More to ignore, Book 61........

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Ukraine update: The beginning of a breakthrough, the brink of disaster, or neither of the above
Mark Sumner

This morning, U.S. Ambassador Bridget Brink is back in Kyiv and has clearly adopted the appropriate Zelenskyy-inspired dress code. The return of U.S. embassy to Kyiv pretty much brings things back to full strength on a diplomatic front with a few exceptions … like Russia.

Meanwhile, Ukraine continues its counteroffensive northwest of Kherson. As of Sunday, Ukrainian forces had moved against Russian positions on at least three points of the line. Some reports indicated that this offensive had rapidly penetrated 9km or more beyond positions as they were understood last week.

The big question is: Is the Kherson counteroffensive the start of a general collapse of Russian forces in the area, as in the Battle of Kyiv, or is it a relatively small counteroffensive whose achievements may be momentarily spectacular, but not enough to shift momentum of the invasion, like the previous counteroffensive at Kharkiv?

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Kherson area showing initial points of Ukrainian counteroffensive

KHERSON​

Reports now indicate that Ukrainian forces have recaptured Mykolayivka at the northwest end of the Russian occupied area and have struck against Russian troops in neighboring Ivanivka. Southwest of that position by 30km, Ukrainian forces that crossed the Inhulets River at Davydiv Brid are holding that city and have moved to recapture multiple villages in the area while pushing Russian forces to what appears to be the new front line at Bruskynske. And 30km southwest of that position, Ukrainian forces have moved to recapture the town of Snihurivka, which holds a significant crossroads north of Kherson. Some reports indicate Ukrainian troops have already captured Snihurivka, and have even reported that Russian forces surrendered, but there are almost certainly speculative. Most indications are that conflict in Snihurivka continues.

One thing you can’t see is any of this activity on NASA’s FIRMS instruments. In this case, those blank fire maps don’t seem to be because of weather. They’re blank because Ukraine is not assaulting these towns with a barrage of artillery before moving in. They’re trying to take positions reasonably intact; a huge contrast with the Russian technique of blasting everything to rubble before trying to capture a location.

Like the counteroffensive north of Kharkiv that began a month ago, Ukraine seems to be moving quickly and at multiple points. If the action near Kherson mirrors that around Kharkiv, the establishment of these multiple points of contact will be accompanied by consolidation in some areas, continued fast movement in others. Ukraine will keep probing for weaknesses, grabbing back what it can, going around Russian strongpoints where possible, and hitting locations that may be unexpected.

However, it’s unclear just how far Ukraine can push this counteroffensive. North of Kharkiv, after two weeks of astounding progress that saw Ukrainian forces pushing Russia back to the border at Ternova and threatening Russian supply lines east of Staryi Saltiv, Ukrainian movements seem to have ended. Ukraine has successfully defended their gains, including holding back repeated Russian assaults on Ternova, but it’s not known if they still hold any territory on the east side of the Siverskyi Donets River, or that they’ve made any further progress in dislodging Russian forces from their remaining locations on the west side of the river.


The whole operation in the Kharkiv area took place under an admirable blanket of operational secrecy. That made achievements like the capture of Staryi Saltiv, the race to Ternova, and putting Ukrainian forces on the east side of the river possible. But it makes it impossible to know why the counteroffensive seems to be over. Did Ukraine suffer enough losses that it had to regroup? Did the MOD determine that some of the troops involved were needed elsewhere? Did Ukraine simply achieve its goals by moving Russian forces away from the city of Kharkiv and forcing relocation of Russian troops from Izyum. We don’t know.

Is the long-promised counteroffensive near Kherson also meant to achieve limited objectives, or to force Russia to withdraw forces from the conflict in the east? Stay tuned.

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Kharkiv area, Ukraine likely no longer active east of river

KHARKIV​

It seems less possible than ever to accurately map positions near Kharkiv because reports on activity from either side have become so sparse.

