Wednesday, 6 Jul 2022

Russian forces ‘literally hammered’ in east of Ukraine as Putin’s war plan in tatters

Ukraine: Russian journalist reveals position of heavy mortar

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is into its third month, and the fighting is showing no sign of relenting, with the Ukrainian Defence Ministry spokesman saying on Tuesday that “now we are observing the most active phase of the full-scale aggression”. Moscow’s forces have taken control mostly in the south and southeast of Ukraine, with violence in the city of Mariupol resulting in particularly harrowing stories. But Ukraine’s defiant defence has meant that the capital Kyiv, and the second biggest city Kharkiv, remain under Ukrainian control. After failing to take Kyiv, Russian forces moved their attention to the east of the country, specifically the separatist-held Donbas and Luhansk regions, which the Kremlin recognises as independent states.

It was in the Luhansk region where Russian forces were “literally hammered” earlier this month, in the words of General David H. Petraeus, a former CIA director.

Talking about how Russians are not seeing the full picture of the war at home, he explained on Times Radio last week: “There have been military bloggers in the Russia internet space who have been taken aback by and critical of, as an example, the colossal Russian failures as they tried to cross a particular river in the southeast and were literally hammered, and lost what appears to be the better part of a battalion tactical group.

“There are these cracks in at least the rhetorical support for Putin and this particular ‘special military operation’ as he has termed it.”

General Petraeus was referring to a battle earlier this month when the Russian army suffered heavy losses, including the destruction of around three dozen tanks.

The Ukrainian army blew up a pontoon bridge over the Siverskyi Donets river in the Luhansk region.

Satellite images collected by geospatial intelligence firm BlackSky showed that a pontoon bridge was destroyed after Ukrainian artillery struck the bridge and the surrounding area.

The images showed smoke emanating from the half-sunken bridge with destroyed armoured vehicles lying on the shores of the Siverskyi Donets river, running west to east between Russian rebel-controlled provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.

This was one of a number of military setbacks for Moscow, but General Petraeus added that Vladimir Putin is ensuring that a different story is being told in Russia.

He said: “But keep in mind, the (Russian) state generally controls the media… and is generally pretty effective at policing the internet.

“The bulk of the population of middle-aged and older (people) where the domestic political support has actually gone up substantially for Putin since the invasion started.

“It’s early days, we are just into the third month of it. Awareness at home of these staggering number of casualties is still not completely penetrated.”

While Russian forces have suffered casualties, they continue to escalate their bombardments in the east of Ukraine.

Russia has increased the intensity of its artillery bombardment of strategic cities in Donbas, and the Ministry of Defence has said Ukrainians’ supply lines are being targeted.

As the Times reports, while there has been a strong Ukrainian resistance with forces occupying well dug-in defensive positions, Russia has achieved some “localised successes”.

Ukrainian Defence Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said yesterday that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has entered its most active phase.

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Mr Motuzyanyk said Russian forces had not given up attempts to cross the river.

He said: “Now we are observing the most active phase of the full-scale aggression which Russia unfolded against our country.

“The situation on the [eastern] front is extremely difficult, because the fate of this country is perhaps being decided [there] right now.”

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