14 August 2022, Sunday, 13:02
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Ukraine’s New Defense Line: Changes At Forefront

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Ukraine’s New Defense Line: Changes At Forefront

Lots of things have been going on in the last few days.

Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spox, repeated his master’s conditions for an end of the war: essentially, these are insistent on an Ukrainian capitulation and disarmament, without anything in return. Mykhailo Podoliak, Zelensky’s adviser, repeated Ukrainian conditions: immediate ceasefire, withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukraine, return of abducted Ukrainians, extradition of war criminals and a system of war reparations. Think, that’s saying everything about the state of any kind of ‘negotiations’ between Kyiv and Moscow and, until something changes, dramatically, on the frontline, nothing is going to change in this regard.

Considering how many Kh-22s it has deployed over the last three weeks, and the series of strikes by these missiles of 29–30 June 2022, it is actually unsurprising if now it looks like the VKS has run out of operational missiles of this type. At least it seems there were no new strikes of that kind since 1 July, when one hit a recreation centre in Bilhorod-Dnistrovsky district, killing three civilians (including one child) and injuring one.

Late on 2 July, a Su-30 of the VKS fired a single Kh-31 anti-radar missile at one of Ukrainian air defence systems in the Odessa area. As far as is known, the missile hit another recreation centre, causing material damage, but no casualties.

Late on 3 July, Tu-22M-3s from Shaikovka AB appeared in the skies over the Black Sea, but did not release any kind of missiles (of course, taking nothing for granted, Ukrainian authorities activated an air raid alert over all of central Ukraine).

The Ukrainian air force flew up to 16 air strikes every day between 1 and 4 July, primarily targeting Russian ammunition depots and command posts. The Russians claimed one jet was shot down over the Zaporizhzhya Oblast, but the video they’ve provided as ‘evidence’ turned out to have been taken already back in April.

Far more effective than all the Russian and Ukrainian air operations was a series of Ukrainian M142 HIMARS-strikes on Russian ammunition depots. For example: one in the Popasna area, then one at the Melitopol airport (where the conflagration then threw a number of missiles and shells into the town), one in Chornobaivka (western outskirts of Kherson), and another (and then a particularly large one) in Snizhne (Donetsk). The Kherson Airport — which is one of major Russian military bases in this part of Ukraine — was heavily shelled by Ukrainian artillery on the evening of 2 July. In turn, Russians shelled Mykolaiv, killing at least one civilian.

BTW, the Russians claimed an ‘Ukrainian strike’ on Belgorod, and are circulating videos of consequences. Sorry, not buying it: if nothing else, there are all too many crystal clear videos of that ‘Ukrainian attack’ — and then from multiple directions. Whenever Ukrainians really strike into Russia — like with their UAVs, about a week ago — there are either no, or only spontaneously taken videos.

BATTLE OF DONBASS

Kharkiv…the last four days, the Russians — supported by the VKS — attempted to push further south, foremost in the Prudianka area. As far as I can say, two of their assaults were repelled. Of course, they’ve shelled not only Kharkiv, but many of villages north of it, too.

Sloviansk…The last three days, Ukrainians have repelled at least two, possibly three major Russian attacks on Dolyna, but the Russians seem to have secured most of Bohorodichne (i.e. only the southern side is still in Ukrainian hands). Perhaps ‘in retaliation’ (for their failures), the Russians then heavily shelled Sloviansk and Kramatorsk — apparently with BM-30 Smerch MLRS — causing numerous civilian casualties and lots of damage on multiple buildings.

Lysychansk….When one is trying to understand what was going on there the last 7–8 days in the Lysychansk area, keep in mind: running an organised withdrawal is one of most complex military operations one can imagine. So much so that, just for example, many of military experts consider the withdrawal of German-Italian forces under the famous Feldmarschal Erwin Rommel from el-Alamein in Egypt all the way to Mersa el-Brega, in Libya (about 1,000km) for something like ‘his best operation ever’. Principally because he has managed to extricate the mass of his troops.

The essence in Lysychansk was something like this: the ZSU have successfully completed the withdrawal of all the remaining troops, and all the civilians who wanted to go, from Lysychansk. They did so already during the night from Thursday to Friday (29–30 June). The problem was to get really all the troops out: not to leave anybody behind, like this has happened during the withdrawal from Zolote-Hirske, when at least 41 troops were captured by the Russians. This is as important because the Russians and their fans abroad were all the time explaining that Ukrainian officers have abandoned their troops and run away as first.

