This map of the situation in Ukraine on March 29 is provided by the French Ministry of Defense.
Here are my own situation report notes:
The Russian military operation in Ukraine began with a rather small force of some 150.000+ men against a much larger (including reservist and territorial forces) Ukrainian force of some 400.000. The Russian force used maneuver warfare to fix the larger Ukrainian forces into place. It attacked on a large front and threatened major population concentrations, i.e. cities.
The Russian operations started with the destruction of the Ukrainian command and control network. Over the last four weeks the Ukrainian navy, its airforce, its radars and air defenses and a huge number of its armored vehicles were destroyed. Throughout the last week fuel depots all over the Ukraine were attacked and destroyed over night. Ukraine’s large ammunition depots are gone. Military production and repair facilities have likewise been destroyed. The Ukraine is no longer able to move large numbers of troops between the various fronts. Its army has lost its mobility.
While this was ongoing threats to Kiev, Odessa and other large Ukrainian cities have held significant numbers of Ukrainian troops in place and prevented reinforcements to move to the east. There units from the Donetsk and Luhansk republics attacked the 60,000 strong main force of the Ukrainian army to keep it in place.
This allowed Russian forces from Crimea and from the Russian border in the north to move into positions that will now enable them to envelope the east.
- The move east and west of Kiev was, as I have said for a while, a feint to fix mobile Ukrainian units around their capital city. The feint is no longer needed as the Ukrainian army has now lost its mobility. The Russian troops around Kiev and Chernigov will be mostly withdrawn probably up to Chernobyl where a part of them may take defensive positions while most of the units deployed around Kiev will be moved back to Belarus and Russia for new operations in eastern Ukraine.
- Fighting around Kharkiv is ongoing. Ukrainian counterattacks on that front have failed and the next phase of the war will see increased activities there.
- The move on the west side of the Dnjepr river towards the important industrial area of Kryvyi Rih and on to Dnipro has been relatively slow. The move on the eastern side of the Dnjepr towards Dnipro has been at the same speed. Note that the western and eastern parts of those fronts are at the same level. They are well coordinated. The next phase will probably see more movement on the eastern side of the river.
- There are still a few pockets of Azov fighters in Mariupol with the main units encircled in the vast Azovstal steelworks. They have little food and ammunition and the Chechen unites of the Russian army and national guard are working to dig them out. The Russian forces that encircled and stormed Mariupol are now freed up and will be moved to attack further north.
- Ukrainian forces at Mykolaiv have attempted counterattacks in the direction of Kherson. These have failed.
The Russian command has decided to now concentrate on enveloping and destroying Ukraine’s main forces at the Donetsk front. These are the most heavy equipped and most experienced units of the Ukrainian army. Since last fall some 60,000 men had been assembled there for a full fledged war on Donetsk, an attack that the Russian operation successfully preempted.
It will probably take a few days for the Russian forces to regroup and resupply for that next phase of the war. I expect it to start around the end of this week.
The U.S. and Polish military are helping to smuggle small arms stuff through the western Ukrainian boarder. These are anti-tank missiles, old short range anti-air missiles as well as machine guns, mortars and ammunition. This is equipment for a guerilla war against an occupation force. But except for the east and maybe some parts in the south the Russian forces do not plan to occupy anything.
Those regions are steppe, very flat with little woods, where one can see an approaching enemy from miles away. It will be extremely difficult for a guerilla force to survive there. That is likely the reason why the Russian forces have done little to interrupt the arms smuggling into western Ukraine. (Those smuggled weapons will for years haunt the ‘western’ Europeans as they are certain to proliferate to right-wing extremist groups all over the continent.)
The general task for the whole military operation as set out by the Russian command was to de-militarize and to de-nazify the Ukraine.
The material de-militarization of the Ukraine is mostly done. During the next few weeks the Russian air and long range artillery forces will finish that task. The Ukraine would have to completely rearm, starting at about zero, should it want to regain significant military capabilities. It is hard to see how it will ever be able to finance that.
The de-militarization of the main forces of the Ukrainian army will happen in the Donbas cauldron. The units there will have to give up or they will be destroyed by the materially vastly superior Russian forces.
The de-nazification of the Ukraine has proven to be more difficult. The main fascist units of the Azov regiment were caught up in Mariupol where several thousand of them have been or will be eliminated. More fascist units at the Donetzk front will also soon be taken out. But during the eight years since the U.S. managed anti-democratic coup in Kiev the fascist ideology has deeply infiltrated all Ukrainian government structures. It will be hard for the Ukrainians to remove it even as its failures become obvious.
The Russian forces will probably take another four weeks to destroy the Ukrainian units at the Donetsk front. The Russian command will then have to decide which parts of the Ukraine it will want to keep under control. Next to Donetsk and Luhansk the region north of Crimea is a likely candidate. Odessa and Dnipro may also be still on the menu. The regions can be kept as statelets under local control or form a confederation that may well institutionalize a new country.
Anything beyond that depends on the willingness of the U.S. proxy government in Kiev to submit to Russia’s demands. Russia can leave it at that or it can continue to mow the grass until none is left.