Asia Times is publishing Ukraine war situation reports 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.
NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg forecast a “long war” in Ukraine. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in full Churchillian pose, chimed in on cue: “We need to steel ourselves for a long war.”
A new front? Lithuania has banned the transit of sanctioned goods from Russia to the enclave of Kaliningrad (formerly Königsberg). Russia sees it as a violation of the EU agreement in 2004 that saw the EU expand to include the Baltic States and says it will break the “blockade”. Note that Lithuania is a NATO member.
Russian forces have gained added ground in the Severodonetsk region and – according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense – have pushed through the town of Toshkivka southeast of Lysychansk.
Heavy fighting and artillery fire continue along the entire line of control northwest of Popasna. The main road from the transportation hub of Bakhmut to Lysychansk has been rendered impassable by Russian forces.
Russian forces have stepped up artillery fire and reconnaissance probes north to northeast of Kharkiv. The Ukrainian General Staff (UGS) in its evening report voiced concern that “Kharkiv will again be a battle zone.”
Ukrainian forces counter-attacked in the south and gained ground in the Zaporizhia oblast according to the UGS.
The focus of battle in Severodonetsk continues to be the Azot fertilizer plant. As in Mariupol, Russian forces are tightening the encirclement but appear in no hurry to deliver any decisive blows. Several suburbs of Severodonetsk have been overrun. However, with the capture of the town of Toshkivka on the west side of the Donets River, any attack on Lysychansk will now come from the southwest.
Farther west, closer to the exit of the Donbas salient, the main road to Lysychansk has been cut.
Farther north, Russian forces continue to grind closer to the transport hub of Sloviansk.
Very heavy artillery fire is reported by the UGS, but the progress of Russian forces is halting.
Anecdotal reporting suggests that counterattacks by Ukrainian forces may have advanced several kilometers into Russian-held territory in the Zaporizhia area, but this is unconfirmed.
Albeit continuing a slow grind, Russian forces’ progress in the Donbas is again noticeable and a decision appears to have been made not only to disrupt but to cut resupply to Ukrainian forces in the easternmost part of the Donbas salient.
The critical issue going forward is the availability of trained manpower. A war of attrition does not favor Ukraine.
By their own count, the Ukrainians have lost up to 50% of their weapons and equipment to date. NATO countries over time can replace that.
What cannot be replaced is lost manpower. Yet, oddly, as a ranking US intelligence officer observes, “the general tenor of commentary is that the Ukrainians can keep fighting if we just give them the weapons – but the Russians, with a population roughly four times that of Ukraine, are assessed to be on the brink of a total organizational and demographic götterdämmerung.”
We are not ready to raise a huge alarm over a threatened Russian attempt to break the Kaliningrad blockade. However, Kaliningrad is the base for an SS-26 nuclear missile brigade. In March nuclear maneuvers were conducted there and two SU-24s flew out over the Baltic loaded with nukes.
TASS has reported that the deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, Svyatoslav Palamar, and the commander of the 36th Marine Brigade, Serhiy Volynsky, both of whom surrendered in May at the Azov steel plant, have been transferred to Russia and are being held in Lefortovo prison in Moscow in anticipation of their trials.
And there will likely be show trials of captured American ex-soldiers.