Russia Is Shortening Its Front to Bolster the Two Key Donbass Axes of Advance

Pulling back from pointless salients in the steppe. Freeing up forces to pursue strategic payoff in the east

Yurasumy is a Russian-language blogger from Sumy, Ukraine who after the 2014 Euromaidan fled to Russia. In 2014 he was, along with Gleb Bazov and Colonel Cassad, among the top three bloggers to read to understand and follow the conflict in Donbass.

Since then, and owing to his switch to making videos, he has raised his popularity and clout in Russia to stratospheric levels. He has over a million subscribers on Telegram and nearly three million on YouTube. Every single one of his twice-daily war updates receives 2-3 million views. He is huge and it’s good to see so many people turning to a commentator as solid as he.

In his latest update on the war Yurasumy (he now goes by his real-life name of Yuriy Podolyaka but he will always be the legendary Yurasumy to me) explains that the Russian military has carried out a tactical retreat in southwestern Ukraine around Nikolayev. This was done to shorten and simplify the front, in order to free up units to be sent to Donbass. 

The Russian military has carried out a similar maneuver in the north, around Sumy.  The forces blockading the city of Sumy have been withdrawn to bolster Russian numbers at  Izyum from which the northern pincer against the Ukrainian forces in Donbass will proceed.

Ironically I questioned the utility of operations around Nikolayev early on since it was clear that too few troops had been committed to achieve a strategic payoff. I suggested that holding a small defensive bridgehead around Kherson and freeing up many of these units for the strategically key Donbass encirclement battle in the east would make more sense, and two weeks later that is exactly what the Russian military is doing.

I wrote on March 11:

This last effort is particularly difficult to understand. Russia is attacking the great vastness of southwestern Ukraine beyond the Dnieper with a force of under 7,000 men.

Don’t get me wrong. Taking Nikolaev, crossing the Bug, and advancing on Odessa are worthwhile goals. Strategically and morally, landlocking Ukraine could be very impactful. But it is not something that is going to be achieved by 7,000 men.

It seems to me that Russia either ought to commit enough forces to get the task done, or not attempt it at all. Using up men and lives to form a ridiculous tentacle stretching into the Ukrainian vastness that achieves no strategic objective is the worst of both worlds.

A smaller force backed by airpower could have protected the captured Dnieper crossings with a bridgehead while the rest helped out in the east in the critical Zaporozhye direction where just going from 7 BTGs to 12 could have potentially made a very big difference. (They’re stuck but near.)

Instead, spread out between three separate directions and objectives (Mariupol, Zaporozhye, Nikolayev), the forces that broke out from Crimea are securing none of them particularly fast.

Predictably this analysis that the Russian general staff obviously agreed with was welcomed by the typical AE comment section meltdown. Anti-Empire was just the meanest…for looking at the map and reaching the same conclusion that Russia’s own military also reached.

This is starting to become a pattern where AE first calls something (Russian Faucism, Russian escalation in Ukraine, Russian dilution along too many axes), is then repaid for these early and valuable observations by hysterical comment section screeching. And is then proven right.

Trostyanets is a town to the south of Sumy that Russians pulled back from without a fight.

Yellow marks the areas that have been evacuated and relinquished to Ukrainians without a fight.

16 Comments
  1. TZVI says

    Having air Superiority allows for some mistakes. We will see by Monday/ Tuesday how this fares. I think Kiev will score secure some addtional points around Kiev short term.

  2. Oscar Peterson says

    So what happens around Kiev?

    1. TZVI says

      Good Question. Time will tell if the Kiev forces will manage to coutner attack, or just assume territory and call it thus.

    2. CalDre says

      They will just surround and blockade it. Kiev is the economic capital of Ukraine and if they shut it down, eventually the Ze regime will have to surrender; storming the city has no obvious benefits over that, but lots of disadvantages (principally death and destruction).

  3. Oscar Peterson says

    Are these just tactical moves or are the strategic goals being reduced.

    1. TZVI says

      Looks from the outside to be a re-evaluation of goals, maybe not.

  4. Tom Verso says

    These maps are in stark contrast to the 3/25 maps shown by respected English language Russian analyst Saker.

    see: https://thesaker.is/one-month-into-the-russian-special-operation-in-the-ukraine/

    1. TZVI says

      I would look more to the map presented here as a general non specific map to show movement.

    2. Neo says

      Saker is not so respected as you think. Watched him declare undying belief in all Covid lies. He’s been a jerk towards his own best readers who know better.

      This means he’s either complicit and is a gate-keeper, or is a major fool. But I think he’s got an enormous ego and can’t admit MAJOR nuclear-level mistakes.

      1. Dale says

        Is Saker’s Covid extremism reason to dismiss his assessments of the war out-of-hand ? What if AE’s assessments of the war are unduly negative ?

  5. ken says

    If I had a website delving into political issues I would accept the fact that many will disagree with me. Putin said it was a limited action and apparently it is. Exactly what their goals are,,, only they know but they are for sure limited… at least so far.

    I know this… after two years of lockdowns,,, restrictions,,, dangerous injections that many have died from (far, far more then the number of Russians and Ukrainians in this little spat so far),,, people fired and the non stop hate for the not jabbed,,, the hate for China because of the propaganda linking a fake virus to a bio-lab in Wuhan admittedly funded by America,,, (no one mentions the labs in America that were/are doing the same)

    I would celebrate anyone that is willing to take out the Bio-labs in Ukraine or anywhere else for that matter. Bio-labs are far worse than nukes. If they come up with a deadly disease that they can unleash but have an antidote that keeps them safe they WILL in fact use it. Unlike a nuclear attack, once the bio-attack is concluded they will have the world to themselves fully intact. These bio-labs are for that purpose and that purpose only. Anyone thinking differently is in la la land.

    Americans and the West siding with Ukraine that has allowed some thirty bio-labs to operate within their territory after what everyone have put up with these last few years is incredible. What? Do Americans want more of these diseases,,,the next may be real and do some serious damage.

    The governments of Ukraine and the West that are funding these killer labs need taken out. They are a danger to the human species. They have already infected millions/billions with death shots that will maim and kill over the next decade,,, yet many want to defend a nation that is actively allowing the research.

    Well,,, count me out!

    1. kkk says

      There are more than 360 biolabs all over the world subsidized by Pentagon
      all over the world. More COVIDS coming

  6. peterinanz says

    “..typical AE comment section meltdown. Anti-Empire was just the meanest… hysterical comment section screeching..”
    Not all commentators are of that type.

    Friendly advice: don’t pay attention to those. I know for sure that some serious people with considerable experience in these matters carefully read your posts.

    Keep up with the good work.

  7. kkk says

    Where is all the drones we herd so much, Shoigu is not good, they
    need professional military man for defense minister

  8. Dave says

    Even though I was in the USMC (83-87), I’m hoping Putin destroys the zionazi installed regime in Kiev that has been a fountainhead of corruption and cash flows to democrats.
    Im also hoping Russia figures a way to vaporize DC with a thermonuke!

  9. Loco Hum says

    I’m beginning to think a deal was made in secret. Perhaps western forces agreed to allow Putin to claim Donbass and Lugansk areas and save face, and in return they won’t engage in a protracted proxy war that will slowly decimate his army and domestic political standing.

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