Today, in the 79th day of its invasion of Ukraine, Russia continues its offensive and continues to accumulate heavy losses in equipment and personnel.
Nowhere is this more evident than along the banks of the Siverskyi Donets river in the Lugansk region, where fighting is raging and where Ukraine blew up a Russian battalion attempting to cross a bridge earlier in the week .
New satellite images from intelligence firm BlackSky show the remaining parts of a pontoon bridge built by Russian troops to gain access to Ukrainian territory. Footage showed smoke billowing from the bridge after it was hit by Ukrainian artillery on May 10, leaving Russian tanks and trucks sticking out of the water. It is not known how many Russian soldiers died in the strike, but Forbes put his estimate at around 1,000 troops and 50 tanks. British defense intelligence said nearly all of the Russian force’s armored vehicles were lost in the battle.
The BBC reports that Russian forces have been relentless in their three failed attempts to build bridges to cross the river. Oleh Zhdanov, a Ukrainian defense analyst, told the news service that the fighting was so fierce because the orders to take the territory came “from above”.
“They’re pushing so hard because it’s a political task, because Putin ordered it,” he told the BBC. He said holding the area was crucial for a plan to encircle the city of Severodonetsk, as the Kremlin orders its troops to cut off the entire eastern Donbass region of Ukraine.
Nonetheless, 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, whom it called “Ruscists”. The post showed the same satellite images and a smug commentary about Russian tourists. “Some bathed in the Siverskyi Donets River, and some were scorched by the May sun,” they said.
New drone footage from Thursday afternoon showed smoke continuing to rise from the area, marring the view and making it difficult for intelligence analysts to assess the current situation. It is unknown if the smoke is the result of a battle or intentionally to protect the area from drones.
As battles rage in the east and south, kyiv tried its first Russian soldier for war crimes in a hearing that began in the capital on Friday. Vadim Shishimarin, 21, faced a war crimes tribunal for the murder of an unarmed 62-year-old man cycling along the road, who was captured in a photo that has become iconic around the world three month war. If convicted, the young soldier faces 10 years to life in prison.
As Russian troops withdraw from some areas, a disturbing picture continues to emerge of the depths to which the Russians have sunk in carrying out their brutal attempt to wipe out the Ukrainian population. On Thursday, the UK’s ambassador to the United Nations said ‘credible allegations’ that Russian soldiers sexually abused children were part of an ongoing dossier collecting alleged war crimes committed in that war senseless.