From Jamie Peipon: As we flip to the last page on the calendar today, here is a picture from December of last year as the city of Mariupol began preparations for a New Year celebration. There’s no way they could have known what would be waiting for them two months later as russia attacked and their city became the epicenter of the war for several weeks. What a reminder to us about how clueless we are about what tomorrow may bring. The defenders of Mariupol bravely held out for weeks longer than many expected. Among other important factors, their defense pinned significant amounts of russian forces down around the city and gave Ukrainian forces in other parts of the country much-needed time to prepare defenses. Remember the brave defenders of Mariupol!
Since Ukraine reclaimed their land on the right bank of the Dnipro River in the Kherson oblast, there has been a question about where the next move would come. There have been many reports that Ukraine has been massing soldiers and equipment and moving them towards the Zaporizhzhia front line. The Zaporizhzhia oblast is just to the east of the Kherson oblast and its main cities are Zaporizhzhia, Melitopol, and Berdyansk. Of those three, Melitopol and Berdyansk are occupied, but Zaporizhzhia is not. The largest nuclear power plant in Europe, is also in this oblast in the occupied city of Enerhodar. Amazingly, even before a push by Ukraine’s forces has been reported, there are reports that russian forces are withdrawing from the front and have begun to concede some territory in an apparent effort to consolidate defenses further south. There have also been whispers that russia is preparing to surrender the nuclear power plant that they have been recklessly occupying which would be a major concession considering their current strategy to attack Ukrainian infrastructure.
There has also been a sharp decrease in russian attacks using Iranian drones. Some reports indicate that Iran has stopped providing russia with this equipment. I wrote about reports of another major missile salvo that was to take place earlier this week. It has apparently been postponed due to russia’s need to repair their older missiles. Sources within the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense are claiming that a large percentage of russian cruise missiles exploded on their own in flight. In addition, they claim that russia has been firing recently-manufactured missiles. This is significant as generally militaries use their oldest inventory first. Firing of new missiles could be a sign of dwindling resources.
On the eastern front, russia has taken over two small settlements near Bakhmut. The amount of lives that russia has lost (and taken) in order to occupy two towns that they have all but wiped off the map with artillery is just bizarre. These towns do not have strategic value to them other than to give them a very small and very brief morale boost. However, those morale boosts are almost worthless because of how the russian soldiers are treated. There have been some radio interceptions recently in which russian army personnel, presumably senior officers, refer to their new, untrained soldiers as “odnorazovie.” Literally, this translates to “one-time use,” but in this case carries the connotation of “disposable” like paper plates that can be thrown away after use. It isn’t particularly surprising that this is how they refer to their own men, but it is nevertheless a disgusting way to refer to any human beings.
Outside of Ukraine, the United States is considering a program to expand training of Ukrainian soldiers at a U.S. base in Germany according to CNN. Some training has already taken place on specific systems (mostly on M777s and HIMARS), but this training would be more complicated and involve combined arms maneuvers. The program could train up to 2,500 soldiers every month in “sophisticated tactics.”
Lastly, since last week, there have been six letter bombs sent to targets within Spain. They seem to have a political bent as the targets have included the US embassy, Ukraine’s embassy, the Prime Minister of Spain, an air force base, an arms manufacturer, their defense ministry. According to their minister of defense, however, “no letter or other violent action will deter [Spain] from helping Ukraine.”
“My soul is in the midst of lions;
I lie down amid fiery beasts—
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!”