There’s a scene in the film Lawrence of Arabia in which the titular character and Bedouin sherif Ali are passing through hills at night. Below them in a valley, a military force is under an incredible bombardment by artillery. The darkness is interrupted by what seems to be an unbroken string of flashes. The ground rumbles with the power of impacts happening miles away. Looking on the scene, Ali says, “God help the men who lie under that.” Lawrence dismissively replies that the men are Turks, the enemy of both the British and the Arab forces. “God help them,” repeats Ali.
It’s hard not to recall that scene when looking at that NASA FIRMS data across Ukraine today. I’m not going to fill this update with shot after shot from NASA’s site (which is available here), because I did that yesterday. I’m also going to toss in a reminder that while the FIRMS instruments have recently gained a second job as unofficial monitors of artillery fire, that’s not what they were built to do. The two FIRMS instruments were meant to track and characterize forest fires, and their sensitivity to that task means that some of what’s showing up in Ukraine today is likely fires started by exploding weaponry, and not the explosions themselves. Also, many of the hotspots on Friday are in territory known to be under Russian occupation. Nonetheless… what seems to be happening is a hideous level of violence on both sides of the line. God help the men who lie under that. God help them all.
The level of artillery fire going on in Ukraine is at least partially captured in these satellite images from Maxar. They are a good reminder that what’s happening in Ukraine can not be allowed to continue, much less spread.
Ukrainian forces have currently launched a major assault on Lyptsi, north of Kharkiv. This location has been the continued source of pain and destruction for the city as Russia has used it to randomly fling artillery into schools, stores, and homes for weeks. Lyptsi was the limit of the earlier Ukrainian push in the area and remains one of Russia’s biggest strongholds in the Kharkiv region. Earlier this week, there were reports that Ukrainian forces had advanced to the outskirts of Hlyboke, north of Lyptsi, giving another potential angle for an attack on the town. Now there is reportedly a serious push underway. Taking Lyptsi would be a big win for Ukraine.
Meanwhile, FIRMS is showing two large hot spots on the east bank of the river, showing that Ukrainian forces seem to be in the area. What’s going on seems to be an extension of what has appeared to be heavy shelling throughout the week. In any case, this would seem to suggest that a move toward Vovchansk is not off the table.
In these updates, we’ve written many times about the village of Dovhenke, south of Izyum. Dovhenke was one of those places where Ukrainian forces planted themselves and fought off wave after wave of Russian advances. It’s such a small, unfortified, unprepared place that Russia was often very open about listing it as an immediate target. They even announced it had been captured, multiple times, only to discover that whatever force they sent into the village had been destroyed or driven out. How many Russian soldiers died trying to take Dovhenke is unknown, as is how many Ukrainians gave their lives in its defense.
On Friday, Russia finally captured Dovhenke. This is Dovhenke.
France, Missiles, and Ukrainian GRain
At this point, it seems like there have been a dozen attempts to move grain out of the ports in Ukraine and reach some agreement that does not involve either Ukrainian ports leaving themselves completely open, or Russian ships simply sinking transport vessels at sea. On Friday, there is another as, according to AFP, France has stepped in to assist in moving grain out of Odesa. Whether this effort will actually go any further than past efforts… we’ll see.
One thing that might help: deployment of US harpoon anti-ship missiles. According to the US Naval Institute, the missiles were actually delivered to Ukraine by Denmark, which has some helpful ground-based launchers not found in the US arsenal. These missiles have already been deployed along the Black Sea coast.
Recent articles have indicated that the Russian Black Sea Fleet is standing well off the coast to avoid these and similar systems. That should make it possible for Ukraine to de-mine the port at Odesa with a much smaller threat of Russia using that as an opportunity to launch an invasion. Also… Russia has exactly zero experience at naval invasions. Considering their skill at river crossing, it almost makes you wish they would try.
Russia’s efforts to Roll back time lead to a big bang
In the past week, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has made it clear his ambitions go way beyond Ukraine. In fact, spurred on by an impression that his forces are winning in the Donbas, Putin has been throwing out threats in all directions. He threatened to cancel treaties with Japan and rename disputed islands in the Japanese archipelago the “Russia Islands.” He threatened to roll back treaties with multiple nations in Europe, and declared that a nation like Russia “can not be fenced in.”
Since the Duma is nothing if not a compliant stamp for Putin, they’ve put on the docket a series of bills by which they would unilaterally roll back the last half-century or more of Russian treaties. That includes walking away from a 1991 treaty recognizing Lithuania as an independent nation.
This has generated at least two fun responses. First, from a member of the Lithuanian parliament:
But Smolensk alone is not enough for the Kyiv City Council!
Russian stuff blowing up (or captured) theater
Here’s one I’m particularly happy to see leaving the field
One good way this war could end
Great example of what drone-corrected artillery looks like, in action. You do not need to understand what they’re saying to know what they’re saying:
I haven’t seen a translation, but you know it’s “to the right! To the right! ”