Russo-Ukrainian War 4/18/22

President Zelenskyy announcing what Ukraine believes to be the start of the Donbas offensive. (Image via Presidential Office of Ukraine)

The Donbas offensive has begun per U.S. and Ukrainian intelligence, with Russia moving 11 more BTGs into the Donbas and unleashing a massive artillery barrage in the evening. Despite the launch of the major offensive, few immediate territorial changes were observed as the Ukrainian army continued to stall the Russian advance, with counteroffensives made earlier today near Kharkiv.

In an address, Zelenskyy declared the battle for the Donbas had begun, even as he called into question Russia’s ability to replenish its munitions and missilry due to the effect of Western sanctions. During a Pentagon press conference, the U.S. asserted that Russia still maintains most of its combat power. Additional U.S. support has been promised recently, including howitzer artillery and helicopters, along with more Javelins, small-arms munitions, and defense systems.

Ukrainian troops will be trained out of the country in nearby European nations for some of these systems. An attack on any Ukrainian troops in NATO territory would almost certainly trigger Article V, beginning World War III. Hence it is more likely that Russia will target troops and shipments in transit from host countries to Ukraine.

In Mariupol, defenders have been holding the Azovstal steel plant in spite of Russia’s demands for surrender, with large ordinance being dropped by Russian forces. Nevertheless, the Azov battalion has been able to counterattack Russian forces, making sorties outside of the plant to hunt down unprotected units. Though it seems unlikely that the siege of Mariupol can be broken in time, the continued resistance by Mariupol’s defenders will hinder Russia’s new offensive, allowing Ukraine more time to receive and train heavier weapon systems with which to resist the Russian invasion.

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