Russo-Ukrainian war, day 62: Russian forces intensified activities in the East, resumed attacks against Azovstal plant

Russo Ukrainian war, day 62: Russian forces intensified activities in the East, resumed attacks against Azovstal plant

 

Daily review

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun
Heavy fighting near Izium and Kramatorks. Ukrainian army is preparing defenses in Zaporizhia. Russian forces resumed ground attacks against Mariupol’s Azovstal Steel Plant, the threat of chemical attack still remains. Fires rip through Russian oil depots not far from the Ukrainian border. Blasts hit ministry in separatist Transnistria, near Ukraine. Russian FM Lavrov: “Do not underestimate the threat of nuclear war.” US Secretary of Defense Austin in Kyiv: “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.”

Morning report day 62 – April 26

Situation

According to information from the General Staff:

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

Russian forces continue to carry out 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 maintain the land route with the occupied Crimea.Ukraine war

Russian troops, including strategic bombers, ships and submarines, are launching missile and bomb strikes on military and civilian infrastructure. They are trying to destroy the ways of supplying military-technical assistance from partner states. To do this, concentrate strikes on railway junctions.

Russian forces continue to increase the long-range air defense system by moving additional anti-aircraft missile systems from the territory of the Russian Federation, trying to create stocks of ammunition, logistics and special engineering equipment.

In the Volyn and Polissya directions, the condition, position and nature of the Russian forces’ actions did not change significantly. The Russian forces did not take active action in these areas. Certain units of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus on a rotational basis perform tasks to cover the Ukrainian-Belarusian border in Brest and Gomel oblasts.

In the Siversky directions, there were no signs of Russian forces forming a strike group to resume offensive operations. In the districts of Bryansk, Kursk and Belgorod oblasts adjacent to Ukraine, Russian forces have strengthened the protection of the border and checkpoints and are conducting engineering equipment for positions. Russian occupiers in border areas have intensified anti-sabotage measures.

In the Slobozhansky direction, Russian forces are strengthening groups of troops, continuing to partially blockade the city of Kharkiv, and firing on units of Ukrainian troops and critical infrastructure.

  • Russian forces are trying to launch an offensive in the direction of the settlement of Zavody. Fighting continues.
  • In the area of ​​the city of Izium, the forces tried to improve the tactical situation in the directions AndriyivkaZavody and Dibrovne – Kurulka. Carries out measures of logistical support of the group of occupiers.

In the Donetsk and Tavriya directions, Russian forces are moving command and control points closer to the line of combat. Russian forces fire on the positions of Ukrainian troops with the use of mortars, artillery, rocket-propelled grenade launchers along the entire line of contact, as follows:

  • in the Sievoerodonetsk direction, Russian forces are fighting in the area of ​​the settlement of Rubizhne;
  • in the Popasna direction Russian forces are trying to capture Popasna, the battles continue;
  • in the Avdiivka direction Russian forces try to conduct offensive actions and have no success;
  • in the Kurakhiv direction Russian forces unsuccessfully carried out offensive operations in the direction of the settlements of Novomykhailivka and Marinka;
  • in the Zaporizhia direction, Russian forces are conducting offensive operations in the direction of the settlement of Trudolyubivka, fighting continues.
  • Russian forces are carrying out massive fires and blocking Ukrainian units in the area of ​​the Azovstal plant in Mariupol.
  • In the past 24 hours, six Russian forces attacks have been repulsed in Donetsk and Luhansk, four tanks, five artillery systems, thirteen units of armored vehicles, fifteen units of motor vehicles, two tankers and one anti-aircraft gun have been destroyed.
  • Russian forces, intensifying shelling with available means of fire destruction, tried to advance deep into the territory of Ukraine in the areas of the settlements of Koroviy Yar and Rubizhne, to develop an offensive in the direction of Zaporizhia. It was unsuccessful and suffered losses.

In the Pivdennyi Buh direction, Russian forces, along the entire line of contact, carried out single shelling of Ukrainian units. Reconnaissance activity around the administrative border of the Mykolayiv area is noted.

