Ukraine War, 4–5 July, 2022

Good morning everybody!

These days, I’m getting lots of questions about relations between the Zelensky Administration, the Minister of Defence, Commander-in-Chief, and Chief-of-GenStab Ukraine. Up front, I should observe I’ve got no contacts there, and I’m still reading myself into this topic. Should mean: I’m entirely clueless about this topic and reduced to ‘reading between the lines’ — i.e. to deduction.

That said, there’s not much to read myself into, primarily because outside Ukraine relations in that ‘square’ remain an under-researched topic (or at least an ‘under-published’ topic): what has been published before the war was busy explaining how incompetent and corrupt the ZSU is, and how quickly it’s going to fold up in the case of the Russian invasion — all because it’s not following NATO-advice to the last dot and comma…

Thus, can only ‘gauge from afar’. ….and so, ‘from afar’, the situation to me appears as if the latest episode in this regards — the one where Zelensky publicly requested the GenStab not to make specific decisions without him (in this case: decisions about requirement all the conscripts and reservists to report their whereabouts to the military authorities) — is illustrative for relations in this ‘square’.

To understand this, one should keep in mind the ‘nominal’ situation, the one that — at least in Ukraine — is dictated by the rule of law. For example: nominally, the ‘politics’ is determining the politics, military the military affairs. Politics has the duty (foremost duty, less so the ‘right’) to take care the military to have everything it needs to fight the war, and it can say to the military, for example, ‘recover Kherson’. Military has the right and the duty to tell to the politics, ‘yes sir, we can’ or, ‘no sir, we can’t’….

That said, to me it appears as if in Ukraine of the last few months many things do not work the way they were meant to work. Zelensky and most of his administration do not have much clue about military affairs. Thus, they’re doing something that is making lots of sense (indeed, that might be the best idea in their position): below the level of the Ministry of Defence (MOD), they let the military do what the military thinks is the best thing to do. I.e. the Commander-in-Chief (Zaluzhny) and Chief-of-GenStab (Shaptal) are free to fight the war the way they have organised and trained that military and the way they think is the best way.

(Which is just as good, for not only the history, but the Russian side of this war is full of brilliant examples for what happens when incompetent, and/or cynical, and/or reckless politicians are micromanaging the battle…)

Mind: this shouldn’t mean that, say, Zaluzhny and/or the GenStab have anything like ‘absolute control’ over what is which unit doing on the battlefield. Contrary to the impression created in the US media in particular, in actual life they are ‘far away and issuing orders’, but what then happens on the battlefield is an entirely different pair of shoes. Even more so in such a heavily — indeed: ‘fiercely’ — de-centralised military system like that in Ukraine. This is de-centralised to the level where not even officers, but what is called ‘non-commissioned officers’ (NCOs; see: corporals and sergeants) are making decisions. What a surprise then, especially US-volunteers in Ukraine are complaining, ‘nobody is in control’ — while reckless characters like Putin, Dvornikov etc. can’t defeat that army, no matter with what cynical disregard and how mercilessly are they pushing their own.

(Of course, this shouldn’t mean anything like ‘NCOs know better than Generals’: exactly the Severodonetsk-Lysychansk ‘affair’ was a brilliant example that they do not….)

….and then there’s that issue I’m always forgetting about, named jealousy. I’m not jealous, simply taking people, circumstances, and things the way they are — and thus always surprised by how much is jealousy driving other people. In this case, this means: Zelensky & Co are surely not happy about the massive popularity of Zaluzhny (& Co.). So much so, it doesn’t matter to them (politicians) — or if: then it works for them — that the entire affair was actually created by the politics and then converted into an overblown balloon by the Ukrainian media…

Bottom line: in this case the Commander-in-Chief and/or Chief-of-GenStab did as they’re meanwhile doing for four months — and brought a decision without consulting the politics. Their decision is actually something for which the politics is responsible, and not particularly popular in the public, and thus the politics is angry. Well, dear politicians: ‘shit happens’.

Recommended read: Churchill and his Generals by Raymond Callahan — or one of so many similar titles about relations between (at least ‘democratically-responsible’ if not ‘democratically elected’) statesmen and ‘their’ military commanders. ‘Not recommended’ for trying to understand this: reads about relations between dictators and ‘their’ generals (and, please, be cautious: you’re going to need a read about some war ‘dominated by mavericks’, not about a war dominated by corrupt incompetents or dogmatics; so, for example, even reading something like ‘Bush and his Generals’ is likely to prove misleading, because in comparison to Ukrainians, US-Americans are much too dogmatic).

AIR/MISSILE WARFARE

Generally, the VKS remains completely unable to operate effectively over the frontline, and continues running ‘spray and pray’ attacks. It seems higher Russian ranks (not to talk about Putin) are not even coming to the idea to run so-called ‘suppression of enemy air defences’ (SEAD) operations, even if the Certified Fool’s PRBS-machinery has proudly announced the VKS to have received a batch of brand-new Su-34Ms, the last month. Which is just as fine with Ukrainians.

Of course, Ukrainian Air Force is in no better position: by now it’s clear it has no means to run SEAD, whatsoever. But, at least the Ukrainian Air Force is free to run intercept operations beyond the frontline, which is as important for following reasons.

….another Su-25 of the ‘completely destroyed, for three months already’, Ukrainian Air Force, approaching the frontline…. well unknown where, but supposedly ‘in Luhansk’.

Yesterday, early in the morning, two Russian missiles (type unknown) have hit the Shotka area in the Sumy Oblast. Slightly later, Ukrainians have shot down six missiles approaching Dnipro. There followed six missiles of unknown type underway in direction of Mykolaiv. As far as I can say, the homebase of the 79th Airborne in Mykolaiv was hit, and a huge fire erupted there. Another six missiles (type unknown, once again), were fired in direction of Bashtanka: three were shot down (BTW, Bashtanka was where the Russian VDV suffered catastrophic casualties during its heliborne assault on Voznesensk, back in early March; thus, ‘no surprise’). While a few of these strikes were undertaken by Russian ballistic missiles, most were run by low-flying cruise missiles: some say, ‘Kalibr’, but I’m not sure about the type. BTW, as mentioned above, this far beyond the frontlines, Ukrainian air force is free to scramble its interceptors and indeed, at least this MiG-29s was seen while trying to catch one of Russian cruise missiles — with unknown results.

Early in the afternoon, the Russians heavily rocketed Sloviansk, hitting the local market: several civilians were killed (the last such strike, on 3 July, killed 6 and wounded 15). The Chernihiv Oblast was hit by two salvos of BM-30 Smerch rockets — with unknown results. In the evening, around 20.00hrs local time, the Russians came back to attack the area between Odessa and Ochakov with three Kh-59s: all three were shot down.

Now, Ukrainian air force has no means to hit back in fashion. Thus, it was on Ukrainian M142 HIMARS to do so. And…. well, in Russian boots, I would say, they are getting really unpleasant. Operating from such distances behind the frontline, all the time on the move — and thus out of the Russian reach — they are blowing up one Russian ammo depot after the other. Between their latest targets was the Kamaz Centre (Luhansk), then a depot outside Kadiivka (Luhansk), then one in Yakovlevka (Donetsk, where the nearby railway station was heavily hit, too). RUMINT has it the HIMARS strike on that airport and ammo depot outside Melitopol from 2 July (see my last report) killed up to 200 and wounded another 300 Russian troops.

As far as I can say, this is one of rare moments the crew of any of Ukrainian M142 stood still the last few days - in order to re-load and then fire. Impression is that the Russians can consider themselves happy, for Ukrainians have only about a dozen of these launchers. At least for the time being…

Makes me wonder: once they empty ammo depots of Belarus, where are the Russians going to find replacement ammo….?

BATTLE OF DONBASS

Kharkiv… the ‘regular’ Russian shelling of the northern outskirts of the city must’ve hit some sort of a military base there, because it turned out at least two Brazilian, a French, and another foreigner were killed there, sometimes around 2 or 3 July. In turn, the 93rd Mech has smashed another local Russian attack. The 40th Artillery has had some good times with knocking out Russian tanks north of Kharkiv, too, back on 1–3 July. Atop of that, 2 T-80BVs and a BTR-82A were captured intact.

