Ukraine war

Ukraine attacks Russian fuel depots ahead of a counteroffensive

An oil refinery and a thermal power station in the Siberian city of Omsk, Russia. (Photo: Alexey Malgavko/Reuters/File)

The 62nd week of Russia's conflict in Ukraine was dominated by drones, missiles, and cross-border artillery, while the 63rd began with a dramatic accusation from Moscow – that Ukraine attempted to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine may have targeted Russian petroleum depots as a possible prelude to its anticipated counteroffensive. Meanwhile, Russia dramatically escalated its attacks against Ukrainian civilians, claiming dozens of lives.

April 29 explosions in Kozacha Bay, near Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula, where the Russian Black Sea Fleet is based, were presumably caused by Ukraine.

A massive black mushroom cloud was captured on film ascending from a fuel tank park. Andriy Yusov, the spokesman for the Ukrainian military intelligence, stated that 10 tanks containing 40,000 tonnes of refined oil products had been incinerated.

The Russia-installed administrator of occupied Crimea, Mikhail Razvozhayev, confirmed that a Ukrainian drone had struck an oil tank, igniting a fire covering more than 1,000 square meters (10,762 square feet).

A Russian military blogger reported that two unmanned aerial vehicles had destroyed four fuel containers. A second Russian blogger reported that ten Mugin-5 UAVs had been launched against the fuel containers from the Shkilnyy airfield in Odessa and that some had been shot down.

The ay 4 fire at the Ilsky oil refinery near the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk was also attributed to Ukraine by Russia. Ukraine denied culpability for the attack.

Each facility was attacked within a day of Russian airstrikes on Ukrainian civilians.

A day before the strike on Kozacha Bay, Russian-fired missiles struck Uman in central Ukraine, killing 20 civilians, including five children.

Russia acknowledged the attack and stated the target was a reserve training facility.

In contrast to the Russian defense ministry's claim that all targets had been destroyed, Ukraine stated that it had intercepted 21 of 23 missiles.

Overnight before the Ilsky fire, Ukraine reported that Russia had launched dozens of UAV attacks on Ukrainian territory for the second consecutive day.

"The invaders launched as many as twenty-four Shahed-136/131 assault drones... The Ukrainian Air Force, in conjunction with other air defense units, fired down 18 attack drones, the Ukrainian Air Force announced via Telegram.

Ukraine has long sought to punish Russia for its attacks on civilians and to counter Russia's ability to penetrate deep into Ukrainian territory where there are no active conflicts.

The head of Ukraine's armed forces, Valery Zaluzhny, stated on September 7 that long-range weapons supplied by the West would be crucial to winning the conflict in 2023.

"The adversary can deliver pinpoint strikes on targets throughout the entire depth of the nation's territory without repercussions. From a military standpoint, this should be regarded as the center of gravity of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. In a paper co-authored with Lieutenant-General Mykhailo Zabrodskyi, he stated, "As long as this situation persists, this war could continue for years."

Yusov stated that the bombardment on Kozacha Bay was retaliation for the deaths of twenty-five civilians in Uman. In addition, he stated that the policy of punishing Russia for attacks against civilians would persist.

This punishment will have a longer duration. Residents of the temporarily occupied Crimea should avoid being in close proximity to military installations, according to Yusov.

Russian Casualties Doubled This Year

John Kirby, a spokesman for United States National Security, stated that the White House estimates that 20,000 Russian personnel have been killed in Ukraine since December, with nearly half of them being mercenaries from the Wagner Group, and that an additional 80,000 have been wounded.

This has been an exceptionally high rate for the past three months.

A leaked US intelligence document dated February 21 estimated that between 35,000 and 42,500 Russians were killed in the first year of the conflict.

The increase in fatalities since December is likely a consequence of Russia's winter offensive, which aims to seize control of the eastern Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.

At 15,500-17,000, the estimated number of Ukrainian casualties was less than half that of Russian casualties.

The leaked document placed the number of casualties in Ukraine between 106,500 and 110,500 and in Russia between 150,500 and 177,000.