  • In the area of ​​the settlement of Velyka Oleksandrivka, Kherson oblast, the defenders of Ukraine destroyed an ammunition depot and a large number of Russian forces personnel (more than 70 Russian enemies were eliminated). The exact number of dead is being clarified.
  • Units of Russian occupiers also suffered personnel losses in the area of ​​the settlements of Novodmytrivka and Bilousove.
  • Russian occupiers continue to plunder the local population in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.
  • Units of the armed forces of the Russian Federation are trying to conduct air reconnaissance over the territory of Odesa oblast. They suffer losses.
  • Russian forces are concentrating their main efforts on the Kherson-Mykolaiv and Kherson-Kryvyi Rih directions. Conducts regrouping of troops, consolidates on the ground, strengthens the grouping of barrel and jet artillery, accumulates ammunition and fuel.
  • In the temporarily occupied territory of the Kherson oblast, in the urban-type settlement of Velyka Oleksandrivka, the occupiers announced to the local population that it was necessary to leave the settlement by April 28. Forced evacuation will be applied to residents who do not comply with the order.
  • In the temporarily occupied territory of the Zaporizhia oblast, in the city of Enerhodar, employees of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation continue to carry out filtration activities.

Ten air targets were hit by a grouping of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine for the previous day: three planes, four UAVs of operational and tactical level and three cruise missiles.

The Russian command does not stop searching for ways to replenish personnel losses in units directly involved in the war on the territory of Ukraine.

In the temporarily occupied territories of Kharkiv and Luhansk oblasts, the occupiers are engaged in looting, theft and robbery of the local population. Particular attention is paid to the “removal” of alcoholic beverages and food.”

Forces trying to advance towards Zaporizhia, Ukrinform reported on Monday 25 April. The Russian military has amassed equipment and personnel on one of the sections of the front line and tries to advance towards Zaporizhia.

The forces are getting ready for the offensive. Russia’s occupying troops have amassed a lot of equipment and personnel on the Velyka Novosilka – Novodarivka – Malynivka section of the front line. The enemies try to move in the direction of Zaporizhia, but they are not doing well, so the location of forces at the front has not changed,” Ivan Arefyev, Spokesperson for the Zaporizhia Oblast Military Administration, posted on Facebook.

Russia has not given up plans to use chemical weapons against Ukrainian defenders and civilians at Azovstal, the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU) claims. Chemical weapons may be used against people who are on the territory of the Azovstal plant. According to the latest data, in order to avoid casualties among the servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces, the so-called “smoking out” of Ukrainian defenders and civilians from the company’s premises may be carried out. To this end, the Russian leadership plans to carry out bombing and missile strikes with artillery and aviation munitions – carriers of combat poisons.

At the same time, Russian units of the “Radiation, Chemical and Biological Protection Forces” will use aerosols with chemical weapons. “Preparing the battlefield” through spreading false information about the availability of chemical and biological weapons in Ukraine supports the fear of the Kremlin’s plans to use chemical weapons.

The greatest losses of the forces of the past day were observed in the Sievoerodonetsk direction (30 separate motorized infantry brigade of the 2nd Combined Arms Army of the Central Military District of the Armed Forces of Russian Federation), the General Staff of Ukraine claimed Monday 25 April.

Fires rip through Russian oil depots not far from the Ukrainian border, The New York Times reports.

Russian state television reported two separate explosions. One was at a civilian oil storage facility — part of a pipeline that links Russian oil fields with Europe — and the other was at a military oil depot. Russia has accused Ukraine of conducting several attacks on border crossing points and other facilities inside the country. Russian officials said they were investigating the cause. The fires took place on the same day that Russian forces targeted critical infrastructure across Ukraine. The fires in Bryansk followed a string of similar incidents in Russian regions bordering Ukraine.”

Shipping boss urges NATO to provide naval escorts in the Black Sea, the Financial Times reports. The head of the world’s largest ship manager has urged NATO to provide naval escorts for commercial vessels passing through the Black Sea.

