As the map above reports, the Donbass pocket is operationally closed. Ukrainian units inside the cauldron are cut off from resupply of ammunition and food, and isolated from reinforcements.
Russian units continue to expand their control while bottling up remaining Ukrainian ground forces in major cities.
Recall Russia’s tactical strategy: (1) cutoff the bulk of the Ukrainian Army in Donbass from resupply and reinforcement, and (2) isolate back-up Ukrainian units in major cities to avoid urban combat.
We saw Russian forces employ this same strategy as it broke the back of US-supported ISIS forces in Syria.
Yet, despite no change in the Russian strategy, we continue to be inundated by Western media declaring the Russia assault stalled at the gates of Kyev, Mariupol is holding, with strange silence regarding the condition of the bulk of Ukrainian forces in Donbass.
We see no evidence of any AFU air operations. Nor do we see Ukrainian ground forces engaging Russian units outside major cities.
Sure, the occasional assault on a mobile position. But, no concentrated units. No replay of the Battle of 73 Easting from the Iraq War.
A few facts that can easily be inferred even from Western news reports:
- Within the first 24 hours of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, all Ukrainian Ground Radar Intercept capabilities were wiped out thereby eliminating AFU air to air intercept capability, and enabling the Russian Air Force to establish a “no-fly” zone over Ukraine.
- No ground attack aircraft, missile or massed artillery capable of disrupting supply or blunt offensive operations by Russian ground units.
- As a result, Russia has been able to capture and control in 3 weeks a land area larger than the United Kingdom – outpacing US performance against Iraq in Desert Storm.
- Plus, stand-off Russian missile strikes on NATO supply and mercenary training camps at Yavoriv and Zhytomyr — it’s stunning that these attacks were mounted without Ukrainian forces able to detect incoming, sound timely warnings, and defeat the inbound missiles with point defense weapons.
Is Russia losing?
Or, simply running out of targets while awaiting the destruction of Ukrainian forces in Donbass?
We know that on March 26, at 4:16 a.m., Russian tanks were shown in action in Mariupol, said to be going towards the city center on an identified street, Troyiczka.
The Mayor announced early Monday the city was in Russian hands.
Here are Russian Marines entering the Azov Battalion’s position in the Azov Steel Plant (first built during Stalin’s time):
At 5:20 pm March 27, the white-bearded Chechen commander of “Kadryov’s spetsnaz” stood in front of the city hall of Mariopol and announced that the city was taken by his Rosvgardia troops. There would only be a “sweeping clean operation” left to do. The announcement was celebrated with a burst of gunfire from a Chechen who stood next to his commander for the purpose of this obligatory Asiatic celebration. The police station was also shown.
Then another Twitter account showed the Ukrainian Deputy Commander of 503 Battalion of Marines captured and interviewed. He was caught trying to escape. He said that his entire battalion had broken up into small groups who were trying to find a way out of the trap. Outside the city, there were Russian roadblocks. Men in cars were being ordered to take off their shirts to see if they had any tattoos. (Just like the SS armpit blood-type tattoo.)
The commander of all Azov forces in Mariupol was reportedly captured which, if true, means we will likely see his image on the news.
For another point of view contrary to US government views, here is Larry Johnson from sonar21.com sharing his take of Russian military operations.
Sending new arms to Ukraine (a popular talking point among U.S. and British politicians) is a stupid and empty gesture. Why? There is no organized, intact Ukrainian military force capable of receiving and using these weapons. You want evidence? I want to remind you again of the breathless reports that filled Western media two weeks ago about Russian tank and truck columns “stalled” north of Kiev. Some media claimed the column was 40 miles long while others reported it as 40 kilometers (for the math challenged among you, 40 kilometers equals 24 miles).
That is a big fat target that a functional, competent military force would consume. But that column sat in place for at least a week. My Air Force buddy who flew missions against North Vietnamese vehicle columns back in 1970 described how he would first hit the lead vehicle, then the trailing vehicle and then destroy everything in between. We did not see that in Ukraine. There was no significant destruction rained down on the Russian column from the air. And where was the Ukrainian cruise missiles. Those should have been launched (if they existed) and could have caused enormous damage. That did not happen. There also was no Ukrainian artillery barrage on the supposedly “stalled” column.
And where was Ukraine’s infantry? Ukrainian soldiers have received thousands of anti-tanks weapons (e.g., Javelins and NLAWs). The NLAW has an effective range of 800 to 1000 meters. Here’s a brief:
How difficult would it be to have a several battalions of Ukrainian soldiers strung out along the 40 mile column to fire NLAWs at the Russian sitting ducks? Yet that did not happen. Why?
The explanation comes from Friday’s briefing by the Head of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Colonel General Sergei Rudskoy (Colonel General is equivalent to at least a three star general in the U.S. Army):
- Currently, the Ukrainian air forces and the air defense system have been almost completely destroyed. The naval forces of the country ceased to exist.
