Russo-Ukrainian war, day 61: Heavy bombings of Mariupol, Russians planning to attack Kryvyi Rih.

Ukraine war

 

Daily review

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun
Russians attacked Ukrainian positions all over the eastern front line with very limited success. Ukrainian forces regained control of five more settlements in Mykolaiv oblast. In Mariupol, the Russian military continues dropping bombs on civilians. The occupiers are planning an attack on Kryvyi Rih. The Russian military carries out provocations in the Kherson oblast by shelling the occupied territories from tanks flying Ukrainian flags.

Morning report day 61 – April 25

Situation

According to information from the General Staff:

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

Et bilde som inneholder kart Automatisk generert beskrivelseRussian forces are conducting offensive operations in the Eastern Operational Zone in order to defeat the Joint Forces, establish full control over the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, and secure a land route between these territories and the occupied Crimea.

In the Volyn, Polissya, and Siversky directions, Russian forces did not take active action, no significant changes in the position and activities of enemy units that protect the Ukrainian-Belarusian and Ukrainian-Russian sections of the state border of Ukraine were detected.

  • In the Volyn and Polissya directions, up to seven Belarusians battalions continue to carry out tasks to cover the Ukrainian-Belarusian border in Brest and Gomel oblast. The outflow of units of the Eastern Military District, mostly damaged, from the territory of the Republic of Belarus to the Russian Federation of armaments and military equipment continues through Gomel in the direction of Bryansk.
  • In the Siversky direction, the FSS border service of the Russian Federation continues to provide enhanced protection of the Ukrainian-Russian border in the Bryansk and Kursk oblast.
  • Regrouping of units of the Central Military District from the areas of recovery of combat readiness to the eastern regions of Ukraine continues. Russian forces plan to move an anti-aircraft gun division from the 14th Air Force and Air Defense from Kursk to the Belgorod Oblast.

In the Slobozhansky direction, Russian forces continue shelling with artillery and rocket-propelled grenade launchers in the settlements of Kharkiv, Karasivka, Prudyanka, and Kororbochkino.

  • In the directions of Izium – Barvinkove and Izium – Sloviansk, Russian forces unsuccessfully tried to carry out assault operations and carried out shelling in the areas of the settlements of Velyka Komyshuvakha, Virnopillya, and Nova Dmytrivka.
  • There is an intensification of offensive and assault actions of Russian units in the areas of Pashkove, Dovgenke, and Velyka Komyshuvakha. The enemy was unsuccessful, suffered losses, and was forced to retreat to previously occupied frontiers.

In the Donetsk and Tavriya directions, Russian forces carried out artillery shelling on the positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. In the city of Mariupol, Russian forces launched missile and bomb strikes on the positions of Ukrainian troops on the territory of the Azovstal plant.

  • Russian enemy conducts assault operations on the village of Popasna.
  • Russian forces are building up their command-and-control system and air defense. Continues to fire on the positions of our troops from mortars, artillery, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers along the entire line of contact. Inflicts airstrikes with operational and tactical aircraft.
  • In the Sievierodonetsk direction, Russian forces tried to carry out assault operations in the direction of the settlements of Lyman and Yatskivka but were unsuccessful.
  • Russian forces established control over part of the village of Zarichne.
  • The enemy tried to gain a foothold in the western, northwestern, and eastern parts of Rubizhne but failed. He began advancing in the directions of the settlements of Orikhove and Nyzhne.
  • In the Popasna direction, the occupying forces tried to gain a foothold on the achieved frontiers. Russian forces also regrouped and replenished their personnel and ammunition and prepared for further assaults.
  • In the Kurakhiv direction, with the support of artillery, the enemy attempted an offensive in the direction of the settlements of Novomykhailivka and Marinka. He was not successful.
  • The occupiers carried out assault operations in the direction of the settlement of Vremivka, suffered losses, and retreated to previously occupied positions.

In the Pivdennyi Buh direction, Russian forces fired at the positions of our troops in the areas of the settlements of Knyazivka and Mykolaiv.

In the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, the Russian occupiers are introducing measures restricting the rights and freedoms of civilians, including freedom of movement.