“René Kofod-Olsen, chief executive of V.Group, said the western military alliance should intervene to ensure trade can flow from a region of vital importance for global food supplies. We should demand that our seafaring and marine traffic is being protected in international waters. I’m sure NATO and others have a role to play in the protection of the commercial fleet, he said. V.Group offers services, operational management and maintenance to shipowners around the world, supplying them with its pool of more than 46,000 seafarers.

The war in Ukraine has rendered the northern third of the Black Sea unsafe for navigation. … Eighty-four vessels manned by about 500 seafarers are also still stuck off the coast of Ukraine, while at least 10 have been damaged by projectiles or mines, according to the UN’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO). However, NATO said it is not considering a naval mission to escort Black Sea ships as countries are wary of being dragged into potential conflict with Russia.”

Blasts hit ministry in separatist Transnistria, near Ukraine, ABC news reports.

Police in the Moldovan separatist region of Transnistria say several explosions believed to be caused by rocket-propelled grenades have hit the Ministry of State Security building. No injuries were immediately reported in the alleged attack, which took place on the Orthodox Easter Monday holiday in the city of Tiraspol when the building would presumably be more empty than usual. Moldova’s Office for Reintegration Policy said it was “concerned” about the incident. “The aim of today’s incident is to create pretexts for straining the security situation in the Transnistrian region, which is not controlled by the constitutional authorities,” the Moldovan Foreign Ministry said in a statement.”

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

  • Russian forces are likely attempting to encircle heavily fortified Ukrainian positions in the east of Ukraine.
  • The city of Kreminna has reportedly fallen and heavy fighting is reported south of Izium, as Russian forces attempt to advance towards the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk from the north and east.
  • Ukrainian forces have been preparing defenses in Zaporizhia in preparation for a potential Russian attack from the south.
  • The Russian invasion of Ukraine has significantly disrupted Ukrainian agricultural production.
  • The Ukrainian grain harvest for 2022 is likely to be around 20 per cent lower than 2021 due to reduced sowing areas following the invasion.
  • Ukraine is the fourth largest producer and exporter of agricultural goods in the world. Reduced grain supply from Ukraine will generate inflationary pressures, elevating the global price of grain.
  • High grain prices could have significant implications for global food markets and threaten global food security, particularly in some of the least economically developed countries.

As of Tuesday 26.04.2022, 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 22100 people (+200),
  • Tanks – 918 units (+34),
  • Armored combat vehicles – 2308 units (+50),
  • Artillery systems – 416 (+5),
  • Multiple rocket launchers – 149 (+0)
  • Air defense means – 69 (+0),
  • Aircraft – 184 (+3),
  • Helicopters – 154 (+0),
  • Automotive technology – 1643 (+77),
  • Vessels/boats – 8 units (+0),
  • Fuel and lubricant tanks – 76 (+0),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 205 (+4)
  • Special equipment – 31 (+3)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)

Humanitarian

According to UNHCR 5,232,014 refugees have been registered as of 24 April. The UN says that so far Poland has taken in 2,909,415 refugees, Romania 777,602, Russian Federation 605,815, Hungary 492,976, Republic of Moldova 433,895 Slovakia 355,593 and Belarus 24,477. 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 oblasts between 18 and 23 February.

OHCHR recorded 5,718 civilian casualties in Ukraine as of midnight on 24 April. 2,665 were killed (including 195 children) and 3,053 injured (including 296 children).

The government of Ukraine was still working to ensure humanitarian corridors to evacuate women, children and the elderly from Mariupol as of April 25. According to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine:

“Today Russian side stated that there is a corridor for civilians to leave Azovstal. It would be possible to believe them if not for our previous experience with them breaking humanitarian corridors.

It is important to understand that the humanitarian corridor works only upon the agreement of both sides. One-side announced corridor does not ensure security and therefore is not considered a real evacuation effort.

Hence, I am officially stating that there are no agreements on humanitarian corridors from Azovstal as of today, unfortunately.

