukraine.
  • Units of Russian armed forces directly involved in armed aggression on the territory of Ukraine have a special need for staffing.
  • According to the available information, the personnel of two battalion tactical groups was destroyed in the 200th separate motorized infantry brigade of the 14th Army Corps of the Coastal Forces of the Northern Fleet.
  • In addition, three companies of the 51st Parachute Regiment and the Company of the 137th Parachute Regiment, which is part of the 106th Parachute Division, were destroyed on the territory of Ukraine.

According to British Defense Intelligence, (last 24 hours):

  • Russia’s military presence on Ukraine’s eastern border continues to build while fighting in the Donbas is intensifying as Russian forces seek to break through Ukrainian Defenses.
  • Russian air activity in northern Ukraine is likely to remain low since its withdrawal from the north of Kyiv. However, there is still a risk of precision strikes against priority targets throughout Ukraine.
  • Russian attacks on cities across Ukraine show their intent to try and disrupt the movement of Ukrainian reinforcements and weaponry to the east of the country.
  • Russian shelling and strikes on the Donbas line of control continue to increase, with the Ukrainians repelling numerous attempted advances by Russian forces.
  • Russia’s ability to progress continues to be impacted by the environmental, logistical, and technical challenges that have beset them so far, combined with the resilience of the highly-motivated Ukrainian armed forces.
  • Russia’s inability to stamp out resistance in Mariupol and their indiscriminate attacks, which have harmed the resident civilian populace, are indicative of their continued failure to achieve their aims as quickly as they would like.

As of Tuesday 19.04.2022, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the war to the present day:

Russian losses

  • Personnel – more than 20800 people (+200),
  • Tanks – 802 units (+12),
  • Armored combat vehicles – 2063 units (+22),
  • Artillery systems – 386 (+5),
  • Multiple rocket launchers – 132 (+2)
  • Air defense means – 67 (no change),
  • Aircraft – 169 (+2),
  • Helicopters – 150 (+3),
  • Automotive technology – 1495 (+8),
  • Vessels/boats – 8 units (no change),
  • Fuel and lubricant tanks – 76 (no change),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 158 (+3)
  • Special equipment – 27 no change)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (no change)

According to The New York Times, the US intelligence agencies estimate 5,500 to 11,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and more than 18,000 wounded, but the wide range indicates the uncertainty in the figures.


The fifth exchange of prisoners took place, Iryna Vereshchuk wrote on Telegram. 76 people have been exchanged: 60 servicemen, 10 of them officers, and 16 civilians.

UN chief calls for a four-day humanitarian pause in fighting in Ukraine, the Reuters reports. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called for a four-day Orthodox Easter humanitarian pause in fighting in Ukraine to allow for the safe passage of civilians to leave areas of conflict and the delivery of humanitarian aid to hard-hit areas.

“Guterres said the United Nations was submitting detailed plans to the parties and was ready to send humanitarian aid convoys to Mariupol, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk beginning on Holy Thursday and running through Sunday, the date of Orthodox Easter, which is celebrated by most Ukrainians and Russians.

Humanitarian needs are dire. People do not have food, water, supplies to treat the sick or wounded or simply to live day-to-day,” Guterres told reporters at the United Nations in New York.

Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the biggest attack on a European state since 1945, has killed or wounded thousands. More than 12 million people need humanitarian assistance in the country today, Guterres said.”

According to UNHCR 4,980,589 refugees have been registered as of 18 April. The UN says that so far Poland has taken in 2,800,713 refugees, Romania 750,693, Russian Federation 535,842, Hungary 465,598, Republic of Moldova 425,227, Slovakia 339,680 and Belarus 23,609. Among those who fled Ukraine are also Ukrainian nationals with dual citizenship. An additional 113,000 people moved to the Russian Federation from the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts between 21 and 23 February.

OHCHR recorded 4,966 civilian casualties in Ukraine as of midnight of April 18. 2,104 were killed (including 170 children) and 2,862 were injured (including 277 children).

No humanitarian corridors were operational on 19 April. According to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine:

“Intense shelling continues in Donbas. As for the Mariupol: Russians refuse to provide a corridor for civilians in the direction of Berdiansk. We continue negotiations on the opening of evacuation in some areas.”

