More to ignore, Book 48..........

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ukraine update: The Kherson bulge, the Kramatorsk gap
Mark Sumner

There was no doubt at all about Russia’s strategy when they rolled across the border on Feb 24—take it all. Putin meant to capture Kyiv, install a puppet government, declare victory, and then watch as the invincible Russian military drove tanks over dispirited Ukrainian holdouts while wearing their dress uniforms and singing the Soviet national anthem. According to Moscow, everything is going according to plan.

In the real world, Russia is now moving all its forces to the east and south of Ukraine and where a few days ago there were conflicts all over the nation, now there are just two zones that are the absolute focus of both militaries, and which could decide the course of the war.

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In the west, the ‘Kherson bulge’ west of the Dnieper River. In the east, the Kramatorsk gap in Russian-occupied Donbas

One of these areas is what might be described as “the Kherson bulge.” With the help of local officials who took a bribe, Russian forces managed to capture two intact bridges across the southern Dnieper River, one on the northern edge of Kherson, another about 40 miles upstream at Nova Kakhovka.

These bridges allowed Russia to take control of the city of Kherson in the first week of the war. With a population just under 300,000, Kherson represents the only large urban center that Russia has been able to capture and hold since the invasion began. Once they had a grip on Kherson, Russian forces were able to achieve one of their key objectives — opening the flow of water to Crimea, without which conditions there were becoming extremely difficult for Russia to maintain.

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The area around Kherson is key to both Russia’s ambitions to capture Odesa and to hold Crimea

Russian forces would like to achieve their second main objective in the area — capturing Odesa and cutting off Ukraine from the Black Sea. However, attempts to reach the city of Mykolaiv were strongly repulsed (in part by some of the same troops that had originally been in Kherson). Ukraine has been gradually pushing back down the same highway along which Russia advance, recapturing towns and coming within about 20 miles of Kherson proper. In the last two days, Ukrainian forces have also been recapturing a series of towns and villages in the area of that blue arrow at the top of the map. It seemed

There were widespread rumors that Russia was going to retreat across the bridges and hold positions on the east side of the Dnieper, but in the last day Russian troops advanced again to capture the town of Snihurivka (that red dot directly east of Mykolaiv). That seems to indicate they have not given up their ambitions in this area.

A total victory for Ukraine would involve capturing one or more bridges and bagging a large number of Russian troops left trapped on the west side of the river. A more likely scenario is that Russia moves east and takes the bridges with them. But the move to take Snihurivka could signal a new advance on Mykolaiv.


In any case, what happens next here could decide whether Russia gets anywhere close to Odesa, because attempts to capture the city by amphibious landing look like a no-go.

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The area around Kramatorsk, south of Kharkiv

The other area is that “gap” in Russia’s control of the Donbas region south of the town of Isyum. This area is the key to whether or nor Russia can complete it’s number one goal at this point: Capturing all of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

The east side of the yellow area on this map represents well-established defensive positions where Ukrainian forces are dug-in to prevent a direct westward advance by Russia or their supporters. In order to bypass this position and potentially capture a large number of Ukrainian troops along with their equipment, Russia is pushing south from Izyum and north from the Donetsk.

The simple fact that we’re talking about Izyum as a town under Russian control shows that Russian forces have managed to advance in this area over the last week. Once again working with local officials who — from either threat or bribery — went over to Putin, Russian forces managed to locate an area where they could successfully ford / bridge the small river running through Izyum, circled around the small local garrison from the southeast, and captured the hold-out town. Now those forces are continuing on to the south.

Russia could continue down the M03 highway toward Slovyansk. If Russia took Slovyansk, they would have the option of continuing south or of cutting east another another highway to cut off a portion of the Ukrainian troops along the Donbas defensive line. However, there are indications that’s not what Russia intends to do. They may swing west around the town of Kramatorsk, putting them closer to the oblast border and allowing their troops to give the recently discovered oil field in the area a warm hug.

Or …




This would be the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass on the part of Russia. Izyium is already at the end of a long and complex salient that is vulnerable to a possible Ukrainian attack from Kharkiv. But an attempt to go all the way out to Pavlohrad (near the left edge of the map of the Kramatorsk area), would put them way-the-hell out on a limb.

If Russia pulled it off, it would be amazing, and could potentially cut off a sizable portion of the whole Ukrainian army. On the other hand … this looks impossible. They would have a salient that, by that point, would be hundreds of miles long, under assault from every direction, and subject to attack at dozens of locations.

Still, Russia has shelled multiple locations west of Kramatorsk on Thursday, including points along the highway leading to Pavlohrad. That could indicate that they are trying to soften up the route in advance of moving that way.

Meanwhile, Ukraine is well aware of Russia’s intentions in the Kramatorsk gap, and has also repositioned forces. On Wednesday several Russian tanks and a helicopter were destroyed by Ukrainian troops moving in southwest of Izyum, and some of those same vehicles that were involved in building the bridge that allowed Russia to cross the river now look like this.



