Ukraine: What’s Happening, What Might Be Next

 

This post is intended to be descriptive, rather than prescriptive, as for instance BDB’s poll on support for weapons/troops for Ukraine.

What’s Happened

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…

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  1. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Hang On (View Comment):
    They have a way to peace but they refuse. F them.

    Eternal peace.

    • #31
  2. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    BDB (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):
    They have a way to peace but they refuse. F them.

    Eternal peace.

    How dare those Ukrainians dare to resist living under Putin’s boot.  

    • #32
  3. MiMac Thatcher
    MiMac
    @MiMac

    Hang On (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    WilliamDean (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Chatlee (View Comment):
    Putin needs to have the west force Ukraine to settle for less than what Ukraine could achieve on the battlefield by having the west threaten Ukraine with withdrawal of support.

    Is this war really between Ukraine and Russia? I know that Ukrainians are the ones doing the fighting, but they couldn’t do any of it without US intelligence and US weapons. And possibly US money.

    When we talk about Russia issuing rusty rifles, it doesn’t seem like two countries anymore, but rather like Russia against the West, with the Ukrainians manipulating the weapons. Almost like disposable proxy fighters.

    Reminds me of Vietnam, but with the U.S. and Soviet/Russia roles reversed.

    Nope. The US never considered Vietnam existential. Russia has repeatedly stated it considers Ukraine is existential. American policymakers believed the Russians were bluffing. So we get to this point. So American position is regime change, no matter the consequences because they think the Russians are still bluffing. To say the American policymakers are delusionally stupid is an understatement. These same delusional idiots think that if there is regime change, it will bring a liberal, pro-western government in Russia.

    Ukrainians consider Ukraine to be existential.

    Who cares what Ukrainians want? I don’t. If they want to commit suicide, let them do it without our help and don’t take us down with them. They have a way to peace but they refuse. F them.

    No, who cares what Putin wants? F him. You seem to have a problem with the proper subjects of a sentence.

    • #33
  4. MiMac Thatcher
    MiMac
    @MiMac

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    BDB (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):
    They have a way to peace but they refuse. F them.

    Eternal peace.

    How dare those Ukrainians dare to resist living under Putin’s boot.

    Yes-the gall of those people to want to live full, normal lives. To want to live lives of freedom & self determination, not under the boot of a ruthless autocrat.

    • #34
  5. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    WilliamDean (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Chatlee (View Comment):
    Putin needs to have the west force Ukraine to settle for less than what Ukraine could achieve on the battlefield by having the west threaten Ukraine with withdrawal of support.

    Is this war really between Ukraine and Russia? I know that Ukrainians are the ones doing the fighting, but they couldn’t do any of it without US intelligence and US weapons. And possibly US money.

    When we talk about Russia issuing rusty rifles, it doesn’t seem like two countries anymore, but rather like Russia against the West, with the Ukrainians manipulating the weapons. Almost like disposable proxy fighters.

    Reminds me of Vietnam, but with the U.S. and Soviet/Russia roles reversed.

    Nope. The US never considered Vietnam existential. Russia has repeatedly stated it considers Ukraine is existential. American policymakers believed the Russians were bluffing. So we get to this point. So American position is regime change, no matter the consequences because they think the Russians are still bluffing. To say the American policymakers are delusionally stupid is an understatement. These same delusional idiots think that if there is regime change, it will bring a liberal, pro-western government in Russia.

    Ukrainians consider Ukraine to be existential.

    Who cares what Ukrainians want? I don’t. If they want to commit suicide, let them do it without our help and don’t take us down with them. They have a way to peace but they refuse. F them.

    It seems you are advocating that the US adopt moral nihilism as the central feature of its foreign policy.

    Adopt?  Okay.

    • #35
  6. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Zafar (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    WilliamDean (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Chatlee (View Comment):
    Putin needs to have the west force Ukraine to settle for less than what Ukraine could achieve on the battlefield by having the west threaten Ukraine with withdrawal of support.

    Is this war really between Ukraine and Russia? I know that Ukrainians are the ones doing the fighting, but they couldn’t do any of it without US intelligence and US weapons. And possibly US money.

    When we talk about Russia issuing rusty rifles, it doesn’t seem like two countries anymore, but rather like Russia against the West, with the Ukrainians manipulating the weapons. Almost like disposable proxy fighters.

    Reminds me of Vietnam, but with the U.S. and Soviet/Russia roles reversed.

