When the uber neo-con Institute for the Study of War is conceding, reluctantly, that Russia is carving up the Ukrainians in the Donbas, it is an unmistakable sign that something big is up. Here is the ISW’s spin:
Reinforced Russian air-defense systems in eastern Ukraine are increasingly limiting the effectiveness of Ukrainian drones, undermining a key Ukrainian capability in the war. Russian forces continued to make gains to the south of Lysychansk and will likely reach the city in the coming days, although they are unlikely to quickly capture the Severodonetsk-Lysychansk area. Russian forces continued offensive operations towards Slovyansk and made minor advances. Russian forces intensified efforts to interdict Ukrainian lines of communication along the T1302 Bakhmut-Lysychansk highway in order to support Russian operations towards Lysychansk. Russian forces focused on defensive operations along the Southern Axis and may have made marginal gains within Mykolaiv Oblast. Russian authorities are continuing measures to facilitate the economic integration of occupied areas.
While conceding that Russia is advancing steadily in the Donbass, the ISW folks try to downplay the situation on the ground by insisting the gains are “minor”. They are not minor. The ISW’s analysis reminde me of Leo DiCaprio in the Titanic hanging on to the floating head board of a bed while freezing to death. Here are two examples:
Members of the Russian military community continue to comment on the shortcomings of Russian force generation capabilities, which are having tangible impacts on the morale and discipline of Russians fighting in Ukraine. Ukrainian forces conducted a drone strike (likely with a loitering munition, though this cannot be confirmed) on a Russian oil refinery in Novoshakhtinsk, Rostov Oblast, on June 22.[
And what is ISW’s evidence for Russian shortcomings? A blogger in Russia who claims to be former military. The blogger, Yuri Kotyenok, insists the Russians are press-ganging reluctant “recruits” to reinforce depleted Russian troop strength. For the love of God, will someone let the dispirited, downcast Russian troops (sarcasm alert) know that their progress in the Donbas is illusionary (so implies ISW)?
Here is a clearer picture of what is going on courtesy of the Russian Minister of Defense:
On June 21, an attack launched by high-precision armament of Russian Aerospace Forces resulted in the elimination of up to 500 servicemen of the 59th Mechanised Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU), as well as their armament and military equipment deployed in the workshops of Okean shipyard located in Nikolayev. Ukrainian servicemen of a battalion from the 57th Mechanised Infantry Brigade that had been defending near Gorskoye, Podlesnoye, Vrubovka (Lugansk People’s Republic) refused to obey the order of their command and abandoned all their positions after losing more than 60 per cent of personnel. This night, Ukrainian command evacuated up to 30 wounded and 8 killed American and British mercenaries to prevent their capture by units of the Russian Armed Forces in view of the possible defeat of the units from the 14th and the 24th mechanised brigades near Nikolayevka (Donetsk People’s Republic). Operational-tactical and army aviation have eliminated: 5 munitions depots of the AFU near Sidorovo, Verkhnyaya Kamenka (Donetsk People’s Republic) and Miropolye (Sumy region), 1 Buk-M1 air defence missile system near Kurakhovo (Donetsk People’s Republic), as well as manpower and military equipment in 151 areas. Missile troops and artillery have neutralised 253 manpower and military equipment concentration areas of the AFU, as well as 6 munitions depots near Lisichansk, Verkhnekamenka, Mirnaya Dolina, Loskutovka and Podlesnoye (Lugansk People’s Republic). Within the counter-battery warfare, 13 Ukrainian multiple rocket launcher platoons have been neutralised near Ostroye, Gornyak, Kodema, Dzerzhinsk, Kalinovo, Zoryanoye, Dmitrov, Novolugansk, Novgorodskoye, Leninskoye, as well as 10 cannon artillery platoons at their firing positions near Stepnaya Dolina (Nikolayev region), Spartak, Podgornoye, Nikolayevka, Leninskoye, Zaytsevo, Semigorye and Dzerzhinsk. A U.S.-manufactured AN-TPQ artillery reconnaissance station has been destroyed near Nikolskoye (Donetsk People’s Republic). Russian air defence means have shot down 1 Su-25 of the Ukrainian Air Force near Barmashevo (Nikolayev region) and 1 MiG-29 near Apostolovo (Dnepropetrovsk region). In addition, 16 Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles have been show down near Bolshiye Prokhody, Malaya Kamyshevakha, Novodmitrovskoye, Vesyoloye, Belyayevkam Brazhkovka, Chervonoye, Dolgenkoye, Suligovka, Yasinovatoye and Snake Island.
Remember the game changing M777 155mm howitzers the U.S. gifted to Ukraine? That is not working out so well. The howitzers got blowed up (yes, I am guilty of poor grammar). Note the critical role that a Russian drone plays in carrying out this precision strike:
The Ukrainians tried another attack on Snake Island (you know, the pork chop shaped island south of Odessa in the Black Sea) and recorded another spectacular failure. Here is the Russian account:
On June 20, at about 05.00 AM, the Kiev regime attempted to capture Snake Island. The Kiev regime’s plan started with a massive launch of air and artillery attacks on Snake Island, followed by an amphibious troop landing to disembark troops and capture it. The air assault involved more than 15 Ukrainian attack and reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) adjusted by two Bayraktar-TB2 UAVs. The United States aided the attack with a Global Hawk RQ-4 strategic reconnaissance UAV of the U.S. Air Force . The Ukrainian UAVs were supported in air by S-300 air defence systems from their combat positions near Tuzla and Ochakov. Ukrainian missile and artillery attacks were launched on Snake Island by Ukrainian Tochka-U ballistic missiles, Uragan multiple rocket launchers and M777 155-mm howitzers from their combat positions west of Odessa and in Kubansky island. Russian air defence means (Pantsir air defence missile and cannon system and Tor air defence missile system) destroyed all the Ukrainian missiles–13 UAVs, 4 Tochka-U missiles and 21 projectiles of Uragan multiple rocket launcher. None reached their targets in Snake Island. The Ukrainians called off the amphibious assault.
Last, but not least, the Russians claim they hit a major Ukrainian command post near the Donbas and killed 50 Ukrainian generals and officers. Igor Konashenkov, spokesman of the Russian Defense Ministry, reported in a video released on Sunday:
At 12:30 p.m., Kalibr high-precision long-distance sea-based missiles were launched at a command post of the Ukrainian troops near the village of Shirokaya Dacha, Dnepropetrovsk region at the moment when there was being held a working meeting of the commanders of Aleksandriya operational-strategic group. The attacks have resulted in eliminating more than 50 generals and officers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (AFU), including those of the General Staff, the Kakhovka group, airborne assault troops and units that operate towards Nikolayev and Zaporozhye
Ukraine is now suffering catastrophic losses. In case you skipped over the briefing of the Russian MOD, there were significant American and British casualties in one of the attacks-30 wounded and 8 dead. These are significant losses. The Russians are not behaving like a force barely hanging on by its finger nails. Their operational pace is increasing and the situation of the Ukrainian forces in the east is becoming more dire.