Now, on the 79th day of its invasion of Ukraine, Russia continues its offensive – still suffering heavy losses in hardware and personnel.
Nowhere is that more evident than along the banks of the Siverskyi Donets River in the Luhansk region, where fighting rages on and Ukraine blew up a Russian battalion earlier this week trying to cross a bridge.
New satellite images from intelligence agency BlackSky show the remains of a pontoon bridge built by Russian troops to access Ukrainian territory. Footage shows smoke rising from the bridge after it was hit by Ukrainian artillery on May 10, causing Russian tanks and trucks to protrude from the water. It is unclear how many Russian troops died in the strike, but Forbes put his estimate at about 1,000 troops and 50 tanks. Britain’s defense intelligence agency said nearly all of the armored vehicles of the Russian force were lost in the battle.
The BBC reports that Russian troops have been relentless in their three fruitless attempts to build bridges to cross the river. Oleh Zhdanov, a Ukrainian defense analyst, told the news service that the fighting is so fierce because orders to take the area came “from the top.”
“They are moving forward so fast because it is a political task, because Putin ordered it,” he told the BBC. He said holding the area is crucial to a plan to encircle the city of Severodonetsk as the Kremlin sends its troops to seal off the entire eastern Donbas region of Ukraine.
Nevertheless, Ukraine’s defense ministry reveled in the evidence of the bridge strike, posting on Twitter that it had “opened the holiday season” for Russian soldiers, calling it “Russists.” The post showed the same satellite images and a smug comment about the Russian tourists. “Some bathed in the Siverskyi Donets River, and some were burned by the May sun,” they said.
New drone footage from Thursday afternoon showed smoke continuing to rise from the region, obscuring visibility and making it difficult for intelligence analysts to assess the current situation. It’s unclear whether the smoke is the result of combat or intentionally used to shield the area from drones.
As fighting rages in the east and south, Kiev tried its first Russian soldier on war crimes charges at a hearing that began Friday in the capital. Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old, was on trial before a war crimes tribunal for the murder of a 62-year-old unarmed man who rode his bicycle along the road, which was captured in a photo that has become iconic in the nearly three-month war. If found guilty, the young soldier faces 10 years to life.
As Russian forces withdraw from some areas, a disturbing picture continues to emerge of the depths the Russians have sunk in carrying out their brutal attempt to wipe out the Ukrainian population. On Thursday, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations said “credible allegations” by Russian soldiers who sexually abused children were part of a file being gathered on alleged war crimes committed in the senseless war.