War Update: Russians breaking through in Luhansk

May 20, 2022

As I have been reporting for a while, the major thrust of phase II for the Russians has been to isolate and destroy the pocket of Ukrainian forces in Luhansk region fortified around Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.

The Russians had been making steady gains there, albeit slowly, and against fierce resistance. The grind, however, seems to be working. They have taken the village of Volodymyrivka, putting them just a couple of miles from the strategic road between Bakhmut and Lysychansk. They have also taken Vrubivka, which is about 15 miles from Lysychansk. In both cases, the Russians launched decoy attacks against other fortified villages and while the Ukrainians were busy repelling those, the Russians rushed mechanized troops that bypassed them to take the next village — the net result was a threat of local encirclement, which forced the Ukrainians to abandon both villages.

There is also bad news from the north: the Russians counter-attacked with reinforcements from Belgorod and have retaken Rubizhne (the one on Siverskyi Donets River). This should have been expected since the Russians must protect Vovchansk at all costs, as it is the transport hub for both road and rail for any traffic from Belgorod toward Luhansk that is usable (the other road goes through Kharkiv, and there’s another one, much further south that requires using really bad roads through Valuyki).

In other words, the Ukrainians are in trouble right now as the Severodonetsk pocket is in real danger of encirclement, and the Russians continue to be able to reinforce their forces in Lukhansk. The much-pared down version of phase II is likely to end in successfully for Russia.

The New York Times is already having a meltdown in today’s editorial, in which they are calling for appeasement despite specifically saying they are not:

“A decisive military victory for Ukraine over Russia, in which Ukraine regains all the territory Russia has seized since 2014, is not a realistic goal. Though Russia’s planning and fighting have been surprisingly sloppy, Russia remains too strong, and Mr. Putin has invested too much personal prestige in the invasion to back down.

The United States and NATO are already deeply involved, militarily and economically. Unrealistic expectations could draw them ever deeper into a costly, drawn-out war. Russia, however battered and inept, is still capable of inflicting untold destruction on Ukraine and is still a nuclear superpower with an aggrieved, volatile despot who has shown little inclination toward a negotiated settlement. Ukraine and Russia now “appear further apart than at any other point in the nearly three-month-long war.”

They are again running scared from Russian nuclear threats (which, ironically, have receded in recent weeks), and are clamoring for giving Putin something as if doing so would mean peace. These people are simply out of their minds. It is true that Putin cannot back down, but it does not follow from this that you should give him strategic breathing space so he can regroup and come back, stronger than ever. This sort of pathetic editorializing by NYT is making me sick to my stomach.

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