GUEST BLOG: Ben Morgan – Ukrainian forces push forward in the north, east and south and who bombed Belgorod?


The situation in northern Ukraine is developing as expected, it was clear that the Russian thrust at Kiev has been blunted and it is now being pushed back. Russian propaganda about withdrawing from this area because ‘they want to’ should be dismissed. Since the last article; Irpin, Hostomel, the Andropov Airfield, Makariv and Brodianka are as now in Ukrainian hands. The capture of these areas pushes Russian field artillery out of range of Kiev, although it should be presumed that aircraft and long-range rockets will still impact on the city, it is an important achievement. 

Tactically, the key question in this area, is did the Russians in the satellite towns of Klavdiievo-Tarasove, Nemishaieve and Vorzel manage to get away or is there now a pocket of surrounded Russians ready to either surrender or be destroyed? 

Reports also indicate that near Chernihiv, Russian forces are withdrawing and the situation near Kharkov is developing as predicted with Ukrainian forces pushing the Russians back near the towns of Mala Danylivka and Derhachi just north of the city. Then to the south and east the town of Chuhuiv is being contested.  Taken with the recent capture of Trostianets this may be an indication of the north eastern front stabilising soon, in Ukrainian control along an arc from Chernihiv through to Sumy and Kharkov.  

Chernihiv is only 50 km from the Russian border, Sumy and Kharkov less, about 40km.  Putting this distance into perspective, the distance from central Auckland to Orewa is approximately 30 km and travelling 50km in the other direction takes you to Pokeno.  In this area the Ukrainians are close to pushing the Russians out of Ukraine.  

Fortunately, the retreating Russians did not use chemical agents to delay pursuit, however appear to have spread mines and booby traps liberally, probably to slow down Ukrainian pursuit. The next few days will provide more information about Ukrainian capabilities.  A nagging question is how much of Ukraine’s armour (tank heavy forces supported by infantry in armoured vehicles) survived the first few days of the war.  My initial assessment was that it was probably destroyed stopping the first Russian advance.  An assessment from the Royal United Services Institute, early in the conflict stating that the Ukrainian army was offensively incapable indicated that this was the case. 

Ukraine’s army fields two regular force and four reserve force tank brigades, each with about 100 tanks and supporting infantry, engineers and artillery.  With regards to the regular force brigades; 1st Armoured Brigade was located near Chernihiv and 16th Armoured Brigade was located centrally near Dnipro at the start of the war.

The Ukrainian’s also fielded fifteen mechanised brigades each with about 30 tanks, a couple hundred armoured fighting vehicles, supporting artillery and between 1500 -3000 infantry soldiers. Most of these brigades are reserve units and the war started with the seven regular force brigades deployed across the country focussed on Kiev, Kharkov and near the Donbas border.  

Armoured and mechanised units are the ‘mailed fist’ of an army, they provide powerful fast-moving forces that spearhead offensive operations. Although the Ukrainians had a sizable force of armoured and mechanised units at the start of hostilities it is hard to tell how many remain, and as the war develops Russian withdrawals certainly provide opportunities for armoured offensives to inflict damaging casualties. Watching the war develop, it seems that the Ukrainians were more prepared for war than I expected, perhaps they strategized and held their armour back in the first stages, using light infantry with guided anti-tank weapons and drones to blunt the Russian offensive and preserving an armoured counter-attack force.  If this is the case, Ukraine and has preserved a significant amount of armour, then the Russians could be in for a tough time.  

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Which brings us to the strange bombing of Belgorod. Today footage of two Mi – 24 ‘Hind’ attack helicopters using rockets to attack a fuel storage depot in Belgorod, 30km from the border and about 70 km from Kharkov.  The facility caught fire and is destroyed. Fortunately, no one was injured. The Russians say the Ukrainians did it, and the Ukrainians say the Russians did it.  

