A Blog by Jonathan Low

 

Jul 24, 2022

Ukraine Refuses Russian Request For Release Of Its Forces Trapped In Kherson

In a monumental achievement accomplished with little fanfare, Ukraine has cut off thousands of Russian troops now surrounded in the Kherson area of southern Ukraine. 

Russia has requested a green corridor to allow them to escape, which Ukraine has understandably refused given the innumerable times Russia has done the same to Ukrainian requests for unarmed civilians. Ukraine is insisting the Russian troops surrender with their weapons or face annihilation. Should this encirclement and surrender be finalized, it may signal the first step in the unraveling of Russia's Ukraine invasion. JL 

Mark Sumner reports in Daily Kos:

Reports indicate Russian forces (near Kherson) had been completely cut off by Ukrainian forces pinching in from both sides to block their line of reinforcement or retreat. In both the city and in surrounding villages, long-held Russian checkpoints are suddenly empty. Even if Ukrainian forces don’t seem to have occupied all the ground that would technically make this an encirclement because Russia can no longer get new troops or supplies into those areas. Even more critically, as Ukrainian forces press in, Russia can’t get out. Russia has had the audacity to ask for a “green corridor” for surrounded troops. The same kind of corridor it refused to open so many times for trapped civilians.

Back in early May, I wrote an update on Ukraine in which I insisted that that the tide had turned and that Ukraine was about to do big things in Kherson and Kharkiv. Which, yeah, that didn’t exactly pan out. Though to be fair, at the time Russia still occupied some areas right outside of Kharkiv, and Ukraine was just beginning the move that would net Staryi Saltiv and drive Russian forces back to the border in some areas, so … it wasn’t completely wrong.

However, this time I’m on a little more solid footing in saying that the war as a whole is pivoting. As in, this is a position apparently supported by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

As kos has pointed out, it’s been two weeks since Russia has notched a territorial gain worth noting. They’re no longer grinding out the kind of slow advance under a screen of artillery they’ve managed over the last five months. Russia still seems to be continuing the “reconnaissance by fire” tactic of sending out fragmentary BTGs in hopes of hitting a weak point, but these are being routinely repulsed. 

Maybe Russia is playing — is there a Russian equivalent of “possum?” Otherwise it certainly appears as though they have punched themselves out. And when it comes to bringing in more forces from elsewhere, forget about it. There’s long been an assumption that what Russia has invested in Ukraine is a significant portion of their military. It’s only recently that it’s become evidence just how significant.

According to that official, Russia has still not figured out how to make effective use of combined arms. But then, that’s not a huge surprise considering kos’ discussion of the lack of training given to Russian soldiers. Putin has been tossing undertrained infantry and ancient equipment into a meat grinder and telling them the only way out is to advance. That worked as long as the number of troops and the number of artillery shells was great enough to overmatch the Ukrainian forces standing in their way. That no longer seems to be true.

If you don’t trust U.S. intelligence (which could be true for a number of reasons, including some connected to the founding of this site), then how about Canadian intelligence or U.K. intelligence, both of whom agree Russia is “running out of steam.”  

Above all else, Russia continues to have logistic problems that are limiting their ability to resupply, reequip, and reinforce front line units. A second wind is always possible, but it certainly appears unlikely. Right now Russia seems to have extended itself to the limit of its strength. It’s not fighting to advance so much as it is to hang on.

Meanwhile, Poland is sending Ukraine more fighting vehicles …

The U.S. is sending more of the recently sainted HIMARS and a s***ton of the mysterious Phoenix Ghost drones.

And the U.K. is actually training new sailors and providing new ships for the Ukrainian Navy.

Let’s see. New weapons are coming by the land. Check. And air. Check. And sea. Double check. The U.S. also made clear on Friday that it is considering providing U.S. fighter jets to Ukraine, with reports that some Ukrainian pilots are already training in F-16s and other reports that the U.S. is considering sending along the scary, scary A-10

On the other hand Russia, which has already tossed 85% of its military into Ukraine, might want to think about who is sharpening knives out there along their 35,910 miles of border.

HOW RUSSIA IS CREATING A MUSEUM ALONG THE HIGHWAYS OF UKRAINE

It’s been some time since we checked in at Oryx to see Russia’s verified losses in this war. That’s not because the rate of loss slowed down, but mostly because fighting in the east has left a lot of wreckage in places where it’s tough to document, resulting in an ever-increasing disparity between what Russia has actually lost and what has been captured on video.

But it seems worth mentioning that at this point photographically verified data shows Russia has lost over 4,750 vehicles. That includes 873 tanks. Those tanks now range from a T-62 manufactured somewhere in the mid 1960s, to a pair of T-90M tanks that were manufactured after 2016.

Still, that’s not quite everything Russia has made in the last sixty years. There is also the brand new T-14 Armata whose appearance has been so far limited to Moscow parades. In the last few days, there are rumors that Russia is thinking of sending one or more of its half dozen or so T-14s to Ukraine, maybe to give people something to talk about other than trainloads of rusty Cold War rejects. 

