The Russo-Ukrainian War of 2022 – Day 72 (ground actions)

Week eleven of the war. It rained on Wednesday. Clear weather until Monday. Waiting now for the war resume in earnest as I have a hard time believing that what we saw last week was the Russian spring offensive. The major action for the last few days appears to be a limited Ukrainian offensive to the north of Kharkov that took five villages in the last couple of days and took yet one more village Wednesday. It does not appear that Russia is actually moving forward at the moment and has not for several days.

A link to a blow up of the map is here: Wikipedia map. I will put any changes/updates since my last post in italics. It is a relatively quiet day.

Is it now time for Russia to start its main offensive in earnest? Does a renewed Russian offense push southwest (towards Dnipro) or south (to encircle Slovyansk and Kramatorsk)? It does appear that they thinned their forces around Kharkov and concentrated everything around Izium.

The real objective here seems to be the cities of Siervierdonetsk (pop. 101,135), Lysychansk (pop. 95,031), Sloviansk (pop. 106,972) and Kramatorsk (pop. 150,084) in the Lugansk and Donetsk provinces. These are all very close to each other. Is Russia going to limit themselves to cleaning up the rest of the areas claimed by the LPR and DPR (and then try to negotiate a cease fire), or are they going to strike towards other areas, like Kharkov and Dnipro?

Russia controls the majority of isolated Mariupol, with a group of over a thousand Ukrainians holding out in a steel mill. Russia renewed assaults on the steel mill the last couple of days. Russian troops are now inside the compound and the fighting continues. They are not going to be relieved. Ukrainian Army remains over 60 miles away.

It appears that Kiev, Chernigov, Sumy and the northeast part of Ukraine are secure. Of course, Russia can always reintroduce troops later from Russia or Belarus. They are supposed to have 20 BTGs in Russia.

Russia continues to occupy three cities, Berdyansk (pop. 107,928), Melitopol (pop. 150,768) and Kherson (pop. 283,649). Russia has taken all of Izium (pop. 45,884) as of 1 April. 

We are looking at six major areas of operations right now.

1. Kiev – secure

2. Odessa – secure

3. Kharkov

4. The Donetsk and Lugansk provinces
5. Mariupol
6. Crimean border/Kherson

Here is what I have heard/seen from open sources:

1. Kiev (pop: 2,962,180): It appears that Kiev is secure. 

2. Odessa (pop: 1,015,826): Appears to be secure. See:  Transnistria and the invasion of Odessa | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org).

Video from near the famous Snake Island (just off the Romanian/Ukranian border): Shocking video shows Ukrainian drone destroying 2 Russian patrol boats

3. Kharkov (pop: 1,433,886): Kharkov looks to be securely held but is still being shelled. The Ukrainian army is pushing the Russian army away from Kharkov and captured the village Wednesday of Molodova.

A Ukrainian advance to the SE of Kharkov on 18 April has reached Pechenihy (pop. 5,058), which is now being contested. Ukraine is also reported contesting Kochetok (pop. 2,968) on 18 April and Kazacha Lopan (pop. 5,0005) on 22 April. Kazacha Lopan (Cossack Lopan) is due north of Kharkov and is three miles from the Russian border. The Ukrainians took control on 28 April of the village of Kutuzovka to the north of Kharkov. They also re-took Ruska Lozova on 29 April, just on the northern outskirts of Kharkov. They re-claimed five villages on Sunday. These are Verkhnyaya Roganka (23 km ENE of Kharkov), Slobodskoye, Prilestnoye, Momotove and Kutuzivka. Ukrainian video (2:01) but gives a view of these areas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osanIeHUD2w

Map from General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, operational information as of 18:00 on 30 April 2022. Pulled from Dr. Michael MacKay at @mhmck.

It does appear that Russia has thinned out its forces in this area and Ukraine is taking advantage of that. They are still fighting over a front of over 900 kilometers or 600 miles (this is a rough eyeball guess, I have not measured it exactly). Russia supposedly only has 92 BTGs deployed in Ukraine, so if one is concentrating forces around Izium, still has a couple BTGs tied down in Mariupol, still has some holding Kherson, the area NE of Kherson, Melitopol and surrounding areas, etc., then this does not leave a whole lot for the Kharkov area. This is a problem Russia has warring with a defender who is roughly equal in deployed manpower.

This analysis was inspired by a twitter posting by @PhillipsPObrien.

