Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy today publicly announced that Russia’s long-expected Donbas offensive has now begun, with Russia boosting offensive operations throughout eastern Ukraine. What precisely that means is not yet clear; while Russian missile and artillery strikes have escalated in the past few days, the details on Russian ground assaults aren’t yet known. The newest ISW report remains skeptical that Russia will be any more successful in these attacks than in its failed Kyiv operations, though heavy casualties on both sides are all but assured.
One report suggests Russia may be attempting to surround and take Slovyansk, southeast of Izyum; this is at odds with previous intelligence suggesting—implausibly—that the Russian offensive would be aimed at taking far-off Dnipro, bypassing Ukraine’s most entrenched eastern defenses entirely. A Slovyansk attack would be a more incremental approach, but Ukrainian defenses there are robust.
Ukraine is not only defending, however. It’s also continuing to press Russian supply lines, a tactic that proved devastatingly effective in degrading Russian forces around Kyiv to the point that Russia was forced to retreat. Now those operations are targeting Russian lines leading to Izyum, a city recently captured by Russia that has been the staging ground for these newest attempted Russian drives southward.
There remain few scenarios in which Russian kleptocrat Vladimir Putin can carve out a win, no matter how the war unfolds from here. The sanctions currently dooming Russian attempts to replace the equipment being lost are likely to remain in effect for many years to come. While Putin has now arrested numerous of his own officials in an attempt to find scapegoats for Russia’s displays of military incompetence, the many opportunities for Russia to deescalate and declare partial victory are now behind us. Throwing Russian troops haphazardly toward the frontlines in an attempt to exhaust Ukraine territorial defense forces regardless of Russian costs appears to be one of the few plans Putin’s handpicked and thieving military leaders believe they might have the skills to accomplish.
Some of today’s news: