by SIMPLICIUS THE THINKER
Firstly, let’s cover the most pressing news. The anxiety surrounding the upcoming Ukrainian offensive is reaching a peak. Many predictions stated it would come early to mid-May. Prigozhin himself just stated that May 2nd is when the rains will stop and the ground will begin fully drying up, which will take a couple weeks at most. Recall that Vladlen’s old prophecy was between easter and May 15 at the latest.
Prigozhin believes that the Ukrainian Armed Forces can launch a counteroffensive in May: the last rain should pass on the 2nd, it will take another week for the soil to dry up, then they will be ready to move.
The best scenario for the Armed Forces of Ukraine would be an offensive in June, in May they would have time to prepare the 61st, 44th, 115th, and 5th brigades. The enemy wants to gather more troops that can deliver massive strikes in all directions. However, the Western hosts require an offensive on the eve of May 9.
Now Ukraine is increasing shelling on various fronts, probing attacks, drone strikes—all potential precursors. There is also activity on the Dnieper.
One thing to mention is that for the past few months, Ukraine was said to be damming a lot of water up-river on the Dnieper. The water levels were said to have dropped to historic lows. The reason is presumed to be that they intend to launch a cross-Dnieper assault by drying up the river. Around Kherson particularly (and possibly other regions), there are many areas where the river is split into a lot of small, marshy tributaries and islets which are not very deep. If you really drain the river by damming it up stream, it could create cross-able conditions.
Prigozhin also has stated that he believes the Ukrainian offensive will come as soon as Bakhmut falls. And Bakhmut is finally on its last leg. It feels like we’ve been saying that forever, but the gradual progress, slow or not, is undeniable. And judging by the new maps, it is doubly undeniable how little of it is left.
Here are some maps showing the Bakhmut situation:
It’s literally down to a few city blocks. And the reports from the AFU are not getting any better, including on other frontlines. Here’s a text posted on a Ukrainian channel, from an AFU soldier named ‘Berlin’ on the Orekhov line in Zaporozhye:
He says that in 40 minutes of fighting, they had 46 wounded (300s), and 10 dead (200s).
But with the closing in of the offensive date, things are getting extremely tense on both sides. There is massive pressure on the Ukrainian command and soldiers, but also a lot of tensions flaring on the Russian side, with some skeptics sounding the alarm about Russia’s preparation.
Yesterday, Prigozhin launched into his most scathing screed yet, accusing the Russian MOD of outright treason, purportedly pointing the finger at Shoigu for withholding critical munitions from Wagner forces. He even appeared to levy a threat by stating that if proper munitions are not supplied in the next few days Wagner will withdraw from Bakhmut. Longer excerpts:
Ukraine supporters plus 2D Bloggers and 6th columnists immediately latched onto this tirade as proof that Russia is failing, the offensive will overrun Russian forces, and that all is lost. They particularly latched onto a statement by Prigozhin that due to the shell hunger, Wagner has taken some of its heaviest losses recently, with the specific quote that on one recent day they lost 93 men.
📍 The Armed Forces of Ukraine are fully prepared for the counteroffensive. It will 100% start before May 15th. The Russian side is not ready for it because of the ongoing problems with management, it is not preparing correctly or not preparing, they will simply run out of the trenches. The Russian army in its current state is unable to successfully fight a serious enemy, which is now the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The mess is complete everywhere, there is no discipline. Everything is there in the army, there is absolutely no control, but there is a social, absolute, paranoid gap between what is happening in the trenches and what they know and think in the headquarters.
The problem is, the doomers and 6th columnists left out the second part of Prigozhin’s statement, which was that on the same day, the AFU lost 500 in Bakhmut alone. So yes, 93 is a lot for Wagner to lose in a single day, but that is still a 5:1 kill ratio on the AFU as per ‘doomer’ Prigozhin himself. Why sneakily leave that part out?
Prigozhin has stated before, that Wagner suffers ~20 casualties on a ‘good day’ and 50+ on a ‘bad day’. Well, this was a really bad day, but still not comparable to the AFU’s losses.
With that said, that’s not to downplay or totally dismiss what may be happening behind the scenes. It is extremely difficult to penetrate to the truth here, as Prigozhin is known for his theatricality, which was demonstrated recently when he released a long documentary video heavily criticizing other rival PMCs in Ukraine, with the clear angle of lionizing Wagner. In fact, the video was pretty much a PR/marketing ad for Wagner. However, it was an interesting look, nonetheless, at some of the powerplays occurring behind the scenes.
