Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, Kyrylo Budanov, has delivered some news that will likely have everyone eagerly hitting their refresh button on Twitter while they wait for Ukraine to act.
“Many civilians are still under Russian occupation, and time cannot be lost any longer,” Budarov said in an interview given during President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s trip to Japan and reported on Telegram, “We already have minimum stocks of weapons and other equipment in place. I can only say that it will start soon.
There is no denying that Budanov’s desire to get things started is real, or that attitude is shared by almost everyone in Ukraine. With around 15% of the country still occupied by Russian forces, getting Russia out of Ukraine tops the list with daily stories of atrocities, thefts, abuses, kidnappings and regular bombings of cities Ukrainians.
But there are still good reasons for Ukraine to wait at least a little longer. On the one hand, an effective counteroffensive will depend on the ability of Ukrainian forces not just to advance, but to continue advancing into areas where Russian forces are collapsing. This means not only pushing a phalanx of tanks through an opening, but supporting them with infantry, artillery and above all fuel, spare parts and all the other materials of an army which not only tries to win a battle, but to regain territory.
This means that this weather forecast for eastern Ukraine over the next week is still important.
The longer term forecast up to early June shows the area drying up. This is a prerequisite if heavily laden tankers and support vehicles are to keep up with advances in areas where mines, trenches and destroyed bridges make it impossible to follow normal roads.
Waiting until mid-June would also have this advantage:
According to the Danish Minister, the transfer of 80 [Leopard 1A5] tanks are expected to take place by June 1.
That’s more than the value of a tank battalion, and that’s not all. Between Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, the total delivery should be around 100 tanks, the equivalent of two battalions. Ukrainian forces are already well advanced in their training on the operation and maintenance of these tanks. Assuming the manpower and equipment are there to fill the ranks (and they almost certainly are), this looks like the new number 11 and 12 brigades ready to join the fight.
A good reason to wait a few more weeks.
Budanov is certainly right that Ukraine has the equipment to launch a counter-offensive now if they need to or if they detect an opening too good to pass up. Looking at the advances around Bakhmut and other points on the line, the immediate impression is that they are still small unit sharesoften involving units the size of a section or smaller. There is no doubt that Ukraine could launch its existing forces at any point along this line, break through and make significant gains.
Ukraine wants more than that. In kyiv, Ukraine compelled Russia to confront its shortcomings in intelligence and the myth of its invincible army. In Kharkiv, Russia faced an inability to maneuver to meet a rapid advance. In Kherson, Ukraine highlighted the weakness of Russian logistics, generating a withdrawal of thousands of square kilometers with patience and a few precision weapons. Now Ukraine wants to do more. They want to show that Russia is unable to win the war in Ukraine, no matter how long the fight.
It is not enough for Ukraine to push Russian forces out of a certain area. They must bring them into a decisive battle and defeat them, to break them so convincingly that the futility of the invasion is clear. A few more weeks for an outcome like that… it’s not too much to ask.
At the beginning of this month, I said that I would stop following Russian advances every day. Looks like I lied about it.
For most of the month the numbers are down and the lowest days in May saw fewer attacks than any previous date. The big spike on 19 May was mainly the closing act as Wagner struggled to take this last part of Bakhmut, as well as a simultaneous attack near Avdiivka which proved to be a disaster for Russia. The low numbers for the past few days reflect how ready everyone seems to be for the next act.
A quick trip down the front line shows several small actions, but few that constitute major movement. In Bakhmut, the Ukrainian armed forces report continued movement north and south of the town, but Russian sources indicate that Russia has moved reinforcements. There are few details to show except for this scene of fleeing Russian forces stopping to drink in a muddy ditch between Bila Hora and Klishchiivka.
Other videos from the area show Ukrainian forces located on the other side of this same channel, as well as drones and artillery strikes closer to Klishchiivka.
These trenches just west of Klishchiivka are located on top of a hill and, as Russia moved west, it was thought that they would represent a stronghold for Ukrainian forces. However, they were overrun within a day of taking the city. Now those same trenches are once again in conflict with Ukrainian forces directing fire into the area from multiple directions.
Meanwhile, on the far left of the line, Russian sources report Ukrainian troops shelling an area south of Kamyansk. As with much activity along the southern front, this was seen as shaping the battlefield for an attack towards Melitopol.
Russia reportedly blew up a whole series of dams south of this area, flooding roads and fields north of Tokmak. This whole area is also one of the areas where Russia has been most prepared in terms of digging trenches, laying “dragon’s teeth” and installing prefabricated concrete pillboxes. They certainly seem to think that Ukraine will attack in that direction. Ukraine seems to signal that it will attack in this direction. I have no idea if this is a cheat.
North of Bakhmut, Russian forces actually advanced near Bilohorivka, the famous town where Russia lost more than 100 vehicles attempt several river crossings in May 2022. Some reports indicate that these forces descended from the Kreminna, but since Ukraine still seems to be positioned in the forest south of this city, it is likely that they approached Bilohorivka more from the east than by the north. In any case, reports indicate that they were able to occupy industrial sites to the east of the city.
About a dozen kilometers to the south, Ukrainian forces halted an attempted Russian advance on Spirne, with the loss of at least one vehicle to an FPV drone (see video below).
This is the current level of activity at most locations on the front for the past 24 hours. There are still areas of heavy fire around Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Marinka. Elsewhere, there seems to be a lot of hassle going on.
Three drone boats allegedly attacked a Russian ship. What is confusing about the Russian report on this event is that it places the boats very close to the Bosphorus Strait, more than 400 kilometers from the nearest point in Ukraine, which seems highly unlikely. This location may be incorrect, or there may be a part of this story that is simply missing.