More to ignore, Book 58........

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Feb 6, 2014
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Ukraine Update: Russia's river-crossing debacle is beyond belief
kos

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It’s said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. If that’s the case … Russia qualifies.

We saw it in the early days of the war in Hostomel airport northwest of Kyiv. Russia made an unsupported airborne landing on the base. Got wiped out. Tried it again. Same result. There may have been a third attempt, but the airport wasn’t captured until the spearhead of Russia’s attack,
on the ground, arrived a few days later.

We’re currently seeing it on Snake Island, of “Russia warship, go **** yourself” fame. Over the past week, Russian forces have been wiped out several times (here, here, here, and here), and yet last night we saw Russian troops landing there once again. (Russia state media tried to claim that it was
Ukrainians who were defeated on the island … using the Ukrainian armed forces video (with their logo on the top right corner) featuring the Bayraktar TB-2 drone interface, of which Russia has none. The destruction of the ship, when Ukraine has no navy, was a nice touch of hilarity.)

But nothing is as dramatic as the saga of the riverside crossing at Bilohorivka, where Russia didn’t just suffer one disastrous river-crossing attempt, but three of them over the past few days.


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Rubizhne, top right, was captured by Russia this week. Severodonetsk, on the right, is currently hell on earth, Russia’s current number one target, being hit on three sides and under relentless months-long bombardment. As I noted earlier, Severodonetsk is on the north side of the river, so its Ukrainian defenders can, if needed, retreat across the river to Lysychansk, where the river provides natural protection.

Given that Russia will eventually need to cross the river, they clearly thought, why not now, allowing them to completely surround Severodonetsk, cutting off its defenders, and short-circuiting any fall back positions in Lysychansk. Bilohorivka was such an obvious place to make the attempt, that this Ukrainian army engineer claimed to have guessed it ahead of time (account is unconfirmed, but much of it checks out).

Russia made its first effort May 8, and it was utterly decimated, destroying several dozen vehicles. The bridge lay half-sunk.


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Russian command and control structure is highly centralized, giving local commanders zero ability to deviate from stated orders. So if high command said “get to Bilohorivka,” well, who was to say something like, “Guys, Ukraine has our number, maybe we should look for a new place to cross?” Nah, giving local commanders, or any commanders for that matter, the gift of “free thinking and initiative” might lead to a military coup. Best to keep them stupid. Hence … try number 2:

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You can see the remnants of that first bridge just above it, either completely submerged or towed away during the second attempt. More charred vehicles were added to the list.

Then someone from Moscow or Belgorod called and screamed, “do we have Bilohorivka yet?” And since the answer was no, then yeah, sigh, there they went again.

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Bridges numbered for your convenience.

The open source intelligence (OSINT) crowd got to counting the damage, or at least, what could be determined from drone footage. Just photo after photo tagged like this:




The vehicle count keeps rising as the OSINT folks find more vehicles amongst the wreckage. The latest? 82.



Those 82 vehicles include eight in the river. The tally includes 14 tanks and 62 infantry fighting vehicles. A Russian battalion tactical group (BTG) has 10 tanks and 40 IFVs, but there’s no such thing as a full-strength BTG in Ukraine. Likely never was. So Russia just lost two BTGs worth of troops attempting to make the same compromised river crossing three times. Can you imagine the drone operator calling it in?

Drone operator: ”Another crossing!”


Artillery fire direction: “Shit! What are the coordinates?”

Drone operator: “Uh, same ones!”

Artillery fire direction: “Ha! Okay, I really thought you were kidding the second time! That was crazy. But seriously, what are the new coordinates?”


That engineer I linked to above claims 1,500 dead, citing “rumors.” That would suggest two nearly full-strength BTGs, so is almost certainly overstated. InformNapalm, which has been covering the war since 2014 and has sources inside Ukrainian intelligence, claims that only 65 of 550 Russians attempting the crossing survived. While ~490 dead seems plausible, only 550 Russians attempting the crossing seems low. A single BTG would have 600-1,000 soldiers, so 550 would only staff one undermanned BTG.


Russia has 22 BTGs in this axis, so in this ill-fated multi-effort river-crossing debacle, it has lost nearly 10% of its entire fighting force. But hey, why stop when they’re so close to succeeding? Here’s hoping they’re stupid enough to give it a fourth shot.

And if you think I’m joking, from that InformNapalm report:

After [the third attempt], other servicemen of the brigade began to write "refusal", but the zampolits [political commissar] tried to intimidate them with prison terms and exert psychological pressure.
Also, InformNapalm sources report that they saw a car in this direction today, which is visually very similar to the mobile point of psychological work of the Russian Armed Forces. Probably for the psychological treatment of the servicemen of the brigade, which suffered heavy losses.

