War on the Rocks
Russian war reporters warn Ukraine is threatening thin, fragile defensive lines in southern Kherson
Ukrainian forces made additional significant gains in southern Kherson province on Tuesday and pushed further east in northeastern Kharkiv, knocking at the borders of the Russian-occupied Donbas region. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday night celebrated the liberation of dozens of settlements, including eight villages in the Kherson region, "and this is far from a complete list. Our soldiers do not stop."
The U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) research group said Russian forces, to avoid encirclement, had retreated from at least 18 Kherson settlements, including Davydiv Brid and Dudchany, strategically important cogs in Russia's supply lines.
"Even the pro-war Russian bloggers — who command large followings online and often have direct access to Russian troops at the front line — were raising the alarm on Tuesday," The New York Times reports. One Russian war correspondent described the situation in Kherson as "critical," while a popular military blogger known as Rybar told his million followers that Russian forces are pulling back so rapidly "it's not entirely clear where the new line of contact will be." If Ukrainian forces complete their capture of the Dnieper River's west bank, he added, all Russian troops in the area would be in "immediate danger."
ABC News correspondent Ian Pannell reports that Russian military bloggers are complaining that their forces are outnumbered and outgunned, thanks to Ukraine's Western-supplied weapons.
One Russian military blogger claimed Tuesday that some Russian units in Kherson "have operated in the area without rotation since March and that the frontline is stretched so thin that some villages in this sector have 15 men defending them," ISW reports. "This description of a thin and undermanned frontline, along with effective Ukrainian offensive operations, partially explains the rapid rate of Russian collapse in this sector."
The military bloggers and war correspondents are one of three nationalist factions Russian President Vladimir Putin must appease to keep his war effort together, and after the collapses in Kharkiv and Kherson and his botched mobilization of reservists, "Putin is visibly failing at balancing" their "mutually exclusive demands," ISW reports. "The fragmentation of the Russian nationalist information space could have significant domestic impacts and could even affect the stability of Putin's regime."