A Blog by Jonathan Low


Oct 13, 2022

Ukraine Makes Fresh Gains As More New Conscripts Surrender Without Fighting

Ukrainian forces continue to advance into Donetsk and Luhansk thanks to poorly supplied and led Russian troops, who increasingly include new conscripts without weapons or training. JL 

Daily Kos reports, image Leo Correa, AP:

If Svatove is retaken, a big chunk of Russian-held territory turns Ukrainian. If Starobilsk is (then) liberated the entire Russian presence in the northeast will be cut off from supplies, down to Luhansk. Through Starobilsk is Russia’s last functional rail link into Ukraine from its main supply hub at Belgorod. New conscripts sent to Svatove were dumped into flooded trenches they said were “half destroyed, with weapons lying around, as the guys before us ran away.” They waited in those trenches, under constant Ukrainian fire and without food or water for three days. They (started) walking back to Belgorod, until they came across a Ukrainian checkpoint and surrendered.
Given Ukrainian advances across that entire Donbas front, all the way up to the strategic town of Svatove to the north, an actual successful Russian counterattack would be truly notable. It would mean that Russia had stemmed its losses, rallied its forces, and begun retaking the initiative. But as I also said yesterday, Russian Telegram is only truthful when they’re in blind-panic mode. Unsurprisingly, these Russian advances never happened. As far as I can tell, Russia never even tried. So how do these same propaganda sources explain Ukraine’s control of those towns? Well, there are lots of ways!


But wait, that’s embarrassing, suggesting yet another Russian military defeat. Those sting. Instead, how about Russians voluntarily retreated for the fun of it? Hmm, retreat isn’t much better. It means they can’t hold their ground against advancing Ukrainian forces. So how about this—Russia isn’t retreating, Those towns are a “gray zone” and, you know, anyone can possibly occupy them at any given moment.


Meanwhile, Ukrainian sources roll their eyes and are like “it’s quiet in that direction.” The real action is up north, at Svatove. Ukrainian forces have been steadily, methodically, pushing closer and closer to this strategic transportation hub.

It’s funny seeing Izyum so far from the front lines, around 40-50 kilometers depending on the exact location of the front lines. (@War_Mapper shows fewer Ukrainian advances than DefMon, who himself is very conservative in his map updates. War Mapper likes to wait for official confirmation.)

If you look closely at Svatove, you can see that almost every road in that region runs through Svatove, making it strategically important to both sides. But even more importantly, Svatove opens up the approach to Starobilsk, with almost no natural barriers to slow down a Ukrainian advance (except maybe for rainy season).Every road and railroad in that sparsely populated agricultural steppe region runs through Starobilsk. 

That means if Svatove is retaken, a big chunk of Russian-held red territory in the middle of that map above automatically turns Ukrainian yellow. But if Starobilsk is liberated? The That entire Russian presence in the northeast will clear out, cut off from supplies, down to the Luhansk purple on the map. And best of all, that dark line through Starobilsk is Russia’s last functional rail link into Ukraine from its main supply hub at Belgorod, just north of Kharkiv. Once Ukraine cuts that line, Russia’s logistics are truly f’d, and will need to be completely reconfigured toward eastern Ukraine. 

Russia, for its part, is rushing its best and its brightest to Svatove’s defense, and some of them aren’t even 60 years old.

These sad saps were called up from their hometowns, sent to Belgorod, then trucked to Svatove, where they were dumped into flooded trenches they said were “half destroyed, even with weapons lying around, as the guys before us also ran away from there.” They waited in those trenches, under constant Ukrainian mortar fire and without food or water for three days (because why would Russia care about its own), until water came up to their waist. They said screw it and walked down a road thinking they were walking back to Belgorod, until they came across a Ukrainian checkpoint and happily surrendered. 

This is what “shaping the battlefield” current looks like for Ukraine—forcing Russian defenders from their entrenched defensive positions, and apparently the rain and Russian incompetence is assisting. Ideally, by the time Ukrainian forces are ready to march on Svatove itself, there won’t be many defenders left. 

Russia’s inability to support and train its forces can lead to some … I want to say “hilarious” situations, but people are dying so that feels wrong. On the other hand, come on 

Hitting a buried anti-tank mine? That’s bad luck. You can’t see them. But here, the Russian driver pulled onto the road, with two rows of neatly laid out mines, and didn’t even pause or slow down as he drove over them with the all-too-obvious result. Clearly, no one ever told this driver “those things go boom boom, so don’t drive on them if you see them.” He’s in a war zone, without even the most rudimentary education on what to expect. And yet they put this guy behind the wheel of an armored infantry vehicle, full of  comrades in the back!

Stung by criticism in Russian media about the lack of training for the mobilized, their Ministry of Defense staged this Potemkin “training” to pretend otherwise. It’s quite hilarious (and this time, no has died … yet).

They are literally pretending to shoot as Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu “inspects” the training. (Turns out Shoigu hasn’t been ousted as some rumors suggested.) They superimpose small arms fire over the video to try and complete the illusion, but their clumsy effort pathetically fails. They don’t even care enough to give those trainees empty magazines to make the whole thing more believable!

If you want to see what competent infantry training looks like, here’s my son’s advanced infantry training unit doing live fire drills during the day, and at night (using night-vision gear Russia can only dream of having). Notice how it’s not a chaotic clusterfuck, and how they’re actually firing live rounds. (By the way, since I know you’ll ask, he’s doing great, still working his way through the pre-Ranger pipeline. Of the roughly 30 in his training unit that began the process, just two are left. My kid is stubborn and refuses to quit. Assuming all goes well, he’ll start Ranger school on November 1. If you don’t know what that is, you can read this, or watch this.)

Meanwhile, on a more practical level, Russia’s indiscriminate mobilization threatens to bring its country’s educational system to a halt. With all male teachers and administrators hauled away, there are fewer teachers left to educate Russia’s children.


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