The Weight of Fire Shifts in Ukraine
And boy, is Putin mad
Every time Vladimir Putin changes tactics, it heralds a change in his approach brought on by battlefield reversal. When the initial invasion stalled north of Kyiv, he started blasting cities, and the army retreated behind a hail of artillery fire. When the second attempt at cutting off the whole of eastern Ukraine failed, he bombed their cities harder and Mariupol hardest of all. When Ukraine sank the Moskva, he retaliated with missiles. And so on.
Thus, the missile strike on a crowded Ukrainian shopping center on Wednesday, as well as another flurry of hits on civilian targets since Friday, can reliably be blamed on the Russian withdrawal from Snake Island on Thursday.
Announced as a “good will gesture,” this move has since been followed up with Russian phosphorous bomb strikes on the island to demonstrate the goodness of Putin’s will.
French-made precision artillery lately arrived in Ukraine has the range to reach out to the island from shore. Western Harpoon missiles have made the Gulf of Odessa unsafe for Russian surface ships, even tiny ones. Whereas the island is only barely tenable for Ukraine, it is utterly untenable for Russia anymore.
Reopening maritime access is still a challenge, but this is progress. Putin can feel his grip on the enemy getting looser by the day. It must be terrifying to him. Why else would he act out so?
Even in the east, where Putin hoped to carve out a Potemkin victory, Russian force is petering out as Ukrainian strength gathers. Long-range, self-propelled rocket artillery systems have reportedly hit air bases, fuel and ammo depots, headquarters, and other high-value targets in the last week.
Perhaps as a result, Russian offensive action is uncoordinated and initiative seems lacking. The encirclement of Lysychansk has been underway for weeks and has only gotten slower. Even if Russians do manage to take the city, material and moral factors probably prohibit further offensive action.
We know this because Russia has begun a deeper, even quieter, even more unofficial mobilization of men and industry than before. The Institute for the Study of War calls it a “crypto-mobilization.”
They also report that Ukraine’s southern counteroffensive is still creeping forward, and that partisan activity has flared up in Kherson Oblast. None of this looks good for Russian prospects of victory, and this is as good as Russia’s position is ever likely to get.
Finally, I will end this update with an article from the Modern War Institute at West Point fleshing out the hydrological defense of Kyiv. As I have suggested before, this seems to have been a product of longtime cooperative planning between Ukrainian military and civilian departments.
While Ukrainian special operations forces blew up bridges all around Kyiv, Ukrainian civil engineers released water from key dams. In some places, they flooded entire areas, including the village of Demydiv. In other places they raised the water level high enough to saturate the low-lying ground to make it impossible for vehicles to traverse yet not so high that there was standing water. In a coordinated operation, they released water from dams on the Irpin, Zdvyzh, and Teteriv Rivers. This required engineers to operate the dam gates and people to monitor the flow rate of the rivers at multiple sites to ensure it was enough, but not too much, to create the desired effect.
Have a happy Fourth of July weekend!
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