This isn’t the sort of thing you expect to see from an invading army: 

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What’s this about? Instead of trying to take new territory, Russian invaders are now sweating Ukrainian counterattacks in the region. Look at what’s being reinforced (map from here): 

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You can see the little airport icon for Antonov International Airport in Hostomel, and I added the two other towns listed in that tweet, to the left of the map (and circled). In other words, they’re reinforcing the current front lines, under pressure from the current Ukrainian counteroffensive. You can rest assured similar defensive emplacements are going up on all those front-line towns in the area. Would be fun if Ukraine was able to cut off Russian defenders in Hostomel and Bucha. It’s critical that Russia is kept outside artillery range of central Kyiv. 

Speaking of artillery range, being out of it makes all the difference to a city. We’ve been following Ukrainian counter-attacks in Southern Ukraine, and in particular the effort toward Kherson from Mykolaiv. Now free of the scourge of MLRS and other artillery barrages, life quickly returns to normal

For weeks, Mykolaiv was on the front line. Now, with Ukrainian forces pressing a counteroffensive, the Russians have been pushed back and the port city’s 470,000 people are attempting a tentative return to normality.

Coffee shops and some restaurants are open again. Supermarkets have been restocked with fresh groceries. Bank branches have reopened. Municipal buses and trams run the streets. Mothers with children play in playgrounds as the sound of artillery thuds in the distance. Fresh tulips and roses are available in a variety of shades in a row of downtown flower shops.

Reports state that Russia’s besieging army retreated to Kherson, so it might be too well-defended at this point for a head-on assault. Troops in town have been digging in since earlier this week. Ukraine might be happy enough to just free Mykolaiv from most daily terror. And I emphasis “most,” because cruise missiles hit an army barracks that killed at least 40 soldiers. Perhaps it’s small consolation that at least this time, Russia actually targeted a military facility. 

Down in Mariupol, hopes of rescue were dashed by Ukrainian general staff, which announced that the closest Ukrainian troops were at least 100 kilometers away. The city should’ve fallen on the first day of the war. It’s a wonder it has lasted this long, and every day it holds out is another miracle. But those days are running out.

Finally, this is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen: 

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That is next level.

Saturday, Mar 19, 2022 · 12:41:20 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The T-72 tank continues to be the vehicle most likely to be captured, abandoned, or destroyed in this invasion. In production since the 1970s, this was once considered the most formidable tank on the battlefield. When strategists sweated the idea of Russia armor sweeping into West Germany during the Cold War, it was the T-72, with its big 125mm main gun, V-12 Diesel engine, and hybrid steel and composite armor, that generated nightmares.

Now these tanks are serving to illustrate just how long ago that was. The T-72B lost in this action date back to the Soviet era, The T-72B3M is an updated model that, among other improvements, is capable of launching its own anti-armor missiles to take out opposing tanks. That doesn’t seem to have helped in this battle.

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Saturday, Mar 19, 2022 · 12:45:07 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

The convoy of Spanish taxis that set off this week to ferry Ukrainian refugees is back in Madrid this morning, bringing with them over 100 guests. Now another convoy is setting off, this time from the U.K.

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Saturday, Mar 19, 2022 · 1:00:07 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

If accurate, this could be the most important Russian military officer lost so far in Ukraine. The 8th Army has been in charge of Russian operations in Donbas for the last five years  Mordvichev will have been a well-known figure there  

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Saturday, Mar 19, 2022 · 1:14:37 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Russia is now claiming that at least 1 of the 1080 missiles launched into Ukraine was actually a Kh-47M2 “Kinzhal” hypersonic missile. These missiles, which Russia demonstrated four years ago, are reported to be capable of speeds up to Mach 10. They’re air launched by specially modified MiG-31Ks, and capable of traveling 1,200 miles in about 10 minutes.

Russia claims to have used the missile to attack an underground warehouse in western Ukraine near the town of Deliatyn on Friday. If so, it would be the first time such a missile was used in combat.

Saturday, Mar 19, 2022 · 1:31:01 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Those stories about the Russian army being short of food appear to be getting some confirmation. From the Russian army. 

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Saturday, Mar 19, 2022 · 2:03:17 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

On Friday, Russian forces managed to enter eastern areas of Mariupol. Despite taking losses from Ukrainian resistance — including the destruction of more T-72 tanks — Russia forces appear to be continuing to advance in the city. Reports on Saturday have the fighting near the center of the city with Russian forces pressing in from multiple directions.

As the BBC reports the Russian advance is interfering with efforts to rescue the people still trapped beneath the rubble of the theater that Russia bombed on Thursday.

“[There is] street fighting in the city center,” said the mayor of  the besieged city. “There are tanks… and artillery shelling, and all kinds of weapons fired in the area. Our forces are doing everything they can to hold their positions in the city but the forces of the enemy are larger than ours, unfortunately.”

The story of Mariupol is incredibly tragic. Despite the heroism there, the long-encircled city may be nearing its breaking point. On Friday, Ukrainian defense forces reported that they had been unable to reach Mariupol to relieve the siege.

Saturday, Mar 19, 2022 · 2:32:25 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Meanwhile, in the realm of missiles that are not hypersonic, stealthy, or “quasi-ballistic”, the OTR-21 Tochka is the type of launcher that was seen rolling into Belarus on Friday. It has a relatively short range—25 to 115 miles, depending on the variety—and an accuracy of about “slight chance of hitting a football stadium” (seriously, 90 meters from target is typical). It’s very much not a precision munition, and replaced a series of missiles that were completely unguided. That Russia is going back to using this missile is a pretty good indicator of where it stands on availability of more advanced tactical weapons after firing 1,080 into Ukraine.

The Tochka, also known as “Scarab,” are large, clumsy, and altogether outdated. However, they are also relatively cheap, reliable, and numerous. And they get their warhead up to a maximum speed of just under 4,000 mph using a solid rocket motor. So this is particularly amazing:

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.

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