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This post is intended to be descriptive, rather than prescriptive, as for instance BDB’s poll on support for weapons/troops for Ukraine.
The MSM has been saturated with news of a hurricane that might be blamed on Republicans somehow, and a pipeline explosion that might be blamed on anyone, or sheer incompetence, depending on your favorite theory. So the operational details of what’s been happening in Ukraine after the big breakthrough East of Kharkiv may have disappeared unless you’ve been specifically tracking them (I have). So, a quick recap of the last couple of weeks:
Ukraine went into a short operational pause in the Kharkiv / north Luhansk area, presumably to resupply and reorganize.
Russia kept banging away on the Donetsk front, making little progress and continuing to lose troops and equipment.
Ukraine kept banging away in the Kherson area west of Dnipro, also making little apparent progress and expending a lot of HIMARS and other ammo blowing up bridges and Russian supply dumps and headquarters.
Things started moving quickly again last week. In the northeast, the Ukrainians managed to surround the town of Lyman, a rail and road hub. There were between 500 and 5,000 Russians and proxy troops trapped there, depending on who you believe. Some or most of the Russians may have made it out, losing a lot of equipment. The final retreat, mostly by LPR proxy troops, apparently became a slaughter by Ukrainian artillery, mines, and light recon forces. There’s plenty of video evidence of the latter out there, don’t go looking unless you’re ready for it. I’ll drop a link to a text-only report by an American volunteer in one of the recon teams, but you still don’t want to read it near meal or bedtime.
After the Lyman episode, the Russian front north of there is being pushed back daily. Some of this may be planned/controlled withdrawal, some seems to be a collapse. The Ukrainians now appear to control the important road between the towns of Svatove and Kreminna in Luhansk oblast.
Over the weekend, the Kherson front suddenly erupted. The Ukrainians punched in between several towns in the northeast of the oblast, west of a large reservoir on Dnipro, and have pushed the Russians back some tens of kilometers. The advance appears to be continuing. As of today, the Russians abandoned another portion of that front (Davydiv Brid) to avoid a possible envelopment. Again, this appears to be some combination of collapse and planned withdrawal.
Both of these fronts are moving daily, best followed in real time. A sampling of reporting sites: Most speculative, kinda conservative, really conservative. These are all more-or-less the Ukrainian view. For Russian side reports, try here.
Some of the ‘mobiks’ from the chaotic Russian mobilization have appeared at the front. Mobik prisoners have been taken, and the dead recovered. There are video reports and call intercepts reporting mobiks being dropped off along the front with little or no supplies or communications.
What Might Happen
A pattern of Ukrainian operations is emerging. They are pushing recon/sabotage teams in between Russian-occupied towns and strongpoints, followed by light mechanized forces heavily armed with anti-armor weapons and backed with artillery and rocket fire. These threaten to envelop a major position, leading the Russians to fall back to protect their flanks, or potentially become surrounded. For what it looks like from the POV of the scouts, this series of reports from the same volunteer I linked above gives a sample.
The UA is managing this because the Russians can no longer man a continuous line at the front. This implies that the larger numbers of casualty reports for Russia are credible. It’s also visible that some of Russia’s most elite formations have been shredded (‘heavily degraded’ is apparently the term of art) in the process. It also makes some ‘sense’ of the reports of untrained mobiks being dropped off with little support along the front. These poor [CoC] are being used as human trip wires to slow down the penetration by Ukrainian scouts and light forces.
The Russians left the mobilization too late to assemble a credible, trained, and equipped reserve force. They are being used as cannon fodder to delay Ukraine. Local Russian reserves have apparently been committed and defeated in Kharkiv/Luhansk and Kherson. This suggests Ukraine can continue to advance.
On the other hand, the fall mud season (rasputitsa) is beginning, which will slow everything down. Recent videos have shown muddy but still firm secondary roads in the north (Kharkiv/Luhansk), but there’s been enough rain that it’s likely armor would now bog down off-road. Roads in the south (Kherson) appear to be dry still.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Ukrainian attempt to punch much deeper into Luhansk, probably towards the key logistics center of Starobilsk, before the mud really sets in.
There are recurrent rumors of Ukraine preparing a third offensive, this one to punch South towards Melitopol and then Crimea. I haven’t seen any actual evidence of such, including from those who are buying up satellite photos. And it’s just what I’d spread around if I were the Ukrainians, to convince the Russians to keep reserves there while the other fronts collapse. But I could be wrong…Published in