    Nope. The US never considered Vietnam existential. Russia has repeatedly stated it considers Ukraine is existential. American policymakers believed the Russians were bluffing. So we get to this point. So American position is regime change, no matter the consequences because they think the Russians are still bluffing. To say the American policymakers are delusionally stupid is an understatement. These same delusional idiots think that if there is regime change, it will bring a liberal, pro-western government in Russia.

    Ukrainians consider Ukraine to be existential.

    Who cares what Ukrainians want? I don’t. If they want to commit suicide, let them do it without our help and don’t take us down with them. They have a way to peace but they refuse. F them.

    It seems you are advocating that the US adopt moral nihilism as the central feature of its foreign policy.

    Adopt? Okay.

    An agenda of resisting the expansion of Putin’s tyranny seems to contain some positive moral content.  

    • #36
  7. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    So long as we’re consistent about tyranny I guess you have a point.

    • #37
  8. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Zafar (View Comment):

    So long as we’re consistent about tyranny I guess you have a point.

    Even if we’re not 100% consistent, there is still a good point.  (Things tend to get all messed up when self-interest is involved with moral values, especially when they come into conflict. It’s better when they coincide.) 

    • #38
  9. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    So long as we’re consistent about tyranny I guess you have a point.

    Even if we’re not 100% consistent, there is still a good point. (Things tend to get all messed up when self-interest is involved with moral values, especially when they come into conflict. It’s better when they coincide.)

    Sure, but it’s when they [are in] conflict that we realise which one rules us.

    • #39
  10. Unsk Member
    Unsk
    @Unsk

    Hang On:”Who cares what Ukrainians want? I don’t. If they want to commit suicide, let them do it without our help and don’t take us down with them. They have a way to peace but they refuse. F them.”

    This war is much more complex than some realize. Are they talking about what Zelensky wants or the the Ukrainian people? And don’t tell me he speaks for them because he has silenced dissent.  There were Plebiscites way back in 94 where the population in both Crimea and the Donbas voted to have greater control over their destiny and were shunned by the governnment in Kiev. Kiev doesn’t seem to believe in self-determination for the ethnic Russians and have clearly butchered ethnic Russians, clearly angering the Russians.  Meanwhile, historically Ukrainian claims to the Donbas are  rather weak. It was scarcely settled until the late nineteenth century when a Welsh ( yes a Brit!)  founded a coal mine there. Settlers came and they  were a varied lot with Ukrainians and Russians and a bunch of other folks. During the Soviet era, the USSR imported millions to the Donbas. Both Leonid Brezhnev and Nikita Khruschev came from there so there are strong ties to Russia which I doubt Russia will give up.

    Better think this thing   through. While it seems Ukraine is doing better, Russia, which still has significant military might,  seems to be regrouping for a major Winter counteroffensive where there is talk of a major capture of territory. Since most sane analysts belief the US was responsible for the Nordsream sabotage, the ante keeps on getting raised in  this stupid war, which could now easily spiral out of control.   The next round could be very bad for the Ukraine. We shall see. Perhaps it  would be best to negotiate a deal now rather than be strongly defeated by an enraged Russia. 

    • #40
  11. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Russia is out of gas. Their own conscripts are deeply under-motivated, and are not even being given the necessary training or equipment. https://www.understandingwar.org/ reports that some conscripts are hitting the front lines with just a week – or less! – of training. 

    Russians know they will be cannon fodder, and that is why those at risk of being conscripted are avoiding it like the plague. 

    The Ukrainians are on the front foot now, and Kherson may fall within the week. If it does, Russia’s position in the south and Crimea totally unravels.

    I stand for self-determination. I am gobsmacked by those on Ricochet who do not.

    As for foreign aid: Russia’s export market for arms has just vanished. And the US will reap huge export rewards for regular demonstrations of the superiority of smarter weapons and HIMARs. We will end up making money on this war. And it is not as if the same $$, spent domestically, would help this nation. We know it does not.

    • #41
  12. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

     It has also been confirmed that the single biggest contributor of heavy weapons to Ukraine has been Russia – all the arms left behind.  The US has contributed critical weapons systems, but in terms of tanks and other toys, the Russians have abandoned a huge number. I’d bet Ukraine has a better equipped army now than it did when the war started.

    • #42
  13. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Here’s a video that dropped today of a Russian soldier who was drafted on the 21st, and on the line by the 25th. He googled “How to Surrender” and called the resulting hotline – and then followed instructions. 

