Ukraine Update 6 July, 2022

-The city of Sloviansk in the Donetsk region will be the next objective for Russian forces operating in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. Russian forces are closing on the city with units from the Western and Eastern Groups of Forces now just 10 miles from there. Ukrainian forces in and around Sloviansk are digging in and preparing for the enemy assault, which is expected to begin within two days. The city’s mayor has ordered an evacuation of all remaining residents. The effort to clear out Sloviansk began rather later than expected, partly owing to the widening gap between events on the ground and how they are being reported by the Ukrainian and Western medias. The articles and reports coming from a number of media groups and journalists are borderline pro-Ukrainian propaganda, based on reports from Ukrainian government officials and the military instead of facts.

-Revised forecasts by economists indicate Russia is heading towards a less severe recession than forecasters had originally expected. Rising oil production in Russia has done much to offset the economic sanctions put in place by the United States and Europe as well as by other nations around the world. It also speaks volumes for the degree of preparedness Russia had gone to in order to make its economy as sanction-hardened as possible.  In the months leading up to war there was a considerable amount of speculation that Russia’s economic security had been fortified to an extent. A fair number of US and European economists and analysts rejected the notion and continued forward with their belief that the weight of global sanctions would do severe damage to the Russian economy and deter Moscow from embarking upon a course of belligerence for very long.

It would appear they were wrong.

Ukraine Update 3 July, 2022: Lysychansk Falls

Twenty-four hours after the fact, the Ukrainian military confirmed on Sunday that the city of Lysychansk is now entirely under Russian control. The news was released as reports from third-party and independent sources made it clear Ukrainian forces were withdrawing from the city as Russian troops entered in large numbers. “After heavy fighting for Lysychansk, the defense forces of Ukraine were forced to withdraw from their occupied positions and lines,” read a statement released by the Ukrainian general staff. “In order to preserve the lives of Ukrainian defenders, a decision was made to withdraw.” The general staff’s statement also spoke of Russian advantages in aircraft, artillery, troop numbers and other forces.

The capture of Lysychansk comes one week after Russian forces captured its sister city of Severodonetsk. Ukraine no longer has a foothold in the Luhansk province. It is now effectively under the control of Russia. With the situation in the east looking bleak for Ukraine, the United States and European nations will be under pressure to provide more powerful weapons to Ukraine in even greater numbers. At this point in the conflict, however, Western unity is starting to sag under the weight of the economic fallout. Behind the scenes, a new push for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to reach a negotiated settlement with Russia will be getting underway soon.

Unfortunately, Zelenskiy is not likely to cave into any potential Western demands on negotiations anytime soon. For whatever reasons, the Ukrainian leader still seems to think he is holding a handful of trump cards and has the upper hand despite the battlefield setbacks. He is also appearing more and more out of tune with real world events when he makes public appearances. For example, earlier today Zelenskiy denied that Lysychansk was completely in Russian hands. While giving a news conference with Australia’s prime minister, who was visiting Kiev, the Ukrainian leader said fighting was taking place on the outskirts of the city. His remarks came as the Ukrainian military was releasing the statement discussed above.

The badly timed comments make Zelenskiy seem either out of touch or reluctant to publicly admit bad news to the people of his country. It is important to keep public morale up, but not by repeating outright lies and propaganda. On this topic, Ukraine’s president has much to learn yet.

Ukraine Update 11 June, 2022: Artillery Shell Shortage Spells Trouble For Ukrainian Forces

After four months of heavy fighting, the Ukrainian military is facing shortages of ammunition for many of its Soviet-era weapons systems. With the war now focused in the eastern Ukraine and the fighting having become an artillery-driven war of attrition, the shortages are becoming more pronounced. The timing for this could not be worse. The flow of ammunition from Western nations has failed to keep up with demand and replenish Ukraine’s dwindling ammunition stockpiles. The United States and European nations are also shipping more accurate and mobile self-propelled artillery and multiple launch rocket systems to Ukraine. However, it is taking a significant amount of time to deploy the weapons and train Ukrainian soldiers to employ them effective. In the meantime, Ukraine’s army relies on its older artillery, even as the ammunition for these guns diminishes to critical levels.