If that report is correct, it means Russia is literally trying to force its soldiers to give it yet another shot. Hopefully those soldiers choose wisely—prison seems far preferable than whatever fate met the poor souls on those three bridging attempts.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Feb 6, 2014
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Zelensky welcomes US Senate GOP delegation led by Mitch McConnell

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has welcomed to Kyiv a congressional delegation led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Zelensky said on his Instagram account that the visit "is a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine from the United States Congress and the American people."

He added: "Thank you for your leadership in helping us in our struggle not only for our country, but also for democratic values and freedoms. We really appreciate it."

Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John Barrasso of Wyoming and John Cornyn of Texas were also seen meeting Zelensky in video and photos posted to the Ukrainian president's social media accounts.

It's unclear whether the meeting took place Saturday and whether the delegation is still in Kyiv.

This is a breaking story and will be updated.
 
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Ten Thousan Marbles

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Feb 6, 2014
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Ukraine update: Something *big* is happening, as the Battle of the Izyum Salient begins
kos

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Russian troops at Izyum, but not for long.

With unconfirmed reports that Ukraine has pushed Russia mostly out of its territory north of Kharkiv, we have been speculating where Ukraine would counter next—toward the railhead northeast of Kharkiv in Vovchansk, or the the logistical hub at Kupiansk, where three major rail lines connect. Both those locations would cut off the flow of supplies to the Izyum salient and Russia’s 22 battalion tactical groups (BTGs) in the pocket—the largest concentration of Russian forces anywhere in Ukraine.


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Ukraine took a look at both of those critical logistical centers, and then decided to hit the salient directly instead.



NASA FIRMS satellite data, designed to track forest fires, gives us a perfect indication of the direction of combat:

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The woods to the west of Izyum, where any Ukrainian counteroffensive would originate, are lit. It’s happening.

Also note how, east of Izyum, the line of fire exactly follows the north bank of the Donets River—those are either Ukraine’s last positions on that bank (just Lyman and Severodonetsk at this point), or Russian forces who have reached the waterline being shelled by Ukrainian artillery.

We can even see the massive artillery barrage at Russia’s ill-fated Bilohorivka river crossing attempt. If you haven’t read my story on Bilohorivka yet, I highly recommend it. It might be the most unbelievable story of the war. Meanwhile, those fires north of Kharkiv are on newly liberated Ukrainian territory, which means Russia is firing artillery on those positions either to slow down their advance, or simply out of punitive anger. Much of Russia’s military strategy appears to be a manifestation of Vladimir Putin’s aggrieved, irrational rage.

Back to the Battle of the Izyum Salient, Russian telegram claims five Ukrainian brigades are moving in on Izyum from the north, looking to directly cut off supply lines to the bulk of the Russian forces in the salient. That would be the equivalent of 10-15 Russian BTGs which seems … fantastical. Given how well Ukraine has fought, Russians may be mythifying them so they seem 10 feet tall and three times their number. But for context, a Ukrainian brigade is around 1,600 troops and 200 armored vehicles. If these reports are correct, we’re talking about 1,000 armored vehicles, and a metric buttload of artillery, raining on Russian positions. Ukraine had 20 brigades pre-war, with another four in reserve, which are likely already in action. More are being created from reservists, but there’s no indication they’ve had to be fielded just yet. So five brigades would be a massive commitment of forces.

Regardless of their actual size (and I do hope it’s five brigades), those Russian sources on telegram also say Ukraine has crossed the Donets for the attack. So if Ukraine is crossing the Donets to attack Izyum’s supply lines, then this seems like a logical place to do so:


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And that NASA FIRMS map certainly supports the notion of ongoing operations both in that pocket, and on the east side of the Donets in the pink (contested) territory just west of Izyum.

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Remember, Ukraine doesn’t announce operations in advance. Looking at FIRMS imagery over the past several days, we can actually see the counter-offensive began on May 10-11:

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Russia abandoned Kharkiv because it had no reserves left. Ukrainian general staff and the Pentagon have said Russia has 19 BTGs in reserve in Belgorod, so why weren’t they rushed to Kharkiv to defend their supply lines? If there’s anything left in Russia, it’s likely shattered remnants and troops refusing to deploy or redeploy.

Now, with Russia already at its limits, Ukraine is taking direct aim at the largest concentration of Russian forces in Ukraine.

Guys, 20-25% of Russia’s
entire Army is in that pocket.

Something big is happening.

I mean
big, as in war-altering.

We were looking at Izyum’s supply hubs in Kupiansk and Vochansk. Ukraine is going straight for the jugular instead.