Morning report day 99 – June 02: Situation[editorial]
Heavy fighting continues on the fronts. An overview by military analyst Roman Ponomarenko:
Sloviansk direction: Lyman has been captured by Russia for a couple of days now; however, this has not led to a catastrophe for Ukrainian forces. Ukrainian units withdrew in an organized manner, crossed the Siverskyi Donetsk river, destroyed the bridges, and took up convenient defensive positions on the heights along its western shore. The Russians did not manage to break through immediately across the river. Now they will have to cross it under Ukrainian fire.
Fighting also begins directly for Sviatohirsk, to which Russia moves forces from several directions, most actively – from the northeast (from Yarova). North of Sloviansk, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have been holding Russian troops near the village of Dovhenke for a week now.
Luhansk Oblast: 80% of Sievierodonetsk is already under enemy control, likely because the Ukrainian Army was ordered to leave the city to avoid encirclement and is now fighting only restraining battles to retreat in an organized manner.
Fighting continues south of Lysychansk. The Bakhmut-Lysychansk road has not been cut, but traffic on it is difficult due to enemy shelling. In all directions, the advance of the enemy is very slow. Ukraine still holds Komyshuvakha. The deputy commander of the 4th Battalion of the Kadyrov Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Zaur Dimayev, was killed there. His car came under fire from Ukrainian artillery, in addition to Dimayev, his driver was killed and 4 other Chechen militants were wounded.
On the approaches to Bakhmut, fighting is taking place in the Pylypchatyne area, 17-20 km from Bakhmut, which means that the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the previous days pushed back the enemy a little – on May 26, the Russians were somewhere in the 15 km. from the city.
Kherson Oblast: Rumors about the Ukrainian attack on Nova Kakhovka were just rumors. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian Army has not yet advanced beyond the Davydiv Brid district. But they liberated about 20 settlements and made the Russians nervous. [/editorial]
Information from the General Staff as of 06.00 02.06.2022, supplemented by its [18:00 assessment], is below.[toggle] “Russian aggressor continues to launch missiles and airstrikes on military and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.
In the Volyn and Polissya directions, the re-equipment of some units of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus with modern models of armaments and military equipment continues. The threat of missiles and airstrikes from the territory of this country remains.
- [The main efforts of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus are focused on conducting reconnaissance, engineering equipment for positions and conducting combat training activities. Mobilization exercises with military commissariats in the Gomel region are planned for June-July this year.]
Russian forces did not take active action in the Siversky direction. Russian forces’, which suffered losses during the fighting on the territory of Ukraine, are being supplemented with weapons and military equipment.
- [No signs of the formation of strike groups were found. To demonstrate the presence and restraint of units of the Defense Forces, Russian forces continue to maintain units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in the border areas of the Bryansk and Kursk regions.]
- From the territory of the Russian Federation, the enemy fired mortars at the settlements of Seredyna-Buda, Progress, Sumy Oblast, and Leonivka, Chernihiv Oblast.
- [Yesterday, Russian forces fired artillery at units of the Defense Forces in the areas of the settlements of Bilopillya and Stukalivka, Sumy oblast.]
In the Slobozhansky direction, Russian forces focused on maintaining the occupied borders. To reduce the offensive potential of our troops, it fired on the positions of the Defense Forces with artillery and rocket-propelled grenade launchers in the areas of the settlements of Mykhailivka, Prudyanka and Verkhniy Saltiv.
- [In the Kharkiv direction, yesterday the Russian forces fired at the positions of the Defense Forces with artillery and MLRS in the areas of the settlements of Ruski Tyshky, Zolochiv and Derhachi.]
- In the Sloviansk direction, Russian forces focused on maintaining their positions, conducting reconnaissance and creating conditions for the resumption of the offensive. It carried out artillery shelling in the areas of Dovhenke, Kurulka, Virnopillya and Dolyna. [Yesterday, Russian forces fired artillery at our units in the areas of Svyatohirsk and Ridne. It conducted an offensive in the direction of Dovhenky and Dibrivny, suffered losses and withdrew.]
In the Donetsk direction, Russian forces continue to fire on the positions of our troops along the entire line of contact with mortars, artillery and MLRS. [Yesterday, Russian forces launched airstrikes with operational and tactical aircraft in the areas of Avdiivka, New York, Novoselivka, Shcherbakiv and army aircraft – near the settlements of Rota, Pokrovske and Novoselivka.]
- In the Lyman direction, the enemy fought in the direction of the settlement of Raihorodok, suffered losses and withdrew.