The Government of Ukraine has tried to establish more than 340 humanitarian corridors since 24 February. Russia agreed on about 300, but only 176 have taken place. The reason for fewer evacuation routes being executed is due to the regular ceasefire violations by the occupiers, as well as – the delay and seizure of evacuation buses, humanitarian aid etc.


Ukraine war costs hundreds of billions in growth, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports. The International Monetary Fund has significantly lowered its forecast for the development of the global economy. The main victims are the warring parties themselves – and Germany. Nobody knows yet how much human suffering Vladimir Putin and his troops will bring to Ukraine. What is already clear, however, is that the global economic damage caused by the Russian President’s attack on a peaceful neighboring country can already only be estimated at high three-digit billions.

“According to the estimates of the IMF economists, the world economy will grow by only 3.6 percent this year, which is 0.8 percentage points less than the last forecast predicted just three months ago. At first glance, the difference may seem small. Converted into absolute figures, however, it means that the international community is likely to lose a good 660 billion euros in economic output this year alone. This means that hundreds of billions in wages, tax revenues and intra-family transfers are missing, which are urgently needed to compensate for the welfare losses caused by the pandemic around the world and to resolutely combat the poverty that has increased in many places.

First and foremost, the victims of the economic downturn are the war opponents themselves: According to IMF estimates, economic output in Ukraine will collapse by 35 percent this year – a loss that, if applied to Germany, would amount to an almost unimaginable 1.3 trillion euros. But Putin’s compatriots are also footing the bill for the attack: Instead of growing by 2.8 percent, as was forecast in January, the Russian economy is likely to shrink by 8.5 percent in 2022 due to western sanctions. …

However, Vladimir Putin is less to blame than the most recent wave of the corona pandemic in the People’s Republic. …

In the medium and long term, the IMF also fears that the global economy will collapse into several power blocs with different technological standards, payment systems and reserve currencies. Such a ‘tectonic change’ would entail long-term efficiency losses, would trigger more volatility and would also call into question the rule-based framework on which international economic relations have been based for the past 75 years.


Investigators from the State Bureau of Investigation are documenting the crimes of the Russian occupiers, the Ukrainska Pravda reports. This includes the use of munitions prohibited by the Geneva Convention, unjustified cruelty, and mass extermination of the population. In Irpin the SBI documented the use of:

  • anti-personnel mines, tank shells and MLRS Hail of incendiary action;
  • Iskander-M aeroballistic missile;
  • artillery shrapnel shells equipped with arrow-shaped striking elements and other prohibited weapons.

Russians are preparing “pseudo-referendums” in the south of Ukraine, the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU) reports. Russian military prepares a series of pseudo-“referendums” to “legalize” occupation administrations. In the occupied territory of the Kherson oblast, ballots, forms, brochures, posters, and booklets are printed for voting in the “referendum” on the creation of another pseudo-republic “People’s Republic” and the recognition of the occupying power.

Et bilde som inneholder tekst Automatisk generert beskrivelse

“Local residents are convinced that there will be no real voting, except for demonstration polling stations organized as a “picture” for the Russian media. “Voting” will be made with the help of passport data collected during the receipt of “humanitarian aid”. To receive food rations, residents had to fill out questionnaires with personal information. A “referendum” on the election of the mayor and administrative accession to the occupied Crimea is also being prepared in the city of Snihurivka (Mykolaiv oblast).”

The Geneva Conventions do not apply to foreigners who protect Ukraine from Russian invaders, Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev said. According to him, they should be “de-Nazified first.”

205 children were killed, and 373 children injured, the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of 20 April.

1141 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, 99 of them are destroyed fully. As of the same date, 7462 crimes of aggression and war crimes, and 3409 crimes against national security were registered.


Ukraine’s military gets more aircraft and parts to repair others, the Reuters reports. Ukraine’s military has received additional aircraft as well parts for repairs to get damaged aircraft flying again, the Pentagon said on Tuesday. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby did not offer details on which countries provided aircraft, but acknowledged new transfers and said Ukraine had more operable fighter aircraft than it had two weeks ago. “They have received additional aircraft and aircraft parts to help them get more aircraft in the air,” Kirby told a news briefing, without elaborating.

