A thread about Russian options in the east/south and timelines. There is talk these days about Russia wanting to tie up operations by May 9 (Victory Day) and making major advances either to cut the Ukrainians off in Donbas or move up to Dnipro.
This is a huge area of operations that would require skilful planning and coordination, motivated forces and great supply. It’s not something that the Russians have given any indication to this point they could pull off, esp with an army that has been suffering for 6 weeks.
First the size. To put the area of operations in context the distance from Kharkiv to Mariupol is 420 kms; around 260 miles. In U.K. terms it’s almost the length of England (London to Sunderland) in US terms it’s like going NYC to WDC and then back to Baltimore. Image
The Russians are not only going to have to move up and down long lines of advance if they were going to take these areas, they are going to have to hold them. Right now they have nowhere near enough troops in theatre to do that.
On the north end of this area of operations the Russians have deployed 30 BTGs of approx 800-1000 soldiers. They have been in combat for almost six weeks and for all the talk about the importance of seizing Izium, they have advanced about 10 miles in 3 weeks. See map 16 March Image
So they have at most 24000 tired soldiers to control a large area from Kharkiv to Izium, which is also supposed to drive through determined Ukrainian resistance and create a Donbas pocket while protecting its long supply lines? Good luck.
Situation in the South is even tricker. Russians have two many different areas of operations. They have BTGs fighting from Mariupol to Kherson, which is almost exactly the same distance as Mariupol to Kharkiv. They have far fewer troops here they could spare to move on Dnipro
UAWAR data; an excellent resource, has only 6 Russian BTGs below Zaporizhzia. That is not enough to take that city: let alone maintain any major offensive. 5000 or so troops is way to small. uawardata.com
Russian troops around Kherson are already getting pushed back and the ones fighting in Mariupol will be in no shape to head into another major attack if/when that city falls.
It’s been why I’ve been banging on about seeing what reinforcements the Russians bring. They do not have anything like enough forces to undertake the kinds of operations people seem to be talking about. They will need massive reinforcement of well supplied troops.
If they are counting on the withdrawn Kyiv forces mainly, best guess is that it’s many weeks til they are rested. resupplied and transported to theatre for operations.
And all the while the Ukrainians will be reinforcing and resupplying as well. So the idea of the Russians wrapping up operations in the Donbas and seizing Dnipro by May 9 seems almost entirely implausible. Far more likely we have nasty attritional warfare along the present lines.
If I was a gambling man, which I’m not, I would wager it’s more likely we see a major Russian military collapse somewhere in the south and east (Kherson?) by May 9 through being overstretched and attritted than a Russian Army having seized Dnipro and surrounded the entire Donbas.
Btw, things don’t seem to be going well at all for Russian forces around Kherson.
Some stories of Russian troops (elite ones) refusing to go back to Ukraine. The idea that the troops just pulled from the north will quickly be redeployed to the Donbas to fight the Ukrainians again seems rather simplistic. themoscowtimes.com/2022/04/07/60-…
Russian soldiers who were originally deceived into this operation with promises of easy conquest have by this point experienced enough of Ukraine's fierce resistance that they are thinking twice about becoming Ukrainian fertilizer for the sake of Putin and his oligarchs.
Im sure Russian soldiers would be honored to sacrifice their lives so that Putin's cronies and mistresses can live like this.
A @thetimes story about British sourced thinking as well that the Russian army might suffer breakdowns because of exhaustion and being overstretched. Paywall but here is the start. thetimes.co.uk/article/invadi…
Image
U.K. MOD saying the Russian units defeated around Kyiv will need ‘significant replenishment’ before being ready for combat and a mass redeployment to the east will take at least a week. Best guess, a week is far too soon. Only an efficient, motivated military could manage that.
Returning to yesterdays long thread on the morale of the Russian army. This has to be too high a %. Otoh, if only 80% of a unit was willing to fight; that would be a force in crisis.
First data from the Pentagon. Number of Russian BTGs in the Donbas now might be 40. If so, would guess that the 10 BTGs the Russians were said to be assembling were all sent to the region. At maximum strength thats 10000 soldiers and 100 tanks. Prob less.
And pentagon says Russians still having significant logistics problems both in and out of Russia.
Refitting of the Russian units from the Kyiv front will take time. Some of them have been ‘eradicated’ and ‘There’s just nothing left’. The idea that many of these units will be fighting in the Donbas in a week seems unlikely.
Last entry on this thread. Institute for the study of war brings together a range of different sources in its daily report about the difficulty the Russians are having trying to get troops into combat. @TheStudyofWar Image

