Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

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FTR#1234 How Many Lies Before You Belong to The Lie?, Part 7

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“Polit­i­cal language…is designed to make lies sound truth­ful and mur­der respectable, and to give an appear­ance of solid­i­ty to pure wind.”

— George Orwell, 1946

­­­FTR#1234 This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

EVERYTHING MR. EMORY HAS BEEN SAYING ABOUT THE UKRAINE WAR IS ENCAPSULATED IN THIS VIDEO FROM UKRAINE 24

Intro­duc­tion: This pro­gram con­tin­ues our cov­er­age of the Ukraine War, embod­ied by the quote from Mort Sahl that is the title of this series.

We begin with an arti­cle which embod­ies Mr. Emory’s analy­sis of the war and its atten­dant cov­er­age as a “philoso­pher’s stone,” effect­ing an alchem­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion of the U.S., the West in gen­er­al and most of the peo­ple and insti­tu­tions in them into what might be called “the embod­i­ment of the Ukrain­ian Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry.”

Golinkin penned an op-ed piece for The New York Times in which he men­tioned none of what he spoke about three years ago. Instead, he repeat­ed anti-Sovi­et and/or anti-Russ­ian mate­r­i­al which is prac­ti­cal­ly insti­tu­tion­al­ized at this point.

At the end of his Nation piece, Golinkin gave voice to a very impor­tant insight: ” . . . . By tol­er­at­ing neo-Nazi gangs and bat­tal­ions, state-led Holo­caust dis­tor­tion, and attacks on LGBT and the Roma, the Unit­ed States is telling the rest of Europe: ‘We’re fine with this.’ The implications—especially at a time of a glob­al far-right revival—are pro­found­ly dis­turb­ing. . . .”

Note also, that the Ukraine Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry has des­ig­nat­ed the mem­bers of the SS Gali­cian Divi­sion (pic­tured at right, below, as vic­tims: ” . . . . The recu­per­a­tion even extends to SS Galichi­na, a Ukrain­ian divi­sion of the Waf­fen-SS; the direc­tor of the Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry pro­claimed that the SS fight­ers were ‘war vic­tims.’. . . .”

Oleh Tihany­bok, leader of the OUN/B suc­ces­sor orga­ni­za­tion Svo­bo­da.

Points of analy­sis and dis­cus­sion in Golink­in’s old­er work include:

* The ele­va­tion of the neo-Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion that was for­mal­ly incor­po­rat­ed into Ukraine’s armed forces yet remains a neo-Nazi bat­tal­ion.
* Azov is now engaged in polic­ing with its Nation­al Druzhi­na street patrol units that have engaged in anti-Roma pogroms.
* Azov’s cam­paign to turn Ukraine into an inter­na­tion­al hub of white suprema­cy.
* Andriy Parubiy’s role in cre­at­ing Ukraine’s Nazi Par­ty that he con­tin­ues to embrace and that’s rou­tine­ly ignored as he has become the par­lia­ment speak­er.
* The deputy min­is­ter of the Interior—which con­trols the Nation­al Police—is a vet­er­an of Azov, Vadim Troy­an.
* Gov­ern­ment spon­sor­ship of his­tor­i­cal revi­sion­ism and holo­caust denial though agen­cies like Ukrain­ian Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry. It is now ille­gal to speak unfa­vor­ably of the OUN/B or the UPA, both of which were Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tionist orga­ni­za­tions  with bloody, lethal his­to­ries.
* Torch­light parades are now nor­mal.
* With­in sev­er­al years, an entire gen­er­a­tion will be indoc­tri­nat­ed to wor­ship Holo­caust per­pe­tra­tors as nation­al heroes.
* Books that crit­i­cize the now-glo­ri­fied WWII Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors like Stepan Ban­dera are get­ting banned.
* Pub­lic offi­cials make threats against Ukraine’s Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty with no reper­cus­sions.
* The neo-Nazi C14’s street patrol gangs are both respon­si­ble for anti-Roma pogroms and also the recip­i­ent of gov­ern­ment funds to run a children’s edu­ca­tion­al camp. Last Octo­ber, C14 leader Ser­hiy Bon­dar was wel­comed at Amer­i­ca House Kyiv, a cen­ter run by the US gov­ern­ment.
* It’s open sea­son on the LGBT com­mu­ni­ty and far right groups rou­tine­ly attack LGBT gath­er­ings.
* Ukraine is extreme­ly dan­ger­ous for jour­nal­ists and the gov­ern­ment has sup­port­ed the doxxing and intim­i­da­tion of jour­nal­ist by the far right like Myrovorets group.
* The gov­ern­ment is try­ing to repeal laws pro­tect­ing the many minor­i­ty lan­guages used in Ukraine.

And yet, as the arti­cle notes at the end, its many exam­ples were just a small sam­pling of what has tran­spired in Ukraine since 2014:

The con­clu­sion of the pro­gram entails dis­cus­sion that is pre­sent­ed at greater length HEREIt is han­dled in the next pro­gram, already record­ed, but not yet avail­able.

Mod­ern Times: Cel­e­bra­tion of the 75th Anniver­sary of the 14th Waf­fen SS Divi­sion in Lviv, Ukraine in sum­mer of 2018. THIS is what lurks beneath the thin facade of Zelen­sky’s democ­ra­cy.

1. Next, we con­clude the read­ing of an arti­cle (from the pre­vi­ous pro­gram) which embod­ies Mr. Emory’s analy­sis of the war and its atten­dant cov­er­age as a “philoso­pher’s stone,” effect­ing an alchem­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion of the U.S., the West in gen­er­al and most of the peo­ple and insti­tu­tions in them into what might be called “the embod­i­ment of the Ukrain­ian Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry.”

Golinkin penned an op-ed piece for The New York Times in which he men­tioned none of what he spoke about three years ago. Instead, he repeat­ed anti-Sovi­et and/or anti-Russ­ian mate­r­i­al which is prac­ti­cal­ly insti­tu­tion­al­ized at this point.

At the end of his Nation piece, Golinkin gave voice to a very impor­tant insight: ” . . . . By tol­er­at­ing neo-Nazi gangs and bat­tal­ions, state-led Holo­caust dis­tor­tion, and attacks on LGBT and the Roma, the Unit­ed States is telling the rest of Europe: ‘We’re fine with this.’ The implications—especially at a time of a glob­al far-right revival—are pro­found­ly dis­turb­ing. . . .”

Points of analy­sis and dis­cus­sion in Golink­in’s old­er work include:

* The ele­va­tion of the neo-Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion that was for­mal­ly incor­po­rat­ed into Ukraine’s armed forces yet remains a neo-Nazi bat­tal­ion.
* Azov is now engaged in polic­ing with its Nation­al Druzhi­na street patrol units that have engaged in anti-Roma pogroms.
* Azov’s cam­paign to turn Ukraine into an inter­na­tion­al hub of white suprema­cy.
* Andriy Parubiy’s role in cre­at­ing Ukraine’s Nazi Par­ty that he con­tin­ues to embrace and that’s rou­tine­ly ignored as he has become the par­lia­ment speak­er.
* The deputy min­is­ter of the Interior—which con­trols the Nation­al Police—is a vet­er­an of Azov, Vadim Troy­an.
* Gov­ern­ment spon­sor­ship of his­tor­i­cal revi­sion­ism and holo­caust denial though agen­cies like Ukrain­ian Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry. It is now ille­gal to speak unfa­vor­ably of the OUN/B or the UPA, both of which were Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tionist orga­ni­za­tions  with bloody, lethal his­to­ries.
* Torch­light parades are now nor­mal.
* With­in sev­er­al years, an entire gen­er­a­tion will be indoc­tri­nat­ed to wor­ship Holo­caust per­pe­tra­tors as nation­al heroes.
* Books that crit­i­cize the now-glo­ri­fied WWII Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors like Stepan Ban­dera are get­ting banned.
* Pub­lic offi­cials make threats against Ukraine’s Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty with no reper­cus­sions.
* The neo-Nazi C14’s street patrol gangs are both respon­si­ble for anti-Roma pogroms and also the recip­i­ent of gov­ern­ment funds to run a children’s edu­ca­tion­al camp. Last Octo­ber, C14 leader Ser­hiy Bon­dar was wel­comed at Amer­i­ca House Kyiv, a cen­ter run by the US gov­ern­ment.
* It’s open sea­son on the LGBT com­mu­ni­ty and far right groups rou­tine­ly attack LGBT gath­er­ings.
* Ukraine is extreme­ly dan­ger­ous for jour­nal­ists and the gov­ern­ment has sup­port­ed the doxxing and intim­i­da­tion of jour­nal­ist by the far right like Myrovorets group.
* The gov­ern­ment is try­ing to repeal laws pro­tect­ing the many minor­i­ty lan­guages used in Ukraine.

And yet, as the arti­cle notes at the end, its many exam­ples were just a small sam­pling of what has tran­spired in Ukraine since 2014:

“Neo-Nazis and the Far Right Are On the March in Ukraine” by Lev Golinkin; The Nation; 02/22/2019.

Five years ago, Ukraine’s Maid­an upris­ing oust­ed Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych, to the cheers and sup­port of the West. Politi­cians and ana­lysts in the Unit­ed States and Europe not only cel­e­brat­ed the upris­ing as a tri­umph of democ­ra­cy, but denied reports of Maidan’s ultra­na­tion­al­ism, smear­ing those who warned about the dark side of the upris­ing as Moscow pup­pets and use­ful idiots. Free­dom was on the march in Ukraine.

Today, increas­ing reports of far-right vio­lence, ultra­na­tion­al­ism, and ero­sion of basic free­doms are giv­ing the lie to the West’s ini­tial eupho­ria. There are neo-Nazi pogroms against the Roma, ram­pant attacks on fem­i­nists and LGBT groups, book bans, and state-spon­sored glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors.

These sto­ries of Ukraine’s dark nation­al­ism aren’t com­ing out of Moscow; they’re being filed by West­ern media, includ­ing US-fund­ed Radio Free Europe (RFE); Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tions such as the World Jew­ish Con­gress and the Simon Wiesen­thal Cen­ter; and watch­dogs like Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al, Human Rights Watch, and Free­dom House, which issued a joint report warn­ing that Kiev is los­ing the monop­oly on the use of force in the coun­try as far-right gangs oper­ate with impuni­ty.

Five years after Maid­an, the bea­con of democ­ra­cy is look­ing more like a torch­light march.

A neo-Nazi bat­tal­ion in the heart of Europe

Vol­un­teer Ukrain­ian Unit Includes Nazis.”—USA Today, March 10, 2015

The DC establishment’s stan­dard defense of Kiev is to point out that Ukraine’s far right has a small­er per­cent­age of seats in the par­lia­ment than their coun­ter­parts in places like France. That’s a spu­ri­ous argu­ment: What Ukraine’s far right lacks in polls num­bers, it makes up for with things Marine Le Pen could only dream of—paramilitary units and free rein on the streets.

Post-Maid­an Ukraine is the world’s only nation to have a neo-Nazi for­ma­tion in its armed forces. The Azov Bat­tal­ion was ini­tial­ly formed out of the neo-Nazi gang Patri­ot of Ukraine. Andriy Bilet­sky, the gang’s leader who became Azov’s com­man­der, once wrote that Ukraine’s mis­sion is to “lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade…against the Semi­te-led Unter­men­schen.” Bilet­sky is now a deputy in Ukraine’s par­lia­ment.

In the fall of 2014, Azov—which is accused of human-rights abus­es, includ­ing tor­ture, by Human Rights Watchand the Unit­ed Nations—was incor­po­rat­ed into Ukraine’s Nation­al Guard.

While the group offi­cial­ly denies any neo-Nazi con­nec­tions, Azov’s nature has been con­firmed by mul­ti­ple West­ern out­lets: The New York Times called the bat­tal­ion“open­ly neo-Nazi,” while USA TodayThe Dai­ly BeastThe Tele­graph, and Haaretzdoc­u­ment­ed group mem­bers’ pro­cliv­i­ty for swastikas, salutes, and oth­er Nazi sym­bols, and indi­vid­ual fight­ers have also acknowl­edged being neo-Nazis.

In Jan­u­ary 2018, Azov rolled out its Nation­al Druzhi­nastreet patrol unit whose mem­bers swore per­son­al feal­ty to Bilet­sky and pledged to “restore Ukrain­ian order” to the streets. The Druzhi­na quick­ly dis­tin­guished itself by car­ry­ing out pogroms against the Roma and LGBTorga­ni­za­tions and storm­ing a munic­i­pal coun­cil. Ear­li­er this year, Kiev announced the storm­ing unit will be mon­i­tor­ing polls in next month’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

In 2017, Con­gress­man Ro Khan­na led the effort to ban Azov from receiv­ing U.S. arms and train­ing. But the dam­age has already been done: The research group Belling­cat proved that Azov had already received access to Amer­i­can grenade launch­ers, while a Dai­ly Beast inves­ti­ga­tion showed that US train­ers are unable to pre­vent aid from reach­ing white suprema­cists. And Azov itself had proud­ly post­ed a video of the unit wel­com­ing NATO rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

(Azov isn’t the only far-right for­ma­tion to get West­ern affir­ma­tion. In Decem­ber 2014, Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al accused the Dnipro‑1 bat­tal­ion of poten­tial war crimes, includ­ing “using star­va­tion of civil­ians as a method of war­fare.” Six months lat­er, Sen­a­tor John McCain vis­it­ed and praised the bat­tal­ion.)

Par­tic­u­lar­ly con­cern­ing is Azov’s cam­paign to trans­form Ukraine into a hub for transna­tion­al white suprema­cy. The unit has recruit­ed neo-Nazis from Ger­many, the UKBrazilSwe­den, and Amer­i­ca; last Octo­ber, the FBI arrest­ed four Cal­i­for­nia white suprema­cists who had alleged­ly received train­ing from Azov. This is a clas­sic exam­ple of blow­back: US sup­port of rad­i­cals abroad ric­o­chet­ing to hit Amer­i­ca.

Far right ties to gov­ern­ment

Ukrain­ian police declare admi­ra­tion for Nazi collaborators”—RFE, Feb­ru­ary 13, 2019

Speak­er of Par­lia­ment Andriy Paru­biycofound­ed and led two neo-Nazi orga­ni­za­tions: the Social-Nation­al Par­ty of Ukraine(lat­er renamed Svo­bo­da), and Patri­ot of Ukraine, whose mem­bers would even­tu­al­ly form the core of Azov.

Although Paru­biy left the far right in the ear­ly 2000’s, he hasn’t reject­ed his past. When asked about it in a 2016 inter­view, Paru­biy replied that his “val­ues” haven’t changed. Paru­biy, whose auto­bi­og­ra­phy shows him march­ing with the neo-Nazi wolf­san­gel sym­bol used by Aryan Nationsreg­u­lar­ly meets with Wash­ing­ton think tanksand politi­cians; his neo-Nazi back­ground is ignored or out­right denied.

Even more dis­turb­ing is the far right’s pen­e­tra­tion of law enforce­ment. Short­ly after Maid­an, the US equipped and trainedthe new­ly found­ed Nation­al Police, in what was intend­ed to be a hall­mark pro­gram but­tress­ing Ukrain­ian democ­ra­cy.

The deputy min­is­ter of the Interior—which con­trols the Nation­al Police—is Vadim Troy­an, a vet­er­an of Azov and Patri­ot of Ukraine. In 2014, when Troy­an was being con­sid­ered for police chief of Kiev, Ukrain­ian Jew­ish lead­ers were appalled by his neo-Nazi back­ground. Today, he’s deputy of the depart­ment run­ning US-trained law enforce­ment in the entire nation.

Ear­li­er this month, RFE report­edon Nation­al Police lead­er­ship admir­ing Stepan Bandera—a Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor and Fas­cist whose troops par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Holocaust—on social media.

The fact that Ukraine’s police is pep­pered with far-right sup­port­ers explains why neo-Nazis oper­ate with impuni­ty on the streets.

State-spon­sored glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors

Ukrain­ian extrem­ists cel­e­brate Ukrain­ian Nazi SS divisions…in the mid­dle of a major Ukrain­ian city”—Anti-Defama­tion League Direc­tor of Euro­pean Affairs, April 28, 2018

It’s not just the mil­i­tary and street gangs: Ukraine’s far right has suc­cess­ful­ly hijacked the post-Maid­an gov­ern­ment to impose an intol­er­ant and ultra­na­tion­al­ist cul­ture over the land.

In 2015, the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment passed leg­is­la­tion mak­ing two WWII paramilitaries—the Orga­ni­za­tion of Ukrain­ian Nation­al­ists (OUN) and the Ukrain­ian Insur­gent Army (UPA)—heroes of Ukraine, and made it a crim­i­nal offenseto deny their hero­ism. The OUN had col­lab­o­rat­ed with the Nazis and par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Holo­caust, while the UPA slaugh­tered thou­sands of Jews and 70,000–100,000 Poles on their own voli­tion.

The gov­ern­ment-fund­ed Ukrain­ian Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry is insti­tu­tion­al­iz­ing the white­wash­ing of Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors. Last sum­mer, the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment fea­tured an exhib­itcom­mem­o­rat­ing the OUN’s 1941 procla­ma­tion of coop­er­a­tion with the Third Reich (imag­ine the French gov­ern­ment installing an exhib­it cel­e­brat­ing the Vichy state!).

Torch­light march­es in hon­or of OUN/UPA lead­ers like Roman Shukhevych (a com­man­der in a Third Reich aux­il­iary bat­tal­ion) are a reg­u­lar fea­ture of the new Ukraine. The recu­per­a­tion even extends to SS Galichi­na, a Ukrain­ian divi­sion of the Waf­fen-SS; the direc­tor of the Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry pro­claimed that the SS fight­ers were “war vic­tims.” The government’s embrace of Ban­dera is not only deplorable, but also extreme­ly divi­sive, con­sid­er­ing the OUN/UPA are reviledin east­ern Ukraine.

Pre­dictably, the cel­e­bra­tion of Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors has accom­pa­nied a rise in out­right anti-Semi­tism.

Jews Out!” chant­ed thou­sands dur­ing a Jan­u­ary 2017 march hon­or­ing OUN leader Ban­dera. (The next day the police denied hear­ing any­thing anti-Semit­ic.) That sum­mer, a three-day fes­ti­valcel­e­brat­ing the Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor Shukhevych capped off with the fire­bomb­ing of a syn­a­gogue. In Novem­ber 2017, RFE report­ed Nazi salutes as 20,000 marched in hon­or of the UPA. And last April, hun­dreds marched in L’viv with coor­di­nat­ed Nazi salutes hon­or­ing SS Galichi­na; the march was pro­mot­edby the L’viv region­al gov­ern­ment.

The Holo­caust revi­sion­ism is a mul­ti-pronged effort, rang­ing from gov­ern­ment-fund­ed sem­i­narsbrochures, and board games, to the pro­lif­er­a­tion of plaquesstat­ues, and streetsrenamed after butch­ers of Jews, to far-right chil­dren camps, where youth are incul­cat­ed with ultra­na­tion­al­ist ide­ol­o­gy.

With­in sev­er­al years, an entire gen­er­a­tion will be indoc­tri­nat­ed to wor­ship Holo­caust per­pe­tra­tors as nation­al heroes.

Book bans

No state should be allowed to inter­fere in the writ­ing of his­to­ry.”—British his­to­ri­an Antony Beevor, after his award-win­ning book was banned in Ukraine, The Tele­graph, Jan­u­ary 23, 2018

Ukraine’s State Com­mit­tee for Tele­vi­sion and Radio Broad­cast­ing is enforc­ing the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Ukraine’s new heroes by ban­ning“anti-Ukrain­ian” lit­er­a­ture that goes against the gov­ern­ment nar­ra­tive. This ide­o­log­i­cal cen­sor­ship includes acclaimed books by West­ern authors.

In Jan­u­ary 2018, Ukraine made inter­na­tion­al head­lines by ban­ning Stal­in­grad by award-win­ning British his­to­ri­an Antony Beevor because of a sin­gle para­graphabout a Ukrain­ian unit mas­sacring 90 Jew­ish chil­dren dur­ing World War II. In Decem­ber, Kiev bannedThe Book Thieves by Swedish author Anders Rydell (which, iron­i­cal­ly, is about the Nazis’ sup­pres­sion of lit­er­a­ture) because he men­tioned troops loy­al to Symon Petliu­ra (an ear­ly 20th-cen­tu­ry nation­al­ist leader) had slaugh­tered Jews.

This month, the Ukrain­ian embassy in Wash­ing­ton export­ed this intol­er­ance to Amer­i­ca by brazen­ly demand­ing the Unit­ed States ban a Russ­ian movie from Amer­i­can the­aters. Appar­ent­ly, the bil­lions Wash­ing­ton invest­ed in pro­mot­ing democ­ra­cy in Ukraine have failed to teach Kiev basic con­cepts of free speech.

Anti-Semi­tism

“I’m telling you one more time—go to hell, kikes. The Ukrain­ian peo­ple have had it to here with you.”—Security ser­vices reserve gen­er­al Vasi­ly Vovk, May 11, 2017

Unsur­pris­ing­ly, gov­ern­ment-led glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Holo­caust per­pe­tra­tors was a green light for oth­er forms of anti-Semi­tism. The past three years saw an explo­sion of swastikas and SS runes on city streets, death threats, and van­dal­ism of Holo­caustmemo­ri­als, Jew­ish cen­tersceme­ter­iestombs, and places of wor­ship, all of which led Israel to take the unusu­al step of pub­licly urg­ing Kiev to address the epi­dem­ic.

Pub­lic offi­cials make anti-Semit­ic threats with no reper­cus­sions. These include: a secu­ri­ty ser­vices gen­er­al promis­ing to elim­i­nate the zhi­di (a slur equiv­a­lent to ‘kikes’); a par­lia­ment deputy going off on an anti-Semit­ic rant on tele­vi­sion; a far-right politi­cian lament­ing Hitler didn’t fin­ish offthe Jews; and an ultra­na­tion­al­ist leader vow­ing to cleanse Odessa of zhi­di.

For the first few years after Maid­an, Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tions large­ly refrained from crit­i­ciz­ing Ukraine, per­haps in the hope Kiev would address the issue on its own. But by 2018, the increas­ing fre­quen­cy of anti-Semit­ic inci­dents led Jew­ish groups to break their silence.

Last year, the Israeli government’s annu­al reporton anti-Semi­tism heav­i­ly fea­tured Ukraine, which had more inci­dents than all post-Sovi­et states com­bined. The World Jew­ish Con­gress, the US Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al Muse­um, and 57 mem­bersof the US Con­gress all vocif­er­ous­ly con­demned Kiev’s Nazi glo­ri­fi­ca­tion and the con­comi­tant anti-Semi­tism.

Ukrain­ian Jew­ish lead­ers are also speak­ing out. In 2017, the direc­tor of one of Ukraine’s largest Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tions pub­lished a New York Times op-ed urg­ing the West to address Kiev’s white­wash­ing. Last year, 41 Ukrain­ian Jew­ish lead­ers denounced the growth of anti-Semi­tism. That’s espe­cial­ly telling, giv­en that many Ukrain­ian Jew­ish lead­ers sup­port­ed the Maid­an upris­ing.

None of these con­cerns have been addressed in any mean­ing­ful way.

Roma pogroms

“‘They want­ed to kill us’: masked neo-fas­cists strike fear into Ukraine’s Roma.”—The Guardian , August 27, 2018

Ukraine’s far right has resist­ed car­ry­ing out out­right attacks on Jews; oth­er vul­ner­a­ble groups haven’t been so lucky.