Sloviansk… the last four days, the Russians — who have about 20 BTGs (plus at least 4 artillery brigades) concentrated in between Mala Komyshuvakha and Yarova — continued attacking Krasnopillya, Dolyne and Bohorodichne. In the case of Krasnopillya, they’ve captured Mazanivka and are now assaulting from its direction through the forest west of Krasnopillya. So far, without success. In the case of Bohorodichne, the Russians seem to have reached a ridge south of the village, but in turn their Spetsnaz attack on Bohorodichne was repelled and the Ukrainians are back in the centre. With other words: this sounds like ‘reconnaissance in force’ and ‘manoeuvring for position’, prior to launching the actual offensive (expected in this area for at least three weeks now). Good news from this area is that the main Russian supply hub for this section of the frontline — the railway station in Sosnove — is already attracting lots of attention of Ukrainian artillery.

Siversk…. In the north, exploiting the failure of the Russian attack from Bilohorivka on Hryhorivka, Ukrainians counterattacked and recovered Bilohorivka. In the centre, the Russians are assaulting Verkhnomayanske, and have taken Spirne. In the south, another Russian assault on Berestove was repelled. Essentially, Dvornikov is trying to exploit the ‘energy’ of the fall of Lysychansk to prevent Ukrainians from establishing a strong defence line in front of Siversk.

The Russians claim to have captured this badly damaged T-64 somewhere in Serverodonetsk or Lysychansk. Plus two or three Hummers and an old Saracen APC….No doubt, no Ukrainian loss of this kind is ‘nice’, but: this photo is from 2014 — and it’s ‘speaking volumes’ that any captured piece of Ukrainian hardware is meanwhile considered something like ‘major success’ — whether by Russians or by Putin-fans abroad.

Bakhmut…the last two days, the Spetsnaz has recovered Klynove and consolidated Russian positions there. That said, it’s notable that this time it was the Spetsnaz that led this attack — after a failure of the Wagner PMC. Might mean the latter has meanwhile suffered such losses, and replacements are so poor, it simply can’t do more than follow in fashion of Kadyrov’s ‘special forces’, and take selfies. Of course, something like ‘official’ excuse was that the PMC refused to lead the counterattack because it was hit by own artillery….hm… Certainly enough, Spetsnaz is meanwhile running ‘armed reconnaissance’ in direction of Bakhmut and the M03 highway, which is certainly at least unpleasant for Ukrainians. Further south, the Russians were busy trying to take the Vuhlerhirska power plant: as of the last night — without success.

…and at the southern end of the LOC, Ukrainians have recovered the village of Solodke (north of Volnovakha). Looks like the local Ukrainian commanders have exploited the opportunity offering itself due to the fact that the DNR has withdrawn too many troops from there to the Severodonetsk-Lysychansk area.

SOUTH

Northern Kherson….turns out — based on reports about Russian counterattacks — Ukrainians have liberated Myrne, and that already days ago,. And then they liberated Snihurivka, too. Turns out, the Russians are counterattacking Myrne, but without success so far.

Eastern Kherson….the Russians continued attacking the bridgehead in the Davidyv Brid, where they did cause heavy losses to Ukrainians, preventing them from expanding that bridgehead, weeks ago (shortly after that attack was launched). Seems, somebody on the Ukrainian side has meanwhile learned his lesson and now it’s the Russians who are suffering heavy losses — for example in form of several BM-27s knocked out by the counter-battery fire of the 28th Mech.

Southern Kherson…. seems, Kyiv wouldn’t like to let us know until it’s perfectly sure it can hold the place, but: Ukrainians have secured Chernobaivka and are meanwhile pushing into Stepanivka. They’re certainly close enough to Kherson for near-constant machine-gun-fire to be clearly heard inside the city. Must’ve been ‘Russian celebrating’ because, the spox for the ZSU Group of Forces South rushed to deny reports about Ukrainian troops being close to Kherson (ho-hum)…

Bottom line: the situation in this war is the way it is since four months: the Russians are ‘advancing’ because Putin is insistent on the media he controls to let ‘us know’ his troops aree advancing; and Ukrainians are ‘not advancing’ — because they wouldn’t let us know, and the media is prevented from doing that.

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From Austria; specialised in analysis of contemporary warfare; working as author, illustrator, and book-series-editor for Helion & Co.

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Tom Cooper

Tom Cooper

From Austria; specialised in analysis of contemporary warfare; working as author, illustrator, and book-series-editor for Helion & Co.

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