It is a strange incident, at first it seemed logical that the Ukrainians attacked the depot, it is close to the border (70 km is only 10-15 minutes flying time in a Hind attack helicopter) and probably serves a useful military purpose.  Initially, it looked like a Ukrainian demonstration that they had the capability to strike depth targets.  However, the confused initial response to questions and subsequent denial by Ukrainian officials indicate that it was not planned centrally.

So what happened?  There are three possible explanations:

  • The mission was organised locally by Ukrainian forces and their higher headquarters was not aware of it.
  • The attack is a ‘false flag’ operation executed by the Russians to stir up resentment towards the Ukrainians.
  • It is a Russian mistake.

Hanlon’s Razor states that we should “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity” and anyone with ‘boots on the ground’ military experience will tell you that all sorts of stupid things happen during a war.  It seems most likely that poorly trained, inexperienced young pilots flying at night without GPS equipment (a credibly reported problem with Russian aircraft) simply got lost and hit the wrong target.  At night, flying fast and low, without radio direction finding or radar (to avoid electronic direction) it is easy to get lost.  I think it was a mistake.

By far the most interesting activity today is in the south, Orikhiv and Huliapol are towns located between Kherson and Mariupol.  During the week they were attacked by Ukrainian forces, today both towns are in Ukrainian hands although Huliapol is being counter attacked. The towns are in a direct line between the major Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia and Mariupol.  If the Ukrainians are trying to relieve Mariupol holding Huliapol and Orikhiv is a step towards that goal.  It is exciting stuff, perhaps there is a Ukrainian offensive developing that will relieve the besieged city.  A well-supported relief would also trap a significant Russian force in the area around Kherson.  It would be overly optimistic to make a firm prediction at this time but I think we should definitely be keeping our eyes on this area. 

The Russian troops withdrawn from the north will not reach the south and be in any fit state for combat within a week, Russian reinforcements from Georgia, Tajikistan and Wagner Group mercenaries are not overwhelming numbers so if the Ukrainians do have the combat power to advance on Mariupol we could see some very sudden and significant changes in the campaign.

In summary, the last 48 hours have developed generally as predicted the Russians withdrawing and the Ukrainians advancing north and east.   At this time, it is difficult to make predictions about small Ukrainian gains in the south the capture of Orikhiv and Huliapol, may only be small local operations, however they could be the start of something bigger, especially if the Ukrainian’s armour is still a viable force.  In the next few days we will have a better idea of the situation in this area.  The Ukrainians are in the driving seat at the moment and it will be interesting to see how much ‘gas they have in the tank’, perhaps they will drive the Russians to a total collapse.  


Ben Morgan is a tired Gen X interested in international politics. He is TDB’s Military analyst.


  1. Keep up the updates – it’s most interesting.

    I’ve seen online video footage of Ukrainian troops examining a T80 they had destroyed to find that the reactive armour packs down the side of the vehicle were stuffed with old egg cartons to make it look as if they were filled with something. More evidence of Russian army corruption and incompetence? Hard to tell if it’s true though.

  2. Heres non aligned Swiss comment
    You may need to do French English translation.

    Basic observation is as so many have, Russia has the initiative, Ukraine has no mobility nor logistical ability to change that.

    If you read this pro Russian account Ukraines military situation is bleak at best.

    It would tend to support the neutral view, Ukraine has lost, needs to negotiate whilst it can.

    • Except that is not what we are seeing on the ground.

      It should be borne in mind that Ukraine is a country of 44 million, with literally hundreds of thousands of people in uniform. They seem very committed to the defence of their nation. Almost certainly more so than the Russian soldiers. The Russian Army is 500,000. One third were used in the initial invasion. Perhaps 30% of them have become casualties (for every person killed at least two are wounded). That means the Russians have to rotate in new units, effectively the next third of the Russian Army. All this in the space of 6 weeks. In short the Russian offensive is not sustainable.