The Washington Post reported that a separate leaked CIA document suggested that Putin was attempting to recruit new personnel without angering the public. Putin reportedly instructed his military to "quietly recruit" 400,000 new personnel in 2023 to prevent a political backlash at home.

According to Western intelligence, Russia launched its invasion with approximately 150,000 soldiers. The Wagner Group may have fielded an additional 50,000. Ukraine estimates that over 180,000 people have died.

The Battle of Bakhmut

The battle for Donetsk's city of Bakhmut remained intensive as Russian forces continued to fight for the few neighborhoods they did not already control. Since last fall, the conflict has become the focal point of the war.

The Bakhmut Industrial College on the T0504 highway southwest of Bakhmut was under the control of Russian forces on April 27, according to geolocated footage, in an apparent renewed effort to control this supply route. The Ukrainian general staff reported that Russian forces also attacked Chasiv Yar, located 9 kilometers (6 miles) west of Bakhmut on Highway T0504.

Russian military bloggers asserted that "Wagner assault units continue to advance in the central regions of Bakhmut" and that the units had breached Ukrainian defenses in certain areas.

According to geolocated drone imagery, Russian forces made modest advances on April 29 in the southwest and northwest of the city.

On May 1, according to Ukraine's general staff, their forces repelled 41 assaults. They stated, "Bakhmut and Maryinka remain the epicenter of hostilities, and our troops are on the defensive."

According to Russian military bloggers, on April 30 and May 1, Wagner forces advanced in western and southeastern Bakhmut at a maximum rate of one or two blocks per day.

"In Bakhmut, the Wagner PMC, with strong artillery and air support, is putting pressure on the Ukrainian garrison in the southern, western, and northern parts of the city," a blogger explained.

Wagner's leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, reported that his fighters slightly advanced in Bakhmut on April 30. Hanna Malyar, the deputy minister of defense for Ukraine, stated that Russian forces concentrated on capturing Bakhmut and Maryinka in Donetsk.

She stated, "The primary objective of the Russian aggressors is to capture multistory buildings and structures." "In this manner, they attempt to undermine our positions. In Syria, the adversary has already employed these tactics. He cannot fight in any other manner, as he will succumb to us in street combat."

Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of Ukraine's eastern forces, stated that decisions had been made "to ensure effective defense and inflict maximum losses on the enemy" in Bakhmut, whose defense would continue.

Meanwhile, Ukraine continued its counteroffensive preparations.

On April 27, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg corroborated what US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley had said in Ramstein, Germany, days earlier: nine mechanized Ukrainian brigades had been trained and equipped by allies.

"More than 98 percent of the pledged combat vehicles to Ukraine have already been delivered. This entails more than 1,550 armored vehicles, 230 tanks, and a vast quantity of ammunition, among other equipment. This will put Ukraine in a secure position to continue regaining the occupied territories, Stoltenberg stated at the NATO headquarters.

According to Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, Denmark has fulfilled a significant weapons commitment by transferring all of its Caesar howitzers to Ukraine.

Ukraine received the second of four IRIS-T short-range air defense systems on April 30 from Germany.

On May 2, Reznikov announced that US-supplied Bradley Fighting Vehicles had arrived in Ukraine and were being integrated into the military, signaling the impending counteroffensive.

"As of today, we will be able to say, 'Yes, everything is complete,'" he said. "Even though the Ukrainians are currently using more shells at the front, the Russians have also reduced their capabilities." Their assets are not limitless."

The deputy director of Ukraine's military intelligence stated that Russian forces were preparing a "circular defense" of Mariupol.

"It is evident that the Russians are fearful. Vadym Skibitskyi stated that the base in Sevastopol and other military facilities is now heavily guarded, and the occupiers are equipping defensive positions against any potential assaults against this infrastructure.

In the fall of 2016, Russia began withdrawing fighter aircraft, ships, and submarines from Crimea and stationing them on Russian soil to keep them out of the range of Ukrainian drone strikes. Skibitskyi affirmed that the aforementioned assets remained frozen.

Nataliya Humenyuk, the spokesperson for Ukraine's southern forces, stated that significant numbers of individuals were leaving Crimea via all routes. "Families of military personnel are also actively evacuating," she explained.

Publish : 2023-05-05 10:58:00

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