Asia Times is publishing a near-daily Ukraine war situation report based on multiple military and think tank sources. It’s our unvarnished bid to cut through the propaganda and misinformation of all sides that contribute to the fog of war.
Summary and overview
Russian sources claim that ten cruise missiles from the Black Sea destroyed a large depot of Western-supplied weapons at the western Ukrainian city of Chortkiv some 200km southeast of Lviv. The governor of the Ternopil region confirmed the attack but played down the damage done.
Vadym Skibitsky, Deputy Director of the Ukrainian Military Intelligence Directorate, says that Russia has now committed 103 Battalion Tactical Groups to the war and has 40 more in reserve. He also said that Ukraine is “losing the artillery battle with Russia, claiming that Ukraine is firing 5,000 – 6,000 artillery rounds per day while the Russians are firing 10 times that or more.
The multiplier is likely exaggerated. But field reports confirm that Ukrainian forces are running very low on ammunition for their Soviet-era guns. Of course, even if the artillery fire ratio were only 3 or 4 to 1, Ukrainian forces are in trouble and need western resupplies … which may well be the message of the Skibitsky report.
The last of three bridges across the Donets River between Severodonetsk and Lysychansk has been dropped. That leaves Ukrainian forces trapped with hundreds of them surrounded at the Azot chemical fertilizer plant in a Mariupol 2 scenario.
Farther west, Russian forces are continuing slowly to close the Lyman-to-Popasna pincer, to about 20km at present with principal Russian action from the north toward Siversk.
There was again only limited action in the South as Russian forces are fortifying positions west of Kherson – and occupation authorities are issuing Russian passports.
Russian forces on Snake Island, the strategic Black Sea rock between Odessa and the Bosporus, have received SA-15 Tor (15 miles) and SA-22 Pansir (11 miles) SAMs, as Russia continues to reinforce the island.
According to Ukrainian Commander in Chief General Zaluzhny, the Russians have committed 7 BTGs to the fighting in Severodonetsk. With both the Ukrainians and the Russian Ministry of Defense now claiming that the bridges across the river to Lysychank are now down or impassable, Ukrainian forces are trapped and as in Mariupol before, Russian troops will wait and see.
Across the river, south of Lysychansk, Russian forces continued to press on the town of Toshkivka but failed to take it. About two miles south of Toshkivka there is an intact Russian-controlled bridge across the Donets. Russian troops moving on from Severodonetsk apparently are being redeployed against Lysychansk.
The question now is what’s happening farther west near Siversk and Sloviansk.
According to NATO sources focused on these pincer battles, Russian forces southeast of Izyum continued to advance toward Sloviansk and have taken another small town – Bohorodychne – on the west side of the Donets River, about 10km north-west of Sloviansk.
Russian forces operating out of Popasna continue to attack small towns south of the Bahkmut-Severodonetsk road but are making little progress and the road remains open to Ukrainian logistics support traffic.
For political reasons as well as on account of the critical time factor, the Ukrainian General Staff apparently decided to sacrifice troops holding out at Severodonetsk rather than withdrawing while the Donetsk River bridges were intact.
This is certainly indicated by the briefing that Ukraine’s CINC General Zaluzhny provided to the US chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Milley.
Zaluzhny stressed Russian artillery superiority and asked Milley “to help us get more 155 mm caliber artillery systems in the shortest possible time.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to President Zelensky, had the same message: “We need 1,000 howitzers caliber 155 mm; 300 MLRS; 500 tanks; 2,000 armored vehicles; 1,000 drones.”
But given the large numerical superiority of Russian artillery pieces and ammunition, superior Russian manpower resources and high and growing Ukrainian casualty rates, the “heroic defense” strategy of the UGS may well prove a miscalculation. Losses of manpower and heavy equipment as well as lack of ammunition could well lead to a losing bet in trading manpower and territory for time.
There is no evidence that the threat of increased western weapons deliveries is leading the Russian leadership to greater hurry in closing off the Donbas salient.
The British factor
In closing, another UK Ministry of Defense wrongheadedness story as related by one of our American observers:
MoDUK commented that the Russians launched a pair of KH-22 (AS-4) missiles (nominally anti-ship missile) at ground targets in eastern Ukraine and suggested that it was an antiquated, “Cold-War” missile. Yes, and no. It (the KH-22) is an older design, but it has been updated, and like most land-attack missiles it has an inertial navigation system (INS) for guidance as well as an active radar seeker head. The seeker head was designed to go after ships, so, not much use over land (though that isn’t always true for all anti-ship missiles). But the accuracy is simply a function of the INS, which is the same guidance as that of the various MLRSs in use. In short, if it’s an updated system, it’s as accurate (or inaccurate) as any other ground attack rocket.