Battle at the Siverskyi Donets – TTG

Maksin, the Ukrainian Army Engineer

The context: I am UA military engineering and EOD officer. I have served one turn in Donbas prior to the recent invasion.

Recently, I have accomplished a mission which made huge impact on Russian losses and completely screwed up their plans to encircle Lysychansk. Initially, there was intelligence from frontline units that there are Russians on the other side of the river and they gather various vehicles. So, my commander asked me on 6 May as one of the best military engineers to do engineering reconnaissance on Siverskyi Donets river. Together with recon units for backup, I went to explore the area of Hryhorivka and Bilohorivka on 7 May.

Frontline units in Bilohorivka reported multiple Russian vehicles gathering on the other side of the river. I explored the area and suggested a location where Russians might attempt to mount a pontoon bridge to get to the other side. And, used rangefinders to figure out river is 80m wide, thus Russians would need 8 parts (10m each) of the bridge connected to get to the other side. With that flow of the river, I knew they would need motorized boats to arrange such a bridge, and it would take them at least two hours of work.

Took me a day to check everything. And I had to do it on 8th of May as well. So, reported this information I had to my commanders. Also, I told the unit who observed that part of the river that they need to be on the look out for sound of motor boats.

Visibility was shit in the area because Russians put fields & forests on fire, and were throwing a lot of smoke grenades. On top of that, it was foggy. They had to hear the sound. And they did on 8 May early morning. Right at the place I said. I was there to check it as well – and I have seen with my drone as Russians do the pontoon bridge. Reported immediately to commanders.

Looking back, I think my recon and hints to the river unit made the biggest impact. I outplayed Russian military engineers. Russians attempted to place a bridge RIGHT in the place where I guessed. River unit didn’t see Russian units, but was able to hear motor boats and report it immediately. Artillery was ready.

We have been able to confirm Russians mounted seven parts of the bridge out of eight. Russians have even succeeded to move some troops and vehicles over the river. Combats started. About 20 minutes after recon unit confirmed Russian bridge being mounted, HEAVY ARTILLERY engaged against Russian forces, and then aviation chipped in as well. I was still in the area, and I have never seen / heard such heavy combat in my life.

After one day of combat, 9 May morning the bridge was down. Some Russian forces (around 30-50 vehicles and infantry) were stuck on Ukrainian side of the river with no way back. They tried to run away using broken bridge. Then they tried to arrange a new bridge. Then, Aviation started heavy bombing of the area and it destroyed all the remains of Russians there, and other bridge they tried to make. Rumors say it’s around 1500 Russian dead. 

Their strategic objective was to cross the river and then encircle Lysychansk. They miserably failed. On 10 May pontoon bridge was completely down. That’s about time when you started to get all the pictures from the area. For three days enemies try to force river but we fight and stay strong, destroyed bridge, destroyed a lot of orks and orks vehicle. Enemy can’t force river. We deflect every attack. 

I was on the ground, doing the work there, alongside with other Ukrainian heroes. I did my part and it had significant impact. Proud to serve Ukraine!

Comment: I think this battle account captures the nature of combat in this war. Note that artillery truly remains the king of battle. The Ukrainian artillery that engaged here was the artillery group of the 17th Tank Brigade. That group consists of two battalions of self-propelled artillery (122mm and 152mm) and a MLRS battalion. It also includes a battalion of 100mm AT guns. The Ukrainians retained the artillery heavy organization from their Soviet heritage. This is something we might want to look at in our combat brigades.

This engineer officer’s claim of 1,500 dead Russians is most likely a wild exaggeration. It reflects the adreniline rush and cockiness of a recent victory. Several hundred may be more accurate. Ukraine Weapons Tracker estimated losses from overhead photography. “Russian forces sustained remarkable losses from the failed bridging attempt over the Siverskyi Donets River. We count 6x T-72B-series MBT, 14x BMP-1/2 variants, 7x MT-LB, a tugboat & 5+ other armoured vehicles destroyed/abandoned/damaged. Note precise ID is very hard.”

The key to this Ukrainian victory was aggressive and creative intelligence collection, the quick incorporation of that intelligence into an operational plan and continued coordination throughout the battle. The scope of the Russian defeat was marked by the absence of these things. Those poor bastards didn’t know whether to shit or go blind.