Ukraine’s Defense Forces inflict heavy losses on the enemy. In the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts only, seven enemy attacks have been repulsed in the past 24 hours, thirteen tanks, three artillery systems, seventeen armored vehicles, four armored combat vehicles, and eighteen vehicles, and four tankers have been destroyed. Three Orlan-10 unmanned aerial vehicles were shot down by air defense units in the area.” unquote

“We are being stormed”: Azov Regiment asks the world to help on Easter, Ukrayinska Pravda reports.

Even though today is an important day Orthodox Easter, the enemy continues air bombardments, naval artillery shelling, gun shelling, and tank bombardments; their infantry continues attempting to storm Azovstal. On this day I want everyone – whether they are on the frontline, at home, or resettled – to think about values. By the 60th day of the war, I think everyone understands that material goods are not worth anything compared to being able to hug your children, talk to your relatives, and enjoy a moment of silence… During this time, while you are posting pictures of Easter celebrations and enjoying ceasefires, in Mariupol the enemy continues dropping bombs on innocent children,” Sviatoslav Palamar, Deputy Commander of the Azov Regiment, said in a video address on Telegram.

Ukrainian forces regained control of five more settlements in Mykolaiv oblast near the administrative border with the Kherson oblast, Ukrinform reports. In southern Ukraine, Ukrainian defenders killed 73 Russian invaders and destroyed seven units of enemy military equipment, including an air-defense system Pantsir-S1 and armored vehicles. The Operational Command South reported this on YouTube.

“It is noted that in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, Russian invaders restrict the rights and freedoms of civilians, including freedom of movement. Settlements preparing for pseudo-referendums are closed to entry and exit.

As Ukrinform reported, in the area of ​​responsibility of the Operational and Tactical Grouping East on April 24, Ukrainian defenders killed nearly a hundred Russian invaders, destroyed three main enemy tanks, and downed an unmanned aerial vehicle.”

The occupiers are planning an attack on Kryvyi Rih, Ukrayinska Pravda reports citing the head of the military administration of Kryvyi Rih, Oleksandr Vilkul. “The enemy is conducting an offensive strike formation in our direction in the Kherson Oblast. In the coming days, we are waiting for their possible transition to the offensive. But we know more about them than they think, we understand all their plans and we are fully prepared for any development. According to Vilkul, the city’s garrison is ready, all military units are ready, deep-layered defense and multi-level fortifications have been built in Kryvyi Rih.”

The Russian military carries out provocations in the Kherson oblast by shelling the occupied territories from tanks flying Ukrainian flags in an attempt to discredit the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Ukrinform reports. “In particular, Russian tanks flying Ukrainian flags broke into the outskirts of the village of Hrozove, Kherson Oblast. The column then moved in the direction of Molodetske village, Ukraine’s Operational Command “South” informed in an address posted on YouTube. Thus, the enemy tries to simulate the presence of units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the occupied territories, firing from these tanks on the captured localities, giving the local population a fake picture of the Ukrainian military attack on civilians in the Kherson oblast, the Command says”.

Russia has used up about 70% of its high-precision missiles since war-start – Bellingcat, Ukrinform reports. Russia has used about 70% of its arsenal of high-precision missiles, although the country can produce them independently. This was stated by Christo Grozev, an investigative journalist, executive director, and chairman of the board of the Bellingcat platform, who spoke with Ukraine 24 TV, Ukrinform reports.

“They have about 30% of what they started the war with. There is also the question: who is operating these missiles? After all, the resource that can work with these missiles is also limited. Our intelligence suggests this is about 30 to 40 people. After all, Ukraine is working not only to shoot down and destroy missiles but also to identify persons who can program these missiles. Therefore, I won’t be surprised if not only hardware but also so-called software runs out in Russia, Grozev said.”

An oil depot is on fire in Bryansk, Russia, Ukrayinska Pravda reports citing Interfax. A fire broke out at an oil depot in Bryansk, Russia, and residents say it was preceded by explosions.

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

  • Russia has made minor advances in some areas since shifting its focus to fully occupying the Donbas. Without sufficient logistical and combat support enablers in place, Russia has yet to achieve a significant breakthrough.
  • Russia’s decision to besiege rather than attack Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant means many Russian units remain fixed in the city and cannot be redeployed. Ukraine’s defense of Mariupol has also exhausted many Russian units and reduced their combat effectiveness.
  • Russia’s Ministry of Defense has proposed compensation payments for the families of deceased service personnel be overseen by military rather than civilian officials. This likely reflects a desire to hide the true scale of Russia’s losses from the domestic population.
  • Russia is planning a staged referendum in the southern city of Kherson aimed at justifying its occupation. The city is key to Russia’s objective of establishing a land bridge to Crimea and dominating southern Ukraine.
  • Russia previously held an illegitimate referendum on the accession of Crimea into the Russian Federation in 2014 to retrospectively justify its seizure of the Peninsula.
  • Russia’s domestic elections have been beset by allegations of vote-rigging and have seen high-profile opposition blocked from running.

As of Monday 25.04.2022, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the war to the present day:Ukraine war

  • Personnel – more than 21900 people (+100),
  • Tanks – 884 units (+11),
  • Armored combat vehicles – 2258 units (+20),
  • Artillery systems – 411 (+3),
  • Multiple rocket launchers – 149 (+2)
  • Air defense means – 69 (no change),
  • Aircraft – 181 (+2),
  • Helicopters – 154 (no change),
  • Automotive technology – 1566 (+9),
  • Vessels/boats – 8 units (no change),
  • Fuel and lubricant tanks – 76 (no change),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 201 (+10)
  • Special equipment – 28 (+1)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (no change)

Humanitarian

Red Cross speaks out for civilians in Azovstal on the 55th day of the Mariupol siege, Ukrayinska Pravda reports. An ICRC press release on 24 April says that “the ICRC is deeply troubled by the situation in Mariupol, whose citizens urgently require help. It is urgently necessary to ensure unhindered humanitarian access to create a safe exit from Mariupol, including from the territory of the Azovstal plant, where thousands of civilians and hundreds of wounded remain.”

According to UNHCR 5,186,744 refugees have been registered as of 23 April. The UN says that so far Poland has taken in 2,899,713 refugees, Romania 774,094, Russian Federation 578,255 (no changes since April 21), Hungary 489,754, Republic of Moldova 433,214 Slovakia 354,329, and Belarus 24,084. Among those who fled Ukraine are also Ukrainian nationals with dual citizenship. An additional 105,000 people moved to the Russian Federation from the Donetsk and Luhansk oblast between 18 and 23 February.

OHCHR recorded 5,381 civilian casualties in Ukraine as of 21 April. 2,435 have been killed (including 184 children) and 2,946 injured (including 286 children).

Legal

Russia grossly violates Article 26 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. “The State Duma proposes to force captured Ukrainian servicemen to donate blood for the wounded occupiers, this fact testifies to the analogy of atrocities, Nazis in concentration camps during World War II. This practice of forced donation was widespread in Nazi concentration camps. The surviving Buchenwald prisoners recalled taking blood from them to treat wounded Wehrmacht soldiers. Russia grossly violates Article 26 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, said human rights ombudswoman Lyudmila Denisova.

Russian forces prevent a column of people from leaving Kherson, Ukrinform reports. Russian invaders are preventing a large convoy of people from leaving Kherson, who do not want to participate in the so-called referendum. This has been reported on the Telegram channel for the latest news about the Armed Forces of Ukraine, according to Ukrinform. “

Earlier, the head of the Kherson Regional Military Administration, Hennadiy Lahuda, said that the invaders are planning to hold a “referendum” in the Kherson oblast during the first days of May, stressing that the region is Ukrainian. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told a news conference on April 23 that Ukraine would abandon further talks with Russia if a so-called referendum in Kherson is held and Mariupol defenders are killed.”

215 children were killed, and 391 children injured, the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of 25 April. 1,500 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, 102 of them are destroyed fully.

7,124 crimes of aggression and war crimes and 3,802 crimes against national security were registered as of 24 April.