Last spring, a lethal wave of anti-Roma pogroms swept through Ukraine, with at least six attacks in two months. Footage from the pogroms evokes the 1930s: Armed thugs attack women and chil­dren while raz­ing their camps. At least one man was killed, while oth­ers, includ­ing a child, were stabbed.

Two gangs behind the attacks—C14 and the Nation­al Druzhi­na—felt com­fort­able enough to proud­ly post pogrom videos on social mediaThat’s not sur­pris­ing, con­sid­er­ing that the Nation­al Druzhi­na is part of Azov, while the neo-Nazi C14 receives gov­ern­ment fund­ing for “edu­ca­tion­al” pro­grams. Last Octo­ber, C14 leader Ser­hiy Bon­dar was wel­comed at Amer­i­ca House Kyiv, a cen­ter run by the US gov­ern­ment.

Appeals from inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions and the US embassy fell on deaf ears: Months after the Unit­ed Nations demand­ed Kiev end “sys­tem­at­ic per­se­cu­tion” of the Roma, a human-rights group report­ed C14 were alleged­ly intim­i­dat­ing Roma in a jointpatrol with the Kiev police.

LGBT and Women’s‑rights groups

“‘It’s even worse than before’: How the ‘Rev­o­lu­tion of Dig­ni­ty’ Failed LGBT Ukraini­ans.”—RFE, Novem­ber 21, 2018

In 2016, after pres­sure from the US Con­gress, the Kiev gov­ern­ment began pro­vid­ing secu­ri­ty for the annu­al Kiev Pride parade. How­ev­er, this increas­ing­ly looks like a Potemkin affair: two hours of pro­tec­tion, with wide­spread attacks on LGBT indi­vid­u­als and gath­er­ings dur­ing the rest of the year. Nation­al­ist groups have tar­get­ed LGBT meet­ings with impuni­ty, going so far as to shut down an event host­ed by Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al as well as assault a West­ern jour­nal­ist at a trans­gen­der rights ral­ly. Women’s‑rights march­es have also been tar­get­ed, includ­ing brazen attacks in March.

Attacks on press

“The Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists con­demns a Ukrain­ian law enforce­ment raid at the Kiev offices of Media Hold­ing Vesti…more than a dozen masked offi­cers ripped open doors with crow­bars, seized prop­er­ty, and fired tear gas in the offices.”—The Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists, Feb­ru­ary 9, 2018

In May 2016, Myrotvorets, an ultra­na­tion­al­ist web­site with links to the gov­ern­ment, pub­lished  the per­son­al data of thou­sands of jour­nal­ists who had obtained accred­i­ta­tion from Rus­sia-backed rebels in east­ern Ukraine. Myrotvorets labeled the jour­nal­ists “ter­ror­ist col­lab­o­ra­tors.”

A gov­ern­ment-tied web­site declar­ing open sea­son on jour­nal­ists would be dan­ger­ous any­where, but it is espe­cial­ly so in Ukraine, which has a dis­turb­ing track record of jour­nal­ist assas­si­na­tions. This includes Oles Buz­i­na, gunned down in 2015, and Pavel Sheremet, assas­si­nat­ed by car bomb a year lat­er.

The Myrotvorets dox­ing was denounced by West­ern reporters, the Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists, and ambas­sadorsfrom the G7 nations. In response, Kiev offi­cials, includ­ing Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Arsen Avakov, praised the site: “This is your choice to coop­er­ate with occu­py­ing forces,” Avakov told jour­nal­ists, while post­ing“I Sup­port Myrotvorets” on Face­book. Myrotvorets remains oper­a­tional today.

Last fall brought anoth­er attack on the media, this time using the courts. The Pros­e­cu­tor General’s office was grant­ed a war­rant to seize records of RFE anti-cor­rup­tion reporter Natal­ie Sedlet­s­ka. An RFE spokes­woman warned that Kiev’s actions cre­at­ed “a chill­ing atmos­phere for jour­nal­ists,” while par­lia­ment deputy Mustafa Nayyem called it “an exam­ple of creep­ing dic­ta­tor­ship.”

Lan­guage laws

“[Prime Min­is­ter Arseniy Yat­senyuk] also made a per­son­al appeal to Russ­ian-speak­ing Ukraini­ans, pledg­ing to support…a spe­cial sta­tus to the Russ­ian lan­guage.”—US Sec­re­tary of State John Ker­ryApril 24, 2014

Ukraine is extra­or­di­nar­i­ly mul­ti­lin­gual: In addi­tion to the mil­lions of Russ­ian-speak­ing east­ern Ukraini­ans, there are areas where Hun­gar­i­an, Roman­ian, and oth­er tongues are preva­lent. These lan­guages were pro­tect­ed by a 2012 region­al-lan­guage law.

The post-Maid­an gov­ern­ment alarmed Russ­ian-speak­ing Ukraini­ans by attempt­ing to annul that law. The US State Depart­ment and Sec­re­tary of State John Ker­ry sought to assuage fears in 2014 by pledg­ingthat Kiev would pro­tect the sta­tus of Russ­ian. Those promis­es came to naught.

A 2017 law man­dat­ed that sec­ondary edu­ca­tion be con­duct­ed strict­ly in Ukrain­ian, which infu­ri­at­edHun­gary, Roma­nia, Bul­gar­ia, and Greece. Sev­er­al regions passed leg­is­la­tion ban­ningthe use of Russ­ian in pub­lic life. Quo­tas enforce Ukrain­ian usage on TV and radio. (This would be akin to Wash­ing­ton forc­ing Span­ish-lan­guage media to broad­cast most­ly in Eng­lish.)

And in Feb­ru­ary 2018, Ukraine’s supreme court struck down the 2012 region­al lan­guage law—the one Ker­ry promised east­ern Ukraini­ans would stay in effect.

Cur­rent­ly, Kiev is prepar­ing to pass a dra­con­ian law that would man­date the use of Ukrain­ian in most aspects of pub­lic life. It’s anoth­er exam­ple of Kiev alien­at­ing mil­lions of its own cit­i­zens, while claim­ing to embrace West­ern val­ues.

The price of will­ful blind­ness

These exam­ples are only a tiny frac­tion of Ukraine’s slide toward intol­er­ance, but they should be enough to point out the obvi­ous: Washington’s deci­sion to ignore the pro­lif­er­a­tion of armed neo-Nazi groups in a high­ly unsta­ble nation only led to them gain­ing more pow­er.

In essay after essay, DC for­eign-pol­i­cy heads have denied or cel­e­brat­ed the influ­ence of Ukraine’s far right. (Curi­ous­ly, the same ana­lysts vocif­er­ous­ly denounce ris­ing nation­al­ism in Hun­gary, Poland, and Italy as high­ly dan­ger­ous.) Per­haps think-tankers delud­ed them­selves into think­ing Kiev’s far-right phase would tuck­er itself out. More like­ly, they sim­ply embraced DC’s go-to strat­e­gy of “my enemy’s ene­my is my friend.” Either way, the ram­i­fi­ca­tions stretch far beyond Ukraine.

America’s back­ing of the Maid­an upris­ing, along with the bil­lions DC sinks into post-Maid­an Kiev, make it clear: Start­ing Feb­ru­ary 2014, Ukraine became Washington’s lat­est democ­ra­cy-spread­ing project. What we per­mit in Ukraine sends a green light to oth­ers.

By tol­er­at­ing neo-Nazi gangs and bat­tal­ions, state-led Holo­caust dis­tor­tion, and attacks on LGBT and the Roma, the Unit­ed States is telling the rest of Europe: “We’re fine with this.” The implications—especially at a time of a glob­al far-right revival—are pro­found­ly dis­turb­ing.

2. Indica­tive of the degree of media manip­u­la­tion is the heavy spin­ning of the nature of Pravy Sek­tor, one of the OUN/B suc­ces­sor orga­ni­za­tions dom­i­nat­ing the nation­al secu­ri­ty appa­ra­tus in Ukraine. Zelen­sky char­ac­ter­ized this action as an ISIS-style kid­nap­ping.

” . . . . The Luhan­sk pros­e­cu­tor’s office claimed that Fedorov was a mem­ber of the ‘Right Sec­tor.’ CNN has pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed that the group is a Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist para­mil­i­tary and polit­i­cal group that oper­ates in Ukraine. It has an anti-Russ­ian stance, but inde­pen­dent observers say it’s not the fas­cist threat that Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin claims it to be. . . .”

“Rus­sia-Ukraine News” by Adi­ti San­galAdri­enne VogtMeg Wag­n­er, Melis­sa Macaya, Julia HollingsworthJessie Yeung, Adam Ren­ton, Jee­van Ravin­dran and Jason Kurtz; CNN; 3/11/2012.

The may­or of Meli­topol, Ivan Fedorov, was seen on video being led away by armed men from a gov­ern­ment build­ing in the city on Fri­day, and the pros­e­cu­tor’s office for the sep­a­ratist Rus­sia-backed Luhan­sk region now says they are weigh­ing ter­ror­ism charges against him. 

Fedorov’s deten­tion by the armed men is the first known instance of a Ukrain­ian polit­i­cal offi­cial being detained and inves­ti­gat­ed by Russ­ian or Russ­ian-backed forces since the inva­sion began.

Accord­ing to a mes­sage on the Luhan­sk pros­e­cu­tor’s web­site, Fedorov is being accused of assist­ing and financ­ing ter­ror­ist activ­i­ties and being part of a crim­i­nal com­mu­ni­ty.

The Luhan­sk pros­e­cu­tor’s office claimed that Fedorov was a mem­ber of the “Right Sec­tor.” CNN has pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed that the group is a Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist para­mil­i­tary and polit­i­cal group that oper­ates in Ukraine. It has an anti-Russ­ian stance, but inde­pen­dent observers say it’s not the fas­cist threat that Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin claims it to be.

The pros­e­cu­tor’s office claims “Right Sec­tor” has con­duct­ed ter­ror­is­tic acts against civil­ians in the Don­bas region with­out pro­vid­ing any details. 

Local media, cit­ing con­ver­sa­tions with the Meli­topol City Coun­cil, con­firmed that the man being led away in the video was Fedorov. 

CNN has geolo­cat­ed and ver­i­fied the authen­tic­i­ty of the video. . . .

3. Guardian article–between the lines–admits the pres­ence of these lab­o­ra­to­ries. This issue is han­dled at length and in detail in the next pro­gram.

“What are Russia’s bio­log­i­cal weapons claims and what’s actu­al­ly hap­pen­ing?” by Ed Pilk­ing­ton; The Guardian; 3/11/2022.

The UN secu­ri­ty coun­cil met on Fri­day to dis­cuss Moscow’s claims the US is fund­ing ‘mil­i­tary bio­log­i­cal activ­i­ties’ in Ukraine

The UN secu­ri­ty coun­cil met on Fri­day at Russia’s request to dis­cuss Moscow’s claims that the US is fund­ing “mil­i­tary bio­log­i­cal activ­i­ties” in Ukraine – in oth­er words, secret­ly devel­op­ing bio­log­i­cal weapons in Ukrain­ian lab­o­ra­to­ries. The event saw some heat­ed dis­cus­sion. The Russ­ian ambas­sador to the UN, Vasi­ly Neben­zya, evoked the ter­ri­fy­ing specter of an “uncon­trolled spread of bio agents from Ukraine” across Europe. His Amer­i­can coun­ter­part, Lin­da Thomas-Green­field, warned that Russia’s claim could be a pre­text for it launch­ing its own bio­log­i­cal weapons attack on Ukraine.

So what is the dis­pute all about, and what is actu­al­ly hap­pen­ing inside Ukraine?

How did “bio labs” become the lat­est front in the Ukraine infor­ma­tion war?

Last Sun­day the Russ­ian min­istry of for­eign affairs post­ed a tweet accus­ing the US and Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ments of run­ning a secret “mil­i­tary-bio­log­i­cal pro­gramme” inside the strick­en coun­try. Moscow claimed that its invad­ing forces had dis­cov­ered evi­dence of an “emer­gency clean-up” to hide the pro­gramme.

Moscow went on to claim that it had found doc­u­ments relat­ed to the secret US oper­a­tion in lab­o­ra­to­ries in the Ukrain­ian cities of Kharkiv and Polta­va.

The alle­ga­tions were quick­ly ampli­fied by Chi­na, which sup­port­ed the claims dur­ing Friday’s UN secu­ri­ty coun­cil debate. . . .

. . . . How have the US and Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ments respond­ed? . . .

Ukraine’s ambas­sador to the world body, Sergiy Kys­lyt­sya, used more colour­ful lan­guage. He called the idea being advanced by Rus­sia “a bunch of insane delir­i­um”. . . .

So do bio labs exist inside Ukraine, and is the US sup­port­ing them?

Yes, and yes. Ukraine does oper­ate bio­log­i­cal lab­o­ra­to­ries which receive US fund­ing. The US under­sec­re­tary of state Vic­to­ria Nuland affirmed those facts in a Sen­ate for­eign rela­tions com­mit­tee hear­ing this week in which the Repub­li­can sen­a­tor Mar­co Rubio asked her direct­ly whether Ukraine had bio­log­i­cal weapons.

Nuland did not answer the ques­tion head on. “Ukraine has bio­log­i­cal research facil­i­ties,” she replied, adding that there was con­cern that Russ­ian forces were try­ing to gain con­trol of the labs. “We are work­ing with the Ukraini­ans on how they can pre­vent any of those research mate­ri­als from falling into the hands of Russ­ian forces.” . . . .

. . . . The scheme was orig­i­nal­ly known as the Coop­er­a­tive Threat Reduc­tion (CTR) pro­gramme, but is now more com­mon­ly referred to as the bio­log­i­cal engage­ment pro­gramme. It has been suc­cess­ful in sup­port­ing for­mer Sovi­et and oth­er coun­tries to ful­fil pub­lic health oblig­a­tions.

“This is one of the best things that we do,” Dr Gigi Gron­va­ll, senior schol­ar at Johns Hop­kins Cen­ter for Health Secu­ri­ty, told the Guardian.

Most of the work of the Ukraine labs today, Gron­va­ll said, involved sur­veil­lance of dis­eases in ani­mals and peo­ple as an ear­ly-warn­ing sys­tem for ill­ness­es such as African swine fever, which is endem­ic in the region. “We know pathogens don’t respect bor­ders, so help­ing to put out pub­lic health fires before they become too big is an advan­tage to all of us,” she said.

Do the Ukraine lab­o­ra­to­ries store dan­ger­ous bio­log­i­cal agents?

Yes, it appears so. As part of their work research­ing dis­eases the bio labs do seem to hold dan­ger­ous pathogens. We know that because WHO is urg­ing Ukraine to destroy any high­ly dan­ger­ous agents in its lab­o­ra­to­ries to avoid the risk of a dis­as­trous out­break should one of the labs be hit under Russ­ian attack. . .

“As part of this work, WHO has strong­ly rec­om­mend­ed to the min­istry of
health in Ukraine and oth­er respon­si­ble bod­ies to destroy high-threat
pathogens to pre­vent any poten­tial spills,” the UN health agency said.

The WHO has worked in Ukraine for sev­er­al years help­ing the bio labs improve their safe­ty and secu­ri­ty, so it knows what it is talk­ing about.

If Russ­ian claims of a secret bioweapons pro­gramme are fake news, does that mean there is noth­ing to wor­ry about?

No. In addi­tion to the threat of pathogens held in Ukrain­ian labs leak­ing out or falling into the hands of Russ­ian forces, there is the threat of Rus­sia poten­tial­ly launch­ing its own bio­log­i­cal weapons attack. The assess­ment of the US state depart­ment is that Rus­sia con­tin­ues to main­tain an offen­sive bio­log­i­cal weapons pro­gramme in vio­la­tion of the con­ven­tion that it has signed.

Ear­li­er this week, the White House press sec­re­tary, Jen Psa­ki, accused Rus­sia under Vladimir Putin of hav­ing a “long and well-doc­u­ment­ed track record” of using chem­i­cal weapons, point­ing to the poi­son­ing of the oppo­si­tion leader Alex­ei Naval­ny and Russia’s sup­port of the Syr­i­an regime while it deployed chem­i­cal weapons. She went on to warn that Moscow’s claim of a secret bio­log­i­cal weapons pro­gramme in Ukraine could in fact be lay­ing the foun­da­tions for a Russ­ian chem­i­cal or bio­log­i­cal weapons assault inside Ukraine.

That pos­si­bil­i­ty leaves even sea­soned experts rat­tled. “I hope that this is more of a dis­in­for­ma­tion talk­ing point than an actu­al thing,” Gron­va­ll said. “I guess we shall see.”

4. A char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly “spun” New York Times arti­cle dis­claims any U.S. involve­ment with bio­log­i­cal war­fare labs in Ukraine

“The­o­ry on U.S.-Funded Bioweapons Labs Is Base­less” by Lin­da Qiu; The New York Times; 3/12/2022.

. . . . Mr. Carl­son also point­ed to an inter­view with Robert Pope, the direc­tor of the Pentagon’s Coop­er­a­tive Threat Reduc­tion Pro­gram, which helps coun­tries in the for­mer Sovi­et Union secure or elim­i­nate nuclear and chem­i­cal weapons. (This pro­gram is a major fun­der of Eco­Health Alliance, as not­ed in FTR#1170.)

“As Pope put it, sci­en­tists are sci­en­tists, they don’t want to destroy all the bioweapons,” Mr. Carl­son con­tin­ued in his seg­ment. “Instead, they’re using them to con­duct new bioweapons research — that’s what he said.”

Mr. Carl­son mis­char­ac­ter­ized those remarks from Ms. Nuland and Mr. Pope.

In con­gres­sion­al tes­ti­mo­ny this week, Ms. Nuland, the under sec­re­tary of state for polit­i­cal affairs, was asked by Sen­a­tor Mar­co Rubio, Repub­li­can of Flori­da, whether Ukraine has chem­i­cal or bio­log­i­cal weapons.

“Ukraine has bio­log­i­cal research facil­i­ties which, in fact, we are now quite con­cerned Russ­ian troops, Russ­ian forces, may be seek­ing to gain con­trol of,” she respond­ed. “So we are work­ing with the Ukraini­ans on how they can pre­vent any of those research mate­ri­als from falling into the hands of Russ­ian forces should they approach.” . . .

. . . . If there were a bio­log­i­cal or chem­i­cal weapon attack inside Ukraine, Mr. Rubio asked, would there be any doubt that Rus­sia was behind it?

“There is no doubt in my mind, Sen­a­tor, and it is clas­sic Russ­ian tech­nique to blame the oth­er guy what they’re plan­ning to do them­selves,” Ms. Nuland respond­ed.

. . . . The State Depart­ment said Ms. Nuland was refer­ring to Ukrain­ian diag­nos­tic and biode­fense lab­o­ra­to­ries dur­ing her tes­ti­mo­ny, which are dif­fer­ent from bio­log­i­cal weapons facil­i­ties. Rather, these biode­fense lab­o­ra­to­ries counter bio­log­i­cal threats through­out the coun­try, the depart­ment said.

Mr. Rubio made the same clar­i­fi­ca­tion in anoth­er con­gres­sion­al hear­ing on Thurs­day, not­ing that “there’s a dif­fer­ence between a bioweapons facil­i­ty and one that’s doing research.”

In refer­ring to Mr. Pope on Thurs­day, Mr. Carl­son was dis­tort­ing a Feb­ru­ary inter­view Mr. Pope gave to the Bul­letin of the Atom­ic Sci­en­tists, a non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion and pub­li­ca­tion.

Mr. Pope had warned that Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine may dam­age lab­o­ra­to­ries in the coun­try that con­duct research and dis­ease sur­veil­lance and are sup­port­ed by the Unit­ed States. He not­ed that some of the facil­i­ties may con­tain pathogens once used for Sovi­et-era bioweapons pro­grams, but he empha­sized that the Ukrain­ian labs cur­rent­ly did not have the abil­i­ty to man­u­fac­ture bioweapons. . . .

. . . . In a March inter­view with the Bul­letin of the Atom­ic Sci­en­tists, Mr. Pope also echoed Ms. Nuland’s con­cerns about the lab­o­ra­to­ries falling into Russia’s hands. He spoke specif­i­cal­ly about the Pentagon’s sup­port of 14 vet­eri­nary lab­o­ra­to­ries that pro­vide Ukraine with sam­pling and diag­nos­tic abil­i­ties to detect infec­tious dis­eases.

“Should Russ­ian forces occu­py a city with one of these facil­i­ties, we are con­cerned that Rus­sia will fab­ri­cate ‘evi­dence’ of nefar­i­ous activ­i­ty in an attempt to lend cred­i­bil­i­ty to their ongo­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion about these facil­i­ties,” he said.

The Unit­ed Nations Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil con­vened a meet­ing on Fri­day about Russia’s accu­sa­tions con­cern­ing bio­log­i­cal weapons in Ukraine. Izu­mi Nakamit­su, the U.N.’s high rep­re­sen­ta­tive for dis­ar­ma­ment affairs, said the Unit­ed Nations was “not aware of any bio­log­i­cal weapons pro­grams.” . . . .

 

Discussion

5 comments for “FTR#1234 How Many Lies Before You Belong to The Lie?, Part 7”

  1. We’re get­ting reports about the pos­si­ble bomb­ing of an art school in Mar­i­upol on Sun­day. The build­ing report­ed­ly had rough­ly 400 peo­ple inside. This is lat­est claim of a bla­tant attack on civil­ians com­ing out of Mar­i­upol, fol­low­ing the alleged Russ­ian bomb­ing the Mar­i­upol Dra­ma the­ater on May 16. The the­ater bomb­ing took place just hours after Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skiy made his his­to­ry appeal to the US con­gress for more mil­i­tary assis­tance. It’s all part of a grow­ing nar­ra­tive about the Krem­lin hav­ing decid­ed to just lev­el civ­il pop­u­la­tions in the face of slow progress on the bat­tle­field.

    And that brings us to the fol­low­ing pair of arti­cle that should raise major ques­tions about not only what actu­al­ly took place in these civil­ian attacks in Mar­i­upol, but should also serve as a warn­ing about far worse attacks in the future. Attacks car­ried out by Azov on civil­ians for the expressed pur­pose of pro­vok­ing so much inter­na­tion­al out­rage the West is forced to direct­ly enter into the con­flict. Because as we’re going to see in the fol­low­ing report by Max Blu­men­thal in the Gray Zone, while we don’t have sol­id infor­ma­tion on what’s going on in Mar­i­upol due to a mas­sive infor­ma­tion black­out, the lit­tle infor­ma­tion we don have points towards Azov false flags. A wild­ly suc­cess­ful false flag if true giv­en the near com­plete accep­tance of Azov’s sto­ry about what hap­pened at that the­ater. Because as the report points out, we were told both that Rus­sians bombed the the­ater, but also shelled it, and yet there is no footage at all of the attack. Instead, the evi­dence of a Russ­ian attack on the the­ater is based sole­ly on Azov’s asser­tions. On top of that, locals were warn­ing about a pos­si­ble false flag at the the­ater days before the attack. But what is per­haps the most remark­able aspect of this attack is that there are no con­firmed deaths from the attack. Every­one known to be in the the­ater at the time was in the base­ment, although we have heard warn­ings from the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment that hun­dreds of bod­ies are like­ly under the rub­ble. But so far no con­firmed deaths.

