Putin's War, Weeks 66 and 67. The Offensive Starts

My apologies for not pushing out an update last week. I was away with family. As a result, this update will not have some of the stories I would have commented on last week because the resulting post would be too long.


The big news is that it is virtually certain that the Ukrainian spring/summer offensive is underway. The Ukrainian leadership has been releasing statements that D-Day is near.

Last week the Ukrainian Armed Forces released this video.

What we’ve seen is an increased targeting of artillery, supply, electronic warfare, troop billets, and command and control nodes. Monday, there were concentrated fires directed at Russian frontline positions.

Then a series of attacks were launched at several places along the frontline while Russian dissident units re-invaded Belgorod.

So far, there have been no sightings of Leopard 2 or Challenger 2 tanks. This indicates that they are still held in reserve.

The operational concept seems to be to probe the Russian frontline to make opportunistic gains — there have been gains of over 10 kilometers in several places — while keeping the Russian command off balance. These attacks allow the Ukrainians to judge the caliber of the defending troops and the defensive line. When weak points are identified, we can expect to see some of the estimated 20 brigades, including six armored brigades, that have disappeared from sight over the last several months, make their appearance.

Here are some of my past updates.

Putin’s War, Week 65. G7 Calls for War Crimes Trials and Reparations, F-16 Pilots Start Training, and Russia Is Invaded

Putin’s War, Week 64. Patriots Score Big and the Scene Is Set for Offensive Action

Putin’s War, Week 63. Chechens Replace Wagner in Bakhmut, Storm Shadow Arrives, and Russia Says ‘Family Guy’ Is a Meany-Pants

Putin’s War, Week 62. Kremlin Droned, Russia Dissed by Friends and Allies, and Ukraine’s Offensive Takes Shape

Putin’s War, Week 61. Xi Calls, Prigozhin Sounds El Degüello, and Surprise Attacks at Sevastopol, Kherson, and (Maybe) St. Petersburg

Putin’s War, Week 60. Leaked Documents, a Russian Troll Exposed, and More Pieces Fall Into Place

Putin’s War, Week 59. Russia Goes ISIS and Waiting for General Mud to Take a Break

Putin’s War, Week 58. All Dressed Up and No Place to Go

Putin’s War, Week 57. Waiting for Godot.

Putin’s War, Week 56. Putin Indicted for War Crimes, Xi Visits Moscow, and Sevastopol Attacked for a Third Time

Putin’s War, Week 55. Russia Drops US Recon Drone, Ukraine Suffers From ‘Loose Lips’ as It Doubles Down on Bakhmut


Putin’s War, Week 54. More NordStream Melodrama, Russia Shows Diplomatic Weakness, and the Bakhmut Flipflop

Putin’s War, Week 53. Zelensky Blows a Big Play, Moscow Dodges a Drone Attack, and Russia’s Spring Offensive Fizzles

Putin’s War, Week 52. US and China Face off, Prigozhin Goes for the Jugular, Mystery Weapon Strikes, and Happy Anniversary

Putin’s War, Week 51. Russia’s Slow-Mo Offensive Gets Underway

Putin’s War, Week 50. The Calm Before the Storm

Putin’s War, Week 49. Waiting for the Russian Offensive

Putin’s War, Week 48. The Logjam Breaks and the Leopards Are About to Roam the Ukrainian Landscape

Putin’s War, Week 47. Gerasimov Shakes Up the Russian Army and the Russian Spring Offensive Looms

Putin’s War, Week 46. Putin Shakes up the Army Command, Prigozhin Shows How It’s Done, and Western Tanks for Ukraine Are on the Way

Putin’s War, Week 45: Putin Declares a Cease Fire, Zelensky Gets Putin’s Terms for Peace, and if You’re Fighting a War, Leave Your Cell Phone Home

Putin’s War, Week 44. Drones Strike Russian Strategic Bomber Base…Again… Prigozhin Makes His Move

Putin’s War, Week 43. Zelensky Visits the Front Lines and Washington, Putin Tries to Push Belarus Into War

Putin’s War, Week 42. Ukraine Gets the Nod to Strike Targets in Russia and Some Tools to Do It With

Many more are available at this link.

Politico-Strategic Level

Germany Shuts Down Russian Consulates and Approves Ukrainian Strikes in Russia

This is another in the continuation of the pattern of Russia forcing Germany to take action when Germany would rather do nothing.