There was an explosion on 3 May in the Belgorod region at Tomorovka (map in my Kursk book). A rail bridge also went down near Kursk. The provincial governor said it was sabotage. On 26 April an ammo depot near Belgorod, Russia was attacked. There was also a major fire also reported at an oil storage facility this last week in the Bryansk region near the border. There was a report this weekend of a Ukrainian aircraft “shelling” a village of Zhecha in the Bryansk Region in Russia.

The Russians continued to expand southward from Izium, which is listed here as it is in the Kharkov Province even though their advance is heading south. They have captured the town of Zavody and the NE outskirts of Velyka Komyshuvakha. The Russians do appear to have been pushing to the southwest towards Barvinkove (pop. 8,110), vice the south or southeast. So it is either a broader encirclement of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk, or the rumored drive on Dnipro (which I really don’t believe they are going to try). Still, no villages have been reported taken in this area for the last few days. Are they taking a breather before the start of the main offensive?

A video from Sky News from Barvinkove (3:58): Ukraine War: Ukrainian soldiers stand firm in Barvinkove. Trench warfare (2:14)?

The Russians have two options for an encirclement of the Ukrainian areas of Lugansk and Donetsk province. One is the “smaller option” of striking from Kreminna and near Soledar to surround Sieverierodonesk and Lysychansk. The other is a “larger option” to strike from Izium and surround Sloviansk and Kramatorsk also. They may try both. If they are doing that, then I assume options like a renewed assault on Kharkov or a drive towards Dnipro (which is a good distance away) are off the table. 

4. The Donetsk and Lugansk provinces: The Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) is reporting as of 28 April that they had 1,523 soldiers killed and 6,167 wounded (4.05-to-1 wounded-to-killed ratio) out of a supposed strength of 20,000. This is 38% casualties out of an estimated force of 20,000, which is pretty serious. They have been surprisingly diligent about regularly reporting their casualty figures. One wonders if some Russian losses or contractors are being included in these figures. Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) is reported as of 5 April to have had 500-600 killed out of an estimated force of 14,000. This is 21% casualties, assuming a 4-to-1 killed ratio. Don’t know how many of DPR and LPR forces are Russians from Russia as opposed to locals.

Zelensky in an interview on CNN on 17 April said they had 44,000 professional military men in the Donbas.

Sievierodonetsk (pop. 101,135) might soon come under assault or possibly siege. It is already in danger of being surrounded, with Russian or DPR forces near Bakhmut (pop. 72,310) and Soledar (pop.10,692) and pushing down from the north from Kreminna and Rubizhne and from the south from Novotoshkivske.

The Russian and LPR (Lugansk People’s Republic) have taken Kreminna (pop. 18,417). This village is to the NW of Sievierdonetsk and Lysychansk (pop. 95,031). Videos verified by CNN show Russian forces in central Rubizhne (pop. 56,066). I gather it is still being contested. It does look the Russians are slowly advancing towards Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk from the north. This metropolitan area has a combined population of around 350,000. 

They are reporting advancing to the north of Lyman (pop. 20,469), capturing the town of Zarichne (Ukraine report). Torske (pop. 1,653) is reported as contested, but I gather is still in Ukrainian hands.

To the northwest of Sievierodonetsk, Rubizhne (pop. 56,066) is still reported as contested with CNN showing a video of Russian troops in the center of the city on 20 April.

The Russians are reported to be advancing to the south of Sievierodonetsk, capturing the town of Novotoshkivske (pop. 2,170) according to a Ukraine report. Popasna (pop. 19,672) is also reported as contested, but it appears that Ukraine is still holding it.

Further south Avdiyivka (31,940) is still in Ukranian hands. 

Between the advances south of Izium, near Lyman, at Rubizhne and south of Sievierdonetsk, I am guessing that these are preparatory actions before the main Russian offensive. If this already is the main Russian offensive, then this is kind of sad.

The map below shows the operations better than I can and shows from left to right Izium, Lyman, Torske, Kreminna, Rubizhne, Popasna (Popasnaya), Soledar and Bakhmut, along with the four majors cities that would be the objective of this offensive (Kramatorsk, Slavyansk, Lysychansk, and Sievierodonetsk). It is from Russia.

Slovyansk (pop. 106,972) to its west is also expected to come under assault.

Kramatorsk (pop. 150,084), located just to the south of Sloviansk. It had its rail station hit on 9 April with over 50 civilians killed.

To the southwest of this fight, the Ukrainians have retaken Maryinka (pop. 9,256) on 19 April, which had been taken by the DPR on 17 March. There is still fighting “in the direction of” (but not at?) Maryinka, Novomykhailivka, and Trudoliubivka, on the route to Zaporizhzhia.