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1518815130733137920?s=20&t=eNWmmJR7xNTPY90bd3lV8g

Therefore, we addressed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asking him to initiate and become a guarantor of a humanitarian corridor from Azovstal to evacuate civilians. Specifically, we are asking for UN and ICRC representatives to be present in such a humanitarian convoy. We are hoping for the effectiveness of negotiations between UN Secretary-General and Russian representatives.”

Legal

The satellite recorded the third place of mass burial near Mariupol, Radio Svoboda reports. The satellite recorded the third place of mass burial near Mariupol. The excavated trenches appeared on the territory of the cemetery of the Russian-occupied village of Stary Krym, 5 km from the city. The length of the trenches reaches more than 200 meters, according to “Schemes” (Radio Svoboda).

Et bilde som inneholder tekst Automatisk generert beskrivelse217 children were killed, and 391 children injured, the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of 26 April. 1,508 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, 102 of them are destroyed fully. 8,326 crimes of aggression and war crimes and 3,902 crimes against national security were registered.

Support

The Ukrainian Armed Forces want to replace Buk-M1 with NASAMS air defense system, Defense Blog reports. Deputy Chief of the Anti-Aircraft Missile Forces of the Ukrainian Air Forces Colonel Yuriy Andriychuk said Thursday that the NASAMS with AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles is will be a better replacement for the ageing Buk-M1 medium-range surface-to-air missile system.

The NASAMS is an acronym for the Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System. It consists of two to four launchers with associated radars, with each launcher carrying six Raytheon AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles, or AMRAAM. In addition to Norway, the US, Finland, Spain, The Netherlands, Oman, Lithuania, Indonesia, Australia, Qatar, Hungary and one undisclosed country are operating NASAMS. Ukrayinska Pravda points out that President Zelenskyy in his address to the Norwegian parliament said Ukraine needs anti-ship weapons and NASAMS anti-aircraft systems, means of defeating armored vehicles and artillery systems to defend itself against Russian aggression.

Pentagon to expand training for the Ukrainian military, Ukrinform reports. The US Department of Defense will expand military training for Ukrainian service members, including on certain weapons systems that are being provided to Ukraine as part of Western military assistance. That’s according to a statement released by the Office of State Department spokesman Ned Price following the visit of Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to Kyiv.

The US State Dept backs the ammunition sale for Ukraine, the Reuters reports. The US State Department on Monday said it supported the approval of a possible sale of $165 million worth of ammunition to Ukraine to help the country defend itself against Russia’s ongoing invasion. The Ukrainian government had asked to buy various rounds of so-called non-standard ammunition, the department said in a statement, referring to ammunition that does not adhere to NATO standards.

Germany pledges a quick decision on the first heavy arms delivery to Ukraine, the Reuters reports.

Germany will decide soon on whether to approve the delivery of 100 old Marder infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine, a government spokesperson said on Monday, in what would be the first German heavy weapons shipment to Ukraine. German defense company Rheinmetall has requested approval to export the vehicles to Ukraine, a defense source told Reuters on Monday, aiming to restore them over the coming months before shipping them.”

Ukraine asks the US for $5 billion per month in emergency economic aid, the Washington Post reports.

Appearing in Washington for meetings with senior US officials, Ukrainian Finance Minister Sergii Marchenko said that the country is seeking a total of at least $5 billion per month in international assistance — with about $2 billion of it coming from the United States — to cover the country’s immediate needs for April, May, and June. Beyond these billions in aid, an additional longer-term request is expected in the future to help Ukraine recover from what is estimated to be far greater damage from the war.”

The EU is working on the sixth sanctions package – but the toughest weapon will be missing again. The EU Commission has already given up hope of a quick ban on imports of Russian oil and gas. Putin gains at least five weeks extra, the Welt reports. The EU remains reluctant to use the most effective economic weapon against Russia: an import ban on Russian oil and gas supplies.

