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FTR#1245 How Many Lies Before You Belong to The Lie?, Part 18

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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

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

Mr. Emory has launched a new Patre­on site. Vis­it at: Patreon.com/DaveEmory

­­­FTR#1245 This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

Jacques Baud

NB: This descrip­tion con­tains mate­r­i­al not includ­ed in the audio por­tion of the broad­cast.

Intro­duc­tion: The sec­ond of a pro­ject­ed four-part dis­cus­sion of the deci­sive­ly impor­tant work of for­mer Swiss intel­li­gence offi­cer Jacques Baud, this pro­gram presents and details fun­da­men­tals of the Ukraine war and the his­to­ry lead­ing up to it. This analy­sis will be sup­ple­ment­ed in the remain­ing pro­grams in the series.

His CV is pre­sent­ed below, and will be sup­ple­ment­ed by more detail in an inter­view pre­sent­ed with him.

The read­ing of this arti­cle is con­tin­ued from our last pro­gram. 

Baud points out that the pre­sen­ta­tion of the war in the West is bad­ly skewed, with politi­cians and media pur­su­ing ide­ol­o­gized fan­tasies, rather than sub­stan­tive analy­sis com­ing from intel­li­gence agen­cies.

The essence of Baud’s war analy­sis is pre­sen­ta­tion of com­pelling doc­u­men­ta­tion that the Ukraine war was begun by the West—the U.S. and NATO in particular—in order to weak­en Rus­sia.

Facil­i­tat­ing a mur­der­ous pro­gram of sys­tem­at­ic atroc­i­ty com­mit­ted by Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment against the Russ­ian-speak­ing minor­i­ty of Ukraine, it is the West and the Biden admin­is­tra­tion in par­tic­u­lar, that bear respon­si­bil­i­ty for the con­flict.

As will be seen, analy­sis of the actu­al con­flict itself is fun­da­men­tal­ly skewed in the U.S. and Europe. Far from being “incom­pe­tent,” Rus­sia quick­ly exe­cut­ed maneu­ver war­fare to cut-off the bulk of the Ukrain­ian army, which was poised for a lethal offen­sive against the Russ­ian-speak­ing East.

Russia’s pri­ma­ry objective—completely mis­un­der­stood in the West and sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly mis­rep­re­sent­ed by polit­i­cal and media inter­ests alike—was large­ly achieved with­in a short peri­od.

The Russ­ian forces occu­pied ter­ri­to­ry rough­ly equiv­a­lent to the U.K in a mat­ter of days, fix­ing Ukrain­ian forces with a diver­sion­ary move toward Kiev, elim­i­nat­ing Ukraine’s abil­i­ty to move large num­bers of troops and trap­ping the pri­ma­ry Ukrain­ian forces in the East.

This will be more com­plete­ly dis­cussed, ana­lyzed and pre­sent­ed in the remain­ing pro­grams fea­tur­ing Baud’s work.