5. Mariupol (pop: 431,859): Day sixty-six of the siege! The Alamo held out for 13 days. The Germans surrounded in Stalingrad held out for 72 days. Russia did agree to let 100 civilians evacuate out of the encircled Azovstal steel mill. Ukraine is now reporting 344 people were evacuated from Mariupol and surrounding areas to Zaporizhzhia. On 3 May the mayor said there were still more than 200 civilians trapped in the steel mill. There were reports yesterday that the Russians were assaulting the steel mill, but it has not fallen yet. 

There have been unconfirmed reports of phosphorus bombs and munitions being used in Mariupol, including claims made by the Azov Regiment on 27 April. All claims I have heard have only come from the Azov Regiment, which does maintain its own website.

Major Sergiy Volina, CO 36th Marine Brigade

The failure of the Russians to complete the conquest of Mariupol is probably due to a shortage of good infantry. If you are going to do urban operations, you need infantry. Otherwise, you are going to have to shell everything to oblivion, which appears to be what they are doing.  Following video of street fighting in Mariupol was just released by the Azov Regiment (0:58): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6UOYKQ8JD8

According to the DOD on 18 April there are almost a dozen BTGs in Mariupol. As each BTG has about 200 infantry, then 11 x 200 gives us 2,200 infantry. They have already probably had heavy infantry losses though, so could have less than half of those troops available.

The Russian military are now estimating the 2,000 fighters are holding out around the Azovstal steel mill in the city. The Mariupol city council reported more than 1,000 civilians and Ukarinian troops are in the steel mill complex, which covers 4 square miles and includes a network of tunnels. Added to that they reported on 13 April that 1,026 Ukrainian troops of the 36th Marine Brigade surrendered at the Ilyich Iron and Steel Works. Parts of the 36th Marine Brigade are still engaged there though, with the commander there reporting that had more than 600 wounded fighters and hundreds of civilians on 27 April.

The population of the city is down to 100,000 or less. The mayor, who is no longer in the city, is claiming that that more than 10,000 people have been killed. The head of DPR (Donets People’s Republic) has said over 5,000 people have been killed. The city has been decimated, lots of buildings and houses destroyed. Mariupol has no power, gas or water. The vice-mayor of this city said on 3 March that they can hold out for five days. 

If the Russians decided to just pen in the defenders and leave them there, then they have to leave forces, 1,000 or 2,000 or more, to hold them down. So they started with almost a dozen BTGs in Mariupol, probably have to leave a couple behind, have to garrison the area also, and their remaining BTGs have been depleted. So, the forces coming out of Mariupol to rejoin other operations is less than 10 BTGs. The U.S. DOD claimed yesterday that 2,000 troops and some Chechen fighters are still in Mariupol and that 10 BTGs are now moving north. Does this portend an offensive south of Sievierdonetsk pushing north in the next few days? They do indicates that some of the BTGs appears to have paused to be refitted, which is not all that surprising.

There is a mass grave being reported outside of Mariupol near the town of Manhush. It looks like around 200 graves have been dug. Another mass grave is also being reported on 23 April. So far, they appear to be graves for hundreds of people, vice thousands. A third mass grave is now reported.

6. Crimea & Kherson (pop: 283,649): Kherson is under Russian control. Are the Ukrainians going to make a push to take back Kherson? There does appear to be a Russian push near Oleksandriivka (pop. 5,095), on the route towards Mykolaiv.

It looks like some fighting is developing to the NE of Kherson, on the route towards Kryvyi Rih and Nikopol. Ukraine is claiming an attack on an ammunition depot at Russian-held Velyka Oleksandrivka. My suspicion is that Ukraine is going to launch an operation to try to reclaim Kherson and Kherson Province.

 

Weather: Kharkov at 3 PM: 61 degrees (16 Celsius) and sunny. Low tonight 41 degrees (5 Celsius). Rain forecasted for next Monday and next Thurdays. Almost perfect campaign weather. I am assuming that major operations can begin any day now.

Ukrainian Army Build-up: Not sure how large the army now is (assume over 200,000). There is a Ukrainian Territorial Defense Force of 100,000 to 200,000. Wikipedia reports 209,000 in their armed forces and 102,000 paramilitary. There are some foreign volunteers (including two Chechen battalions who have been there all along and a Georgian unit). I have yet to any statistics as to how many other foreign volunteers have been deployed, just individual stories.