The task was not easy, because there was only one route left to withdraw (the road via Bilohorivka and Serebianka to Siversk), and this was under constant Russian shelling. No doubt: there were situations where the troops (including officers and non-commissioned officers) had no other options but to, literally, ‘run away’. Especially the ‘final chapter’ of this drama was a ‘close call’. Eventually, everybody was out back to Siversk by Friday morning (1 July). As far as I can say (or is known to me as of this moment in time) all the rumours about some troops remaining inside the centre of Lysychansk are unsubstantiated. No doubt, dozens of destroyed or badly damaged vehicles and quantities of light arms were left behind. This is simply ‘normal’ under such conditions at war.

What happened next was that, when — on Saturday, 2 July — the Russians then crossed the Siversky Donets at Bilohorivka, and met their troops advancing from Pryvillya (north of Lysychansk) and those advancing from Verknokamyanka (destroyed refinery) — they found the resulting ‘pocket’ empty. Realising this, they then rushed into Lysychansk, and announced a ‘liberation’ of the town — only to find the same empty, bar those of the local population who decided to remain where they were (apparently, quite a few of people in question are at least ‘sympathetic’ to the Russians and Separatists).

T-80BV tanks of the ‘6th Cossack Regiment’, which in turn is said to be fighting as a part of the Akhmat Regiment — i.e. ‘People’s Militia’ of the Luhansk Separatists. This unit was mentioned in many of reports related to the capture of Lysychansk. Notably: the LPR is not know to have operated T-80s before 24 February 2022.

The question now is: where is the new Ukrainian defence line?

According to dozens of different Ukrainian sources, this was at least ‘meant to run’ from Bilohorivka on the Siversky Donets in the north, down to Spirne, then to Berstove and to Bilohorivka on the T1302. Sprine is where the next drama took place, when, on Friday, 1 July, the Russians attacked and nearly took Spirne. Ukrainians say they have repelled this attack, and retained Sprine. Had the Russians managed to take the place during their first attempt, Ukrainians would have to fall back to their next defence line, connecting Siversk with Bakhmut — which in turn would make the withdrawal of last troops from Lysychansk a much longer, and more complex affair, too.

That said, as of yesterday, the Russians claim to have secured Bilohorivka, seem to have entered Verkhnokamyanske, they attacked Spirne again and the situation there is ‘unclear’, while their assault on Berstove was repelled. Might mean: that new Ukrainian defence line was no defence line but a holding line, and fighting is now moving in the direction of Siversk, Fedorvika, and Bakhmut, i.e. in the direction of the road TT0513.

Rest of the LOC… is still holding out. Avdiivka is heavily shelled, and under almost constant air strikes — some 20+ yesterday alone — but attacks on Pobieda and Mariinka were repelled.

SOUTH

Once again, nearly everybody is ‘zip-lip’ about what is going on along frontlines between Kherson and Vuhledar.

East of Dnipro: there are several reports about a ‘big battle’ over Polohy, the last 2–3 days, but no details. A railway bridge on the line from Melitopol to Tokmak used by the Russians to haul supplies for their troops on the frontline was blown up, on 2 July. A train was derailed as a consequence.

West of Dnipro: …The Russians attempted to counterattack Ukrainians in Potiomkine and Myrne, but without success. That said, by now it is obvious that the Russians there have converted every single village along the frontline into a ‘fortification’. As described earlier, Ukrainians attempted to overcome their lack of heavy arms by running nocturnal infiltration-attacks by their special forces, followed by conventional infantry. This did work the first two weeks, but then the Russians began adapting. Meanwhile, they are counterattacking with plentiful of artillery support at the first sign of trouble. Thus, by the time Ukrainian infantry follows up its special forces, it’s usually morning and then they find themselves exposed to withering enemy fire, have problems with bringing reinforcements and supplies etc.

With other words: the situation there reminds strongly of that during the mid-phases of the Iran-Iraq War of 1980–1988, when the IRGC would infiltrate Iraqi Army positions by night, only to find itself exposed to tremendous counterattacks in the morning…

….and that is why it took so long for Ukrainians to get all the way to Chernobaivka, i.e. the western suburbs of Kherson. Please mind: this shouldn’t mean that the actual liberation of the city is about to take place. Only that Ukrainians have penetrated at least the first two out of three Russian defence lines west of the city. The rest is going to take a while longer.

Tom Cooper, medium.com