The Ukraine War: Reassessing the situation after another month

The Ukraine War as of April 9, 2022
The Ukraine War as of April 9, 2022. Click for full map.

The Ukraine War as of May 5, 2022
The Ukraine War as of May 5, 2022. Click for full map.

Since my last look at the state of Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine on April 7, 2022, not much as happened, as indicated by the two maps to the right, both simplified versions of maps created by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

The red hatched areas are regions Russia captured in 2014. The red areas are regions the Russians have captured in this invasion and now fully control. The pink areas are regions they have occupied but do not fully control. The tan areas the Russians claim to control but the control remains unconfirmed. Blue regions are areas the Ukraine has recaptured. The blue hatched area is where local Ukrainians have had some success resisting Russian occupation.

Russia has now completely shifted its military resources from the north to the eastern parts of the Ukraine. As a result it has had some success firming up its control over the regions it had invaded to the north and east of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions it had grabbed in 2014. Yet, these gains were only in areas Russia had already occupied. In the past month it has almost entirely failed to invade or capture any additional territory.

Meanwhile, the Ukraine has begun to have some success in retaking territory around the city of Kharkiv. It also successfully pushed back an advance Russia attempted to the west of Donetsk. Moreover, despite repeated expectations that the full occupation of the city of Maripol would be completed a month ago, that occupation is still not complete, with resistant forces still fighting heavily in one area and thus tying up Russia forces for far longer than expected.

The May 5th assessment by ISW said this:

Russian forces continued ineffectual offensive operations in southern Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Luhansk Oblasts without securing any significant territorial gains in the past 24 hours. The Pentagon assessed that Russian forces have not been able to make further advances due to their inability to conduct offensive operations far from their ground lines of communication (GLOCs) along highways, as ISW previously assessed, and muddy terrain. … Russian forces are reportedly suffering losses in stalled attacks along the Izyum axis, with the Ukrainian General Staff reporting that elements of the 4th Tank Division and the 106th Airborne Division withdrew to Russia after sustaining heavy losses in the past several days.

Russian forces conducted unsuccessful attacks in Lyman, Severodonetsk, and Popasna, and maintained shelling along the line of contact in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. Russian forces also used thermobaric munitions against Ukrainian positions in Lyman and are unsuccessfully attempting to leverage massed artillery fire to break through Ukrainian defenses.

The overall trend seems to favor the Russians. Whether it can gain more territory is unclear, but it seems that except for one area near Kharkiv it is firming up its control on the territories grabbed in early March. The question now remains: Can Russia expand its invasion, or can the Ukraine push back and force the Russians back?

Right now it looks like neither can do either, and the situation shall remain bogged down for the near future.

The Ukraine War: Little change in the past week

The Ukraine War as of April 7, 2022
The Ukraine War as of April 7, 2022. Click for full map.

Since my last weekly report on the Ukraine War, so little has changed that I am not bothering posting a new map. The one to the right is from April 7th, and other than some minor changes, including the completion of Russia’s full withdrawal from the entire northern regions, the front line in the east remains essentially the same. The most recent map from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) can be found here for comparison. In one place Russia appears to have pushed forward, while in another it has pulled back. Meanwhile, ISW reports increased Ukrainian resistance efforts in one large area.

Overall, the Russians appear bogged down, while the Ukrainians show renewed military strength.

The Institute today also published its weekly summary of the entire war situation. The most important takeaway is that it appears all negotiations between the two nations have collapsed.

Ukraine and Russia are both unlikely to advance ceasefire negotiations until the ongoing Russian campaign in eastern Ukraine develops further. The Kremlin likely seeks to capture at minimum the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, while Kyiv seeks to further degrade the Russian military and potentially conduct major counteroffensives.

This fact suggests strongly to me that the Ukraine has concluded its military situation is excellent, and that negotiations serve it no purpose. While Russia has been focusing its invasion effort entirely in the east in the hope it might make more gains that way, it has also made very little progress. While it continues to slowly take control of Mariupol street-by-street, the city has remained unconquered now many weeks longer than expected. This failure of Russia to quickly take the city not only ties up a large part of their military, it sows morale issues in its own army while the Ukraine resistance is enlivened by it.

The next few weeks will reveal whether Russia will be able to harness the necessary forces to make further gains in the east, or whether the Ukraine will begin to retake territory back from Russia. Right now it is difficult to predict which way the war will go.

The Ukraine War: Increasing Ukrainian gains in the past week

The Ukraine War as of March 24, 2022
The Ukraine War as of March 24, 2022. Click for full map.

The Ukraine War as of March 31, 2022
The Ukraine War as of March 31, 2022. Click for full map.

Another week has passed in the Ukraine war, and with it we begin to see increasing evidence that not only has the Russian invasion stalled, but that the Ukraine is beginning to push back with more and more effectiveness.

The two maps to the right are from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and have been simplified, annotated, and reduced to post here. The top was from ISW’s March 24, 2022 report, the bottom from its report today. The dark red areas are regions either controlled by Russia or areas of confirmed Russian advance. The light red indicates areas the Russians claim to control without confirmation. The blue areas mark areas retaken by the Ukraine in battle. The circles indicate areas of recent heavy fighting.

The green arrows I have added to both maps indicate areas where there have been changes since the week prior. Like last week, the arrows point almost entirely to areas where Russian control has ebbed, either because the Russians have chosen to retreat, or because Ukrainian forces have pushed them out. The summary from ISW is succinct:
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Update on the actual state of the Ukraine War

Much of the reporting about the war in the Ukraine has been either based on individual anecdotal events, or propaganda being churned out by both sides in an effort to influence events and public opinion to their cause.

All of this information is generally useless in determining what is really happening.

A better way to understand the actual state of the war, who is winning and who is not, is to find sources that don’t look at individual events, but try to compile all the reliable and confirmed stories into an overall whole.

One source that does this routinely and with great success is the Institute for the Study of War. I have relied on their maps and reports for a clear understanding of the various Middle Eastern conflicts now for years. One week ago I posted a link to the Institute’s March 9, 2022 update on the Ukraine War, because I believed it provided the best review, well documented and sourced, covering Russia’s entire military operation in the Ukraine, as well as the effort of the Ukraine to fight back. At that time, the known data strongly suggested that though Russia appeared to be very slowly capturing territory, it was also meeting heavy resistance everywhere. Furthermore, Russia’s effort was hampered by a lagging logistics and supply operation. All told, this data suggested that Russia’s take-over of the Ukraine was going to take a lot longer than expected by Putin and his generals, and might even get bogged down into a long quagmire similar to what the Soviet Union experienced in Afghanistan in the late 1970s.

A week has passed, and the Institute has issued several updates since. By comparing today’s March 17th update with last week’s we can quickly get a sense of what has happened in that week.
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