Tom Cooper: the results of the grandiose Russian offensive on Bakhmut look pretty meager
Good morning everybody! Battlefields of Ukraine are actually ‘dormant’ for about a month now — in the sense of (contrary to quite a few claims) neither side managing any major advances — but, let’s check what’s going on and where, and if there are any significant ‘news’.
I’ll start with the diplomatic plan because something like ‘news of the day’ the last few days was a big article in the Washington Post, blaming Zelensky for refusing to take the threat of the Russian invasion seriously enough, and thus failing to prepare Ukraine for this war. The journos there in the DC thus seem to be joining the growing army of Ukrainians blaming Zelensky for this…
No doubt, ‘even’ Zelensky ‘admitted’ he was downplaying the threat: says, he was trying to prevent panic and the collapse of the Ukrainian economy. Thus, the situation is kind of, ‘well, we need not even saying that, with hindsight, there’s no doubt the US intel was right, and there’s no doubt Zelensky was wrong — or at least that he failed to mobilise the ZSU and bring it into positions, on time’.
That said, I’m an Austrian and have a slightly different point of view about all of this.
Please mind that, although ‘staunchly neutral’, we Austrians are not only preoccupied sweeping under carpet all the affairs caused by idiots in our armed forces, intelligence services, and politics being bribed from Fool in Moscow’s slush funds, but are housing one of biggest NSA-bases in Europe, too.
Therefore, I find it my duty to remind our Transatlantic….allies that after 20 years of hogwash about ‘Iraqi WMDs’, ‘progress and improvement in Afghanistan’, elections of a fascist for president, never-ending-daydreaming about ‘Leftist/Marxist take-overs’, and similar…. as of late the last-, and early this year, the US intel community simply had no credibility left.
Big surprise, wasn’t it…?
Furthermore, I’m always pro considering all the people being equal. Thus, if the NSA can spend more money and time into espionaging all of us and our economies than hunting terrorists, the last 20 years, then it is the right of our intel service here in the EU — and especially in Austria (and Germany) to kill themselves while trying to outdo it, and the CIA, and the DIA in being misused for political purposes and corporate interests. And, and: why should our corrupt politicians make better use of the intelligence they’re provided with, than the corrupt US politicians do?
Therefore, if the US oligarchy can pay its intel to spread science fiction about ‘Saddam’s mobile bio-labs’ and ‘everything’s fine in Afghanistan’, why shouldn’t our oligarchy — which remains up to eyebrows in bed with Putin’s gas and oil, and/or is still daydreaming about something like times and power of the Austro-Hungarian Empire — pay our HNA (and German BND) into conclusion that ‘Putin would never do something as irrational’ (as invading Ukraine)?
If one considers that, then it’s no surprise if the director of the BND was ‘caught with pants down’, in Kyiv, on 24 February, while busy convincing Zelensky that Putin wouldn’t attack. The only surprise is that he wasn’t accompanied by the director of the HNA…. And why should the HNA then stop ‘clicking on like’ whenever the VSRF captures another of Ukrainian backyards? On the contrary, it’s rather surprising both have ceased to expect an imminent collapse of the ZSU — and, well, with all this in mind, conclusion is unavoidable that exercising corresponding influence upon ‘certain people further East’ was simply unavoidable. And, when somebody like Zelensky then gets at least as much ‘no, he will not’-intel, as ‘yes, he will’… sigh…hope, you’ve got the picture by now…
Following a series of spontaneous combustions at different Russian air bases and ammunition depots in the occupied Crimea, RUMINT has it the VKS has evacuated surviving aircraft from the Saki AB. But, don’t worry: the empire hit back. In style and in fashion. Yesterday in the morning, Tu-22M3s of the VKS deployed two Kh-22s to hit Zatoka, south of Odessa. By side that this is a sort of confirmation for VKS having next to no stocks of Kh-22s left (must’ve found these two in some corner of Klyuchi AB, on Kamchatka, or somewhere further north…): the Keystone cops claimed killing ‘over 300 Ukrainian militants’. Guess, this is a confirmation that vocabulary there is nowadays including such terms like ‘militant Ukrainian kids’ and ‘extremist Ukrainian pensioners’ — then I simply have no idea what else should they have targeted in that place….
Equally of ‘military importance’ were Kh-59-strikes on Mykolaiv: two added to the demolition of the Petro Mohyla Black Sea National University (‘militant university’?), yesterday. There was a report that another hit something in the port, but couldn’t find any details.
BATTLE OF DONBAS
Kharkiv…the last two days the city was hit heavier than for weeks before. At least 8 were killed and 18 injured yesterday; more civilian casualties have been reported this morning. The Keystone Cops in Moscow even deployed a Kalibr cruise missile to hit a (‘militant’) apartment building in the Saltivskyi District, and then hit a (‘militant’) dormitory, too…
Regarding who is holding what: the frontline is meanwhile heavily fortified by both sides, and runs from Sosnivka to Prudyanka, Dementiivka (both held by Ukrainians), to Velyki Prokhody (no man’s land) over to Male Vesele, Ternova, to Rubizhne (all held by the Russians).
South-east of Kharkiv, last month the Russians took Ukrainians by surprise by advancing from Chkalovske via Nova Hnyiytsya to Hrakove. Ukrainians stopped them only in Rtyshchivka. Ever since, the Russians are shelling Bazalivka and Lebyazhe. This is unpleasant for Ukrainians for the Russians pushed them back to the verge of effective M777 range to Kupyansk.
