Russo-Ukrainian war, day 66: Ukrainian forces counterattacked near Kharkiv, Poland sent more than 200 tanks to Ukraine

Ukraine war

 

Daily review

Russian troops continued to shell the entire front line in Donbas but without major success. Use of thermobaric munitions and phosphorus bombs reported. Ukrainian armed forces counterattacked and recaptured a strategically important settlement near Kharkiv and destroyed a railway bridge in the Donetsk Oblast. Poland handed over more than 200 tanks to Ukraine.

Morning report day 66 – April 30

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.

Russian forces launch air and missile strikes and artillery shelling of civilian and military infrastructure in the depths of Ukraine, the positions of our troops along the line of contact and in the border areas. It is regrouping and strengthening of occupying forces continues.

In the Volyn and Polissya directions, Russian forces did not take active action. There have been no significant changes in the situation in these areas.

  • Certain units of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus continue to carry out tasks to strengthen the section of the Ukrainian-Belarusian border in the Brest and Gomel oblasts. An inspection of the readiness of the aviation component of the regular forces and means of the air defense system of the Republic of Belarus was noted.
  • The threat of missile and bomb strikes on the objects of Ukraine from the territory of the Republic of Belarus remains.

In the Siversky direction, Russian forces fired on the positions of our troops in the areas of the settlements of Kindrativka, Katerynivka, Svarkove, and Bilokopytove.

  • Russian forces, by keeping the appropriate set of troops, are trying to prevent the movement of reserves of the Armed Forces of Ukraine from the Siversky direction to the Eastern Operational Zone. In the areas of the Bryansk and Kursk oblasts bordering Ukraine, Russian forces deployed part of the units to restore combat capability.
  • In the future, it is possible that the forces will demonstrate and provoke in the areas adjacent to the state border of Ukraine. In particular, there is a possibility of shelling of units of the Defense Forces of Ukraine and infrastructure in the border areas.

In the Slobozhansky direction, Russian forces are concentrating their main efforts on maintaining their occupied positions and inflicting fire damage on units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. In order to strengthen the group, Russian forces are moving individual units from the Eastern Military District from the territory of the Belgorod Oblast to the area of ​​the city of Izium.

  • Russian units tried to launch an offensive in the direction of the settlements of Sulyhivka and Dovhenke but were unsuccessful. In order to cover the groups of its troops in the Kharkiv and Izium directions, Russian forces are trying to deploy forces and means of air defense.
  • Russian forces group of the 6th Combined Arms Army, the coastal troops of the Baltic and Northern Fleets are focusing on maintaining positions in the area north and southeast of Kharkiv, trying to deploy additional artillery units.
  • In the Izium direction, Russian forces are operating with units of the 1st Tank Army, the 20th Combined Arms Army of the Western Military District, the 35th Combined Arms Army, the 68th Army Corps of the Eastern Military District, and the Airborne Troops. The Russian forces’ main efforts are focused on conducting reconnaissance and inflicting fire damage on units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
  • To ensure additional transfer of troops in the Izium direction, Russian occupiers provide additional pontoon-bridge crossings across the Siversky Donets River.

In the Eastern Operational Zone, Russian forces continue to advance on the Lyman (in the areas of Yampil, Ozerne, Lyman), Sievierodonetsk, where it is trying to complete the capture of Rubizhne, Popasna (in the direction of Kalinovo and Popasna) and Kurakhiv (Olenivka and Novomykhailivka) directions. There is no success, the fighting continues.

  • Artillery shelling of units of Ukrainian troops does not stop in the Zaporizhzhia direction.
  • Fourteen forces attacks were repulsed in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts over the past 24 hours, eleven tanks, seven artillery systems, twenty-eight armored vehicles and fourteen vehicles were destroyed.
  • In the Donetsk and Tavriya directions, forces units are trying to launch an offensive in the Lyman, Sievierodonetsk, and Popasna directions. Russian forces continue to try to establish full control over the settlements of Rubizhne and Popasna and are preparing to advance on Sievierodonetsk. Russian forces continue artillery shelling our troops.
  • In the Kurakhiv direction, the occupiers’ groups were reinforced by additional artillery units from the 1st Army Corps.
  • In the Mariupol direction, Russian forces continued to launch airstrikes on Mariupol. It focused its main efforts on blocking the units of Ukrainian troops in the area of ​​the Azovstal plant, and also transferred some units from the Mariupol to the Kurakhiv direction.