For those that don’t know, there are a number of other PMCs fighting on the Russian side in Ukraine. Some estimate over 10-20. In the video, Prigozhin names PMC Nevsky and PMC Stream, which is apparently Gazprom’s private PMC company sent to cover Wagner’s flanks in Bakhmut. There is also a PMC Wolves and PMC Patriot, alleged to be the private PMC group of Shoigu, which has previously worked around Energodar nuke plant and other areas near Zaporozhye and Kherson, if I recall correctly.
Ultimately, it’s difficult to know exactly what Prigozhin’s angle is; he could just be playing up the theatrics, or doing outright disinformation in the Sun Tzu fashion we’ve discussed before. Or there are actual critical disagreements happening. For instance, Russia recently fired General Mikhail Mizintsev, which western yellow press calls ‘the butcher of Mariupol’:
He’s now being tied to the Prigozhin debacle, as rumors now state that he was close to Prigozhin and was supplying Prigozhin with more munitions than Russian MOD had accounted for or allowed. Others, however, claimed he was a smurf and a poor leader.
This saga has once more devolved into claimed leaks showing the exact munitions counts requested by Wagner, and delivered to them. With a counter release by the Russian MOD showing confirmed munitions deliveries:
The document on the right side from the Russian MOD states that between March and April of this year, Wagner forces received amounts like: 55,000 total various 122mm rounds, ~40,000 total 152mm rounds, 160 pieces of laser-guided Krasnopol artillery rounds, and a hell of a lot of other things. 135,000 RPG-7 rounds is nearly difficult to believe. Over 182,000 82mm mortar rounds for the 2B9 ‘Cornflower’ auto-mortar launcher is also quite a lot.
But taking just artillery alone, my calculations show 75k+ total regular howitzer artillery rounds of the 155mm and 122mm variety (not counting the 122mm BM-21 Grad MLRS rockets). This 75k for under two months of time breaks down to ~9,400 a week or about 1,300+ per day. Considering that this is not counting the hundreds of thousands of mortar rounds, MLRS rounds, ATGMs, etc., this doesn’t seem too bad for just Wagner group alone. 135,000 RPGs for eight weeks’ time is a whopping 2,500 RPGs fired per day, which seems…well the only word that comes to mind is: inordinate.
Either way, Wagner continues advancing and is clearly on the precipice of capturing Bakhmut—beyond that there isn’t much else to say. But the debacle and haggling does leave a bad taste in people’s mouths on the eve of what could be a turning point offensive. It leaves people asking whether Russia is truly ready, and whether internal strife and infighting could be Russia’s undoing in light of a massively prepared, Western-trained-and-armed Ukrainian force.
To be frank, we can only wait and see. But this bitter infighting is not shared along all the other fronts or Russian forces, though with that said, none of them are currently undergoing fighting as intense as that of Wagner, so potential ammo-hunger would not theoretically strike them in the same way.
And despite Prigozhin’s seeming doomer outlook—even if it’s genuine—I believe that Prigozhin knows hardly any better than we do about the state of the Russian frontlines, not counting his own Bakhmut front, of course. As I said before, he’s not actually high up in the food chain, has no real military experience, and knows nothing of the Russian army’s condition on other fronts apart from his own, nor of why the MOD may or may not be conserving munitions. Personally, I’m still inclined to agree with this writer’s viewpoint on the coming offensive:
Written by Павел Владимирович:
Of Ukraine’s glorious counter-offensive
Zaluzhny now insists on postponing the long-awaited Ukrainian counter-offensive to the end of June, because he thinks better weather, warmer Dnieper river and dry soil will help Ukraine and be “more comfortable for its soldiers”. To me, this translates to “I don’t want to deal with this, please appoint someone else to orchestrate this debacle”.