Environment

Russian aggression destroyed about $650B of Ukraine’s assets. The relevant statement was made by Advisor to the President of Ukraine on Economic Affairs Oleh Ustenko during a telethon, an Ukrinform correspondent reports.

“During the first week of the war, we suffered losses worth about $100 billion. These are the assets destroyed by Russian occupiers. This sum has been increasing every day. Now I’d say it is about $650 billion, Ustenko told. In his words, considering the additional losses caused by the adverse financial and economic processes, the amount of damage inflicted on Ukraine’s economy has reached about $1 trillion.

This is the amount that must be compensated for by the Russian Federation after our victory, Ustenko stressed. Several working groups are now seeking Russia’s hidden assets. According to Ustenko, Ukraine has every right to use such assets to compensate for the damage caused by the Russian army.”

The Russians have destroyed 7 Orthodox churches in the Luhansk oblast alone, Ukrayinska Pravda reports, citing the Head of Luhansk Regional State Administration, Serhiy Haidai. “The Nativity Cathedral in Sievierodonetsk has withstood four direct shell hits. The building of St Catherine’s Church in the town of Shchastia, which is a cultural heritage site, has been partially destroyed. Russian artillery shells have hit St Mitrophan’s Church in Lysychansk and the Church of St Matrona of Moscow in the city of Rubizhne.” Additionally, the church of St Michael’s parish in Popasna has been damaged, and a newly-built church in Rubizhne – St George’s – has been damaged, he wrote on Telegram.

Support

The US to continue helping Ukrainians fight for their homeland, Ukrinform reports.

“The United States will continue to assist Ukraine in its fight against Vladimir Putin’s aggression, US President Joe Biden stated via Twitter, Ukrinform reports. Two months after Putin launched an unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine, Kyiv still stands. President Zelenskyyy and his democratically-elected government remain in power, Biden wrote. We will continue to support Ukrainians in their fight to defend their homeland,” the US president stressed.“

The US steps up military aid for Ukraine during the first official visit since the invasion, the Reuters reports.

Making the first official US visit to Ukraine since Russia invaded two months ago, Washington’s top diplomat and its defense secretary pledged additional military aid, including advanced weapons, and a return of US envoys to Kyiv. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy and other top officials in Kyiv late on Sunday. US officials said the cabinet secretaries pledged new assistance worth $713 million for Zelenskyy’s government and other countries in the region that are fearful of further Russian aggression.”

Italy mulls sending more heavy weapons to Ukraine, Euractiv reports.

The government is considering adopting a new military package by decree that would allow it to send heavier weapons to Ukraine. The package, evaluated by military experts, would involve tracked troop transport vehicles, such as M113, with anti-aircraft missiles Sidam-25, and PzH2000, newspaper Corriere Della Sera reported on Sunday (24 April) despite the topic of arms supplies being classified information. If adopted, this would be the third decree issued by the Italian government that aims to give arms to Ukraine. Under the first decree, the government sent military equipment, including Stinger missiles, to Kyiv. The second one, which should be licensed soon, is almost identical.”

Lithuania calls on the EU to impose sanctions on the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Ukrayinska Pravda reports. Lithuania calls on the European Union to impose sanctions on Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church, who supports the war in Ukraine. This was stated by Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis It will be recalled that the Vatican has decided to cancel the meeting of Pope Francis, which was scheduled for June, with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill, who supported Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Bulgarian PM denies Ukraine’s request for weapons, rebublicworld.com reports. Amid the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine and repetitive requests from the Ukrainian President regarding the supply of weapons, Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said that the country has some “red lines” and stressed, “it could not afford to cross that line”.

The Austrian Foreign Ministry opposes Ukraine’s membership in the EU, the Economic Truth reports. The Minister believes that Ukraine should not receive candidate status in June, as President Zelenskyy expects. He justified his position by saying that there are states in the Western Balkans that have come a long way. The Austrian publication Heute also quotes him saying that Ukraine should not, in principle, become a member of the EU, even in the future. He called for a “different way” for Ukraine than full membership. According to the Minister, there should also be other models than Ukraine’s accession to the EU, joining the EU’s Single Economic Zone, or simply maintaining the current level of the Association Agreement. Schallenberg called for greater flexibility in finding mechanisms for rapprochement between Ukraine and the EU.