Prime Minister of Netherlands Rutte announced the supply of armored vehicles to Ukraine, Censor.NET reports. The Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte has announced his decision to supply Ukraine with heavy weapons, including armored vehicles. “During the conversation with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Minister of Defense and I expressed our support for Ukraine in connection with the beginning of a new Russian offensive. The Netherlands will supply Ukraine with heavier equipment, including armored vehicles. Together with allies, we are considering additional heavy equipment,” Rutte wrote on Twitter.

Finland will provide additional military assistance to Ukraine, the Ukrainska Pravda reports. The Ministry does not disclose details about the content of assistance, methods of delivery, and timing to ensure delivery of goods to the destination. Finland’s additional assistance takes into account both Ukraine’s needs and the resource situation of the Finnish Defense Forces. After the Russian invasion began, the Finnish government abandoned its long-standing policy of not supplying weapons to combat zones and decided to provide defense support to Ukraine.

Britain to send more artillery weapons to Ukraine, the Reuters reports. “Britain will give more artillery weapons to Ukraine as the conflict with Russia moves into a new phase, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday. This will become an artillery conflict, they need support with more artillery, that is what we will be giving them… in addition to many other forms of support, Johnson told lawmakers.”

The US is planning to provide a further military aid package to Ukraine of a similar size to the $800m (£615m) aid package he announced last week, according to US media, BBC reports. President Joe Biden, speaking to reporters after the meeting between Western allies, said Washington would also be sending Ukraine more artillery – heavy guns deployed in land warfare.

Seven more flights with US weapons are to be sent to Ukraine in the next day, the Washington Post reports citing Pentagon. It’s expected to include howitzer artillery that will require US officials to provide some familiarization training to Ukrainian forces that are accustomed to launching artillery more common in Eastern Europe. Flights continue to arrive in the region every day, with Ukrainian forces taking possession of Western weapons and bringing them into Ukraine through a complex network that includes railroads and convoys.

Canada will send heavy weapons to Ukraine, Trudeau says, GlobalNews reports. “Canada will be sending heavy weapons to Ukraine, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday, as the country battles a new Russian offensive in the eastern Donbas region.”

The Czech Republic will repair Ukrainian tanks and armored personnel carriers, the European Truth reports. The Czech Republic has agreed to repair Ukrainian tanks and armored personnel carriers damaged during the fighting. This was confirmed by the Minister of Defense of the Czech Republic Jan Chornochov. The Czech Republic became the first country to supply Ukraine with Soviet T-72 tanks, as well as BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles in its current reserves. There are also reports of the supply of self-propelled artillery and multiple rocket launchers.

Norway has donated an air defense system to Ukraine, the Norwegian Government states. The conflict in Ukraine can be long-lasting, and the country is dependent on international support to resist Russian aggression. Therefore, the government has decided to donate the short-range Mistral air defense system to Ukraine, says Minister of Defense Bjørn Arild Gram. The system is an effective weapon that has been used by the Norwegian Navy, and which will be of great benefit to Ukraine, says the Minister of Defense.

Estonia provided the greatest assistance to Ukraine among all countries in the world, in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Ukraine Support Tracker of the Kiel Institute of World Economy (IfW Kiel).

“Since the war of aggression against Ukraine began on February 24, Estonia has promised aid amounting to almost 0.8% of its own GDP. It is followed by Poland with less than 0.2% and Lithuania with less than 0.1%.

In absolute terms, the largest commitments were made by the United States – about 7.6 billion euros, followed by Poland, Britain, and Germany.

According to the institute, all EU countries together have promised assistance of about 2.9 billion euros, plus 1.4 billion euros from the EU institutions and 2 billion euros from the European Investment Bank.”

“It is remarkable that the US alone is giving significantly more than the entire EU, in whose immediate neighborhood the war is raging,” Christoph Trebesch, research director at the Kiel Institute and lead author of its Tracker, said in a statement, Euronews reports.

Pentagon, industry wrestle with how to boost weapons production for Ukraine, DefenseNews reports.

“As Pentagon officials gauge the defense industry’s ability to ramp up arms production in response to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, firms are still grappling with pandemic-related supply chain and workforce woes. According to Bill Greenwalt, who served as deputy undersecretary of defense for industrial policy during the George W. Bush administration, it has historically taken the US defense industrial base 18 months to 3 years to get ready for conflicts. …

“The US will face start-up production line issues, labour issues, supply chain issues, parts and machine tool obsolescence issues, time constraints certifying new suppliers and technical approaches, plus time waiting for budgets and contracts to be issued,” he added.”