- In the Sievierodonetsk direction, Russian forces are conducting assault operations in the settlement of Sievierodonetsk. [They have partial success, and have established control over the eastern part of Sievierodonetsk.]
- With the support of mortar fire, he stormed the settlements of Bobrove and Ustynivka, to no avail.
- In the Bakhmut direction, Russian forces are storming the village of Komyshuvakha to take control of the city, which has partial success, but the fighting continues. He stormed the settlements of Nahirne and Bilohorivka, and as a result of the fire inflicted by our units, he withdrew.
- In the Avdiivka, Kurakhivka, Novopavlivsk and Zaporizhzhia directions, Russian forces did not conduct active hostilities. It fired at Ukrainian troops with artillery and mortars in the areas of the settlements of Pisky, Avdiivka, Uspenivka, Vuhledar, Novosilka and Orikhiv.
- In the Novopavlivsk and Zaporizhzhia directions, Russian forces continue the engineering equipment of the occupied frontiers. Carries out replenishment of stocks.
- Over the past 24hrs, thirteen enemy attacks have been repulsed in the Donetsk and Luhansk directions, two tanks, six artillery systems, eight armoured combat vehicles and four enemy vehicles have been destroyed. Air defence units shot down seven Orlan-10 UAVs.
In the Pivdennyy Buh direction, Russian occupiers increased shellings of our positions. The settlements of Shevchenkove, Trudolyubivka, Luch, Stepova Dolyna and Shyroke were also fired upon with mortars and artillery. Russian forces launched airstrikes with Mi-24 helicopters in the areas of Novohryhorivka and Oleksandrivka.
- [Yesterday, Russian forces increased the intensity of fire damage to our troops with mortars and artillery in the areas of the settlements of Snihurivka, Vysokopillya and Zolota Balka. Continued shelling of objects of civil infrastructure and residential quarters, shelled the city of Mykolayiv.]
- To justify the destruction of civilian objects, Russian occupiers continue to spread information about the alleged location of military units in schools, hospitals and kindergartens.
- In the Bessarabian direction, no significant changes in the activities of Russian forces units were noted.
In the waters of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, the ships of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation continue to perform tasks of isolating the area of hostilities, conducting reconnaissance and fire support in the coastal direction. Russian forces continue to take measures to block civilian navigation in the northwestern part of the Black Sea.
Russian forces continue to use the network of civilian medical facilities in the temporarily occupied territories for treating the wounded.
The enemy continues to lose unmanned aerial vehicles in all directions. The enemy is already using drones belonging to the Ministry of Emergencies of the Russian Federation.
[In the temporarily occupied territories, Russian forces continue to take measures to restrict the rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens, restrict movement, carry out filtering measures and deepen the humanitarian crisis in these territories. Russian servicemen rob civilians. In some settlements, Russian forces organize the restoration of damaged military equipment at the facilities of local enterprises. Thus, the repair of military equipment was found in the city of Berislav in the Berislav Machine-Building Plant.]
[Russian occupiers blocked access of Ukrainian residents to Ukrainian mobile operators and the Internet in almost the entire temporarily occupied territory.]” [/toggle]
Sievierodonetsk mayor says just 20% of the city is in Ukrainian hands, Reuters reports. “Ukrainian forces are holding just a fifth of the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk but there is still hope that they can prevent Russia from taking full control, the head of the city administration told Reuters in a telephone interview on Wednesday. Russian forces entered the eastern Ukrainian city, the largest still held by Kyiv in the Luhansk region, late last week after weeks of shelling.
If Russia captures the city and its smaller twin Lysychansk on the higher west bank of the Siverskyi Donets river, it will hold all of Luhansk, one of two provinces in the eastern Donbas region that Moscow claims on behalf of separatists and a key war aim of President Vladimir Putin.”
Ukraine’s Armed Forces liberate more than 20 localities in the Kherson Oblast, Ukrinform reports. “More than 20 populated localities have been liberated at the side of Dnipropetrovsk region,” Head of the Kherson Regional Military Administration Hennadiy Lahuta said during the nationwide telethon, Ukrinform reports. The Armed Forces of Ukraine continue to move forward, liberating the Kherson region, he stressed. Lahuta also noted that about 50% of the population had left the Kherson region.”
Ukraine forces destroy two Russian landing boats in the Dnipro-Buh estuary, Ukrinform reports. “On June 1, two Russian high-speed landing craft were destroyed in the Dnipro-Buh estuary in the south of Ukraine, [according to Operational Command South]. The Russian boats, intended for Russia’s sabotage and recon operations, were sunk by Ukrainian missile and artillery units in their estuary hideout.”
