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Forget about those who told you that Ukraine is in a stalemate. There is no Mariupol, but a heated fight is raging in eastern Ukraine. This is Russian artillery against Ukraine’s counter-offensive, and at several points the battle is going on and on.
Much will depend on whether Russia can continue to move towards Kramatorsk.
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You remember Kramatorsk, where on April 9 the Russians struck one SS-21 ballistic missile at a railway station, killing 57 people, including five children.
Since then, Russian troops have advanced about 20 miles from the city. They are even closer to Russia, its forces are attacking both from the north and from the south, putting pressure on cities such as Severodonetsk. On the map, the curved position of the Russian forces looks like the mouth of a crocodile. Let’s call it the jaws of Kramatorsk.
“The main goal on this axis is to cover the Ukrainian forces,” the British Ministry of Defense warned on May 13. If Russia succeeds, some of Ukraine’s best forces will be cut off from other units in the West.
These are Putin’s roads. He would like to seize major road systems and seize Kramatorsk – which was the main mark of Russia’s offensive in 2014 before Ukraine regained it. Zelensky needs to stay around Kramatorsk to keep his hopes of squeezing Russia out of the east and, ultimately, out of all of Ukraine.
Since late April, Ukraine has given impetus by pushing Russian forces away from Kharkhov, Ukraine’s second largest city. According to the Pentagon, Russia is still struggling with coordination on the battlefield.
But there is no denying that Russia has made progress by capturing key highways such as Papasna, which fell on May 8. Russian tactics look like World War II. The Russian army artillery hits every city or intersection, then a frontal attack. If they move too far and fast, Ukrainian forces strike them.
Russia’s pace is “uneven, slow, rising, short and small,” the Pentagon said on May 16, but it has not stopped.
Despite all this, two factors suggest that Ukrainian forces have the tactical ability to win.
First, comes into force artillery and training of the United States and NATO. “We believe that howitzers have an impact, especially in Kharkiv,” the Pentagon said Monday.
Another, Ukraine has mastered a very complex tactic. You saw how Russian tanks flew in the mud after trying to cross the Donets in Belagorovka last week. It is in the most important area east of Kramatorsk.
Now consider the tactics behind this. At first, the Ukrainians watched as the Russians set out to cross the river. The drones provided accurate positions. Then they waited for the first Russian troops to move, and rallied as if it were rush hour. Finally, Ukraine unleashed accurate artillery fire, possibly from submunitions seeking and hitting armor. Dozens of destroyed Russian cars can be seen in the pictures after the strike. Ukraine has demonstrated excellent command and control, and this tells you why Ukrainian forces have an advantage over Russian moving forces.
Who will win in Kramatorsk, can determine the next stage of the war.
Mariupol was not a big victory for Putin. Despite the fact that the final withdrawal of soldiers from the “Azovstal” breaks the heart, it does not violate the growth of Ukraine’s military power. “We hope to save the lives of our boys,” President Vladimir Zelensky said on Tuesday. “Ukraine needs living Ukrainian heroes.”
But if Putin gets Kramatorsk, the Russian army could occupy the roads from Izyum to Donetsk, close control in the east and consider new options. Russia has 50 battalion tactical groups in the south in position for new operations at sea to Ukraine.
If Ukraine opens the jaws of Kramatorsk, Ukraine could squeeze Russia out of Izyum and start returning other cities along the 100-mile front. Zelensky’s new plan for a complete victory will eventually require Ukraine to increase pressure, for example, by striking at Russian military facilities in Crimea. If Kramatorsk falls, it will be much harder to win.
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Unfortunately, Putin has enough money for oil to continue the slow, ugly struggle until the summer. Ukraine may need two or three more large packages of US assistance and NATO assistance to keep going.
Russia’s illegal invasion has brought evil back to Europe. That is why Sweden is ready to renounce 200 years of neutrality and join NATO. Sweden has not waged war and has not joined an alliance since 1814, the era of the Napoleonic Wars. Russia’s brutality and threats have changed all that.
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And it’s not just Putin, who is obviously much crazier than we knew. The war in Ukraine daily reveals barbarism among Russian generals.
Can you believe that President Joe Biden ever thought that sanctions would stop the bleeding?
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