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Russia is making daily tactical gains in eastern Ukraine, as concerns swirl around Ukrainian military reporting

Author
CNN,
Publish Date
Mon, 29 Apr 2024, 2:43pm
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Russia is making daily tactical gains in eastern Ukraine, as concerns swirl around Ukrainian military reporting

Author
CNN,
Publish Date
Mon, 29 Apr 2024, 2:43pm

CNN- Vladimir Putin’s forces have made further gains in at least three locations along the eastern front in Ukraine – including for the first time in several months an advance in the northern Kharkiv region – highlighting again Kyiv’s need for ammunition and weapons from the United States and other allies.

Russia’s tactical advances are now daily and reflect the new tempo on the battlefield since the fall of the industrial town of Avdiivka in February.

The gains are generally modest -– from a few hundred meters of territory to perhaps a kilometer at most – but they are usually taking place in several locations at once.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s losses are being accompanied by criticism from influential military bloggers and analysts of the armed forces’ official battlefield updates.

One of Russia’s main efforts is in the Donetsk region. Ukraine’s DeepState monitoring group, which updates daily changes in frontline positions, shows Russian forces pushing forward in eight different locations along 20-25 kms of frontline in one 24-hour period.

Military bloggers on both sides have reported that Russian forces have crossed a water course and taken control of the settlements of Semenivka and Berdychi – which Ukrainian army chief Oleksandr Syrskyi confirmed in a post on Telegram on Sunday. Russia had deployed up to four brigades in offensive operations in the area, Syrskyi said.

A few kilometers to the north, Soloviove is now also reported to be in Russian hands, and the tiny settlement of Keramik at least partially so as well.

“The withdrawal in the Donetsk operational zone continues,” the Ukrainian military blogger Myroshnykov wrote.

Slightly further south, Russian forces are also making headway in the industrial town of Krasnohorivka, entering from the south and the east.

Fierce fighting has been reported around the town’s large brick factory. One Russian military blogger wrote of the battle’s importance: “The liberation (sic) of the refractory plant would actually mean the fall of the Krasnohorivka fortification, as the northern outskirts of the settlement are private buildings, which will be too difficult to defend if the plant is lost.”

Elsewhere, about 180kms (112 miles) to the north, Russia’s forces have also achieved their first successes in almost three months along that part of the frontline that cuts into Kharkiv region.

A Ukrainian army spokesman described Russian forces there as having become “significantly more active” over the past day, while DeepState assessed a Russian advance of between one and two kilometers into the village of Kyslivka.

Overall, the frontlines in this region have been among the most stable since Ukraine recaptured a large swath of territory in Kharkiv region in late summer of 2022.

Utility workers clean up the aftermath of an overnight Russian rocket attack in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on April 27.
Utility workers clean up the aftermath of an overnight Russian rocket attack in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on April 27. Stringer/Anadolu via Getty Images

Criticism of military communications

With withdrawals and losses accumulating, military bloggers such as Myroshnykov and the DeepState site have both taken aim at official Ukrainian communications, accusing the armed forces of increasingly unrealistic updates from the battlefield.

DeepState, in a post on Telegram, published a graphic video of a Russian soldier being killed in a drone strike in the village of Soloviove – but used the clip to argue that isolated incidents can mask the bigger picture, which it accused the military of doing as well.

“You can watch with pleasure forever the video of a Russian (soldier) being torn to pieces,” DeepState wrote, “but nearby there is another location that requires attention: Muscovites calmly moving around the village, keeping it under control. The (Ukrainian) Defense Forces inflict fire damage on them, and one can repeat at least a billion times (on national television) that two-thirds of the village is under the control of the Ukrainian military, but the picture of reality is completely different.”

That assessment – that two-thirds of Soloviove village was under Ukrainian control – was made by Nazar Voloshyn, spokesperson of the Khortytsia operational-strategic group, on Ukrainian TV on Saturday. Nearby Ocheretyne was also still two-thirds controlled by Ukraine, which had things in hand, he said.

For its part, DeepState sees it differently, assessing that Russian troops have been in control of the center of Ocheretyne village, including the railway station, for at least three days. Last week, the monitoring site made a similar complaint against the military accusing “some spokespersons” of incompetence.

Ukrainian army chief Syrskyi appeared to address those concerns in his Telegram post on Sunday suggesting that misunderstandings were due to the fluidity of developments.

“There is a dynamic change in the situation, some positions change hands several times a day, which give rise to an ambiguous understanding of the situation,” he wrote.

But he also acknowledged Ukraine’s overall situation had deteriorated.

“The situation at the front has escalated. Trying to seize the strategic initiative and break through the front line, the enemy has concentrated its main efforts in several directions, creating a significant advantage in forces and in means,” he added.

Ukrainian servicemen on an armored carrier return from the Semenivka battlefield near Avdiivka on March 4.
Ukrainian servicemen on an armored carrier return from the Semenivka battlefield near Avdiivka on March 4. Narciso Contreras/Anadolu via Getty Images

Russia last made small gains in the region in late January and early February, but DeepState assesses a new advance of between one and two kilometers into the village of Kyslivka. Overall, the frontlines in this region have been relatively stable since Ukraine recaptured a large swath of territory in Kharkiv region in late summer of 2022.

Russian forces are also making headway west of Donetsk city, entering the industrial town of Krasnohorivka from the south and the east.

Fierce fighting has been reported around a large brick factory. One Russian military blogger wrote of the battle’s importance: “The liberation (sic) of the refractory plant would actually mean the fall of the Krasnohorivka fortification, as the northern outskirts of the settlement are private buildings, which will be too difficult to defend if the plant is lost.”

Local residents sit at the entrance of an apartment building destroyed by shelling in Ocheretyne on April 15.
Local residents sit at the entrance of an apartment building destroyed by shelling in Ocheretyne on April 15. Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images

More short-term setbacks

Many Western analysts, along with Ukrainian officials, see Russia’s current stepped-up tempo as a precursor to a major offensive attempt later this spring. It is also assumed Moscow wants to take advantage of its significant advantage in ammunition before US supplies – greenlit last week after six months of political stasis – get to the frontlines.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) assesses that there will be more short-term setbacks for Ukraine, though without major strategic defeats.

“Russian forces will likely make significant tactical gains in the coming weeks as Ukraine waits for US security assistance to arrive at the front but remain unlikely to overwhelm Ukrainian defenses,” it wrote.

Ukraine’s other major quantitative weakness, which also helps explain recent battlefield trajectories, is manpower. A new mobilization law comes into effect next month, which is expected to improve conscription processes. But Kyiv has proved highly reluctant to say clearly how many more soldiers it needs, while Moscow keeps increasing numbers.

“The quality (of Russian fighters) of course varies, but the quantitative advantage is a serious problem, Rob Lee of Foreign Policy Research Institute, posted on X.

“Without (its) manpower advantage, Russia’s artillery and airpower advantage would not be sufficient for Russia to make gains on the battlefield. The relative manpower situation is likely the most important factor that will determine the war’s trajectory, particularly if Russia can sustain recruiting 20-30k a month,” Lee adds.

Yulia Kesaieva, Maria Kostenko and Victoria Butenko contributed to this report

This article was originally posted on the NZ Herald here.

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