In the Pivdenny Buh direction, Russian forces did not conduct active offensive operations. Isolated attacks on the positions of units of Ukrainian troops are recorded.

  • In the Bessarabian direction, there are without significant changes.
  • In the Mykolayiv direction, Russian forces intensified air reconnaissance in the operational depth of the defensive positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, presumably in order to expose the presence and nature of the actions of the reserves.
  • In the Transnistria of the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation continues to disseminate information through pro-kremlin media about the threat to the population of the region from Ukraine. In particular, there are reports of another case of Ukrainian UAVs being used over ammunition depots.

During the previous day, the air defense units of the Air Force and the Land Forces hit ten air targets: one plane and nine UAVs of the Orlan-10 operational and tactical level.

Russian forces continue to launch air and missile strikes to destroy civilian infrastructure and disrupt the logistics of our troops. In order to clarify the position of the units of the Defense Forces of Ukraine, Russian forces conducted air reconnaissance using the Orlan-10 UAV. It continues to lose this reconnaissance equipment.

As part of the increase in the system of logistics of the troops, Russian occupiers deployed assembly points for damaged vehicles and points for repair and restoration of equipment..”

Kharkiv Oblast: Armed Forces of Ukraine recaptured a strategically important settlement, Ukrayinska Pravda reports. “The forces of the assault unit of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU), under the leadership of the commander of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrsky, liberated the village of Ruska Lozova in the Kharkiv Oblast from the Russian forces. Now it is completely under the control of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. This is a strategically important settlement located on the Kharkiv-Belgorod highway. During the occupation, it was from this suburb that the forces targeted the civilian infrastructure and residential areas of Kharkiv.”

The Armed Forces blew up a railway bridge in the Donetsk Oblast, the Ukrayinska Pravda reports. Ukrainian fighters struck the Lyman-Raigorodok railway bridge across the Seversky Donets. At the time of the explosion, Russian freight cars were on the bridge.

Missiles launched in Ukraine cost Russia at least $ 7.5 billion, the Economic Truth reports citing the Ukrainian Forbes. Russia fired 1,300 missiles at Ukraine during the war, costing the aggressor at least $ 7.5 billion.

It is estimated that Russia has launched 235 Caliber missiles in Ukraine. In estimating the number of Caliber missiles, Forbes took into account only the cases when the class of the missile launched in Ukraine is well known. Therefore, the publication notes there could be more such missiles.

There are no exact statistics on the number of Iskander, OTR-21 Tochka, and Class X missiles fired, so the publication assumes that their ratio remains the same as on March 24. At the time, the Defense Ministry said that 62% of the missiles fell on the Iskander, 30% on the X-Class missiles, and 8% on the OTR-21 Tochka. The cost of missiles can vary greatly. “OTR-21 Tochka”, according to the site Military Russia, is estimated at 300 thousand dollars, the value of “Caliber” – 6.5 million dollars in accordance with the export contract with India in 2006. X-101 missiles (NATO code name AS-23 Kodiak) are more modern and advanced than “Caliber”, so, according to experts, many times more expensive than “Caliber”.

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

  • Russia hopes to rectify issues that have previously constrained its invasion by geographically concentrating combat power, shortening supply lines, and simplifying command and control.
  • Russia still faces considerable challenges. It has been forced to merge and redeploy depleted and disparate units from the failed advances in northeast Ukraine. Many of these units are likely suffering from weakened morale.
  • Shortcomings in Russian tactical coordination remain. A lack of unit-level skills and inconsistent air support have left Russia unable to fully leverage its combat mass, despite localised improvements.