Note also that Ukrainian airstrikes played a critical role in the battle. Not too shabby after 70 plus days of war. That also takes coordination and competent leadership.


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47 Responses to Battle at the Siverskyi Donets – TTG

  1. PavewayIV says:

    Additional aerial imagery of the Siverskyi Donets river crossing carnage detailing extent of equipment losses – via BlueSauron on Twitter.

  2. SRW says:

    The Russian military (and political establishment) have always seemed a day late and a dollar short in tactics in this war. You would have thought they would have heard of Col. John Boyd and his OODA loop concept of tactics and implemented them.

    The OODA loop
    Boyd’s key concept was that of the decision cycle or OODA loop, the process by which an entity (either an individual or an organization) reacts to an event. According to the idea, the key to victory is the ability to create situations in which one can make appropriate decisions more quickly than one’s opponent. The construct, originally a theory of achieving success in air-to-air combat, developed out of Boyd’s Energy-Maneuverability theory and his observations on air combat between MiG-15s and North American F-86 Sabres in Korea. Harry Hillaker (chief designer of the F-16) said of the OODA theory, “Time is the dominant parameter. The pilot who goes through the OODA cycle in the shortest time prevails because his opponent is caught responding to situations that have already changed.”

    Boyd hypothesized that all intelligent organisms and organizations undergo a continuous cycle of interaction with their environment. Boyd broke the cycle down to four interrelated and overlapping processes through which one cycles continuously:

    Observation: the collection of data by means of the senses
    Orientation: the analysis and synthesis of data to form one’s current mental perspective
    Decision: the determination of a course of action based on one’s current mental perspective
    Action: the physical playing-out of decisions
    (it’s like boxing. You always have to think and act faster than you opponet)

    Boyd went on to describe the decisive elements of warfare:

    Elements of warfare
    Boyd divided warfare into three distinct elements:

    Morale Warfare: the destruction of the enemy’s will to win, disruption of alliances (or potential allies) and induction of internal fragmentation. It ideally results in the “dissolution of the moral bonds that permit an organic whole [organization] to exist, ” the breaking down the mutual trust and common outlook mentioned in the paragraph above.

    Mental Warfare: the distortion of the enemy’s perception of reality by disinformation, ambiguous posturing, and/or severing of the communication/information infrastructure.

    Physical Warfare: the abilities of physical resources such as weapons, people, and logistical assets.

    Considering these items I think the Ukrainians and the west have the upper hand in this conflict.
    (BTW I believe Boyd is the only non-Marine to rate a statue at Quantico)

  3. Philip Owen says:

    The Russian troops in Izyum, perhaps the whole Luhansk theatre now look in danger of being cut off. They are very vulnerable to a Ukrainian offensive taking the transport corridors to the north of them. The key location is called Kupiansk. The Russian phase 2 has cumulated and the initiative for the war is passing to Ukraine. The above action sealed it.

  4. Barbara Ann says:

    One has to wonder to what extent the Ukies’ creative intelligence collection was supplemented by the might of the US MI machine at their disposal. I guess a story about hearing motorboats through the fog is more engaging than one about watching them approach on a live satellite feed and SIGINT intercepts. Anyway, the end result is the same, the Russians got the asses kicked in a big way.

    • Pat Lang says:

      I said that in a post. IMO it is likely that DIA is doing the targeting. Good!

      • Bill Roche says:

        Pat, a very open ended question. Is the UM that good or is the RM that bad? Also, are the Ukrainians capable of this kind of intel (SatInt?) w/o DIA help. No Ukr sats up there that I’ve heard of. If I were a former intel officer I would be proud of this UA Engineering/EOD guy. Intel makes a difference!

    • PavewayIV says:

      “…the Russians got the asses kicked in a big way.”

      Assuming all the armor was Russian, they lost maybe a motor rifle company or two at the crossing pictured three days ago? I think this was the one nearest Privolye at the inside bend of the river. They also lost a good portion of a company downstream at a second pontoon bridge crossing at Bilohorivka (yesterday or today).