Some EU countries are resolutely opposed to import bans. Germany and Austria, which get much of their natural gas from Russia, have spoken out strongly against stopping oil and gas supplies until they find sufficient alternative sources of supply. Hungary has categorically ruled out an import ban. In principle, an oil embargo is more likely than a ban on gas imports because it is easier for EU countries to find alternative suppliers. Many producers worldwide can increase their production, at least in the medium term. In addition, a lot of oil already arrives on ships in the EU, while most of the gas flows through pipelines. This makes the infrastructure more flexible.

Brussels prepares to hit Russia with ‘smart sanctions’ on oil imports, euractive reports.

We are working on a sixth sanctions package and one of the issues we are considering is some form of an oil embargo. When we are imposing sanctions, we need to do so in a way that maximises pressure on Russia while minimising collateral damage on ourselves, Dombrovskis told The Times. He said that precise details of the oil sanctions had not yet been agreed but could include a gradual phasing-out of Russian oil or imposing tariffs on exports beyond a certain price cap, the newspaper reported. … Beyond the oil embargo, the EU’s six sanctions package is also expected to target Russia’s banking sector, including the country’s largest bank, Sberbank, said Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission.”

New developments

  1. The current situation in Ukraine will result in a treaty but its parameters will be defined by the actual combat situation, Lavrov said, TASS reports. Ukraine took a major step back by abandoning agreements reached in Istanbul with Russia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Russian TV Monday. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenskyy did not look at an updated draft of a treaty with Russia, this shows his attitude to negotiations, the Russian Foreign Minister said.
  2. Zelenskyy: the US could be the leader among future guarantors of Ukraine’s security, Ukrinform reports. “Discussions on security guarantees for Ukraine continued. I am convinced that the United States can be a leader among the future countries – guarantors of Ukraine’s security. The main goal for all of us is to make Europe and the world safer after the war, to ensure that the security architecture works in the event of any new threats,” Zelenskyy said. He said this in a video address, speaking about the results of his meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
  3. Russia warns the United States against sending more arms to Ukraine, the Reuters reports. Russia told the United States to stop sending more arms to Ukraine, warning that large Western deliveries of weapons were inflaming the conflict and would lead to more losses, Moscow’s ambassador to Washington said. Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, said such arms deliveries were aimed at weakening Russia but that they were escalating the conflict in Ukraine while undermining efforts to reach some sort of peace agreement.
  4. Putin accuses West of ‘terror’, the Reuters reports. “President Vladimir Putin on Monday accused the West of trying to destroy Russia, demanding prosecutors take a tough line with what he cast as plots hatched by foreign spies to divide the country and discredit its armed forces. Speaking to Russia’s top prosecutors and watched by his defense minister, Putin accused the West of inciting Ukraine to plan attacks on Russian journalists – an allegation denied by Kyiv. Putin said the West had realised that Ukraine could not beat Russia in war so had moved to a different plan – the destruction of Russia itself. Another task has come to the fore: to split Russian society and destroy Russia from within, Putin said. It is not working.”
  5. The US Says It Wants Russian Military ‘Weakened’, The New York Times reports. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke to reporters Monday after a trip to Ukraine. Mr. Austin said the United States hopes to see Russia’s military capabilities reduced so that “it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.”
  6. Lavrov claims “the West supports President Zelenskyy hoping that this will cause some sort of irreparable harm to Russia”, TASS reports. The US and other Western states seek to devalue the veto power in the UN Security Council, but it is a dangerous trend, the Russian Foreign Minister said.
  7. Russia’s Lavrov: Do not underestimate the threat of nuclear war, the Reuters reports. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the West on Monday not to underestimate the elevated risks of nuclear conflict over Ukraine and said he viewed NATO as being “in essence” engaged in a proxy war with Russia by supplying Kyiv with weaponry. Russia, Lavrov said, was doing a lot to uphold the principle of striving to prevent nuclear war at all costs. “This is our key position on which we base everything. The risks now are considerable,” Lavrov said. “I would not want to elevate those risks artificially. Many would like that. The danger is serious, real. And we must not underestimate it.”
  8. Russia says deputy Foreign Minister discussed bilateral issues with US envoy to Moscow, the Reuters reports. Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and Washington’s ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan discussed bilateral issues at a meeting on Monday, Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
  9. Russia expels 40 German diplomatic staff in a tit-for-tat move, the Reuters reports. Russia’s foreign ministry said on Monday that it had declared 40 German diplomatic staff “personae non-gratae” in a retaliatory move after Berlin on April 4 expelled the same number of Russian diplomats.