New developments

  1. Blinken, Austin pledge return of US diplomats, more security assistance on Kyiv visit, the Reuters reports. “Washington’s top diplomat and defense secretary both visited Kyiv on Sunday, and used the first official US visit to Ukraine since Russia invaded two months ago to announce a gradual return of US diplomats to the country and the nomination of a new ambassador, officials said. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin traveled to Poland on Saturday then overland into Ukraine on Sunday, where they met President Zelenskyy and other top Ukrainian officials, a senior State Department official said, declining to discuss in detail their travel or security arrangements.”
  2. Zelenskyy spoke with Erdogan before his conversation with Putin, Ukrayinska Pravda reports. The President of Ukraine Zelenskyy and the President of Turkey Recep Erdogan discussed by phone possible guarantees of Ukraine’s security, the resumption of talks with Russia, and the evacuation of wounded soldiers and civilians from Mariupol.
  3. Instead of negotiations, Putin plans to seize as many territories of Ukraine as possible, the Ukrayinska Pravda reports citing Financial Times. According to sources, in March, Putin seriously considered signing a truce with Ukraine after the failures of the Russian army. However, now he wants to seize as much territory as possible because he does not see how to end this war otherwise. After the destruction of the cruiser “Moskva”, the Russian president, according to sources, was allegedly so enraged that he rejected the idea of ​​reaching an agreement. One of the officials with whom the journalists spoke told that Putin believes in all the disinformation that is reported on Russian television and is ready to go to the “great victory”. They say the generals are reporting to Putin what he wants to hear. Allegedly, some Russian officials fear that Putin is ready to use tactical nuclear weapons on Ukrainian territory if his troops fail in a further offensive.
  4. Talks have reached a stalemate, Putin says. During a telephone conversation with European Council President Charles Michel, who was trying to persuade Putin to meet with Zelenskyy, Putin allegedly told him that the talks had reached a stalemate because Ukraine had “built a wall” and therefore it was not time for such a meeting. He tells a similar story to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ukrayinska Pravda reports.
  5. Russia is blocking economic data, hiding the impact of Western sanctions, Economic Truth reports. The Russian government has begun to close information on key economic indicators in order to hide the problems that Russia is facing due to sanctions, The Wall Street Journal writes. In recent days, the Russian government has stopped publishing data on public debt, trade statistics, and oil production. The central bank has limited the amount of financial information that local banks must publish regularly. The restrictions are expected to prevent Washington and Brussels from seeing how their sanctions affect the Russian economy, as well as make it harder to find new targets and fine-tune future rounds of sanctions.

Assessment

On the War

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Sunday 24 April:

Russian offensive operations in eastern Ukraine made minor advances around Sievierodonetsk on April 24, seizing several small towns and establishing a pontoon bridge across the Krasna River west of Sievierodonetsk. Russia’s offensive in eastern Ukraine continues to follow the pattern of its operations throughout the war, using small units to conduct dispersed attacks along multiple axes rather than taking the pauses necessary to prepare for decisive operations. … The military situation in southern Ukraine did not change in the last 24 hours.

Russian forces continued to bombard Ukrainian defenders in the Azovstal Steel Plant with artillery and airstrikes and may be preparing for renewed assaults on the facility. The deputy commander of the Azov Regiment stated on April 24 that the Russian Naval Infantry is preparing to launch an assault on Azovstal, and Ukrainian Presidential Adviser Oleksiy Arestovych similarly stated that Russian forces are concentrating around Azovstal for an assault. ISW cannot independently confirm Russian preparations for renewed assaults against Azovstal, which would likely sustain high casualties. Russian commanders likely still seek to starve out the remaining Ukrainian defenders but may be compelled to launch a hasty assault on the facility to meet a Kremlin-imposed deadline to fully clear Mariupol. Pro-Russian telegram channels released footage of Pacific Fleet Naval Infantry troops and armor reportedly leaving Mariupol to “go further for new victories,” though ISW cannot confirm details on the specific composition and destination of Russian forces departing Mariupol.

