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 The forces blockading the city of Sumy have been withdrawn to bolster Russian numbers at Izyum from which the northern pincer against the Ukrainian forces in Donbass will proceed.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.
Photos released by the Ukrainian military indicate that it appears they have retaken Trostyanets, Sumy Oblast. The photos show a captured Msta-S howitzer and two destroyed Msta-S howitzers and several other vehicleshttps://t.co/nh9RW6spwj pic.twitter.com/mx76jiu4PL
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) March 26, 2022
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.