     

    • #43
  14. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Unsk (View Comment):
    Are they talking about what Zelensky wants or the the Ukrainian people? And don’t tell me he speaks for them because he has silenced dissent.  T

    Zelensky represents his people well, even though the Ukrainian people are sometimes critical of some of his decisions.  He still has more volunteer soldiers than he can handle, unlike in a neighboring country where dissent has been criminalized to some extent. 

    • #44
  15. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Zafar (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    So long as we’re consistent about tyranny I guess you have a point.

    Even if we’re not 100% consistent, there is still a good point. (Things tend to get all messed up when self-interest is involved with moral values, especially when they come into conflict. It’s better when they coincide.)

    Sure, but it’s when they [are in] conflict that we realise which one rules us.

    It can come to that when the choices are stark enough. 

    • #45
  16. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    So long as we’re consistent about tyranny I guess you have a point.

    Even if we’re not 100% consistent, there is still a good point. (Things tend to get all messed up when self-interest is involved with moral values, especially when they come into conflict. It’s better when they coincide.)

    Sure, but it’s when they [are in] conflict that we realise which one rules us.

    It can come to that when the choices are stark enough.

    When the two are in conflict does it ever not come to that?

    In Ukraine how do we oppose tyranny over Lviv (which we should) but support it over Donbas?  It makes no moral sense, it only makes geopolitical sense.  Why do we need to clad our reasoning in anything else?

    • #46
  17. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Zafar (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    So long as we’re consistent about tyranny I guess you have a point.

    Even if we’re not 100% consistent, there is still a good point. (Things tend to get all messed up when self-interest is involved with moral values, especially when they come into conflict. It’s better when they coincide.)

    Sure, but it’s when they [are in] conflict that we realise which one rules us.

    It can come to that when the choices are stark enough.

    When the two are in conflict does it ever not come to that?

    In Ukraine how do we oppose tyranny over Lviv (which we should) but support it over Donbas? It makes no moral sense, it only makes geopolitical sense. Why do we need to clad our reasoning in anything else?

    Who is supporting tyranny over Donbas other than Putin? 

    • #47
  18. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    People who support making them be Ukrainian.  Against their wishes.  Does the West support this, in the name of Ukraine’s territorial integrity?  If it does, then it’s supporting oppression.

    • #48
  19. lowtech redneck Coolidge
    lowtech redneck
    @lowtech redneck

    As for foreign aid: Russia’s export market for arms has just vanished.

    Its been dealt a huge black eye, and significant contraction is likely, but plenty of countries are already invested in maintaining previously purchased equipment or working within existent training, and cannot afford to quickly transition off of it.  Also, there are regimes cut off from better equipment purchases for either monetary or political reasons, so Russian arms exports will likely survive as a major industry.

    • #49
  20. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Zafar (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    So long as we’re consistent about tyranny I guess you have a point.

    Even if we’re not 100% consistent, there is still a good point. (Things tend to get all messed up when self-interest is involved with moral values, especially when they come into conflict. It’s better when they coincide.)

    Sure, but it’s when they [are in] conflict that we realise which one rules us.

    It’s the opposite, actually.

    If ones self-interest often compels one to do positive things, that implies that one is reasonably moral.

    So, the fact that the US found it to be in its self-interest to assist South Korea against North Korea is an indication that the US is reasonably moral.  Same for fighting Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan and assisting those countries in their transition to democracy once we had defeated them.

    Same for resisting Soviet communism by aiding anti-communist regimes and movements for decades.

    Same for confronting Saddam Hussain’s tyrannical and blood-thirsty regime and replacing it with a representative government.

    The same now as the US provides assistance to Ukraine in resisting Putin’s murderous venture.

    • #50
  21. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    The European Parliament President, Metsola, has announced that any countries within the EU that deliver Leopard II tanks to Ukraine will be reimbursed by the European Peace Facility.

    Metsola also called for Ukraine’s “accelerated” entry into the European Union.

    “We have a country that has shown us its intention, and overwhelming willingness to join, and surpassing expectations and meeting goals that other countries would have taken months or years,” Metsola said.

    In the last 6 days, the armed forces of Ukraine have freed more than 400 square kilometers of the Kherson region from the Russian military, Nataliya Humenyuk, spokeswoman for the Operational Command “South,” said at a briefing.

    • #51
  22. MiMac Thatcher
    MiMac
    @MiMac

    Zafar (View Comment):

    People who support making them be Ukrainian. Against their wishes. Does the West support this, in the name of Ukraine’s territorial integrity? If it does, then it’s supporting oppression.