According to British Defence Intelligence, (last 24 hours):
- Russia has taken control of most of Sievierodonetsk. The main road into the Sievierodonetsk pocket likely remains under Ukrainian control but Russia continues to make steady local gains, enabled by a heavy concentration of artillery. This has not been without cost, and Russian forces have sustained losses in the process.
- Crossing the Siverskyi Donets River – which is a natural barrier to its axes of advance – is vital for Russian forces as they secure Luhansk Oblast and prepare to switch focus to Donetsk Oblast. Potential crossing sites include between Sievierodonetsk and the neighbouring town of Lysychansk; and near recently-captured Lyman. In both locations, the river line likely still remains controlled by Ukrainian forces, who have destroyed existing bridges.
- It is likely Russia will need at least a short tactical pause to re-set for opposed river crossings and subsequent attacks further into Donetsk Oblast, where Ukrainian armed forces have prepared defensive positions. To do so risks losing some of the momentum they have built over the last week.
As of Thursday 2 June, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the war to the present day:
- Personnel – more than 30850 (+150),
- Tanks – 1363 (+2),
- Armoured combat vehicles – 3354 (+11),
- Artillery systems – 661 (+2),
- Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 207 (+0),
- Air defence means – 95 (+1),
- Aircraft – 210 (+2),
- Helicopters – 175 (+0),
- Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 2325 (+35),
- Vessels/boats – 13 (+0),
- UAV operational and tactical level – 521 (+2),
- Special equipment – 51 (+2),
- Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0),
- Cruise missiles – 120 (+0)
Russian enemy suffered the greatest losses (of the last day) in the Bakhmut direction.
Police report the number of children who have gone missing during the war, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “139 Ukrainian children are currently missing, Ihor Klymenko, the Head of the National Police of Ukraine, reports. More than 1.9 thousand children have been reported missing during the war. Of these, the police have found and returned 1,794 children to their relatives.
Almost 100 days of the war in Ukraine have led to devastating consequences for children on a scale and at a pace not seen since World War II”, – was declared on children’s day at UNICEF.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2 children are killed every day in Ukraine, and 4 are injured mainly as a result of attacks involving the use of explosive weapons in settlements.”
There is a huge shortage of medicines in the occupied territories as Russian Federation blocks delivery attempts – Liashko, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “There is a huge shortage of medicines in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. Even saline is scant, [Viktor Liashko, Minister of Health, said]. According to Liashko, thus far no humanitarian corridor has been organised to allow the Ukrainian side to deliver medicine to health care facilities under occupation.
The Ministry of Health of Ukraine is currently communicating with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the World Health Organisation to force Russia to take action under the Convention for the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.”
According to UNHCR 6,801,987 refugees have been registered as of May 29. The UN says that so far Poland has taken in 3,627,178 refugees, Romania 989,357, Russian Federation 971,417, Hungary 682,594, Republic of Moldova 479,513, Slovakia 461,164 and Belarus 30,092. 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 regions between 18 and 23 February.
The number of Ukrainians entering Ukraine since February 28 is 2,229,500 as of May 27. This figure reflects cross-border movements, which can be pendular, and does not necessarily indicate sustainable returns.
OHCHR recorded 9,094 civilian casualties in Ukraine as of May 31. 4,149 were killed (including 267 children) and 4,945 injured (including 423 children).
Russian occupiers imprison and execute Ukrainian volunteers and officials refusing to collaborate, Mariupol mayor Vadym Boychenko says. According to him, a sham “court” of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” sentenced the head of a settlement on the Azov coast to 10 years in prison. At least one public official was executed by a firing squad. Also, tens of Ukrainian volunteers who had helped evacuate from Mariupol and tried to deliver food and water into the besieged city are being held in a prison in Olenivka. A Ukrainian judge awaits the verdict of the Russian puppet “republic,” there are reports she was tortured.
How important is Ukraine’s food production for the world? […] The country produces 46% of the world’s sunflower oil exports, 37% of global millet (a small grain cereal) exports, 13% of all barley exports, 10% of total wheat exports, 8% of honey and 7% of walnut exports, according to the Ukrainian Agribusiness Club.
Before Russia invaded, most of Ukraine’s food production was exported through the country’s Black Sea ports. Earlier this month, the United Nations World Food Programme said those exports would normally feed 400 million people around the world. The Middle East and Africa are Ukraine’s main food export markets, said Professor Oleg Nivievskyi from Kyiv’s School of Economics.
By gaining rare access inside a grain terminal in Odesa’s port, ABC News was able to witness the vast infrastructure that would normally be used to ship the produce out. Pre-war, the terminal would receive a hundred truck loads and a hundred train wagons of grain in a single day, said Oleksandr Guzenko, the plant’s chief engineer. In a single hour, 400 tons of grain would normally flow through the plant and out to ships waiting in the dock, Guzenko added. […]
What is the impact of Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea? […] The Russian threat at sea means there is no safe route for commercial vessels to exit and vast quantities of food exports are stuck in Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. It is becoming “a disaster” for Ukrainian farmers.
“If the ports don’t open soon, we are stuck with the crops,” said Kees Huizinga, who owns a 40,000-acre farm in Kyshchentsi in the Cherkasy region, south of Kyiv. His business would gradually run out of money, he told ABC News, and planting for next year’s harvest is already at risk. Huizinga predicted the world’s food supply could be “disrupted for the coming decade” if the situation isn’t solved soon.
However, the blockade is having a ripple effect far beyond Ukraine. The UN’s World Food Programme said global food prices have risen sharply since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine and vulnerable communities in parts of East Africa are at risk. […] In the first month of the war, export prices for wheat and maize rose by 22% and 20%, respectively, “on top of steep rises in 2021,” according to the WFP.
WFP Executive Director David Beasley told ABC News the war is a “catastrophe on top of a catastrophe.” “The world demands [that the ports open], because hundreds of millions of people globally depend on food that comes through these ports,” Beasley said. […]
In the meantime, Ukraine and the European Union are trying to increase Ukrainian food exports by road and rail. However, Nivievskyi, from Kyiv’s School of Economics, warned it is “not physically possible” to transport the huge amount of grain by rail and road. By his calculation, rail and road routes have only about 10% of the export capacity of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.
Ukraine identifies 600 Russian war crime suspects, Aljazeera reports. “Ukraine has identified more than 600 Russian war crime suspects and has started prosecuting about 80 of them, Kyiv’s top prosecutor said. The list of suspects includes “top military, politicians and propaganda agents of Russia”, Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova told a news conference in The Hague on Tuesday as she met her counterparts from other countries.”
261 children were killed, and 460 children injured, the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of June 2. 1,938 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, 182 of them are destroyed fully. 15,228 crimes of aggression and war crimes and 7,154 crimes against national security were registered.
$700 Million in Additional Security Assistance for Ukraine (US Department of Defense Press release). Today, June 1, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced the authorization of a Presidential Drawdown of security assistance valued at up to $700 million, tailored to meet critical Ukrainian needs for today’s fight. This authorization is the eleventh drawdown of equipment from DoD inventories for Ukraine since August 2021.
Capabilities in this package include High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and ammunition; Five counter-artillery radars; Two air surveillance radars; 1,000 Javelins and 50 Command Launch Units; 6,000 anti-armour weapons; 15,000 155mm artillery rounds; Four Mi-17 helicopters; 15 tactical vehicles; and Spare parts and equipment.
The United States has now committed approximately $5.3 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration, including approximately $4.6 billion since the beginning of Russia’s unprovoked invasion on February 24.
UK to give Ukraine 80km-range MLR systems, Ukrinform reports citing CNN. “Britain will send M270 launchers able to strike targets up to 80 kilometres (49.7 miles) away, offering “a significant boost in capability for the Ukrainian forces,” according to a statement from the British Foreign Office. The move has been “coordinated closely” with the United States decision to provide Ukraine with its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) – a variant of the multiple-launch rocket systems that will be gifted by the UK, the statement added”.
The US plans to sell armed drones to Ukraine in the coming days, Reuters claims.
“The Biden administration plans to sell Ukraine four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones that can be armed with Hellfire missiles for battlefield use against Russia, three people familiar with the situation said. The sale of the General Atomics-made drones could still be blocked by Congress, the sources said, adding that there is also a risk of a last-minute policy reversal that could scuttle the plan, which has been under review at the Pentagon for several weeks.
Ukraine has been using several types of smaller shorter range unmanned aerial systems against Russian forces that invaded the country in late February. They include the AeroVironment (AVAV.O) RQ-20 Puma AE, and the Turkish Bayraktar-TB2. But the Gray Eagle represents a leap in technology because it can fly up to 30 or more hours depending on its mission and can gather huge amounts of data for intelligence purposes. Gray Eagles, the Army’s version of the more widely known Predator drone, can also carry up to eight powerful Hellfire missiles. The sale is significant because it puts an advanced reusable US system capable of multiple deep strikes on the battlefield against Russia for the first time.”
