Speed Reads

Losing faith

Russia's thwarted Ukraine river crossing was so bloody, pro-Russia war bloggers are publicly griping

Russia's thwarted attempt to cross the Siverskyi Donets River in northeastern Ukraine last week "is emerging as among the deadliest engagements of the war, with estimates based on publicly available evidence now suggesting that well over 400 Russian soldiers were killed or wounded," The New York Times reports. "And as the scale of what happened comes into sharper focus, the disaster appears to be breaking through the Kremlin's tightly controlled information bubble."

Russia reportedly committed about 550 troops to its highly risky May 11 effort to cross the Donets River at Bilohorivka, to encircle Ukrainian forces near Rubizhne. Ukraine destroyed the pontoon bridges and also, according to Britain's Ministry of Defense, "significant armored maneuver elements of at least one Battalion Tactical Group."

Most strikingly, pro-Russia war bloggers are publicly criticizing Russia's military effort, the Times reports. "The last straw that overwhelmed my patience was the events around Bilohorivka, where due to stupidity — I emphasize, because of the stupidity of the Russian command — at least one battalion tactical group was burned, possibly two," war blogger Yuri Podolyaka told his 2.1 million followers. Another popular blogger, who goes by Starshe Eddy, blamed the exposure of so many Russian troops on "not idiocy, but direct sabotage," by commanders.

"The commentary by these widely read milbloggers may fuel burgeoning doubts in Russia about Russia's prospects in this war and the competence of Russia's military leaders," the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) think take wrote over the weekend.

Britain's Ministry of Defense said Sunday that "Russia has now likely suffered losses of one-third of the ground combat force it committed in February." This dire assessment of Russia's fortunes "is in stark contrast to briefings coming from the Kremlin, which still paint the invasion as making steady progress," BBC News reports. 

"The failed Russian attempts to cross the Siverskyi Donets River" has likely curtailed the Kremlin's ambitions to seize Donetsk Oblast and encircle Ukrainian troops on a wide scale, ISW assessed Sunday.

"Even with its setbacks, Russia continues to inflict death and destruction across Ukraine," The Associated Press reports. But Ukraine is drawing morale boosts from its victory at Bilohorivka and successful counteroffensive north and east of Kharkiv. One Ukrainian battalion even pushed all the way to the Russia border, then posted a celebratory video addressed to Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky.