Russia Shifting Troops From Mariupol To Eastern Ukraine – The Russian military has once again changed its aims publicly and now says that they plan on taking not only the eastern but the southern area of Ukraine and moving toward the Russian-backed separatist area in Transinistra inside the small country of Moldava.
Major General Rustam Minnekaev, the deputy commander of the Central Military District told the Russian news media on Friday that “Since the start of the second phase of the special operation…one of the tasks of the Russian army is to establish full control over the Donbas and southern Ukraine.”
“Control over the south of Ukraine is another way out to Transnistria, where there are cases of Russian-speaking people being oppressed,” Minnekaev added. That contradicts what Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the outset of the war. Putin claimed that Russia’s “special military operation” had no intention of occupying Ukraine but only sought to “denazify and demilitarize the country.”
With the battle in Mariupol largely over, the Russians after weeks of intensive bombardment that has reduced most of the city to rubble, now have their land bridge from Crimea to the eastern separatist-held regions of the country.
Russian Shifting Troops to the Eastern Donbas
And because the Ukrainian forces are now sealed off in the Azovstal Steel Plant, the Russians have begun shifting a large number of units from Mariupol to the eastern Donbas where the fighting has been raging.
The Russians have reportedly shifted 12-14 of their frontline units from Mariupol in the past few days and sending them to the east. The surrounded Ukrainian forces and civilians holed up in the steel plant have been pounded by artillery and airstrikes. “Every day they drop several bombs on Azovstal,” said Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to Mariupol’s mayor. “Fighting, shelling, bombing do not stop.”
However, despite the large Russian push to take Ukraine’s industrial heartland, fierce Ukrainian counterattacks have largely negated their advances in the region. They claim to have stopped cold eight Russian attacks in the two regions, destroying nine tanks, 18 armored units and 13 vehicles, a tanker, and three artillery systems, Ukraine’s General Staff said.
“Units of Russian occupiers are regrouping. Russian enemy continues to launch missile and bomb strikes on military and civilian infrastructure,” the General Staff said in a post on its Facebook page. The British Defense Ministry said that the Russians had made no significant advances in the past 24 hours.
Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said in a statement to the AP that over 100,000 Russian troops are fighting in Ukraine and that they have been bolstered by an unknown number of mercenaries from Syria and Ukraine. He added that more troops keep pouring in. “We have a difficult situation, but our army is defending our state,” Danilov said.
“It will now be difficult for our forces because our guys in Mariupol were taking (the redeployed Russian units) on themselves, it is their courage and feat,” Danilov added.
Russian Problems Continue to Plague Their Invasion
While the strategic shift in their aims in the eastern Donbas industrial heartland has shortened their lines and made their logistical lifeline shorter, much of the same issues that have plagued the Russian invasion continue.
They have not had proper coordination between their air force and ground units, something the US and the West practice on a consistent basis. As a result, ground units operating without a protective umbrella from above are subject to very effective Ukrainian ambushes which have exacted a heavy toll on road-bound Russian armored formations.
Their command and control have been hampered by the formation of numerous battalion tactical groups. These 800-man units were each given specific missions and were operating independently of one another and had poor coordination which resulted in many attacks being piecemeal.
The logistical and communication nightmares still exist and Russian commanders have been forced to communicate via unsecured cellphones which leaves them vulnerable to artillery strikes.
And rather than redeploy, regroup, and re-arming its units that have suffered heavy casualties, they’ve thrown them back into the fray as they try to gain a large battlefield victory prior to the May 9, Victory Day parade in Moscow, where the Russians celebrate the surrender of the Germans during “The Great Patriotic War” which is how they characterize World War II.
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for more than 10 years and his work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.