Pro-Russian sites are eager to see their new superweapon in action. On the other hand, several Ukrainian commentators are also excited. After all, destroying the first T-14 ever to enter battle with a Javelin would be a story-to-tell-the-grandchildren.

Of course, Russia could always go the other way.

This particular T-34 doesn’t really seem to be a World War II veteran. It looks more like early an Korean War version. Thoroughly modern!

UKRAINIAN GRAIN WILL FLOW THROUGH ODESA

After weeks of negotiation, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, and the UN signed an agreement on Friday allowing Ukrainian grain to be exported from a trio of ports near Odesa. Or actually … they didn’t.

Ukraine signed a grain agreement with Turkey and the UN. Russia signed a grain agreement with Turkey and the UN. And when you put the two together, they are both halves of a reasonable solution, made without ever having a Ukrainian and Russian negotiator sign the same piece of paper.

Under the agreement, only ships carrying fertilizer or grain can access the port, and Russia promises not to stop or damage these ships as they leave the protection of missile batteries on shore. Russia is also not supposed to follow or harass the ships in route. All commercial ships originating in Odesa will be halted for inspection before entering the Bosporus, with Russian, Ukrainian, and Turkish inspectors going on board. That probably means a Russian and Turkish inspector going on at one time, and a Ukrainian and Turkish inspector going on at another.

There are, naturally enough, concerns that the deal is some kind of setup by Putin. If the agreement holds, it will help remedy an already growing shorting and price increases due to Ukrainian grain being off the market (or stolen by Russia). But there are concerns that Russia will play games, either by holding ships for extended periods during inspections, or by halting ships with claims that war materials are on board. Either action could make it impossible to find ships willing to visit the ports, and so slow transport that the agreement holds little value.

It shouldn’t take long before this is tested. On Friday evening, Russia hit Odesa with a missile. It might as well have carried a note saying “we can’t be trusted.”

NO ‘GREEN CORRIDOR’ FOR TROOPS IN VYSKOPILLYA

Another day, another Kherson map. And if this one looks as if little has changed, that’s genuinely the case. However, there is definitely something underway that demands attention.

Two Russia locations at the northern end of the map are now nearly surrounded.

While most of the action recently has been at the southern end of the map, attention on Friday turned to the north. First, that Ukrainian bridgehead across the Inhulets River south of Davydiv Brid is not only still there, it appears to be in control of more villages than previously acknowledge. Reportedly, the area of Ukrainian control is “expanding,” but whether that’s true and how far it has gone won’t be clear until some additional towns or villages report in as liberated.

At the northwestern tip of the area under Russian control, the town of Vysokopillya has been an area of conflict for weeks. This town is reportedly home to a Russian command HQ, and it has served as the launching point for past attacks on Kryvyi Rih to the north. Some reports on Friday indicated that Russian forces in Vysokopillya had been completely cut off by Ukrainian forces pinching in from both sides to block their line of reinforcement or retreat. A similar claim has been made about the nearby town of Arkhanhel's'ke. 

Indications are that the best interpretation for the most is that both towns are almost cut off. There remains a Russian presence in the towns. In fact, it’s a sizable presence, as Vysokopillya has been an important staging location and a depot for both supplies in addition to a command center. It appears that what remains of three BTGs is still split between the towns. There are more Russian forces just over the line in that area of Russian occupation. Ukraine is trying to sever the last lifelines into those Russian occupied locations and take all the ground around them, but as of the end of daylight on Friday in Ukraine, they didn’t seem to have quite accomplished this.

However, even if Ukrainian forces don’t seem to have occupied all the ground that would technically make this an encirclement, that seems to be all it is — a technicality — because Russia clearly can no longer get new troops or supplies into those areas. Even more critically, as Ukrainian forces press in, Russia can’t get out

For all intents, the encirclement is effective. This is clear, because Russia has had the audacity to ask for a “green corridor” for surrounded troops. The same kind of corridor it refused to open so many times for trapped civilians. The same kind of corridor Russia has offered, then used as a convenient means of attack.

And Ukraine has provided a clear answer.

However you define encirclement, what’s happening in Vysokopillya looks like a huge loss for Russia. This is Ukraine taking a significant target, against significant opposition, in an area where Russia has been dug in for months. Russia has even transported pillbox structures to Vysokopillya to provide hardened firing points.  

As OPINT blogger @DefMon puts it ...

Stay turned for updates. If Ukraine is able to take Vysokopillya, especially if they capture a large number of Russian forces in the process, it’s going to be a big deal.

in highway running north out of Kherson. Taking out this bridge separates the city from the bridge at Nova Kakhovka, making it more difficult for Russian troops to move between the two bridges … or to escape.

Again, Ukraine seems to be moving, step by step, to isolate Russian forces in Kherson oblast.

Saturday, Jul 23, 2022 · 10:41:57 AM CDT · Mark Sumner

This is not the only report of Russian positions in Kherson being abandoned. In both the city and in surrounding villages, long-held Russian checkpoints are reportedly suddenly empty.



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