Russian forces conducted several attacks around Sievierodonetsk, Popasna, and Marinka on April 24, securing limited gains. Russian forces made small advances around Sievierodonetsk, including establishing a pontoon crossing across the Krasna River west of Sievierodonetsk and capturing the towns of Popivka, Pischane, Zhytlivka, and Kreminna northwest of Rubizhne (confirmed by footage of LNR servicemen posing by village entrance signs) on April 24. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces primarily focused on securing their current positions around Popasna and prepared for further assaults. Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Oleksiy Arestovcyh stated that Russian forces are conducting assaults north from Melitopol toward Hulyaipole, 80km east of Zaporizhzhia, and have advanced 10km in the past week. Russian forces, including units from Mariupol, likely seek to drive north into Dnipropetrovsk Oblast to encircle Ukrainian forces in Donetsk Oblast but are unlikely to successfully complete this deep encirclement.

Ukrainian forces repelled limited Russian attacks from Izium toward Sloviansk and Kramatorsk in the past 24 hours. Russian forces maintained their positions around Kharkiv city and continued to shell the surrounding area on April 24 and conducted remote mining in Korotichi (a western suburb of Kharkiv) to disrupt Ukrainian movements.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces continued to pressure Ukrainian defenders in the Azovstal facility in Mariupol.
  • Ukrainian sources report that Russian troops are preparing to conduct renewed assaults on Azovstal that would likely prove costly—possibly to meet a Kremlin-imposed deadline to clear Mariupol—but ISW cannot independently confirm these reports.
  • Russian forces secured limited gains northwest of Sievierodonetsk but remain unlikely to be able to launch massed offensive operations.
  • Additional Russian forces are deploying to reinforce unsuccessful attacks on the Izium front.
  • Ukrainian civilians in occupied Kharkiv Oblast are reportedly organizing volunteer movements to resist Russian occupation measures, similar to previously documented actions in southern Ukraine.

Consequences and what to do?

In an article published by The Economist on 23 April, Rob Lee explains “why attrition will be a critical factor in the battle for Donbas”. The expert on Russia’s armed forces says Vladimir Putin will struggle to achieve his goals

“… Russia’s new focus on south-eastern Ukraine ought to play to its strengths and ameliorate some of these problems. The terrain in Donbas, with fewer large urban areas, is better suited to an offensive, allowing Russia’s army to make better use of its advantages in armor and artillery. …

But is it all too late for Russia? Ultimately, that will depend on which side is more affected by attrition. Relatively little is known about the scale of Ukrainian losses. What is clear is that Russia has lost a large amount of equipment, including helicopters and tanks. Of the six battalions in the Russian 4th Tank Division’s two tank regiments, two battalions’ worth of T-80U tanks have been destroyed or captured (more than 62 in total).

Russian personnel losses are an even greater problem. A NATO official put the figure as high as 40,000 killed, wounded, and captured a month ago. Russia’s initial invasion force of approximately 125 battalion tactical groups (BTGs) added up to fewer than 100,000 troops in total. Importantly, not all of those were combat forces. That figure includes those responsible for air defense, electronic warfare, and other support functions.

Compared with the armies of many NATO members, Russian ground forces have a higher ratio of artillery and other supporting arms to what are known as maneuver units, such as tank and motorized rifle units. Maneuver units, as well as elite Spetsnaz (special forces) and airborne forces, will be vital to a new offensive in Donbas. But these are precisely the ones who have borne the brunt of Russian casualties. Russia’s lack of light infantry has been a clear weakness, and there are indications that many Russian BTGs invaded Ukraine at only partial strength.

Now there is little left in reserve. Russia committed 75% of its permanent-readiness BTGs—those staffed with professional soldiers and officers—to the invasion. That already stretched its forces thinly, with a sizeable share of units deployed from all five of its military districts, as well as national guard troops and even conscripts.

