Reporting from Ukraine
Day 504: Jul 12
Today the biggest news comes from the south.
Here, Ukrainian forces continue exploiting Russian rigidities by conducting an effective war of attrition, and it is finally bringing major results. Last time I told you that a Russian soldier said in an interview that right now, Ukrainians are focused on draining accumulated Russian ammunition, equipment, and reserves.
One of the tactics that Ukrainians use is to trigger Russian artillery with small assaults, track them down with reconnaissance drones, and destroy them by conducting HIMARS strikes. It seems like this proved to be an extremely effective tactic because, over the last week, based only on the available footage, Ukrainians destroyed more than 20 artillery and air defense systems only in the Orikhiv direction.
A recent video shows how Ukrainians identified and destroyed two artillery systems Uragan, together with the trucks that delivered them ammunition. Uragan is one of the best Russian artillery systems that uses much bigger caliber shells and has a range almost twice of Grad systems. The video shows how the first rocket destroyed a truck with equipment, and less than 2 seconds later, another rocket hit Uragan itself. The same day, Ukrainians spotted another Uragan in a tree line – they immediately targeted the ammunition depot and the Uragan system, causing it to detonate.
Ukrainian fighters from the 44th Artillery Brigade published a video showing how they hunted down several more artillery systems a few days prior. Ukrainian drone operator noticed the movement of a Grad system, waited until it got to the shelter, and then gave the coordinates for the strike. The same day he found another artillery system Msta-S, awkwardly hiding in a tree line. Lastly, closer to the night, another artillery position was revealed – this time, it was the position of Gitsint-B. The site rapidly caught on fire, as the ammunition storage nearby also got hit.
Russian forces published a video of the aftermath of a HIMARS strike on Giatsint-B. Russian soldiers said that the artillery system basically evaporated, leaving just a crater where it was stationed. Around 25 meters away, they found the gun of the artillery system that got stuck in the ground.
There are many more videos of other successful HIMARS strikes on Russian artillery systems, and all of this means one thing – the ability of the Russians to provide artillery support and conduct counterbattery fire rapidly decreases. Ukrainians took advantage of that, especially the lack of counterbattery fire, and brought their own Grad systems closer to the front to fire at Russian trenches and fortifications. Ukrainians also know that Russian commanders are not allowed to make rotations, and those troops who stay on the zero line, stay there till the end. Such conditions are detrimental to the morale of the soldiers, who know that they will not be replaced, that the flying above them HIMARS rockets are about to destroy more Russian artillery systems, leaving them with even less support, and that sooner or later they will die from Ukrainian artillery.
The commander of the Russian 58th Combined-Arms Army, Major General Ivan Popov, who is basically responsible for the hottest front, wanted to break the bureaucratic machine of the Russian Ministry of Defense and solve these problems once and for all. He got fired by the Chief of the Russian General Staff, Gerasimov, the same day. Popov was shocked and recorded an audio message to explain what happened.
He said that during the meeting with the High Commanders, instead of bringing to the table yet another positive report, he said that his troops are in need of rotation after fighting in combat for a long time and suffering significant casualties and that Russian counterbattery fire is horrible and virtually nonexistent, which is why Ukrainians are gradually getting an edge. When his concerns were dismissed, Popov threatened to appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin with his complaint. Gerasimov accused Popov of alarmism and blackmail and fired him on the spot.
The Russian Ministry of Defense did not like Popov from the beginning because he was breaking a lot of rules and acted without the permission of the General Staff. For example, he created and supplied himself the first Russian drone detachments in the Zaporizhia region.