It has been nearly a month since Russia claimed any significant territory in Ukraine. Part of this was due to a pause announced by Russia but part of it is likely due to new weapons introduced by the US. The result is that Russia’s advances seem to have stalled once again and that’s potentially very good news for Ukraine.

Russian troops have made no significant territorial gains since the Ukrainian retreat on July 2 from the eastern city of Lysychansk under withering artillery fire. The retreat gave Russia full control over Luhansk, one of the two oblasts, or regions, that make up the broader eastern Donbas area, and it marked Russia’s only meaningful strategic success since its retreat from territory around Kyiv in April…

Already forced to abandon their hopes of capturing the capital, Russian forces may soon have to reckon with their inability to conquer the entirety of the Donbas region — the only publicly declared goal of the initial invasion and the focus of current offensive ambitions…

“It does seem the Russians’ ability for forward movement is petering out,” said Phillips O’Brien, a professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. “I don’t see them being able to advance much more in the Donbas.”…

“Right now, the Russians are losing the initiative, and the Ukrainians either have it or are about to have it,” [George] Barros said. “The HIMARS are key to that.”

Allahpundit has written about the HIMARS before. Basically it’s a mobile missile system that uses GPS to ensure very accurate strikes at up to 50 miles of range. That has allowed Ukraine to hit ammunition dumps behind Russian lines and to target places where high ranking officials are giving orders. As a result, Russia has had to pull their ammunition back, creating long supply lines which significantly slow their ability to keep their own artillery firing.

There’s another story out today about HIMARS. You may recall there were a punch of Ukrainian soldiers who were captured after they became trapped in a steel mill in Mariupol. Many of those POWs were sent to a prison which was just destroyed by artillery. Russia is blaming Ukraine and US HIMARS missiles. Ukraine says Russia hit the prison itself and is guilt of a war crime.

A spokesman for the Russian-backed breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) said a Ukrainian strike using U.S.-supplied HIMARS — High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems — hit a prison in the town of Olenivka, killing at least 53 captive Ukrainian troops and wounding about 75.

Ukrainian authorities, however, denied any involvement and in turn accused Russian forces of carrying out the attack, which they described as a war crime.

In posts on Telegram, DPR spokesman Daniil Bezsonov referred to the casualties as “prisoners of Azovstal” — the steel plant in Mariupol that finally fell to Russian forces after a protracted siege. Unverified video shared on Telegram showed charred human remains in the burned-out shell of what was purported to be the prison.

There’s some gruesome video out there of dead bodies at the scene. I won’t share that here but here is some non-gruesome video from the scene.

Ukraine has released an intercept of two Russians which it claims proves this wasn’t a HIMARS strike. In fact, according to this there wasn’t an artillery strike at all. Instead, the Ukrainian prisoners were moved into a specific room which later exploded without being hit by any artillery.

I obviously don’t know exactly what happened here but experience has taught me that if you always assume the Russians are lying you will rarely if ever be disappointed.

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