There also the independent Belarussian Kastus Kalinouski Battalion, which as of 5 March is reported to have 200 members. They were serving in Irpin (near Kiev). It is reported that they have had thousands of volunteers. The deputy commander of the battalion (age 31) was killed on action on 13 March and another member was lost on 24 March in Irpin. This, of course, threatens to bring the war into Belarus at some point.

Outside support for Ukraine is considerable and reported in a separate blog post: Outside Support for Ukraine | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org).

The U.S. is now admitting that it helped target Russian generals. See: American intel used to kill Russian generals in Ukraine: US officials. This is something we had assumed for a while. See:  How Much is U.S. Intelligence helping Ukraine? | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org) and How Much is U.S. intelligence helping Ukraine? – part 2 | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org). And then yesterday they admitted that U.S. intel helped with tracking the sunk Russian cruiser Moskva, some we also assumed: Official: US gave intel before Ukraine sank Russian warship. Apparently, they did not provide specific targeting information.

 

Russian Army Build-up:  I have yet to see many reports of Russia expanding its army or calling up more reserves and conscripts. Their biannual call-up starts on 1 April, and Putin just signed a decree ordering up 134,500 new conscripts into the army. See the comments in the Day 35 for a discussion on the significance of this. We are now in the tenth week of the war. Are they going to expand their army as Ukraine is clearly expanding theirs, or are they expecting that this war will end shortly? It looks like the Russian Army is adding a couple of thousand volunteers. The U.S. DOD told reporters on 8 April that the Russia could be looking to recruit as many as 60,000 soldiers to join the fight. I don’t know what that really means. Who? From where? What will be their training? How long will it take?

Opposing forces: Ukraine had before the war an army (ground forces) of 169,000 in 2016. The Russian army (not armed forces) was 280,000. The current Ukrainian army is now probably over 200,000. The Russian army (ground forces) in and around Ukraine is probably around 150,000 (up to 190,000). Donetsk PR is estimated at 20,000 and Lugansk at 14,000. Russia may be able to add more forces from their own resources, but not much more. If they want to add more, they are going to have to mobilize. Russia appears to be hesitant to do so. I suspect with full mobilization; we could be looking at a Ukrainian army larger than 300,000. At some point, Russia will have to mobilize to continue this war. Right now, there is talk about Putin declaring war on Ukraine. This is almost certainly related to this point, as he probably is going to need to mobilize if Russia is going to continue this war.

The Russian Home Front: Latest video from Moscow: (20+) Facebook

The discussion of the home front and the economic situation in Russia is reported in a separate blog post: The Home Fronts during the Russo-Ukranian War | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org)

Casualties: Ukraine admitted on 29 April that they have suffered “serious losses” in battles. We take that claim at face value. They also claim that Russian losses are “colossal.” That claim has not been confirmed. Zelensky told CNN on 15 April that Ukrainian Army had lost between 2,500-3,000 troops since the fighting has begun and about 10,000 have been wounded (wounded-to-killed ratio of 4.00- or 3.33-to-1). If Ukrainian military deaths are between 2,500 and 3,000, then I assume Russian military deaths are at least as many. Ukraine is claiming as of 19 April that 20,800 Russian and DPR soldiers have been killed, Russians are claiming as of 16 April that 23,367 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed. Are both sets of figures similarly inflated?

The UN is reporting on 4 May at least 3,280 civilians confirmed dead in the war. Of those 1,727 of the deaths are in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk with 105 in territory controlled by Russian separatists.

It is clear that more than 12,000 people have died in this conflict (1,351 (Russian Army) + at least 2,000 more (Russian Army) + 3,000 (Ukrainian Army) + 3,280 (Civilians) + 1,523 (DPR) + 600 (LPR) = 11,754). It is probably in excess of 15,000 total deaths depending on Russian military deaths and the real count of civilian losses. The number of deaths of Mariupol are unverified and unknown and could add thousands to these totals.

A more detailed discussion is provided here: Losses during the Russo-Ukrainian War of 2022 | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org)

Air Power: The Pentagon on 12 March is reporting that Russia is flying about 200 sorties a day. The Ukrainian air force has 56 operational jets flying 5 to 10 hours a day. March 22 it was reported by the U.S. that Russia flew more than 300 sorties into Ukraine. March 24 it was reported that more than 250 Russian sorties were flown, mostly around Kiev and Kharkov.

The pilot Major Stepan Tarabalka, age 29, died on 13 March piloting a MiG-29. Some claimed he was the “Ghost of Kiev.” The Ukrainians claim as of 30 April 190 Russian aircraft destroyed, and the “Ghost of Kiev” is credited with 40 kills. The videos evidence has confirmed as of 2 May that 23 Russian jets destroyed. 