    As the report also notes, the Mar­i­upol attack was pre­ced­ed by an alleged attack on a Turk­ish mosque, which locals were also warn­ing was the tar­get of a planned false flat attack. Curi­ous­ly, the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment claimed the mosque was attack by Russ­ian forces, Rus­sia coun­tered that it was attacked by Ukrain­ian forces, and Turk­ish media report­ed that there was no attack at all and the mosque was unharmed. So as the world waits to here about the fate of the peo­ple alleged­ly trapped in that art school attack, it’s going to be worth keep­ing in mind that we have very lit­tle idea of what is actu­al­ly hap­pen­ing there:

    The Gray Zone

    Was bomb­ing of Mar­i­upol the­ater staged by Ukrain­ian Azov extrem­ists to trig­ger NATO inter­ven­tion?

    Max Blu­men­thal
    March 18, 2022

    Tes­ti­mo­ny by evac­u­at­ed Mar­i­upol res­i­dents and warn­ings of a false flag attack under­mine the Ukrain­ian government’s claims about a Russ­ian bomb­ing of a local the­ater shel­ter­ing civil­ians.

    West­ern media have report­ed that Russia’s mil­i­tary delib­er­ate­ly attacked the Donet­sk Aca­d­e­m­ic Region­al Dra­ma the­ater in Mar­i­upol, Ukraine, claim­ing that it was filled with civil­ians and marked with signs read­ing “chil­dren” on its grounds.

    The sup­posed bomb­ing took place just as Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky appealed to US Con­gress for a no fly zone, fuel­ing the cho­rus for direct mil­i­tary con­fronta­tion with Rus­sia and appar­ent­ly inspir­ing Pres­i­dent Joseph Biden to brand Vladimir Putin, the Russ­ian pres­i­dent, as a “war crim­i­nal.”

    A clos­er look reveals that local res­i­dents in Mar­i­upol had warned three days before the March 16 inci­dent that the the­ater would be the site of a false flag attack launched by the open­ly neo-Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion, which con­trolled the build­ing and the ter­ri­to­ry around it.

    Civil­ians that escaped the city through human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dors have tes­ti­fied that they were held by Azov as human shields in area, and that Azov fight­ers det­o­nat­ed parts of the the­ater as they retreat­ed. Despite claims of a mas­sive Russ­ian airstrike that reduced the build­ing to ash­es, all civil­ians appear to have escaped with their lives.

    Video of the attack on the the­ater remains unavail­able at the time of pub­li­ca­tion; only pho­tographs of the dam­aged struc­ture can be viewed. The Russ­ian Min­istry of Defense has denied con­duct­ing an airstrike on the the­ater, assert­ing that the site had no mil­i­tary val­ue and that no sor­ties were flown in the area on March 16.

    While the Russ­ian mil­i­tary oper­a­tion in Ukraine has trig­gered a human­i­tar­i­an cri­sis in Mar­i­upol, it is clear that Rus­sia gained noth­ing by tar­get­ing the the­ater, and vir­tu­al­ly guar­an­teed itself anoth­er pub­lic rela­tions blow by tar­get­ing a build­ing filled with civil­ians – includ­ing eth­nic Rus­sians.

    Azov, on the oth­er hand, stood to ben­e­fit from a dra­mat­ic and gris­ly attack blamed on Rus­sia. In full retreat all around Mar­i­upol and fac­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of bru­tal treat­ment at the hands of a Russ­ian mil­i­tary hell­bent on “de-Naz­i­fi­ca­tion,” its fight­ers’ only hope seemed to lie in trig­ger­ing direct NATO inter­ven­tion.

    The same sense of des­per­a­tion informed Zelensky’s care­ful­ly script­ed address to Con­gress, in which he invoked Mar­tin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech and played a heav­i­ly pro­duced video depict­ing civil­ian suf­fer­ing to make the case for a no fly zone.

    By insti­gat­ing West­ern pub­lic out­rage over gris­ly Russ­ian war crimes, Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment is clear­ly aim­ing to gen­er­ate enough pres­sure to over­come the Biden administration’s reluc­tance to direct­ly con­front Russia’s mil­i­tary.

    But Kiev’s most emo­tion­al­ly potent alle­ga­tion so far – that Rus­sia delib­er­ate­ly bombed inno­cent chil­dren cow­er­ing inside a the­ater – has been under­cut by tes­ti­monies from Mar­i­upol res­i­dents and a wide­ly viewed Telegram mes­sage explic­it­ly fore­shad­ow­ing a false flag attack on the build­ing.

    Azov Bat­tal­ion fight­ers grow des­per­ate in Mar­i­upol, plea for West­ern mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion

    The strate­gic south­east­ern port city of Mar­i­upol has been held by the Azov Bat­tal­ion since 2014. Since its seizure, it has served as a polit­i­cal and mil­i­tary base for the ultra-nation­al­ist para­mil­i­tary as it launched assaults on pro-Russ­ian sep­a­ratists in the break­away repub­lic of Donet­sk.

    Gath­ered from the ranks of extreme right activists that pro­vid­ed pro­test­ers with street mus­cle dur­ing the 2013–14 Euro­maid­an coup, the Azov Bat­tal­ion has been for­mal­ly incor­po­rat­ed into the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Guard by the country’s Inte­ri­or Min­istry. It was found­ed by the open­ly fas­cist orga­niz­er Andriy Bilet­sky, who has vowed to “lead the white races of the world in a final cru­sade … against Semi­te-led Unter­men­schen.”

    With the Nazi-inspired Wolf­san­gel sym­bol embla­zoned on their uni­forms and flags, Azov fight­ers make no secret of their ide­o­log­i­cal goals. Despite hav­ing been iden­ti­fied by the FBI, US Con­gress, and its own fight­ers as a neo-Nazi unit, and impli­cat­ed in an array of sor­did human rights vio­la­tions, Azov has col­lab­o­rat­ed open­ly with US and Cana­di­an mil­i­tary train­ers.

    Hav­ing accused Azov of seek­ing to exter­mi­nate the eth­nic Rus­sians of Don­bas, Putin has marked its base in Mar­i­upol as the front line of his stat­ed cam­paign to “de-Naz­i­fy” Ukraine. Since Russia’s Feb­ru­ary 24 inva­sion of Ukraine, the city become the site of fero­cious urban fight­ing, with Russ­ian spe­cial forces and Donet­sk People’s Repub­lic People’s Mili­tia forces wag­ing a block-by-block fight for con­trol as artillery rained down on Azov posi­tions.

    On March 7, an Azov Bat­tal­ion com­man­der named Denis Prokopenko appeared on cam­era from Mar­i­upol with an urgent mes­sage. Pub­lished on Azov’s offi­cial YouTube chan­nel and deliv­ered in Eng­lish over the sound of occa­sion­al artillery launch­es, Prokopenko declared that the Russ­ian mil­i­tary was car­ry­ing out a “geno­cide” against the pop­u­la­tion of Mar­i­upol, which hap­pens to be 40 per­cent eth­nic Russ­ian.

    Prokopenko then demand­ed that West­ern nations “cre­ate a no fly zone over Ukraine support[ed] with the mod­ern weapons.” It was clear from Prokopenko’s plea that Azov’s posi­tion was grow­ing more dire by the day.

    As Russia’s mil­i­tary rapid­ly degrad­ed Azov posi­tions through­out the sec­ond week of March 2022, Azov sol­diers appar­ent­ly direct­ed elder­ly civil­ians as well as women and chil­dren into the wardrobe hall of the Donet­sk Aca­d­e­m­ic Region­al Dra­ma The­ater in Mar­i­upol.

    A video filmed inside the dim­ly lit build­ing on March 11 fea­tured a local man claim­ing that one thou­sand civil­ians were trapped inside and demand­ing a human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dor to allow them to escape. Only a small group of civil­ians could be seen in the video, how­ev­er.

    “I’m beg­ging you to stop all this, give us the cor­ri­dor to get peo­ple out, to get out women, kids, the wound­ed…” a bespec­ta­cled nar­ra­tor (seen below) declared in the video.

    Since Rus­sia launched its inva­sion, Azov Bat­tal­ion sol­diers have been filmed pre­vent­ing civil­ians from leav­ing Mar­i­upol – even forc­ing men out of their cars and bru­tal­ly assault­ing them while they attempt­ed to break through the paramilitary’s check­points. If tes­ti­mo­ny from many Mar­i­upol res­i­dents was to be believed, Azov had used many of them as human shields.

    Ukrain­ian neo-Nazi in Mar­i­upol tells girl about can­cel­la­tion of evac­u­a­tion, “say thank you for not being shot” Azov’s bat­tal­ion hid­ing behind civil­ians pic.twitter.com/2ypQwr4t9J— ZOKA (@200_zoka) March 5, 2022

    Days before Mar­i­upol the­ater inci­dent, chill­ing warn­ings of a false flag “provo­ca­tion”

    On March 12, a chill­ing mes­sage appeared on the Telegram chan­nel of Dmitriy Stesh­en, a cor­re­spon­dent report­ing from Mar­i­upol for the Russ­ian news­pa­per Kom­so­mol­skaya Prav­da.

    Accord­ing to Stesh­en, local res­i­dents told him an alleged Russ­ian bomb­ing of the Turk­ish-built Kanuni Sul­tan Suley­man mosque in Mar­i­upol that day was a false flag intend­ed to “drag Turkey into the war,” and warned that a false flag attack on the Mar­i­upol Dra­ma The­ater was immi­nent.

    The Telegram mes­sage read as fol­lows:

    “Look at what our read­ers from Mar­i­upol sent us. If the infor­ma­tion can be ver­i­fied, it needs to be high­light­ed [for the media]:

    ‘Zelen­sky pre­pares two [false flag] provo­ca­tions in Mar­i­upol!!! One of the [false flag] provo­ca­tion is against the cit­i­zens of Turkey, who hid in the mosque built by Akhme­tov, and this provo­ca­tion has already begun by the Ukrain­ian artillery gun­ners shelling the grounds of the mosque, from their posi­tions at [Zin­ste­va] Bal­ka in Nizh­ni­aya [Low­er] Kir­vo­ka. Zelen­sky was unable to drag the EU, USA and UK into the war against the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion. Now, Zelen­sky is try­ing to drag Turkey into the war, pin­ning his hopes on the explo­sive emo­tion­al char­ac­ter and the love the faith­ful feel for their sacred shrines.

    The sec­ond [false flag] provo­ca­tion Zelen­sky is prepar­ing for use by West­ern media, after unsuc­cess­ful provo­ca­tion with the [Mar­i­upol] mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal, Ukrain­ian sol­diers, togeth­er with the admin­is­tra­tion of the Dra­ma The­ater, gath­ered women, chil­dren, and the elder­ly from Mar­i­upol in the Dra­ma The­ater build­ing, so as to – giv­en a good oppor­tu­ni­ty – det­o­nate the build­ing and then scream around the world that this was by the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion air force and that there should be an imme­di­ate ‘no fly zone’ over Ukraine.’”

    Steshin’s mes­sage recount­ing the warn­ings from Mar­i­upol res­i­dents has been seen by over 480,000 Telegram users. It is below and can also be viewed here.

    [see screen­shot of Telegram post]

    On March 12, West­ern out­lets like the Asso­ci­at­ed Press repeat­ed Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment claims that the Turk­ish mosque in Mar­i­upol had been shelled by Rus­sia with 80 civil­ians inside, includ­ing chil­dren.

    How­ev­er, Turk­ish state media revealed that the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment had mis­led West­ern reporters. The Kanuni Sul­tan Suley­man Mosque was not only ful­ly intact, it had nev­er been hit by Russ­ian fire.

    “Our mosque remained undam­aged,” Ismail Hacioglu, head of the mosque’s asso­ci­a­tion, told Turkey’s Andalou Agency on March 12.

    Still filled with civil­ians, the Mar­i­upol the­ater was next on somebody’s tar­get list.

    As Zelen­sky begs Con­gress for mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion, news of a the­ater attack

    Less than 48 hours after the debunked claims of a Russ­ian attack on the mosque in Mar­i­upol were intro­duced, human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dors final­ly opened up around the city. The flight of thou­sands of civil­ians toward Russ­ian mil­i­tary posi­tions fur­ther weak­ened the Azov Bat­tal­ion, which was using Mariupol’s res­i­dents as col­lat­er­al in its bid to com­pel a no fly zone.

    On March 16, with his mil­i­tary col­laps­ing under the Russ­ian onslaught, the Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent and famed come­di­an-actor Zelen­sky appeared by video for a care­ful­ly script­ed, elab­o­rate­ly pro­duced pre­sen­ta­tion before an assem­bly of awestruck US mem­bers of Con­gress.

    “I have a dream. These words are known to each of you today. I can say I have a need. I need to pro­tect our sky,” Zelen­sky pro­claimed. The Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent thus invoked the most famous words of America’s most revered anti­war activist, Mar­tin Luther King Jr., to appeal for a no fly zone that would bring the nuclear-armed mil­i­taries of the US and Rus­sia into direct con­fronta­tion.

    Just hours after Zelensky’s address, news arrived direct­ly from the Azov Battalion’s press depart­ment that Rus­sia had bombed the the­ater in Mar­i­upol.

    With a monop­oly over infor­ma­tion from the scene of the sup­posed attack, with no oth­er news out­lets present, Azov’s press depart­ment dis­sem­i­nat­ed pho­tos of the destroyed build­ing to media across the world.

    The Azov Battalion’s water­mark can be seen clear­ly in the low­er right hand cor­ner of the image below. Azov’s pho­to was repub­lished by inter­na­tion­al out­lets includ­ing Sky News, but with the paramilitary’s brand cropped out. When South Chi­na Morn­ing Post ran the image, it removed the water­mark and cred­it­ed “Azov Bat­tal­ion via AP.”

    Among the first Eng­lish lan­guage media fig­ures to con­vey the Ukrain­ian government’s nar­ra­tive of the inci­dent to a mass audi­ence was Illia Pono­marenko, a Kiev-based, US-trained reporter who has man­aged to rack up over a mil­lion Twit­ter fol­low­ers since Russia’s inva­sion began.

    The famous Dra­ma The­ater in Mariupol.De-nazified by a Russ­ian air-dropped bomb today, on March 16, 2022.Fu ck you Rus­sia. You’re going to pay for this. pic.twitter.com/ZQuGW6hL55— Illia Pono­marenko ???? (@IAPonomarenko) March 16, 2022

    See this red roof?It’s a dra­ma the­ater in Mar­i­upol, we called it “the Dram.”See those lit­tle let­ters on the square? They read “KIDS” in Russian.That was a mes­sage to Russ­ian bomber crews.But you know what — they bombed the build­ing to ash­es anyway.Because they’re ani­mals. pic.twitter.com/xYOkC7CPm5— Illia Pono­marenko ???? (@IAPonomarenko) March 16, 2022

    Pono­marenko hap­pened to work for the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent, an out­let that has func­tioned as one of the most potent US infor­ma­tion weapons in Ukraine. The paper had been set up with assis­tance from the Nation­al Endow­ment for Democ­ra­cy, a US intel­li­gence cut-out, and an “emer­gency grant” from its EU-fund­ed cousin, the Euro­pean Endow­ment for Democ­ra­cy.

    For his part, Pono­marenko has referred to the Azov Bat­tal­ion as his “broth­ers in arms”, and boast­ed of “chill­ing out” with its fight­ers near “ene­my lines.”

    Seem­ing­ly swept up in the emo­tion­al mael­strom inspired by the news from Mar­i­upol, Pres­i­dent Joseph Biden blast­ed his Russ­ian coun­ter­part, Vladimir Putin, as a “war crim­i­nal,” a “mur­der­ous dic­ta­tor,” and a “pure thug.”

    Next, Human Rights Watch issued a hasti­ly com­posed press release head­lined, “Mar­i­upol The­ater Hit By Russ­ian Attack Shel­tered Hun­dreds.” The bil­lion­aire-backed NGO acknowl­edged it had not inter­viewed any Mar­i­upol res­i­dents after the attack, and pro­vid­ed no evi­dence to demon­strate Russ­ian respon­si­bil­i­ty. Indeed, HRW’s lone source fin­ger­ing Rus­sia as the cul­prit was the Ukrain­ian gov­er­nor of Donet­sk.

    Was Russia’s mil­i­tary so blood­thirsty – and polit­i­cal­ly self-destruc­tive – that it had delib­er­ate­ly tar­get­ed a build­ing that was known to be filled with chil­dren? Or had the Mar­i­upol res­i­dents’ pre­dic­tion of a false flag from four days before come true?

    Sus­pi­cious signs, holes in the Ukrain­ian government’s nar­ra­tive emerge

    Though Azov boasts a sophis­ti­cat­ed press unit which films its exploits in the field, and sol­diers are pub­lish­ing even the most banal video of them­selves on social media, footage of the the­ater bomb­ing was nowhere to be found.

    Pho­tos sup­plied by Azov to media in Ukraine and abroad invari­ably depict the bombed-out the­ater with­out any peo­ple in sight, liv­ing or dead.

    One day before the bomb­ing, on March 15, a group of mil­i­tary-aged men were pho­tographed in front of the Mar­i­upol the­ater. No women were vis­i­ble any­where in the image. The men can be seen plac­ing pal­lets against the side of the build­ing, fer­ry­ing large objects across the the­ater grounds, and cut­ting down a fir tree.

    Accord­ing to Human Rights Watch’s report on the the­ater inci­dent, which con­tained no local tes­ti­mo­ny gath­ered after the attack, the men were “cook[ing] food on an open fire and collect[ing] water in buck­ets.”

    As seen below, pal­lets and oth­er objects were piled against the same area of the build­ing hit by an explo­sive charge the fol­low­ing day.

    [see pho­to of objects piled next to the­ater before the bomb­ing]

    [see pho­to of same loca­tion afte the bomb­ing]

    While the the­ater appeared to have been heav­i­ly dam­aged – “they bombed the build­ing to ash­es,” claimed Pono­marenko – it turned out that not one per­son was killed by the blast.

    “It’s a mir­a­cle,” the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent reporter chirped.

    It’s a mir­a­cle — civil­ians that were hid­ing in a base­ment at the Dra­ma The­ater in Mar­i­upol sur­vived the air strike.Now they are get­ting evac­u­at­ed from under­neath the ruins.— Illia Pono­marenko ???? (@IAPonomarenko) March 17, 2022

    In a 7‑minute-long March 17 pack­age blend­ing news and agit­prop, ABC News claimed that all civil­ians had been saved from the the­ater, but that “hun­dreds were still miss­ing.” Data on the mod­est-sized the­ater repro­duced on its Ukrain­ian Wikipedia page puts its max­i­mum seat­ing capac­i­ty at 680, which rais­es ques­tions about how “hun­dreds” could have fit in its base­ment.

    Fur­ther, ABC claimed the the­ater had been hit by Russ­ian artillery shelling, not an “air dropped Russ­ian bomb” as Pono­marenko and many oth­ers have claimed.

    Ukrain­ian media, mean­while, has expressed con­fu­sion over the inci­dent. The out­let 0629 has attempt­ed to explain away the mys­te­ri­ous dis­ap­pear­ance of the thou­sand civil­ians said to have been in the the­ater by claim­ing they were evac­u­at­ed to the city of Zaporozhye a day before the sup­posed attack. “we are wait­ing for the offi­cial ver­i­fied infor­ma­tion and do not rush to con­clu­sions,” the paper declared.

    As Mar­i­upol res­i­dents poured out of the city through the Russ­ian military’s human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dors, tes­ti­monies began to emerge of ruth­less Azov attacks on the flee­ing civil­ians – and of a major decep­tion at the local the­ater.

    “When [Azov sol­diers] were leav­ing, they destroyed the dra­ma the­ater”

    On March 17, a young woman deliv­ered an eye-open­ing account of the sit­u­a­tion inside Mar­i­upol to ANNA, the Abk­haz­ian Net­work News Agency.

    “The Azov fight­ers were sim­ply hid­ing behind us,” she told a reporter. “We were their human shields, that’s it. They were break­ing every­thing, all around us, they were not let­ting us out­side. We spent 15 days in a base­ment, with kids… They gave us no water, noth­ing.”

    Describ­ing how the Azov Bat­tal­ion placed its tanks in front of local bomb shel­ters, the woman offered a reveal­ing detail: “When they were leav­ing,” she said, refer­ring to the Azov Bat­tal­ion, “they destroyed the dra­ma the­atre. Peo­ple with shrap­nel were brought to us.”

    Mul­ti­ple peo­ple from #Mar­i­upol said that Azov Nazis held civil­ians as human shields in the local the­ater. When the Russ­ian advance forced them to retreat, they blew up the the­ater to frame Russ­ian forces. This plan was pub­lished 3 days in advance by an Azov desert­er. pic.twitter.com/Xh3C9vWNbC— Jake Mor­pho­nios ?? Black­stone Intel­li­gence (@morphonios) March 17, 2022

    Numer­ous evac­uees echoed the woman’s tes­ti­mo­ny about Azov hold­ing Mar­i­upol civil­ians as hostages, and said they were tar­get­ed with gun­fire as they escaped through human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dors.

    “They burned every­thing,” an elder­ly woman recalled to Russ­ian media. “They bombed [my] whole apart­ment…. They broke in and are sit­ting there, mak­ing Molo­tov cock­tails. I want­ed to come in, to take my things, but they told me: ‘No, you have no busi­ness here.’”

    Asked by a reporter who attacked her and invad­ed her home, the woman replied, “Well, the Ukraini­ans, of course.”

    #MARIUPOL—#2—Interviews with #Ukraine|ian refugees evac­u­at­ing to #Rus­sia-con­trolled zones.
    [Tran­script in 2nd tweet] 1/2#UkraineRussia #Rus­si­aUkraine #UkraineRus­si­aWar #Rus­sianUkraini­an­War #Mar­i­upol­Dra­maTh­e­atre #UkraineCri­sis #UkraineWar #Ukraine­Un­der­At­tack #UkraineRussie pic.twitter.com/9JE3c0wrCX

    Gleb Bazov (@gbazov) March 17, 2022

    A man inter­cept­ed by an ANNA reporter after escap­ing Mar­i­upol fought back tears as he point­ed back to the Ukrain­ian military’s posi­tions. “Azov, those bitch­es… peo­ple tried to evac­u­ate… Azov… they exe­cut­ed the peo­ple… the mon­sters, scum… they shot them up, entire bus­es.”

    “The Ukrain­ian army was shoot­ing us, shoot­ing at peo­ple,” said anoth­er man who fled Mar­i­upol. “Right at our house.”

    “Ukraine didn’t let us leave the city, we were blocked,” anoth­er evac­uee stat­ed. “The Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary arrived and said, under no cir­cum­stances are you to leave the city if the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion opens a human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dor for you. We want to con­tin­ue to use you as a human shield.”

    “We hate Ukraine! Thank you very much to the Russ­ian army” Refugees from Mar­i­upol tell how the Ukrain­ian army refused to open human­i­tar­i­an ‘cor­ri­dors’ from the city and shot at civil­ians.” pic.twitter.com/cYmpUBmKoX— Drebonac­ci (@andre_mihaescu) March 17, 2022

    ...

    ————

    “Was bomb­ing of Mar­i­upol the­ater staged by Ukrain­ian Azov extrem­ists to trig­ger NATO inter­ven­tion?” by Max Blu­men­thal; The Gray Zone; 03/18/2022

    “Civil­ians that escaped the city through human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dors have tes­ti­fied that they were held by Azov as human shields in area, and that Azov fight­ers det­o­nat­ed parts of the the­ater as they retreat­ed. Despite claims of a mas­sive Russ­ian airstrike that reduced the build­ing to ash­es, all civil­ians appear to have escaped with their lives.”