      Engineer cited by TTG: “…Their strategic objective was to cross the river and then encircle Lysychansk. They miserably failed…”

      They failed to accomplish that on Monday, yet LPR militia are across the river now and (reportedly) attacking Privolye today. LPR and Chechens have the last of the Ukraine troops defending Rubinzhnoye caught in a small town called Zorya on the southeast outskirts. Some of the LPR/Chechens have bypassed it to the south and are attacking northwest Severodonetsk and Lysichansk through Vojevodivka. AFU took out the bridge at Vojevodivka to protect Severdonetsk.

      This is all social media sourced, so take it with a grain of salt. Still, burning through a few motor rifle companies for a Severodonetsk/Lysichansk cauldron trapping an AFU brigade-sized force? Seems Russian to me. They’re still moving north from Popansa and have artillery coverage on the roads out.
      Don’t know how much of this is true/accurate of course, but this is accompanied by reports of some AFU moving back to Artyomosk (to the west) to avoid the ‘maybe’ cauldron.

      Not picking winners or losers here, just saying the situation is a lot more complicated than the apparently disastrous and costly failed river crossing four days ago.

      • English Outsider says:

        That failed river crossing. Apparently in the LNR sector. Were these Russian forces or LNR? BBC says “Russian” but as far as I’ve seen all allied forces are “Russian” to the BBC.

        Whether the destruction of the river crossing was carried out with the assistance of NATO Intelligence or not, that will be assumed. There can’t be any Russians around who don’t by now know that they’re up against NATO as well as Kiev.

        So there are now three wars in one being fought on the territory of our unfortunate Ukrainian proxies.

        The first, ignored in the West, is the Ukrainian civil war. Kiev versus what was Eastern Ukraine.

        The failure to grasp that, or indeed for our media to mention it, accounts for the misunderstanding in the Western public of the proximate or immediate causes of this war. Most in Europe are still unaware that so far the brunt of the fighting is being born by the Ukrainians themselves, both sides. Or by those who were Ukrainians until quite recently. For us, therefore, this first war, the civil war, is the forgotten war. Or we never knew of it in the first place.

        The second war, as it is seen by the Russian public, is Russia defending itself against a predatory or aggressive West.

        In particular, against another attack coming out of Europe. That accounts for most Russians regarding this as an “existential” war and one they cannot afford to lose. It is for them no less than their Barbarossa II.

        The third war, as we in the West see it, is Ukraine versus Russia.

        Russia is larger and more powerful, most in the Western public know it as a formidable and sinister Cold War opponent, and Russia most certainly did invade a neighbouring country. That accounts for the support of the general public, most importantly in Germany, for all practicable measures being taken to damage and defeat Russia. The European Barbarossa II as well, therefore.

        Three wars in one. All parties convinced of the rightness of their cause. None giving an inch.

        Since we know only the general outlines of the Russian aims – “denazification and demilitarisation” isn’t exactly a precise list – we don’t know what the Russians will do after the Army of the Donbas is destroyed. So we can only wait and see what they’ll regard as victory.

        What the Europeans will regard as victory is similarly imprecise. They say they want Putin gone. Russia seriously weakened. Stronger defence of the Eastern frontier. They’ll probably get out of it some sort of independent European army appropriate for a Europe that’s been seeking for some time to “project the power of a continent”. I don’t know about that. Such armies are not as easy as all that to put together.

        But what they’ll get out of these three wars in practice is a wrecked economy and a bitterly divided people. Don’t know what’ll happen after that. Given its history, Europe’s not the best place to look to if you’re looking for purposeful reconstruction.

        All that implicit in a failed river crossing? I think so.

        • Pat Lang says:

          EO NRO, NSA and most especially DIA know exactly who and where all the Rusian and rebel units are. They know that from fusion analysis of SIGINI, prisoners taken by the Ukrainians and most importantly from IMINT in wwhich they know EXACTLY what pieces of equipment by number and type each unit has.

          • Sam says:

            Col. Lang,

            This is invaluable information that is being funneled to the Ukrainian forces. Would this be the edge that’s allowed the Ukrainian military to essentially hold the Russian forces from not going much further than what they accomplished during the first few days of the invasion?