Keep in mind that four months ago, Germany called sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine an “escalation.”

Antony Blinken Spells Out US Policy in Ukraine

I wish this had been done earlier and that it had come from the White House, but with this bunch at the helm, you have to take your good news where you can find it.

The only way this war ends, and by that, I mean concludes rather than limping on as one of the world’s many “frozen conflicts,” is if Ukraine regains control of its post-1991 borders. This means the Russians must be forced to leave Donbas and Crimea. Ukraine must cease to be viewed by some in the West as a rebellious Russian satellite state and be accepted as a sovereign nation free to make its own economic, political, and military alliances. Blinken laying down this marker goes a long way toward making that happen.


He also couldn’t resist adding this.

Russia Goes After Soft Targets

Over the past two or three months, Russia’s missile attacks against heavily defended targets, like Kiev, have proven to be an embarrassment. Thursday night, the Russians appeared to have changed strategy. They started hitting civilian targets in lightly defended cities.

This infographic gives an idea of the size of the Russian attacks on Ukrainian civilian targets in May.
Putin's War, Weeks 66 and 67. The Offensive Starts
This infographic shows the type of drone or missile used in each attack

Putin's War, Weeks 66 and 67. The Offensive Starts

Fake Putin Declares Martial Law

Russia’s mad hacking skillz are turning out like nearly everything else produced in Russia. On the other hand, Ukraine has been a shock to the world in its technical proficiency and using the results to maximum effect; see examples in Putin’s War, Week 62. Kremlin Droned, Russia Dissed by Friends and Allies and Ukraine’s Offensive Takes Shape, Putin’s War, Week 49. Waiting for the Russian Offensive. and While the Ukraine Focus Is on Ground Combat in Ukraine, a Major Anti-Russian Front Has Opened in Cyberspace.

Monday, several radio and television stations in Russia broadcast a deep-fake of Vladimir Putin declaring mass mobilization and martial law.

Not only is this a great troll of Putin, but it reduces the credibility of any statement broadcast by any Russian leader.

Wagner PMC Tunes Up Russian Colonel

The relationship between the Russian military command and Putin crony Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner PMC has been a parlous one. Prigozhin has accused the Russian command structure of depriving Wagner of ammunition and artillery support. Two weeks ago, Prigozhin announced that his men were handing Bakhmut over to Chechen troops and clearing out; see Putin’s War, Week 63. Chechens Replace Wagner in Bakhmut, Storm Shadow Arrives and Russia Says ‘Family Guy’ Is a Meany-Pants. The Russian military hasn’t responded in kind, but they haven’t ignored it. When Wagner withdrew, they found their routes out of the city had been mined by Russian forces.


Sunday, Wagner released a video of a prisoner they had taken. A Russian lieutenant colonel and brigade commander named Roman Venevitin gave a video confession to ordering the mining of Wagner’s routes and of firing on a vehicle carrying Wagner fighters. His nose was broken, and he was beaten during his “questioning.”

Prigozhin only gets away with this because of his connection to Putin, so o,ne must assume he’s serving some very useful function for his master.

The Invasion of Russia Continues…With Polish Help

Two weeks ago, two Russian “separatist” units fighting under nominal Ukrainian control invaded Russia’s Belgorod Oblast; this is the second such cross-border foray by the Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps — see Putin’s War, Week 54. More NordStream Melodrama, Russia Shows Diplomatic Weakness, and the Bakhmut Flipflop and Russia Evacuates Nuclear Weapons Stockpile as ‘Dissident’ Invasion of Russia Continues. After a temporary withdrawal, the two groups launched another invasion in a different spot.

According to reports, the only Russian troops available are conscript formations that aren’t terribly proficient. Belgorod has a large contingent of Territorial Defense Forces, but the Russian military has refused to arm them.

As the latest twist to this story, the Polish Volunteer Corps is also participating in this expedition.

Russian Television Comments on the Kakhovka Dam Collapse

This is part of the continuing series of subtitled Russian news and current affairs programming to let you see the official government-sanctioned take on events.

Tuesday, the hydroelectric dam at Nova Kakhovka in Occupied Ukraine suffered a catastrophic failure. You can read my post on the subject at Ukraine’s Nova Kakhovka Dam Is Blown up Unleashing Widespread Flooding. The government-sanctioned line from the Kremlin was that Ukraine was behind the explosion. This is how their top-level commentariat describes the event.


