Now in its 79th day of its Ukraine invasion, Russia is continuing its offensive—and still racking up heavy losses of hardware and personnel.
Nowhere is that more evident than along the banks of the Siverskyi Donets River in the Luhansk region, where fighting is raging and Ukraine blew up a Russian battalion attempting to cross a bridge earlier in the week.
New satellite images from BlackSky intelligence firm show the parts that remain of a pontoon bridge built by Russian troops to access the Ukrainian territory. Images showed smoke rising from the bridge after it was hit by Ukrainian artillery on May 10, leaving Russian tanks and trucks protruding from the water. It is unclear how many Russian troops died in the strike, but Forbes put its estimate at around 1,000 troops and 50 tanks. Britain’s defense intelligence said almost all of the Russian force’s armored vehicles were lost in the battle.
The BBC reports Russian forces have been relentless in their three fruitless attempts to establish bridges to cross the river. Oleh Zhdanov, a Ukrainian defense analyst, told the news service that the fighting is so fierce because the orders to take the territory came “from the very top.”
“They are advancing so hard because it is a political task, because Putin has ordered it,” he told the BBC. He said holding the area is crucial to a plan to encircle the city of Severodonetsk, as the Kremlin is directing its troops to cut off Ukraine’s entire eastern Donbas region.
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, which it referred to as “ruscists.” The post showed the same satellite imagery and a smug comment about the Russian tourists. “Some bathed in the Siverskyi Donets River, and some were burned by the May sun,” they said.
New drone footage from Thursday afternoon showed that smoke continues to rise from the region, marring the view and making it difficult for intelligence analysts to assess the current situation. It is unclear whether the smoke is the result of battle or set intentionally to shield the area from drones.
As battles rage in the east and south, Kyiv tried its first Russian soldier on war crimes in a hearing that kicked off Friday in the capital. Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old, faced a war-crimes tribunal for the murder of a 62-year-old unarmed man who was riding his bicycle along the roadside, which was captured in a photo that has become iconic in the nearly three-month war. If found guilty, the young soldier faces 10 years to life in prison.
As Russian troops retreat from some areas, a disturbing picture continues to emerge of the depths to which the Russians sank in carrying out their brutal attempt to wipe out the Ukrainian population. On Thursday, the U.K. ambassador to the United Nations said “credible claims” of Russian soldiers sexually assaulting children were part of a dossier being collected of alleged war crimes committed in the senseless war.