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

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ukraine Update: Russia doesn't realize it needs a functional military to threaten others
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These Finnish vikings will soon be part of NATO, no matter how much Russia pouts

Whether by battlefield success or strategic Ukrainian retreat, Russia is seeing some success in the Lyman-Severodonetsk axis.



It seems fated Russia eventually swallow up Lyman and Severodonetsk, just off the right edge of the map above—they are the last two remaining Ukrainian strongholds north of the Donets River. And given Russia’s severe troubles fording that river, Ukraine will have more defensible territory on the southern bank when and if they’re pushed back.

That Russian Popasna salient on the bottom-right of the map above could be more problematic. There’s no river down there to provide fall-back protection if Ukrainian defensive lines collapse. Luckily, Russia has been unable or unwilling to fully exploit that breakthrough, but they will continue their drip-drip-drip of of cannon-fodder charges until Ukrainian defenses are worn through. Or at least, that’s their hope.

Quick aside: Remember when everyone (including the Pentagon and UK intelligence) said Russia had a big, massive offensive in store for the eastern Donbas after their humiliating Kyiv retreat? Remember how I laughed off the possibility, given Russia’s complete inability to demonstrate any ability to launch large-scale coordinated attacks? I don’t pretend to always be right, but I am so glad I called this one correctly. Our biggest fear should be Russia learning from its mistakes. (And maybe nuclear annihilation, on further thought...)

Not going to lie, I have no idea why Ukraine fights so hard for Lyman and Severodonetsk. Neither have any particularly strategic value. They’ve both been mostly emptied of civilians, flattened by Russian artillery. But Russia’s gains in the area (like everywhere else on this front) have come at a frightful cost, so perhaps there’s no reason to abandon meticulously created defensive emplacements until they actually need to abandon them? Russia is certainly telegraphing uncertainty about its ability to capture the city, leading to those disastrous bridging attempts to surround Severodonetsk.


Those rash, desperate river crossings underscore just how important Severodonetsk is to Russia’s war planners at the moment. It clearly needs a victory to parade on state TV, to motivate flagging morale, and to give its aimless slog purpose. The victory doesn’t need to be strategic. In reality, it would be an even smaller target than its already shrunken territorial ambitions:

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The April 2022 arrows mark the administrative border of the Donbas region, Russia’s supposed goal after it lost the Battle of Kyiv.

Russia is running out of troops and heading to the point of culmination, a word you’ll be hearing more and more—the point where an army is so degraded that it can no longer fight. Ukraine went on the counter-offensive around Kharkiv, and Russia had nothing. This supposedly mighty superpower, the world’s second-best army, pathetically retreated in the face of lightly armed territorial defense troops. Russia couldn’t even muster any reserves from Belgorod, just a stone’s throw away. They’re running on fumes.


Russian private military companies are reportedly forming combined units with airborne elements due to significant losses in manpower. Denaturing elite airborne units with mercenaries is shocking, and would be the clearest indication yet that Russia has exhausted its available combat-ready manpower reserves. The Russian 810th Guards Naval Infantry Brigade is reportedly receiving personnel from other Black Sea Fleet units, including navy ship crewmembers. Newly formed or regrouped units are unlikely to be effective in combat.

Russia has had to withdraw at least some of its forces from the Izyum salient—its largest concentration of troops in all of Ukraine with about 20-25% of its total battalion tactical groups—to guard its critical supply hub at Kupiansk. Russia shouldn’t overly sweat it, because Ukraine is pressing directly on Izyum instead from the west and likely its northwest.

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Ukrainian forces get closer to Izyum, as can be seen by the fire scars of battle captured by NASA satellites.

NASA FIRMS satellite imagery is quiet today, but it’s also been raining. Cloud cover can obscure sensors, and wet conditions can suppress fires. Or maybe everyone took Sunday off, who knows. Fog of war, and all.

Meanwhile, Russia is having a tough time with people doing shit despite its threats. There’s Kyrgyzstan:



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Finland and Sweden, of course:



There was Poland.



And Iceland…



They’re threatening UK:



They even threaten a singing competition.




Russia is a bankrupt nation with a bankrupt army and a bankrupt leader who has lost his mind. They dominated their region and struck fear into its neighbors by pretending to have a functioning superpower-class military. Instead, the only acceptable responses to threats like the ones above look like this:


 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Feb 6, 2014
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Ukraine update: Someone managed to cross the Siverskyi Donets River, but it's not Russia
Mark Sumner

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Ukrainian soldier stares across a much smaller destroyed bridge near Ruska Lozova, north of Kharkiv, May 16, 2022.

The Siverskyi Donets River has already played an outsized role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. East of Izyum, Russian forces attempted to cross the river three times with disastrous consequences that kos has documented in detail. In the east, Ukrainian forces in Severodonetsk, the last Ukrainian stronghold on the east side of the river, may be forced to move back to the west bank of the river, using its natural protection to halt a Russian advance. In the north, Ukrainian forces moving northeast from Kharkiv raced to the town of Staryi Saltiv in an attempt to capture the bridge there, then bombarded a sequence of towns further north in hopes of finding an intact crossing that would allow them to bring forces to the east side of the river, menacing Russian supply lines.

