The “major” Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine continues, producing minor Russian territorial gains as a “senior U.S. defense official” warns that Russia is still continuing to add to its forces in the region. 42 towns were captured by Russia on Thursday, according to Ukrainian officials.
Despite that, Ukraine’s government sounds the most optimistic of the two. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed “cautious optimism” that allied countries now “understand our needs better,” rushing to provide Ukraine with heavy weapons that Zelenskyy had been asking NATO countries to send for weeks now. Russian troops continue to be tied up north of Izyum in attempts to keep supply lines open even as Ukraine applies heavy pressure; even Russia taking new ground may be as much a sign of Ukraine tweaking its defensive tactics.
The loss of Izyum continues to be a heavy blow, allowing Russia to stage much closer to other key cities than it otherwise could.
In more curious news, two major fires inside Russia raise eyebrows for their potential long-term significance. A key Russian research center for missile development appears to be a total loss after a fire broke out, reportedly killing at least two and injuring dozens. The Dmitrievsky Chemical Plant, a major producer of chemical solvents, was destroyed by a different fire. Both are a long, long way from the Russian border, but the destruction of two major facilities in one day is, at the least, unusual. It’s almost certainly a coincidence … unless something similar happens tomorrow.
The most substantial question, however, remains the same. Is there a more robust Russian attack coming, or is this the full extent of Russian capabilities? Military experts wildly disagree on that one, with the Pentagon’s warnings growing increasingly dire while outside think tanks remain skeptical after weeks of watching what Russia’s commanders have (and haven’t) been able to pull off.
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