Areas that the MQ-1C Gray Eagle Drone can reach when launched from major Ukrainian Airports, courtesy of @ukraine_map
With a range of 400km & speed up to 280km/h, the drone mainly does reconnaissance but can also be used as a strike drone. The US plans to sell Ukraine 4 of them pic.twitter.com/P8XXJNP9J4
— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) June 2, 2022
Germany promises to send Ukraine a missile defense system and radar equipment, The New York Times reports.
“Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany on Wednesday promised two more potentially significant donations of heavy weapons to Ukraine — an air-defence system [IRIS-T] and a tracking radar to help the Ukrainian army locate sources of Russian heavy artillery […]. The air-defence system, he said, is among the most sophisticated in the German arsenal and could be deployed to protect whole cities.
The speed and scale of weapons donations to Ukraine have been a persistent source of criticism for Mr. Scholz both from Ukraine and from inside Germany, even as he has spoken of breaking with decades of pacifist policy. But Mr. Scholz did not immediately specify delivery timelines for the latest weapons.”
Three More Nations Join Ukraine Planning Cell Run By US Army Special Forces, Defense One reports. Three more countries have joined a coordination effort set up by US Army special forces to help Ukraine, the Army secretary said Tuesday. When Russia went into Ukraine in late February, we sent the 10th Special Forces Group to develop a coalition planning cell that enabled us to bring together 20 different nations to coordinate information with international [special operations forces] partners and allies, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said during a virtual event with the Atlantic Council. And that has again, I think, contributed significantly to the effectiveness and the speed of the assistance and training that we’ve been able to provide. The planning cell had 17 members in April, when Lt. Gen. Jonathan Braga, the commander of US Army Special Operations Command, testified to senators.”
Ukraine and Poland plan to set up a joint defence enterprise to produce weapons and equipment, Ukrinform reports. “A memorandum on the establishment of a joint Polish-Ukrainian commission to launch cooperation between the enterprises of our countries was signed. This commission will prepare recommendations on the format of establishing a Ukrainian-Polish joint enterprise to produce weapons and military equipment,” Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal said at a joint briefing with Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki in Kyiv. He noted that such an enterprise would take Ukraine-Poland defence cooperation to a new level and will allow for the production of modern types of defensive weapons”.
- West’s “irrational fear” of Russia driving ceasefire push- Ukrainian negotiator, Reuters reports. “A Ukrainian presidential advisor and peace talks negotiator accused Europe and the United States of having an “irrational fear” of Russia in an interview released on Wednesday by news agency Interfax Ukraine. Mykhailo Podoliak, a key negotiator for Ukraine during previous talks with Russia, said the political elites of the West “want to return to the pre-war period and do not want to solve problems,” adding that their financial priorities took precedence in decision-making”.
- Kremlin claims Kyiv delaying peace talks due to US arms supplies, Ukrainska Pravda reports. Dmitriy Peskov, press secretary to the President of the Russian Federation, claims that the US arms supply agreements are not conducive to Kyiv’s “willingness to resume peace talks.” [Which translates into: The US arms supply enables Ukraine to defend itself instead of giving in to Russian ultimatums.]
- Russia’s Lavrov warns US rocket supplies could widen Ukraine conflict, Reuters reports. “Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the supply of US advanced rocket launchers to Ukraine raised the risks of a “third country” being dragged into the conflict. Lavrov was responding to a question at a news conference in Saudi Arabia about US plans to provide Ukraine with advanced rocket systems that can strike with precision at long-range Russian targets.”
- Ukraine has assured the US it will not use weapons systems against targets in Russia – Blinken, Reuters reports. “US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that Ukraine had given assurances that it will not use long-range weapons systems provided by Washington against targets on Russian territory.” [ME: Due to the sensitivity of the issue, there is a risk Russia will create a False Flag operation to exploit the situation to its benefit.]
- Russia announces exercises with Yars intercontinental ballistic missiles, Ukrainska Pravda reports. According to Interfax, the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation has announced that “Russian Strategic Missile Forces are taking part in exercises involving autonomous launchers of Yars [an abbreviation, in Russian, of ‘nuclear deterrence rocket’, a Russian thermonuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile – ed.] strategic missile systems.”