On May 22, Ukrainian forces had apparently pushed Russian troops out of Zarchine and Metalivka north of the Staryi Saltiv bridge and were contesting for the town of Buhaivka. Those reports first appeared in Telegram statements from Russian forces in the area and were later confirmed by Ukrainian source. However, reports that Ukraine had repaired the bridge at Staryi Slativ or built a pontoon bridge near Rubizhne were never confirmed. How they got a significant force to the east bank remains a mystery. Those east of the river locations are shown here as still in dispute, but with the lack of reported activity, Ukraine may have withdrawn forces from the area.

Meanwhile, Russia appears to still be shelling Ukrainian positions from Vesele and locations NW of Lyptsi. Areas around Kozacha Lopan have been fortified. Russia has launched numerous attempts to retake areas, but Rubizhne appears to be the only town formerly reoccupied by Ukraine that is now in dispute. There were recent reports of a “platoon sized” skirmish near Starytsya, but that location remains under Russian occupation.

The potential is there for Ukraine to resume a counteroffensive in the area. Compared to the line west of Kherson, the area between Kharkiv and the Russian border is a very compact battlefield, where a small change in resources could make a big difference. However, for now the area appears relatively stable as both sides are busy in eastern Ukraine.


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Russia reportedly massing forces along border near Sumy

SUMY​

For about a week, there have been reports that Russian forces have been relocating from bases around Kursk to along the border with Sumy near the Russian town of Sudzha. These actions have come as Russian-controlled media outlets have repeated statements that Russia still intends to return to Kyiv and to capture all of Ukraine.

Is this an absolute feint, in the style of constantly having Belarus shift soldiers around while never bringing one across the border? It seems likely. For Russia to open up another area of conflict around Sumy doesn’t make any sense for them strategically other than as an effort to draw Ukrainian forces away from significant areas. And it could be as simple as “they keep distracting us with Kharkiv and Kherson, now we’re going to distract them!”

It’s likely that Ukraine will not shift significant forces to meet this threat unless they have intelligence indicating that there’s genuine action. There are territorial defense forces in the region, so Russia isn’t going to just drive down the highway to Sumy without a confrontation.


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Ukraine takes a small area west of Izyum, but Russian pressure continues to the east

IZYUM​

Izyum is standing in here not just for the Izyum salient, but the whole of eastern Ukraine. And it’s this area that the world is focused on for the moment.

Ukrainian forces appear to have captured the town of Velyka Komyshuvakha west of Izyum. This could be the start of turning what had been a hit-and-run counteroffensive in the area into the same sort of push seen first at Kharkiv and now at Kherson. Izyum was once home to 27 Russian Battalion Tactical Groups, but at this point well over half of those BTGs are absent. Some were sent north when it seemed Ukraine might threaten supply lines. Some have joined in the push at Severodonetsk. Some have simply been forced to leave and regroup after those Ukrainian attacks beat holy hell out of them.

Russia is still moving out of Izyum, managing to capture small areas to both the south and east as they push toward joining up with forces at Lyman. But if nothing else, Ukrainian attacks may make them turn around and look west.

However, the big action remains around Severodonetsk. Russian forces have reportedly occupied between a third and half of the town. Ukrainian troops put out a series of videos showing them moving peacefully through parts of the town to counter Russian propaganda that Severodonetsk had already fallen. However, there is no doubt that the pressure cooker is at a critical point. Russia has control of suburban areas on all sides and the concentation of forces is high.

Writing in the Ukrainian edition of Forbes, war reporter Ilya Ponomarenko paints the moment in terms that can only be described as dire ((translated using Google translate):


After weeks without progress, Russia has made important progress and brought Ukraine to the brink of a major catastrophe
The actions of Ukrainian troops forced the Russians to engage in extremely bloody and grueling urban battles in Severodonetsk. The tactical success of the Russians near Popasnaya in late May is really worrying. Russia managed to strengthen its marine units, as well as the 57th Motorized Rifle Brigade and the Wagnerians, break through the defenses of the Ukrainians and pass Popasna.

While Ukraine has since pushed back on some of the advances Russia made out of Popasna, Ponomarenko calls the speed of Russian movements in the area “ a very dangerous development.” Russia, he reports, enjoys a “ superiority in manpower, heavy weapons and air support” that is making the situation untenable for Ukraine.

