New satellite images came in overnight showing a significant, eight-mile-long convoy of Russian troops and armor heading south to the east of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, presumably moving into the Donbas region for Putin’s next offensive. A similar convoy appears to be forming up in the south near Mariupol, preparing to head north to meet up with them. But will this eastern offensive go any better for Putin than his disastrous, failed attempt to take Kyiv? In order to put together a more disciplined offensive, it’s being reported that Moscow has brought in a new general to take charge of the operation. General Aleksandr Dvorniko is cited as having combat leadership experience, having commanded Russian forces in Syria in 2015. Will that make a difference? (The Hill)
Russia has put general Aleksandr Dvornikov in charge of its invasion in Ukraine as Moscow’s forces regroup after failing to capture the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, according to the BBC and The New York Times.
The BBC was first to report Saturday that the general was appointed to head Russia’s ongoing assault on Ukraine, citing Western officials.
The Times reported that Dvornikov, commander of Russia’s southern military district, has significant combat experience in Syria, where he commanded Russian forces for a year beginning in 2015.
This short video provides a tour of the convoy. Plenty of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and support vehicles. And they do appear to be moving quickly.
I haven’t found much specific information on Dvorniko other than his assignment as the commander of the Russian Southern Military District and his 2015 deployment to command in Syria. Some battle experience is clearly better than none, but is one year of unconventional combat in the Syrian mess the same as leading a multiprong invasion? There will definitely be a lot of moving parts to the situation in the Donbas region and if Russia is really planning to create some sort of pincer maneuver using two or even three different armored columns, a lot of coordination of troops, vehicles, and supporting resources will be required. Those are precisely the types of challenges the Russians failed miserably at during the assault on Kyiv. Even if Dvorniko has the ability and the experience, the Russian army still has yet to demonstrate that they have the technology and communications abilities to coordinate something like that.
And that’s assuming they can manage to keep Dvorniko alive long enough to conduct the assault. Those communications failures were credited as being largely responsible for the string of previous Russian generals who are no longer available to lead due to being at room temperature.
It’s generally being acknowledged that the battle for the Donbas region will be very different than what we saw in the western part of Ukraine. As the Guardian reported last night, the government has warned all civilians who don’t plan to take up arms to flee the region ahead of the Russian assault.
Residents remaining in eastern Ukraine’s embattled city of Luhansk must evacuate, the governor has said as shelling intensifies and Russia bolsters its forces.
Ukraine has been warning that Moscow is withdrawing from areas to the north of Kyiv in order to focus its offensive military operations on the country’s east. Moscow, which initially justified its invasion by claiming to need to protect Russian-speaking civilians in the self-proclaimed republics in Donbas, has confirmed the change in strategy.
Those Ukrainians who remain to fight will have to deal with Russian-backed militias from Donetsk and Luhansk, the so-called “independent Russian provinces. Those fighters could represent the “third column” in the Russian assault. But those forces will likely be even harder to coordinate with than the two columns of regular Russian troops.
Governor Serhiy Gaidai said during a press conference yesterday that roughly 30% of the residents of the cities and villages have remained in the Donbas region, despite being warned to leave. Most of them will presumably join up with the expected arrival of more of the Ukraine military. But this isn’t going to be asymmetrical urban warfare such as we saw in and around Kyiv, with small detachments conducting running gun battles from building to building. There is enough open territory in this area for actual field battles. Are the Ukrainians up to the task? Unfortunately, we’ll probably be finding out shortly.