As of Saturday 30.04.2022, 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 23200 people (+200),
  • Tanks – 1008 units (+22),
  • Armored combat vehicles – 2445 units (+27),
  • Artillery systems – 436 (+1),
  • Multiple rocket launchers – 151 (+0)
  • Air defense means – 77 (+4),
  • Aircraft – 190 (+1),
  • Helicopters – 155 (+0),
  • Automotive technology – 1701 (+6),
  • Vessels/boats – 8 units (+0),
  • Fuel and lubricant tanks – 76 (+0),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 232 (+3)
  • Special equipment – 32 (+1)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)

Humanitarian

According to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine as of April 28, as a result of the meeting between the President of Ukraine and the UN Secretary-General:

“There is a hope for evacuation of civilians from Azovstal. We start to plan the humanitarian operation. This is one of our top priorities”.

According to UNHCR 5,429,739 refugees have been registered as of April 28. The UN says that so far Poland has taken in 2,992,575 refugees, Romania 810,021, Russian Federation 656,381, Hungary 513,848, Republic of Moldova 441,437, Slovakia 367,904 and Belarus 25,002. 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.

The number of Ukrainians entering Ukraine since February 28 is 1,257,500 as of April 28. This figure reflects cross-border movements, which can be pendular, and does not necessarily indicate sustainable returns.

OHCHR recorded 6,134 civilian casualties in Ukraine as of April 27. 2,899 were killed (including 210 children) and 3,235 injured (including 309 children).

Environmental

I chose to interpret the term “environmental” broadly. The ongoing information war is exploiting one of the most crucial environments in this war: the cognitive space.

The main battlespace of the hybrid war occurs inside the cognitive spaces of populations and key decision- and policymakers, making them, and not the military, the main target of the operation. The population is the center of gravity.

The strategy exploits the protest potential of the population of both the nation under assault and that of its partner nations. It manipulates and reinforces existing vulnerabilities trying to ignite social instability. It aims to destabilize the nation from within by inducing economic hardship, corruption, undermining trust in government, politicians, institutions, and democratic processes, and not at least, creating fear and fostering inaction. Threats have become an increasingly predominant factor, including the threat of the war spreading (which it already has) and World War 3. According to the Ukraine World, this includes some of the following false narratives:

“Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the topic of World War III has been actively circulating in the Russian media.

First of all, according to Russian mediatalks of World War III are “a standard method of intimidation” and “a fairly popular topic for Western speculation.”

Although before April, there were some articles in the Russian media denying World War III, from the beginning of April, Russian propaganda shifted to another narrative: World War III is being provoked by the West and Ukraine, and Russia only “prevents” such a course of action.

So RIA Novosti published an article, “Western society is being prepared for the Third World War,” in which propagandists assure that “Western inhabitants are being forced to conclude that a world war is not only inevitable but that it is already underway.” In the article, propagandists examine in detail the “examples” of the actions of some European and American politicians, which, in their opinion, “push to scenarios that are guaranteed to lead to a direct military clash between NATO and Russia, and hence to a possible world war.” They also recall “the idea of the Polish government to introduce a NATO peacekeeping contingent into Ukraine, which again is guaranteed to lead to the start of a global conflict.” Moreover, propagandists accuse the authors of an American newspaper of “irresponsibility in raising hatred of Russia.”

The press secretary for the Russian president Dmitry Peskov called “the prevention of World War III as a goal of the operation in Ukraine” on the air of the British television channel Sky News.

“Imagine a situation where a NATO member, Ukraine, thinking about the return of Crimea, attacks Russia and Russian Crimea. Applying Article 5 of the NATO Charter, NATO countries with nuclear weapons will have to defend Ukraine. There could be a third world war. What is being carried out now is protecting us from any potential threat of such a war,” Dmitry Peskov said.

Russian media even used comments from Ukrainian political scientist Kost Bondarenko in an interview with political scientist Ruslan Bortnik, but both figures are known for their pro-Russian views and ties to the Opposition Platform—For Life and Party of Regions.

Thus it is not surprising that the statement of a “Ukrainian political scientist” that “the military operation in Ukraine is not a component of the Third World War, it prevents it” confirmed Russian narratives.

Over the past two weeks, Russian propaganda has begun to state the possible beginning of World War III and even suggest why it could start.

The high probability of World War III was stated by the propagandist Margarita Simonyan in the program of Vladimir Solovyov. 

“Either we lose in Ukraine, or World War III begins. I think World War III is more realistic, knowing us, knowing our leader. The most incredible result that this will end in a nuclear strike seems more likely to me than any other scenario,” said Margarita Simonyan.

According to Russian media, anti-Russian sanctions may be one of the causes of World War III. For instance, propagandists refer to the article by retired French general Jacques Guilleman on the Entre La Plume et l’Enclume website. In the article, he noted that if the US and Europe do not stop their anti-Russian sanctions, the Third World War will be inevitable.»

Legal

Et bilde som inneholder tekst Automatisk generert beskrivelse219 children were killed, and 398 children injured, the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of 30 April. 1,570 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, 111 of them are destroyed fully. 8,991 crimes of aggression and war crimes and 4,382 crimes against national security were registered.

Support

Poland handed over more than 200 tanks to Ukraine, Ukrayinska Pravda reports citing Polish Radio. Poland has supplied Ukraine with more than 200 T-72 tanks and several dozen infantry fighting vehicles. Poland is primarily handing over to Ukraine tanks that have not been modernized. According to Polish Radio, in addition, Poland has already delivered to Ukraine 2C1 self-propelled howitzers “Carnation”, “Grad” MLRS, air-to-air missiles for MiG-29 and Su-27 aircraft, Polish drones made by WB Electronics, Warmate drones, portable anti-aircraft missile systems and “a large amount of ammunition”.

Germany considers sending howitzers to Ukraine, the Reuters reports.

Germany is considering sending long-ranged howitzers to Ukraine, a security source told Reuters on Friday, confirming a report published by Welt am Sonntag newspaper only days after Berlin first decided to supply heavy weapons to Kyiv. Berlin is in talks with the Dutch government on delivering the Panzerhaubitze 2000 to Ukraine, the source said, referring to one of the most powerful artillery weapons in the Bundeswehr inventories that can hit targets at a distance of 40 km (25 miles). The move follows warnings by the Kremlin that Western arms supplies to Ukraine posed a threat to the security of the European continent and provoke instability

Ukrainian military gets S-300 missile system from partner countries, the Ukrinform reports. Anti-aircraft missile forces of the Air Command South of the Ukrainian Armed Forces have received an S-300 missile system from partner countries, which significantly strengthened Ukrainian air defenses in the south of the country, according to the Command of the Ukrainian Air Force statement on Telegram. “The S-300 missile system effectively performs its work against a significant part of the objects of the Russian occupiers and can shoot down aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles at a distance of 5 to 150 kilometers. At the same time, it doesn’t matter at what height the target flies – 10 meters or 27 kilometers,” the statement reads. The system is already performing combat missions.

Slovenia to send additional material aid to Ukraine, the Slovenia Times reports.

Under a government decision taken at Friday’s correspondence session, Slovenia will send Ukraine material assistance in the form of IP phones, computers, petrol generators, antennas and cables, the Defense Ministry said. The estimated value of the aid, including transport, is nearly EUR 180,000. The ministry is in charge of the project that will be carried out through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. The aid includes 100 IP phones, 40 desktop computers and 60 laptops.”

Ukraine calls on the world to help clear its territory of explosives, the Ukrayinska Pravda reports. Denys Monastyrskyi, Minister for Internal Affairs of Ukraine, has called on the world’s countries and international organizations to help clear those territories of Ukraine that have been the site of active hostilities of explosives by sending personnel and equipment.

1 day of hostilities equals 30 days of clearing away explosives. For example, fighting in Kyiv Region lasted for 30-35 days. Multiply this by 30 and you get the number of days it would take the State Emergency Service to clear away explosives from those territories approximately 1,5 years.”

Norway shuts borders, ports to Russian goods exempt fishing vessels, the Reuters reports.

