Rumours of a Transnistrian mobilisation circulate on April 28th, day 64, while the Russian offensive continues in Zaporizhzhia and East Donbas. We report on sabotage across Russia and discuss attitudes towards Russia’s military capabilities over the duration of the conflict so far.
Transnistria Mobilises — Or Does It?
Ukrainian media claims that Transnistria has ordered a general mobilisation of all men of fighting age (from 18 to 55), however this claim does not appear to be verified, with sources in Moldova denying the rumour. The Ukrainian intelligence services have repeatedly stated that the recent explosions in Moldova represent a ‘false flag attack’ by the FSB, the Russian state security service, in order to bring Transnistria into the conflict against Ukraine.
Russian Military Capabilities
With the Russian offensive settling into a more conservative strategy following the withdrawal from Kiev, Russia appears better able to make use of its superiority in firepower against concentrations of Ukrainian forces.
Speculation regarding the military capability of the Russians has seesawed wildly over the past few years. Due partly to a hungry military-industrial complex (and an equally hungry military-psychological complex), the Russian military’s capabilities had been consistently hyped in the West following the seizure of Crimea in 2014 — a hype that Russia, with its alleged ‘Potemkin village military hardware’, was only too happy to play into.
Following the fall of the Soviet Union, the spectre of the Russian Bear found no psychological replacement as the other against which, for example, America must be defended. History’s mightiest and most expensive military must be justified by the existence of a comparable foe in the national consciousness. For this reason, Russian interference in Western democratic processes such as Brexit became overplayed to a comical extent, with mainstream reporters indulging in wild conspiracy theorising about Russian espionage influence.
The beginning of the war in Ukraine saw the Russians experience a lot of teething problems, and unable to fully exert some of their on-paper capabilities (co-ordinating large numbers of aircraft on mass sorties still appears to be an operational weakness for the VKS, for example). However, much of the chatter concerning Russian weakness, corruption, and incompetence was due not to evidence on the ground, but the need to explain away the gulf in operational effectiveness between the Russian Bear of the military-psychological complex, and the Russian Military of reality.
Odessa and Kherson
Ukraine claims that 3 Russian missiles were shot down over Odessa, with footage of one successful interception circulating on social media.
Russian forces appear to have attempted to advance towards Mykolaiv and Kryvyi Rih, without success. Odessa and Mykolaiv represent Ukraine’s last direct connection to the coast, and should these cities be occupied, Ukraine will effectively become a landlocked country. As a result, operations in this sector have a large strategic significance.
Footage has emerged which appears to show Russian trucks carrying off Ukrainian grain supplies, near Melitopol. South of the city, a bridge was destroyed at Yakymivka by the Ukrainians, though the means of destruction remain unclear (sabotage with explosives appears to be likely).
Ukraine claims to have destroyed 8 Russian tanks and 3 APCs near Velyka Novosilka. Footage is yet to emerge.
Kharkiv and Belgorod
Ukrainian forces claim to have entered Ruska Lozova and Kutuzivka townships on the Kharkiv perimeter, as Russian shelling continues to target outlying districts of the city.
Air defence missile launches continue from Belgorod, though the nature of their targets (drones, jets, helicopters, or missiles) remains unknown. Such information has a tendency to be scrubbed from social media, since it provides information on Ukraine’s military capabilities.
No major developments reported on the East Donbas front on day 63, as the Russian offensive continues here.
Russia conducted heavy airstrikes on the Azovstal plant overnight, with as many as 50 bombs dropped on the complex. A Russian ground assault continues.
Missile Strikes and Border Skirmishes
Russian missiles hit targets across Ukraine, with explosions reported in Kiev, Khmelnytski, and Shepetivka. Ukraine claims that Russian grenade attacks were conducted against multiple border checkpoints in the north of the country.
A number of tractor and truck drivers have struck landmines following the reoccupation of much of the north of the country. It is unknown whether these landmines were laid by the retreating Ukrainians or ‘left-behind’ units in order to interfere with Russian offensive operations against Kiev, or laid by the Russians to screen their withdrawal from pursuing forces. Regardless of who laid the mines, these civilian deaths provide a salutary warning of the dangers of landmines in warfare.
Sabotage in Russia
Between April 21st and April 23rd, at least 14 major incidences of sabotage or arson appear to have taken place at locations across Russia. These include the Air Space Defence Research Institute in Tver, as well as recruiting stations, rocketry research facilities, railways, and chemical plants.
The Russian leadership appears to believe that these attacks are in large part motivated or executed by foreign agents or sabotage groups, while Western media takes these sabotage incidents as proof that there exists a lively anti-Putin underground movement in Russia.
The President of the United States, Joe Biden, has asked Congress for an additional $33 billion in military aid for Ukraine. Following the passing of the Ukraine Democracy Defence Lend-Lease Act yesterday, large injections of American public money into the Ukraine war effort are likely to be granted.