According to Ponomarenko, the possibility that as many as 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers could be “trapped, cut off from unoccupied Ukraine, and possibly exhausted and destroyed” is very real.

If so, it would be a genuine disaster, not just in terms of forces lost, but in the victory it would hand to Putin and the unmistakable defeat it would give Ukraine. It would demonstrate that, no matter how poor their equipment has been, no matter how badly they have juggled logistics or command, and no matter how many times rumors spread that Russian forces were in despair, Russia can still execute its One Tactic: blow it up with artillery, then walk over it.

As reports continue to come in of Russia capturing more and more of Severodonetsk, perhaps the most frightening sign is how few locations in the city are currently being hit by artillery as indicated by NASA’s FIRMS data. In other areas, that kind of reduction in the number of strikes signaled Russia turning off the guns and rolling in the tanks. At this hour (12 ET on Tuesday), Russian forces are reportedly moving through the town block by block.


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Severodonetsk FIRMS data for May 30-31

On the other hand, there’s something interesting in the FIRMS data — a cluster of what looks to be very recent hits near Borovenky about 9km to the north. It doesn’t make sense for Russia to be firing into this location … so who is? Of course, this whole area is in easy artillery range for guns across the river at Lysychansk.


There are multiple reports on Tuesday that signal Ukraine may be about to depart Severodonesk—a territorial loss that clearly carries a huge significance for both sides. However, it’s not worth losing a major portion of the Ukrainian army. Losing Severodonesk would be bad. Losing the defenders of Severodonesk would be a real disaster.

But in any case, this is not looking to be a good day on the extreme right of the Ukraine map.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Feb 6, 2014
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MAGA Rep. Ronny Jackson claims he was Dick Cheney's doctor. Cheney's actual doctor would like a word
Aldous J Pennyfarthing

Dr. Ronny Jackson, the medieval alchemist turned Texas congressman who transformed an unctuous wad of id into a golden Adonis with a few strokes of his magic pen, has presumably been caught in yet another big MAGA fib.

Rep. Jackson, who infamously remarked that Donald Trump could live to be 200 if he’d spent less time beer-bonging Shamrock Shakes and lightly pureed Quarter Pounders (I’m paraphrasing), recently tried to take credit for Dick Cheney’s continued good health—which is a bit like bragging that you keep Heinrich Himmler’s consciousness on a Hello Kitty thumb drive and upload it to the internet whenever you need a fourth player for Mario Kart.

But hey, who really knows what appeals to Republican voters these days, other than rampant chaos and election fraud fantasies?
..........
Because Rep. Liz Cheney—Dick Cheney’s daughter—had the temerity to claim Donald Trump came up short in an election he most definitely lost, the MAGA mob is all over her, like flies on Mike Pence. They want her to lose her upcoming primary for Wyoming’s lone House seat, and they’re pulling out all the lies to make that happen.

One such liar is Jackson, who, it appears, either has false memories of examining Dick Cheney’s nude body in excruciating clinical detail or is simply lying about having done so. Either way … ew.

“I, like many Republicans in my party, have tried my best to stay out of this. I had a relationship with the Cheneys, as you know,” Rep. Jackson, who flew to Wyoming over the weekend as part of Trump’s Liz Cheney Vendetta Tour, told the Washington Examiner. “I took care of them when I first got to the White House. I was her father's doctor for a while, I took care of her and her family, and I tried my best to just stay out of this. But it's gotten to the point now where I have to speak out, I have to say something. And that’s one of the reasons that I'm here tonight is because we are done.”

I’ve never understood people who lie for no reason. Does saying you treated a candidate’s father give your mealy takes any more credibility than they had before falsely claiming you told Dick Cheney to turn his head and cough? Doubtful, but here we are.

Unfortunately for Jackson, Cheney’s actual doctor was available to set the record straight.

A Cheney spokesperson denied Jackson's claims, saying in a statement to the Washington Examiner, "Ronny Jackson was not Vice President Cheney’s doctor, nor was he the Cheney family doctor. For the eight years he was Vice President, Dr. Jon Reiner was his cardiologist and Dr. Lew Hofman was Vice President Cheney’s White House physician.”
Reiner tweeted in response to this report, concurring with Cheney's representative. "Actually I was the VP’s doctor for all 8 years and Ronny had nothing to do with him," he said.