Norway will close its borders and ports to Russian trucks and ships, joining sanctions imposed by the European Union over the war in Ukraine, the Norwegian foreign ministry said on Friday. Russian fishing vessels, which often land their catch at ports in northern Norway, will receive exemptions from sanctions in line with the EU sanctions regime, which exempts vessels carrying pharmaceutical, medical, agricultural and food products. Norway’s Arctic Svalbard archipelago, which operates under a 1920s treaty allowing expanded foreign access, will also be exempted, the ministry said.”

Ukraine receives EUR 88.5M in grant aid from World Bank, the Ukrinform reports. On April 29, 2022, Ukraine received EUR 88.5 million in grant aid from the World Bank’s Donor Trust Fund. The relevant statement was made by the Ukrainian Finance Ministry. “Today Ukraine’s state budget general fund has received a grant of EUR 88.5 million. These funds were provided by the World Bank on a non-repayable basis from the Donor Trust Fund under the Second Economic Recovery Development Policy Program for Ukraine,” the report states. According to the ministry, these funds will be used to ensure priority social, humanitarian, healthcare expenditures and support for internally displaced persons.

New developments

  1. The Ukrainian Presidential Office says this is not the time for a meeting between Zelenskyy and Putin, the Ukrayinska Pravda reports. Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to the head of the President’s Office, believes that President Zelenskyy and President Putin will meet later, but “this is not the time” for them to talk. We want Ukraine’s position in these negotiations to be very, very strong. He said that “the negotiation process is slower” because of the war crimes that have come to light, and because of the Russian attempt to strengthen their position.
  2. Ukraine asks partners to decide on security guarantees for the country, the Ukrinform reports. Ukraine asks international partners to decide which security guarantees they are ready to provide to our country in case of any aggression in the future. “Ukraine gave up nuclear weapons for the sake of world peace. We have then been knocking on NATO’s door, but it never opened. The security vacuum led to Russian aggression. The world owes Ukraine security and we ask states to decide which security guarantees they are ready to provide,” Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba posted on Twitter.
  3. Russian operation in Ukraine contributes to “freeing the world from Western oppression”, the TASS reports. Russia’s so-called special military operation in Ukraine is contributing to allegedly liberating the world from Western neocolonial oppression, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed in an interview with the Xinhua news agency. “It is obvious that the collective West’s attempts to hinder the natural course of history, to solve its problems at the expense of others are doomed,” the minister said.
  4. 8,000 British troops will join allied exercises in Europe, officials say, The New York Times reports. The British military will send some 8,000 troops to Europe as part of a larger allied deployment to deter further Russian aggression, British officials said. The British troops will be serving in the Joint Expeditionary Force, a British-led multinational group created in 2014 in response to Russia’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine. Tens of thousands of troops from Joint Expeditionary Force and NATO countries will participate in exercises between April and June, Britain’s defense ministry said in a statement released on Friday.

Assessment

On the War

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Friday 29 April:

Russian forces made limited advances west of Sievierodonetsk on April 29 but remain stalled south of Izium. Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine are likely successfully conducting a maneuver defense rather than holding static positions, redeploying mechanized reserves to resist attempted Russian advances. Concentrated Russian artillery is enabling minor Russian advances, but Ukrainian positions remain strong. Limited Ukrainian counterattacks around Kharkiv city may additionally force Russian forces to redeploy units intended for the Izium axis to hold these positions.

Russian forces continued to redeploy from Mariupol on April 29 to participate in offensive operations northward to support Russia’s main effort to capture the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. The Ukrainian General Staff stated on April 29 that certain units from Mariupol are deploying to participate in offensive operations toward Kurakhiv (western Donetsk Oblast, about 50 km west of Donetsk City), and an anonymous senior Pentagon official reported that a “significant” number of Russian units have redeployed toward Zaporizhzhia Oblast since April 20, though ISW cannot independently confirm these redeployments. Russian forces likely intend to leave the minimum force necessary in Mariupol to block Ukrainian positions in Azovstal and prevent partisan actions and are deploying as much combat power as possible to support offensive operations elsewhere.

