Russian three-day „special military operation” enters its second year. On this occasion, let us remember that the same “Western experts”, who initially claimed Russia has no plans for invasion then moved to claiming that Kyiv will fall tomorrow… the day after tomorrow… well, maybe next week…, and even today they repeat the same bullmanure, rehashed into “Russia is clearly winning, Ukraine should surrender”.
Four days before the invasion Scott Ritter was still “proving” that there will be no invasion and all the evidence published by USA is “nothing at all”. Via the blog of Caitlin Johnstone.
The last major Russian success was the capture of Lysychansk on 3 July. The elimination of the Lysychansk-Severodonetsk salient allowed Russian army to approach Bakhmut. They started to shell the city on 17 May, and launched a frontal assault in July, resulting in the first success - entering the eastern outskirts of Lumumba street in the industrial zone of the city on 3 August.
Six months later, Bakhmut is the part of the frontline where the Russian army scored its biggest successes.
This success is not particularly impressive. Since August, they managed to capture some other streets, but at the time of writing (23 February) Russians are still unable to hold the western part of Lumumba Street. It must be very long!
Apart from the industrial zone of the city, they managed to capture a few satellite towns and villages around Bakhmut, of which Soledar is the biggest one (pre-war population: 10.000).
Would you buy a used car from these guys? Via Twitter account of Scott Ritter
English Language Russian Propagandists (ELRP) keep forecasting (or even announcing) full encirclement, or at least “operational” encirclement of the city. Since at least 3 months ago, we should expect it tomorrow… the day after tomorrow… maybe next week. At the time of writing: the “road of life” is still beyond Russian reach (even “operational”).
And let me reiterate: this is the place
kilometres, for the last 6 months Russian have experienced mostly defeats.
Sometimes it was a decisive, strategic defeat (such as the Ukrainian blitzkrieg in September 2022, when Russians were routed from the oustkirts of Kharkiv to the outskirts of Kreminna - that’s 200 km in a single campaign!) Sometimes it was more on tactical level, such as the liberation of Kherson, where Russians managed to withdraw in somewhat orderly manner.
Sometimes it was a Verdun-style stalemate, when Russians lost thousands of soldiers and countless pieces of equipment trying to advance - to little or no avail. But still, if you attack the fortress and it holds, it’s a victory for the defenders - not a draw.
Example of the difference between ELRP (above) and RLRP (below). On February 22, ELRP’s were excited about the Russian attack in the north. Huzzah, at last the winter offensive! As usual, it was nothingpierogi.
Russian blogger Starshe Eddy, who has direct sources in this section of the frontline, explained: “In fact, what we’re doing there is ‘active defence’. There are some modest successes, we took some [Ukrainian] points of resistance, but ‘attack’ is a different thing. Let us call everything by the proper names or else we will became victims of our own propaganda”.
Via Twitter channel of Trollstoy (above) and Telegram channel of Starshe Eddy (below)
ELRP (English Language Russian Propagandists - I make this distinction, because Russian language Russian propagandists paint an entirely different picture of the Russian “successes”) keep repeating that the “meat grinders” hit Ukraine more than Russia. How is that even possible?
Neither me nor you (my esteemed reader) know exact data, but seriously, use common sense and imagination. You see trench warfare, much like WW1. One guy, let’s call him Blue, is defending his entrenched position with a machine gun or RPG. The other guy, let’s call him Red, is running across Lumumba street or a barren field, trying to dodge bullets, his only hope for survival is to reach the enemy’s position before he’s killed either by those in front of him, or those behind him.
If you had to trade places with one of them - which one would you choose? Which one seems to have higher life expectancy? How can you even imagine the Blue army losses to be higher than the Red army losses? Magic?
via Twitter account of Big Serge (the author deleted this parcular post but you can see his other tweets from the same day, they are equally hilarious). BTW: the “Ukrainian collapse of Marinka” never happened, the town is still contested. The “entire front” is pretty much where it was in December with very few exeptions.
ELRP’s never answer this question. They just keep on repeating “Russia is winning”, Vuhledar will be “wrapped up” in the next 24 hours, Bakhmut is already surrounded etc. You cannot be this vague when talking to someone who speaks Russian, so RLRP’s judgement is much more sober and grim. Many Russian military bloggers openly write that Russia has already lost this war due to irreparable mistakes made by the supreme command.
A month ago I found an excellent analysis by Volodymyr Dacenko which I will use to sum up the first anniversary of the three day operation. It shows four phases of Russian tactics.
via Twitter account of Volodymyr Dyacenko
They started with a Blitzkrieg, when you throw everything but the kitchen sink at your opponent and keep pushing forward without a care in the world. Because even if you lose a plane or two, even if your units will be out of supply for a couple of days - it doesn’t matter in the greater scheme of things. After all, the only supply your troops really need are the full dress uniforms for the victory parade in Kyiv!
Bliztkrieg turned out to be a disaster. Russia did not expect resistance - and they encountered it not only from Ukrainian troops, but also regular citizens, erecting barricades, blowing up bridges and turning every bottle into a Molotov cocktail. However, there were also some victories, such as the encirclement of Mariupol or the surprise capture of Kherson.
