Now on the 79th day of its invasion of Ukraine, Russia continues its offensive – still inflicting heavy losses in hardware and personnel.
Nowhere is this clearer than on the banks of the Siverskyi Donets River in the Luhansk region, where fighting is raging and Ukraine earlier in the week blew up a Russian battalion attempting to cross a bridge.
New satellite images from the BlackSky intelligence agency show the remains of a pontoon bridge built by Russian troops to gain access to Ukrainian territory. Pictures showed smoke billowing from the bridge after it was hit by Ukrainian artillery on May 10, with Russian tanks and trucks sticking out of the water. However, it is unclear how many Russian troops died in the strike forbes estimated it at around 1,000 soldiers and 50 tanks. British Defense Intelligence said that almost all armored vehicles used by the Russian armed forces were lost in the battle.
The BBC reports that Russian forces have been relentless in their three unsuccessful attempts to build bridges to cross the river. Oleh Zhdanov, a Ukrainian defense analyst, told the intelligence service that the fighting is so fierce because the orders to take the territory come “from the top”.
“They are pushing so hard because it’s a political task, because Putin ordered it,” he told the BBC. He said holding the area was crucial to a plan to encircle the city of Severodonetsk as the Kremlin ordered its troops to cut off Ukraine’s entire eastern Donbass region.
Nonetheless, Ukraine’s defense ministry reveled in the evidence of the bridging, posting on Twitter that it had opened “the holiday season” for Russian soldiers, whom it called “Rushists.” The post featured the same satellite imagery and a smug comment about the Russian tourists. “Some bathed in the river Siverskyi Donets, others were burned by the May sun,” they said.
New drone footage Thursday afternoon showed smoke continuing to billow from the area, obscuring visibility and making it difficult for intelligence analysts to assess the current situation. It’s unclear if the smoke is the result of combat or was placed intentionally to shield the area from drones.
As fighting rages on in the east and south, Kyiv has indicted its first Russian soldier on war crimes charges in a hearing that began in the capital on Friday. Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old, was facing a war crimes tribunal for the murder of a 62-year-old unarmed man riding his bicycle along the side of the road, captured in a photograph that has become almost iconic during the three-month war. If found guilty, the young soldier faces ten years of life imprisonment.
As Russian troops withdraw from some areas, an unsettling picture continues to emerge of the depths to which the Russians have descended in their brutal attempt to wipe out Ukraine’s people. On Thursday, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations said “credible allegations” by Russian soldiers that they had sexually assaulted children are part of a dossier on alleged war crimes committed in the senseless war.