Russian invasion of Ukraine: Update April 2023

Russian invasion of Ukraine: Update April 2023. By Jacob Reynolds.

Russians will take Bakhmut, any month now:

In the initial stages of the fighting, many analysts believed that the Ukrainians were inflicting punishing casualties on Russia. But most analysts now seem to think that defending the city is becoming too costly for the Ukrainians. Many Western generals and advisers have urged Ukraine to pull back from Bakhmut to more defensible locations. …

The defence of Bakhmut potentially serves a broader strategic purpose [for the Ukrainians], even if the city itself offers few military advantages. The continued resistance is tying down Russian troops and therefore buying time for Ukraine to prepare for its much-anticipated spring / summer counteroffensive. Ukraine needs time to train on weapons systems donated by the West and to practise tactical manoeuvres, mine-clearing and defence-busting.

Of course, it is also possible that defending Bakhmut is undermining Ukraine’s military goals elsewhere. It has had to move significant forces into the city, expending blood, shells and vehicles it may have greater need for on other fronts. Indeed, the grim fact remains that in order to defend Bakhmut, Ukraine has had to sacrifice many of its citizens to hold off Russia’s formerly imprisoned murderers and rapists. …

Don’t expect much from the imminent Ukrainian counteroffensive:

Much now rests on the outcome of Ukraine’s offensives. Speculation rages about what Ukraine has planned — and what it can do. Many anticipate that Ukraine, with newly trained troops and new weapons, will attempt to break the ‘land bridge’ — the wedge of Russian-occupied territory running along the Azov sea in Ukraine’s south through to Crimea.

But among Western allies, expectations are muted. The Russian lines are now deeply fortified.

Western backers are also aware that the new weapons, although significant, are not game-changers. Ukraine has received tens of tanks when it probably needed hundreds. Western countries say they are simply unable to supply the volume of shells required. The EU’s attempt at joint procurement and American efforts to ramp up weapons production have fallen short of the serious mobilisation required. Instead, Westerners have been urging Ukraine to use shells sparingly and tactically — which is easy to say from Paris or Langley, but little comfort to those on the receiving end of enemy bombardments.

Fighter jets, the key piece of the offensive puzzle, have also not been forthcoming. Westerners encourage Ukraine to fight like a modern, manoeuvre-capable army, yet they have not supplied the airpower on which such tactics depend.

If the loss ratio if only 2 to 1 in Ukraine’s favor, Russia, with four times the population, will eventually prevail:

As for the Russians, it seems as if they are preparing for the long haul. Most expect a fresh offensive soon. But Russia’s major strategy at the moment seems to be based on time. Its leaders hope their forces can outlast Western support and eventually bleed Ukraine dry.

Some analysts talk of Ukraine’s spring-summer counteroffensive as its last real chance to regain significant territory. They claim the West does not have enough materiel to donate for further offensives and that Ukraine will at some point run low on capable soldiers.

The Ukrainian counteroffensive may have started. Via Lawrence Person. Just probing attacks so far:

The intensification of fighting along the whole southern line has been noted by many analysts, but today, the Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense finally confirmed that the counteroffensive operation has started. …

Right now, Ukrainians are testing Russian defenses, letting the newly formed assault units gain combat experience and, for the most part, follow the path of lowest resistance – meaning they push where they can, leaving the strongest positions for later. Russian analysts are predicting that Ukrainians will make at least two huge attacks during the last week of April to test new tactics and then launch a full-scale counteroffensive during the first half of May.