Assessment

On the War

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Monday 25 April:

Russian forces conducted precision missile strikes against five Ukrainian railway stations in central and western Ukraine on April 25 in a likely effort to disrupt Ukrainian reinforcements to eastern Ukraine and Western aid shipments. A series of likely coordinated Russian missile strikes conducted within an hour of one another early on April 25 hit critical transportation infrastructure in Vinnytsia, Poltava, Khmelnytskyi, Rivne, and Zhytomyr oblasts. Russian forces seek to disrupt Ukrainian reinforcements and logistics.

The Kremlin may have additionally conducted this series of strikes—an abnormal number of precision missile strikes for one day—to demonstrate Russia’s ability to hit targets in Western Ukraine and to disrupt western aid shipments after US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s surprise visit to Kyiv over the weekend. However, Russian precision strike capabilities will remain limited and unlikely to decisively affect the course of the war; open-source research organization Bellingcat reported on April 24 that Russia has likely used 70% of its total stockpile of precision missiles to date.

Local Ukrainian counterattacks retook territory north of Kherson and west of Izium in the past 24 hours. Russian forces continue to make little progress in scattered, small-scale attacks in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian forces are successfully halting Russian efforts to bypass Ukrainian defensive positions around Izium, and Russian forces are struggling to complete even tactical encirclements. Local Ukrainian counterattacks in Kherson Oblast are unlikely to develop into a larger counteroffensive in the near term but are disrupting Russian efforts to completely capture Kherson Oblast and are likely acting as a drain on Russian combat power that could otherwise support Russia’s main effort in eastern Ukraine.

Russian forces resumed ground assaults against Ukrainian defenders in the Azovstal Steel Plant and continued heavy bombardment on April 25 but did not secure any discernable advances. Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Oleksiy Arestovych and advisor to the Mayor of Mariupol Petro Andryushchenko separately reported that Russian forces are carrying out ground attacks against Azovstal despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s April 21 statement that Russia would cease its assaults on the plant to prevent further Russian casualties.

Russian forces continued shelling along the entire frontline in Donetsk and Luhansk and did not secure any confirmed advances in continuing ground attacks on April 25. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults against Koroviy Yar and Rubizhne and that fighting is ongoing in Popasna.

Russian forces continued to mount unsuccessful ground offensives southward from Izium toward Barvinkove and Sloviansk on April 25. Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted a limited counterattack and expelled Russian troops from Zavody, about 20 km directly west of Izium. Russian forces are likely trying to advance through Zavody to bypass deeper-entrenched Ukrainian defenses along the direct highway route to Barvinkove. Effective Ukrainian counterattacks are likely impeding the ability of Russian forces to conduct even tactical encirclements, let alone the operational encirclement of Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine that Russian forces likely intend to achieve.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces resumed ground attacks against Mariupol’s Azovstal Steel Plant in the last 24 hours. Russian officers may assess they will be unable to starve out the remaining defenders by May 9 (a possible self-imposed deadline to complete the capture of Mariupol). Russian forces will likely take high casualties if they resume major ground assaults to clear the facility.
  • Russian forces are accelerating efforts to secure occupied Mariupol but will likely face widespread Ukrainian resistance.
  • Continued Russian attacks in eastern Ukraine took little to no additional territory in the past 24 hours.
  • Prudent tactical Ukrainian counterattacks around Izium are likely impeding Russian efforts to complete even tactical encirclements of Ukrainian forces.
  • Russian forces are preparing for renewed attacks to capture the entirety of Kherson Oblast in southern Ukraine after minor losses in the past 48 hours.
  • Russian forces likely conducted a false flag attack in Transnistria (Russia’s illegally occupied territory in Moldova) to amplify Russian claims of anti-Russian sentiment in Moldova, but Transnistrian forces remain unlikely to enter the war in Ukraine.

