The so-called Institute for the Study of War aka ISW (i.e. https://www.understandingwar.org/) has no sense of irony, especially with the name of its website–Understanding War. The analysts at this outfit show they understand little.
Russia announced it has secured all of Mariupol with the exception of the Azovstal Steel Plant. Here is the map of the facility:
Here is how the ISW dealt with the claim:
The Kremlin declared victory in the battle of Mariupol. Russian forces will attempt to starve out remaining Ukrainian defenders in the Azovstal Steel Plant rather than clear it through likely costly assaults.
I am struck by the phrase, “Russian forces will attempt to starve out remaining Ukrainian defenders.” Precious. The Ukrainian force that tried to prevent the takeover of the city of Mariupol numbered at least 8,000 men at the outset. About 1500 of that number have surrendered to the Russian force. There are reportedly only 2500 Ukrainian soldiers holed up in the steel plant. For those of you who are math challenged, that means at least 4000 Ukrainian soldiers killed in action.
Putin’s decision to not send his forces into the steel plant to root out the surviving remnants of the Ukrainian force is sound. The Russians will secure the perimeter and continue to bomb the facility. While it is true that the missiles and rockets that will pepper the plant will not kill the Ukrainians who are hiding in the cavernous tunnels and underground bunkers beneath the plant, they do not have have limitless supplies of food, ammunition and medicine. This is not a 21st Century version of the Nazi siege of Lenningrad (now St. Petersburg), which lasted for 872 days and caused the death of up to 1.5 million inhabitants of the city. The people huddled in Lenningrad faced starvation but managed to hang on thanks to Russian resupply over the frozen lake during the winter months.
The Ukrainians have no source of resupply. There is no secret route for smuggling in the necessary resources needed to sustain 2500 soldiers. This is a simple math problem–they will run out of food and medical supplies. Ammunition is largely useless. If a soldier is going to use it he must go above ground and try to get a shot off at the Russian forces who control the perimeter. Russia only has to park one or two drones over the facility 24-7 and identify targets if they appear outside one of the plant facilities.
Here is the key point. There is nothing that small force can do to disrupt the return to normal civilian life in the remainder of Mariupol and Russian relief efforts to that community are flooding the zone.
The ISW offers its key “Take Aways” for the situation as of 3pm on 21 April 2022:
- The Kremlin’s declaration of victory in Mariupol is unlikely to enable the deployment of significant combat power to reinforce offensive operations in eastern Ukraine in the coming days or weeks.
- Russian forces involved in the battle of Mariupol are likely heavily damaged and Ukrainian forces succeeded in tying down and degrading a substantial Russian force.
- Russian forces continued offensive operations in eastern Ukraine but made only marginal gains.
- Ukrainian forces continued to halt Russian attacks around Izyum.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these judgments.
The Kremlin’s declaration of victory in Mariupol is unlikely to enable the deployment of significant combat power to reinforce offensive operations in eastern Ukraine in the coming days or weeks.
Wrong. The redeployment has begun and Russian units are moving north and east. The Ukrainians hunkered down in the steel plant are the equivalent to a Japanese regiment on an isolated island with no means of resupply by air or sea. One option for the remaining Russian forces is to mine the entire perimeter of Azovstal. That move makes it easier to create checkpoints that can be manned by smaller units.
Here is one unit, the Somali Assault Battalion, headed out of Mariupol:
Russian forces involved in the battle of Mariupol are likely heavily damaged and Ukrainian forces succeeded in tying down and degrading a substantial Russian force.
I call this faith based analysis. “Likely heavily damaged?” “Degrading a substantial Russian force?” How about some facts? If you have watched any of the videos emerging from the battle of Mariupol the Russian soldiers show no signs of “being degraded.” Here is one example of a “degraded” tank:
This tank driver apparently did not get the ISW memo that he was “degraded.” This is not the only video of this type. Here is a company of Chechen special ops soldiers suffering from the beat down they received at the hands of the AZOV thugs:
I do not know why the Russians would allow a video showing such suffering. Are the Russians the only one with smart phones capable of taking video? Where are the videos from the Ukrainian fighters killing tanks and soldiers by the drove? If ISW analysis proffered some evidence on this front their conclusion might be more credible.
Russian forces continued offensive operations in eastern Ukraine but made only marginal gains.
This is meaningless nonsense. Russia is using artillery and air strikes to bombard Ukrainian strongholds. The Russians are neither stupid nor fanatics. They will not move in force until they have reduced the ability of the Ukrainians to sustain a fight. They are seizing key lines of communication (i.e., major roads and transportation hubs). Here is some video evidence near Kharkov (you can see the road signs in the video). For example, the road from Kharkov to Luhansk is now under the control of Russian forces. This eliminates Ukraine’s ability to resupply its forces. No supplies, no ability to continue fighting.
Ukrainian forces continued to halt Russian attacks around Izyum.
Another meaningless conclusion. What I see taking place is that Russia is positioning forces while using its control of the air and its mobile artillery to pin down Ukrainian forces. At some point in the next few weeks, Russia will encircle the Ukrainian units and either accept their surrender or destroy them.
One important military activity ignored by the ISW are the Russian missile strikes on Ukrainian military and logistics centers in the western half of Ukraine. Now I engage in reasonable speculation–it appears the Russians are destroying the western military supplies being sent to Ukraine. Russia is acting firmly to destroy this materiel before it has a chance to make it to the front.