Somewhat relevant (23 x 8 = 184): 

Soviet versus German kill claims at Kursk | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org)

And don’t have a publication date yet, but the publisher has the manuscript:

Aces at Kursk – Summation | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org)

Missile Defense: According to Zelenskyy the missile barrage near Lvov on 12 March consisted of 30 missiles, 8 missiles that landed and 22 missiles that were intercepted and shot down. On the morning of 16 April in the Lvov region, Ukraine claimed it downed four cruise missiles fired by Su-35s operating from Belarus. Zelensky claimed on 26 April that Russians have fired more than 1,100 missiles at Ukraine. The U.S. DOD claimed on 29 April that more than 1,950 missiles have been fired at Ukraine since the start of the war and they are currently firing about 50 a day.

End of the War: It does look like Russia intends to take and hold onto all of Donetsk and Lugansk provinces, and possibly all of Kherson province and four-fifths of Zaporizhzhia province. The capital Zaporizhzhia (pop. 722,713) may not be on their list of areas to take. So, four out of Ukraine’s 24 provinces and Crimea.

Populations of partly or completely occupied areas (2019 estimates):

Donetsk: 4,165,901

Lugansk: 2,151,833

Crimea: 2,033,700 (2001 census)

Zaporizhzhia: 1,705,836

Kherson: 1,037,640

Sevastopol: 509,992 (2021 estimate)

 

Population of Ukraine (excluding Crimea), 2022 estimate: 41,167,336

What they are willing to later negotiate away to achieve peace or a ceasefire is unknown. What Ukraine is willing to negotiate away is also unknown, although they are now saying the war will continue until all areas are freed. Does that include the LPR, DPR and Crimea? When they are ready to return to talks is unknown. This is beginning to look like an extended war.

Atrocities: The stories coming out of Bucha are pretty appalling. At least seven civilians have been reported killed in incidents not related to combat, 18 civilians were found dead in a basement, and another 20 civilians were found lying dead in the street, two with hands bound. The mayor of Bucha says they were executed. There are other claims scattered about Ukraine. How extensive and widespread this is still not certain, but this appears to be well beyond what one would expect from “collateral damage” from combat, and some appears to be deliberate. It does indicate, as a minimum, a lack of military discipline in some Russian units. This story is continually being updated right now. The latest figure (12 April) is that 403 civilians were killed in Bucha. The deputy mayor of Bucha says that 50 of the victims have been confirmed as extrajudicially executed. Additional reports from Ukraine have put the body count of civilians found in the towns and villages surround Kiev at 1,222. This has not been independently confirmed. Ukraine has identified ten Russian soldiers wanted for “pre-mediated murder” in Bucha. They are all enlisted from the 64th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade. These are the first charges unveiled of over 8,000 criminal investigations. The U.S. is claiming it has “credible information” of Russians killing Ukrainians in the vicinity of Donetsk who were trying to surrender.

There are also various accusations against the Russian Army Chechen unit operating around Bucha: Brutal Sect of Putin’s Army Accused of Murdering Their Own Comrades.

There is also a video out there of Ukrainian soldiers shooting several Russian prisoners in their legs. There is a second video showing Ukrainian troops executing what appears to be four Russian prisoners seven miles SW of Bucha. See: https://news.yahoo.com/video-appears-show-ukrainian-soldiers-192219323.html. More detailed description from BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/61025388. It is on youtube, if you want to look it up. I believe they are members of the Georgian Legion, a group of Georgian volunteers fighting for Ukraine.

There are also some retribution killings going on: Ukrainian Chief Intelligence Directorate: another traitor of Ukraine found shot.

Other Issues: Azerbaijani troops have occupied an area in Nagorno-Karabakh that they are claiming is theirs. The Russian peacekeeping troops there have not expelled them. Widespread protests in Armenia this weekend over Nagorno-Karabakh followed by 180 detentions. There were more protests this Sunday and another 237 protesters were detained.

Finland and Sweden are seriously discussing joining NATO later this year. They are rumored to be submitting their applications together by 22 May. I assume NATO will welcome them with open arms.

Ukraine may be on the fast track to join the European Union (which was the issue that started all the turmoil in 2013). EU member Austria has objected. All EU members must unanimously agree for a country’s membership negotiations to begin.

The Map: The attached map is from Wikipedia. It is dated 6 May. They are showing Popasna in Russian control, which does not match with the reports I have seen which clearly reports Popasna in Ukrainian hands and being shelled. There appears to be no updates to the map in the last six or so days.

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
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Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
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His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
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Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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