Putin's Failing Pincer Attack: The Latest from Ukraine


over the last week or so the Russian army has focused all of its firepower at the Luhansk oblast where the Ukrainian army is holding out in the city of several Donetsk well, they originally made slow but steady progress over the last couple of days it looks like the Russian army has once again stalled so in this blog we're going to be looking at the most recent developments why the Russians are yet again stalling and what might happen next since we last made one of these war update blogs the Russian army has made limited progress as we explained in the last blog it originally looked like they were going to stage a large pincer movement going south from Islam and north from Donetsk city to surround Ukrainian forces which would have given them control over all of the Luhansk oblast and most of the Donetsk oblast however, their movements over the last few weeks suggest that the Russians have at least temporarily scaled down their objectives once again and are now trying to perform a significantly smaller pincer movement going south from robisny and north from porpasner to capture the towns of severtonetsk and lysa chansk the last two towns in Luhansk yet to be captured by Russian forces in the last few weeks the Russian army has expended significant firepower taking robisny and papasna which they were finally able to take in mid-may Russia relied heavily on artillery strikes which is why robisny now looks like this and this marks a major change in Russian strategy instead of large mechanized assaults most recent Russian advances have been achieved by basically endless artillery while this is an effective if expensive method it's not ideal from the Russian point of view because turning a town or city into rubble deprives it of any strategic benefit anyway, when Russia first took popasna there was an upsurge in optimism among pro-Russian commentators papasna is one of the high points in the region sitting around 260 meters above sea level which meant that when captured it was suddenly a lot easier for Russia to stage artillery campaigns against nearby towns which is exactly what happened and then when they took robisny many observers thought that the fall of several Donetsk was inevitable assuming that the Russians would move north from perpassna to surround the Russian army at sevratenesk however as tends to happen with the Russian army things haven't quite gone as planned while they originally made steady gains from papasna their advances have since slowed to a halt and now it looks like the Russian army have instead decided to attack several Donetsk via a full-frontal assault instead of an encirclement with Russian forces coming from robisney and Borisova a town just southeast of several Donetsk again this isn't going brilliantly though the Russians have so far been unable to make much progress in severeness and the Ukrainians are still able to resupply their forces in the city using roads connecting sever Donetsk to Ukrainian-controlled territories in Donetsk and the fact that Ukraine is claiming far fewer Russian losses than they did previously suggests that the Russian advance has slowed significantly possibly due to logistical difficulties or even a lack of mechanized firepower that wouldn't be surprising either in late May the pentagon estimated that the Russians had lost nearly a thousand tanks which would explain why they're apparently bringing Soviet era tanks out of retirement so it realistically could be the fact that Russia just don't have enough mechanized firepower to capitalize on their artillery campaigns now this isn't to say that the Russians won't take cevrdanetsk in the coming days they still have far more firepower than Ukrainians and if they can cut off Ukrainian supply routes then we could end up in another Mariupol type situation however, it's nonetheless true to say that the offensive clearly isn't going to plant and even if they do capture several Donetsk it is important to keep this in perspective at the beginning of the war Russia wanted all of Ukraine now it's focused basically all of its firepower on a small town in Luhansk with little strategic value apart from allowing Putin to claim that he's now captured all of the Luhansk oblast so where are we going from here well while Russian forces might eventually capture severe Donetsk generally the pace of the war has slowed to a trickle Russia is relying more heavily than ever on its artillery presumably because mechanized advances haven't gone brilliantly for them so far and regardless neither side is making significant gains which is why everyone is currently focused on a small town in Luhansk ultimately then what happens next will now depend in large part on how the west responds in the last few days, a split has emerged between western leaders on one side you've got the us UK and the Baltics who remain as enthusiastic and hawkish as ever about the prospect of an eventual Ukrainian victory and as such those in this camp have continued to supply Ukraine with arms in fact on Tuesday it was reported that the Biden administration was about to sign off on the delivery of long-range rocket launch systems to Ukraine which is exactly what the Ukrainians need to counter the new Russian focus on artillery but in the other camp you've got the western Europeans who've begun to sound a bit more hesitant with macron Schultz and Draghi all calling for peace talks and holding calls with Putin without Zelensky to try and force negotiations and ultimately, it's hard to see who's right here while the Atlantic hawkish nurse might make Ukrainian victory more likely it also increases the risk of an escalation and will likely make the already tragic conflict last longer similarly, while the western European dovishness is intended to facilitate a peaceful settlement it might end up giving the Russians time to rearm and regroup which is exactly what Zelensky is worried about nonetheless as things stand peace talks look unlikely neither Zelensky nor Putin is particularly keen and without the support of the us McCrone and co won't make much of a difference ultimately this means as things stand the most likely outcome is more attritional fighting with significant changes in territory contingent on the amount of aid that the west actually ends up sending to Ukraine.