The Present Situation

Russia has suffered yet another battlefield humiliation after Ukraine successfully thwarted its attempt to cross a river in Donbas, destroying dozens of vehicles and inflicting heavy casualties last week

Satellite images lay bare the scale of the failure with the remains of two pontoon bridges drifting in the Donets River at Bilohorivka, west of the city of Lysychansk, surrounded by the ruins of tanks and armored vehicles.

Russian commanders were attempting to surround Lysychansk – and its sister city of Severodonetsk – with the crossing but saw their sneak-attack turn into a massacre when Ukraine correctly guessed their plans.

On the morning of May 8 Russia blanketed the river with smoke by burning nearby fields and throwing smoke grenades, he said, but commanders detected the sound of boat engines and called in artillery strikes which caused devastating losses.

Russia attempted to bridge the Donets River to the west of the city of Lysychansk on May 8, apparently hoping to surround Ukrainian defenders dug in there - but were found out and massacred

Russia attempted to bridge the Donets River to the west of the city of Lysychansk on May 8, a week ago now, apparently hoping to surround Ukrainian defenders dug in there – but were found out and massacred

Newly-released images of the ambush show dozens of destroyed Russian vehicle littering both banks of the river along with sections of pontoon bridge left floating in the water

Newly-released images of the ambush show dozens of destroyed Russian vehicles littering both banks of the river along with sections of pontoon bridge left floating in the water

The remains of at least three Russian tanks and another four armoured infantry vehicles are seen on one bank of the river, along with other pieces of wreckage poking out from under the water

The remains of at least three Russian tanks and another four armored infantry vehicles are seen on one bank of the river, along with other pieces of wreckage poking out from under the water

A Ukrainian military engineer who took part in the operation claims he correctly predicted where the Russians would try to put their bridge, allowing artillery to bombard the area

Observers counted the wrecks of at least 58 Russian vehicles including tanks, armored personnel carriers, trucks, and one tugboat that was blown up trying to position the bridge

Ukrainian forces are trying to hold the cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychans’k from Russian troops, which have almost managed to surround them. The river crossing attempt was designed to complete the encirclement but was foiled.

 In the Donbas Pocket 

Ok, it was the Donbas Pocket, now it’s just on the border of Donbas where the Russians have doubled down and reinforced their positions. There have been two counterattacks against Ukraine forces. In both cases, the Russians were able to capture six to eight miles of territory before the counterattacks stalled. You could call them Russian’s victories had Russians not suffered the loss of main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers such that they were unable to exploit the counterattacks.

The pattern repeats. Russian officers, likely general officers, plan offensive moves like the River Crossing (above), put the pieces together and they lose whole battalions almost to the man. This armor can’t be replaced by Russia. They are not assembling new tanks and APCs east of the Urals. It’s not World War 2. And the “Police Action” to rid Ukraine of Nazis grinds on.

Both Ukraine and Russia are tired. Both have suffered losses. Though new NATO equipment and the Warsaw Pact junk that Eastern Europe unloaded on Ukraine (equipment they are familiar with) is beginning to arrive at the front, the army is worn out from 75 days of combat.

26 COMMENTS

    • I was always told an opposed obstacle crossing the doctrine was the initial forces used would be effectively wiped out, a squadron (company sized group) of combat engineers would be reduced to well under a troop (platoon size) for example. The expectation was follow on forces would be exploiting the breach, not the attacking forces.

      Different countries would have different answers, but I doubt the theoretical cost would be much different. It’s one of the most difficult operations to pull off, as you’re facing prepared ground covered by direct and indirect fire, with various obstacles to slow your progress. All of which have to be reduced while you’re being shot at. The beach scene in saving private ryan is a pretty good example.

      • I never served as standard leg or mech infantry or as an engineer, but you’d think that the Russians would understand that they don’t control the air (or space) and that a move like this would be obvious. All of a sudden there is smoke in one area — duh. And there’s now NATO artillery available to the Ukraine Army. Tugboats appear…Time-on-Target, fire for effect.

      • 1963 we combat engineer trainees were told our life expectancy in combat was 1 1/2 minutes. Paying attention to our instructors might improve our chances.

        • It doesn’t appear that the Russian engineers lasted that long once the artillery started dropping.

  1. Ukraine and Vodka Man Bad are so yesterday. We now have gen-u-wine Aryan white supremacist mass-murderering racists on the loose to worry about. When some mentally-unbalanced kid writes a curiously detailed “manifesto” that conveniently lists AR-platform and AR-accessory manufacturers in autistic detail then you know that something stinks to high heaven.
    Something! Must! Be! Done! And they’ll try to do it, good and hard.

    • Yeah, but they won’t actually punish the perp, because It’s Not His Fault ™.
      They only want to punish the law-abiding and innocent, as usual.

      Seems to me like the actual solution here would be a short trial and a quick execution.

      -Kle.

      • A quick execution would be very convenient for certain people. My point wasn’t about the alleged shooter, nor even about the victims. (It’s terrible that people were shot and killed, but the body count is one good weekend in Chicago or Baltimore. And no one even notices because it’s negroes killing negroes for the most part. Or a negro killing whites. The latter is memoryholed overnight, per protocol.)

        From the few bits I’ve seen of the “manifesto” it does not appear to have been written by some random 17 or 18-yo kid. The syntax and sentence structure MIGHT be from a mentally-ill teen, but unlikely. (Yeah, he’s nuts. Apparently went to school in a HAZMAT suit because of fear of the coof, for one thing.) The “manifesto” is more a wish list of “what firearms and accessories do we want to ban? If only we had a pretext. If only ….”

        This whole thing is less believable than John Wayne in yellowface playing Genghis Khan. I don’t mean there aren’t dead people, or that it was all filmed on the same set where they faked the moon landings and the film was directed by Bigfoot based on a script by the Loch Ness Monster. I mean that the overall event is very fishy.

        • I thought that John Wayne made a great Genghis Khan… a better Quiet Man. But to the point, I agree, very fishy. The way things go today, we’re unlikely to ever find the truth in this quagmire.

          • My point is that I don’t care if it’s fishy. We’ll never get the people who might have orchestrated it.

            If as a society we had a sane focus on criminal justice, in which the response to crimes was to punish the perpetrators and provide vengeance for the victims and their survivors, then these hypothetical schemes would never work. The sane response to old crimes is never new laws targeting the innocent.

            -Kle.

  2. The Russians are in a country where the people hate them (done that in Afghanistan) but also where the people look just like them (unlike in Afghanistan.) Be interesting to find out how much spotting information is being passed by ‘civilians’ (if anyone can be a civilian in a country invaded by Russians, who generally see no difference between soldiers and non-soldiers.)

    We (the USA) knew by the Korean War that Air Superiority Must Be Achieved (which, in this modern world, includes Space Superiority) before trying anything stupid like a forced crossing across rivers or using landing craft or getting close to shore with one’s naval assets.

    The Russians have obviously been not reading our manuals (readily available as .pdfs via the interwebs) or if they read them, didn’t comprehend/understand/or care about the messages in said manuals. Where was the counterybattery assets? Where was the Russian surveillance? No air spotting assets? No firefinder radar? No “competent persons with watches and radios”?

    This.

    This is the end for Russia’s misadventure. What, 79 days into it, there’s no chance in Helinski that they’ll be able to keep any of the ‘gained’ ground, and will most likely cause the loss of the previously-captured lands.

    Thinking about it, I’m beginning to believe that Potempkin had more viable forces available to him than what the Modern Russian Army has.

    Geez, I could have planned a better river crossing.

    • US/NATO doctrine about use of the battlespace is lost on the Russians in the contemporary sense, and there is no way to know what the ratio of conscripts (cannon fodder) to professional soldiers is at work here. How long did it take them to set up the bridges (like hours), also requiring assistance from at least one tugboat (now sank) and there are some 70-80 armored vehicles lined up to cross. A trained chimp could figure that one out.

      How many times did they practice that maneuver before they executed it under combat conditions? Did they consider that the artillery quotient has now changed? And the officers. Likely they’re all dead but which bonehead came up with that? Will they Peter Principle him up?

  3. The map of areas held before 2/24 and taken since tells me that the Russians have captured a lot of Ukraine. Maybe not as much as they wanted, but they have around 3x the territory held before the start.

    Whether it’s “good” territory, or whether they can hold it, I have no idea. It looks like a stalemate is forming, though. I defer to your judgement.

    • I’m an amateur, SiGraybeard – with enough knowledge to be dangerous – navy type quarterbacking a big army operation.

      The Black Sea Coastal area will be a different sort of battleset and the Russians don’t want to give that up. If it is true that Polish troops are backfilling in Ukraine (western area) to allow for Ukraine forces to move forward, they may be able to cut through to the Black Sea and relieve Mariupol. There are a few of the Azov types in the tractor plant. If they could do that, the Russians would be cut off. I don’t know if they have enough air lift capacity to support Crimea (and the army there), but they’d have a challenge with sealift. They simply don’t have the ships. With sea-denial cruise missiles in Mariupol, the Russians would have their hands full.