        • Philip Owen says:

          To be pedantic, NATO has no intelligence or analytical capability. It is all provided by members. This is often misunderstood leading to excessive credibility being given to statements by NATO bureaucrats in fact only informed by the mass media.

        • Fred says:


          ” They’ll probably get out of it some sort of independent European army appropriate for a Europe …”

          Three thoughts.
          1) Who is going to command that force – the French, Germans, Greeks? Have fun with that one.
          2) Where would it be stationed? Right up on the Russian Border? Maybe along side Turkey’s?
          3) What do the need the USA for, other than to pay for everything?

          • English Outsider says:

            Fred – our defence policy has remained much the same over the years. What HMG was pleased to call Brexit left it unaltered. This, from 2019, can therefore be taken as a brief summary of Westminster’s aspirations:-


            That can be further compressed to “Keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and grab as many joint European defence projects as we possibly can.”

            The speech itself was something of a tour de force. A government Minister who can describe the two most cataclysmic wars the UK has ever fought as “the odd ups and downs”, that while keeping a straight face, thoroughly deserved his knighthood.

          • Bill Roche says:

            Command by the French, Germans, or Greeks? How foolish of you. Why the commanding gen’l of all Macedonian forces in the Baltics has just thrown his hat in the ring. The Dane’s commandant of the Danish Baltic fleet thinks he is a “shoe in” but no one has the edge on the grand marshall of the Slovak air command. He is the real dark horse.
            Of course this crack fighting force w/b paid for by the Capitalist scourge of the earth the USA. No matter the force will be used to defend Europe from the Chinese and the AMERICANs. Uncle will pay for it anyway.

          • glupi says:

            Putin’s 2007 Munich speech ( the video as published by user RussianPerspective on youtube). The camera showing John McCain, Victoria Nuland, Angela Merkel & Co squirm.

            Now this is a Statesman, whether one agrees with him or not

        • Leith says:

          EO –

          They were not LNR forces. It reportedly was a BTG of the Russian 74th Motor Rifle Brigade. But of course that unit could have been brought up to strength by conscripts mobilized from areas within the LNR.

          • English Outsider says:

            Leith – what were they doing clustered around a crossing point like that?

          • TTG says:


            Incompetent leadership, lack of proper training and sheer panic. I believe that one packed cluster of destroyed vehicles is on the Ukrainian side of the river. They were trying to escape.

          • Leith says:

            EO –

            TTG said it best. I can only add what generations of sergeants have said to the soldiers in their units: “Don’t bunch up or one grenade will kill you all.”

            I wonder if the UK’s Brimstone missiles to the Ukrainians contributed to the destruction of that BTG?

        • tom67 says:

          EO: your post is most excellent. About Germany: there´s an onslaught of propaganda here that I have not seen in my lifetime. And I am 58. It is like Covid and the same idiots are barking like mad. The only thing missing is Russians bayoneting babies.
          When the war started I was in an archive looking at the literary estate of a great uncle who was an officer in the Bavarian royal army in te great war. Nobody was prepared for the carnage that followed. But everybody was convinced it would be a cake walk. Same today. The carnage though will be economical. If things continue as they are we are heading towards economic collapse in the winter. In the first world war people starved to death in Germany for nobody had thought the British might mount a sea blockade. Unbelievable but true. Now nobody seems to think what would happen if Russia cuts off the gas. At best we are looking at electricity 5 days out of seven and a collapse of Germany´s industry.
          In the First World war 30 percent of the population was still engaged in farming and people could survive without technology. Even in the cities and even in Berlin there were still cow sheds to supply the population with milk. Today we are completely and utterly dependent on a hugely complex machine that is fed from all over the world. “Good by to all that”, to quote one of my favourite authours.

          • Fred says:


            “Nobody was prepared for the carnage that followed.”

            I can think of none of the neocons who have been pushing ‘regime’ change around the world for decades who have been victims of the carnage. The closest that comes to mind is Biden’s coke addled son, but then he was never in combat and now he’s got a good career with hookers and booze and bribes. Robert Kagan has his ‘think tank’, his wife is back at State, and even Smanatha Power is back with USAID where she’ll funnel billions to Ukraine, via the ‘right’ companies of course. There’s a lot more of them on the “on to Moscow” regime change bandwagon.