Genocide is the New Black

Operational Level

As the first week of the Ukrainian offensive starts, this is the general situation. Four identifiable Ukrainian offensive actions are underway. I will discuss them based on the map below, starting in the north.

Putin's War, Weeks 66 and 67. The Offensive Starts
CREDIT: Base map via ISW Interactive Map of the Ukraine War.

In northern Kharkiv, there has been action east of Kupiansk that may be focused on reducing the Russian salient along the border.

A drive is underway north and south of Bakhmut. This is happening as Wagner PMC extricates itself from the war and is relieved by Chechen forces. The main result of this push has been about a kilometer of ground gained on either flank and the Russians transferring some of their more competent units from Zaporizhzhia to shore up the defense.

Next is a series of offensive actions on the southern flank of the Ukrainian salient at Avdiivka. The Russians have been trying to encircle the Ukrainian forces there for several months. The Ukrainian movement seems to have the objective of reducing the pressure there.

Finally, the Ukrainians are pushing against the shoulders of a Russian salient in southern Donetsk.

None of these strike me as the setup for the main attack. In my view, they are shaping and economy of force operations designed to freeze Russian forces in place and possibly force the Russians to commit forces from whatever operational reserve they have assembled to stop Ukrainian advances.

Combat Operations
First Kill of a Leopard 2 Tank Caught on Video

The Russians have been circulating this video by a Russian Ka-52 attack helicopter claiming it killed two Leopard 2 tanks.

There are several still images of Russian origin that purport to show Leopard 2 tanks in action or destroyed. What is missing is the video from which the stills were taken. Until credible video emerges of Leopard 2 tanks, I will consider them as still in reserve.

Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP)
Russia Adjusts HIMARS Fire On Itself

The ubiquity of social media presents a problematic security environment for Ukraine and Russia. In this video, a Russian camera crew covering the HIMARS attack on a military base in Occupied Donetsk was caught in a follow-on attack on the same building.

They were caught in a new attack because the Ukrainian military apparently used their video feed for a damage assessment and decided there was more work to be done.



Southern Front

The past two weeks have seen a large number of attacks against Russian logistics areas and troop concentrations using Storm Shadow cruise missiles. There has been little ground action in the area.


Partisan Activity

Serhiy Dydovdyuk and his daughter Yana were killed by a bomb placed under their car. Both were active in the Occupation government.

More Partisan Activity

Rear Areas

Spook Hunting?

Two weeks ago, I posted on the drone attacks on the Kremlin and the pricey neighborhood adjacent to it; Putin’s War, Week 62. Kremlin Droned, Russia Dissed by Friends and Allies, and Ukraine’s Offensive Takes Shape. NBC News quotes US officials as saying that the buildings struck all had a lot of residents affiliated with the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). From that, they infer that the high-profile attack’s real target was Russian foreign intelligence.

Color me skeptical. They infer that the high-profile attack’s real target was SVR officials. While I can see the value of striking at the Russians who enable Putin’s War, intelligence operations in Ukraine and other former Soviet Republics come under the FSB, not the SVR. If the SVR was targeted, the Ukrainians might have been doing someone in Europe a favor — looking at you, Poland.

Friendly Fire

Ukraine has carried out a number of drone attacks on Russian airbases, some much closer to Moscow than Kiev. While most Ukrainian drone attacks have produced minor damage, the psychological impact is significant.

Russian Oil Refinery Hit by Drones

This refinery is located across the Kerch Strait from Crimea.


Oil Pumping Station Hit by Drone Attacks

What’s Next?

Based on what we see right now, this is how I would guess the operation will unfold. First, the extraordinary number of deep strikes into Zaporizhzhia, particularly the number using Storm Shadow cruise missiles, still convinces me that this will be the main focus of the offensive. I still think the main axis of attack will be Tokmak-Melitopol, with its objective to sever the rail and highway arteries that constitute the only significant means of supply for Russian troops in Occupied Kherson and Crimea. Second, I think the Ukrainians will ratchet up the pressure on at least one of the ongoing offensive actions, including the “invasion” of Russia, to force Russia to commit reserve troops. This will create the ideal opportunity for the main offensive.

This is not to say the Russians are without countermeasures. The destruction of the Kakhovka dam on Tuesday shut down one possible Ukrainian avenue of attack and allowed the Russians to transfer critical artillery, air defense, and electronic warfare assets to other areas. They are currently destroying minor dams in Zaporizhzhia to channel any attack onto well-defended strongpoints.


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