04.BEYOND THE STARLIGHT
12.秋めいて Ding Dong Dang!
The narrative seems to have grown of late that the only reason the Russian forces aren't pushing forward faster and further is because of a lack of fuel for vehicles and food for its troops. This is exemplified by the discussion around "the column" north of Kyiv.
But that does a disservice in some respects to the thousands of Ukrainian troops fighting a bitter battle in front of the Russians. Yes, the supply problems are not helping Russia, but it's simply not the case that if they just had fuel they would be able to advance unhindered
There are many brigades holding the line around and inside Kyiv, providing a blocking force that is putting up a determined resistance to the Russian advances. This is not just scattered handfuls of SF and near partisan forces, this is several brigades of regular troops
Similarly, to the east of Kyiv there is something on the order of at least 8, and as many as 12-13 brigades, regular and reserve, holding a line that runs roughly to Kharkiv, down to the Donbas front, to Mariupol and back towards Zaporizhzhia.
That, arguably more so than logistic issues, is what has been holding the Russian tide back this long. Strung out their elements may be, but they're still providing a determined resistance across the majority of the front. The problem is for how long?
As much as they've been taking a toll on the Russians, they've been suffering casualties of their own, expending stocks of ammunition and losing critical equipment like tanks, artillery, and other armoured vehicles.
Even the Ukrainian defence ministry seems worried about the build up of Russian forces occuring in front of these positions and the fraility of their defensive line. Despite the stream of images of burning or captured Russian kit they've been advancing steadily this whole time
And while everyone focuses on Kyiv and the idea that the Russians are planning to storm the city block by block (which seems highly unlikely when they can just shell it to pieces from the outside), a lot of people have been missing the real danger in the east and south.
One area of interest is the Russian build up to the west of Kharkiv, which seems likely to result in a push towards Poltava and behind it, Kremenchuk, home to one of the few bridges across the Dnieper from there all the way south to Zaporizhzhia.
To the east of that, there is serious concern about a possible Russian thrust in the region around Izyum-Slovyansk-Severodonetsk, with the real risk of some Ukrainian forces being pocketed in the later
Equally as concerning, Russian forces have moved up to the area around Vasylivka-Orikhiv and are poised to move on Zaporizhzhia, which possesses the southern most bridge across the Dnieper available to the Ukrainians.
Not that this bridge doesn't need to be captured, nor even the city. The Russians merely have to get close enough to deny its use through artillery and direct fire as a supply route to their forces in the east.
This leaves the many brigades operating east of Kharkiv (possibly as many as 8) in a dire situation, where the only line of communication to the west of the Dnieper for all the brigades would be in the Dnipro/Kamianske region.
If they wait too late to try and make a break for the bridges, this will involve a running battle with the Russians across some pretty good tank country, with multiple Ukrainian brigades having to bunch together and cram themselves across four or five bridges in the region
To make matters worse, Mariupol is not expected to be able to hold for more than another four or five days, after which the forces surrounding it will be free to join the offensive north. In short, things are getting a bit dicey in the east.
They're not much better in the south, with Russian forces closing around Mykolaiv. The defenders are putting up a brave resistance, but inexorably being pushed back. Russian forces have already pushed on to the north and reached the area around Voznesens'k.
The latter course actually seems more likely as a force attacking Odesa more directly would be left miles from friendly forces and dependent on over the beach supply lines, whereas an attack just behind Mykolaiv would help support the assault there and be closer to friendlies
And again, herein lies part of the problem with the Kyiv narrative, and the idea that victory will be defined by the capture or not of the capital. If Odesa falls and the Russians secure the entire southern coast line, that is a major problem for Ukraine and its economy
Obviously, I mean outside of the war itself, thinking ahead to the potential peace. If Russia maintains control of all these areas in a negotiation then they basically have Ukraine by the balls, so to speak. This in many ways is far more important than Kyiv
Thus I think we need to temper our expectations. The Ukrainians have done brilliantly, better than almost anyone expected, but we're gradually creeping towards the decisive moment and none of that has much to do with what's happening around the capital.
Slow Russian progress there is encouraging and that's helping to keep aid corridors open to the east, but I fear people are putting far too much emphasis on it just because it's the biggest city and the centre of government. Russia doesn't need to seize Kyiv to "win"
The fights in the south and east are far more important in the grand scheme of things, and unfortunately those seem to be the ones the Russians are winning, albeit it slowly. If the east in particular collapses, that frees up an enormous number of Russian men and equipment
Men and guns that can be shifted west and south, to Kyiv and/or Odesa as required. It's a grim outlook I'm afraid, but I wish the Ukrainian defenders the very best of luck. It's possible they can still carry the day, but it looks like it might take some kind of miracle 😞 /end