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More from @PhillipsPOBrien

May 16
Surreptitious mobilization does seem to be taking place, though what it means for Putin's view of his own people is probably more important than what it means militarily.
It was only a week ago that we were wondering whether Putin was going to try and turn the Russian people's supposed support for this war into actual military power by declaring war or mobilizing. As you know, he didnt. cnbc.com/2022/05/06/put…
Indeed, he gave a very bland speech which called for no sacrifice by the Russian people. If anything it was an attempt to convince them to support him and not to ask any sacrifices.
Read 10 tweets
May 15
Battle of the Donbas update, some thoughts on what happened the past week and where things might be heading. Looks like we are seeing drastically reduced Russian goals, though even then might be unobtainable. And Russian Army heading for major trouble over the summer.
First, the Russians have severely restricted their offensive activity to now a very small pocket between Popasna and Severodonetsk. Here is the @TheStudyofWar map of the area where the activity is located and a link to their report from last night. understandingwar.org/backgrounder/r… Image
This represents an extreme rolling back of Russian goals in the Donbas, from a large encirclement to basically a mini-me snipping off of a salient. Tried to show the scaling back in this thread earlier in the week.
Read 18 tweets
May 14
A really interesting and important breakdown of the relative balance between confirmed Russian and Ukrainian losses--which shows one thing very clearly. The Ukrainians have prioritized attacking Russian logistics whenever possible--to great effect. euromaidanpress.com/2022/05/14/rus…
The report shows overall confirmed equipment losses between the two and it wont be a surprise that Russian losses are running overall at abt 3.75 to each piece of Ukrainian equipment lost. Image
Whats most interesting is that the base ratio is close to being matched also for all subsets of equipment except one. Russian logistics losses are running at a staggering more than 15 pieces for every 1 Ukrainian. Image
Read 4 tweets
May 14
The story of this engagement tells alot about the war. In one specific area it provides some really good evidence that Ukrainian claims of Russian losses are far more accurate than many have supposed. In this case, we have a fascinating test.
Here is one recent count, which tries to cover the different evidence and concludes that in this failed river crossing event the Russians lost 12 tanks and somewhere around 50 APCs of different classes. These pictures emerged on March 11-12
Now, looking at Ukrainian claims of Russian losses in these classes, evidence of a large bump in both tank and APC losses started just before this, basically May 9-11. Here is the daily count of tank losses, has a major short rise peaking on May 10.
Read 10 tweets
May 13
Its not just that Russia is losing tanks, its that its losing many of its most modern and best tanks that is so striking. Even fighting against an enemy that has no air superiority, the vulnerability of the tank seems very high.
Agree that the lack of Russian infantry has exacerbated this problem--and my guess is that the next few years is going to see a pretty intense tank vs anti-tank debate in strategic studies circles.
My best guess (and its a guess) is that the problems with defending the tank is only going to get worse going forward. Loitering munitions will improve their anti-armor abilities and hand-helds should also improve accuracy and range.
Read 5 tweets
May 13
Really interesting story in the BBC about the experiences of a Russian contract soldier who went in during the first wave of the Russian invasion, but having survived is refusing to go back into Ukraine. bbc.com/russian/featur…
Was struck by his description of original Ukrainian tactic of not fighting on the border, but retreating into the cities to draw the Russians in and expose them.
When this is over would be interesting to see how well thought out this plan was, it certainly seemed very effective and helped cause the collapse of the Russian attack on Kyiv.
Read 4 tweets

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