    As the fog slow­ly clear, what is becom­ing clear­er is how lit­tle we know about what has actu­al­ly been tak­ing place insid­er Mar­i­upol for the past two weeks. In part because the com­mu­ni­ca­tion flows have been cut off. But also because the sto­ries leak­ing out of the area have been so con­flict­ing, with claims of attacks on civil­ians by both sides. Chill­ing­ly, it appears that a major rea­son we have so few sto­ries about what’s hap­pen­ing in the city is because civil­ians have been pre­vent­ed from flee­ing by the Azov Bat­tal­ion. That’s part of the sig­nif­i­cance of the sto­ries swirling around attacks on the Mar­i­upol the­ater and the Kanuni Sul­tan Suley­man Mosque. The fog of war in this sit­u­a­tion is appar­ent­ly extra thick due to the fact that the eye-wit­ness­es have effec­tive­ly been held hostage. And that includes video of Azov sol­diers direct­ing elder­ly civil­ians into the Mar­i­upol the­ater:

    ...
    On March 7, an Azov Bat­tal­ion com­man­der named Denis Prokopenko appeared on cam­era from Mar­i­upol with an urgent mes­sage. Pub­lished on Azov’s offi­cial YouTube chan­nel and deliv­ered in Eng­lish over the sound of occa­sion­al artillery launch­es, Prokopenko declared that the Russ­ian mil­i­tary was car­ry­ing out a “geno­cide” against the pop­u­la­tion of Mar­i­upol, which hap­pens to be 40 per­cent eth­nic Russ­ian.

    Prokopenko then demand­ed that West­ern nations “cre­ate a no fly zone over Ukraine support[ed] with the mod­ern weapons.” It was clear from Prokopenko’s plea that Azov’s posi­tion was grow­ing more dire by the day.

    As Russia’s mil­i­tary rapid­ly degrad­ed Azov posi­tions through­out the sec­ond week of March 2022, Azov sol­diers appar­ent­ly direct­ed elder­ly civil­ians as well as women and chil­dren into the wardrobe hall of the Donet­sk Aca­d­e­m­ic Region­al Dra­ma The­ater in Mar­i­upol.

    A video filmed inside the dim­ly lit build­ing on March 11 fea­tured a local man claim­ing that one thou­sand civil­ians were trapped inside and demand­ing a human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dor to allow them to escape. Only a small group of civil­ians could be seen in the video, how­ev­er.

    “I’m beg­ging you to stop all this, give us the cor­ri­dor to get peo­ple out, to get out women, kids, the wound­ed…” a bespec­ta­cled nar­ra­tor (seen below) declared in the video.

    Since Rus­sia launched its inva­sion, Azov Bat­tal­ion sol­diers have been filmed pre­vent­ing civil­ians from leav­ing Mar­i­upol – even forc­ing men out of their cars and bru­tal­ly assault­ing them while they attempt­ed to break through the paramilitary’s check­points. If tes­ti­mo­ny from many Mar­i­upol res­i­dents was to be believed, Azov had used many of them as human shields.
    ...

    Then, on March 12, the alleged bomb­ing of the Turk­ish-built Kanuni Sul­tan Suley­man mosque was claimed by the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment. But a Russ­ian reporter in the city claimed that local res­i­dents were warn­ing him about that attack by Ukraine on the mosque. That same report include warn­ings of a sim­i­lar false flag attack planned for the Mar­i­upol the­ater. Turk­ish media lat­er report­ed that there was no shelling at all on the mosque. So first we get Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment reports that the mosque was shelled. Then we get Russ­ian new reports that locals are warn­ing about a false flag attack on the mosque. Then we get Turk­ish reports that no attack on the mosque occurred at all. This is the infor­ma­tion envi­ron­ment we’re oper­at­ing in:

    ...
    On March 12, a chill­ing mes­sage appeared on the Telegram chan­nel of Dmitriy Stesh­en, a cor­re­spon­dent report­ing from Mar­i­upol for the Russ­ian news­pa­per Kom­so­mol­skaya Prav­da.

    Accord­ing to Stesh­en, local res­i­dents told him an alleged Russ­ian bomb­ing of the Turk­ish-built Kanuni Sul­tan Suley­man mosque in Mar­i­upol that day was a false flag intend­ed to “drag Turkey into the war,” and warned that a false flag attack on the Mar­i­upol Dra­ma The­ater was immi­nent.

    The Telegram mes­sage read as fol­lows:

    “Look at what our read­ers from Mar­i­upol sent us. If the infor­ma­tion can be ver­i­fied, it needs to be high­light­ed [for the media]:

    ‘Zelen­sky pre­pares two [false flag] provo­ca­tions in Mar­i­upol!!! One of the [false flag] provo­ca­tion is against the cit­i­zens of Turkey, who hid in the mosque built by Akhme­tov, and this provo­ca­tion has already begun by the Ukrain­ian artillery gun­ners shelling the grounds of the mosque, from their posi­tions at [Zin­ste­va] Bal­ka in Nizh­ni­aya [Low­er] Kir­vo­ka. Zelen­sky was unable to drag the EU, USA and UK into the war against the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion. Now, Zelen­sky is try­ing to drag Turkey into the war, pin­ning his hopes on the explo­sive emo­tion­al char­ac­ter and the love the faith­ful feel for their sacred shrines.

    The sec­ond [false flag] provo­ca­tion Zelen­sky is prepar­ing for use by West­ern media, after unsuc­cess­ful provo­ca­tion with the [Mar­i­upol] mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal, Ukrain­ian sol­diers, togeth­er with the admin­is­tra­tion of the Dra­ma The­ater, gath­ered women, chil­dren, and the elder­ly from Mar­i­upol in the Dra­ma The­ater build­ing, so as to – giv­en a good oppor­tu­ni­ty – det­o­nate the build­ing and then scream around the world that this was by the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion air force and that there should be an imme­di­ate ‘no fly zone’ over Ukraine.’”

    Steshin’s mes­sage recount­ing the warn­ings from Mar­i­upol res­i­dents has been seen by over 480,000 Telegram users. It is below and can also be viewed here.

    ...

    On March 12, West­ern out­lets like the Asso­ci­at­ed Press repeat­ed Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment claims that the Turk­ish mosque in Mar­i­upol had been shelled by Rus­sia with 80 civil­ians inside, includ­ing chil­dren.

    How­ev­er, Turk­ish state media revealed that the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment had mis­led West­ern reporters. The Kanuni Sul­tan Suley­man Mosque was not only ful­ly intact, it had nev­er been hit by Russ­ian fire.

    “Our mosque remained undam­aged,” Ismail Hacioglu, head of the mosque’s asso­ci­a­tion, told Turkey’s Andalou Agency on March 12.<
    ...

    But then, less than 48 hours after that omi­nous warn­ing about a Mar­i­upol the­ater false flag plan, human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dors are final­ly opened and civil­ians are allowed to flee towards Russ­ian-con­trolled mil­i­tary posi­tions. Two days lat­er, Pres­i­dent Zelen­skiy makes his address to the US con­gress, fol­lowed hours lat­er with news from the Azov Bat­tal­ion about a mas­sive Russ­ian attack at the Mar­i­upol the­ater. No footage of the attack is avail­able, mak­ing the claims about what cause the explo­sion exclu­sive­ly sourced from Azov. What is avail­able is pho­tos from the day before show­ing Azov troops sta­tioned out­side the­ater with a large num­ber of objects piled up next to the area were the explo­sion took place:

    ...
    Less than 48 hours after the debunked claims of a Russ­ian attack on the mosque in Mar­i­upol were intro­duced, human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dors final­ly opened up around the city. The flight of thou­sands of civil­ians toward Russ­ian mil­i­tary posi­tions fur­ther weak­ened the Azov Bat­tal­ion, which was using Mariupol’s res­i­dents as col­lat­er­al in its bid to com­pel a no fly zone.

    On March 16, with his mil­i­tary col­laps­ing under the Russ­ian onslaught, the Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent and famed come­di­an-actor Zelen­sky appeared by video for a care­ful­ly script­ed, elab­o­rate­ly pro­duced pre­sen­ta­tion before an assem­bly of awestruck US mem­bers of Con­gress.

    ...

    Just hours after Zelensky’s address, news arrived direct­ly from the Azov Battalion’s press depart­ment that Rus­sia had bombed the the­ater in Mar­i­upol.

    With a monop­oly over infor­ma­tion from the scene of the sup­posed attack, with no oth­er news out­lets present, Azov’s press depart­ment dis­sem­i­nat­ed pho­tos of the destroyed build­ing to media across the world.

    ...

    One day before the bomb­ing, on March 15, a group of mil­i­tary-aged men were pho­tographed in front of the Mar­i­upol the­ater. No women were vis­i­ble any­where in the image. The men can be seen plac­ing pal­lets against the side of the build­ing, fer­ry­ing large objects across the the­ater grounds, and cut­ting down a fir tree.

    Accord­ing to Human Rights Watch’s report on the the­ater inci­dent, which con­tained no local tes­ti­mo­ny gath­ered after the attack, the men were “cook[ing] food on an open fire and collect[ing] water in buck­ets.”

    As seen below, pal­lets and oth­er objects were piled against the same area of the build­ing hit by an explo­sive charge the fol­low­ing day.

    [see pho­to of objects piled next to the­ater before the bomb­ing]

    [see pho­to of same loca­tion afte the bomb­ing]
    ...

    But per­haps the biggest twist in this sto­ry is that no one was killed. At least no dead bod­ies have been found yet. Instead, it appears all of the peo­ple in the the­ater at the time were locat­ed in the base­ment:

    ...
    While the the­ater appeared to have been heav­i­ly dam­aged – “they bombed the build­ing to ash­es,” claimed Pono­marenko – it turned out that not one per­son was killed by the blast.

    “It’s a mir­a­cle,” the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent reporter chirped.

    ...

    In a 7‑minute-long March 17 pack­age blend­ing news and agit­prop, ABC News claimed that all civil­ians had been saved from the the­ater, but that “hun­dreds were still miss­ing.” Data on the mod­est-sized the­ater repro­duced on its Ukrain­ian Wikipedia page puts its max­i­mum seat­ing capac­i­ty at 680, which rais­es ques­tions about how “hun­dreds” could have fit in its base­ment.

    Fur­ther, ABC claimed the the­ater had been hit by Russ­ian artillery shelling, not an “air dropped Russ­ian bomb” as Pono­marenko and many oth­ers have claimed.

    Ukrain­ian media, mean­while, has expressed con­fu­sion over the inci­dent. The out­let 0629 has attempt­ed to explain away the mys­te­ri­ous dis­ap­pear­ance of the thou­sand civil­ians said to have been in the the­ater by claim­ing they were evac­u­at­ed to the city of Zaporozhye a day before the sup­posed attack. “we are wait­ing for the offi­cial ver­i­fied infor­ma­tion and do not rush to con­clu­sions,” the paper declared.

    As Mar­i­upol res­i­dents poured out of the city through the Russ­ian military’s human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dors, tes­ti­monies began to emerge of ruth­less Azov attacks on the flee­ing civil­ians – and of a major decep­tion at the local the­ater.
    ...

    Next, here’s a new AP report that under­scores just how lit­tle on the ground ver­i­fi­able infor­ma­tion is avail­able at this point in Mar­i­upol. The report is writ­ten by the last two inter­na­tion­al jour­nal­ists oper­at­ing in the city, describ­ing their har­row­ing escape. A har­row­ing escape led by Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary units oper­at­ing in the city who appar­ent­ly freed the jour­nal­ists on March 15 from a hos­pi­tal that was then sur­round­ed by Russ­ian forces. The Ukrain­ian sol­diers were appar­ent­ly look­ing for the jour­nal­ists, explain­ing that if they are caught by Russ­ian forces they were bill forces to claim that every­thing they report­ed was a lie. The jour­nal­ists were then some­how able to escape from the city through 15 Russ­ian-con­trolled check­points. So these two AP reporters were viewed as crit­i­cal assets by the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary forces in Mar­i­upol. Notably, at no point in the report do they men­tion the Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion, the dom­i­nant mil­i­tary force in the area. Also of note is the fact that the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary (Azov) made sure to get these last two reporters out of the city — through Russ­ian con­trolled-check­points — just one day before the Mar­i­upol the­ater strike:

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    20 days in Mar­i­upol: The team that doc­u­ment­ed city’s agony

    By MSTYSLAV CHERNOV
    Mon­day Mar 22, 2022 11:04:10 CST

    MARIUPOL, Ukraine (AP) — The Rus­sians were hunt­ing us down. They had a list of names, includ­ing ours, and they were clos­ing in.

    We were the only inter­na­tion­al jour­nal­ists left in the Ukrain­ian city, and we had been doc­u­ment­ing its siege by Russ­ian troops for more than two weeks. We were report­ing inside the hos­pi­tal when gun­men began stalk­ing the cor­ri­dors. Sur­geons gave us white scrubs to wear as cam­ou­flage.

    Sud­den­ly at dawn, a dozen sol­diers burst in: “Where are the jour­nal­ists, for fu ck’s sake?”

    I looked at their arm­bands, blue for Ukraine, and tried to cal­cu­late the odds that they were Rus­sians in dis­guise. I stepped for­ward to iden­ti­fy myself. “We’re here to get you out,” they said.

    The walls of the surgery shook from artillery and machine gun fire out­side, and it seemed safer to stay inside. But the Ukrain­ian sol­diers were under orders to take us with them.

    ___

    Mstyslav Cher­nov is a video jour­nal­ist for The Asso­ci­at­ed Press. This is his account of the siege of Mar­i­upol, as doc­u­ment­ed with pho­tog­ra­ph­er Evgeniy Mal­o­let­ka and told to cor­re­spon­dent Lori Hin­nant.

    ___

    We ran into the street, aban­don­ing the doc­tors who had shel­tered us, the preg­nant women who had been shelled and the peo­ple who slept in the hall­ways because they had nowhere else to go. I felt ter­ri­ble leav­ing them all behind.

    Nine min­utes, maybe 10, an eter­ni­ty through roads and bombed-out apart­ment build­ings. As shells crashed near­by, we dropped to the ground. Time was mea­sured from one shell to the next, our bod­ies tense and breath held. Shock­wave after shock­wave jolt­ed my chest, and my hands went cold.

    We reached an entry­way, and armored cars whisked us to a dark­ened base­ment. Only then did we learn from a police­man why the Ukraini­ans had risked the lives of sol­diers to extract us from the hos­pi­tal.

    “If they catch you, they will get you on cam­era and they will make you say that every­thing you filmed is a lie,” he said. “All your efforts and every­thing you have done in Mar­i­upol will be in vain.”

     The offi­cer, who had once begged us to show the world his dying city, now plead­ed with us to go. He nudged us toward the thou­sands of bat­tered cars prepar­ing to leave Mar­i­upol.

    It was March 15. We had no idea if we would make it out alive.

    ____

    As a teenag­er grow­ing up in Ukraine in the city of Kharkiv, just 20 miles from the Russ­ian bor­der, I learned how to han­dle a gun as part of the school cur­ricu­lum. It seemed point­less. Ukraine, I rea­soned, was sur­round­ed by friends.

    I have since cov­ered wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the dis­put­ed ter­ri­to­ry of Nagorno Karabakh, try­ing to show the world the dev­as­ta­tion first-hand. But when the Amer­i­cans and then the Euro­peans evac­u­at­ed their embassy staffs from the city of Kyiv this win­ter, and when I pored over maps of the Russ­ian troop build-up just across from my home­town, my only thought was, “My poor coun­try.”

    ...

    I knew Russ­ian forces would see the east­ern port city of Mar­i­upol as a strate­gic prize because of its loca­tion on the Sea of Azov. So on the evening of Feb. 23, I head­ed there with my long-time col­league Evgeniy Mal­o­let­ka, a Ukrain­ian pho­tog­ra­ph­er for The Asso­ci­at­ed Press, in his white Volk­swa­gen van.

    ...

    We pulled into Mar­i­upol at 3:30 a.m. The war start­ed an hour lat­er.

    About a quar­ter of Mariupol’s 430,000 res­i­dents left in those first days, while they still could. But few peo­ple believed a war was com­ing, and by the time most real­ized their mis­take, it was too late.

    One bomb at a time, the Rus­sians cut elec­tric­i­ty, water, food sup­plies and final­ly, cru­cial­ly, the cell phone, radio and tele­vi­sion tow­ers. The few oth­er jour­nal­ists in the city got out before the last con­nec­tions were gone and a full block­ade set­tled in.

    The absence of infor­ma­tion in a block­ade accom­plish­es two goals.

    Chaos is the first. Peo­ple don’t know what’s going on, and they pan­ic. At first I couldn’t under­stand why Mar­i­upol fell apart so quick­ly. Now I know it was because of the lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

    Impuni­ty is the sec­ond goal. With no infor­ma­tion com­ing out of a city, no pic­tures of demol­ished build­ings and dying chil­dren, the Russ­ian forces could do what­ev­er they want­ed. If not for us, there would be noth­ing.

    That’s why we took such risks to be able to send the world what we saw, and that’s what made Rus­sia angry enough to hunt us down.

    I have nev­er, ever felt that break­ing the silence was so impor­tant.

    ___

    The deaths came fast. On Feb. 27, we watched as a doc­tor tried to save a lit­tle girl hit by shrap­nel. She died.

    A sec­ond child died, then a third. Ambu­lances stopped pick­ing up the wound­ed because peo­ple couldn’t call them with­out a sig­nal, and they couldn’t nav­i­gate the bombed-out streets.

    The doc­tors plead­ed with us to film fam­i­lies bring­ing in their own dead and wound­ed, and let us use their dwin­dling gen­er­a­tor pow­er for our cam­eras. No one knows what’s going on in our city, they said.

    Shelling hit the hos­pi­tal and the hous­es around. It shat­tered the win­dows of our van, blew a hole into its side and punc­tured a tire. Some­times we would run out to film a burn­ing house and then run back amid the explo­sions.

    There was still one place in the city to get a steady con­nec­tion, out­side a loot­ed gro­cery store on Budivel’nykiv Avenue. Once a day, we drove there and crouched beneath the stairs to upload pho­tos and video to the world. The stairs wouldn’t have done much to pro­tect us, but it felt safer than being out in the open.

    The sig­nal van­ished by March 3. We tried to send our video from the 7th-floor win­dows of the hos­pi­tal. It was from there that we saw the last shreds of the sol­id mid­dle-class city of Mar­i­upol come apart.

    The Port City super­store was being loot­ed, and we head­ed that way through artillery and machine gun­fire. Dozens of peo­ple ran and pushed shop­ping carts loaded with elec­tron­ics, food, clothes.

    A shell explod­ed on the roof of the store, throw­ing me to the ground out­side. I tensed, await­ing a sec­ond hit, and cursed myself a hun­dred times because my cam­era wasn’t on to record it.

    And there it was, anoth­er shell hit­ting the apart­ment build­ing next to me with a ter­ri­ble whoosh. I shrank behind a cor­ner for cov­er.

    A teenag­er passed by rolling an office chair loaded with elec­tron­ics, box­es tum­bling off the sides. “My friends were there and the shell hit 10 meters from us,” he told me. “I have no idea what hap­pened to them.”

    We raced back to the hos­pi­tal. With­in 20 min­utes, the injured came in, some of them scooped into shop­ping carts.

    For sev­er­al days, the only link we had to the out­side world was through a satel­lite phone. And the only spot where that phone worked was out in the open, right next to a shell crater. I would sit down, make myself small and try to catch the con­nec­tion.

    Every­body was ask­ing, please tell us when the war will be over. I had no answer.

    Every sin­gle day, there would be a rumor that the Ukrain­ian army was going to come to break through the siege. But no one came.

    ___

    By this time I had wit­nessed deaths at the hos­pi­tal, corpses in the streets, dozens of bod­ies shoved into a mass grave. I had seen so much death that I was film­ing almost with­out tak­ing it in.

    On March 9, twin airstrikes shred­ded the plas­tic taped over our van’s win­dows. I saw the fire­ball just a heart­beat before pain pierced my inner ear, my skin, my face.

    We watched smoke rise from a mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal. When we arrived, emer­gency work­ers were still pulling blood­ied preg­nant women from the ruins.

    Our bat­ter­ies were almost out of juice, and we had no con­nec­tion to send the images. Cur­few was min­utes away. A police offi­cer over­heard us talk­ing about how to get news of the hos­pi­tal bomb­ing out.

    “This will change the course of the war,” he said. He took us to a pow­er source and an inter­net con­nec­tion.

    We had record­ed so many dead peo­ple and dead chil­dren, an end­less line. I didn’t under­stand why he thought still more deaths could change any­thing.

    I was wrong.

    In the dark, we sent the images by lin­ing up three mobile phones with the video file split into three parts to speed the process up. It took hours, well beyond cur­few. The shelling con­tin­ued, but the offi­cers assigned to escort us through the city wait­ed patient­ly.

    Then our link to the world out­side Mar­i­upol was again sev­ered.

    We went back to an emp­ty hotel base­ment with an aquar­i­um now filled with dead gold­fish. In our iso­la­tion, we knew noth­ing about a grow­ing Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign to dis­cred­it our work.

    The Russ­ian Embassy in Lon­don put out two tweets call­ing the AP pho­tos fake and claim­ing a preg­nant woman was an actress. The Russ­ian ambas­sador held up copies of the pho­tos at a U.N. Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil meet­ing and repeat­ed lies about the attack on the mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal.

    ...

    By this time, no Ukrain­ian radio or TV sig­nal was work­ing in Mar­i­upol. The only radio you could catch broad­cast twist­ed Russ­ian lies — that Ukraini­ans were hold­ing Mar­i­upol hostage, shoot­ing at build­ings, devel­op­ing chem­i­cal weapons. The pro­pa­gan­da was so strong that some peo­ple we talked to believed it despite the evi­dence of their own eyes.

    The mes­sage was con­stant­ly repeat­ed, in Sovi­et style: Mar­i­upol is sur­round­ed. Sur­ren­der your weapons.

    On March 11, in a brief call with­out details, our edi­tor asked if we could find the women who sur­vived the mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal airstrike to prove their exis­tence. I real­ized the footage must have been pow­er­ful enough to pro­voke a response from the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment.

    We found them at a hos­pi­tal on the front line, some with babies and oth­ers in labor. We also learned that one woman had lost her baby and then her own life.

    We went up to the 7th floor to send the video from the ten­u­ous Inter­net link. From there, I watched as tank after tank rolled up along­side the hos­pi­tal com­pound, each marked with the let­ter Z that had become the Russ­ian emblem for the war.

    We were sur­round­ed: Dozens of doc­tors, hun­dreds of patients, and us.

    ___

    The Ukrain­ian sol­diers who had been pro­tect­ing the hos­pi­tal had van­ished. And the path to our van, with our food, water and equip­ment, was cov­ered by a Russ­ian sniper who had already struck a medic ven­tur­ing out­side.

    Hours passed in dark­ness, as we lis­tened to the explo­sions out­side. That’s when the sol­diers came to get us, shout­ing in Ukrain­ian.

    It didn’t feel like a res­cue. It felt like we were just being moved from one dan­ger to anoth­er. By this time, nowhere in Mar­i­upol was safe, and there was no relief. You could die at any moment.

    I felt amaz­ing­ly grate­ful to the sol­diers, but also numb. And ashamed that I was leav­ing.

    We crammed into a Hyundai with a fam­i­ly of three and pulled into a 5‑k­ilo­me­ter-long traf­fic jam out of the city. Around 30,000 peo­ple made it out of Mar­i­upol that day — so many that Russ­ian sol­diers had no time to look close­ly into cars with win­dows cov­ered with flap­ping bits of plas­tic.

    Peo­ple were ner­vous. They were fight­ing, scream­ing at each oth­er. Every minute there was an air­plane or airstrike. The ground shook.