Coming weeks ‘critical’ in the battle for southeast Ukraine, Milley says, the Washington Post reports.

“Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says the coming weeks will be “very critical” for the battle between Ukrainian and Russian forces in southern and eastern Ukraine.

“I think it’s accurate that the next several weeks will be very, very critical … for the outcome of this battle that’s shaping up down in the south, the southeast of Ukraine,” Milley said from Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where he arrived Sunday night ahead of a meeting with more than 40 NATO and non-NATO defense leaders.

Milley will join Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who visited Kyiv on Sunday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at the conference. It is being held both to solicit new military aid and “to coordinate, synchronize our efforts” over the next several weeks, Milley said.

“What we want to do is make sure the right type of aid is getting to the right location at the right time in the right quantities and make sure it’s all properly synchronized to achieve the desired effect and outcome on the battlefield,” he said.”

Retired Army Major General Mick Ryan, AM, has made the following assessment:

The Russians still hold large parts of south and eastern parts of Ukrainian territory. This includes a major proportion of Ukraine’s coastline and its seaports. But holding territory is very different to seizing ground. Not only does terrain need to be physically defended, but the local populace needs to be governed and incentivized to support the new regime that has been imposed upon them. …

It is important to understand why the Russians might seek to retain the ground they have already seized, as well as any they might capture as part of their current eastern offensive.

First, holding the ground in the east and south of Ukraine captures a proportion of Ukraine’s revenue generation capability. There are multiple natural resources and mines in this region as well major factories (such as the now damaged steelworks at Mariupol). For the Russians, retaining coastal regions already seized also prevents Ukraine from exporting much of its produce, regardless of source, by sea. In 2021 these exported over 150 million tons of cargo, which represents 60% of exports & 50% of imports for Ukraine. Holding the southern territory also provides a launch pad for any Russian break out to surround and seize areas further north in future. It also provides a foundation for any operations further west, including any move to capture Odesa.

Gaining and retaining possession of eastern Ukraine, especially the Donbas, also satisfies a key stated war aim of the Russians. This war aim has been restated in recent briefings by senior Russian military leaders. It also completes a task incomplete for Russia since 2014. The Ukrainian territory captured in the south and east now provides a land bridge between Russia and Crimea. This supplements the Crimean Bridge, which joins Russia to Crimea, completed in 2018 (road) and 2019 (rail).

Finally, territory captured by Russia provides them with some negotiating power at any ceasefire, armistice, or war termination discussions. It might also be enough to convince the Russian people that the war was worth the massive sacrifices of their poorly led soldiers.

That covers why Russia might want to keep the territory it has seized. But what of the challenges in doing so?

First, few of the regions captured (with the exception of Luhansk and Donetsk) have previously demonstrated sympathy for separatists or the idea of ‘Novorossiya.’ As seen by armed resistance in Mariupol, Kharkiv and beyond, the Ukrainians do not want Russian overlords. Where Russia has managed to capture Ukrainian towns or cities, they have proven themselves to be brutal conquerors. Bucha and other towns offer abundant evidence for why Ukrainians continue to defend their towns and cities, even when they are in ruins.

So the Russians are not enlightened counterinsurgents. They have a long record of brutality against local people and insurgents in Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Syria. Their methods will see the birth and fan the flames of a resistance movement.

Therefore the Russians will need to deal with an unsupportive populace that sees itself as Ukrainian, not Russian. It is a populace that will probably support any Ukrainian resistance movement that emerges in captured territory (as it appears to have in Kherson and Kharkiv).

What about numbers for a Russian occupation? The population in 2021 of five southern and eastern Ukrainian Oblasts (Kherson, Zaporizhia, Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv) was nearly 12 million. The utility of insurgent to government forces ratios has been explored in many studies. But how do we define ‘insurgent’ (and produce numbers) if a resistance movement has the support of a majority of the populace?