Russian airstrikes continued to bombard the Azovstal plant on April 29 and Russian forces did not conduct any major ground attacks. Advisor to the Mayor of Mariupol Petro Andryushchenko reported that Russian forces are consolidating occupational control of the city and intensifying an information campaign claiming they are taking measures to ”improve life in Mariupol,” though they are reportedly failing to provide enough food for the city

Russian troops continued to shell the entire frontline in Donetsk and Luhansk and secured several tactical advances on April 29. Russian forces reportedly captured Yampil (directly west of Sievierodonetsk) on April 28 and are likely preparing to conduct further attacks east in the direction of Lyman. Pro-Russian sources posted social media footage of Russian forces using thermobaric munitions against Ukrainian positions in Avdiivka, and the Ukrainian Head of the Donetsk Regional State Administration Serhiy Haidai claimed that Russian troops employed phosphorus bombs in Ocheretyne on April 29. Haidai additionally stated that Ukrainian forces repelled an attempted Russian advance on the villages of Orikhove and Svitlychne on April 29.

Ukrainian forces continued to repel Russian attacks southwest and south of Izium on April 29. Head of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration Oleg Synegubov reported that Russian forces attempted to advance toward Sloviansk and Barvinkove through attacks on Brazkhivka (25 km southwest of Izium), Dovhenke (25 km south of Izium), and Velyka Komyshuvakha (about 30 km southwest of Izium) but suffered losses and retreated on April 29.

Russian forces did not make any confirmed attacks in Kherson Oblast on April 29 and prioritized improving their tactical positions. Russian forces shelled several towns in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv, and Dnipropetrovsk oblasts.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces likely intend to leave a minimal force in Mariupol necessary to block Ukrainian positions in Azovstal and prevent partisan actions and are deploying as much combat power as possible to support offensive operations elsewhere.
  • Ukrainian forces are successfully slowing Russian attacks in eastern Ukraine, which secured only minor advances west of Sievierodonetsk and did not advance on the Izium front in the last 24 hours.
  • Ukrainian counterattacks in Kharkiv are unlikely to develop into a major counteroffensive in the coming days but may force Russia to redeploy forces intended for the Izium axis to hold their defensive positions around the city.
  • Ukrainian intelligence continued to warn that Russian false flag attacks in Transnistria are intended to draw Transnistria into the war in some capacity and coerce Moldova to abandon pro-European policies.

Russia’s Donbas offensive has made little progress in fierce combat, Western officials and analysts say, The New York Times reports. The clenched fist of military forces that Russia mustered in eastern Ukraine appears to be losing some of its punch, with the effort to capture all of the Donbas region stalling, according to a senior Pentagon official and other military analysts.

“The Russian offensive seems to be several days behind schedule, the Pentagon official said on Friday. It is facing stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces and suffering from some of the same problems with logistics and low troop morale that have plagued the Russian military since it launched a sweeping invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, the official said. …

Moscow announced the start of the renewed offensive in Donbas nearly two weeks ago but has yet to score any major territorial advances. Despite a three-pronged attack from the north, south, and east, Russian forces have only made incremental progress at best, the Pentagon official said. …

Now, using a strategy dating to Soviet times, Russia is relying on artillery to pound Ukrainian forces all along a 300-mile front. Ukrainian forces are ceding small patches of territory only to reclaim them. “It’s a knife fight,” said the official, with the two sides waging fierce combat in the flat, wide-open terrain that distinguishes this phase of the war from the urban battles in and around northern cities, separated by hills, woods, and marshes, that defined the first several weeks.

Russia now has 92 battalion groups fighting in eastern and southern Ukraine — up from 85 a week ago, but still far fewer than the 125 it used in the first phase of the war, the Pentagon official said. Each battalion group has about 700 to 1,000 troops.

Many of Russia’s battalions suffered heavy casualties and equipment losses in the early fighting and were withdrawn to Russian territory. Efforts to reinforce and resupply the battered battalions were hurried, and as a result, many of the units rushed back into the fight are likely not at full strength, the Pentagon official said. …

North of Donbas, Ukrainian forces have been waging a campaign to push Russian troops away from Kharkiv, once Ukraine’s second-largest city. Fighting has been fierce there, and Ukraine’s military hopes to force the Russians out of the artillery range of Kharkiv, which is just 20 miles from the Russian border.

