Ukraine War, 15 March 2023: Standstill
Another, quick (and: literally) dirty ‘review’. It’s not that ‘not much is going on’: making any such statements would be unfair to all those fighting and dying while trying to wade through all the mud in eastern Ukraine of these days. Gauging by different videos, there’s so much mud and so much water on some of roads and fields, that crews of US-made M113 and Soviet-made MT-LB APCs often have to put the ‘amphibious capability’ of their mounts to the test. And designers at BAE Systems must be fainting at the sight of what their M777 Lamborghini-howitzers have to endure while being towed around the local landscape. Others are happy if they have anything else than 20–30cm deep mud under the wheels of their vehicles, or can take a bath in about 120cm high, dirty and smelly water in their trenches, while movement of heavy equipment is limited to ‘absolutely necessary’.
In the light of this, let me start this one with some more of my notorious sarcasm:
1.) I find it great to read assessments by certain of my ‘colleagues’, how the Russians are ‘short on (artillery) ammunition’ and the VSRF forced to, ‘impose shell-rationing on many parts of the front’.
Who cares, dear readers, if — gauging by reports from ZSU troops that got caught (and killed or wounded) by Russian artillery barrages while their units were withdrawing from Bakhmut, or those who have to repel Russian assaults north and south of Avdiivka, the last week, ‘or so’ — there’s actually no clear indication that Pudding is short on ammo: ‘if it’s not happening to us, it’s not happening at all’….
But seriously now: much more likely is that it often happens that the Keystone Cops can’t bring enough ammo when and where it’s necessary. I.e. that the VSRF (and its Wagner- and other PMC-‘surrogates’) are experiencing a problem very similar, perhaps even same, like that of the Israeli Defence Force during the October 1973 Arab-Israeli War.
What am I rambling about?
In Israel of 1973, there was more than enough ammo — but, in storage dumps, in the centre of the country. Problem was the issue of bringing it forward in sufficient quantities. The reason were massive traffic jams on — for example — the roads of central Sinai. Imagine the sight: 30, 40, 50km of road, full of trucks full of ammo, neatly parked fender-to-fender. Problem: roads were narrow single-liners, and surrounded by deep and soft sand. Any fully-loaded truck that ventured off the road became bogged down and couldn’t move again without specialist help….and specialists couldn’t help because they were struck in the same traffic snarl, dozens of kilometres away…
The problem Pudding’s Dirlewangers are experiencing is bigger by several magnitudes. Not only because the VSRF is, quantitatively, much bigger than the IDF, or because the battlefield in eastern Ukraine in 2022–23 is several dozens of times bigger than either that on the Sinai or the Golan Heights of 1973, but also because of something I’ve mentioned already about a month ago, while explaining why Gerasimov was unable to run a single, ‘biiiiiiiig’ offensive, but had to break-up his ‘winter offensive’ into three minor enterprises. It’s the issue of storing enough ammo and supplies where they matter: close to the frontline. The Russian railway system can haul a lots of ammunition, but storage closer than 70km from the frontline is ‘dangerous for one’s health’, because of M142s, M270s, GLMRS and similar weapons nowadays in Ukrainian service. Means: it doesn’t matter how much is brought in by the railways, and it doesn’t matter how well are the ten known VSRF’s logistics brigades distributing and hiding their ammo dumps nowadays. At least one is blown up, every single day by ‘yet another Ukrainian HIMARS-strike’. And even if the ammo survives long enough, it still has to be brought forward: doing so by truck — of which the VSRF had too few already at the start of the war — over poor secondary roads and though deep mud is a major problem. Unsurprisingly, the problem is meanwhile reaching levels where several of BARS-formations mobilised to fight this war are doing little else but trying to help with logistics, full time. Then add the endemic corruption and incompetence of the System Putin to the account, and it’s no surprise the Russian submarine officers and artillerists are fighting as assault infantry, ‘instead’….
2.) But hey, it’s much better on the Ukrainian side. Ukrainian journo told me so, a day or so ago, because, she said, Ukrainians are all so enthusiastic. Contrary to me: as an Austrian, and then a warfare analyst….must be I’m a pessimist both by birth and by profession. Correspondingly, no need to worry: NATO is still months away from at least seriously increasing its ammo production (the current annual production rate would be about just enough for what Ukraine could fire and would need in a month), and light years away from increasing the flow of necessary mini-UAVs and heavy infantry weapons. And, best of all: there’s no solution in sight. For example, the boss of Rheinmetall is complaining that he sees no reason to increase ammo production if there are no orders (and Rheinmetall is still working at only something like 50–70% of its full capacity). Which in turn means the idiots better known as ‘our politicians’ haven’t even come to their minds regarding actually negotiating and then signing orders for additional ammunition… which is urgently necessary in Ukraine at least since mid-January…
But again: hey, no reason to be depressed or have any doubts: Ukraine is going to counterattack and drive the Russians all the way to… Vladivostok….and then into the Pacific Ocean….it’s just a matter of day, or two….
Was short of asking the lady in question if she would volunteer to lead that counteroffensive — or any other operation launched without sufficient ammunition necessary to support it. At least if she bothered to go and ask veterans of central Kherson offensive, from back in September last year, what happens when one tries to attack the entrenched VDV without sufficient ammo.
….me, jerk, just smirked instead….and then people say I’m rude and uncivilised… tsk, tsk, tsk…
BATTLE OF DONBASS
OK, so, when they do have some ammunition, spares and supplies, and have managed to wade or swim through all the mud to their starting positions — or are out of some or all of this, but already at the frontline… what are the Russians and Ukrainians fighting for, the last week or so…?
Air forces….occasionally, there are videos shown low-flying Su-25s, or something releasing long, white contrails, high in the sky. But, what exactly are the PSU and VKS doing the last few days: sorry, got no new reports, found none, or missed quite a few due to all the work on my desk, and thus no idea.
Bakhmut…meanwhile it should be clear (at least it’s clear to sparrows in my garden), that for the ZSU, ‘holding Bakhmut’ is something like, ‘preventing a similar ruin of Kramatorsk and Slovyansk’. Sure, this means nothing to all the possible Western advisors and observers, but from what I’ve got to hear, ZSU troops inside and west of the town are in good mod. Critical issue is prevention of own casualties: this is not easy when one still has to fight back with assault rifles and hand grenades (if any are available): but, from what I’ve got to hear, fatalities are actually nowhere near as high as regularly reported in the social media. Or at least it is so that what is considered ‘heavy loss’ by the ZSU is something entirely different than all the online-Pudding-fans think is going on. That said, there are hundreds of wounded, every day: most of them ‘not seriously’, and quite a few ‘two or even three times’. At least it seems that units are more frequently rotated in and out, the last two weeks.
Positions-wise… Inside the town, in northern Bakhmut, the Russians took the AZOM works, back on 13th, and claim to have crossed the Korosunskoho Street, in the south. That said, most of the fighting is, really, ‘for a single home, flour, or even a single tank. Outside the town, and north of Bakhmut, the Russians have reached the hamlet of Zaliznyanske. Not sure if they’ve taken it, too. North-west of Bakhmut, they are assaulting up the E40 highway and on Orikhovo-Vesylivka, for already 4–5 days. West of Bakhmut, the Russians are back to crawling through hedgerows towards Bohdanivka and Hromove, but regularly forced to retreat some 500–600 metres short of the Road 0506. In the south-west: there were some reports about an Ukrainian counterattack south of Ivanivske, back on 11th or 12tgh March, and seems this was effective. At least the Russians are still well away from that village and the local section of the Road 0504.
Avdiivka… AFAIK, this was the actual centrepiece of Russian efforts over the last 9–10 days. Something like, ‘the last remnants of Gerasimov’s winter offensive’. Perhaps even the ‘most successful’ of all of its efforts.
Northern side… no news from Krasnohorivka, but seems, this village was secured by the Russians. Kamyanka is still under ZSU control.
Southern/south-western side: the VSRF is still assaulting from Vodyane towards north (roughly: in direction of Sjeverne and Avdiivka), but without any notable success.
On the contrary, the Russians achieved — IMHO — their biggest success in this war since early January — when, on 12th or 13th of March, forcing the ZSU to, finally, abandon Pervomaiske. Apparently by several volleys of TOS-1 (so much about ‘lack of ammunition’), and after something like 7–8 months of fighting for that place….Indeed, the Russians are meanwhile attacking the next village to the west: Netaliove. This means, they’re moving yet deeper around the southern and western flank of the ZSU garrison in Avdiivka.
…and that’s, essentially, about all. Sure, could post links to videos of this or that Ukrainian brigade plinking one or another of Russian artillery pieces — whether in the Kremina- or in the Nova Kakhovka area, about additional Russian mobiks bitterly complaining to Vladimir Vladimirovich about thier superiors misusing them as ‘meat’, or about a Russian Lancet-3 UAV hitting a Stormer SAM-system of the ZSU. But, sorry, these are one-off actions at very different sectors of the frontline, the summary of which doesn’t mean that much in grand total.
For additional details and insights, please check posts by Stefan Korshak, fresh back from visiting ZSU troops in the Bakhmut area.