          • Kilo 4/11 says:

            tom 67, I’ve recently read (only in translation, alas) all of Ernst Junger’s WW One books: Copse 125, Storm of Steel, etc. How does Graves’ book measure up?

    • Philip Owen says:

      From satelite maps, the location was obvious. The river valley is very marshy. Roads are required for heavy equipment. The crossing was attenpted at one of the few points for 30 miles where roads on the Urkainian side came almost close to the river. The engineer quoted above obviously saw this. So the patrol area was not that large. Even without Satint, once the Ukrainians thought a river crossing was a serious possibility they could prepare. OF course, the Russians might have tried crossing at a less obvious point but that would also be less convenient and give its own warnings.

      • Mark Logan says:

        I find it difficult to imagine trying the crossing over that small river without scouts already on the other side clearing out any FOs in the bushes. The Russians could’ve also staged up their own counter-battery artillery in support, artillery being something they never seem short of.

        I find it difficult to imagine in this day of satellites and IR-seeing UAVs that the Russians weren’t keeping close tabs on Ukrainian artillery in general, and specifically everything within range of that river crossing. They seem to have both not known it was there or given any thought as to what to do if some showed up. There seems no end to the incompetence. I pity the Russian soldiers.

  5. Leith says:

    Barbara Ann –

    Far be it from me to belittle the US MI machine. And I would not bad-mouth TTG’s Ukrainian Combat Engineer. But I don’t believe Ukrainian intelligence units depended on those. Their SBU of their DIA (the HUR,) can “automatically record and log all cell phone activity by Russian-sim phones by location — and then prioritize the locations they’re most interested in. It’s an intelligence gold mine.” And they can hack into the phone comversations also. They knew exactly where that BTG was crossing the river, and when, and with what resources.

    As for your ” got the asses kicked in a big way “ comment: They are about to be kicked a lot more. There are elements of two brigades within artillery range (or Switchblade loitering killer UAV) of the main Russian railroad between Belgorod and the Donbas. Putin can say sayonara to a significant logistics corridor for his troops in SE Ukraine.

    • Leith says:

      correction: “SBU or their DIA”

    • Fred says:


      Two months into the war and the Russians are still letting their troops carry private phones with them?

      • TTG says:


        They carry their own phones and they use phones stolen from Ukrainians. There’s apparently still a lot of cellphone use in the Ukrainian Army, too. That’s where we get all those photos of jack-in-the-boxed Russian tanks. Our troops carry their own phones in theater as well. Our CIA officers carried them. Remember the abduction of that guy in Italy? The phenomenon is like breathing oxygen to the younger generations. It’s not something I can understand. Not only did the things not exist in my day, but we never had the opportunity to call home at all. On SF missions we went in sterilized and disappeared into black holes for the duration. Even weeks long peacetime training missions in the 25th Infantry were without communication with home, except for a letter or postcard.

        • Barbara Ann says:


          I don’t understand it either – not that the troops don’t want to carry them – that any modern army allows these data-leaking personal locator beacons anywhere near the battlefield. If, as Leith says, they are an “intelligence gold mine” why are they not banned? Warfare above all else is a Darwinian business and I’d have thought that jeopardizing victory for the sake of a few selfies was not a war-winning strategy.

        • Fred says:


          I certainly understand the milenial “need” for a social media umbilical cord, but the big green machine should sever it before deployment. When we went to sea we might get some radio messages, but that was it. I wasn’t told of my mother’s passing until a few hours before we returned to port. That was a couple of weeks after the funeral.

        • mcohen says:

          The crossing was ordered by someone who guaranteed it would be feasible and low risk.Probably a radioman.

        • Kilo 4/11 says:

          TTG, “oxygen”, indeed. My youngest can forget his wallet, keys, school i.d., but NEVER his phone.

      • Leith says:

        Fred –

        There are some on twitter that believe some (not all) Russian unit commanders did confiscate cell phones. But it was problematic:
        #1 – Soldiers did the obvious by taking out the SIM card and turning in an empty shell. Then put the SIM in a phone stolen from Ukie civilians.
        #2 – Even unit commanders were reduced in some cases to using cells as Russian comms were dodgy. Ditto for their crypto. So like Strother Martin said in Cool Hand Luke, there was a failure to communicate.
        #3 – The units that did crack down on cells did it much too late in the game.