That Russia has chosen to send more units, possibly more than ten BTGs, since the war began from critical garrisons such as Kaliningrad, Tajikistan and the breakaway region of South Ossetia in Georgia underscores the extent of its problems. The Russian military is already ill-prepared to handle another crisis—like the unrest in Kazakhstan in January—as long as the majority of its permanent-readiness ground units and rapid reaction forces are committed to Ukraine. Unless it mobilizes conscripts—which would possibly require reframing the “special military operation” as a war—Russia will struggle to generate additional ground forces.

What does this mean for the forthcoming battles in Donbas? An attacking force typically seeks a three-to-one numerical advantage over the defender, if not more.

That degree of superiority is now probably beyond Russia, except at the tactical level in some locations. It will probably try to compensate for this lack of manpower in maneuver units with airstrikes and artillery. Russia may also rely more heavily on less well-trained militia forces from Donetsk and Luhansk. But this isn’t a recipe for a rapid breakthrough, and the Ukrainian military has demonstrated it is capable, creative, and well-led. More likely, any Russian advances will be slow and costly.

Russia faces other problems, too. Its objectives are obvious, robbing it of the element of surprise. That means Ukraine has the opportunity to disrupt those plans and can seize the initiative. …

Ukraine’s advantage is that it enjoys what is called interior lines, allowing it to move forces and supplies over its territory more quickly than Russia can. It has also mobilized its territorial defense units, which have now gained combat experience. Russia, meanwhile, having failed to degrade Ukraine’s air defenses or eliminate its air force, is still struggling to interdict Ukrainian reinforcements and supplies—a task that was crucial to Azerbaijan’s successful ground offensive in its war in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020. Indeed, the threat posed by Ukrainian air defenses is limiting the effectiveness of Russian airstrikes in the Donbas region, by forcing Russian helicopters to fire their rockets at longer ranges with less accuracy.

As long as Ukraine can prevent Russia from encircling a large share of its forces, Russian tactical or operational successes will probably fail to add up to strategic gains. Ukraine can afford to trade space for time, pulling back to more defensible terrain, or even cities, if necessary. If Ukraine loses territory but can nevertheless inflict greater losses on Russia than it sustains, this could be considered a success.

Russia, after all, needs sufficient forces not only to conduct an offensive but also to hold ground and rotate units off the frontlines for recovery. Continued attrition could make this unsustainable.

As long as the war continues, there will be some domestic support for it in Russia. But once it eventually ends, Russian citizens will weigh its costs and benefits, and many will question whether expanding Russian control over south-eastern Ukraine was worth the heavy military losses and international isolation.

The approval ratings of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, will suffer. Therefore as long as Mr. Putin believes his armed forces have a chance of advancing, thus improving Russia’s hand in diplomatic negotiations, he has an incentive to continue this war. However, the extent of the Russian ground forces’ manpower problems coupled with high attrition suggests Russia’s offensive in the Donbas is likely to achieve only partial success.”

Assessment by Hans Petter Midttun

Democracies cannot and should not be forced to act in conflict with their national interests. But they should be held accountable for the consequences of their democratic decisions.

When Austria opposes Ukrainian EU membership, Bulgaria rejects Ukraine’s request for weapons, Hungary will not allow transit of weapons to Ukraine through its territory, or Germany does not support sanctions against the Russian Federation on oil and gas and is bitterly divided over what kind of military support it should give Kyiv, or Norway has still not decided to block Russian vessels from using its ports, or more crucially, when the Western countries do not ask the UN to mandate a humanitarian intervention and a No-Fly Zone over Ukraine and NATO is unwilling to enforce it, this is all a part of democracy and democratic choices.

The costs of war – from human suffering, atrocities, and war crimes to food and energy crisis, financial instability, “stagnation”, poverty, and increasing costs of living, are not.

It is, therefore, rather frustrating to watch democratic nations choose division over unity, national over common interests, attrition over maneuver warfare, long-term costs over values and principles, and political weakness over courage, resolve, and European security.

As previously stated, the longer we allow the war to last, the higher the costs for both Ukraine and the international community.

I remain convinced that the engagement of a “coalition of the willing” consisting of the major NATO member states would change and improve the dynamic of the war. It would even be concluded in weeks instead of months and years. More importantly, it would help avoid further Russian miscalculations.

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

 

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