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Ukraine stabilizes frontlines, posts notable firsts

Jun 11

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Ukraine may be seizing the momentum on the battlefield, or at least making sure Russia loses it. Before the arrival of more Western weapons to Ukraine, Russia spent the last few months making small but extremely costly gains, stretching Ukrainian forces almost to the brink.

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Now, Ukrainian forces stabilized the northern frontlines. Russia is trying to push more men and machinery into Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region. The fighting is fierce, but Ukraine now at least has the resources to maintain its defensive positions.

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The past few weeks of fighting between Russia and Ukraine also saw some notable firsts.

For starters, for the first time since the war began, a Ukrainian warplane launched a missile and struck a Russian target inside Russia’s sovereign territory. Quoting a Ukrainian military source, Sky News reported that the missile hit a Russian command node near Belgorod.

It is unknown what kind of plane or munition was used in the strike. However, the strike came right after the United States, France and the U.K. all said Ukraine is free to use their weapons on Russian targets inside Russia, albeit with some caveats.

This led to another notable first: U.S. officials said Ukraine’s Azov Brigade is now free to use Western-supplied weapons. The Azov Brigade, originally called the Azov Battalion, started as a volunteer militia to fight against Russian interests back in 2014. Its founders were accused of being far-right nationalists and were barred from using U.S. weapons under the Leahy Law. The law prohibits the U.S. from giving aid to foreign military units suspected of human rights violations.

However, the battalion, now a brigade, was formally incorporated into Ukraine’s National Guard and is under new command. The Justice Department decided it was time to let the brigade use U.S. weaponry, which should be in capable hands as Azov is known for fielding top-notch fighters.

Regarding the caveats about Ukraine using Western weapons in Russia, President Biden only allowed Ukraine to use American weapons in Russia if it is in defense of Kharkiv. Otherwise, Ukraine needs to figure out something else.

This leads to the third notable first: the Ukrainian armed forces struck at least one Sukhoi Su-57 Felon with their domestically produced long-range drones. The incident marks the first, and possibly second, confirmed strike on any Su-57 during combat. Satellite imagery confirmed at least one of the fifth-gen fighters was hit at the Akhtubinsk airfield, about 400 miles away from the frontlines.

The Su-57 is a multi-role fighter and it is Russia’s answer to the American F-22. However, its engines are not designed for stealth jets and Moscow only made about 16 so far. Some are used as trainers, and some were down for repairs already. That means Russia only has about 10 active aircraft in its fleet of Felons. If Ukrainian drones took out two, which appears more likely than not, that is a significant blow to Russia’s supply of stealth fighters.

The Russian war machine is massive, and Ukraine will need more decisive gains to truly take the momentum, which is why many continue to watch Crimea.

In the past few weeks, Ukraine’s armed forces have shown renewed vigor to liberate the peninsula from Russian control. Ukrainian unmanned surface vessels have taken out so many Russian tug boats, ferries, and landing craft that Moscow will be hard-pressed to move heavy machinery into Crimea by water. Thanks to newly supplied long-range ATACMS missiles, Ukraine took out multiple S-300 and S-400 missile batteries and radar sites across the peninsula.

With the prospect of F-16s set to arrive any day now in Ukraine, a Crimea free from air defense would certainly be a prize worth taking, and a prize worth defending for Russia.

Ukraine’s defense intelligence said the Kremlin, now out of convicts to throw into the war, is trying to recruit soldiers from Central Africa to come fight for Moscow in Ukraine, offering monthly pay of $2,200 and a Russian passport.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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UKRAINE MAY BE SEIZING THE MOMENTUM ON THE BATTLEFIELD, OR AT LEAST MAKING SURE RUSSIA LOSES IT.
BEFORE THE ARRIVAL OF MORE WESTERN WEAPONS TO UKRAINE, RUSSIA SPENT THE LAST FEW MONTHS MAKING SMALL BUT EXTREMELY COSTLY GAINS, AND IT STRETCHED UKRAINIAN FORCES ALMOST TO THE BRINK.

BUT NOW, THE NORTHERN FRONTLINES ARE STABILIZED. RUSSIA IS TRYING TO PUSH MORE MEN AND MACHINERY INTO UKRAINE’S EASTERN DONETSK REGION. FIGHTING IS FIERCE, BUT UKRAINE NOW AT LEAST HAS THE RESOURCES TO MAINTAIN ITS DEFENSIVE POSITIONS.

THE PAST FEW WEEKS OF FIGHTING BETWEEN RUSSIA AND UKRAINE ALSO GAVE RISE TO SOME NOTABLE FIRSTS.

FOR STARTERS: FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE WAR BEGAN, A UKRAINIAN WARPLANE LAUNCHED A MISSILE AND STRUCK A RUSSIAN TARGET INSIDE RUSSIA’S SOVEREIGN TERRITORY.

QUOTING A UKRAINIAN MILITARY SOURCE, SKY NEWS SAYS A RUSSIAN COMMAND NODE WAS HIT NEAR BELGOROD.

WE STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT KIND OF PLANE OR MUNITION WAS USED IN THE STRIKE, BUT IT COMES RIGHT ON THE HEELS OF THE UNITED STATES, FRANCE, AND THE UK ALL SAYING UKRAINE IS FREE TO USE THEIR WEAPONS ON RUSSIAN TARGETS INSIDE RUSSIA; ALBEIT WITH SOME CAVEATS WHICH WE’LL GET TO IN A BIT.

