Russian artillery tells the story of their ever-shrinking war effort.
There are Russian nuisance artillery strikes on civilian targets in Kherson in the south, near Zaporizhzhia east of there (I can finally spell “Zaporizhzhia” without looking!), and around Kharkiv in the north. Russia is a terrorist state.
But the real action is around Bakhmut, Kreminna, and Svatove. Bakhmut is the only place where Russia is seriously attempting to advance, and the latter two are under serious pressure from methodically advancing Ukrainian forces. It’s quite a change from Russia’s original grand plans. Remember this?
In that first month of the war, Russia pushed up from Crimea toward Mykolaiv, Kryvyi Rih, and Mariupol. They pushed west from Luhansk and Donetsk in occupied Donbas. They pushed south from Belarus toward Kyiv and Chernihiv, pushed through Sumy toward Kyiv, and pushed down toward Kharkiv. It was a five-axes attack, with multiple lines of attack in each axis, and it was all far more than Russia’s rickety armed forces and logistics system could handle in the face of fierce and determined Ukrainian resistance. That’s why today, the mighty Russian army is down to a single axis—the Donbas—and even there, it is struggling to hold ground.
Unable to win on the ground, Russia decided to try to terrorize Ukraine into submission, launching a series of rocket, missile, and drone attacks to seriously degrade Ukraine’s electrical and heating grid ahead of the cold winter. Yet last night, Ukraine shot down 30 of the 35 killer drones Russia sent toward Kyiv, and even more air defense is flooding into Ukraine from its Western allies. Russia’s terror campaign is relegated to pretty much this:
One wonders just what this war might look like if Russia struck military targets instead of attempting to terrorize a population into submission. Russia, of all countries, should know that that rarely works.
Western and Ukrainian sources both claim Russia is running out of ballistic missiles, and while Iranian drones are plentiful, Ukraine has gotten really good at shooting them down. One effective tool in their anti-drone arsenal is pickup trucks.
These Iranian drones are slow and lumbering, and while their low flight path helps them avoid traditional air defense missiles, it makes them extremely vulnerable to a large network of these mobile air defenses. This is war—new developments spur innovations, then countermeasures, then counter-countermeasures, and so on. The era of the cheap terror drone is already coming to a close.
That’s not to say that these drones won’t continue being a nuisance to Ukraine, and incredibly deadly to people who lose homes or family members to them. But as a strategic factor, the best that can be said about these drones is that they delayed the end of the war by several months as Ukraine prioritized air defenses in their requests from allies.
Yes, Ukraine asked for both air defenses and offensive weapons, but there are political, financial, logistical, and material reasons for allies to prioritize certain weapons systems over others. For example, Ukraine will reportedly soon get a Patriot air defense system (it was supposed to be announced yesterday, but it hasn’t happened yet). That system costs $1 billion. For comparison, that would buy 172 Leopard 2 tanks at $5.75 million each. It would buy nearly 9,000 GMLRS rockets for HIMARS/M270.
The Western allies have been reluctant to provide Ukraine with NATO-standard battle tanks, likely for logistical reasons we’ve repeatedly discussed. So given the choice between Ukrainian requests for air defense or main battle tanks, it seems everyone was happy to jump on the air defense bandwagon. Logistical challenges still apply, but maintaining a handful of batteries is likely easier than hundreds of tanks. And given their locations far behind enemy lines, they might even be maintainable by defense contractors.
If you were following the blow-by-blow of the Battle of Bakhmut last week, you might remember that Russian forces reportedly penetrated a few blocks of the city’s eastern residential neighborhood. Those reports were true. Here is drone video of Ukrainian forces pushing those Russian/Wagner troops out.
I wish I could read the captions, but the overall gist is clear, as is the overall scale of Bakhmut’s destruction. I found it particularly noteworthy that the Russian vanguard was hung out to dry. Russian artillery is too inaccurate to fire anywhere near frontline troops, but I saw no mortar fire hitting the counterattacking Ukrainian forces, and certainly no armor support. They never had a chance. (Yesterday’s update details how Ukraine is defending the city.)
Yet as Bakhmut proper seems relatively secure for the moment, and lines south of the city equally strong, there is increasing worry about next-door Soledar.
Russia has shifted much of its recent attention to the Soledar approach, hoping to isolate Bakhmut from the north, and putting that supply road heading northwest out of Bakhmut under fire control. As always, this is a lot of work and blood for a city with limited strategic value, but Russia is desperate for anything they can call a victory after months of humiliating defeats.
Here, a Ukrainian tank is destroyed by Russia in that Soledar area. Luckily, it looks like the crew got out. It’s tough work.
Russians holding the edge of Soledar aren’t having a much better time of it.
And this is quite the story, following combat medics supporting Soledar’s defenders. This video has scenes of battlefield injuries, so discretion is advised.