The Ukrainians there have been fighting to retake territory that Russians have held since early in the war. In recent days, they wrested back control of Ruska Lozova, a town of 6,000 people some 12 miles north of Kharkiv, enabling scores of its residents to flee down an open road to Kharkiv. It was not clear whether they were able to hold the town in the face of a Russian counterattack.

The Ukrainian military, in a briefing in Kyiv on Friday evening, also noted logistical setbacks for the Russian army but suggested that they had been surmounted in some instances. A presidential aide suggested the Russian forces had already suffered “colossal losses” in Donbas, though that assessment could not be immediately confirmed.”

Russian forces will collapse in weeks, predicts military expert, the BBC reports. Russia’s assault on Donbas has “sort of fizzled” and the battle for the region will be over in two to four weeks, says military expert Dr Mike Martin.

“Basically, the Russians are going to run out of troops, and the Ukrainians are going to counterattack.” The Russians have squandered their one chance to take the region, he believes. They pulled all of these mauled units out of Kyiv, and then tried to reconstitute them for combat in the east, he explains. But they were bruised and damaged by the battle for the Ukrainian capital and Russia failed to build them up and do some bold maneuvers.

And Martin says there has been a major strategic shift in the war, with the UK declaring its aim is to clear Russian forces from Ukraine, including Crimea. He adds that UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is “wrong”, however, to say this would take 10 years, insisting: “Russian forces will collapse before that, and we’ll see a coup.”

And with the US announcing US$33bn (£26bn) of funding for Ukraine, “that is an extremely clear signal of intent“, says Martin. It also means NATO and the US have decided Vladimir Putin is bluffing about using nuclear weapons if NATO up the ante, he adds.”

Consequences and what to do?

The West pushes for “victory” against Russia in Ukraine. America and Britain signal a new mindset, but the endgame is unclear, The Economist writes.

“We gotta move at the speed of war, declared Lloyd Austin, America’s defense secretary, as he signaled a new, more intense phase in the West’s effort to help Ukraine repel Russia’s invasion. It involves providing more and heavier weapons, sustaining the effort for months, and, above all, embracing the belief that Ukraine can now “win”.

America’s novel sense of purpose was apparent after Mr. Austin and Antony Blinken, the secretary of state, returned from a furtive visit to Kyiv on April 24th. The Ukrainians, Mr. Austin said, “have the mindset that they want to win; we have the mindset that we want to help them win.” What is more, he said, “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.”

This was a notable change of tone and ambition. In London on April 27th, Liz Truss, Britain’s combative foreign secretary, echoed the sentiment. “Ukraine’s victory is a strategic imperative for all of us,” she declared. The West had to be “prepared for the long haul”. And on April 28th President Joe Biden proposed a new law authorizing the government to sell assets seized from Russian oligarchs under various sanctions and use the proceeds to help Ukraine. Despite serious worries about due process, this extraordinary measure seems likely to be supported by Congress after the House backed a similar, non-binding bill by 417 votes to 8.

To turn such talk into reality is harder. Mr. Austin hosted a gathering in Germany on April 26th of some 40 countries to rally more military support for Ukraine. They included not just NATO allies but friends from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. It will meet monthly. Already there has been a shift in the weapons being given to Ukraine: not just portable anti-tank arms but now armored vehicles, tanks, and howitzers; not just Stinger shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles but also parts for fighter jets (and some talk of sending aircraft, too). Germany, reversing its refusal to provide heavy weapons, announced it would be sending 50 Gepard anti-aircraft armored vehicles, which would be useful in shooting down low-flying aircraft and drones.

America says the heavier equipment is needed in the next stage of the war. Having given up on taking Kyiv, Russia has massed its troops in the south and east, where the terrain is more open. Ukraine thus needs “long-range fires” and the ability to maneuver. Ukrainian officials say they do not yet have enough to go on the offensive.

Russia has been making slow progress. It has taken over a succession of villages and has all but established an eastern land corridor between Crimea and Donbas (regions it conquered in 2014), although a pocket of Ukrainian soldiers is still holding out in the Azovstal steel plant in the devastated port city of Mariupol. Russia may be hoping to take enough land to declare success by May 9th, when Russia celebrates Victory Day, marking the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany.