    We crossed 15 Russ­ian check­points. At each, the moth­er sit­ting in the front of our car would pray furi­ous­ly, loud enough for us to hear.

    As we drove through them — the third, the tenth, the 15th, all manned with sol­diers with heavy weapons — my hopes that Mar­i­upol was going to sur­vive were fad­ing. I under­stood that just to reach the city, the Ukrain­ian army would have to break through so much ground. And it wasn’t going to hap­pen.

    At sun­set, we came to a bridge destroyed by the Ukraini­ans to stop the Russ­ian advance. A Red Cross con­voy of about 20 cars was stuck there already. We all turned off the road togeth­er into fields and back lanes.

    The guards at check­point No. 15 spoke Russ­ian in the rough accent of the Cau­ca­sus. They ordered the whole con­voy to cut the head­lights to con­ceal the arms and equip­ment parked on the road­side. I could bare­ly make out the white Z paint­ed on the vehi­cles.

    As we pulled up to the six­teenth check­point, we heard voic­es. Ukrain­ian voic­es. I felt an over­whelm­ing relief. The moth­er in the front of the car burst into tears. We were out.

    We were the last jour­nal­ists in Mar­i­upol. Now there are none.

    We are still flood­ed by mes­sages from peo­ple want­i­ng to learn the fate of loved ones we pho­tographed and filmed. They write to us des­per­ate­ly and inti­mate­ly, as though we are not strangers, as though we can help them.

    When a Russ­ian airstrike hit a the­ater where hun­dreds of peo­ple had tak­en shel­ter late last week, I could pin­point exact­ly where we should go to learn about sur­vivors, to hear first­hand what it was like to be trapped for end­less hours beneath piles of rub­ble. I know that build­ing and the destroyed homes around it. I know peo­ple who are trapped under­neath it.

    And on Sun­day, Ukrain­ian author­i­ties said Rus­sia had bombed an art school with about 400 peo­ple in it in Mar­i­upol.

    But we can no longer get there.

    ———-

    “20 days in Mar­i­upol: The team that doc­u­ment­ed city’s agony” by MSTYSLAV CHERNOV; Asso­ci­at­ed Press; 03/22/2022

    We were the only inter­na­tion­al jour­nal­ists left in the Ukrain­ian city, and we had been doc­u­ment­ing its siege by Russ­ian troops for more than two weeks. We were report­ing inside the hos­pi­tal when gun­men began stalk­ing the cor­ri­dors. Sur­geons gave us white scrubs to wear as cam­ou­flage.”

    If there’s one thing we can con­clude from this report, it’s that all of the reports we’re get­ting about what’s actu­al­ly hap­pen­ing in Mar­i­upol are based on high­ly lim­it­ed infor­ma­tion. The two jour­nal­ists this report was based on were the only inter­na­tion­al jour­nal­ists left in Mar­i­upol for the last cou­ple of weeks.

    Notably, the Ukrain­ian sol­diers there clear­ly viewed these AP reporters as high­ly impor­tant fig­ures in this infor­ma­tion war. Accord­ing to this report, Ukrain­ian sol­diers fought to free these jour­nal­ists March 15 from a hos­pi­tal that was sur­round­ed by Russ­ian forces, and then escort­ed them through 15 Russ­ian-con­trolled evac­u­a­tion check­points. Why were these jour­nal­ists so impor­tant that Ukrain­ian sol­diers and police risked their lives to help get them out? “If they catch you, they will get you on cam­era and they will make you say that every­thing you filmed is a lie,” Accord­ing to one sol­dier. “All your efforts and every­thing you have done in Mar­i­upol will be in vain.”

    Note that at no point in this report do we see any men­tion of the fact that the Nazi Azov Bat­tal­ion is the dom­i­nant mil­i­tary force in the city, so this is pre­sum­ably a very Azov-friend­ly pair of reporters:

    ...
    Sud­den­ly at dawn, a dozen sol­diers burst in: “Where are the jour­nal­ists, for fu ck’s sake?”

    I looked at their arm­bands, blue for Ukraine, and tried to cal­cu­late the odds that they were Rus­sians in dis­guise. I stepped for­ward to iden­ti­fy myself. “We’re here to get you out,” they said.

    The walls of the surgery shook from artillery and machine gun fire out­side, and it seemed safer to stay inside. But the Ukrain­ian sol­diers were under orders to take us with them.

    ...

    We reached an entry­way, and armored cars whisked us to a dark­ened base­ment. Only then did we learn from a police­man why the Ukraini­ans had risked the lives of sol­diers to extract us from the hos­pi­tal.

    “If they catch you, they will get you on cam­era and they will make you say that every­thing you filmed is a lie,” he said. “All your efforts and every­thing you have done in Mar­i­upol will be in vain.”

     The offi­cer, who had once begged us to show the world his dying city, now plead­ed with us to go. He nudged us toward the thou­sands of bat­tered cars prepar­ing to leave Mar­i­upol.

    It was March 15. We had no idea if we would make it out alive.
    ...

    That extrac­tion from the hos­pi­tal came after weeks of these reporters pro­vid­ing images of injured preg­nant women forced to flee from a mater­ni­ty war hit in an airstrike. It was appar­ent­ly dur­ing a trip to the hos­pi­tal to find these women when the hos­pi­tal was sur­round­ed by Russ­ian forces:

    ...
    On March 11, in a brief call with­out details, our edi­tor asked if we could find the women who sur­vived the mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal airstrike to prove their exis­tence. I real­ized the footage must have been pow­er­ful enough to pro­voke a response from the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment.

    We found them at a hos­pi­tal on the front line, some with babies and oth­ers in labor. We also learned that one woman had lost her baby and then her own life.

    We went up to the 7th floor to send the video from the ten­u­ous Inter­net link. From there, I watched as tank after tank rolled up along­side the hos­pi­tal com­pound, each marked with the let­ter Z that had become the Russ­ian emblem for the war.

    We were sur­round­ed: Dozens of doc­tors, hun­dreds of patients, and us.

    ___

    The Ukrain­ian sol­diers who had been pro­tect­ing the hos­pi­tal had van­ished. And the path to our van, with our food, water and equip­ment, was cov­ered by a Russ­ian sniper who had already struck a medic ven­tur­ing out­side.

    Hours passed in dark­ness, as we lis­tened to the explo­sions out­side. That’s when the sol­diers came to get us, shout­ing in Ukrain­ian.

    It didn’t feel like a res­cue. It felt like we were just being moved from one dan­ger to anoth­er. By this time, nowhere in Mar­i­upol was safe, and there was no relief. You could die at any moment.

    I felt amaz­ing­ly grate­ful to the sol­diers, but also numb. And ashamed that I was leav­ing.

    We crammed into a Hyundai with a fam­i­ly of three and pulled into a 5‑k­ilo­me­ter-long traf­fic jam out of the city. Around 30,000 peo­ple made it out of Mar­i­upol that day — so many that Russ­ian sol­diers had no time to look close­ly into cars with win­dows cov­ered with flap­ping bits of plas­tic.

    Peo­ple were ner­vous. They were fight­ing, scream­ing at each oth­er. Every minute there was an air­plane or airstrike. The ground shook.

    We crossed 15 Russ­ian check­points. At each, the moth­er sit­ting in the front of our car would pray furi­ous­ly, loud enough for us to hear.

    ...

    As we pulled up to the six­teenth check­point, we heard voic­es. Ukrain­ian voic­es. I felt an over­whelm­ing relief. The moth­er in the front of the car burst into tears. We were out.

    We were the last jour­nal­ists in Mar­i­upol. Now there are none.

    ...

    When a Russ­ian airstrike hit a the­ater where hun­dreds of peo­ple had tak­en shel­ter late last week, I could pin­point exact­ly where we should go to learn about sur­vivors, to hear first­hand what it was like to be trapped for end­less hours beneath piles of rub­ble. I know that build­ing and the destroyed homes around it. I know peo­ple who are trapped under­neath it.

    And on Sun­day, Ukrain­ian author­i­ties said Rus­sia had bombed an art school with about 400 peo­ple in it in Mar­i­upol.

    ut we can no longer get there.
    ...

    So it sounds like these reporters were trapped by Russ­ian sol­diers for hours, then Ukrain­ian forces fought to extract the reporters, who then passed through 15 Russ­ian check­points to free­dom. It’s pret­ty remark­able that these jour­nal­ists who were appar­ent­ly sought after by Russ­ian sol­diers were able to pass through these check­points, but that’s the sto­ry we’re get­ting. And as part of these sto­ry, we get con­fir­ma­tion that the last inter­na­tion­al reporters in Mar­i­upol were cone one day before the Mar­i­upol the­ater strike.

    And yes, if indeed the Russ­ian forces real­ly are attack­ing civil­ians in the man­ner Ukraine is claim­ing, that real­ly is quite awful and it’s extra awful to dis­miss those attacks as false flag. But on the flip side, if Azov real­ly is exe­cut­ing false flag atroc­i­ties in Mar­i­upol, and the world keeps blind­ly accept­ing this, there’s going to be a lot more false flat attacks going for­ward. Lots of extra awful­ness to go around, which is why try­ing to get at the truth of the mat­ter, regard­less of the awful direc­tion that truth may point, is prob­a­bly the best way to approach these kinds of extra awful sit­u­a­tions.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 21, 2022, 4:45 pm
  2. How much worse could the con­flict in Ukraine get for trapped civil­ians? That’s the ques­tion raised in a new piece by Bill Arkin in Newsweek. Its a ques­tion raised by the mas­sive explo­sions observed at a mall in Kyiv. A mall that Rus­sia claims was being used to store MLRS rock­et launch­ers. It’s a claim con­firmed by inde­pen­dent reporters, under­scor­ing how much of the fight­ing in Ukraine’s cities is tak­ing place because that’s where much of the mil­i­tary hard­ware is locat­ed.

    Which, again, rais­es the ques­tion of how much worse could this con­flict get for Ukraine’s civil­ians trapped in those urban areas. And based on the anony­mous Pen­ta­gon offi­cials Arkin spoke with, the answer is the war could get much worse for civilians...precisely because Rus­sia has actu­al­ly been hold­ing back from engag­ing in the indis­crim­i­nate bomb­ing of civil­ian areas. It’s an answer that seems to be at odds with the cov­er­age of bombed out apart­ment build­ings or oth­er urban destruc­tion. But accord­ing to these offi­cials, we real­ly are see­ing a high­ly lim­it­ed urban bomb­ing cam­paign that has been pri­mar­i­ly focused on mil­i­tary tar­gets. It’s why most of the air­ports around Kyiv remain undam­aged and much of the basic infra­struc­ture of the coun­try con­tin­ues to oper­ate and much of the West of the coun­try has been large­ly untouched. As opposed to being held back by Ukrain­ian forces, this lim­it­ed engage­ment is part of Rus­si­a’s strat­e­gy.

    Now, as these anony­mous Pen­ta­gon offi­cials also note, there real­ly is very dev­as­tat­ing dam­age to some urban areas, notably Mar­i­upol. But that’s pri­mar­i­ly been from the ground fight­ing and the use of artillery. And, of course, we have to keep in mind that some of the high pro­file dam­age in places like Mar­i­upol, home of the Azov Bat­tal­ion, might be self-inflict­ed.

    For all of the talk we’re hear­ing about the Russ­ian mil­i­tary being forced to engage in medieval siege war­fare now that Ukraine has refused to col­lapse with­out a fight, the indis­crim­i­nate killing of civil­ians has­n’t actu­al­ly start­ed yet accord­ing to these ana­lysts. It could. That’s pre­sum­ably an implic­it threat that’s part of the nego­ti­a­tion process. But at least so far, the Russ­ian assault appears to have been inten­tion­al­ly restrained for the vast major­i­ty of Ukraine. So as the debate over whether or not Ukraine should accept Rus­si­a’s peace terms rages in the West, it’s going to be impor­tant to keep in mind that this con­flict could get a lot worse for civil­ians fast at Rus­si­a’s dis­cre­tion:

    Newsweek

    Putin’s Bombers Could Dev­as­tate Ukraine But He’s Hold­ing Back. Here’s Why

    By William M. Arkin
    On 3/22/22 at 12:47 PM EDT

    As destruc­tive as the Ukraine war is, Rus­sia is caus­ing less dam­age and killing few­er civil­ians than it could, U.S. intel­li­gence experts say.

    Rus­si­a’s con­duct in the bru­tal war tells a dif­fer­ent sto­ry than the wide­ly accept­ed view that Vladimir Putin is intent on demol­ish­ing Ukraine and inflict­ing max­i­mum civil­ian damage—and it reveals the Russ­ian lead­er’s strate­gic bal­anc­ing act. If Rus­sia were more inten­tion­al­ly destruc­tive, the clam­or­ing for U.S. and NATO inter­ven­tion would be loud­er. And if Rus­sia were all-in, Putin might find him­self with no way out. Instead, his goal is to take enough ter­ri­to­ry on the ground to have some­thing to nego­ti­ate with, while putting the gov­ern­ment of Ukraine in a posi­tion where they have to nego­ti­ate.

    Under­stand­ing the think­ing behind Rus­si­a’s lim­it­ed attacks could help map a path towards peace, experts say.

    In near­ly a month since Rus­sia invad­ed, dozens of Ukrain­ian cities and towns have fall­en, and the fight over the coun­try’s largest cities con­tin­ues. Unit­ed Nations human rights spe­cial­ists say that some 900 civil­ians have died in the fight­ing (U.S. intel­li­gence puts that num­ber at least five times UN esti­mates). About 6.5 mil­lion Ukraini­ans have also become inter­nal­ly dis­placed (15 per­cent of the entire pop­u­la­tion), half of them leav­ing the coun­try to find safe­ty.

    “The destruc­tion is mas­sive,” a senior ana­lyst work­ing at the Defense Intel­li­gence Agency (DIA) tells Newsweek, “espe­cial­ly when com­pared with what Euro­peans and Amer­i­cans are used to see­ing.”

    But, the ana­lyst says, the dam­age asso­ci­at­ed with a con­test­ed ground war involv­ing peer oppo­nents should­n’t blind peo­ple to what is real­ly hap­pen­ing. (The ana­lyst request­ed anonymi­ty in order to speak about clas­si­fied mat­ters.) “The heart of Kyiv has bare­ly been touched. And almost all of the long-range strikes have been aimed at mil­i­tary tar­gets.”

    In the cap­i­tal, most observ­able to the west, Kyiv city author­i­ties say that some 55 build­ings have been dam­aged and that 222 peo­ple have died since Feb­ru­ary 24. It is a city of 2.8 mil­lion peo­ple.

    “We need to under­stand Rus­si­a’s actu­al con­duct,” says a retired Air Force offi­cer, a lawyer by train­ing who has been involved in approv­ing tar­gets for U.S. fights in Iraq and Afghanistan. The offi­cer cur­rent­ly works as an ana­lyst with a large mil­i­tary con­trac­tor advis­ing the Pen­ta­gon and was grant­ed anonymi­ty in order to speak can­did­ly.

    “If we mere­ly con­vince our­selves that Rus­sia is bomb­ing indis­crim­i­nate­ly, or [that] it is fail­ing to inflict more harm because its per­son­nel are not up to the task or because it is tech­ni­cal­ly inept, then we are not see­ing the real con­flict.”

    In the ana­lyst’s view, though the war has led to unprece­dent­ed destruc­tion in the south and east, the Russ­ian mil­i­tary has actu­al­ly been show­ing restraint in its long-range attacks.

    As of the past week­end, in 24 days of con­flict, Rus­sia has flown some 1,400 strike sor­ties and deliv­ered almost 1,000 mis­siles (by con­trast, the Unit­ed States flew more sor­ties and deliv­ered more weapons in the first day of the 2003 Iraq war). The vast major­i­ty of the airstrikes are over the bat­tle­field, with Russ­ian air­craft pro­vid­ing “close air sup­port” to ground forces. The remainder—less than 20 per­cent, accord­ing to U.S. experts—has been aimed at mil­i­tary air­fields, bar­racks and sup­port­ing depots.

    A pro­por­tion of those strikes have dam­aged and destroyed civil­ian struc­tures and killed and injured inno­cent civil­ians, but the lev­el of death and destruc­tion is low com­pared to Rus­si­a’s capac­i­ty.

    “I know it’s hard ... to swal­low that the car­nage and destruc­tion could be much worse than it is,” says the DIA ana­lyst. “But that’s what the facts show. This sug­gests to me, at least, that Putin is not inten­tion­al­ly attack­ing civil­ians, that per­haps he is mind­ful that he needs to lim­it dam­age in order to leave an out for nego­ti­a­tions.”

    Rus­sia began its inva­sion of Ukraine on Feb­ru­ary 24 with an air and mis­sile attack tar­get­ed against some 65 air­fields and mil­i­tary instal­la­tions. On the first night, at least 11 air­fields were attacked. Some 50 addi­tion­al mil­i­tary instal­la­tions and air defense sites were hit, includ­ing 18 ear­ly-warn­ing radar facil­i­ties.

    In these ini­tial salvos, a total of some 240 weapons were expend­ed, includ­ing 166 air‑, ground‑, and sea-based mis­siles. Though there were a good num­ber of longer-range bombers (fly­ing from Russ­ian soil), most of the airstrikes were short­er-range and most of the mis­siles launched were also short-range types of the Iskan­der (NATO SS-26 Stone) and Tochka (NATO SS-21 Scarab) class­es.

    The breadth of the attack—north to south, east to west—led many observers to com­pare the open­ing bom­bard­ment to a pat­tern seen in U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where large salvos con­cen­trat­ing on air defens­es and air­fields had the intent of estab­lish­ing air supe­ri­or­i­ty, a shock strike that would then open the skies for fol­low-on bomb­ing at will. When it came to Ukraine, not only did many observers “mir­ror-image” Russ­ian objec­tives to match U.S. prac­tices, they also made pre­ma­ture (and incor­rect) obser­va­tions that Rus­sia was fight­ing such a con­flict.

    Even before Russ­ian ground forces reached Kyiv and oth­er cities, this nar­ra­tive goes, the air and mis­sile forces would have so dam­aged Ukraine—including its com­mu­ni­ca­tions and oth­er infra­struc­ture need­ed for defens­es to con­tin­ue working—that it would secure vic­to­ry on the ground.

    Rus­sia has not achieved any of these goals. Though the out­lines of its first night of strikes sug­gest­ed an air supe­ri­or­i­ty cam­paign and an intense and focused destruc­tion of Ukraine’s mil­i­tary, after a month of war, con­tin­ued tar­get­ing tells a dif­fer­ent sto­ry. Rus­sia still has­n’t com­plete­ly knocked out the Ukrain­ian air force, nor has it estab­lished air supe­ri­or­i­ty. Air­fields away from the bat­tle­field are most­ly still oper­a­ble and some (in major cities) haven’t been bombed at all. The fab­ric of com­mu­ni­ca­tions in the coun­try con­tin­ues to oper­ate intact. There has been no method­i­cal Russ­ian attack on trans­porta­tion routes or bridges to impede Ukrain­ian ground defens­es or sup­plies. Though elec­tri­cal pow­er plants have been hit, they are all in con­test­ed ter­ri­to­ry or near mil­i­tary instal­la­tions and deploy­ments. None have been inten­tion­al­ly tar­get­ed.

    In fact, there has been no method­i­cal bomb­ing cam­paign to achieve any sys­temic out­come of a strate­gic nature. Air and mis­sile strikes, which ini­tial­ly seemed to tell one sto­ry, have almost exclu­sive­ly been in direct sup­port of ground forces.

    “Think of the Russ­ian Air force as fly­ing artillery,” says the retired senior U.S. Air Force offi­cer, who com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Newsweek via email. “It’s not an inde­pen­dent arm. It has under­tak­en no strate­gic air cam­paign as Amer­i­can observers might be used to from the last 30 years of Amer­i­can con­flict.”

    Ukrain­ian air defens­es, both fixed and mobile mis­siles, have proven resilient and dead­ly.

    “The Air Defense’s sur­viv­abil­i­ty and effi­ca­cy have sur­prised many, not only in Kyiv, but also across the coun­try,” Kyiv-based mil­i­tary expert Oleg Zhdanov told the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent.

    ...

    Rus­sia did not bomb sta­tion­ary air defense emplace­ments pro­tect­ing cities. U.S. ana­lysts say Putin’s gen­er­als were par­tic­u­lar­ly reluc­tant to attack urban tar­gets in Kyiv.

    As a result, regard­less of the Krem­lin’s plans—whether Rus­sia was actu­al­ly seek­ing air supe­ri­or­i­ty or intend­ed to lim­it dam­age in Kyiv—there is no ques­tion that Putin has had to revise the long-range attack plan.

    Over the course of almost four weeks, mis­siles fired at Kyiv have been scarce. Ukrain­ian media have report­ed just more than a dozen inci­dents involv­ing Russ­ian cruise and bal­lis­tic mis­siles inter­cept­ed over the city and its clos­est sub­urbs since Feb­ru­ary 24. And all of them, U.S. experts say, have been clear­ly head­ed for legit­i­mate mil­i­tary tar­gets.

    “The fact that the mobile S‑300 SAM sys­tems are still oper­at­ing is a pow­er­ful indict­ment of Rus­si­a’s abil­i­ty to con­duct dynam­ic or time-sen­si­tive tar­get­ing,” the Atlantic Coun­cil assert­ed this week in a mil­i­tary brief.

    The DIA ana­lyst dis­agrees: “For what­ev­er rea­son, clear­ly the Rus­sians have been reluc­tant to strike inside the urban mega­lopo­lis of Kyiv.

    “Yes they might not be up to the U.S. task [in dynam­ic tar­get­ing] or in estab­lish­ing air supe­ri­or­i­ty ... But this is the Russ­ian air force, sub­or­di­nate to the ground forces. And this war is dif­fer­ent: it’s being fought on the ground, where every­thing strate­gic that Rus­sia might destroy in front of its forces—bridges, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, air­fields, etc.—also becomes unus­able to them as they move for­ward.”

    From the very begin­ning of air strikes, both U.S. ana­lysts agree, some of the lim­it­ed air and mis­sile attacks have also had some inter­nal log­ic. Take, for instance, the air­field at Hos­tomel, north­west of Kyiv. It was­n’t direct­ly attacked because Rus­sia ini­tial­ly used it to land para­troop­ers, with the hope of advanc­ing to the cap­i­tal city. Instead the air­field and the sur­round­ing coun­try­side became the scene a major bat­tle, as Ukrain­ian forces mount­ed a fierce defense.

    In the south, Kher­son air­port also was­n’t attacked. The rea­son has become clear: Rus­sia is now using that very air­field to stage its own forces.

    In Kyiv, only one of the major air­ports was struck, in Boryspil. The news media report­ed that the “inter­na­tion­al air­port” was hit, but the dual civ­il-mil­i­tary air­field is also home to Ukraine Air Force’s 15th Trans­port Wing, includ­ing the pres­i­den­tial Tu-134 jet that might have been used by Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky if he chose to evac­u­ate. The oth­er major civil­ian Kyiv air­port, Zhulyany, has nev­er been attacked. Nor have two civ­il air­ports in Kharkiv (Ukraine’s sec­ond largest city) been attacked.

    Rus­sia start­ed the war with some 300 com­bat air­craft in Belarus and west­ern Rus­sia with­in range of Ukraine. Those and oth­er air­craft pulled into the war have been fly­ing about 80 strike sor­ties (indi­vid­ual flights) dai­ly. Ukraine claims that 95 of those Russ­ian air­craft have been lost, either shot down by air defend­ers or due to human error and tech­ni­cal prob­lems. (Rus­sia has moved addi­tion­al air­craft from oth­er bases to replen­ish most of its loss­es.)

