Asia Times is initiating 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.
Russian forces that entered Severodonetsk in the Donbass on May 30 now control most of the city. Ukrainian defenders backing out of the city have yet to decide on whether or when to drop the three bridges across the Donets River to the twin city of Lysychansk to the West.
In the south, Ukrainian forces continue operations east of the Inhulets river, north-east of Kherson where Russian forces have built fortified positions and are continuing artillery fire (MLRS) in direction of Mikolaiv, the so-called “shield of Odessa.”
As in previous days, there was no ground movement reported in the northeast around Kharkiv but incessant Russian artillery shelling was reported.
A US military source in Washington, DC, reports growing concern over Ukrainian casualties as recruits are given two weeks of training and incur a very high casualty rate estimated at 65%.
Russian news agency TASS reports that a Russian Navy task force, comprising six amphibious assault ships of Russia’s Northern and Baltic fleets and six amphibious assault ships of the Russian Black Sea fleet, is ready to perform combat tasks in the Black Sea. (US sources have forecast a Russian attack on Odessa by July).
To date, the US Defense Department has announced it will ship four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) for training purposes. Germany has announced four MARS2 systems and two IRIS-T-SLM advanced air defense systems to be paired with the MLRS systems.
Center and East
Severodonetsk is mostly destroyed; fighting is block by block. The Ukrainians are backing out of the city. Russian forces south of Severodonetsk, on the west side of the Donets River, are pushing north. Ukrainian forces need to decide whether to attempt to hold or back across the river, drop the bridges and face attack only from the south rather than from the east and the south.
Russian forces continue to push west out of Popasna in the direction of Bakhmut in the apparent attempt of linking up with forces pushing south out of Lyman toward Siversk. Detailed “Israeli-style” tactical moves are described in the attached video by the Austrian Military Academy Research Department.
If and when the Lyman – Popasna gap closes, US sources estimate that 10,000 – 15,000 Ukrainian troops will be trapped.
Ukrainian forces continued operations north-east of Kherson and Russian forces, attempting to contain the Ukrainian operation on the east bank of the Inhulets, have dropped several bridges across the river.
At present, it’s unknown whether this has cornered any Ukrainian forces on the east side of the river. Russian forces across the southern area of operations continue to build defensive positions and dig in and are laying heavy artillery fire in the direction of Mikolaiv, according to the UGS June 3 morning report.
Also in the south, Russian forces are reportedly moving anti-aircraft, electronic warfare and rocket launchers to Snake Island.
According to several US and NATO sources, the Battle of the Donbass will end within a matter of weeks. The question is whether significant numbers of Ukrainian assets will be able to withdraw from the cauldron marked on the East by Severodonetsk and on the West by the Izium–Sloviansk–Popasna line.
With that line established, observers at US forces headquarters in Europe expect Russia to turn attention to the south and move on Odessa. The TASS report on Russian landing ships is of relevance.
What appears to be clear is that any dispatch of advanced mid-range MLRS systems to Ukraine will be way too little and too late to impact near future military outcomes.
We quote a – frank – US Army Pentagon source:
“Without ATACMS, the [HIMARS] system’s maximum range is 50 miles. There is no danger of it striking Russia. That said, it will vanish in minutes when it launches the first salvo. Russian counterbattery fire will destroy it pronto.
“Also, how in the hell can the Ukrainians operate it unless they’ve been through extensive training in the USA. A HIMARS driver must perform roughly 1,000 specific tasks during operations. These must be memorized. Training for the driver takes at least five weeks. Batteries must train to fire, relocate immediately to avoid destruction and fire again.
“Are Americans operating these systems? What are the communication links? Who’s collecting and refining the firing data? How will the systems be resupplied? HIMARS can go through hundreds of rockets in an hour.
“You need maybe 100 HIMARS to make a real impact. We only have 358 ourselves.”
The same questions, of course, can be asked regarding the German Mars 2 systems.
At least the question regarding protection of the MLRS systems is partially answered by the promised delivery of the most advanced German air-defense system, the IRIS-T-SLM.
But those systems are greatly more complex than the MLRS systems and require extensive training time. A German military source working on the delivery of the IRIS system to Egypt gave “November this year, maybe” as his estimate of deployment readiness.