Explosions rock Transnistria on Monday 25th April as analysts wonder whether the ex-Soviet rump state will enter the conflict in some way, while the Kremlin warns of a ‘Third World War’ after condemning NATO’s involvement in a ‘proxy war’ in Ukraine.
Explosions Rock Transnistria
A series of explosions were heard across state facilities in Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova that has been a de facto nation since the fall of the USSR. Transnistria is enclosed by Moldova and Ukraine, but is organised along Soviet lines and retains close ties to Russia. Transnistrian involvement in the Russo-Ukraine War has long been predicted, and some speculate that these explosions may be a ‘false flag’ pretext for Transnistria joining the war.
Provided Transnistria were not speedily occupied by Ukrainian troops, this would open up a large front behind the Ukrainian force concentrations in Odessa and Mykolaiv, and potentially overstretch the Ukrainian defences in this sector.
Alternatively, these explosions may represent an attempt to pre-empt Transnistrian involvement in the conflict through targeted sabotage.
Shelling in Kherson, Odessa, Kryvyi Rih
Russian missiles hit the cities of Odessa and Mykolaiv overnight, as shelling continued across this contested front.
South of Kryvyi Rih, there appeared to be an increase in the intensity of Russian shelling of outlying villages (in concert with increased bombardment of Ukrainian defence lines south of Zaporizhzhia). Meanwhile, Ukraine claims to have destroyed a Russian ammo dump in a warehouse in this region.
A combined arms offensive appears to have taken place across the 120km front south of Zaporizhzhia, from the Dnieper to Velyka Novosilka. According to Ukrainian reports, Su-24 aircraft and ground-based MLRS and artillery supported a dozen simultaneous ground assaults involving tanks and heavy-calibre machine guns. Zaporizhzhia was also attacked by cruise missiles.
While the Russian offensive continues in East Donbas, with some territory taken in the north of the salient, there is little sign of a decisive breakthrough for either side. South of Izyum, Russian troops appear to be attempting to interdict the railway supply route from Barvinkove to Sloviansk, which would leave the defenders near Lysychansk in a rather precarious position.
Kharkiv and Russo-Ukrainian Border Skirmishes
Shelling continues on both sides of the border, with continued Russian shelling of Kharkiv’s outskirts matched in recent days by the shelling of outlying Russian villages in the Belgorod region. Following the Russian withdrawal at the end of last month, the situation on the borders of Ukraine and Russia appears hazy; there have been incidents of grenade and mortar attacks and shelling of villages and checkpoints on either side, but the Ukrainians do not appear to have followed their reoccupation of the borders with an advance onto Russian territory.
It is a curious state of affairs in modern war where two nations are engaged in relatively all-out conventional warfare across several fronts, yet the crossing of an artificial line on the ground appears to be a step too far.
Clearly Ukraine sees little benefit in opening an offensive front across Russian territory in this region — and with good reason. The Russian countryside is notoriously difficult terrain in certain seasons, the strategic advantages of such an advance are dubious, the political ramifications are immense, and the capabilities of the Ukrainian army do not include waging an offensive campaign across rural Russia.
Russia announced a unilateral ceasefire at Azovstal, where Ukrainian defenders remain under siege.
Kremlin Statements on ‘World War Three’
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has stated that ‘NATO has de facto entered a proxy war with Russia’ due to its extensive involvement in supporting and supplying Ukraine during the Russo-Ukrainian war. He further warned that Western involvement risks starting a ‘Third World War’.
Lavrov is, of course, correct to state that NATO is involved in a proxy war against Russia. The US alone has funnelled $13.4 billion into Ukraine since recent hostilities began, including copious quantities of modern weapons, to say nothing of the 8-year project to train Ukrainian troops according to NATO standards. Ukraine further benefits from Western capabilities in military intelligence, satellite reconnaissance, AWACS, cryptology. Western ex-military volunteers have signed up to the Ukrainian army in significant numbers, although the precise scale and nature of their contributions will not become clear for many months yet. Finally, the NATO nations have ‘waged economic war’ against Russia by piling on sanctions on Russian exports and citizens, even to the point of excluding Russian nationals from competing at Wimbledon.
To recognise that a proxy war is taking place is not to offer any opinion on the righteousness of doing so. However, should the Russian leadership decide that the scale of NATO involvement necessitates escalation of the conflict, Western leaders should not pretend that they were innocent bystanders on the road to nuclear war.
This outcome remains unlikely — however, as I discussed in an early analysis of the nuclear question, modern politicians seem more concerned for their reputations on Twitter than for the concrete ramifications of their actions as statesmen. The result is often poor decision-making that leads to disaster for all concerned.
According to the Ukrainian interpretation of these Kremlin statements, Dmytro Kuleba claims that the threat of nuclear war means that Moscow ‘senses defeat’ in Ukraine, and thus the Western nations must ‘double down’ on supporting Ukraine in order to ‘safeguard European and global security’.
Part 2 of Conflict Summary
Due to extensive events on the ground today, we will continue our summary of the first 2 months of warfare tomorrow.