    The strikes inside major cities (Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Odessa) have not only been lim­it­ed, but the retired U.S. Air Force offi­cer points out that even when long-range aviation—Russian Tu-95 “Bear” bombers deliv­er­ing cruise and hyper­son­ic mis­siles —have flown strikes in west­ern Ukraine, away from the bat­tle­field, they have been direct­ed at mil­i­tary tar­gets.

    And there has been strate­gic log­ic, at least in Rus­si­a’s view.

    “They’ve been sig­nal­ing,” the retired offi­cer says. “West­ern air­fields [at Lut­sk, L’viv, and Ivano-Frankivsk] were hit because they were the most like­ly step­ping­stones for donat­ed fight­er air­craft com­ing in from Poland and east­ern Euro­pean coun­tries. When those tar­gets were prepped,” he adds, “there was also talk of a west­ern no-fly zone where those [west­ern] air­fields might have been essen­tial.

    “And the so-called peace­keep­er train­ing ground [in Yaro­viv] was hit because it was the place where the ‘inter­na­tion­al legion’ was to have trained,” the offi­cer says. “Moscow even announced that.”

    Rus­sia, the DIA ana­lyst adds, has also been care­ful not to cause esca­la­tion onto Beloruss­ian or Russ­ian ter­ri­to­ry, or to pro­voke NATO. Despite oper­at­ing from Belarus, Russ­ian ground and air oper­a­tions have most­ly been con­fined to the south­east­ern por­tion of the coun­try. And the attacks in west­ern Ukraine, have been care­ful to avoid NATO air­space. For exam­ple, the Ukrain­ian air­base at Lut­sk, home to the 204th Avi­a­tion Wing and just 70 miles south of the Belarus, was attacked March 13th by long-range bombers. The mis­siles were launched from the south, from over the Black Sea.

    None of this is to sug­gest that Rus­sia is not at fault in its inva­sion, or that the destruc­tion and the civil­ian deaths, injuries and dis­lo­ca­tion aren’t due to its aggres­sion. Evi­dence on the bat­tle­field, where there has been grind­ing fight for territory—in Kharkiv, in the con­test­ed front line towns like Mar­i­upol, Miko­lai­iv, and Sumy in the east; and Cherni­hiv north­east of Kyiv—indicates that civil­ian deaths have been much high­er where ground forces are oper­at­ing.

    Even though the major­i­ty of Russ­ian airstrikes have tak­en place in these areas, the increased civil­ian harm is due to the use of artillery and mul­ti­ple rock­et launch­ers, not Russ­ian air or long-range mis­sile strikes.

    “Peo­ple are talk­ing about Grozny [in Chech­nya] and Alep­po [in Syr­ia], and the raz­ing of Ukrain­ian cities” a sec­ond retired U.S. Air Force senior offi­cer tells Newsweek. “But even in the case of south­ern cities, where artillery and rock­ets are with­in range of pop­u­lat­ed cen­ters, the strikes seem to be try­ing to tar­get Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary units, many of which by neces­si­ty oper­at­ing from inside urban areas.”

    The offi­cer request­ed anonymi­ty because he is being pri­vate­ly briefed on the war by the Pen­ta­gon and is not autho­rized to speak to the news media.

    He and the oth­er ana­lysts who spoke to Newsweek argue not only that the destruc­tion is only a small frac­tion of what is pos­si­ble, but also that they see a glim­mer of hope in a fact-based analy­sis of what Rus­sia has done.

    “I was ini­tial­ly puz­zled as to why more long-range mis­siles haven’t been sent into Kyiv and oth­er major cities such as Ode­sa, and also why long-range avi­a­tion has­n’t been used more in strate­gic attacks,” says the sec­ond senior offi­cer. “But then I had to shift to see the war through [Vladimir] Putin’s eyes.”

    “Caught with his pants down, per­haps Putin indeed piv­ot­ed after he real­ized that Ukraine was­n’t going to be a cake­walk and that Kyiv was­n’t con­quer­able. Maybe he decid­ed to sole­ly focus on tak­ing ter­ri­to­ry along the periph­ery and link­ing up his con­sol­i­da­tions in the south, to be in a posi­tion to hold enough ter­ri­to­ry to extract con­ces­sions from Ukraine and the west—security guar­an­tees or some demil­i­ta­rized zone.”

    The sec­ond senior offi­cer says that Putin obvi­ous­ly con­tin­ues to apply pres­sure against Kyiv, but Rus­sia has­n’t shift­ed much of its own forces and has con­tin­ued to back off bomb­ing in the city prop­er.

    “In that, maybe he is leav­ing room for a polit­i­cal set­tle­ment,” the offi­cer says.

    Sun­day, Volodymyr Zelen­sky told CNN he is pre­pared to talk to the Russ­ian pres­i­dent. “I’m ready for nego­ti­a­tions with him. I was ready for the last two years. And I think that with­out nego­ti­a­tions, we can­not end this war,” said Zelen­sky.

    The fact that both sides are talk­ing, experts say, indi­cates not only how shocked they are by the destruc­tive­ness of a land war in Europe, but are also stymied in achiev­ing their mil­i­tary objec­tives. As Rus­sia advances, it is run­ning out of sup­plies. Its forces are also exhaust­ed. As Ukraine con­tin­ues its valiant defense, it too is reach­ing the lim­its of human endurance, fac­ing major loss­es and run­ning low on ammu­ni­tion.

    It is now absolute­ly clear, all U.S. observers agree, that Putin and his gen­er­als over­es­ti­mat­ed their own mil­i­tary prowess while gross­ly under­es­ti­mat­ing Ukraine’s defens­es.

    “I’m frus­trat­ed by the cur­rent narrative—that Rus­sia is inten­tion­al­ly tar­get­ing civil­ians, that it is demol­ish­ing cities, and that Putin does­n’t care. Such a dis­tort­ed view stands in the way of find­ing an end before true dis­as­ter hits or the war spreads to the rest of Europe,” the sec­ond U.S. Air Force offi­cer says.

    Heart­break­ing images make it easy for the news to focus on the war’s dam­age to build­ings and lives. But in pro­por­tion to the inten­si­ty of the fight­ing (or Rus­si­a’s capac­i­ty), things could indeed be much worse.

    “I know that the news keeps repeat­ing that Putin is tar­get­ing civil­ians, but there is no evi­dence that Rus­sia is inten­tion­al­ly doing so,” says the DIA ana­lyst. “In fact, I’d say that Russ­ian could be killing thou­sands more civil­ians if it want­ed to.”

    “I’m no com-symp,” the ana­lyst says. “Rus­sia is dead wrong, and Putin needs to be pun­ished. But in terms of con­clud­ing the war in a way that both sides can accept and where we don’t see Armaged­don, the air and mis­sile war pro­vides pos­i­tive signs.”

    Every war is unique and awful, and Ukraine is no dif­fer­ent. But Rus­si­a’s choice to mod­u­late its destruc­tive­ness is an impor­tant coun­ter­in­tu­itive ele­ment. Vladimir Putin can’t eas­i­ly win; he can’t accept loss or retreat; and he can’t esca­late. He has to keep destruc­tion and pres­sure at a very care­ful, just-bad-enough lev­el to keep some advan­tage.

    “I know it’s thin con­so­la­tion that it could be a lot worse,” the DIA ana­lyst says, “but to under­stand how that is the case should real­ly change peo­ple’s per­spec­tives, even inside the U.S. gov­ern­ment, as to how to end this.”

    ———–

    “Putin’s Bombers Could Dev­as­tate Ukraine But He’s Hold­ing Back. Here’s Why” by William M. Arkin; Newsweek; 03/22/2022

    “But, the ana­lyst says, the dam­age asso­ci­at­ed with a con­test­ed ground war involv­ing peer oppo­nents should­n’t blind peo­ple to what is real­ly hap­pen­ing. (The ana­lyst request­ed anonymi­ty in order to speak about clas­si­fied mat­ters.) “The heart of Kyiv has bare­ly been touched. And almost all of the long-range strikes have been aimed at mil­i­tary tar­gets.””

    Is Ukraine endur­ing the indis­crim­i­nate bom­bard­ment of Russ­ian forces intent on pum­mel­ing the pop­u­lace into sub­mis­sion? That’s the impres­sion one gets from the gen­er­al cov­er­age of the con­flict. But as these mil­i­tary ana­lysts (anony­mous­ly) point out, Ukraine’s civil­ian areas would look very dif­fer­ent if that was actu­al­ly the case. Instead, we’re see­ing Rus­sia large­ly leave these major met­ro­pol­i­tan areas untouched with the key excep­tion of mil­i­tary instal­la­tions. It’s why only one major air­port has been hit in Kyiv. We aren’t look­ing at a repeat of Grozny:

    ...
    From the very begin­ning of air strikes, both U.S. ana­lysts agree, some of the lim­it­ed air and mis­sile attacks have also had some inter­nal log­ic. Take, for instance, the air­field at Hos­tomel, north­west of Kyiv. It was­n’t direct­ly attacked because Rus­sia ini­tial­ly used it to land para­troop­ers, with the hope of advanc­ing to the cap­i­tal city. Instead the air­field and the sur­round­ing coun­try­side became the scene a major bat­tle, as Ukrain­ian forces mount­ed a fierce defense.

    In the south, Kher­son air­port also was­n’t attacked. The rea­son has become clear: Rus­sia is now using that very air­field to stage its own forces.

    In Kyiv, only one of the major air­ports was struck, in Boryspil. The news media report­ed that the “inter­na­tion­al air­port” was hit, but the dual civ­il-mil­i­tary air­field is also home to Ukraine Air Force’s 15th Trans­port Wing, includ­ing the pres­i­den­tial Tu-134 jet that might have been used by Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky if he chose to evac­u­ate. The oth­er major civil­ian Kyiv air­port, Zhulyany, has nev­er been attacked. Nor have two civ­il air­ports in Kharkiv (Ukraine’s sec­ond largest city) been attacked.
    ...

    Cru­cial­ly, as these ana­lysts note, this rel­a­tive restraint sig­nals the path out of this con­flict. For all of the talk about Rus­sia decid­ing ot lev­el the coun­try, it appears to be quite the oppo­site: Rus­sia is wag­ing a rel­a­tive­ly lim­it­ed inva­sion — with most of the destruc­tion focused on Mar­i­upol — at the same time Rus­sia calls for peace nego­ti­a­tions. It’s part of why the nar­ra­tive about indis­crim­i­nate Russ­ian bomb­ing and war crimes isn’t help­ing. It’s a nar­ra­tive that risks extend­ing this con­flict and mak­ing indis­crim­i­nate bomb­ing far more like­ly:

    ...
    “The destruc­tion is mas­sive,” a senior ana­lyst work­ing at the Defense Intel­li­gence Agency (DIA) tells Newsweek, “espe­cial­ly when com­pared with what Euro­peans and Amer­i­cans are used to see­ing.”

    ...

    In the cap­i­tal, most observ­able to the west, Kyiv city author­i­ties say that some 55 build­ings have been dam­aged and that 222 peo­ple have died since Feb­ru­ary 24. It is a city of 2.8 mil­lion peo­ple.

    “We need to under­stand Rus­si­a’s actu­al con­duct,” says a retired Air Force offi­cer, a lawyer by train­ing who has been involved in approv­ing tar­gets for U.S. fights in Iraq and Afghanistan. The offi­cer cur­rent­ly works as an ana­lyst with a large mil­i­tary con­trac­tor advis­ing the Pen­ta­gon and was grant­ed anonymi­ty in order to speak can­did­ly.

    “If we mere­ly con­vince our­selves that Rus­sia is bomb­ing indis­crim­i­nate­ly, or [that] it is fail­ing to inflict more harm because its per­son­nel are not up to the task or because it is tech­ni­cal­ly inept, then we are not see­ing the real con­flict.”

    In the ana­lyst’s view, though the war has led to unprece­dent­ed destruc­tion in the south and east, the Russ­ian mil­i­tary has actu­al­ly been show­ing restraint in its long-range attacks.

    ...

    “I know it’s hard ... to swal­low that the car­nage and destruc­tion could be much worse than it is,” says the DIA ana­lyst. “But that’s what the facts show. This sug­gests to me, at least, that Putin is not inten­tion­al­ly attack­ing civil­ians, that per­haps he is mind­ful that he needs to lim­it dam­age in order to leave an out for nego­ti­a­tions.”

    ...

    “The fact that the mobile S‑300 SAM sys­tems are still oper­at­ing is a pow­er­ful indict­ment of Rus­si­a’s abil­i­ty to con­duct dynam­ic or time-sen­si­tive tar­get­ing,” the Atlantic Coun­cil assert­ed this week in a mil­i­tary brief.

    The DIA ana­lyst dis­agrees: “For what­ev­er rea­son, clear­ly the Rus­sians have been reluc­tant to strike inside the urban mega­lopo­lis of Kyiv.

    “Yes they might not be up to the U.S. task [in dynam­ic tar­get­ing] or in estab­lish­ing air supe­ri­or­i­ty ... But this is the Russ­ian air force, sub­or­di­nate to the ground forces. And this war is dif­fer­ent: it’s being fought on the ground, where every­thing strate­gic that Rus­sia might destroy in front of its forces—bridges, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, air­fields, etc.—also becomes unus­able to them as they move for­ward.”

    ...

    “Peo­ple are talk­ing about Grozny [in Chech­nya] and Alep­po [in Syr­ia], and the raz­ing of Ukrain­ian cities” a sec­ond retired U.S. Air Force senior offi­cer tells Newsweek. “But even in the case of south­ern cities, where artillery and rock­ets are with­in range of pop­u­lat­ed cen­ters, the strikes seem to be try­ing to tar­get Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary units, many of which by neces­si­ty oper­at­ing from inside urban areas.”

    The offi­cer request­ed anonymi­ty because he is being pri­vate­ly briefed on the war by the Pen­ta­gon and is not autho­rized to speak to the news media.

    He and the oth­er ana­lysts who spoke to Newsweek argue not only that the destruc­tion is only a small frac­tion of what is pos­si­ble, but also that they see a glim­mer of hope in a fact-based analy­sis of what Rus­sia has done.

    “I was ini­tial­ly puz­zled as to why more long-range mis­siles haven’t been sent into Kyiv and oth­er major cities such as Ode­sa, and also why long-range avi­a­tion has­n’t been used more in strate­gic attacks,” says the sec­ond senior offi­cer. “But then I had to shift to see the war through [Vladimir] Putin’s eyes.”

    “Caught with his pants down, per­haps Putin indeed piv­ot­ed after he real­ized that Ukraine was­n’t going to be a cake­walk and that Kyiv was­n’t con­quer­able. Maybe he decid­ed to sole­ly focus on tak­ing ter­ri­to­ry along the periph­ery and link­ing up his con­sol­i­da­tions in the south, to be in a posi­tion to hold enough ter­ri­to­ry to extract con­ces­sions from Ukraine and the west—security guar­an­tees or some demil­i­ta­rized zone.”

    ...

    “I’m frus­trat­ed by the cur­rent narrative—that Rus­sia is inten­tion­al­ly tar­get­ing civil­ians, that it is demol­ish­ing cities, and that Putin does­n’t care. Such a dis­tort­ed view stands in the way of find­ing an end before true dis­as­ter hits or the war spreads to the rest of Europe,” the sec­ond U.S. Air Force offi­cer says.

    Heart­break­ing images make it easy for the news to focus on the war’s dam­age to build­ings and lives. But in pro­por­tion to the inten­si­ty of the fight­ing (or Rus­si­a’s capac­i­ty), things could indeed be much worse.

    “I know that the news keeps repeat­ing that Putin is tar­get­ing civil­ians, but there is no evi­dence that Rus­sia is inten­tion­al­ly doing so,” says the DIA ana­lyst. “In fact, I’d say that Russ­ian could be killing thou­sands more civil­ians if it want­ed to.”

    “I’m no com-symp,” the ana­lyst says. “Rus­sia is dead wrong, and Putin needs to be pun­ished. But in terms of con­clud­ing the war in a way that both sides can accept and where we don’t see Armaged­don, the air and mis­sile war pro­vides pos­i­tive signs.”
    ...

    Rus­sia could be killing far more civil­ians if it wants to, but it does­n’t want to do that. That’s the con­clu­sion these ana­lysts are forced to anony­mous­ly pro­vide to vet­er­an mil­i­tary reporter Bill Arkin. Despite all of the cov­er­age, what we’re see­ing right now real­ly is the rel­a­tive­ly restrained ver­sion of how this inva­sion could have gone down. And still might go down should peace talks remain stalled.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 23, 2022, 4:02 pm
  3. With reports of Rus­si­a’s first ever use of a hyper­son­ic mis­sile in Ukraine, here’s a an arti­cle from back in Novem­ber that serves as a reminder that we could end up see­ing all sorts of exper­i­men­tal weapons used by all sides by the time this con­flict is over. Exper­i­ment­ing with new ways of killing peo­ple is one of the few things war is gen­uine­ly ‘good’ for, after all:

    In a move laden with his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance, the US the reac­ti­vat­ed the 56th Artillery Com­mand in Ger­many. The unit was pre­vi­ous­ly active between 1963 and 1991. So it’s being reac­ti­vat­ed just in time for the ‘New Cold War’, with a mis­sion of act­ing as a kind of hub for artillery oper­a­tions across Europe. Beyond that, the unit is going to be tasked with the intro­duc­tion of new exper­i­men­tal weapon sys­tems. Weapon sys­tems that, in many cas­es, would have been pre­vi­ous­ly banned under the Inter­me­di­ate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that the US pulled out of in 2019. This includes the Dark Eagle hyper­son­ic mis­sile, which we are told the US Army is hop­ing to field in com­ing years. And that’s just one of the pre­vi­ous­ly-banned mis­siles that we are told this new­ly reac­ti­vat­ed com­mand unit in Ger­many is plan­ning on rolling out in the rel­a­tive­ly near future. There will pre­sum­ably be a lot more new weapons ‘test­ed’ in Ukraine the longer this goes:

    The Dri­ve

    Army Revives Cold War Nuclear Mis­sile Unit To Deploy New Long-Range Weapons In Europe
    56th Artillery Com­mand’s return to Ger­many after 30 years reflects how crit­i­cal ground-launched mis­siles would be in any future con­flict with Rus­sia.

    By Joseph Tre­vithick
    Novem­ber 8, 2021

    The U.S. Army has offi­cial­ly reac­ti­vat­ed the 56th Artillery Com­mand in Ger­many. This unit was pre­vi­ous­ly active in that coun­try between 1963 and 1991, dur­ing which time it com­mand­ed bat­tal­ions armed with Per­sh­ing and Per­sh­ing II nuclear-armed bal­lis­tic mis­siles. In its new guise, it will serve as a hub for artillery oper­a­tions across Europe, includ­ing deploy­ments of new ground-based hyper­son­ic weapons and oth­er oth­er longer-range mis­siles in the com­ing years. This reflects just how impor­tant the Army feels these new capa­bil­i­ties, and artillery in gen­er­al, would be in any future major con­flict in the region, espe­cial­ly against Rus­sia.

    The Army offi­cial­ly stood up the 56th Artillery Com­mand in Mainz-Kas­tel, Ger­many, today, but news that the unit would return to active duty had emerged in August. The com­mand is assigned to U.S. Army Europe and Africa, which over­sees all con­ven­tion­al Army oper­a­tions on both of those con­ti­nents.

    The 56th is co-locat­ed in Mainz-Kas­tel with the Army’s sec­ond so-called Mul­ti-Domain Task Force (MDTF). The ser­vice’s MDTFs, the first of which was estab­lished at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Wash­ing­ton State, are still-evolv­ing units that are being used as test­beds to explore the intro­duc­tion of new weapons and oth­er capa­bil­i­ties. They are expect­ed to have an oper­a­tional role, espe­cial­ly in any future high-end con­flict against a major oppo­nent such as Rus­sia or Chi­na.

    “The reac­ti­va­tion of the 56th Artillery Com­mand will pro­vide U.S. Army Europe and Africa with sig­nif­i­cant capa­bil­i­ties in mul­ti-domain oper­a­tions,” Army Maj. Gen. Stephen Maran­ian, the head of the new­ly revived unit, said in a state­ment on Nov. 3. “It will fur­ther enable the syn­chro­niza­tion of joint and multi­na­tion­al fires and effects, and employ­ment of future long-range sur­face to sur­face fires across the U.S. Army Europe and Africa area of respon­si­bil­i­ty.”

    Mara­ni­an’s men­tion of “future long-range sur­face to sur­face fires” is clear­ly a ref­er­ence, at least in part, to two new mis­sile sys­tems the Army hopes to begin field­ing in the next few years — Dark Eagle and Typhon.

    Dark Eagle is the still rel­a­tive­ly new name for the Army’s Long Range Hyper­son­ic Weapon (LRHW), which it is devel­op­ing as part of a joint pro­gram with the U.S. Navy. The ser­vice is already in the process of stand­ing up the first bat­tery that will be equipped with these mis­siles, each of which car­ries an unpow­ered hyper­son­ic boost-glide vehi­cle, as part of the MDTF at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
    US Army

    Typhon, which the Army has also referred to as its future Mid-Range Capa­bil­i­ty (MRC), is a mul­ti-pur­pose sys­tem that includes launch­ers and fire con­trol sys­tems that will be able to employ var­i­ous types of mis­siles. At present, the ser­vice plans to use Typhon to fire land-based deriv­a­tives of the Navy’s SM‑6 mis­sile, which has air- and mis­sile-defense capa­bil­i­ties as well as the abil­i­ty to strike sur­face tar­gets, along with ground-launched ver­sions of the Tom­a­hawk land-attack cruise mis­sile. The Army is expect­ed to use its ver­sion of the SM‑6 as a sur­face-to-sur­face bal­lis­tic mis­sile.

    The Army is in the process of acquir­ing a new con­ven­tion­al­ly armed bal­lis­tic mis­sile, the Pre­ci­sion Strike Mis­sile (PrSM), which could even­tu­al­ly have a range of over 310 miles. There has been talk in recent years about the ser­vice field­ing oth­er new longer-range bal­lis­tic mis­siles, as well.

    There is his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance to reac­ti­vat­ing the 56th Artillery Com­mand, specif­i­cal­ly, to over­see the future employ­ment of these weapons in Europe. Dark Eagle, Typhon, and a future extend­ed-range PrSM, would all have pre­vi­ous­ly been banned under the now-defunct Inter­me­di­ate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which col­lapsed in 2019.

    The Unit­ed States and the Sovi­et Union signed this agree­ment in 1987. The INF entered into force the fol­low­ing year, and both sides imple­ment­ed the pro­vi­sions even as the Sovi­et Union col­lapsed and a new Rus­sia emerged in 1991. The treaty was direct­ly respon­si­ble for the removal of the Per­sh­ing II mis­sile from Army ser­vice, which was then a key fac­tor in the deci­sion to stand down the 56th just over three decades ago. U.S. Air Force units armed with the BGM-109G Gryphon, an ear­li­er ground-launched Tom­a­hawk vari­ant, were also elim­i­nat­ed as a result of the INF.

    Though the U.S. and Russ­ian gov­ern­ments con­tin­ue to talk about pos­si­ble fol­low-ons to the INF, as well as oth­er future arms con­trol arrange­ments, the return of the 56th makes clear that the Army is prepar­ing to deploy units armed with weapons like Dark Eagle and Typhon to Europe on some lev­el in the com­ing years. Those deploy­ments may ulti­mate­ly be rota­tion­al or oth­er­wise non-per­ma­nent due to the will­ing­ness, or lack there­of, of even Amer­i­ca’s NATO allies to host these weapons.