Russia is gaining an advantage on the battlefield because of the ammunition woes. Russian artillery batteries are firing at least three to four times as many rounds as their Ukrainian counterparts. To be fair, Russia has more artillery batteries than Ukraine, but the disparity in rounds fired has more to do with Ukrainian ammunition issues than anything else. Gunners are having to conserve shells more and more as the days pass.

It is a common problem in war and hardly one exclusive to the war in Ukraine. Pre-war calculations and estimates are no longer accurate once the balloon goes up. Rates of fire and use of ammunition dwarfs the pre-war figures. Logistics takes precedence as the race to resupply can often determine what side wins a war. We’re seeing this now in Eastern Ukraine. Some of the gains Russia has made on the battlefield in the last 36-48 hours were possible largely because Russia has far more artillery batteries and ammunition available.  

Ukraine Update 5 June, 2022: Putin Warns About Long Range Weapons

It has been some time since I posted an update on events in Ukraine. Quite honestly, it was becoming tedious to cover nothing but the conflict in Ukraine for weeks on end. Especially once the Russian offensive in the north was spent. From then it was clear this war was fated to drag out relentlessly for months. Possibly even beyond a year. As it stands at the moment, Russia’s offensive in the east is making gains. Although Western media attempts to water down this news, the fact of the matter is that Russian forces are advancing and capturing territory in Luhansk and Dontesk, as well as north of Crimea where a rejuvenated southern front is now active.

As the war continues on, Ukraine finds its military in need of more resupply. Although little is mentioned openly about Ukrainian military losses and consumption, it is clear the need for fresh ammunition and weapons systems is increasing. To help, the United States has committed to supplying a limited amount of HIMARS rockets and launch vehicles to Ukraine’s army. The HIMARS rockets are very capable and have a long range that could enable them to reach targets in Russia. Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy assured the US that he will not target Russian territory with HIMARS.

On Sunday, Russian leader Vladimir Putin warned Ukraine and the West that if long range weapons are sent to Ukraine, Russian forces will expand their target list. To back up the warning, explosions rocked Kiev as the capital city was attacked for the first time in weeks. Russia claims it attacked tanks supplied by European nations, while Ukrainian government spokesmen said a railway repair plant.

With the possibility of the conflict in Ukraine expanding as a result of Putin’s warning, Today’s DIRT will be going back to providing a Ukraine Update once every 2-3 days, as well as entries on other events in the world.  

Ukraine Update 7 May, 2022

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Saturday that a peace agreement with Russia will be contingent upon all Russian forces leaving Ukrainian territory. The remarks were made while speaking to Chatham House, a British think tank. Zelenskiy also said, “I was elected by the people of Ukraine as president of Ukraine, not as president of a mini-Ukraine of some kind. This is a very important point.” Indeed, it is. However, Russia shows no signs of letting up, as the situation in Mariupol has revealed. It’s not very realistic to think Moscow would be willing to return to pre-23 February boundaries willingly.
  • Evacuation efforts in Mariupol have concluded. The last women, children and elderly civilians left Azovstal steelworks earlier today, leaving only Ukrainian soldiers in the sprawling steel plant. With the civilians having left, Russian forces are expected to redouble their efforts to capture the plant and break the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in the city.
  • The fate of the Russian frigate Admiral Makarov remains unknown at the present time. The Ukrainian government and military claim the ship was struck by an antiship missile near Snake Island yesterday. Russia has denied the claim, of course, and today released pictures of the frigate supposedly back at its homeport of Sevastopol.
  • Russian forces launched a missile attack against the Ukrainian port city of Odesa earlier Saturday. Ballistic missiles targeted a furniture factory and damaged nearby buildings. There has been no word on casualties. As fighting in Mariupol draws to a close, expect Russia to pay more attention to Odesa and other targets along the Black Sea coastline west of Crimea.