It is clear now that Russia is no longer fighting the same Ukrainian army that it did a year and some ago. That army has been annihilated and so has the second one during another glorious counter-offensive, namely that around Kharkov. Now, with a third Ukrainian army, full of untrained men who don’t want to be there, Ukraine is pressed to venture on another great adventure. We’ve seen many videos of people being caught on various streets of what is still Ukraine (although it is getting increasingly silly to call it a country, even objectively) and many of them show less than enthusiasm. We’ve seen a guy fainting, a fella fighting the police (not just one, by the way) and these people will now be sent against the six layers deep Russian defences, protected by the actual Russian army. There was some talk that Ukrainians are hoping to rout the Russian army and throw it into panic (I’m assuming upon seeing their grand armada, carrying the banners of Odin or whatever), which I hope, for their own sake, isn’t true.
The insane mechanics’s dream that is Ukrainian heavy equipment garage is about as wonky as their personnel too. The many nations of the global West chipped in for this fight for the American dollar and so Ukrainians now have a bit of everything. As pretty as all this equipment looks with a swastika painted on it, it can’t do much without ammunition, which Ukraine has very little of now as well.
Another thing to point out now is the shortage of air-defence ammunition, which allows the Russian air-force to pummel the aryans to Valhalla daily.
In summary, the Third Ukrainian Army (I capitalise because it’s funnier that way) is a Frankenstein’s monster of equipment that has only been raised a bit. The monster knows it’s there, but can’t do much, in reality.
All of the things I mentioned aren’t getting any better, it’s all getting worse and worse daily and only accelerating. If this is clear to someone like me, who’s only military strategy experience comes from video games, I’m pretty sure it is clear to Zaluzhny.
I don’t like making predictions, but please allow me to make one: the Ukrainian counter-offensive won’t happen, at least not the way we imagine it. I know some highly knowledgeable people would disagree with me, but what the hell… The Western pressure on Ukraine will force them to do ‘something’ and that ‘something’ will be presented as a great counter-offensive, but it won’t be that at all. Instead it will be a desperate attempt at making it look like a counter-offensive, while throwing the too young and the too old with no experience or training against Russian artillery to please the Western masters.
Also, I’d like to share this post as well, which confirms some of the numbers of the potential offensive which we’ve bandied about here. Particularly the statement in the second paragraph, which is roughly concordant with my own calculations, that I’ve posted several times before. I continue to maintain that there has to be at least 150-250k Russian troops not yet committed to conflict which are sitting and waiting, and mostly being utilized for rotational purposes to keep troops fresh, and inure them to combat conditions slowly and gradually.
If it’s true that Russia mobilized not only the 300k we know of, but an additional 100k volunteers—which is very believable, by the way—then that bodes very well. And I continue to believe that they are not yet being committed so as not to be ‘caught with their pants down’ by a huge Ukrainian counteroffensive striking at a weak point. For now they will likely wait to counteract Ukraine’s last hurrah, and then be utilized in a decisive Russian offensive of their own.
As for the possible offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, many large figures will be thrown in, but size ranges can be compiled based on various data sources.
The Ukrainian garrison in Zaporizhia has more than 50,000 troops, including fighters trained in the West, and new equipment, including tanks. In the Dnipropetrovsk region, there are also large reserves of the Armed Forces of Ukraine – at least 100-150 thousand people. Draws attention to the fact that they are kept away from the front and will be allowed to fight on the move. It is reported that in the area of Bakhmut, AFU troops numbering from 50,000 to 80,000 people are waiting for the offensive. However, from these troops, the Ukrainian Armed Forces send new reinforcements daily to the Bakhmut “meat grinder”, where losses are high, which worsens and weakens further conditions for the spring offensive.
As for the Russian troops, the partial mobilization last fall resulted in the recruitment of 300,000 reservists and 100,000 volunteers. Currently, the Russian Federation is reported to have concentrated 113 battalion tactical groups in the Zaporizhia direction and 205 BTG in the Donetsk direction. Based on the fact that there can be 600-900 people in one BTG, this means 190-286 thousand people in reserve who are not currently participating in combat operations. Until now, most of the newly formed troops were outside the front line in reserve.
If this general assumption is almost correct, it certainly means that Russia has more than enough reserves to deal with any Ukrainian invasion.
Meanwhile, things are looking no better on the West and Ukrainian’s side. A slew of headlines and MSM articles continue to either downplay, downgrade, or ‘check expectations’ for the coming Ukrainian offensive.
The Newsweek article above whines:
Ukraine, on the other hand, concentrated many of its best equipped and best trained troops in Bakhmut where they were pounded for months by Russian artillery, missiles, and drones. In the battle for Bakhmut, Ukraine lost thousands of experienced troops who cannot be replaced by conscripts with a few weeks of accelerated training.