    At the same time, while the Army’s revival of the 56th is clear­ly linked to its future mis­sile capa­bil­i­ties, the unit will also have a broad­er and per­haps more impor­tant role sim­ply as a hub for man­ag­ing all its artillery units across Europe. This includes those that will be equipped with new longer-range how­itzers and rock­et artillery. In recent years, the ser­vice has already been steadi­ly stand­ing up new units in the region to go along with these new capa­bil­i­ties, as it has broad­ly refo­cused its atten­tion, on prepar­ing for a poten­tial con­flict with Rus­sia.

    Army lead­ers have warned for years now that the Russ­ian Army has clear advan­tages in artillery capa­bil­i­ties, as well as in raw num­bers of self-pro­pelled how­itzers and rock­et launch­ers. Any future con­flict in Europe would almost cer­tain­ly see the rel­a­tive­ly rapid deploy­ment of addi­tion­al artillery units to the region, which would then need high­er-lev­el com­mands to man­age their oper­a­tions. This is one of the 56th’s core jobs, along with act­ing as a focal point for coor­di­nat­ing Army artillery ele­ments with units from oth­er ser­vices, as well as NATO allies and oth­er part­ners, who would like­ly be fight­ing along­side Amer­i­can troops in any poten­tial high-end fight in the region.

    The MDTF at Mainz-Kas­tel is a key ele­ment in all of this, as well. This unit would like­ly be in direct charge of actu­al­ly employ­ing new weapons and oth­er sys­tems, such as Dark Eagle and Typhon, as well as advanced net­work­ing capa­bil­i­ties that will improve the effec­tive­ness and flex­i­bil­i­ty of artillery and oth­er Army units in gen­er­al. In a prime exam­ple of the kinds of exper­i­men­ta­tion these task forces are engaged in, the Euro­pean MDTF brought high-alti­tude bal­loons car­ry­ing sen­sors and com­mu­ni­ca­tion nodes to an to an exer­cise in Nor­way this past Sep­tem­ber. The Army’s 41st Field Artillery Brigade, a rock­et artillery unit that was stood up in Ger­many in 2018, par­tic­i­pat­ed in that drill and used the bal­loons to help find and engage tar­gets at extend­ed ranges.

    ...

    The return of the 56th Artillery Com­mand to Ger­many after more than 30 years under­scores just how vital the Army sees artillery, includ­ing new weapons, such as Dark Eagle and Typhon, being in a future major con­flict in the region, poten­tial­ly one involv­ing Rus­sia.

    ————

    “Army Revives Cold War Nuclear Mis­sile Unit To Deploy New Long-Range Weapons In Europe” by Joseph Tre­vithick; The Dri­ve; 11/08/2021

    “The 56th is co-locat­ed in Mainz-Kas­tel with the Army’s sec­ond so-called Mul­ti-Domain Task Force (MDTF). The ser­vice’s MDTFs, the first of which was estab­lished at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Wash­ing­ton State, are still-evolv­ing units that are being used as test­beds to explore the intro­duc­tion of new weapons and oth­er capa­bil­i­ties. They are expect­ed to have an oper­a­tional role, espe­cial­ly in any future high-end con­flict against a major oppo­nent such as Rus­sia or Chi­na.

    A new hub for exper­i­men­tal weapons. Exper­i­men­tal weapons expect­ed to be espe­cial­ly use­ful in any future con­flict with Rus­sia or Chi­na. Weapons like the hyper­son­ic Dark Eagle or the mul­ti-pur­pose Typhon. Or the Amy’s new inter­me­di­ate-range bal­lis­tic mis­siles with a range of over 310 miles:

    ...
    Dark Eagle is the still rel­a­tive­ly new name for the Army’s Long Range Hyper­son­ic Weapon (LRHW), which it is devel­op­ing as part of a joint pro­gram with the U.S. Navy. The ser­vice is already in the process of stand­ing up the first bat­tery that will be equipped with these mis­siles, each of which car­ries an unpow­ered hyper­son­ic boost-glide vehi­cle, as part of the MDTF at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
    US Army

    Typhon, which the Army has also referred to as its future Mid-Range Capa­bil­i­ty (MRC), is a mul­ti-pur­pose sys­tem that includes launch­ers and fire con­trol sys­tems that will be able to employ var­i­ous types of mis­siles. At present, the ser­vice plans to use Typhon to fire land-based deriv­a­tives of the Navy’s SM‑6 mis­sile, which has air- and mis­sile-defense capa­bil­i­ties as well as the abil­i­ty to strike sur­face tar­gets, along with ground-launched ver­sions of the Tom­a­hawk land-attack cruise mis­sile. The Army is expect­ed to use its ver­sion of the SM‑6 as a sur­face-to-sur­face bal­lis­tic mis­sile.

    _The Army is in the process of acquir­ing a new con­ven­tion­al­ly armed bal­lis­tic mis­sile, the Pre­ci­sion Strike Mis­sile (PrSM), which could even­tu­al­ly have a range of over 310 miles. There has been talk in recent years about the ser­vice field­ing oth­er new longer-range bal­lis­tic mis­siles, as well.
    ...

    And as the arti­cle notes, all three of these exper­i­men­tal new mis­sile sys­tems would have been banned under the Inter­me­di­ate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which col­lapsed in 2019 after the Trump admin­is­tra­tion pulled the US out of the treaty. So part of the his­toric sig­nif­i­cance of the reopen­ing of the 56th Artillery Com­mand is that intro­duc­tion of pre­vi­ous­ly banned mis­siles is the pre­dictable con­se­quence of the US’s his­toric deci­sion to with­draw from that treat. A deci­sion made just three years ago:

    ...
    There is his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance to reac­ti­vat­ing the 56th Artillery Com­mand, specif­i­cal­ly, to over­see the future employ­ment of these weapons in Europe. Dark Eagle, Typhon, and a future extend­ed-range PrSM, would all have pre­vi­ous­ly been banned under the now-defunct Inter­me­di­ate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which col­lapsed in 2019.

    ...

    Though the U.S. and Russ­ian gov­ern­ments con­tin­ue to talk about pos­si­ble fol­low-ons to the INF, as well as oth­er future arms con­trol arrange­ments, the return of the 56th makes clear that the Army is prepar­ing to deploy units armed with weapons like Dark Eagle and Typhon to Europe on some lev­el in the com­ing years. Those deploy­ments may ulti­mate­ly be rota­tion­al or oth­er­wise non-per­ma­nent due to the will­ing­ness, or lack there­of, of even Amer­i­ca’s NATO allies to host these weapons.
    ...

    And don’t for­get that the impli­ca­tions of pulling out of the INF Treaty at the same time the West is con­tin­u­ing to dan­gle NATO mem­ber­ship to Ukraine includ­ed the very real pos­si­bil­i­ty of a future NATO-mem­ber Ukraine field­ing all of these pre­vi­ous­ly-banned weapons capa­ble of rapid­ly hit­ting deep inside Rus­sia. Which rais­es the apoc­a­lyp­tic ques­tion: if a nuclear pow­er has hyper­son­ic mis­siles sit­ting on its bor­ders, which are pre­sum­ably capa­ble of knock­ing out nuclear mis­sile sites extreme­ly rapid­ly, could that effec­tive­ly neu­tral­ize the log­ic of mutu­al­ly assured destruc­tion? In oth­er words, if hyper­son­ic mis­siles in Ukraine are capa­ble of rapid­ly hit­ting all of Rus­si­a’s bal­lis­tic mis­sile sites and long-range bomber air­fields in a mat­ter of min­utes, would that effec­tive­ly grant NATO a kind of first-strike capac­i­ty? It’s the kind of ques­tion we had bet­ter hope pol­i­cy-mak­ers are ask­ing. Because some­thing clear­ly spooked Vladimir Putin in a big way to pro­voke this inva­sion. It should­n’t be too hard to under­stand how Putin would find an unstop­pable first-strike capac­i­ty derived from a NATO-armed Ukraine pret­ty spooky.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 24, 2022, 4:03 pm
  4. Here’s an arti­cle about a now famil­iar sto­ry com­ing out of Latvia, with a 2022 twist: that would be the sto­ry of Latvi­a’s annu­al parade hon­or­ing Latvi­a’s SS Legion. Yep, after tak­ing a break for the past cou­ple of years over pan­dem­ic con­cerns, the gov­ern­ment of Latvia is offi­cial­ly cel­e­brat­ing its most noto­ri­ous Nazis as heroes. At the same time Rus­sian’s ‘de-Naz­i­fi­ca­tion’ inva­sion of Ukraine cur­rent­ly under­way. It’s like nation-state trolling. Except it’s not trolling. It’s just the lat­est man­i­fes­ta­tion of a very real trend of the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion and his­toric white­wash­ing of some of Europe’s most noto­ri­ous war crim­i­nals. And more or less the exact same phe­nom­e­na that has per­vades Ukraine. So it’s the same old sto­ry of yes­ter­day, but with the trolling twist of hav­ing this parade lit­er­al­ly tak­ing place across the bor­der from a major Euro­pean war being fought on a de-Naz­i­fi­ca­tion pre­text.

    Is there any push back against this parade? Yes, but it’s also the same old sto­ry: Latvi­a’s Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty is decry­ing the parade. And large­ly being ignored. As the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, it’s been the same old sto­ry for decades in Latvia. And not only did the Lat­vian gov­ern­ment deny the request to allow a counter-protest by those oppose to Nazi glo­ri­fi­ca­tion at this year’s parade, but it’s alleg­ing those who denounce the parade have been duped by “Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion”.

    How about oth­er west­ern gov­ern­ments? Are they say­ing any­thing in response to this parade? Well, as the fol­low­ing Ottawa Cit­i­zen arti­cle also notes, the gov­ern­ment of Cana­da did indeed denounce the parade explic­it­ly, with a gov­ern­ment spokesper­son announc­ing that Cana­da was “strong­ly opposed to the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Nazism and all forms of racism, racial dis­crim­i­na­tion, xeno­pho­bia, intol­er­ance and extrem­ism. That is why we con­demn the parade to com­mem­o­rate the Lat­vian SS Brigade held in Latvia on March 16th.”. No such denounce­ment was made in 2022. Instead, the Cana­di­an gov­ern­ment issued a state­ment that appeared to dis­tance the Lat­vian gov­ern­ment from the event: “Cana­da has con­sis­tent­ly sup­port­ed Latvia’s free­dom and inde­pen­dence, and con­demns those who would co-opt those sen­ti­ments to pro­mote hatred, extrem­ism, and division...To our under­stand­ing, these events are nei­ther sanc­tioned nor attend­ed by the Lat­vian gov­ern­ment.”

    So we aren’t just see­ing the Lat­vian gov­ern­ment offi­cial­ly cel­e­brate its hero­ic Nazis. We’re also see­ing gov­ern­ments like Cana­da go out of their way to excuse it. It’s not exact­ly eas­ing the ten­sions:

    Ottawa Cit­i­zen

    Jew­ish groups con­demn Lat­vian parade to hon­our Nazis, warn it could be used for Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da

    The march to hon­our Latvia’s SS Legion has been a con­tro­ver­sial annu­al event, but pan­dem­ic health restric­tions forced the can­cel­la­tion of the cel­e­bra­tion for the past two years. Lat­vian TV report­ed it was back on this year with sev­er­al hun­dred peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ing in the parade in Riga on Wednes­day.

    Author of the arti­cle:
    David Pugliese •
    Pub­lish­ing date:
    Mar 17, 2022 • March 17, 2022

    Jew­ish groups are con­demn­ing a parade in Latvia to cel­e­brate mem­bers of Adolf Hitler’s SS, warn­ing that the con­tin­ued glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Nazis is not only wrong, but could also be used for Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da.

    The march to hon­our Latvia’s SS Legion has been a con­tro­ver­sial annu­al event, but pan­dem­ic health restric­tions forced the can­cel­la­tion of the cel­e­bra­tion for the past two years. Lat­vian TV report­ed it was back on this year with sev­er­al hun­dred peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ing in the parade in Riga on Wednes­day.

    For decades, Jew­ish groups have con­demned the cel­e­bra­tion and what they say is Latvia’s con­tin­ued glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of those who sup­port­ed Hitler or took part in the Holo­caust. There were also con­cerns the parade would give Russ­ian leader Vladimir Putin yet anoth­er exam­ple to dri­ve home his pro­pa­gan­da mes­sage that NATO nations and Ukraine are home to Nazis. Putin has already claimed his mil­i­tary need­ed to invade Ukraine to “de-Naz­i­fy” that coun­try.

    Mar­vin Rotrand, a nation­al direc­tor with B’nai Brith Cana­da, said Latvia con­tin­ued to ignore calls for the parade to be shut down. “They are hon­our­ing a SS unit whose mem­bers were involved in atroc­i­ties,” Rotrand said. “This year, in par­tic­u­lar, there is an amaz­ing lack of under­stand­ing of the dam­age a march like this does to the uni­ty of NATO and the nations stand­ing for democ­ra­cy.”

    Over the years, east­ern Euro­pean nations have erect­ed mon­u­ments to nation­al­is­tic lead­ers who fought the Sovi­et Union dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, but many of those same lead­ers were Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors and some were active par­tic­i­pants in the Holo­caust. The Nazis also cre­at­ed SS units drawn from men in Lithua­nia, Latvia, Ukraine and Esto­nia.

    Holo­caust schol­ars and Jew­ish groups note the eas­i­est way for east­ern Euro­pean gov­ern­ments to under­cut Putin’s claims that they sup­port Nazism would be to put a halt to such cel­e­bra­tions and to remove mon­u­ments to col­lab­o­ra­tors.

    But Lat­vian offi­cials have dou­bled down on praise for the SS and argue the mem­bers of the legion are heroes who fought the Rus­sians and had noth­ing to do with the Holo­caust.

    In 2019, Lat­vian Defence Min­is­ter Artis Pabriks called the SS mem­bers “the pride of the Lat­vian peo­ple and of the state.” Pabriks also called out those who con­demned the parade, adding, “It is our duty to hon­our these Lat­vian patri­ots from the depths of our soul.”

    Cana­di­an gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary offi­cials refused to con­demn Pabriks’ state­ments.

    In ear­ly 2019, how­ev­er, Glob­al Affairs Cana­da denounced the annu­al March 16 parade. Amy Mills, a depart­ment spokesper­son, said Cana­da was “strong­ly opposed to the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Nazism and all forms of racism, racial dis­crim­i­na­tion, xeno­pho­bia, intol­er­ance and extrem­ism. That is why we con­demn the parade to com­mem­o­rate the Lat­vian SS Brigade held in Latvia on March 16th.”

    This year, Glob­al Affairs Cana­da took a less stri­dent approach. It did not men­tion Nazis, nor specif­i­cal­ly denounce the parade. “Cana­da has con­sis­tent­ly sup­port­ed Latvia’s free­dom and inde­pen­dence, and con­demns those who would co-opt those sen­ti­ments to pro­mote hatred, extrem­ism, and divi­sion,” depart­ment spokesper­son James Emmanuel Wan­ki not­ed in an email Thurs­day. “To our under­stand­ing, these events are nei­ther sanc­tioned nor attend­ed by the Lat­vian gov­ern­ment.”

    The Cana­di­an Forces has around 540 troops in Latvia as part of a NATO mis­sion. Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau recent­ly con­clud­ed a vis­it to Latvia and announced a fur­ther exten­sion of the mis­sion. His office not­ed “Cana­da and Latvia’s rela­tion­ship is root­ed in our shared val­ues.”

    The Lat­vian SS Legion con­sist­ed of hard-core Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors who had tak­en part in the Holo­caust as well as con­scripts. Among the Legion’s offi­cers was Vik­tors Ara­js, the anti-Semi­te who liked to refer him­self as “Ara­js, the Lat­vian Jew-killer.”

    Ara­js once regaled guests at a din­ner par­ty in Riga with his views on the best method to kill Jew­ish babies, accord­ing to the book The Holo­caust in Latvia. Ara­js told his din­ner par­ty par­tic­i­pants he would throw the chil­dren into the air and then shoot them. That way he avoid­ed ric­o­chets that might hap­pen if he mur­dered the babies on the ground.

    Lat­vian TV report­ed the gov­ern­ment had increased the police pres­ence at this year’s parade and there were no inci­dents. Gov­ern­ment offi­cials denied a request to allow a counter-protest by those opposed to Nazi glo­ri­fi­ca­tion.

    The Lat­vian gov­ern­ment and its sup­port­ers allege those denounc­ing the parade have been duped by “Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion.” The right-wing Mac­don­ald Lau­ri­er Insti­tute in Ottawa, which has received fund­ing from the Lat­vian defence min­istry, has also claimed some news arti­cles out­lin­ing Lat­vians’ par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Holo­caust and sup­port for Hitler “essen­tial­ly par­rot­ed the Kremlin’s tai­lored nar­ra­tives.”

    ...

    Dovid Katz, edi­tor of Defend­ing His­to­ry, a jour­nal devot­ed to Holo­caust stud­ies and fight­ing Nazi glo­ri­fi­ca­tion, said it was “utter­ly sad” the parade was back on in Riga. “That they would this year again be gift­ed the his­toric cen­tre of the cap­i­tal is a fol­ly rife with poor judg­ment and even poor­er ethics in an act of de-fac­to state facil­i­ta­tion of a pathet­ic wor­ship of Hit­lerism,” he said.

    ————-

    “Jew­ish groups con­demn Lat­vian parade to hon­our Nazis, warn it could be used for Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da” by David Pugliese; Ottawa Cit­i­zen; 03/17/2022

    “Mar­vin Rotrand, a nation­al direc­tor with B’nai Brith Cana­da, said Latvia con­tin­ued to ignore calls for the parade to be shut down. “They are hon­our­ing a SS unit whose mem­bers were involved in atroc­i­ties,” Rotrand said. “This year, in par­tic­u­lar, there is an amaz­ing lack of under­stand­ing of the dam­age a march like this does to the uni­ty of NATO and the nations stand­ing for democ­ra­cy.””

    Yes, it’s rather amaz­ing how this year, in par­tic­u­lar, there is no dis­cernible recog­ni­tion for how much these kinds of events do to nar­ra­tive about NATO stand­ing up for democ­ra­cy and oppos­ing Nazism. But it is what it is. The show must go on and those who denounce the parade will be labeled vic­tims of Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da. Heck, Latvi­a’s gov­ern­ment even blocked a counter-protest. They aren’t being sub­tle with the mes­sag­ing. This is as offi­cial an embrace as the Lat­vian SS legion could pos­si­bly get. And yet the gov­ern­ment of Cana­da decid­ed to issue a state­ment denounc­ing the parade but then excus­ing the Lat­vian gov­ern­ment from hav­ing any­thing to do with it. Again, it’s all pret­ty amaz­ing. Amaz­ing­ly gross:

    ...
    Lat­vian TV report­ed the gov­ern­ment had increased the police pres­ence at this year’s parade and there were no inci­dents. Gov­ern­ment offi­cials denied a request to allow a counter-protest by those opposed to Nazi glo­ri­fi­ca­tion.

    The Lat­vian gov­ern­ment and its sup­port­ers allege those denounc­ing the parade have been duped by “Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion.” The right-wing Mac­don­ald Lau­ri­er Insti­tute in Ottawa, which has received fund­ing from the Lat­vian defence min­istry, has also claimed some news arti­cles out­lin­ing Lat­vians’ par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Holo­caust and sup­port for Hitler “essen­tial­ly par­rot­ed the Kremlin’s tai­lored nar­ra­tives.”

    ...

    Holo­caust schol­ars and Jew­ish groups note the eas­i­est way for east­ern Euro­pean gov­ern­ments to under­cut Putin’s claims that they sup­port Nazism would be to put a halt to such cel­e­bra­tions and to remove mon­u­ments to col­lab­o­ra­tors.

    ...

    In 2019, Lat­vian Defence Min­is­ter Artis Pabriks called the SS mem­bers “the pride of the Lat­vian peo­ple and of the state.” Pabriks also called out those who con­demned the parade, adding, “It is our duty to hon­our these Lat­vian patri­ots from the depths of our soul.”

    Cana­di­an gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary offi­cials refused to con­demn Pabriks’ state­ments.

    In ear­ly 2019, how­ev­er, Glob­al Affairs Cana­da denounced the annu­al March 16 parade. Amy Mills, a depart­ment spokesper­son, said Cana­da was “strong­ly opposed to the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Nazism and all forms of racism, racial dis­crim­i­na­tion, xeno­pho­bia, intol­er­ance and extrem­ism. That is why we con­demn the parade to com­mem­o­rate the Lat­vian SS Brigade held in Latvia on March 16th.”

    This year, Glob­al Affairs Cana­da took a less stri­dent approach. It did not men­tion Nazis, nor specif­i­cal­ly denounce the parade. “Cana­da has con­sis­tent­ly sup­port­ed Latvia’s free­dom and inde­pen­dence, and con­demns those who would co-opt those sen­ti­ments to pro­mote hatred, extrem­ism, and divi­sion,” depart­ment spokesper­son James Emmanuel Wan­ki not­ed in an email Thurs­day. “To our under­stand­ing, these events are nei­ther sanc­tioned nor attend­ed by the Lat­vian gov­ern­ment.”
    ...

    Also note that when Holo­caust schol­ars and Jew­ish groups note the eas­i­est way for east­ern Euro­pean gov­ern­ments to under­cut Putin’s claims that they sup­port Nazism would be to put a halt to such cel­e­bra­tions and to remove mon­u­ments to col­lab­o­ra­tors, it’s impor­tant to keep in mind that one of the most impor­tant tar­get audi­ences in this con­flict is the Russ­ian pop­u­lace in gen­er­al. If any­one needs to be put at ease about the Naz­i­fi­ca­tion of East­ern Europe, it the Russ­ian pub­lic. Espe­cial­ly now, with Joe Biden declar­ing that Vladimir Putin “can­not stay in pow­er”, mak­ing it ever more clear that regime change in Rus­sia is now the top pri­or­i­ty in this con­flict. Does the West seri­ous­ly expect the Russ­ian pub­lic to sud­den­ly for­get every­thing it’s seen and just accept the laugh­able denials of West­ern gov­ern­ments. It’s a ‘don’t believe your lying eyes’ kind of sit­u­a­tion. So it appears that the West is in for some rather nasty sur­pris­es: the sur­prise of learn­ing that the Russ­ian pop­u­lace is actu­al­ly pay­ing atten­tion to all these sto­ries about the Naz­i­fi­ca­tion of East­ern Europe. And the nasty sur­prise of learn­ing that the troll­ish and utter­ly implau­si­ble denials of this open Naz­i­fi­ca­tion is the kind of behav­ior that’s going to con­vince the Rus­sia pub­lic the Nazi prob­lem isn’t just in East­ern Europe.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 26, 2022, 3:47 pm
  5. Why has­n’t Vladimir Putin been more bru­tal in Ukraine? That’s the ques­tion raised by a recent NY Times piece that fea­tured a num­ber of anony­mous nation­al secu­ri­ty offi­cials shar­ing a view that diverges quite a bit from the pre­vail­ing nar­ra­tive in the west­ern media of the indis­crim­i­nate bomb­ing of Ukrain­ian cities. On the con­trary, these US offi­cials appear to be down­right baf­fled as to why Rus­sia has­n’t been attack­ing Ukrain­ian infra­struc­ture at any­where close to the inten­si­ty the Russ­ian mil­i­tary is capa­ble of, includ­ing a lack of attacks on the infra­struc­ture trans­port­ing West­ern arms from the West across the coun­try. As the ana­lysts note, this rel­a­tive­ly tepid approach to the con­flict stands in deep con­trast to the bom­bas­tic cov­er­age of the war on Russ­ian media. Of course, the same could be said for the cov­er­age of the war in much of the West.