 Key Points of Analy­sis and Dis­cus­sion Include: Baud’s first-hand involve­ment in NATO train­ing of the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary; Baud’s for­mer posi­tion as chief of Swiss intelligence’s divi­sion on War­saw pact forces dur­ing the Cold War; Baud’s exten­sive UN expe­ri­ence on pro­lif­er­a­tion of small arms, their dis­tri­b­u­tion to civil­ian pop­u­la­tions and the dele­te­ri­ous effects of that dis­tri­b­u­tion; The fun­da­men­tal, insti­tu­tion­al­ized dis­tor­tion of the conflict—politicians and media ignor­ing real­i­ty (includ­ing and espe­cial­ly that pre­sent­ed by intel­li­gence pro­fes­sion­als) and incul­cat­ing the pub­lic (and them­selves) with an inflam­ma­to­ry, demon­stra­bly false nar­ra­tive that engen­ders a dan­ger­ous pol­i­cy of esca­la­tion; The essen­tial mis­un­der­stand­ing of the gen­e­sis of the Ukrain­ian con­flict; The cen­tral issue of the post-Maid­an government’s ban­ning of the Russ­ian lan­guage in Ukraine’s East­ern dis­tricts; The fun­da­men­tal mis­un­der­stand­ing of, and mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of, the civ­il war in Ukraine’s East as a dynam­ic involv­ing “Russ­ian Sep­a­ratists” and “inter­fer­ence” by Putin; Putin’s advice to the Russ­ian-speak­ing East­ern dis­tricts NOT to seek a ref­er­en­dum on auton­o­my; The Ukrain­ian government’s launch of an ill-fat­ed mil­i­tary sup­pres­sion against those dis­tricts; The fun­da­men­tal cor­rup­tion and inep­ti­tude of the post-Maid­an Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary; The false nar­ra­tive dis­trib­uted in the west that Rus­sia was involved in any way with the civ­il war in East­ern Ukraine; The fail­ure of the civ­il war against the East­ern dis­tricts because of that inep­ti­tude; The defec­tion of large “maneu­ver” units of the Ukrain­ian armed forces—armor, artillery and mis­sile for­ma­tions; The mon­u­men­tal fail­ure to report for duty of the Ukrain­ian reserve per­son­nel; Ukraine’s piv­ot to NATO to form the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary; Jacques Baud’s role in that attempt­ed for­ma­tion; NATO’s cre­ation of the fas­cist “reprisal units,” exem­pli­fied by the Azov Reg­i­ment; The Azov regiment’s sym­bol­ic, and his­tor­i­cal nos­tal­gia for the ”Das Reich” Division—2nd Waf­fen SS; The oper­a­tional strength of the NATO-cre­at­ed fas­cist ter­ri­to­r­i­al defense units—102,000; The real­i­ty behind a 2021” hijack­ing of a RyanAir flight in Belarus; the fact that the “journalist”—Roman Protassevitch—was a promi­nent mem­ber of the Azov reg­i­ment; the fact that the action was in keep­ing with the rules of force; The war’s gen­e­sis with a Ukrain­ian cam­paign to con­quer and dec­i­mate the Russ­ian-speak­ing regions of the East; the Duma’s advo­ca­cy of diplo­mat­ic recog­ni­tion for the Russ­ian-speak­ing regions; Putin’s ini­tial refusal to rec­og­nize the regions; France and the West’s refusal to imple­ment the Min­sk Agree­ments; France and the West’s insis­tence on direct con­fronta­tion between Ukraine and Rus­sia; Zelensky’s call in March of 2021 for Ukraine’s recon­quer­ing of Crimea; The Ukraine’s ini­ti­a­tion of the con­flict by bom­bard­ing the Russ­ian-speak­ing dis­tricts and mass­ing their army for an all-out assault; Putin’s grant­i­ng of the Duma’s request and diplo­mat­ic recog­ni­tion of the inde­pen­dence of the Russ­ian-speak­ing regions; Those regions’ request for mil­i­tary assis­tance; Putin’s pos­i­tive response to that request, ini­ti­at­ing the con­flict; The Russ­ian strat­e­gy of using pres­sure on Kiev as a diver­sion, draw­ing Ukrain­ian forces around it and per­mit­ting the encir­clement of the bulk of the Ukrain­ian army in East­ern Ukraine; The West’s fun­da­men­tal mis­un­der­stand­ing of Putin’s and Russia’s war aims, due to their own strate­gic and oper­a­tional myopia; The “slow­down” of Russ­ian oper­a­tions, due to the fact that they have already achieved their objec­tive; The “reprisal” units’ delib­er­ate block­ing of civil­ian evac­u­a­tion cor­ri­dors, so that the civil­ians can be used to delib­er­ate­ly impede Russ­ian mil­i­tary progress; The West’s manip­u­la­tion of Zelen­sky and Ukraine, in essence brib­ing him with arms pur­chas­es to “bleed Rus­sia;” The dis­tri­b­u­tion of small arms to Ukrain­ian urban pop­u­la­tions, a devel­op­ment that Baud feels will lead to atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted against fel­low civil­ians; The strong prob­a­bil­i­ty that the Azov Reg­i­ment was using the Mar­i­upol mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal as a strate­gic van­tage point, and that the Rus­sians fired on it as a legit­i­mate mil­i­tary tar­get; The West­’s using of that “War Crime” to jus­ti­fy fur­ther arms ship­ments; The West­’s sys­tem­at­ic dis­tor­tion and “weaponiza­tion” of war cov­er­age; The joint secu­ri­ty pro­vid­ed to the Cher­nobyl nuclear plant by BOTH Ukrain­ian and Russ­ian sol­diers to pre­vent sab­o­tage; Baud’s obser­va­tion that the West­’s pro­vid­ing of large amounts of small arms to the pop­u­la­tions of Kiev and Kharkov will lead to trou­ble; Baud’s obser­va­tion that polit­i­cal and media ele­ments in the West are pre­sent­ing infor­ma­tion at vari­ance with what intel­li­gence ser­vices have been able to ver­i­fy; The mur­der of Ukrain­ian diplo­mats and politi­cians who have been will­ing to nego­ti­ate with Rus­sia.

 In the ongo­ing series on the Ukraine war, Mr. Emory has advanced the metaphor of the war and its atten­dant cov­er­age as some­thing akin to the myth­i­cal Philoso­pher’s Stone of the alchemists. Instead of chang­ing lead into gold, it is chang­ing indi­vid­u­als and insti­tu­tions in the West into the same fab­ric as Volodomyr Via­tro­vy­ch’s Ukrain­ian Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry.