Here’s that tweet:



Of course, MAGA mites don’t—and presumably can’t—back down from their lies. They double down. And the tweet from Cheney’s actual doctor—who also co-authored a book with the former vice president—almost immediately set off a Twitter spat between Jackson and Reiner.




And then it got a wee bit personal …




So we’ve definitely got a he said-he said situation here. Whom to believe? Hmm. I don’t know—maybe the guy who wasn’t the subject of that scathing inspector general report that cited “sexual and denigrating” behavior toward a female subordinate, as well as problematic alcohol and drug use? Or whose behavior wasn’t described “with words and phrases such as ‘meltdowns,’ 'yells for no reason,’ ‘rages,’ ‘tantrums,’ ‘lashes out,’ and ‘aggressive.’”

Maybe—just maybe—folks should take that dude’s assertions with a grain of salt. And a shot of tequila. But not—and this is key—if you happen to be an on-duty White House physician.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Feb 6, 2014
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Ukraine update: Russia is losing every day, but the cost of making them lose is painfully high
Mark Sumner

GettyImages-1241020712.jpg


In looking at this article in the Ukrainian edition of Forbes, the biggest concern the author displays is about the consequences of losing Severodonetsk and the possibility that thousands of Ukrainian troops could be cut off and destroyed unless Ukraine pulls back in time. However, the sentence that’s likely to be both frustrating and frightening for many Western readers may be this one:

Russia's superiority in manpower, heavy weapons and air support poses significant problems for Ukraine.

Three months into Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion, Oryx has definitively recorded the loss of 4192 pieces of Russian equipment. That includes 742 tanks, 1453 armored infantry transports and fighting vehicles, and 251 piece of artillery or MLRS. According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, Russia has lost over 27,000 soldiers. According to the U.K. Ministry of Defense and the Pentagon, Russia has lost between one-third and one-half of all the forces it sent into Ukraine.

Every single day we’re getting images of Russian equipment going boom and stories of Russian forces being shuffled back into the motherland after losing so many men, machines, or both that they’re no longer effective — and this is no longer effective by the standards of people who have been feeding units piecemeal into a sausage grinder for months. These are units that are pre-ground. So ground-down they’re not worth grinding again.

With all that in mind, how in the seven hells can Russia still have a “superiority in manpower, heavy weapons and air support”?

Well, they started with more. And for all Russia’s much-deserved reputation for being unable to juggle the logistics of a children’s birthday party, they’ve proven they can maintain a supply line so long as the length of that line is effectively zero. Russia is fighting Ukraine in an area directly adjacent to the territory it has controlled for eight years, right on top of stockpiles of equipment and ammunition, at a point where “fresh” tanks can roll right in over Russian rail lines … so long as “fresh” means last seen outside a warehouse before the fall of the Soviet Union. They’ve also demonstrated that, while Ukrainian pilots may easily take down a Russian pilot in a dogfight, and Ukrainian air defenses may be far from dead, Russian planes can still contribute to a fight, especially if they can do so while still flying over Russia.

It doesn’t matter if all your equipment falls apart before it can go thirty miles if it only has to go ten.

Russian equipment is poorly maintained and subject to both the depredations of greed and incompetence. Russian troops are poorly trained and short on leaders who have expertise in anything other than ordering yachts. Russia has been pushing their forces to make advances while lacking the necessary numbers to overcome dug in defenses and as a result, taking heavy losses. How many people and how many machines can they still have?

Enough. The answer is that, so far at least, they have enough. There is a point at which a tactic of overwhelming the opponent by hurling bodies at their guns fails, but Russia is not there yet. They may not get there before Ukraine is forced to surrender significant areas in the east.

A big part of the reason is that Ukraine has also been suffering heavy casualties. We don’t know the numbers, other than the 1,116 pieces of equipment lost. But we’ve known from the beginning that they were outnumbered, and while the West has been pouring weapons into Ukraine since the invasion began, kos was upfront about what that meant from the beginning: Every one of those systems comes with its own issues with supplies, maintenance, and training. Systems don’t get to the battlefront overnight, and if they do, they’re largely ineffective.