    Against whose wishes? The Donbas, where 83% voted to join an independent Ukraine- in a real election?

    NB- in every region a majority voted for independence- in all except Crimea the margin of victory was large.

    • #52
  23. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    We’re on the verge of losing our own country and with that a precipitous deterioration.  Do folks believe that this vast complex country can be run from the top by meddlesome self interested narrow fools?  And that the west without US leadership will not follow our decline?   At best we use the Ukraine to keep our equipment updated, and our military focused and sharp.  If for no other reason it gives the military and our leadership outside of the White House reasons to actually pay attention to other then their own short term interests. 

    • #53
  24. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    MiMac (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    People who support making them be Ukrainian. Against their wishes. Does the West support this, in the name of Ukraine’s territorial integrity? If it does, then it’s supporting oppression.

    Against whose wishes? The Donbas, where 83% voted to join an independent Ukraine- in a real election?

    NB- in every region a majority voted for independence- in all except Crimea the margin of victory was large.

    And then they found out how they would be slaughtered by their fellow countrymen. 

    • #54
  25. MiMac Thatcher
    MiMac
    @MiMac

    Hang On (View Comment):

    MiMac (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    People who support making them be Ukrainian. Against their wishes. Does the West support this, in the name of Ukraine’s territorial integrity? If it does, then it’s supporting oppression.

    Against whose wishes? The Donbas, where 83% voted to join an independent Ukraine- in a real election?

    NB- in every region a majority voted for independence- in all except Crimea the margin of victory was large.

    And then they found out how they would be slaughtered by their fellow countrymen.

    As opposed to the kid gloves treatment by the Russian army?

    • #55
  26. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Hang On (View Comment):

    MiMac (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    People who support making them be Ukrainian. Against their wishes. Does the West support this, in the name of Ukraine’s territorial integrity? If it does, then it’s supporting oppression.

    Against whose wishes? The Donbas, where 83% voted to join an independent Ukraine- in a real election?

    NB- in every region a majority voted for independence- in all except Crimea the margin of victory was large.

    And then they found out how they would be slaughtered by their fellow countrymen.

    What do you care?

    • #56
  27. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Hang On (View Comment):

    WilliamDean (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Chatlee (View Comment):
    Putin needs to have the west force Ukraine to settle for less than what Ukraine could achieve on the battlefield by having the west threaten Ukraine with withdrawal of support.

    Is this war really between Ukraine and Russia? I know that Ukrainians are the ones doing the fighting, but they couldn’t do any of it without US intelligence and US weapons. And possibly US money.

    When we talk about Russia issuing rusty rifles, it doesn’t seem like two countries anymore, but rather like Russia against the West, with the Ukrainians manipulating the weapons. Almost like disposable proxy fighters.

    Reminds me of Vietnam, but with the U.S. and Soviet/Russia roles reversed.

    Nope. The US never considered Vietnam existential. Russia has repeatedly stated it considers Ukraine is existential. American policymakers believed the Russians were bluffing. So we get to this point. So American position is regime change, no matter the consequences because they think the Russians are still bluffing. To say the American policymakers are delusionally stupid is an understatement. These same delusional idiots think that if there is regime change, it will bring a liberal, pro-western government in Russia.

    It worked is Libya.  And Syria.  And Iraq.  And Afghanistan, didn’t it?

    • #57
  28. MiMac Thatcher
    MiMac
    @MiMac

    BDB (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    MiMac (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    People who support making them be Ukrainian. Against their wishes. Does the West support this, in the name of Ukraine’s territorial integrity? If it does, then it’s supporting oppression.

    Against whose wishes? The Donbas, where 83% voted to join an independent Ukraine- in a real election?

    NB- in every region a majority voted for independence- in all except Crimea the margin of victory was large.

    And then they found out how they would be slaughtered by their fellow countrymen.

    What do you care?

    Why do you keep advocating against Ukraine?

    • #58
  29. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    It seems you are advocating that the US adopt moral nihilism as the central feature of its foreign policy.  

    You are supporting a Ukraine that is corrupt to its core. You are supporting a Ukraine that has its own KGB running around murdering people inside and outside Ukraine. You are supporting a Ukraine that has a hit list that includes Rand Paul among many others. And then you have the temerity to lecture me about morality? 

    • #59
  30. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    But you care a lot about what the Russians want. 

    I care about respecting boundaries and realizing what is and is not possible. Ukraine is NOT important to the United States. F Ukraine.

    • #60
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