BUT THIS LEADS US TO ANOTHER NOTABLE FIRST: WASHINGTON SAYS UKRAINE’S AZOV BRIGADE IS NOW FREE TO USE WESTERN-SUPPLIED WEAPONS.

THE AZOV BRIGADE–ORIGINALLY CALLED THE AZOV BATTALION– STARTED AS A VOLUNTEER MILITIA TO FIGHT AGAINST RUSSIAN INTERESTS BACK IN 2014. ITS FOUNDERS WERE ACCUSED OF BEING FAR-RIGHT NATIONALS, AND WERE BARRED FROM USING U.S. WEAPONS UNDER WHAT’S CALLED THE ‘LEAHY LAW’, WHICH PROHIBITS THE U.S. FROM GIVING AID TO FOREIGN MILITARY UNITS SUSPECTED OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS.
BUT THE BATTALION–NOW BRIGADE–WAS FORMERLY INCORPORATED INTO UKRAINE’S NATIONAL GUARD AND IS UNDER NEW COMMAND. SO, THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT DECIDED IT WAS TIME TO LET THE BRIGADE USE U.S. WEAPONRY, WHICH SHOULD BE IN CAPABLE HANDS. AZOV IS KNOWN FOR FIELDING TOP-NOTCH FIGHTERS.

NOW, REMEMBER THOSE CAVEATS I MENTIONED ABOUT UKRAINE USING WESTERN WEAPONS IN RUSSIA? WELL, PRESIDENT BIDEN IS ONLY ALLOWING UKRAINE TO USE AMERICAN WEAPONS IN RUSSIA IF IT’S IN DEFENSE OF KHARKIV. OTHERWISE, UKRAINE NEEDS TO FIGURE OUT SOMETHING ELSE.

WHICH LEADS US TO THE THIRD NOTABLE FIRST: THE UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCES STRUCK AT LEAST ONE, POSSIBLY TWO, SUKHOI SU-57 FELONS WITH THEIR DOMESTICALLY PRODUCED LONG-RANGE DRONES. THE INCIDENT MARKS THE FIRST, AND POSSIBLY SECOND, CONFIRMED STRIKES ON ANY SU-57 DURING COMBAT.

SATELLITE IMAGERY CONFIRMS AT LEAST ONE OF THE FIFTH GEN FIGHTERS WAS HIT AT THE AKHTUBINSK AIR FIELD, SOME 400 MILES AWAY FROM THE FRONTLINES.

THE SU-57 IS A MULTI-ROLE FIGHTER, AND IS RUSSIA’S ANSWER TO THE AMERICAN F-22. BUT ITS ENGINES AREN’T DESIGNED FOR STEALTH JETS, AND MOSCOW ONLY MADE ABOUT 16 SO FAR. SOME ARE USED AS TRAINERS. SOME WERE DOWN FOR REPAIRS ALREADY. WHICH LEFT ABOUT 10 ACTIVE AIRCRAFT TO MAKE UP RUSSIA’S FLEET OF FELONS. IF UKRAINIAN DRONES DID TAKE OUT TWO, WHICH APPEARS MORE LIKELY THAN NOT, THAT’S A SIGNIFICANT BLOW TO RUSSIA’S SUPPLY OF STEALTH FIGHTERS FROM A COUNTRY THAT STILL DOESN’T EVEN HAVE F-16S.

YOU’VE HEARD ME SAY BEFORE THE RUSSIAN WAR MACHINE IS MASSIVE, THOUGH, AND UKRAINE WILL NEED MORE DECISIVE GAINS IN ORDER TO TRULY TAKE THE MOMENTUM. WHICH IS WHY YOU SHOULD KEEP YOUR EYES ON CRIMEA.

IN THE PAST FEW WEEKS, UKRAINE’S ARMED FORCES ARE SHOWING RENEWED VIGOR TO LIBERATE THE PENINSULA FROM RUSSIAN CONTROL. UKRAINIAN UNMANNED SURFACE VESSELS TOOK OUT SO MANY RUSSIAN TUG BOATS, FERRIES AND LANDING CRAFT MOSCOW IS GOING TO BE HARD-PRESSED TO MOVE HEAVY MACHINERY INTO CRIMEA, AT LEAST BY WATER.

AND THANKS TO NEWLY SUPPLIED LONG-RANGE ATACMS MISSILES, UKRAINE TOOK OUT MULTIPLE S-300 AND S-400 MISSILE BATTERIES AND RADAR SITES ACROSS THE PENINSULA. WITH THE PROSPECT OF F-16S SET TO ARRIVE ANY DAY NOW IN UKRAINE, A CRIMEA FREE FROM AIR DEFENSE WOULD CERTAINLY BE A PRIZE WORTH TAKING.

AND A PRIZE WORTH DEFENDING, IF YOU’RE RUSSIA. UKRAINE’S DEFENCE INTELLIGENCE SAYS THE KREMLIN, NOW OUT OF CONVICTS TO THROW INTO THE WAR, IS TRYING TO RECRUIT SOLDIERS FROM CENTRAL AFRICA TO COME FIGHT FOR MOSCOW IN UKRAINE, OFFERING MONTHLY PAY OF $2,200 AND A RUSSIAN PASSPORT.

FOR MORE OF OUR UNBIASED, STRAIGHT FACT REPORTING ON THE WAR IN UKRAINE BE SURE TO DOWNLOAD THE STRAIGHT ARROW NEWS APP TODAY, OR CHECK US OUT AT S-A-N DOT COM.

FOR STRAIGHT ARROW NEWS, I’M RYAN ROBERTSON.