(Bonus points: Can you name all the items Russian troops were trying to steal when these vehicles were destroyed.)

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Ten Thousan Marbles

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Thursday, Apr 7, 2022 · 1:15:28 PM EDT · Mark Sumner
One other zone of major conflict which I failed to circle — Mariupol. While the battle there may seem to have been decided, that’s not how local Ukrainian forces are behaving. On Thursday, at least one Russian ML-TB armored vehicle was destroyed in the city, and Ukrainian forces are still putting up something that’s far greater than token resistance.




All of this is taking place as Russia has also taken away the city’s last hospital staff at gunpoint and continues to relocate thousands of the city’s residents to unknown locations in Russia.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Feb 6, 2014
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Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ukraine update: Lies, damn lies, and ... WTF is that?
Mark Sumner

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Rescue workers and firefighters have discovered over 30 bodies under the rubble at Borodyanka. April 6, 2022.

When it comes to news out of Ukraine, what the West hears about the progress of the war and what they hear in Ukraine is pretty similar. Or at least it is in places not actively engaged in conflict—people there have more immediate concerns.

In the U.S., the subset of information that we get through most media outlets is shorn of a lot of the detail on troop movements, small actions, and the triumphs—or loss—of individual soldiers. Back in Ukraine, they are facing those dreaded “lists of names” where those killed in action get reported. Scrolling through those lists for relatives and friends has been a sad ritual in every war going back at least 200 years. It’s one of the horrors that the world could definitely do without. It’s made much worse when those lists also contain the names of civilians, including children, who were unfortunate enough to find themselves targets of a Russian missile or subjects of an atrocity in an occupied area.

The U.S. also doesn’t get all that much of something else that shows up in Ukrainian speeches and broadcasts—which is complaints about the U.S. There is definitely plenty of praise for all Western nations that are contributing to help Ukraine in its struggle against an unprovoked invasion, but there is also a special appreciation for countries that seem to be going above and beyond. Poland taking in over 2.5 million refugees is definitely seen. So are those Czech tanks. Some smaller nations are regarded as punching above their weight when it comes to contributing to the cause, while wealthier nations, including the U.S., are seen as doing less than they could. All of that is understandable, and it’s not an attitude that anyone is hiding. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is pretty open on these points both in his nightly address to Ukraine and when talking to world leaders.

But the views being given to the folks on the other side of the conflict are definitely not the same as what we’re hearing. They’re also not anywhere close to the truth.

Earlier today a Kremlin spokesperson made what seemed to be an astounding admission by saying, “We have suffered significant losses, this is a huge tragedy for us.” There have been a few such admissions in the past, but Moscow has quickly walked them back. What most people are hearing in Russia is much closer to this transcript between a Russian soldier and his wife.

Wife: “Well they say losses are small. … Not even 1,000. That’s what they say.”

Everyday Russians have been systematically cut off from alternative sources of news, and are being fed a stream of messages that include: Russia is achieving its goals in Ukraine, Russian losses are small, the Ukrainian military is weak, and Russia is saving civilians from Ukrainian nationalists who are slaughtering them or using them as human shields. All of those messages generate a sneer when we hear them, but they’re the only thing most Russians are getting.

But there may be something worse than Russian state media.

Before you see it, first take a look at this. This is a fake commercial from the film Starship Troopers. It’s a film that uses science fiction tropes superficially to warn about (and poke fun at) the dangers of fascism. It’s easy for someone casually looking in to see the film as glorifying these ideas … which is exactly the point.



And now, here’s another ad. One with an incredibly similar vibe. Only this one is sickeningly real.



It’s not that there’s really an “information war.” In the U.S., we may be faced with Russia supporters like Tucker Carlson, and with alt-whatever writers who believe that the only bad imperialism is western imperialism. But in Russia these are the only messages they’re seeing. It doesn’t matter if their statements seem ludicrous, the lies seem obvious, and the form seems outrageous. It’s all they’re getting.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Thursday, Apr 7, 2022 · 5:32:30 PM EDT · Mark Sumner
Ukraine still seems to be grinding out progress along the M03 highway southeast of Kharkiv.



This remains a critical part of that battle in the east, as it takes Ukrainian forces one step closer to the cross roads at Volokhiv Yar, where they would be able to threaten the salient supporting the advance through Izyum.

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Malynivka represents the latest town recaptured by Ukrainian forces moving down from Kharkiv.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Thursday, Apr 7, 2022 · 8:42:37 PM EDT · Mark Sumner
@War_Mapper’s overall update for today doesn’t show much change, but that doesn’t mean nothing happened.



Russian forces have made little progress in closing that gap, while Ukrainian forces have pushed down from Kharkiv and are closer to threatening the whole salient.

But there is also some horrible news in this post from this area over at Telegram. I won’t post the whole translation, but the beginning is bad enough.

“In a village in the Izyum region, the Russian occupiers tortured and set fire to three people.”

This reportedly happened in Husarivka, a village now under Ukrainian control. More details may be available soon.