- Gazprom cuts gas supply to Orsted and Shell Energy, Reuters reports. “Russian gas producer Gazprom has cut off gas supplies to Denmark’s Orsted and Shell Energy for its contract to supply gas to Germany, it said on Wednesday, citing the companies’ failure to make payments in roubles. Gazprom has already halted supplies to Dutch gas trader GasTerra, as well as to Bulgaria, Poland and Finland after they refused to pay for gas in Russian roubles, as demanded by Moscow in response to Western sanctions over the Russia-Ukraine conflict. German, Italian and French companies, however, have said they would engage with Moscow’s payment scheme to ensure they can maintain supplies.”
- Denmark to join EU defence policy after a historic vote, Reuters reports. “Denmark will join the European Union’s defence policy after a referendum on Wednesday, final results showed, signalling the latest shift among Nordic countries to deepen defence ties in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine”.
1. On the War
The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Wednesday 1 June:
“The Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kherson Oblast has gotten the attention of Russian forces in the area, and the Russians are scrambling to secure the vital ground line of communication (GLOC) the Ukrainians have threatened. Ukrainian forces carried out a series of organized counterattacks targeting settlements on the eastern bank of the Ihulets River that are very close to a key highway supporting Russian forces further north. The Russians have responded by destroying the bridges the Ukrainians used in one of those counterattacks and other bridges across the river in an effort to hold their line against anticipated continued Ukrainian counter-offensive operations. Ukrainian forces are likely still close enough to the highway to disrupt its use as a main supply route, potentially undermining the Russians’ ability to hold against Ukrainian counter-offensives from the north.
Russian milbloggers are expressing growing alarm about the threat of Ukrainian counteroffensives in the areas Russian forces have deprioritized while concentrating on Sievierodonetsk. Russian milbloggers have increasingly focused on tracking the rate of Ukrainian counterattacks in late May. Pro-Russian Telegram channel “Dmitriyev” (over 100,000 followers) reported that Ukrainian forces are fully capable of inflicting ”painful and cutting blows” on Russian GLOCs in Kherson, Kharkiv, and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts by July-August due to lack of adequate Russian defensive forces in the areas. Former Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officer and milblogger Igor Girkin claimed that Ukrainian forces “will grope for weakness” in Russian defenses in Kherson Oblast. Russian milbloggers are effectively criticizing the Russian military command for endangering Russian territorial gains across other axes by prioritizing the Donbas offensive operation so heavily.
Russian authorities are likely anticipating Ukrainian partisan pressure in Luhansk Oblast. The Main Ukrainian Intelligence Directorate (GUR) announced on June 1 the launch of the “Luhansk partisan” project to galvanize resistance to Russian attempts to consolidate control of Luhansk Oblast. A Russian Telegram channel reported that the Russian Internal Ministry is sending a special detachment of its employees on “leave” to the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR), which is a likely attempt to reinforce Russian administrative presence in the LNR in the face of growing internal and partisan discontent. The Ukrainian General Staff additionally stated that Russian forces moved a battalion tactical group (BTG) to Kupiansk, a Russian-controlled city in eastern Kharkiv Oblast along the P07 highway within 30 kilometers of the Luhansk Oblast administrative border. Kupiansk is far from the front lines and in no apparent danger of imminent Ukrainian conventional attack. Taken together, the reported deployment of Internal Ministry employees and a BTG suggest that Russian forces are anticipating partisan resistance against their attempts to gain control of Luhansk Oblast.
Russian forces continue to undermine the economic viability of areas they are attempting to capture. Russian forces reportedly hit the “Azot” fertilizer production plant in Sievierodonetsk on May 31 and caused the dissemination of toxic nitric acid smoke. The production plant was an economically-significant resource for Sievierodonetsk and the Luhansk region and it would have been prudent for Russian forces to maintain and take control of the plant’s production capabilities. Russian forces similarly destroyed the Azovstal Steel Plant in Mariupol, which had considerable industrial significance for Ukraine and could have been economically exploited by Russian occupiers if they had not destroyed it. While the Azot plant in Sievierodonetsk was less productive on whole than Azovstal, its destruction is part of the systemic failure of Russian forces to take effective control of the economic and industrial capabilities of occupied territory. Russian forces will likely continue to destroy productive infrastructure and continually undermine the economic benefits they could have hoped to gain from occupied territories.
- Russian forces reportedly made incremental advances north of Sloviansk but likely have not yet been able to take control of the road into Sloviansk.
- Russian forces are attempting to advance towards Lysychansk from the south and west in order to avoid having to fight across the Siverskyi Donets River from Sievierodonetsk but are having limited successes so far.
- Russian troops made incremental gains north of Avdiivka.
- Russian troops reportedly destroyed Ukrainian-built bridges over the Inhulets River near Davydiv Brid in response to Ukrainian counteroffensive pressure.“
A whistle, then a deadly barrage. Ukraine’s soldiers are under relentless fire, The New York Times reports.
The momentum Ukraine generated after pushing Russian forces back from Kyiv, the capital, and Kharkiv, the second-largest city, has given way in the east to weeks of give-and-take over villages, heavy shelling — and a stream of Ukrainian dead and wounded from the battlefields.
Ukraine’s troops now face a Russian force that has shifted strategy from the hasty, reckless advances of the early weeks of the war to a creeping, grinding march enabled by massive artillery bombardments. On Wednesday, Russian forces advanced in street fighting in the ruins of the city of Sievierodonetsk, a key target of their offensive. […] Ukrainian soldiers there are at risk of being surrounded. With bridges over the Siverskyi Donets River destroyed or under fire, resupply has become tenuous.
Ukrainian officials have been candid about the army’s travails while arguing more rapid deliveries of Western weaponry will resolve them. Every day in the current heavy fighting, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview with Newsmax this week, 60 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers are killed and another about 500 soldiers are wounded in combat.
In his nightly address, Mr. Zelensky acknowledged the battle for control of the Donbas region was “very difficult” but emphasized that his troops were having success in the south, near Kherson and around Zaporizhzhia, and around Kharkiv in the northeast. […] To fill gaps in the frontline, Ukraine has resorted to deploying minimally trained volunteers of the Territorial Defense Force, which mobilized quickly as the war started. Hints of morale lapses have surfaced. One unit recorded a video protesting dire conditions. In interviews, soldiers said their artillery guns sometimes go quiet for lack of ammunition. […]
In the messy seesaw fighting on the East’s rolling plains, Ukrainian forces are buoyed by the promise of Western weapons arriving soon. On Tuesday, President Biden announced plans to give Ukraine multiple rocket launch systems, a powerful, long-range artillery weapon. […] On Wednesday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany promised to send a sophisticated air defense system and a tracking radar capable of locating Russian artillery. […] He did not announce a timeline for the new shipments.
With the arrival of new weapons systems weeks away at best, it’s unclear if they will land in Ukraine in time to repel the Russians’ slow advance. Last week, Ukraine was forced from positions it had defended through eight years of war with Russian-backed separatists near the town of Svitlodarsk. […]
The Ukrainian government has largely withheld casualty figures and Western governments have not volunteered their own assessments of the army’s difficulties, as they have in describing Russian setbacks. The last Ukrainian casualty update came on April 16, when Mr. Zelensky said fewer than 3,000 soldiers had died, but his comments about casualties last week suggest the figure is far higher now.
Ukraine is also hampered by the deterioration and depletion of its Soviet-legacy artillery, said Mykhailo Zhirokhov, the author of a book on Ukrainian artillery. The worn barrels fire less accurately. Shells are running low. Western replacements are arriving, but slowly.
The morale of volunteer fighters is also proving to be a challenge, at least in some units. Many who signed up to Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Force in the first days of war believed their task would be limited to defending their hometowns. There were teachers, computer programmers, taxi drivers and others, most with no battlefield experience. Now they find themselves deployed into vicious combat in the East, an indication of Ukraine’s mounting demand for frontline fighters.
A law passed on May 3, after many volunteers had already enlisted, allowed their deployment to combat outside their home regions. Some are trained only after arriving at the front to fire heavy machine guns, anti-tank missiles and grenade launchers because the weapons are only available there, Serhiy Sabko, the head of the Territorial Defense Force general staff, told Ukrainian media last month. We are forced to carry out additional training near the front, he said.”
Russian Military Is Repeating Mistakes in Eastern Ukraine, US Says, The New York Times reports.
While Russian troops are capturing territory, a Pentagon official said that their “plodding and incremental” pace was wearing them down, and that the military’s overall fighting strength had been diminished by about 20 percent. And since the war started, Russia has lost 1,000 tanks, a senior Pentagon official said last week. […]
Russian pilots […] continue to demonstrate the same risk-averse behavior they did in the early weeks of the war: darting across the border to launch strikes and then quickly returning to Russian territory, instead of staying in Ukrainian air space to deny access to their foes. The result is that Russia still has not established any kind of air superiority, officials said. […]
The invasion is not “proceeding particularly differently in the east than in the west because they haven’t been able to change the character of the Russian army,” said Frederick W. Kagan, a senior fellow and director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute. “There are some deep flaws in the Russian army that they could not have repaired in the last few weeks even if they had tried. The flaws are deep and fundamental.”
