More than a month after Russia shifted its focus from the attack on the Ukrainian capital to a push to chop up parts of the eastern part of the country, the invading forces have made little progress — and Ukraine has begun a counterattack. increase. According to Vice Admiral Scott Belier, a senior US defense official, the war is “slightly stalemate.”
Russia has regained control of the southern port city of Mariupol this week after a 12-week brutal assault, but the invasion of much of the east has been crawling.
These endless maps explain how terrain, geography, and logistics shape the battles of major cities where the outcome of the war can be determined.
Ukrainians were good at protecting urban areas and woodlands in order to seize Kyiv, the first stage of the war. However, compared to the northwest, parts of the eastern part of the country, especially the plains extending from Crimea, are relatively open, making it difficult to defend against advancing tanks.
“It’s easy to operate,” said Gustav Gressel, Senior Policy Fellow of the European Council for Foreign Relations. It is difficult for Ukraine to fight back “because everything is flat and everything is visible”.
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Russian troops have already taken control of the land along the southern coast and are fighting to occupy the hills above it. However, the front lines of the southeast are almost stagnant.
A stalemate in a front-line ghost town in southeastern Ukraine
However, the idea of easy-to-move flats does not convey the big picture.
The terrain is not uniform and some are easy to defend. The northern part of Donetsk is dotted with towns and small cities, with forests along the Siverskyi Donets from Russia, and small rivers and hills flowing through the area. According to Mason Clark, the Russian team leader at the Institute for the Study of War, Ukrainian troops destroyed the bridge and hindered Russia’s advance, as they did around Kieu.
Russian troops suffered great losses last week when a Ukrainian attack destroyed a pontoon bridge that was being used to cross the Donets River.
According to Dmytro Diadin, an environmental scientist at OM Beketov National University of Urban Economics in Kharkiv, Russia has deep tank and armored reservoirs, but spring rains until June can also create mud and slow them down. I have.
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According to Diadin, up to two-thirds of the land is used for agriculture in the Donbas and Kharkiv areas. According to Clark, a herd of trees around a farm in northern Donetsk provides a cover for Ukrainian troops armed with anti-tank weapons such as javelin throws and NLAW to ambush Russian convoys. Ukrainians have also mined part of the land to concentrate Russian troops on the road, according to Michael Coffman, director of the Russian research program at CNA, a non-profit research and analysis organization in Arlington, Virginia. bottom.
In 2014, Moscow-backed separatists declared “People’s Republic” in most of Donetsk and Luhansk along the Russian border. Known as the coal country and industrial center of Ukraine, the predominantly Russian-speaking region has been on the Russian crosshairs for many years.
Degree of progress in Russia
Over 260 miles long, “connectors” divided government-controlled and separatist-controlled areas and tore families and communities. More than 14,000 people were killed in the fighting from 2014 to the beginning of this year.
The Ukrainian army has spent eight years building defenses along the line.
Russian troops have bombarded the length of the line significantly in recent weeks, but in Donetsk it has had a hard time breaking through.
Russia intends to occupy all of the Donbus region, saying its boundaries are far beyond the original line of contact.
Russian troops have made great strides in Luhansk. According to Clark of the Institute for the Study of War, at least 90 percent of the region is in the hands of Russia.
This week, when the occupation of Mariupol’s port city was completed, a strategic overpass from Russia to the Crimean Peninsula was opened. Russia was annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Russia’s success in Mariupol has given troops access to major highways, freeing units and attacking the town. In the Zaporizhzhia area.
However, Ukraine still holds a significant portion of Donetsk. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters in early May that the forces were “showing very severe resistance.”
As of May 15, the War Institute, combined with the success of Ukraine’s defense in Donetsk and the flagging of Russia’s fighting power, did not allow Russia to attempt a larger siege, but the rest of Luhansk. The Ukrainian army of Donetsk evaluated that it was likely that it began to shift its focus to occupying.
Izyum, a town with about 45,000 inhabitants, is located on the Siverskyi Donets, the highest point in the Kharkiv region, adjacent to Donetsk. It’s the “Gate to Donbus,” a member of the city council told the post last month. Its position on the hill allows the troops that control it to have a panoramic view of nearby roads and villages.
Russian troops occupied the town on April 1 after a fierce three-week battle. Since then, it has served as a starting point for Russian troops trying to push south.
“If the Russians are successful, Izyum will be the most important point of their Donbus campaign,” Clark said.
Russia withdrew some of its troops from northeastern Ukraine in April and concentrated them in the Izyum region. But here, the Russians appear to be trapped in the road. According to Clark, they went down three roads from Izyum to Slovyansk, Barbin Cove, and further west to uncertain destinations.
Russian troops reportedly suffered heavy losses along the Izyum axis in early May and are relatively stagnant on the route to Slovyansk.
They made further progress towards Barvinkove and reached the outskirts of the city. Occupation of Barbin Cove, about 30 miles southwest of Izyum, according to Koffman, will help Russian troops block the Ukrainian railway supply line to Slovyansk further east.
However, the lack of human resources puts serious restrictions on Russia. Ukraine’s counterattack in northern Kharkiv exacerbated the problem, forcing Russia to relocate its troops from the Izyum region. Ukrainian officials said Saturday that national troops had launched another counterattack near Izyum.
At this point, Russia’s efforts in the Izyum region may be aimed at preventing Ukraine from reclaiming its territory, Clark said.
Russia has learned to establish a solid supply line in a difficult way after logistical problems have prevented the first stage of aggression. In the Eastern War, efforts to secure such a route partially explain the crawling speed of Russia’s progress.
Russia’s supply lines, which support operations from Izyum, operate from the Belgorod and Valuyki regions of Russia.
Line to Izyum
This month’s Ukrainian counterattack has driven Russian troops to the Russian border. Ukrainians are unlikely to be able to imminently cut Russia’s supply lines, Clark said, but the counterattack “will threaten Russians.”
The Ukrainian side also has to worry about supplies, even within its own borders, as the railroad is under Russian attack.
Three cities in the Russian way
To conquer Donbus, Russia needs to occupy three major cities: Slovyansk, Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk, according to Kofman. “They are small cities, but they are still cities-and they are not a tank country,” he said. It means urban warfare, Russia’s weaknesses.
The city is near the border between Donetsk and Luhansk, close to the Siverskyi Donets.
Ukrainian troops are concentrated in the city of Lysychans’k, which is adjacent to Severodonetsk, and are trying to maintain the line to the west of Lysychans’ city. Russian troops continue to bombard and slowly advance towards Lyman.
Occupying the Lyman region allows Russian troops to advance from the east to Slovyansk and from the Izyum region to the west. Occupation of Slovyansk cuts off Ukrainian fighters who protect themselves from assaults from Severodonetsk, Clark said.
Slovyansk and Kramatorsk are railway hubs, and Kramatorsk has major hospitals. But gaining control of two cities is “probably beyond that. [Russia’s] “Current features,” Clark said.
As the battle approached, the Ukrainians set up fortified artillery positions in the woodlands around Kramatorsk and dug trenches along country roads.
According to analysts, Russia has enough vehicles and weapons to withstand a fierce war, and Ukrainian fighters rely on foreign weapons, but are agile and ambitious.
“This will probably be a longer war of attrition, not the kind of lightning war the Russians wanted to achieve,” said Amael Kotoralski, senior analyst at the Open Source Defense Intelligence Agency Janes. ..
Map Source: Territorial Management Data provided by the Institute for the Study of War, AEI’s Critical Threat Project, May 16. Land cover data from the Copernicus Program and Global Land Services.
Sammy Westfall and Dalton Bennett contributed to this report.