Monday, May 16, 2022
HomePoliticsAmerican artillery proved decisive in Russia's Bilohorivka bridge-crossing disaster

American artillery proved decisive in Russia’s Bilohorivka bridge-crossing disaster


Ukrainian soldiers firing American-donated M777 howitzers to unbelievable effect

For all the sturm und drang of today’s fighting, changes on the ground were scant. Ukraine officially picked up a small town here, Russia did the same over there. While much of the front line was on fire (Ukraine claimed 14 separate attacks), the situation on the ground remained essentially unchanged. @War_Mapper’s updates on Twitter are always great, if you want to see today’s changes

I wrote earlier that pro-Russian Telegram sources claimed Ukraine was assaulting Izyum from across the Donets River (bottom arrow in image below), but several sources claim the assault is actually coming down from Chuhuiv (top arrow).

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If Chuhuiv is the the source of the counter-offensive, it would likely travel that main highway southeast toward Izyium, rather than east toward Kupiansk. Russia has moved a great deal of combat power to Shevchenkove, between Chuhuiv and Kupiansk, to protect its critical supply depot from any Ukrainian advance. Getting through those two cities would be expensive to Ukraine in military resources and lives. And there’s no need, as we’ve can now so clearly see with Ukraine’s push toward Izyum itself. 

In short, if Ukraine collapses that Izyum pocket, there is no longer a need for Russia to maintain operations in either Kupiansk or Vovchansk—the two logistical hubs feeding the war machine in the Izyum salient. After a week of debating “Kupiansk vs Vovchansk,” it turns out that the best answer is “C: Take away the reason for both.” 

To be sure, I doublechecked NASA Firms satellite imagery, and there’s certainly no fires near Shevechenkove.  If Ukraine was headed in that direction, it would fire on the town to clear Russian positions, while Russia would fire back to slow or stop the advance. Instead, as I demonstrated earlier with FIRMS satellite imagery, all the action is developing directly west of Izyum:

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Maybe there’s a two-prong assault on Izyum developing, from both the west and northwest. Or maybe people don’t know what’s going on. Or maybe there’s even some disinformation designed to fix Russian positions on a northwest approach that will never materialize. That’s why FIRMS imagery can be so helpful. There are so many sources of information claiming stuff, and few of them are truly incentivized to always tell the truth. 

On another topic, it’s nice seeing our defense tax dollars doing something productive. 

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The claim by Ukrainian servicemen’s is that American-donated M777 howitzers destroyed the 80+ vehicles at Russia’s unimaginably disastrous Bilohorivka river crossing attempt. I’m looking forward to a translation (this guy will do it soon), but it definitely looks like an “America, FUCK YEAH” moment we liberals can rally behind. 

This whole debacle has been a fun event to track on pro-Russia social media. The Institute for the Study of War claims, in tonight’s update, that they’ve seen pro-Russia telegram shaken by the carnage:

Prominent pro-Russian Telegram channels (with approximately 300 thousand followers) largely criticized Russian General Staff for failing to learn from previous combat mistakes and expressed concern that censorship and self-censorship was depriving them of situational awareness. Other pro-Russian Telegram channels noted the slow pace of Russian offensive operations in northern Kharkiv Oblast, blaming it in part on ineffective aerial reconnaissance and the negative effects of bad morale within the Russian military. Some Telegram channels reported receiving criticism for “misrepresenting” the performance of the Russian military.

They cite all those observations, so they’re true. But I must frequent a different corner of Telegram and pro-Russia Twitter, because what I’ve seen is totally different—the invention of a fantastical alternate reality where most of the destroyed vehicles are Ukrainian

The theory is as such: most of the destroyed vehicles are BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles, and supposedly Russia no longer fields those ancient vehicles. On-the-ground photos shows Russian uniforms in those BMP-1s, but hey, those could be faked, right? That’s what the propagandists say. Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) analyst Henry Schlottman, the authority on the composition of Russian army units, certainly claims that they are in service. 

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Oryx has tracked 43 BMP-1s lost by Russia, like this, this, this, and this, all with prominent Russian invasion markings. Oh, and here’s one that still in Russia’s hands: 

Furthermore, Russia has been forced to dig into its operational reserves to backfill combat losses while reconstituted shredded units. There aren’t a lot of modern infantry vehicles in those reserves. This is the crap they’re pulling out. 

Of course, there’s a lot more than just BMP-1s at the Bilohorivka disaster site! There are 14 T-72s, which are standard Russian issue (though Ukraine has captured a bunch), as well as BMP-2s, and engineering and support equipment that only Russia fields. So how do they explain that? 

Well, they’ll concede that there was a big battle on the spot. They’ll even admit (sometimes) that Russia no longer holds the bridgehead. But, their losses were just a fraction of the overall total destroyed vehicles. You see, there was a big battle, and, Russia destroyed all those Ukrainians in BMP-1s before tactically retreating back across the bridge, which then Ukraine destroyed after the fact … er … three times.

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Then Russia released video saying “nah uh, we destroyed Ukrainian bridge!”

Except … all I see is Russian shooting at a river, then dropping artillery on a river, with no vehicles anywhere around. Who knows, maybe they did compromise a working bridgehead. But it would still mean the tally is as follows: 

Destroyed Russian pontoon bridge: 82+ vehicles

Destroyed Ukrainian pontoon bridge: 0 vehicles 

But really, that kind of propaganda isn’t designed to convince people, it’s designed to give their partisans crap to spew. Nothing else. There’s a term for that kind of fantasy-making in this war, and it’ll hop over to our own political discourse before long: copium. People will invent what they need to cope with the news they don’t want to see.





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