Recent­ly, Yahoo News has begun reg­u­lar­ly post­ing arti­cles from Ukrain­s­ka Prav­da.

This is part of a U.S.-funded media array in Ukraine, designed to com­mu­ni­cate open­ly pro­pa­gan­dized cov­er­age of things Ukrain­ian.

Yahoo’s pre­sen­ta­tion of Ukrayin­s­ka Prav­da exem­pli­fies Mr. Emory’s metaphor.

Part and par­cel to the white­wash­ing of the Nazi affil­i­a­tion of the Azov for­ma­tions in Ukraine, the Ukrain­ian Kalush Orchestra–winner of t he 2022 Euro­vi­sion song quest–capped off their per­for­mance with a call to release the Azov com­bat­ants holed up in the tun­nels beneath the Azovstal steel mill.

The absence of com­men­tary on the Nazi ori­en­ta­tion of the Azov units is rou­tine in the West at this point.

Also exem­pli­fy­ing the ide­o­log­i­cal and jour­nal­is­tic per­ver­sion of West­ern cov­er­age of Azov for­ma­tions is the New York Times piece about Azov wives req­ui­si­tion­ing inter­na­tion­al aid for the Azovstal com­bat­ants.

The arti­cle fea­tured mer­cy pleas from Katery­na Prokopenko–the wife of Azov com­man­der Colonel Denys Prokopenko.

Colonel Prokopenko’s per­spec­tive on the pos­si­ble “false flag” explo­sion on the Mar­i­upol Dra­ma The­ater is inter­est­ing. We can but won­der what he might dis­close to Russ­ian intel­li­gence offi­cers about the inci­dent.

  1. “ . . . . 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. . . .”
  2. “ . . . . 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. . . .”

Joe Biden man­i­fest­ed con­sum­mate hypocrisy with his con­dem­na­tion of Pay­ton Gen­dron, the appar­ent Buf­fa­lo shoot­er. Endors­ing the 14 words mint­ed by David Lane and uti­liz­ing the Sun Wheel sym­bol embraced by the Azov Bat­tal­ion, Gen­dron was align­ing him­self with the same forces the U.S. backs in Ukraine.

As dis­cussed in FTR #780, Svo­bo­da main­tains a street-fight­ing cadre called Com­bat 14. ” . . . . the name points to the num­ber ‘14.’ In fas­cist cir­cles this refers to the ‘four­teen word’ slo­gans of com­mit­ment to the ‘white race.’ As the leader of Svoboda’s ally ‘C14’ explained, his orga­ni­za­tion is in a ‘strug­gle’ with ‘eth­nic groups’ that are wield­ing, among oth­er things, ‘eco­nomic and polit­i­cal pow­er.’ The ‘eth­nic groups’ he is refer­ring to are ‘Rus­sians and Jews.’[6] . . . .”

Com­bat 14’s name derives from “the four­teen words” mint­ed by David Lane, a mem­ber of the Order that killed talk show host Alan Berg. (See excerpt below.) The words are: “We must secure the exis­tence of our peo­ple and a future for white chil­dren.”

Gen­dron’s man­i­festo ref­er­enced Bren­ton Tar­rant, the Christchurch, NZ shoot­er, who had appar­ent­ly vis­it­ed Ukraine and alleged­ly net­worked with the Azov Bat­tal­ion.

Sym­bol of Azov Bat­tal­ion, with sun wheel aka son­nen­rad

Even The New York Times not­ed the pos­si­ble con­tact between Azov and Tar­rant.

” . . . . In the wake of the New Zealand mosque attacks, links have emerged between the shoot­er, Brent Tar­rant, and a Ukrain­ian ultra-nation­al­ist, white suprema­cist para­mil­i­tary orga­ni­za­tion called the Azov Bat­tal­ion. . . .”

1. Jacques Baud is a for­mer colonel of the Gen­er­al Staff, ex-mem­ber of the Swiss strate­gic intel­li­gence, spe­cial­ist on East­ern coun­tries. He was trained in the Amer­i­can and British intel­li­gence ser­vices. He has served as Pol­i­cy Chief for Unit­ed Nations Peace Oper­a­tions. As a UN expert on rule of law and secu­ri­ty insti­tu­tions, he designed and led the first mul­ti­di­men­sion­al UN intel­li­gence unit in the Sudan. He has worked for the African Union and was for 5 years respon­si­ble for the fight, at NATO, against the pro­lif­er­a­tion of small arms. He was involved in dis­cus­sions with the high­est Russ­ian mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence offi­cials just after the fall of the USSR. With­in NATO, he fol­lowed the 2014 Ukrain­ian cri­sis and lat­er par­tic­i­pat­ed in pro­grams to assist the Ukraine. He is the author of sev­er­al books on intel­li­gence, war and ter­ror­ism, in par­tic­u­lar Le Détourne­ment pub­lished by SIGEST, Gou­vern­er par les fake newsL’affaire Naval­ny. His lat­est book is Pou­tine, maître du jeu? pub­lished by Max Milo.