Izium….north-west of the town, Ukrainians (which is: 3rd Tank Brigade, equipped with T-72s) were not doing well in the Balakliia area, the last few weeks. Lost several villages there. Which is bolstering my impression that Ukrainian tank brigades are, generally, not doing that well in this war. At least it appears that both Airborne Assault and Mech brigades of the ZSU are doing much better than Tank units. Right now, don’t know the precise reason: sure, outfits like the 3rd and 4th Tank were ‘only recently’ (see: since 2019) reformed from reservist- to regular status. However, artillery-wise, they’re all supposed to include the same number of guns and multiple rocket launchers.
Why that impression? Well, while the 3rd Tank has its problems with holding the frontline of 4–5km width south-east of Kharkiv and north of Izium, south of Izium, the 93rd Mech smashed another Russian BTG as this drove in between Virnopillya and Brazhivka to attack Nova Dmytrivka, the last two days. South-east of Izium: after being forced out of Dovhenke (i.e. prevented from returning there, in the aftermath of a counterattack by the 93nd Mech, late the last month), the VSRF is mining all around the place. Further south east: ruins of Krasnopillya, Bohorodichne and Tetyanivka are all safely in Ukrainian hands (indeed, the Russians have been pushed out and away from all three). Check the map: that’s as sector of something like 30km, in which a single Mech brigade is running amok for a full month now. Of course, the mass of details remains unknown, but my most conservative estimate is that within this period the 93rd demilitarised a total of three Russian BTGs — and that in exchange for 1 (in letters: one) BMP confirmed as destroyed.
Siversk…contrary to announcements/expectations of diverse experts (who were claiming that Zaluzhny requested permission from Zelensky to withdraw completely from the area north-east of Sloviansk and Bakhmut), the frontline there appears stabile for weeks already. Surely enough, Russians are continuously probing and running ‘reconnaissance in force’, but the 10th Mountain and two TD brigades appear not to have any problems with holding them fixed in place. It’s a lil bit different further south.
Bakhmut….lets start with Soledar….for most of the last 4–5 weeks, the Russians were grinding themselves through approaches to this village, heavily fortified by a battalion of the 80th Airborne Assault Brigade. I lost the count of how often they claimed it as captured, long ago. Yesterday it turned out they — which is: at least one PMC BTG — have only now, ‘finally’, reached south-eastern outskirts, where fighting is run house-to-house-style. Ukrainian positions in Bakhmutske (held by one of Ukrainian volunteer units) further south, are under severe pressure, too.
In Bakhmut, the 58th Motor Infantry has managed to stop the Russian advance into the eastern outskirts of the town, about two weeks ago.
Further south, the 72nd Mech is under severe pressure in Zaitseve and Kodema for at least a week now. Think the Russians claimed the capture of Zaitseve some 4–5 times by now, but actually alone securing Vershyna remains a major problem for them. With other words: the outlooks of a rapid Russian advance on Bakhmut and beyond, are quite meagre right now.
LOC… as indicated in my summaries about fighting early during this month, holding the old frontlines in the Donetsk area was no ‘fun’ for Ukrainians, the last few weeks. The Russians were shelling and assaulting places like New York/NIu York, Avdiivka, Pisky, Krasnohorivka, Marinka etc. really ‘like crazy’. Now, the first two are still holding out. Problem is that the Russians are driving a wedge in between them: have secured Novoselivka Druha, the last week and then have taken Opytne.
Further south, northern Pisky appears to be no-man’s land meanwhile (i.e. the 56th Mech was, finally, forced out of the place), but attacks on Vodyane and Nevelske have been repelled.
At least as worrisome is the situation in Novomykhalivka: since the Russians have secured Solodke, the place is now under assaults from two directions (east and south), not just one. Moreover, the Separatists have certainly reached the road connecting Novomykhalivka with Pavlivka, further south-west. With other words: it appears they are through the best Ukrainian fortifications in this area.
AFAIK, this sector is held by the Ukrainian 53rd Mech, which — from memory — suffered significant losses already back in late February and early March. Sure, this is a big formation (four mech battalions, at least one tank battalion, and the anti-aircraft element even operates Tunguskas), but it’s in constant combat for six months, and has never been significantly reinforced (so much so, I doubt it’s got any of M777s, or has enough UAVs): or, if at all, then with help of all the T-72s it has captured in the meantime. With other words: it’s time for the GenStab-U to start ‘doing something, down there’ — instead of ignoring the area in its reports.
Southern Zaporizhzhya… not much news — except for the Russians mining approaches to all the villages along the frontline.
Melitopol….Russian HQs and depots in the town are hit with such regularity, and the VSRF suffering such losses, and their military authorities so certain of their ability to retain control over the town, that they’re meanwhile distributing pamphlets providing advice on how to survive HIMARS-strikes.
Kherson… sigh… Ukrainian artillery — meanwhile reinforced by Sweden-supplied FH77 — is shelling the Russians so heavily, that the RUMINT has it all the last intact bridges over the Dnipro have been knocked out, and both the 49th CAA and the XXII AC have withdrawn their headquarters to the eastern side, meanwhile…. and that all the Russian counterattacks on the Ukrainian ‘Bilohirka Bridgehead’ (south of Davydiv Brid) have been repelled with heavy loss.
But, in turn, Ukrainians did not manage to make any ground for some 3–4 weeks, either: indeed, meanwhile my impression is that — especially in the Bilohirka area — both sides remain ‘insistent on investing into a failure’.