To hear pro-Russian military analysts tell it, in the last 72 hours Ukraine has managed to simultaneously recapture about 1,000 square kilometers of terrain in the northeast of the country and 2,200 square kilometers in the south.
Although it is difficult to independently confirm these figures, the very fact that they’re coming from cheerleaders of Vladimir Putin’s war highlights just how disastrously things have gone for the Russian president in a month that has seen him resort to a chaotic mobilization to replenish manpower shortages, and a heralded “annexation” of Ukrainian territory that is slipping through his fingers by the hour. And he is losing ground not just in one of the oblasts he has illegally claimed as his own, but in all four.
Rumors of deep Ukrainian advances into Russian-controlled areas of Kherson, directly north of the Russian-occupied peninsula of Crimea, have been confirmed by pictures of victorious Ukrainian soldiers hoisting the Ukrainian flag above liberated villages. The Ukrainians have been advancing down the west bank of the Dnipro River, using the natural barrier of the waterway to secure their left flank, while threatening to encircle the Russian troops to their east. And their progress has been so rapid that pro-Russian voices on Telegram, a global messaging service, are in a state of total panic, begging any of their readers with a well-placed contact in the Russian military to immediately send air support, although none appears forthcoming. “We need aviation more than ever!” begged one Russian Telegram channel. “If anyone has access to command, send it to us!!!”
According to a conversation said to be between Russian soldiers intercepted by the SBU, Ukraine’s domestic security service, the use of U.S.-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) has been as devastating in the south as they have been elsewhere along the frontline. One Russian soldier is allegedly recorded saying, “Here the legs are shaking. [The HIMARS] hits, the earth is shaking. Here, ours are all trembling.” In another intercept, a Russian soldier calls his father back home encouraging him to avoid mobilization. Eight of his comrades, the soldier said, recently left a hospital in Kherson without arms and legs. And Ukrainian advances on the west bank of the Dnipro have now brought the majority of the Kherson Oblast within range of Ukraine’s supremely accurate Western-supplied artillery, giving them a host of new Russian targets to destroy. [Continue reading…]