Ultimately, we are not generals, but we do understand economics. It has always seemed extremely unlikely to us that a nation with a 2021 GDP of $200 billion and a population of 44 million could defeat a nation with a GDP of $1.8 trillion and a population of 145 million. This would seem particularly true if only the larger nation, that is Russia, possessed a sizable air force, significant defense industries, and nuclear weapons.
It ends with this flat assessment:
The classic requirements for a just war include a reasonable possibility of victory. While a generation of Ukrainian men are dying, the sad reality is that Ukraine has about as much chance of winning a war against Russia as Mexico would of winning a war with the United States.
This new Politico article has a doozy of a revelation:
As reported last time, the trend towards conditioning the public towards acceptance of some sort of ceasefire carries on. One can see in the Politico article above, the Biden administration wrangling with how to present a potential ‘ceasefire’ to the Ukrainian people once their offensive comes to a calamitous end.
The Biden administration is quietly preparing for the possibility that if Ukraine’s spring counteroffensive falls short of expectations, critics at home and allies abroad will argue that America has come up short, too.
Ukraine’s ever-imminent counteroffensive will attempt to retake Russian-seized territory most likely in the east and south, though for operational reasons no senior officials from Kyiv have detailed specifics.
Please note my previous forecasts about the 2024 election cycle, and how the closer we get to it, the more disastrous the Ukrainian situation will be, politically speaking, for Biden or whoever the establishment candidate is. They are already beginning to draw up contingencies in that regard. And I explained previously how it will be sold to the Ukrainian people/leadership as a ‘temporary’ ceasefire measure, and maybe even have some sort of carrot-on-a-stick dangled as coercion—i.e. NATO membership, etc.
Publicly, President Joe Biden’s team has offered unwavering support for Ukraine, pledging to load it up with weapons and economic aid for “as long as it takes.” But, if the impending fighting season yields limited gains, administration officials have expressed privately they fear being faced with a two-headed monster attacking it from the hawkish and dovish ends of the spectrum.
One side will say that Ukraine’s advances would’ve worked had the administration given Kyiv everything it asked for, namely longer-range missiles, fighter jets and more air defenses. The other side, administration officials worry, will claim Ukraine’s shortcoming proves it can’t force Russia out of its territory completely.
The article goes on to establish that ‘behind closed doors’, administration officials are skeptical that Ukraine can realistically sever Russia’s link to Crimea.
Moreover, U.S. intelligence indicates that Ukraine simply does not have the ability to push Russian troops from where they were deeply entrenched — and a similar feeling has taken hold about the battlefield elsewhere in Ukraine, according to officials.
The most striking admission comes from Richard Haass, a senior deep state bigwig who has long been president of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR):
“If Ukraine can’t gain dramatically on the battlefield, the question inevitably arises as to whether it is time for a negotiated stop to the fighting,” said Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “It’s expensive, we’re running low on munitions, we’ve got other contingencies around the world to prepare for.”
This very article, by the way, was stealth edited when it originally said that Ukraine has suffered 100,000 killed troops thus far; this was subsequently quietly changed to “100,000 casualties”, something that did not escape the notice of many analysts.
The revealing article also hints at something else I’ve seen discussed lately: which is that Ukraine could be pushed to accepting more modest/realistic goals, which includes being allowed to ‘claim victory’ for simply reaching Crimea rather than attempting to liberate it. However, reading between the lines, I’ve extrapolated this further to mean that there’s a likelihood that Ukraine’s real goals of the offensive will merely be to push south far enough to put Crimea within artillery range. They could consider calling that a victory and trying to force a ceasefire as this would give them immense leverage during any Minsk 3.0-style armistice, as they will now be able to terrorize Crimea for their purposes in the same way they did Donetsk, etc., for many years during the multiple Minsk agreements.
However, even that is likely unrealistic, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they settle for bringing Melitopol within artillery range instead. This would only require them to get as far as Tokmak to the north.
In light of this, the following, said by Urkainian political scientist Ruslan Bortnik, is noteworthy:
If the president of Ukraine “freezes” the conflict, that is, does not end it with a “victory” from the point of view of Kiev, he will find himself in the crossfire of two oppositions, said the Ukrainian political scientist Ruslan Bortnik. Some will accuse Zelensky of losing territories and people, while others will blame him for unleashing the conflict.