Unfortunately, Russia blew up that series of bridges in the north, just as Ukrainian forces have taken down several bridges in the east. It may have seen that Ukrainian forces were just as hemmed in by the river’s rapid flow, which has been bolstered by recent spring rains, as the Russians have been in their own attempts to cross.

Except … maybe not. Because it seems that Ukraine has crossed the river anyway, and at a position that could be incredibly important: Staryi Saltiv.


The bridge at Staryi Saltiv is incredibly long, over a kilometer and a half, because the river there is not a river but a lake—a reservoir held back by a large hydroelectric dam. So of all the places that Ukraine might cross, at first glance this would seem among the least likely. However, from the moment Ukraine maneuvered around other villages and shocked Russian forces by capturing Staryi Saltiv, Ukraine began an artillery bombardment of the area directly along the eastern end of that bridge. It certainly seemed that they had some interest in what was going on across the river.

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Reported Ukrainian bridgehead at Staryi Saltiv.

Every single village and town on this map was held by Russia when the Ukrainian advance out of Kharkiv (just off map to the left) began three weeks ago. That little curve of yellow line represents the actual border, where Ukrainian forces posed for a picture on Sunday before installing a bright new boundary marker.

Now there are reports that Ukraine has sufficiently repaired the lengthy bridge to move forces across and establish a bridgehead on the eastern bank. There are even reports that Ukraine has moved out from that location to capture two nearby villages. None of this has officially been confirmed by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. However, it is coming from some of the reliable sources that first reported the Ukrainian advance on Ternova last week. There are other, even less confirmed reports that Ukraine may have crossed the river at another point further north, using a pontoon bridge. Take both of these reports with a good dash of salt, but since there are Russian Telegram messages complaining about the Ukrainian forces on “their” side of the river, maybe not that much salt.

From this bridgehead, Ukraine could go … just about anywhere. They might move north to threaten the rail and road junction at Vovchansk. They might move southeast toward the even more critical supply depot at Kupyansk. Mostly they are loose in Russia’s backfield, able to maneuver toward towns and cities in a way that will require Russia to turn still more forces away from the salient at Izyum, or the battles in the east.


In fact, former Russian military officer Igor Girkin, who is still stinging from the fact that he didn’t become the leader of the Donetsk area after the 2014 invasion, reports that Ukrainian forces on the east side of the river are already probing toward Vovchansk.



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Russia’s primary response to the wave of Ukrainian advances from Kharkiv has been to withdraw its forces across the border. Only in a very few remaining villages are Russian forces continuing to fight west of the Donets rather than simply move on. However, just because Russia is pulling out of the Kharkiv area doesn’t mean the Ukrainian forces that won back that area are content to simply sit on the recaptured land.

Now Ukraine is threatening Russian supply lines in the rear. And Ukraine is pushing hard against the Izyum salient in a series of attacks that seem designed to destroy Russian forces positioned there. And Ukraine is continuing to keep Russian advances in the east to a snail’s pace. And Ukraine is feeling much more free to involve its air force directly in combat (even though Russia claims to have somehow shot down dozens of Ukrainian jets in just the last week).
............

If you’ve wondered why Girkin is allowed to speak so openly about Russian disasters while still being in Russian-controlled territory—and frequently passing along images of Russian equipment or troops shuffling from place to place—here are a few ideas.







 
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Ten Thousan Marbles

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Feb 6, 2014
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Monday, May 16, 2022 · 1:13:28 PM EDT · Mark Sumner
Reports on Ukrainian activities east of the river are coming in fast and with a lot of conflicting details at this point. For example, here’s one that leans heavily on the idea that Ukraine crossed well north of Staryi Saltiv and is harassing villages in that area.



Here’s another that reports the crossing at both locations, as well as the capture of Zarichne, which would be a significant expansion of Ukraine’s position on the eastern bank.



Perhaps the best confirmation is the number of angry texts from Russians who seem extremely concerned about what’s going on to the north while they’re all marching to the south.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Feb 6, 2014
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Russia says evacuation of badly wounded Ukrainian forces from Mariupol's Azovstal plant has begun

The Russian Defense Ministry says the evacuation of wounded Ukrainian forces from the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol has begun.

Russian network RT has shown video of about 10 to 12 buses leaving the plant. The buses appear to be a mixture of hospital and ordinary transport — some are marked with a red cross.

Media outlets in the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic showed at least one wounded fighter on a stretcher arriving at a hospital in the region late Monday. The fighter did not speak and there was no way to confirm his identity.

"On May 16th, as a result of negotiations with representatives of Ukrainian servicemen blocked on the territory of the Azovstal Metallurgical Plant in Mariupol, an agreement was reached on the removal of the wounded," the ministry said, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.

"Currently, a ceasefire regime has been established in the area of the enterprise and a humanitarian corridor has been opened, through which wounded Ukrainian servicemen are being delivered to a medical facility in Novoazovsk, Donetsk People's Republic, to provide them with all the necessary assistance," the statement continues.

Novoazovsk is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Mariupol.

In a brief statement late Monday, the Azov regiment — one of the Ukrainian army’s units in Mariupol — announced that: "In order to save lives, the entire Mariupol garrison is implementing the approved decision of the Supreme Military Command and hopes for the support of the Ukrainian people."

"The defenders of Mariupol fulfilled the order, despite all the difficulties, and distracted the overwhelming forces of the enemy for 82 days," it continued.

It did not provide any further details.