Kyiv poised for more offensives as soon as heavier weapons arrive
CHICAGO – Russia’s attempt of conquest in Ukraine continues to falter as the renewed invasion of the neighboring country is entering its 11th week. Any gains Russia is making in the two easternmost regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as in the south, are coming with heavy casualties, daily British intelligence situational reports say.
Russian forces are lacking in manpower, having lost about a quarter of its initial invasion force, but it maintains the advantage in weaponry, regular reports from the Pentagon’s press pool said over the week. Inversely, Ukraine has enough soldiers with which to defend its land but it lacks additional long-range firepower and other weapons, such as sophisticated air-defense systems to intercept incoming rockets.
Valery Zaluzhny, commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said on May 5 that his country needs more multiple-launch rocket systems after speaking with his U.S. counterpart, Gen. Mark Milley.
Earlier in the week, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine’s military is using what additional weaponry it is receiving from the West to launch counterattacks to push back Russian forces.
“The Ukrainian military is no longer retreating. They managed to stop the offensive of the Russian troops,” he said at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council Summit. “In some sections of the front line, Ukrainian fighters began to move forward, and where not yet, they are waiting for equipment from the West to start pushing out the Russians.”
Battlefield successes were seen near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second most populous city. Ukraine’s military said it pushed back Russian forces 25 miles northeast and east of the city, fulfilling two objectives. After ousting Russian soldiers from a string of villages while regaining strategic terrain, Ukraine saw the number of Russian shells hitting Kharkiv drop to about five per day.
“Ten days ago, there were 50 to 80 Russian shelling and rocket attacks on Kharkiv every day,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
Another potential success is to cut off Russian supply lines in the area of Izyum, a Kharkiv regional city that borders the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. U.S. and British intelligence noted in the past week that, after Ukrainian strikes on a Russian command post in the area, which reportedly killed a general and wounded Russian Army Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov, the Russian advance has also slowed.
Still, the Russians are gaining incremental ground toward the critical Donetsk regional town of Slovyansk by advancing from Izyum and from the east via Lyman in the Luhansk region. The principal salient point in the area is the Siversky Donets River. Russia still appears to be trying to encircle Ukrainian forces in one or several pockets of the Donbas.
On May 5 alone, Ukraine’s armed forces reported repelling 11 attacks in the Donbas. Eight Russian tanks were destroyed, as were 11 infantry fighting vehicles and five transport vehicles. Seven Orlan-10 tactical drones were also shot down.
In the south, the Ukrainian military reported freeing several villages that border the Mykolayiv and Kherson regions.
The situation at the last bastion of defense in Mariupol, Donetsk region’s second most populous city, remains dire. An unknown number of combined forces of Marines, National Guardsmen, Border Guards, Police and Security Service officers are holding out in the vast tunnels and bunkers of the Azovstal steel plant near the Azov Sea.
About 200 civilians are believed to be trapped their as well, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said on May 5.
The defenders are almost depleted of ammunition and basic medicines to treat the wounded, while food and water shortages are acute.
New evidence uncovered by the Associated Press this week says that Russian bombing of the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theater in Mariupol killed closer to 600 people, about half more than was previously estimated.
The investigation “refutes Russian claims that the theater was demolished by Ukrainian forces or served as a Ukrainian military base,” the AP reported on May 4. It was destroyed by Russian air attacks on March 16.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov noted on May 5 that Western supplies of weapons to Ukraine have impeded Russia’s military objectives in Ukraine. Russia initially invaded the country in 2014 by forcibly seizing Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and occupying certain parts of the Donbas territories.
CNN and Business Insider cited Western officials this week saying that Kremlin tyrant Vladimir Putin wants to see faster battlefield results ahead of May 9 when Russia commemorates Victory in Europe day over Germany during World War II. The anonymous intelligence officials said that either an official declaration of war against Ukraine will be announced or a call-up of men aged up to 55-60 years will be ordered, or both.
On February 24, a full-scale invasion was launched that ultimately failed after Russian forces retreated from the Kyiv area in late March and early April. Now, Russia is concentrating forces in the east and south.
Overnight on May 3-5, almost every Ukrainian region heard air raid sirens as dozens of Russian cruise missiles were launched. They struck oil depots and rail infrastructure. The main objective of the strikes is “the destruction of logistical routes to provide military and technical assistance to Ukraine,” Gen. Zaluzhniy said.
Addressing the nightly bombardments, Mr. Zelenskyy said on May 4 that Russia “was venting its powerlessness” due to its failures on the battlefield “because they can’t beat Ukraine.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba amplified the response to the rocket attacks on May 4 by saying, “the only thing that will break down in the end is Russia and its capacity to invade, bomb, murder, loot and rape.”
A Ukrainian official told Foreign Policy magazine “that Russia has destroyed or badly damaged an anti-ship missile facility near Kyiv, the Malyshev tank factory in Kharkiv and heavy industrial complexes in the cities of Kharkiv, Mariupol and Mykolaiv. The Ukrainians are in especially dire need of multiple launch rocket systems, artillery, tanks and armored personnel vehicles because of Russian strikes against their facilities.”
Russia was thought to be a superior military force, second only to the U.S. or China, but has been shamed into losing five naval vessels since February 24 to Ukraine’s virtually non-existent navy.
As recent as May 2, two Raptor assault boats were sunk by war drones near occupied Snake Island in the Black Sea – a command post and anti-air defense system on the island was also reportedly struck.
Russia’s flagship Black Sea fleet vessel, the Moskva cruiser, was sunk on April 13 by two Ukrainian-built Neptune anti-ship rockets. An Alligator class landing ship was destroyed on March 24 by a ballistic missile and on March 22 a Raptor assault boat was struck with a Kornet anti-tank missile, Naval News reported.
Still, Russia has been launching rockets from both the Azov and Black seas at Mariupol and Odesa, a city of about 1 million people.
More sanctions, weapons
The European Union (EU) is proposing a sixth package of sanctions against Russia since February 24. The European Commission, the executive branch of the political and economic bloc, says it wants to impose an oil embargo that would gradually be phased in by the end of this year.
Hungary, and other countries like Bulgaria and Slovakia who are heavily reliant on Russian fossil fuels, are asking for exemptions. Hungary, in particular, said it would still veto the proposal, which requires unanimous approval by all 27 EU member states.
The International Energy Agency says Hungary received more than half of its crude oil product imports from Russia in 2021. And more than 30 percent of Russia’s state coffers are filled by exporting oil, natural gas and coal.
The proposal also seeks to sanction high-ranking military personnel and other officials who committed war crimes in Ukraine, Ukraine Business News Reported. The restrictive measures would disconnect Russia’s biggest lender, state-owned Sberbank, from the SWIFT system, as well as two other Russian banks.
A World War II-era program known as lend-lease was passed on April 28 by the U.S. bicameral legislature. It simplifies procedures for transferring critical military equipment and other supplies to Ukraine by reducing bureaucratic hurdles. It now requires U.S. President Joe Biden’s signature.
Britain announced another $375 million in further assistance to Ukraine over the past week. While addressing the Verkhovna Rada remotely, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “Ukraine will win; Ukraine will be free.”
He said some of the military aid will include Brimstone anti-ship missiles and Stormer anti-aircraft systems.