      In military terms the Ukrainians also have the advantage of interior lines of communication. The front line is never more than a few dozen kilometres from their logistic support. The scale of support from NATO nations with the supply of advanced defensive weapons seems to have also tipped the balance. It is worth noting that western weapons are built on the back of advanced economies with nearly a billion people. The consequent industrial infrastructure means western weapons are much more sophisticated that those of Russia, which has a population of a 140 million, and a relatively thin advanced industrial infrastructure, especially in advanced electronics.

      I visited Russia in 2013, specifically with an aerospace interest. I was surprised how basic the digital comms, radars and displays were (this was in brand new helicopters). At least a decade behind comparable western systems. It is no accident that Russian airlines primarily use Boeing and Airbus aircraft. They are simply more sophisticated and more efficient.

      • How much of the western aid will get through to Ukraine forces in the east? And there the Russians have better operational locality.

    • Russia has lost and needs to negotiate, while it still can.

      Russia’s war of choice in Ukraine is nothing short of an imperial territory and resource grab.

      Unfortunately for the new Russian imperialists their military campaign has become bogged down and shows little chance of succeeding in achieving their declared and undeclared war aims.

      Russia’s war aims:

      1/ “denazifying Ukraine” Putin’s code for regime change.

      2/ Seizing the warm water ports of Muriupol and Odessa to create a land corridor to Crimea to complete Putin’s revanchist dream of returning Russia to being a major naval power and turning the Black Sea into a Russian lake, and from the Black Sea, becoming a major challenge to US and Nato sea power in the Mediterranean

      Until these two strategic war aims are achieved, Russia will keep on fighting, right up until Russia’s inevitable defeat

      Just like Ukraine Vietnam was a tempting prize for imperialism. First invaded and colonised by the French Imperialists in the 19th Century, Vietnam was reinvaded by the Japanese Empire during WWII, The Japanese helped by Vichy collaborators imposed their own colonial rule of Vietnam. The Japanese imperialists were defeated by the Vietnamese people. At the end of WWII France launched a military campaign to regain their former colony. The post war French imperialists, like the Japanese imperialists, were defeated by the Vietnamese people.

      Seizing their chance the US imperialists sought to recolonise the newly independent country of Vietnam. Just as America had done in the Philippines after the collapse of Spanish colonialism.

      Despite the lengths the U.S. military went in its attempt to gain control over Vietnam, it would go on to lose spectacularly. There are two key reasons for this. The first is that the United States underestimated the Vietnamese fight for independence. This was a country that spent much of its history occupied, and having just had a glimpse of its independence after defeating the French occupation in 1954, the Vietnamese people were not about to be ruled by another foreign invader. Through determination for independence and well-organized guerilla tactics, the people of Vietnam would go on to shock the world by expelling a powerful empire from their land.

      The other ‘Key reason’ for America’s failure in Vietnam was the antiwar protests in America itself.

      This is the second similarity between Russia’s War in Ukraine and America’s War in Vietnam. And the other reason why Russia will lose the war in the Ukraine

    • I don’t think we will have a clue of what the truth is until either the Russians withdraw or the Ukrainians concede.
      I would say that it is difficult for me to believe that Ukraine are going to be able to fully repel Russia.

    • Thanks for the links Nick. It’s good to have several people watching the net. You can’t cover it all.
      D J S

  3. Got to maintain healthy level of skepticism but…

    Just watched a 2 minute video of a Russian POW with burns and hands tied with those plastic straps taunted then stabbed, having his eyes gouge out with a hunting knife while alive. The shrieking is blood curdling. Face is blurred so dont see the gruesome detail.

    Torturer and killer is IDed as Azov Nazi named Ruslan Mironyuk.

    There is more Azov atrocity footage onlline but I dont think I have the stomach after what I just watched.
    Dont expect to see this on 7 Sharp anytime soon.

    If the Russian people get to see this, they will want Putin to nuke Ukraine into oblivion.

    The source is:

    Jake Morphonios Blackstone Intelligence
    Geopolitical Investigator. Detailed analysis of claims made by both sides in the #UkraineWar. I oppose Putin’s invasion.

  4. You guys do understand that after the very very best of The WW2 German Army tool out like 10 or 20 million Russian, Russia absolutely curbstomped Germany. You guys get the correct?

