Exhausted from its efforts to take Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, Russia has announced an operational pause. (Link to Russian state media.)
“In units that performed combat tasks during a special military operation, measures are taking place to replenish combat capabilities. Servicemen are given the opportunity to relax, receive letters and parcels from home,” the Defense Ministry noted.
It was also noted that scheduled maintenance of combat vehicles is taking place at field points.
Ukraine still reported Russian attacks at several locations, but by all indications these were small-scale recon-type probes. Russia put a great deal of its combat capabilities into taking that last little slice of Luhansk Oblast, and those troops don’t just need to rest, but new logistical supply lines have to be built to support the next phase of Russia’s war: the push toward the twin fortresses of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, both already the targets of destructive shelling. This is Russia’s doctrine after all: Reduce target to rubble, march infantry forward to see if any defenders are left, then repeat if any are left.
Ukraine doesn’t care about any such “operational pause.” For one, Russia’s artillery isn’t taking time off, and they’re the biggest source of Ukraine’s misery. Thus, HIMARS (and M270s MLRS, reportedly) are in action targeting Russian supply depots to spectacular success—over a dozen so far.
Russian artillery hasn’t slowed any the last few days. Indeed, the entire front was on fire Thursday, as captured by NASA’s FIRMS fire-tracking satellites.
But with major supply depots exhausted, Russian artillery will eventually exhaust their local supply of ammunition. The hope is that we see a slowdown in Russian fires in the next seven to 10 days. In fact, the “operational pause” may be just as much a reaction to losing those supply depots as any “exhaustion” among Russian forces.
Meanwhile, Russia starved its southern front to feed the Severodonetsk push, and Ukraine is taking advantage.
Here’s Snihurivka, north of Kherson, which has been Russian-held and under severe Ukrainian assault for the past one to two weeks.
Ukrainian artillery has moved past the city to its south. That suggests that someone’s troops are down there, and it’s unlikely it’s Ukrainians. So Russian troops are probably pulling back from the city, and Ukraine is chasing them with fires. There’s a good chance Snihurivka will be declared liberated in the next couple of days.
And check this out:
Kherson’s airport in Chornobaivka has been the site of relentless Ukrainian artillery barrages. While Russia is no longer basing aircraft there, they had set up defensive positions to try and stop the Ukrainian advance on Kherson from that direction. Now we see fires targeting the airport move southwest in what little space is left between the airport and Kherson city itself (around 10 kilometers). This suggests Russian troops are falling back, and whether Ukraine has taken the airport yet or not, the artillery is following those withdrawing troops.
Ukraine has been tight-lipped about advances around Kherson. The terrain is just too hard to hold—flat, open, with few hiding places. Ukraine barrages Russian positions until they pull back. Ukraine moves forward. Russia barrages those new Ukrainian positions until Ukraine pulls back. Russia moves forward. Lather, rinse, repeat. It serves no one to make triumphant declarations of liberation only to lose the territory the next day. But as of now, the story of the fires, as captured by a NASA satellite, says Ukraine is on the advance.