France to push for an oil embargo against Russia, euobserver reports. “French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said Tuesday that an embargo on Russian oil at the EU level was in the works, saying that France wants such a move. “I hope that in the weeks to come we will convince our European partners to stop importing Russian oil,” Le Maire told Europe 1 radio, according to Reuters. Germany, Hungary, and other EU members have been reluctant to impose an oil embargo.”

Hungary does not support sanctions against the Russian Federation on oil and gas, and will not allow transit of weapons to Ukraine through its territory, the Ukrinform reports.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary Peter Szijjarto made the statement after a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Ukrinform reports citing Anadolu. We cannot force the Hungarian people to pay the price of this war. That is why we do not approve of sanctions on oil or natural gas (against Russia – ed.), Szijjarto said.”

New developments

  1. Russia rejects calls for a cease-fire to enable evacuations, saying Ukraine only wants time to arm, The New York Times reports. “Russia rejected calls for a cease-fire to allow for civilian evacuations in Ukraine on Tuesday, saying that requests to pause the fighting were not sincere and would only provide time to arm Ukrainian fighters. The rejection, delivered at a United Nations Security Council meeting on Ukraine, came just hours after the UN secretary general, António Guterres, called for a four-day cease-fire to allow for evacuations in battle zones and safe corridors to bring in food and medicine.”
  2. Moscow says opening corridor for Ukrainian troops in Mariupol, DW reports. “The Russian armed forces opened a humanitarian corridor for the withdrawal of Ukrainian military personnel who voluntarily laid down their arms and militants of nationalist formations,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.ME: Remember Ilovaisk!
  3. NATO Secretary General participates in a leaders’ call hosted by President Biden, according to a NATO press release. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg participated in a secure conference call hosted by US President Joe Biden on Tuesday (19 April 2022), to address Russia’s latest offensive in the Donbas region of Ukraine, maintain severe costs being levied on the Kremlin, and coordinate on further support for Ukraine. The leaders condemned Russia’s current assault along the front line in eastern Ukraine, including heavy shelling which is causing even greater human suffering. The leaders stressed that President Putin must end the war immediately, and they agreed on the importance of imposing even higher costs on Moscow until he does so.
  4. Scholz says Russia can’t be allowed to win in Ukraine, TASS reports. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday said the Russian armed forces shouldn’t be allowed to win in Ukraine. He made the statement at a news conference following talks that Western leaders held by video link. The leaders included presidents Joe Biden of the US, Emmanuel Macron of France, Andrzej Duda of Poland, Klaus Iohannis of Romania, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, European Council President Charles Michel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.


On the War

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Tuesday 19 April:

Russian and Ukrainian officials announced that the next phase of the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on April 18. Russian forces conducted intensive artillery and air bombardments of many areas along the front line from around Izium to Mykolaiv but relatively few ground offensive operations. Russian forces continue to receive personnel and equipment reinforcements as well as command-and-control and logistics capabilities even as they conduct air and artillery preparations and some mechanized advances.

The Russians have not fully set conditions for a large-scale offensive operation. The Russians have not had enough time to reconstitute forces withdrawn from the Battle of Kyiv and ready them properly for a new offensive in the east. The Russians appear to be still building logistics and command-and-control capabilities even as they start the next round of major fighting. The tempo of Russian operations continues to suggest that President Vladimir Putin is demanding a hasty offensive to achieve his stated objectives, possibly by “Victory Day” on May 9. The haste and partial preparation of the Russian attack will likely undermine its effectiveness and may compromise its success.

Russian forces appear to be attempting to conduct a wide encirclement of Ukrainian troops along axes from Izium to the southeast and from Donetsk City to the north even as they push west from Popasna and positions north of Sievierodonetsk. Russian ground offensives in the last 24 hours occurred around Izium, Kreminna (north of Sievierodonetsk), and from Donetsk City toward Avdiivka. Only the advance to and possibly through Kreminna made significant progress. An encirclement on this scale would likely take considerable time to complete against Ukrainian resistance. Even if the Russians did complete such an encirclement and trapped a large concentration of Ukrainian forces inside one or more pockets, the Ukrainian defenders would likely be able to hold out for a considerable period and might well be able to break out.