It may want to go further. Rustam Minnekayev, deputy commander of Russia’s central military district, recently said the aim is to take control of all of southern Ukraine. If so, Russia still intends to seize a western land corridor to link Crimea to the enclave of Transnistria, a Russian-backed separatist region of Moldova, on Ukraine’s western border. This seems a much taller order, requiring Russia to take Mykolaiv and Odesa, where Ukrainian defenses have been strengthened. …

In southern Russia, meanwhile, Ukraine has made little effort to disguise its role in “payback” attacks against fuel- and weapons-storage facilities—a move endorsed by a British junior defense minister.

For all the talk of winning, the West’s aims are unclear. Ms. Truss speaks of “going further and faster to push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine”. Mr. Blinken is more cautious. He has spoken of the need for a ceasefire and has said that “the end-state should be determined by the Ukrainians as a sovereign, independent country.” …

Many experts now see parallels with the “winter war” of 1939-40, when Finland fought off the Soviet Union for months but was ultimately forced to cede territory and for decades afterward had to maintain precarious neutrality. “I used to think the winter war was the best that Ukraine could achieve. I now think it’s the best Russia can achieve,” says Dan Fried of the Atlantic Council, a think-tank in Washington. “Another scenario is possible: the defeat of Imperial Russia by the Japanese in 1905.” If there is a partition, he argues, it is unlikely to be a stable peace but, more probably, a dangerous armed truce.”

Assessment by Hans Peter Midttun:

The Economist underlines my assessment from yesterday. “While there is a growing consensus that the West needs to help Ukraine defeat Russia, the defeat itself is not defined. A “Russian defeat” might be related to its initial aim of the invasion; failing to achieve a regime change and control over all of Ukraine. It might involve denying Russia its present (and short-term) campaign objective of establishing control over all of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson oblast.

It is not given that a Russian defeat involves the full withdrawal of its forces from Ukrainian territory, including the Crimean Peninsula. Nor does it necessarily include the “demilitarization” of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.”

What does a “Ukrainian win” look like? In my humble opinion, this goes far beyond territory or a military victory.

Firstly, all of Ukraine must be liberated. The Russian forces need to be withdrawn from Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson oblast, as well as the Crimean Peninsula. The latter is not only a question about returning the peninsula to its rightful owner but also re-establishing Ukrainian jurisdiction of its maritime exclusive zones and securing its Sea Lines of Communication for the survival of the state. Ukraine must be free, independent, and sovereign.

Secondly, Ukraine must have security. It will take decades to rebuild a balanced Ukrainian Armed Forces capable of defending the country in all dimensions. In order to achieve the kind of security the West take for granted, and after having defended European security, values, and principles, a Ukrainian win includes a NATO article 5 equivalent security guarantee. In my opinion, Ukraine deserves a NATO membership more than many of the present members of the Alliance.

Thirdly, a win includes justice. Those responsible for the Russian atrocities must be held responsible. Additionally, the aggressor needs to be forced to pay war damage. Ukraine must be rebuilt, and all losses compensated.

Fourthly, a Ukrainian win should include Russian “costs”. This goes beyond justice, including measures to make sure it cannot wage war again. Russia must be given the choice of reforming and joining the democratic world or remaining isolated from the Western world.

Fifthly, it also includes a political shift within Ukraine itself. All opposition to reforms should be eliminated at this stage, enabling a quick reform of its juridical system to enable the fastest possible economic recovery. This leads me to my, last (for now) point.

Sixthly, a win requires continued support for years to come. This includes direct economic support to the government, a Marshall plan to rebuild its armed forces, cross-sectorial reform support, transfer of knowledge and technology, help to reconstruct destroyed infrastructure, and de-mining of all oblasts that have experienced warfighting, repatriation of Ukrainian refugees, and so much more. If the international support stops after a Russian withdrawal, Ukraine might still fail.

I am sure the list needs expanding. But that is why defining and establishing a common understanding of a Ukrainian win is crucial. This is essential to developing a comprehensive strategy to end the war.

 

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