As of Saturday, the Ukrainian military of defense reported that they had captured, destroyed, or disabled 2,550 Russian vehicles and aircraft. Oryx has definitively identified at least 1,164 of these vehicles using photographs and videos of captured or destroyed equipment. This includes an amazing 108 T-72 tanks—the definitive thing you do not want to drive down a Ukrainian roadway.
The biggest reason that Ukraine has been able to eliminate such massive amounts of equipment from the battlefield is simple—portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft defenses. Russian aircraft have fallen to not just U.S.-made Stingers, but to aging Warsaw Pact Strelas and Polish Pioruns fired from updated Soviet launchers. British Starstreak systems are on the way. And, of course, there are the Turkish Bayraktar drones, whose ability to deal with Russian vehicles and artillery installations is the poster child for how quickly the modern battlefield is changing.
On the ground, “Saint Javelin” has become the emblem of Ukraine’s ability to to turn Russian heavy metal into scrap. However, the real arsenal in the hands of Ukrainian soldiers is incredibly varied, including such items as Spanish C90-CRs, Swedish M2 Carl Gustaf (that were actually sent by Canada), German Panzerfaust, and better than 3,500 MBT LAW systems from the U.K. All of these—along with weapons actually made in Ukraine, like the highly effective Corsar, and an array of left over Soviet hardware—have been put to effective use.
On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy stated that Ukraine has lost 1,300 soldiers so far in this war. No matter whose estimate is used, that’s a fraction of Russian losses, but there’s no doubt that the hard-won victories Ukraine has scored to date are a mixture of their ironwilled resistance, and a steady stream of defensive weapons coming in from other nations.
Russia knows this as well. On Friday, Russia issued at least two statements making it clear it considers efforts to resupply Ukraine as “legitimate targets” for Russian attacks. That includes a statement from Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov who warned that “the U.S. pumping weapons from a number of countries it orchestrates isn’t just a dangerous move, it’s an action that makes those convoys legitimate targets.”
Exactly how these weapons are getting into Ukraine is definitely not a subject widely discussed in public. They’re almost certainly being landed in Poland and moved down the highway by transport trucks to reach Kyiv and other areas along the frontline of the war.
To what extent Russia is capable of disrupting these lines of supply isn’t clear. However, it is clear that if they move to do so, not only is it likely to cause disruptions in the supply of weapons to the Ukrainian military, but to the already fragile supply of medicines and food coming into the eastern half of Ukraine. It could also interfere with the lines of refugees moving out of the country to the west.
If Russia attempts to interdict supplies from the West, it will send a signal inside and outside Ukraine that the war is moving to a new phase, but how any of the nations involved would react is far from clear. To some extent, Russia not attacking the supply chain, or escaping refugees, has been part of what has allowed Western nations to stay on the sidelines. Attacking those lines represents a risk to both sides.
In some ways, the speech on Saturday in which Zelenskyy announced that 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers had died over the course of the war was extremely hopeful. It noted that between 500 and 600 Russian soldiers had surrendered to Ukrainian forces on Friday alone, and spoke to the incredible resistance Ukraine has put up in spite of massive damage to civilian areas.
But that speech was also sober when evaluating what comes next. Though Ukrainian forces have repeatedly beaten back attempts to seize Kyiv, or Kharkiv, or Sumy, Russia doesn’t have to win every assault to ultimately win the battle. And with Russian forces drawing closer to Kyiv on three sides, the prospect of the kind of withering artillery and missile barrage that has flattened much of Mariupol is looming over the city.
This New Yorker piece shows how the Russian assault is bringing Ukrainians together, even as it tears their cities and homes apart. It accurately describes what’s happening now as a “punitive assault,” in which Ukraine is being punished for its refusal to bow to Putin.
Ukraine is every character you ever saw, in every book or film you ever loved, who refused to bend to the demand of a tyrant; who would rather take a blow, than bow their head. But the blows are heavy, and the images included with this article are gut wrenching.
Hostomel, Bucha, and Irpin have become familiar names. That’s where some of the first failed attacks against Kyiv’s defenses were made, including the incredibly ill-conceived attempt to seize Hostomel using a few hundred airborne troops on the first day of the invasion. But Russia is now pressing, pressing, pressing to get troops past the choke point at Chernihiv so it can bring force to bear from the area of Velyka on the northeast.
This is why Kharkiv and Sumy have been so critical. They’ve guarded the approach to Kyiv’s east and southeast flank. This isn’t the first attempt to get Russian forces into Velyka. Early in the war, a relatively small number of troops and armor moved into the area, only to be captured or destroyed by Ukrainian forces in a counter-attack. But this time the force around Velyka seems more substantial, which is a big part of why the media is pushing a lot of “Kyiv on the brink” stories on Saturday in the U.S.
A tentative plan is underway on Saturday to withdraw citizens in the Sumy region south to the city of Poltava, about 70 miles west of Kharkiv. It’s not clear if this is in anticipation of some more intense Russian assault, or simply getting some people out from an area that’s been heavily damaged and is getting harder to supply.
And another. Because watching Russian military equipment get knocked out of this invasion never gets old.
An interesting thread from historian Kamil Galeev on the actual role of the Russian military within Russia. Despite propaganda that presents Russia as powerful and modern, not only have they not fought a significant war in 70 years, they’re actually bullied inside Russia by “thieves” working within the kleptocracy who hold military supplies, and even bases, for ransom.
“Thieves racketeering the military, including Syria veterans, nuke personnel is not an ‘accident.’ It’s a deliberate government policy to keep professional military low in dominance hierarchy. Russian state purposefully keeps its military in this position. It’s all part of a plan.“
Perhaps Donald Trump and Sidney Powell might offer their services as election monitors.
More seriously — expect more of this in any area that falls under Russian control. Russia will use these fake elections in eventual negotiations as they attempt to claim more territory.
Heavy airstrikes and artillery are currently hitting Mykolaiv. This area is not only key to numerous routes to Ukraine’s interior, but is protecting the flank of the major port city, Odessa. Despite renewed attacks on Saturday evening, Ukrainian forces remain in control of Mykolaiv at this hour.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.