“Moreover, we will have to publish a huge amount of data related to losses, and a lot of information related to corruption will come out, the most serious corruption, with which there are huge problems,” the expert said. Therefore, it is advantageous for Zelensky to continue fighting. While they are going, there is no one to put all these questions to him, Bortnik concluded.
Also, here’s the problem with the many theories that Ukraine may be carrying out a massive maskirovka campaign, and actually planning to strike elsewhere: such as occupying Donetsk/Gorlovka as Russell Bentley claimed, or overrunning Svatove/Kremennaya, or even Bakhmut.
The amount of munitions they’ve stockpiled is likely only enough for one big impressive and flashy push. It is critical that this push results in some type of very tangible result that can be used as a monumental psychological victory to rally flagging European support.
The problem is, if they waste this stockpile on some entrenched theater, they will only bog themselves down and end up in a situation weeks down the line where they have no more munitions and have achieved only pushing into the heart of, let’s say, Donetsk region, without achieving the sort of ‘flashy’ rallying victory necessary.
I believe the only objective that could generate such a victory is giving Russia a major scare vis a vis Crimea. Not least of which reason being that, striking against directions populated by LDPR or Wagner would not really be an optics victory against ‘Russia’ itself. Only the optics of a major victory against true Russian forces would give the sort of rallying cry intended. And no direction is associated with the true heart of Russia more than the Crimean one. This is why I simply can’t see any way out going for Crimea its general direction (Melitopol, Berdiansk, Mariupol, etc.).
On the other hand, in preparation, Russia has been greatly increasing its strikes on deep rear infrastructure and troop consolidation points.
Days ago, Russia was said to strike a large mercenary gathering in Konstantinovka with Iskander missiles, killing 60+, plus destroying upwards of 15 vehicles:
Another massive strike in Kramatorsk reportedly destroyed “200 tons” of ammunition supplies.
And Sergey Lebedev, a coordinator of the Nikolaev underground movement, told Russian Ria Novosti news the following:
A missile attack on the night of April 27 on the territory of a shipbuilding plant in Nikolaev destroyed about 20 senior Ukrainian and foreign officers who held a meeting there, the foreigners were from English-speaking countries, Sergey Lebedev, coordinator of the Nikolaev underground, told RIA Novosti – Translated Video Link
And as of this writing, an unprecedented strike is underway, reportedly utilizing 13 total Kalibr carrying ships and subs, 50 Geran and equivalent drones, and ~21 Tu-95MS Bears and additional Tu-160s armed with upwards of 8 KH-101 cruise missiles each for a total of over 500 guided missiles/drones. There’s no telling how many are actually launched compared to decoys or simply ‘going up’ in the air in regions in order to distract or raise regional alarms.
But it’s been confirmed that a critical railway juncture and surrounding depots in Pavlograd were hit, with massive explosions visible, signifying huge losses. Reports claim two entire divisions of S-300s (representing over 16 launchers) which were being stored and prepped for the upcoming offensive were destroyed as well as tons of other ammo, including DU shipments, and many troops as well. The reports are likely not far from the truth as the explosion type was clearly of the ‘chandelier’ type (as described by one source) with the typical telltale signs of ammunition detonation, secondary explosions, etc. So it’s a certainty that a mass amount of ammunition supplies were destroyed. One video here: Video Link.
If the scale of this attack is true as reported, this is a clear sign that a major offensive is gearing up because this is exactly what I’ve stated before, that Russia would continue saving up its munitions/missiles, waiting until the eve of the offensive when Ukrainian hardware is finally getting centralized, consolidated into depots or places of preparation, etc. Then it would launch massive strikes against these consolidation points. And we’ve seen that in the last several days as there was suddenly a spate of missile launches, though the one two days ago was small by comparison.
With that said, it could also be preparations for an offensive of Russia’s own, as any potential Russian offensive would also come on the heels of massive strikes.
On the topic of Ukraine’s preparations, recently there have been more and more (and more and more) videos of Leopards and Bradleys in Ukraine. One of the videos showed the Bradleys (as well as a T-55M) sporting new tactical symbols, which is typically a sign that they’ll be used in combat soon.