The Russians may alternatively try to complete several smaller encirclements simultaneously, each trapping fewer Ukrainian forces and therefore taking less time to complete and then reduce. Coordinating such operations is complicated and beyond the planning and execution capacities, the Russian army has demonstrated in the conflict thus far.

Ukrainian forces continue to defend parts of the Azovstal complex in Mariupol, but Russian officials and media are gathering in and near the city, likely in preparation to declare victory in the coming days whether or not fighting continues.

Key Takeaways

  • The next phase of the Russian offensive in Ukraine’s east has reportedly begun, largely with artillery and air bombardments supporting a few small-scale ground offensives.
  • Russian officials and media are likely preparing to declare victory in Mariupol in the coming days, possibly before Ukrainian forces in the Azovstal facility have been fully defeated.
  • The Russians may be attempting a single wide encirclement of Ukrainian forces from Izium to Donetsk City or a series of smaller encirclements within that arc. It is too soon to assess the intended Russian scheme of maneuver.
  • Russian operations continue to proceed hastily as if President Vladimir Putin has set an arbitrary date by which they must succeed. Putin may have decided that he will announce a Russian success and the completion of the operation on Victory Day, May 9. The haste with which Russian forces are moving may compromise the success of their operations.

Combat underway in Donbas is a likely ‘prelude’ to a larger offensive, the Washington Post reports citing Pentagon.

“The Pentagon assessed Tuesday that “limited offensive operations” have begun south of the cities of Izium and Donetsk and characterized them as a “prelude” to larger offensive operations still to come in Donbas.

Russian forces also continue to move logistics units and other troops to support operations in the region, raising the possibility that they may expand their offensive even as support for it continues to arrive, said a senior US defense official. …

Russia continues to focus the majority of its offensive firepower, including airstrikes, in the southern city of Mariupol and on Donbas, the official said. Russia has launched more than 1,670 missiles at Ukraine in 55 days of the war, as of Tuesday, the Pentagon assessed, though recent bad weather over Ukraine has made it difficult for the United States to track strikes with specificity, the official said.

Russia added two additional battalion tactical groups in the last 24 hours, giving them about 78 after withdrawing some groups after the Kremlin’s failure to take Kyiv earlier in the war, the official said. Other units are still resupplying and reconstituting themselves at the Ukrainian border in Russia.”

Assessment by Hans Peter Midttun

The West is massively responding to Ukraine’s request for support. In the last 24 hours, we have seen an unprecedented number of declarations of support. NATO countries have started transporting heavy weapons into the theatre. This includes everything from combat aircraft, artillery, armored vehicles, and ammunition.

Of equal significance, the statement of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday that “the Russian armed forces shouldn’t be allowed to win in Ukraine” is not only an indication of commitment by the biggest European economy but also the first hint of an intent to help Ukraine defeat Russia.

That does, however, not change physics. The weapons still need to be moved into Eastern Europe for onward transportation to the frontline. Some of the systems require education and training. It might still take time before they can be effectively employed.

The US and European Defense Industry still need to make the transition from peacetime to “wartime” production. It has historically taken the US defense industrial base 18 months to 3 years to get ready for conflicts. That is no less relevant for the European Defense Industry. As previously argued, one might find that the European defense industry – and therefore Europe’s ability to regenerate new forces – has been dramatically reduced during the last two decades.

My prediction, therefore, remains the same: As NATO runs out of “soviet legacy weapons”, NATO might be forced to employ more advanced weapon systems requiring NATO operators. When – not if – that happens, the Alliance will be forced to reconsider its present stand on “boots on the ground” in Ukraine. Ironically, the most cost-effective and least risky intervention would be an UN-mandated No-Fly Zone.

If NATO was to act now, initially limiting a “No-Fly Zone” to the area west of Dnipro, this would allow Ukraine to focus its Air Defense assets in the east (up-threat) to protect the Land Forces, as well as reduce the need for close coordination and the risk of “blue-on-blue”.

All of this might be avoided by simply bringing the NATO military options back on the table. Start the planning. Make the official statements. Move the required forces closer to the theatre. Approach the UN to start the process of establishing the basis for an UN-mandated humanitarian intervention and a No-Fly Zone. Do whatever is needed to demonstrate resolve, will, and ability.

Who knows, Russia might finally take the clue as we start communicating in a manner that is understandable to them.

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