The War in Ukraine Presses On: On day 159 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian military is still looking for a breakthrough in the Donbas, while the Ukrainian forces continue to set the conditions for the recapture of Kherson in the south.
The War In the Donbas and the Shift to the South
In its daily estimate of the war, the British Ministry of Defense touched on the Russian operations in the Donbas. Still, it mainly focused on shifting major combat operations to the south and Kherson.
“Over the last four days, Russia has continued to attempt tactical assaults on the Bakhmut axis, northeast of Donetsk, only managing to make slow progress,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.
The Ukrainian Military Intelligence shared intelligence that indicates that the Russian military is relocating troops from the Donbas to Kherson to defend against the imminent Ukrainian counteroffensive there.
“As briefed by the Ukrainian authorities last week, Russia is likely reallocating a significant number of its forces from the northern Donbas sector to southern Ukraine,” the British Ministry of Defense stated.
“Russia is probably adjusting the operational design of its Donbas offensive after failing to make a decisive operational breakthrough under the plan it had been following since April,” the British Ministry of Defense added.
“It has likely identified its Zaporizhzhia front as a vulnerable area in need of reinforcement,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian forces keep targeting Russian ammunition depots and logistical hubs all along the southern front with their new High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and other long-range fires.
The Russian forces continue to suffer heavy casualties in Ukraine, and their effectiveness is suffering because of it, making it harder to launch successful offensive operations.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Monday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 41,030 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 223 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 190 attack and transport helicopters, 1,768 tanks, 932 artillery pieces, 4,011 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 259 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 15 boats and cutters, 2,912 vehicles and fuel tanks, 117 anti-aircraft batteries, 736 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 82 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 174 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
Who Killed the Ukrainian Prisoners of War?
On July 28, an explosion at the Olenivka penal colony in Russian-occupied Ukraine killed scores and wounded dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war. Many of those killed or wounded were veterans of the battle of Mariupol and the epic action at the Azovstal steelworks plant.
Both sides have pointed the blame on the other. The Russians are claiming that the Ukrainian military launched a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) strike in order to dissuade any other Ukrainian troops from surrendering. But open-source intelligence indicates that the explosion doesn’t share any characteristics with HIMARS strikes. So, thus far, the evidence points toward the Ukrainian claim that the explosion was committed by the Russians and was premeditated in order to hide evidence of war crimes.
The world has seen that the Russian forces in Ukraine have committed war crimes, including summary executions of civilians and prisoners of war, raping women of all ages, and last week a horrific video emerged showing Russian troops castrating a Ukrainian prisoner of war before they executed him.
“The Russian government may be complicating international efforts to discern the nature of an unidentified July 28 kinetic event on the Olenivka penal colony. The Russian Ministry of Defense officially invited experts from the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to investigate the attack at the Olenivka prison on July 30,” the Institute for the Study of War stated in its latest operational update.
But the Russian authorities are delaying in grating access to the United Nations team. And the Ukrainian government has also stated that the Russian military has yet to respond to requests to return the remains of the killed prisoners of war. Moreover, open-source intelligence indicates that the Russian forces had prepared the strike and had even dug graves near the compound at least a few days before the explosion took place.
1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.