After the retreat from Kyiv in April, Russians trimmed their expectations and switched into “tank breakthrough” tactics (Phase II), similar to classic Soviet assault from WW2. Your artillery turns enemy positions into Martian landscape, where nobody can survive, not even in trenches. And then your tanks finish the job.
This tactics worked for a while, but this is no WW2. You can’t do this without air superiority (which Russia failed to establish in Phase I). The tank columns and artillery shell depots become easy prey for Javelins, Bayraktars and His Majesty King Himars.
This phase ended up in flames in May 2022, with the battle of Siversky Donets - the biggest single failure of Russian army in 80 years. Within a couple of hours they lost hundreds of soldiers and about a hundred of armoured vehicles just because their commanders never thought that in the era of drone warfare, amassing a huge column of vehicles, making it stop to cross the river on makeshift bridges, all while in range of enemy artillery, is a recipe for disaster.
via Twitter account of Volodymyr Dyacenko
Afterwards, Russians switched to even more modest tactics - “probing assault” (Phase III). A small group of armoured vehicles tries to find a weak spot in the enemy lines, and when they do, a small group of elite troops - paratroopers and naval infantry tries to infiltrate it with the armoured support. That was the last major Russian success which was the capture of Lysychansk in July.
This tactics is also costly. If you don’t find a weak spot, you just got yourself more candidates for the posthumous “Hero of Russia” award.
By the end of 2022 Russia entered a fool’s circle. They lost so many tanks, crews and Non Commisioned Officers (all those corporals and sergeants able to turn a bunch of hapless conscripts into a coherent unit), that the attempts to use the probing assault resulted in losing more vehicles, more crews, and more freshly promoted NCO’s. The more they lost, the more they were losing. At the time of writing, the circle is still spinning.
We saw that in the videos of the grotesque incompetent attempts at the “probing assault” in Vuhledar in January/February. Russian tanks are eliminated on a minefield one by one, because their commanders don’t think that if the tank ahead hit a mine, it may not be such a good idea to try to bypass the burning wreckage and check if the next spot is mined, too. It probably is… KA-BOOM!
On another video Russian infantrymen gather in a bunch unaware that a drone is hovering above them. The drone kills all of them with a single grenade. On another - a Russian squad enters the “dachi” (summer cottages) area, where Ukrainian sniper takes them out one by one (screenshot below).
Russian assault team enters the dachi area near Vuhledar. In the following 3 minutes, all of them will be dead or wounded (still from a movie published by Ukrainian forces).
These films were released by the Ukrainian army clearly for their own propaganda purposes. But they are powerful enough for the Russian military bloggers to repost them on their Telegram channels, demanding punishment for general Muradov, responsible for this failure. He was, of course, promoted - because this is how tyranny works, the tyrant is never wrong, ESPECIALLY when he is most obviously wrong.
And thus Russia entered Phase IV: “infantry assault”. Just the good old WW1 style assault by stormtroopers, motivated to push forward by the death squads right behind their backs, who will shoot them if they stop (let alone try to retreat).
Combined with artillery support, this can yield some results. And this is how Evgeny Prigozhin and his infamous Wagner convict-turned-cannon-fodder company made any progress in the vicinity of Bakhmut. At the time of writing, he’s ran out of convicts and he’s running out of shells - as he himself keeps announcing in his emotional public statements.
In his feud with Shoigu, Prigozhin published a photo of a pile of dead wagnerites killed in just one day - 21 February. He says half of them would still be alive if not for the “shell starvation”, caused - as he alleges - by Shoigu boycotting him. Other Russian bloggers, such as Khodakovsky, one of the commanders of the glorious Vuhledar offensive, denied this saying that Prigozhin at long last is simply treated just like the rest.
Notice that some bodies ale half naked. Wagnerites robbed their own dead of warm clothing. After all, death is no reason to waste a cotton padded jacket still in a perfectly good shape!
A pile of dead wagnerites. Via Twitter channel of Anton Gerashchenko. I used his modified photo because pixelation makes it slightly less gruesome. Anyone interested can easily find the original version. Try the wagenerite Telegram channels if you really want the full uncensored picture.
Apparently this gory picture seemed to work, the very next day Prigozhin announced he got another supply of ammunition. But even if he finally captures Bakhmut, will it be a success? The new frontline will be established right behind the city, so this will be a 6-month battle for 5 kilometers of advancement, tops. At this speed Russians won’t reach Kyiv before the end of century.
Maybe offtopic, maybe not. I noticed mention of Lumumba street, name dear to me, because student dorms in Łódź are placed along Lumumba street as well. Name is so attached to them, that whole students' housing area in Łódź is informally named Lumumbowo. Seems like post-soviet nations have dear attachment to this Congolese comrade.
I'm also (cautiously) optimistic, but it's worth noting that Ukraine was really lucky a year ago, as the RUSI report published late last year says: https://www.rusi.org/explore-our-research/publications/special-resources/preliminary-lessons-conventional-warfighting-russias-invasion-ukraine-february-july-2022
If Russia is allowed to try invading again in the future, they'll probably avoid repeating exactly the same mistakes.