        • Fred says:


          Perhaps so but I’m sure there is plenty of video to use in conscript training on why to leave your junk at home. The Russians have been telegraphing their moves weeks in advance so it is no surprise they would get stopped at more than one crossing. Perhaps everyone needs to rething how to cross a river under fire, that sure looked like a traffic jam that got hit.

          • Leith says:

            Fred – Putin and his generals have forgotten their own history.

            The Soviets, on the Volga at Stalingrad, wrote the book on how to cross a river under fire. They kept at it 24/7 despite the ferry and barge losses to the Luftwaffe and 6th Army artillery. And they never bunched up.

        • Kilo 4/11 says:

          Leith: best line from the movie:
          Paul Newman: “I wonder if she knows what she’s doing?”
          George Kennedy: “She knows EXACTLY what she’s doing.”

  6. Jovan P says:

    I read on some comment on SST that TD units (especially the ones performing outside their home territory) and conscripts tend to have higher casualty rates then professional soldiers. If this is the case, and without relativizing the casualties and shortcomings of the Russian army (more so LNR and DPR units), are grave losses of Ukrainian soldiers expected in the following days around Severodonetsk?

    • PavewayIV says:

      Jovan – The AFU forces in Severodonetsk/Lysichansk salient are the best, most experienced and (until recently) the most well-equipped Ukrainian units, having been engaged with ‘Russian-backed separatists’ there for eight years. I doubt the AFU would transfer the relatively useless and inexperienced Territorial Defense units directly to that front – despite the impending Russian/LPR attacks. There’s plenty of key Ukrainian logistics and transportation hubs west of that salient that could use TD troops (as drivers, guards, etc.).

      The regular AFU forces have been ordered by Zelenski to hold Severodonetsk/Lysichansk without withdrawing. Considering the replenishment of the Red God of War – Russian artillery – I would foresee ‘grave losses’ for the well dug-in Ukrainian defenders over time. Nonetheless, western analysts seem confident that the Russians will screw up the assault somehow and that the AFU logistics lines will hold and Ukrainian forces can hold those strategic cities. At the very least, it will be very costly for both sides.

    • Leith says:

      Jovan –

      There is a TDF brigade at Severodonetsk fighting alongside regular Ukrainian Army and National Guard units. It is undoubtedly local guys from Luhansk Oblast and are not outside their home territory.

      Paveway IV –

      What is your source for your claim that Zelensky ordered ‘no withdrawal’? I have doubts on that. Zelensky has so far stayed out of making military decisions. He leaves that to the Ukrainian Army Commander General Syrskyi and to his Defense Minister General Zalushny. Plus it seems to me that Ukrainian commanders elsewhere in the Donbas around Izyum and Yampil conducted fighting retreats based on their own situation and not on orders from above. I suspect that the defenders of Severodonetsk would do the same if needed.

      As far as the “Red God of War”: So far they seem only to be trying to defeat concrete and reducing buildings to crumbs. Instead of directly targeting Ukrainian troops, which they should be doing. No FOs maybe or perhaps they ran out of PGMs.

      • Leith says:

        Paveway IV –

        Typo on my part. Zalushny is not the Minister of Defense. He is CinC of all Ukrainian Forces including AF, Navy, NG, TDF Units, and the Army. My bad.

  7. John R says:

    The “engineer” was soliciting funds at the end the self proclamation of his heroics. It’s very doubtful he had anything to do with this. If he did, it was a complete failure on assessing likely crossings by the Ukrainian army. This should have been no surprise.

    Secondly, others have identified the destroyed units as belonging to DPR (possibly LPR), Ukraine, and Russia. Has anyone clearly identified all units as belonging to RF? Were these destroyed at once or over a period of days?

    Finally, I’ve seen other reports of EIGHT different locations of crossings along the river as well as the subsequent occupation of Pyvillya by RF.

    At the least, I’m disappointed that no one questions the authenticity of this “engineer’s” report

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