    Normal people can not fathom the potential of Russia.

    Time and time again, Mother Russia have proven that they can come back from way worse positions. Yall just want another lesson.

    • In WW2 Germany invaded the Soviet Union – The Soviet Union no longer exists and Russia invaded Ukraine.

      In WW2 Russians had a clear reason to fight – that is clearly lacking at the moment for many Russians.

    “Understand Russia started its “special military operation” with a severe manpower deficit—200,000 attackers to some 600,000 defenders (or more). Classic attritional conflict was never an option. Russian victory required maneuver.

    Strategically, to facilitate the ability to maneuver between the southern, central, and northern fronts, Russia needed to secure a land bridge between Crimea and Russia. The seizure of the coastal city of Mariupol was critical to this effort. Russia has accomplished this task.

    6/ While this complex operation unfolded, Russia needed to keep Ukraine from maneuvering its numerically superior forces in a manner that disrupted the Mariupol operation. This entailed the use of several strategic supporting operations—feints, fixing operations, and deep attack.

    The Russians made extensive use of the feint in Ukraine, with Amphibious forces off Odessa freezing Ukrainian forces there, and a major feint attack toward Kiev compelling Ukraine to reinforce their forces there. Ukraine was never able to reinforce their forces in the east.

    Russia is redeploying some of its premier units from where they had been engaged in feint operations in northern Kiev to where they can support the next phase of the operation, namely the liberation of the Donbas and the destruction of the main Ukrainian force in the east.

    15/ This is classic maneuver warfare. Russia will now hold Ukraine in the north and south while its main forces, reinforced by the northern units, Marines, and forces freed up by the capture of Mariupol, seek to envelope and destroy 60,000 Ukrainian forces in the east.

    16/ This is Big Arrow War at its finest”,,,,,, “It also explains how 200,000 Russians have been able to defeat 600,000 Ukrainians. Thus ends the primer on maneuver warfare, Russian style.”

    and NZ gets a mention in the video link below ,,,,,, for our hypocrisy ,,

    ,, and tedheath sounds like a Nazi himself ,,,with his own white-washing of their torture and other war crimes deeds ,,,, Whitewashing Ukraine’s Nazis, ,,,,

  6. And for god sake, swallowing every blatant piece of propaganda that comes your way via the Ukrainians is not doing your brain cells any good.
    Patrick Lancaster is in Mariupol , he’s an American journalist who has been covering the war in the Donbas for some time.Remember that Mariupol was one of the cities opposed to the coup in 2014.They resisted the Ukrainian army sent to quell them , but were overtaken .Since then they have suffered the Azov fighters “policing ” and tyrannising them for 8 years .They speak of the Ukrainians preventing them from leaving through the humanitarian corridors, and shelling their houses.
    Zelensky has passed a law enabling him to seize any property of a Russian living in Ukraine (17.3% of the population)Such is the hatred of Russians that they are now printing t shirts that say kill a Russian, with the picture of a Ukrainian man holding the decapitated head of a Russian
    How are we to know whether the bodies left on the roadside are not Russians?
    The bodies seem to have been noticed 4 days after the Russians left, despite a video emerging of Ukrainian soldiers sweeping through the town prior to the bodies being found days later

  7. As I understand it the utmost military force against Russia is needed for any reasonable peace settlement.

    Putin has destroyed himself by attacking the West with the same filth he used in his many other wars. The prick has made us more democratic, which we needed like life. Thanks, another dictator.

    • Sam, you might wish to consider the position of the western Left in this conflict. It would seem to me that cognitive dissonance is a good description. When the Left rushes to align with liberal capitalism in favour of a corrupt regime that kills its own people and supports extreme right wing neo Nazis you have to wonder.

      You are not however alone.

      • You’re wrong. Like all countries threatened by dictatorships Ukraine clutches democracy like its heart. Ukraine is just us but closer to the mentality of Putin. Spread propaganda elsewhere.


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