    It’s rather notable that the sen­ti­ment in this piece more or less match­es the sen­ti­ments shared by the anony­mous US mil­i­tary offi­cials who spoke to Bill Arkin back in March. And that points to what could be con­sid­ered the most dis­turb­ing aspect of this report: the baf­fle­ment over Putin’s appar­ent hold­ing back is shared by pol­i­cy­mak­ers in DC who have been ful­ly expect­ing Putin to hit back much more direct­ly at the West over the incred­i­ble num­ber of Russ­ian casu­al­ties as a result of the West­’s intense mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine. In oth­er words, as bad as the as got­ten in Ukraine, it’s not near­ly as bad as West­ern pol­i­cy­mak­ers have been plan­ning on mak­ing it. The fight­ing was sup­posed to be more intense and the ten­sions between Russ­ian and the West should have been even more tense. But that has­n’t hap­pened and pol­i­cy­mak­ers are try­ing to deter­mine why:

    The New York Times

    Russia’s War Has Been Bru­tal, but Putin Has Shown Some Restraint. Why?

    West­ern offi­cials are debat­ing the Kremlin’s cal­cu­la­tions in not try­ing hard­er to halt weapons ship­ments in Ukraine. Ana­lysts won­der whether a big­ger mobi­liza­tion by Moscow is on the hori­zon.

    By Anton Troianovs­ki and Julian E. Barnes
    May 3, 2022

    Russia’s war against Ukraine has lev­eled cities, killed tens of thou­sands of peo­ple and forced mil­lions of oth­ers from their homes.

    But qui­et­ly, some mil­i­tary ana­lysts and West­ern offi­cials are ask­ing why the onslaught has not been even worse.

    Rus­sia could be going after Ukrain­ian rail­ways, roads and bridges more aggres­sive­ly to try to stanch the flow of West­ern weapons to the front line. It could have bombed more of the infra­struc­ture around the cap­i­tal, Kyiv, to make it hard­er for West­ern lead­ers to vis­it Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky in shows of uni­ty and resolve. And it could be doing far more to inflict pain on the West, whether by cyber­at­tack, sab­o­tage or more cut­offs of ener­gy exports to Europe.

    Part of the rea­son appears to be sheer incom­pe­tence: The open­ing weeks of the war demon­strat­ed vivid­ly that Russia’s mil­i­tary was far less capa­ble than believed before the inva­sion. But Amer­i­can and Euro­pean offi­cials also say that Pres­i­dent Vladimir V. Putin’s tac­tics in recent weeks have appeared to be remark­ably cau­tious, marked by a slow-mov­ing offen­sive in east­ern Ukraine, a restrained approach to tak­ing out Ukrain­ian infra­struc­ture and an avoid­ance of actions that could esca­late the con­flict with NATO.

    The appar­ent restraint on the ground stands in con­trast to the bom­bast on Russ­ian state tele­vi­sion, where Moscow is described as being locked in an exis­ten­tial fight against the West and where the use of nuclear weapons is open­ly dis­cussed. The issue is whether, as the war grinds on, Mr. Putin will change tack and inten­si­fy the war.

    That is a par­tic­u­lar­ly urgent ques­tion ahead of the Vic­to­ry Day hol­i­day in Rus­sia next Mon­day, when Mr. Putin tra­di­tion­al­ly pre­sides over a grandiose parade mark­ing the Sovi­et tri­umph over Nazi Ger­many and gives a mil­i­taris­tic speech. Ben Wal­lace, the British defense sec­re­tary, pre­dict­ed last week that Mr. Putin would use the speech for an offi­cial dec­la­ra­tion of war and a mass mobi­liza­tion of the Russ­ian peo­ple.

    Amer­i­can and Euro­pean offi­cials say that they have not seen any on-the-ground move­ments that would show any much larg­er push with addi­tion­al troops begin­ning on May 9 or soon after. Those offi­cials now expect a slow­er, grind­ing cam­paign inside Ukraine. But they do not dis­agree that Mr. Putin could use the speech to declare a wider war and a deep­er nation­al effort to fight it.

    For the moment, Mr. Putin appears to be in a mil­i­tary hold­ing pat­tern, one that is allow­ing Ukraine to regroup and stock up on West­ern weapon­ry. On Mon­day, a senior Pen­ta­gon offi­cial called Russia’s lat­est offen­sive in east­ern Ukraine “very cau­tious, very tepid.” In Rus­sia, there is grum­bling that the mil­i­tary is fight­ing with one hand tied behind its back, with the strat­e­gy and aims not under­stood by the pub­lic.

    “This is a strange, spe­cial kind of war,” Dmitri Trenin, until recent­ly the direc­tor of the Carnegie Moscow Cen­ter think tank, said in a phone inter­view from out­side Moscow. “Rus­sia has set some rather strict lim­its for itself, and this is not being explained in any way — which rais­es a lot of ques­tions, first of all, among Russ­ian cit­i­zens.”

    Mr. Trenin is one of the few ana­lysts from his think tank, shut­tered last month by the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment, who chose to stay in Rus­sia after the war began. He said that he was strug­gling to explain why the Krem­lin was fight­ing at “less than half strength.”

    Why isn’t Rus­sia bomb­ing more bridges and rail­way net­works, he asked, when they are allow­ing Ukraine’s mil­i­tary to receive more of the West’s increas­ing­ly lethal weapons deliv­er­ies with every pass­ing day? Why are West­ern lead­ers — like House Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi on Sun­day — still able to vis­it Kyiv safe­ly?

    “I find this strange, and I can’t explain it,” Mr. Trenin said.

    ...

    For weeks, offi­cials in Wash­ing­ton have dis­cussed why the Russ­ian mil­i­tary has not been more aggres­sive in try­ing to destroy the sup­ply lines that send West­ern arms ship­ments into Ukraine. Part of the answer, offi­cials say, is that Ukrain­ian air defense con­tin­ues to threat­en Russ­ian air­craft, and the deep­er Russ­ian planes go into Ukraine the greater the chance they are going to be shot down.

    Rus­sia has also strug­gled with its pre­ci­sion muni­tions — mis­siles or rock­ets with guid­ance sys­tems. Many of those weapons have failed to work prop­er­ly, and Russ­ian sup­plies of the weapons are lim­it­ed. Strikes on rail lines or mov­ing con­voys must be very pre­cise to be effec­tive.

    Oth­er offi­cials have argued that Moscow is eager to avoid destroy­ing Ukraine’s infra­struc­ture too severe­ly, in the pos­si­bly mis­guid­ed hope that it can still take con­trol of the coun­try. Rus­sia would be stuck with a huge rebuild­ing job if it took over cities dev­as­tat­ed by its own bomb­ing.

    A senior Amer­i­can defense offi­cial said that Mr. Putin may have avoid­ed destroy­ing Ukraine’s rail net­work because he did not want to hurt his own abil­i­ty to move equip­ment and troops around the coun­try. The Rus­sians have been more focused on destroy­ing weapon stor­age areas than the rail net­work.

    Amer­i­can offi­cials spoke on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to dis­cuss pri­vate mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence assess­ments.

    Then there is the ques­tion of why Rus­sia hasn’t hit back hard­er against the West. The Krem­lin nar­ra­tive is of an exis­ten­tial war with NATO being fought on Ukrain­ian soil, but Rus­sia is the one tak­ing mil­i­tary loss­es while the West keeps a safe dis­tance and sup­plies weapons that kill Russ­ian sol­diers.

    “A lot of peo­ple in this town are ask­ing why they haven’t retal­i­at­ed yet,” said Samuel Charap, a for­mer U.S. State Depart­ment offi­cial in Wash­ing­ton and a Rus­sia ana­lyst with the RAND Cor­po­ra­tion. “It seems low prob­a­bil­i­ty that the U.S. and its allies will expe­ri­ence no blow­back from hav­ing put this many Russ­ian sol­diers in their graves.”

    Rus­sia has the tools to do wide­spread dam­age to the West. The gas short­ages caused by the cyber­at­tack on the Colo­nial Pipeline last year showed the dis­rup­tion that Russ­ian hack­ing can inflict on Amer­i­can infra­struc­ture. Berlin has warned that a cut­off of Russ­ian gas could throw the Ger­man econ­o­my into a reces­sion.

    And then there is Moscow’s world-lead­ing nuclear arse­nal, with an esti­mat­ed 5,977 war­heads: Their cat­a­stroph­ic capa­bil­i­ty is being hyped in ever-shriller terms in the Russ­ian media.

    “You thought you could destroy us with oth­er people’s hands and observe from the side­lines from a safe dis­tance?” Sergei Mironov, an out­spo­ken hawk in Russia’s Par­lia­ment, said on Sat­ur­day, claim­ing that his country’s new inter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile could destroy Britain in a sin­gle strike. “It won’t work, gen­tle­men — you’ll have to pay for it all in full!” he added.

    Mr. Putin has also warned of retal­i­a­tion, but he val­ues ambi­gu­i­ty, too. Last year, he said that those cross­ing a “red line” would face an “asym­met­ric, fast and tough” response — an indi­ca­tion that the response would come at a time and place of Moscow’s choos­ing.

    “Nobody real­ly knows where the red line is,” Mr. Charap, the ana­lyst, said. “I don’t even think the Rus­sians know, because we are in such unchart­ed waters.”

    Amer­i­can and allied offi­cials have debat­ed why Mr. Putin hasn’t tried wide­spread or more dam­ag­ing cyber­strikes. Some say that Mr. Putin has been effec­tive­ly deterred. The Russ­ian mil­i­tary, strug­gling to make gains in Ukraine, can­not han­dle a wider war with NATO and does not want to give the alliance any excuse to enter the war more direct­ly.

    Oth­ers argue that a cyber­strike on a NATO coun­try is one of the few cards Mr. Putin can play and that he may be wait­ing for a lat­er stage in his cam­paign to do that.

    While Mr. Putin has been unafraid of esca­lat­ing the rhetoric, his actions have sug­gest­ed he does not want to do any­thing that could prompt a wider war.

    “The gen­er­al sense is that he wants to snatch some sort of vic­to­ry out of this deba­cle of his,” said the Amer­i­can defense offi­cial, sug­gest­ing that Mr. Putin was not inter­est­ed in “bor­row­ing more trou­ble.”

    Before the inva­sion on Feb. 24, Mr. Trenin, of the Carnegie cen­ter, pre­dict­ed that the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary would put up a fierce resis­tance and that Mr. Putin would dis­cov­er a lack of polit­i­cal sup­port for Rus­sia in Ukraine. On that, Mr. Trenin turned out to be right.

    What he was wrong about, Mr. Trenin said, was the infor­ma­tion that aides and com­man­ders would pro­vide to Mr. Putin about Russia’s capa­bil­i­ties, which turned out to be flawed.

    Mr. Trenin says he still sees Mr. Putin as fun­da­men­tal­ly ratio­nal, rather than some­one will­ing to engage in a nuclear war, with a “mani­a­cal deter­mi­na­tion to destroy mankind.”

    “That would not be a mis­take — that would be a total depar­ture from ratio­nal­i­ty,” Mr. Trenin said. “I hope that now I am not wrong.”

    ———-

    “Russia’s War Has Been Bru­tal, but Putin Has Shown Some Restraint. Why?” by Anton Troianovs­ki and Julian E. Barnes; The New York Times; 05/03/2022

    The appar­ent restraint on the ground stands in con­trast to the bom­bast on Russ­ian state tele­vi­sion, where Moscow is described as being locked in an exis­ten­tial fight against the West and where the use of nuclear weapons is open­ly dis­cussed. The issue is whether, as the war grinds on, Mr. Putin will change tack and inten­si­fy the war.”

    If Rus­sia real­ly is locked in an exis­ten­tial bat­tle with the West, it’s not act­ing like it. Instead, as one Russ­ian oppo­si­tion ana­lyst put it, the Krem­lin was fight­ing as “less than half strength”. So giv­en that Vladimir Putin appears to still be a ratio­nal actor, what is the ratio­nale for hold­ing back so much? It’s a ques­tion that no one appears to have a sat­is­fac­to­ry answer for, hence the broad range of spec­u­la­tion:

    ...
    Mr. Trenin is one of the few ana­lysts from his think tank, shut­tered last month by the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment, who chose to stay in Rus­sia after the war began. He said that he was strug­gling to explain why the Krem­lin was fight­ing at “less than half strength.”

    Why isn’t Rus­sia bomb­ing more bridges and rail­way net­works, he asked, when they are allow­ing Ukraine’s mil­i­tary to receive more of the West’s increas­ing­ly lethal weapons deliv­er­ies with every pass­ing day? Why are West­ern lead­ers — like House Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi on Sun­day — still able to vis­it Kyiv safe­ly?

    “I find this strange, and I can’t explain it,” Mr. Trenin said.

    ...

    Mr. Trenin says he still sees Mr. Putin as fun­da­men­tal­ly ratio­nal, rather than some­one will­ing to engage in a nuclear war, with a “mani­a­cal deter­mi­na­tion to destroy mankind.”

    “That would not be a mis­take — that would be a total depar­ture from ratio­nal­i­ty,” Mr. Trenin said. “I hope that now I am not wrong.”
    ...

    But while that mys­tery of why Rus­sia appears to be hold­ing back so much rais­es a lot of trou­bling ques­tions, per­haps the most dis­turb­ing part of this report is how it reveals how pol­i­cy mak­ers in DC have been sur­prised by the amount Rus­sia has held back, includ­ing the lack of attacks on West­ern arms ship­ments. Beyond that, there appears to be an expec­ta­tion that the Krem­lin is going to be hit­ting back at the West far more direct­ly in retal­i­a­tion for all this aid to Ukraine that is direct­ly killing Russ­ian sol­diers. In oth­er words, DC has been oper­at­ing from a play­book that has assumed this con­flict would have esca­lat­ed much more by now. So as bad as tense as the sit­u­a­tion is right now between the world’s nuclear pow­ers, it’s not actu­al­ly as tense as West­ern pol­i­cy­mak­ers were plan­ning on mak­ing it:

    ...
    For the moment, Mr. Putin appears to be in a mil­i­tary hold­ing pat­tern, one that is allow­ing Ukraine to regroup and stock up on West­ern weapon­ry. On Mon­day, a senior Pen­ta­gon offi­cial called Russia’s lat­est offen­sive in east­ern Ukraine “very cau­tious, very tepid.” In Rus­sia, there is grum­bling that the mil­i­tary is fight­ing with one hand tied behind its back, with the strat­e­gy and aims not under­stood by the pub­lic.

    “This is a strange, spe­cial kind of war,” Dmitri Trenin, until recent­ly the direc­tor of the Carnegie Moscow Cen­ter think tank, said in a phone inter­view from out­side Moscow. “Rus­sia has set some rather strict lim­its for itself, and this is not being explained in any way — which rais­es a lot of ques­tions, first of all, among Russ­ian cit­i­zens.”

    ...

    For weeks, offi­cials in Wash­ing­ton have dis­cussed why the Russ­ian mil­i­tary has not been more aggres­sive in try­ing to destroy the sup­ply lines that send West­ern arms ship­ments into Ukraine. Part of the answer, offi­cials say, is that Ukrain­ian air defense con­tin­ues to threat­en Russ­ian air­craft, and the deep­er Russ­ian planes go into Ukraine the greater the chance they are going to be shot down.

    ...

    Then there is the ques­tion of why Rus­sia hasn’t hit back hard­er against the West. The Krem­lin nar­ra­tive is of an exis­ten­tial war with NATO being fought on Ukrain­ian soil, but Rus­sia is the one tak­ing mil­i­tary loss­es while the West keeps a safe dis­tance and sup­plies weapons that kill Russ­ian sol­diers.

    “A lot of peo­ple in this town are ask­ing why they haven’t retal­i­at­ed yet,” said Samuel Charap, a for­mer U.S. State Depart­ment offi­cial in Wash­ing­ton and a Rus­sia ana­lyst with the RAND Cor­po­ra­tion. “It seems low prob­a­bil­i­ty that the U.S. and its allies will expe­ri­ence no blow­back from hav­ing put this many Russ­ian sol­diers in their graves.”
    ...

    And it’s that appar­ent expec­ta­tion in DC that Rus­sia would have struck back at the West by now, and will strike even­tu­al­ly, that makes the sit­u­a­tion real­ly feel like a WWIII provo­ca­tion. Even these ana­lysts are acknowl­edge that no one knows where the ‘red line’ is when it comes to actions that could pro­voke a nuclear response from the Krem­lin. Even Moscow does­n’t know where that line is right now because we’re all in such unchart­ed waters:

    ...
    And then there is Moscow’s world-lead­ing nuclear arse­nal, with an esti­mat­ed 5,977 war­heads: Their cat­a­stroph­ic capa­bil­i­ty is being hyped in ever-shriller terms in the Russ­ian media.

    “You thought you could destroy us with oth­er people’s hands and observe from the side­lines from a safe dis­tance?” Sergei Mironov, an out­spo­ken hawk in Russia’s Par­lia­ment, said on Sat­ur­day, claim­ing that his country’s new inter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile could destroy Britain in a sin­gle strike. “It won’t work, gen­tle­men — you’ll have to pay for it all in full!” he added.

    Mr. Putin has also warned of retal­i­a­tion, but he val­ues ambi­gu­i­ty, too. Last year, he said that those cross­ing a “red line” would face an “asym­met­ric, fast and tough” response — an indi­ca­tion that the response would come at a time and place of Moscow’s choos­ing.

    “Nobody real­ly knows where the red line is,” Mr. Charap, the ana­lyst, said. “I don’t even think the Rus­sians know, because we are in such unchart­ed waters.”
    ...

    And there we have it. One anony­mous offi­cial after anoth­er express­ing sur­prise that we aren’t much clos­er to WWIII. So if Putin is indeed the ratio­nal actor these ana­lysts all appear to agree he still is, per­haps one of the rea­sons he appears to be so hes­i­tant about mak­ing any moves that could turn this con­flict into a broad­er con­flict between Rus­sia and NATO is because he has rea­son­ably con­clud­ed that turn­ing this into a broad­er con­flict with NATO appears to be a NATO objec­tive. Real­ly the objec­tive at this point. At least that’s what we can rea­son­ably infer from a new report out of Prav­da Ukraine about a mes­sage deliv­ered direct­ly to Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky by British Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son dur­ing John­son’s sur­prise trip to Kiev last month: John­son’s mes­sage that Ukraine’s NATO part­ners were NOT pre­pared to sign any secu­ri­ty guar­an­tees or agree­ments with Rus­sia to end the con­flict even if Ukraine was ready to sign such agree­ments. Rus­sia was report­ed­ly open to peace nego­ti­a­tions at this point. Three days lat­er, the talks col­lapsed

    Prav­da Ukraine

    Pos­si­bil­i­ty of talks between Zelen­skyy and Putin came to a halt after Johnson’s vis­it — UP sources

    IRYNA BALACHUK, ROMAN ROMANIUK — THURSDAY, 5 MAY 2022, 13:32

    Fol­low­ing the arrival of British Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son in Kyiv, a pos­si­ble meet­ing between Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Zelen­skyy and Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin has become less like­ly.

    ...

    Quote from the arti­cle: “The Russ­ian side…was actu­al­ly ready for the Zelen­skyy-Putin meet­ing.

    But two things hap­pened, after which a mem­ber of the Ukrain­ian del­e­ga­tion, Mykhai­lo Podoliak, had to open­ly admit that it was “not the time” for the meet­ing of the pres­i­dents.

    The first thing was the rev­e­la­tion of the atroc­i­ties, rapes, mur­ders, mas­sacres, loot­ing, indis­crim­i­nate bomb­ings and hun­dreds and thou­sands of oth­er war crimes com­mit­ted by Russ­ian troops in the tem­porar­i­ly occu­pied Ukrain­ian ter­ri­to­ries…

    The sec­ond “obsta­cle” to agree­ments with the Rus­sians arrived in Kyiv on 9 April.”

    Details: Accord­ing Ukrain­s­ka Prav­da sources close to Zelen­skyy, the Prime Min­is­ter of the Unit­ed King­dom Boris John­son, who appeared in the cap­i­tal almost with­out warn­ing, brought two sim­ple mes­sages.

    The first is that Putin is a war crim­i­nal, he should be pres­sured, not nego­ti­at­ed with.

    And the sec­ond is that even if Ukraine is ready to sign some agree­ments on guar­an­tees with Putin, they are not.

    Johnson’s posi­tion was that the col­lec­tive West, which back in Feb­ru­ary had sug­gest­ed Zelen­skyy should sur­ren­der and flee, now felt that Putin was not real­ly as pow­er­ful as they had pre­vi­ous­ly imag­ined, and that here was a chance to “press him.”

    Three days after John­son left for Britain, Putin went pub­lic and said talks with Ukraine “had turned into a dead end”.

    Three days lat­er, Roman Abramovich arrived in Kyiv again, and Pres­i­dent Zelen­skyy offi­cial­ly stat­ed that there could be two secu­ri­ty agree­ments with Rus­sia: one would con­cern Ukraine’s coex­is­tence with Rus­sia, the oth­er — only secu­ri­ty guar­an­tees, because not every­one “sees them­selves at the same table with the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion “.

    After that, accord­ing to Ukrain­s­ka Prav­da sources, the bilat­er­al nego­ti­a­tion process was paused.

    ———-

    “Pos­si­bil­i­ty of talks between Zelen­skyy and Putin came to a halt after Johnson’s vis­it — UP sources” by IRYNA BALACHUK, ROMAN ROMANIUK; Prav­da Ukraine; 05/05/2022

    “Johnson’s posi­tion was that the col­lec­tive West, which back in Feb­ru­ary had sug­gest­ed Zelen­skyy should sur­ren­der and flee, now felt that Putin was not real­ly as pow­er­ful as they had pre­vi­ous­ly imag­ined, and that here was a chance to “press him.”

    The oppor­tu­ni­ty to “press” Putin was just too big to resist. There­fore, peace talks had to be resist­ed instead. Extend­ing the war has become a NATO objec­tive, with the long-term goal of strate­gi­cal­ly weak­en­ing Rus­si­a’s mil­i­tary capac­i­ty. In oth­er words, the plan is for an extend­ed con­flict that bleeds Rus­si­a’s mil­i­tary dry:

    ...
    Details: Accord­ing Ukrain­s­ka Prav­da sources close to Zelen­skyy, the Prime Min­is­ter of the Unit­ed King­dom Boris John­son, who appeared in the cap­i­tal almost with­out warn­ing, brought two sim­ple mes­sages.

    The first is that Putin is a war crim­i­nal, he should be pres­sured, not nego­ti­at­ed with.

    And the sec­ond is that even if Ukraine is ready to sign some agree­ments on guar­an­tees with Putin, they are not.

    ...

    Three days after John­son left for Britain, Putin went pub­lic and said talks with Ukraine “had turned into a dead end”.
    ...

    It’s not real­ly a mys­tery that this has been the plan. It’s more of mys­tery that this report made it into the press at all. But sure­ly Putin has been aware that he was being goad­ed into a mil­i­tary death trap. It all points towards the dan­ger­ous­ly per­verse dynam­ic at work here: the fact that Putin’s deci­sion to hold back Russ­ian mil­i­tary prob­a­bly has a lot to do with the fact that NATO appears to have arrived at the con­clu­sion that now is the time to ‘push’ Putin into the kind of cor­ner where he will be forced to either accept a crush­ing mil­i­tary defeat or esca­late the sit­u­a­tion into WWIII, and appears to be fine with either out­come.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 6, 2022, 4:06 pm

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