The list of heavy weaponry supplied to Ukraine is starting to look pretty healthy, and some of it—like 270+ tanks—is very similar to the gear that was already in service with the UA military. But dealing with everything from four different families of APCs to seven different types of self-propelled guns doesn’t come without effort. There is no instant fix.

In addition to tracking the gear that’s been destroyed during the invasion, Oryx took a look all the way back in March into what equipment the Ukrainian military really needed to match up with Russia. The conclusion then was the same as that voiced by Ukrainian officials now:


… to protect Ukrainian assets on the ground and make sure Russia does not attain aerial superiority, it is in dire need of more potent air defence assets. Although MANPADS (both foreign-delivered and Ukrainian) have been devastatingly effective in the conflict, longer ranged systems would allow defenders more freedom on friendly territory, in effect enabling more effective defence and counter attack.

Right now, Russia has more planes and helicopters, and when operating from positions along the border, they can provide support while experiencing relatively lower risk (though, as the two Russian helicopters taken out in the last two days would illustrate, “lower” doesn’t mean “low”). That needs to change, and getting more long range air defense weaponry near the front line is the way to do it. Ukraine also needs to be able to effectively take out Russian air defenses if it is going to be effective in launching counteroffensives.

But the even more important weapon category where Ukraine comes up short continues to be in the artillery / MLRS camp. Right now, it seems that every NATO member has promised Ukraine some form of artillery—either towed or self-propelled. Fortunately, a lot of those systems are throwing the same NATO-standardized ammo, so the supply chains are as complicated as the number of models might suggest, but when Ukraine is getting: 20 152mm ShKH vz. 77 DANA, 20+ 122mm 2S1 Goździk, 6 155mm Caesar, 12 155mm PzH 2000, 20 155mm M109A3GN, 18 155mm AHS Krab , and 8 155mm ShKH Zuzana 2 … how do you arrange this gear? That’s just the self-propelled guns, and the complexity of training, supplying, and supporting them is already daunting.

That’s not to suggest that any of this equipment is less than vital, that Ukraine doesn’t need it all, or that NATO allies are drowning Ukraine in white elephants. It means that rushing down the road to deliver some mixed collection of gear to forces that are desperate for the means to shoot back, but unfamiliar with what’s coming off the back of the truck, may not be helpful.

MLRS systems may be even more vital. The U.S. appears to be ready to box up some systems, but exactly which one they’re sending it’s clear. As absolutely necessary as that equipment may be, it will not be an overnight game changer.

If NATO had started delivering this gear two years ago, Ukraine would have it effectively disseminated throughout its forces and integrated into their tactics. But NATO didn’t and Ukraine doesn’t. It’s all happening under the gun and everyone is going as fast as they can to make up for lost time.

In addition to all this, NATO is not supplying the one thing that Ukraine needs most of all: people.


Throughout this invasion, we’ve all loved seeing Ukrainian forces displaying impossible levels of courage and verve. We’ve watched them dancing while artillery exploded around them, singing under fire, and laughing in the rubble of the cities they were there to defend. They have been incredible. But they are exhausted. They’re are tired of being scared and scared of being tired. They need an opportunity to pull back, to eat a meal where they don’t have to worry about artillery raining down. They need a shower and a good night’s sleep. They need a break.

The only people who can give that to them is Ukraine. Whether Ukraine can give that to them in time is a really good question.
 

Ten Thousan Marbles

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Tuesday, May 31, 2022 · 10:43:58 PM EDT · Mark Sumner
A Russian GRAD-1 MLRS maxes out at 45km. BM-27 about 35km. A TOS-1 only about 10km (reducing cities by the block is their thing, not engaging in long range duels).

Russia does have one MLRS that can theoretically outrange the HIMARS with this ammo — a Tornado-G can do a theoretical 90km. However, most of the Russian systems in Ukraine are GRADs.

With different ammo, the HIMARS can shoot an amazing 300km. But the Pentagon is probably sweating over how Russia would regard that system. For now. If the 80km rockets don’t do it, expect a new load of ammo.

 

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