      If I was the Ukrainian commander, that would be my move, if I had the strength. Russia has lost a lot of armor, but to be fair, they have a lot more to lose from reserve supplies. I don’t know how long it would take them to get a tank in reserve (scrapyard really) ready to fight, but even if 1/3 of the reserve armor can be restored to fighting trim, it’s a lot of armor.

      • i think at this point putin’s problem is not reserve armor, but reserve trained tankers. i doubt many experienced troopers are signing up for his contract army now. i almost feel sorry for him.

        • I think that you’re on the money. He needs veteran NCOs and enough of them to make a difference. There are enough dead general and field grade officers and promoting a lieutenant to be a general to plug the gap isn’t the way forward in any war.

          The contract army may appear again, years from now, but this one was a dismal failure. I’ve read articles wherein the Russians sent conscripts forward in their thrust for Kiev and Kharkov and that’s simply not true. The VDV (Parachute Army) branch of service was at the spearpoint and they took losses at the company level up to 100% and at the regimental level up to 85-90%. They sent their best troops forward in T-90s and that resulted in losses, captured armor, and destroyed crews. They weren’t all lost, but they lost the initiative in their attacks and that is morale destroying.

  4. Quite the grinder, eh?

    Let’s see how the Polish option goes, have they forgiven Volyn? Chances are… no.

    Azov surrendering wounded in Mariupol. Can’t be pleasant in Der Bunker.

    • Most of Mariupol is in Russian hands. The tractor plant that the Russians very much wanted intact looks like the tractor plant in the middle of Stalingrad did at the height of the siege.

  5. As a Combat Engineer, I would love to know more details of the river crossing attempt. I also feel sorry for the bridge crewman that died trying. Deliberate river crossings are tough to accomplish. What bothers me is that we were always taught that the Russians were masters at counter battery fire. Wonder why they were not ready to take out any artillery that fired on the crossing. They seem to be reluctant to do any major indirect fire.

    • I can’t speak to specifics but I would guess that US equipment jammed their radar making counter-battery fire impossible. And their armor is unable to break through to where the artillery parks are located (if they had the capacity to locate them). They didn’t have air superiority at the river crossing. Ukraine air force units were present after the arty did their work. Even if counter-battery radar wasn’t available, the Russians should have supported their movement with air assets – if they were able.

      The Russian capacity for close air support in this campaign has been dismal. This may have to do in part because the coms are broken, but you’d expect something from Russian Frontal Aviation.

      • This thread by Trent Telenko may explain what’s going on regarding Ukrainian artillery and ineffective or non-existant Russian counter-battery fire: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1523791050313433088.html
        They seem to have seriously revamped their artillery doctrine, and it confounds Russian firefinder radars. Their artillery is scattered, not in tight batteries. A call goes out for a fire mission on some point designated on the map or by GPS + laser. The guns have their positions by GPS, so computers provide fire control data very fast. Any gun, MLRS, or mortar in range may answer the call. It’s like Uber for artillery strikes. A TOT is calculated, 2-3 rounds fired from each gun, and then they scoot. Because they’re not positioned as tight batteries, at least in some cases, counter-battery fire isn’t really possible. As long as they have comms (Starlink) and GPS, they may have the biggest advance in artillery doctrine since radio and the way the US organized mass fires in WW2. I’m looking for further information, but this seems like an important innovation.

  6. For “when Ukraine correctly guessed their plans”, substitute “when Western military intelligence and satellite photos pinpointed the buildup days in advance, and passed the information along to Ukrainian defense command in plenty of time to assure a warm welcome.

    The Russians are waging 1970s-era warfare, against Ukraine, who’s competing at the 2022 level.
    Nolo contendere.

    That’s why they’re holding off the Russians, and killing the invaders in job lots of 1000 or more at a time.

    Bummer for the Russian conscripts and Putin fanboys, but war has no sense of humor regarding either.

    Regarding intel, it’s more than Telenko noted. And they aren’t scooting after firing. they’re so dispersed, counter-battery fire would be a waste of time, and there is virtually none.

    See the video I linked on this from the Austrian R&D Col.:
    https://raconteurreport.blogspot.com/2022/05/king-of-battle.html

    English subtitles of the German original available in YouTube Settings.
    It’s a Master’s-level exposition.

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