- Sixteen main military airfields were defeated, from which combat sorties of the AFU aviation were carried out. Thirty nine storage bases and arsenals were destroyed, which contained up to 70% of all stocks of military equipment, materiel and fuel, as well as more than 1 million 54 thousand tons of ammunition.
- All 24 formations of the Land Forces that existed before the start of the operation suffered significant losses. Ukraine has no organized reserves left.
- Losses are replenished at the expense of mobilized persons and personnel of the territorial defence forces who do not have the necessary training, which increases the risk of large losses.
- At the time of the start of the special military operation, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, together with the National Guard, numbered 260,200 servicemen. During the month of hostilities, their losses amounted to about 30 thousand people, including more than 14 thousand – irretrievable and about 16 thousand “sanitary” or wounded.
- Of the 2,416 tanks and other armored fighting vehicles that were in combat on February 24, 1,587 units were destroyed; 636 units out of 1,509 field artillery guns and mortars; 163 out of 535 MLRS; 112 out of 152 aircraft, 75 out of 149 helicopters; 36 Bayraktar TB2 UAVs – 35;
- 148 out of180 S-300 and Buk M1 air defence systems; 117 out of 300 117 radars for various purposes. [Edited]
[Comment: combat units taking more than 10% are considered degraded; units suffering more than 20% losses are considered incapable of sustained counteroffensive or defensive combat.)
The destruction inflicted on the Ukrainians by Russia is vast. If Ukraine still had a viable air force they would be challenging Russian combat aircraft and carrying out airstrikes on Russian positions. I have seen no reports in Western media about such actions.
In cities, such a Mariupol, that are besieged by Russian forces there has been no visible attempt to provide air support, artillery fire or reinforcements. The AZOV battalion left in an ever shrinking perimeter in Mariupol have no way out and are running out of ammunition and food. No soldier in the world survives long without ammo and chow.
There is evidence that a growing number of Ukrainian soldiers in other parts of the battlefield are surrendering (hat tip to Andrei Martyanov. If Andrei is not on your daily must read you should add him):
The delusional, wishful thinking that infects Western media was on full display yesterday (Friday). Sky News put up this article, Ukraine war: Russia appears to scale back invasion ambitions – but UK warns bombardment of cities will continue. Here is how Sky News reported on General Rudskoy’s briefing cited above:
Russia’s defense ministry claimed it would now concentrate on the “liberation” of the Donbas region.
“The main objectives of the first stage of the operation have generally been accomplished,” said Sergei Rudskoi, head of the Russian General Staff’s Main Operational Directorate.
“The combat potential of the armed forces of Ukraine has been considerably reduced, which makes it possible to focus our core efforts on achieving the main goal – the liberation of Donbas.” . . .
Russia has previously pointed to far bigger ambitions but stiff resistance from Ukraine forces, logistical problems and reported low morale may have taken their toll.
Here is what Rudskoy actually said:
With the beginning of a special military operation, air supremacy was won during the first two days.
Offensive actions of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are carried out in various directions.
As a result, Russian troops blocked Kiev, Kharkov, Chernigov, Sumy and Nikolaev. Kherson and most of the Zaporozhye region are under full control.
The public and individual experts are wondering what we are doing in the area of blocked Ukrainian cities.
These actions are carried out with the aim of causing such damage to military infrastructure, equipment, personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the results of which allow not only to shackle their forces and do not give them the opportunity to strengthen their grouping in the Donbass, but also will not allow them to do so until the Russian army completely liberates the territories of the DPR and LPR.
Initially, we did not plan to storm them in order to prevent destruction and minimize losses among personnel and civilians.
And although we do not rule out such a possibility, however, as individual groups complete their tasks, and they are being solved successfully, our forces and means will concentrate on the main thing – the complete liberation of Donbass.
Rudskoy delivered a very pointed warning to NATO as well:
We are closely monitoring the statements of the military and political leadership of individual countries about their intention to supply aircraft and air defense systems to Ukraine. In case of implementation– we will not leave it without attention.
We also hear assurances from NATO leaders about non-interference in the conflict. At the same time, some member states of the North Atlantic Alliance propose to close the airspace over Ukraine. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation will immediately respond accordingly to such attempts.
In order to prevent the restoration of weapons and military equipment of the AFU that have received combat damage, the Russian Armed Forces are disabling repair enterprises, arsenals, storage bases, logistics warehouses with high-precision weapons.
At the moment, 30 key enterprises of the military-industrial complex have been hit by cruise missiles X-101, Kalibr, Iskander, and the Kinzhal aviation complex, which carried out repairs of 68% of weapons and equipment disabled during combat operations.
This does not sound like a whipped Russian General licking his wounds. The briefing is concise, factual and instructive. Today’s actions in Western Ukraine–the missile attack on a fuel storage facility in Lviv and missile attacks on a military airfield in Lutsk–reinforce General Rudskoy’s briefing that Russia will continue to demilitarize Ukraine while trying to limit civilian casualties. I take him at his word.
What is truth?
I have no idea. But I suspect we will begin to know the truth soon.