As such, the 10:1 ratio often quoted may not be helpful here. It is also focussed on police and military forces, when the key to counterinsurgency is addressing political issues. The best way to end insurgencies is negotiation, not military force. Other research examines counterinsurgent – population ratios.

A study by @IDA_org found that counterinsurgents had a 50% probability of success where there were 16 troops per 1000 population. Let’s assume this as a minimum figure needed. This means Russia would need an occupation force of approximately 192.000. With their manpower challenges, this is unlikely. It is also broad brush and does not include political/informational capabilities. And international sanctions will not be relaxed while Russia occupies Ukraine.

Given the likelihood of a Ukrainian insurgency (supported by the west) and a large proportion of Ukrainians that don’t want Russian governance, the Russians with their manpower challenges are unlikely to be able to hold all of their gains in the south & east in the long term.

However, we could see festering low level conflict in these regions in the short and medium terms that will prolong the conflict, make Ukraine poorer, and see 1/4 of its populace under the rule of Russia. This is untenable for a sovereign democracy. It makes a defeat of Russia’s eastern offensive an imperative. And the west should provide increased support for future Ukrainian offensives to retake as much of their territory as possible before any ceasefire.”

Assessment by Hans Petter Midttun

Having voiced our fears for more than 8 years, it is hardly a surprise that Russia is tapping into and abusing our biggest fear: the “war in Ukraine” turning into a confrontation between NATO and Russia and ultimately, World War Three.

The threats are themselves powerful means. After all, the battlefield of the Hybrid War takes place in the cognitive space. The Hybrid War occurs both in the mind of key policy- and decisionmaker as well as populations. It confuses and manipulates. The hybrid war aims to destabilize, create fear, and promote passivity. Through disinformation, lies, cyber-attacks, extortion, provocations, fabrications, military escalation, threats, and more, a “virtual reality” is created that motivates countries to make the political decisions Russia wants.

President Vladimir Putin on Monday accused the West of trying to destroy Russia. It is in line with several similar official statements during the last 2 months, ranging from calling the international sanctions an act of aggression and claiming the West is waging a total (hybrid war), economic, information, and cultural war against Russia. Lavrov views NATO as being “in essence” engaged in a proxy war with Russia.

As a response to its unprovoked and unjustifiable war in Ukraine (and hybrid war against the West), we have introduced the most comprehensive package of sanctions ever. We seek to cripple the Russian economy to effectively thwart its ability to continue the war. The US Secretary of Défense Lloyd J. Austin III said the United States hopes to see Russia’s military capabilities reduced so that “it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.”

The West is moving away from cooperation to containment and is trying to reduce Russia’s influence in the UN. The EU is introducing measures to increase its energy security that will have huge long-term effects on the Russian economy. Additionally, we have made it abundantly clear that there can be no “business as normal” if President Putin remains in power.

In sum – and from a Russian perspective– our attempt to stop the Russian war in Ukraine using non-military means is threatening the foundation of the Russian state.

It is sort of ironic to point out that our decision to not engage militarily in Ukraine, but instead use non-military means to isolate Russia and force it to change its aggressive foreign policy, is more likely to meet the criteria laid down in the “Basic Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation on Nuclear Deterrence” from 2020, for the possible use of nuclear weapons use by the Russian Federation: when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy.

It is ironic because an UN-mandated Humanitarian Intervention in Ukraine being executed by NATO does not meet any of the criteria of the Russian doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons. A humanitarian intervention to defend Ukraine is not an attack on Russia and is, therefore, not an existential threat.

When the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the West not to underestimate the elevated risks of nuclear conflict over Ukraine we might consider taking that to heart and consider adapting our strategy.

When NATO – or a Coalition of the Willing under the USA leadership – decides to intervene directly, the war will most likely end in weeks rather than months. The threat of a humanitarian intervention alone will likely force Russia to reconsider its war efforts. If it chooses to continue it runs the risk of seeing its military force being annihilated, putting its own security in jeopardy.

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