At the top of that list is the Russian army’s lack of a noncommissioned officers corps empowered to think for itself, Pentagon officials said. American troops have sergeants and platoon leaders and corporals who are given tasks and guidelines and left to accomplish those tasks as they see fit. But Russia’s military follows a Soviet-style doctrinal method in which troops at the bottom are not empowered to point out flaws in strategy that should be obvious or to make adjustments. […]
After renewing an assault on the Donbas, Russia has pounded cities and villages with a barrage of artillery. But troops have not followed that up with any kind of sustained armored invasion, which is necessary if they will hold the territory they are flattening, military officials say. That means that Russia may find itself struggling to hold on to gains — as it did in Kharkiv.”
Kremlin pretends that by annexing occupied territories of Ukraine it is giving them a choice, Ukrainska Pravda reports.
While brutally seizing Ukrainian territory and intending to annex it, the Russian authorities claim that they will take into account the opinion of the local residents. “We have repeatedly said that people should choose their own future, and it is the residents of the two states -” LNR” [self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic] and “DNR” [self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic] – and residents of the territories, I mean Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, who must decide about their future. And we have no doubt that they will make the best decision, [Dmitriy Peskov, spokesman to the president of the Russian Federation, commented on the possibility of occupied territories of Ukraine “joining Russia”].
Russia has annexed Crimea and controlled parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts since 2014. Neither Ukraine nor Western countries have recognized this annexation and occupation, despite the occupying power’s pretence of holding “referendums”.
2. Consequences and what to do? Hans Petter Midttun:
The international community at large is in awe of the Ukrainian fighting skills, and the resilience and courage demonstrated by both soldiers and society. It is a result of both its results on the battlefield, civilian mobilization and resistance, strategic leadership as well as brilliant strategic messaging. Ukraine has defeated Russia in the information space and has “undressed” both the state and its armed forces. It is seen as aggressive, immoral, untrustworthy, unprofessional, thieves, liars, and thugs willing to commit the most unspeakable atrocities.
Still, striking the right balance in describing the war is difficult. Russian setbacks do not change the fact that Ukraine inadvertently is also suffering casualties. Ukrainian morale and motivation are not constant and will suffer in time and space. Mistakes are being made. Setbacks are being experienced. Units and soldiers will find themselves in positions they weren’t prepared for. Logistics will struggle to meet all demands in a constantly shifting operational environment, operating under constant threat from the sky and land axes being challenged. The Armed Forces are suffering from “life-and-death” prioritization needed when resources are limited. Ukraine is experiencing tremendous challenges daily that most never hear about.
Getting the narrative right is crucial. The strategic messaging and Ukrainian news coverage helps motivate all parts of Ukrainian society. As a consequence, the great majority are confident that Ukraine will be victorious. That said, history has shown Ukraine as one of the most resilient countries in Europe. During the last century alone it has experienced six major catastrophes, each with the potential of breaking the back of most nations. But not Ukraine. Ukraine has been resisting Russian aggressions – both military and non-military for more than 8 years already. In a poll from late last year, a third declared themselves ready to pick up arms and fight the Russians if they were stupid enough to attack. Fighting for their right to exist and the future of the Ukrainian nation, they don’t need much convincing.
The biggest challenge is to motivate the international audience. Ukraine and the east/central European countries have always known that the war is a part of Russia’s confrontation with the West. That understanding has not yet been taken in by many in the US, Canadian, or West Europe. Most remain concerned about their everyday challenges. Words like deterrence, readiness, resilience, critical infrastructure, total defense, and mobilization have lost their meaning to most.
Reporting on Ukrainian challenges are, therefore, crucial. It helps explain the urgency of receiving the weapons needed. It helps us hold our own political leadership accountable for the lack of preparations for a war they always knew was coming, as well as their late response to Ukrainian requests for support.
Conveying the full horror and consequences of the war will also help serve as a wake-up call for all of those outside Ukraine who still believe that the “war in Ukraine” does not affect them.
If Ukraine was not fully prepared after 8 years of hybrid war (and not having received the support it needed to rebuild deterrence), how prepared is the West after 20 years of downsizing and streamlining, and having “retired” most of the tools we used to ensure deterrence during the Cold war?