This arti­cle appears through the gra­cious cour­tesy of Cen­tre Français de Recherche sur le Ren­seigne­ment, Paris. Trans­lat­ed from the French by N. Dass.

“The Mil­i­tary Sit­u­a­tion in Ukraine” by Jacques Baud; The Pos­til; 4/1/2022.

Part One: The Road To War

For years, from Mali to Afghanistan, I have worked for peace and risked my life for it. It is there­fore not a ques­tion of jus­ti­fy­ing war, but of under­stand­ing what led us to it. I notice that the “experts” who take turns on tele­vi­sion ana­lyze the sit­u­a­tion on the basis of dubi­ous infor­ma­tion, most often hypothe­ses erect­ed as facts—and then we no longer man­age to under­stand what is hap­pen­ing. This is how pan­ics are cre­at­ed.

The prob­lem is not so much to know who is right in this con­flict, but to ques­tion the way our lead­ers make their deci­sions.

Let’s try to exam­ine the roots of the con­flict. It starts with those who for the last eight years have been talk­ing about “sep­a­ratists” or “inde­pen­den­tists” from Don­bass. This is not true. The ref­er­en­dums con­duct­ed by the two self-pro­claimed Republics of Donet­sk and Lugan­sk in May 2014, were not ref­er­en­dums of “inde­pen­dence” (независимость), as some unscrupu­lous jour­nal­ists have claimed, but ref­er­en­dums of “self-deter­mi­na­tion” or “auton­o­my” (самостоятельность). The qual­i­fi­er “pro-Russ­ian” sug­gests that Rus­sia was a par­ty to the con­flict, which was not the case, and the term “Russ­ian speak­ers” would have been more hon­est. More­over, these ref­er­en­dums were con­duct­ed against the advice of Vladimir Putin.

In fact, these Republics were not seek­ing to sep­a­rate from Ukraine, but to have a sta­tus of auton­o­my, guar­an­tee­ing them the use of the Russ­ian lan­guage as an offi­cial lan­guage. For the first leg­isla­tive act of the new gov­ern­ment result­ing from the over­throw of Pres­i­dent Yanukovych, was the abo­li­tion, on Feb­ru­ary 23, 2014, of the Kival­ov-Kolesnichenko law of 2012 that made Russ­ian an offi­cial lan­guage. A bit like if putschists decid­ed that French and Ital­ian would no longer be offi­cial lan­guages in Switzer­land.

This deci­sion caused a storm in the Russ­ian-speak­ing pop­u­la­tion. The result was a fierce repres­sion against the Russ­ian-speak­ing regions (Odessa, Dne­propetro­vsk, Kharkov, Lugan­sk and Donet­sk) which was car­ried out begin­ning in Feb­ru­ary 2014 and led to a mil­i­ta­riza­tion of the sit­u­a­tion and some mas­sacres (in Odessa and Mar­i­oupol, for the most notable). At the end of sum­mer 2014, only the self-pro­claimed Republics of Donet­sk and Lugan­sk remained.

At this stage, too rigid and engrossed in a doc­tri­naire approach to the art of oper­a­tions, the Ukrain­ian gen­er­al staff sub­dued the ene­my with­out man­ag­ing to pre­vail. The exam­i­na­tion of the course of the fight­ing in 2014–2016 in the Don­bass shows that the Ukrain­ian gen­er­al staff sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly and mechan­i­cal­ly applied the same oper­a­tive schemes. How­ev­er, the war waged by the auton­o­mists was very sim­i­lar to what we observed in the Sahel: high­ly mobile oper­a­tions con­duct­ed with light means. With a more flex­i­ble and less doc­tri­naire approach, the rebels were able to exploit the iner­tia of Ukrain­ian forces to repeat­ed­ly “trap” them.

In 2014, when I was at NATO, I was respon­si­ble for the fight against the pro­lif­er­a­tion of small arms, and we were try­ing to detect Russ­ian arms deliv­er­ies to the rebels, to see if Moscow was involved. The infor­ma­tion we received then came almost entire­ly from Pol­ish intel­li­gence ser­vices and did not “fit” with the infor­ma­tion com­ing from the OSCE—despite rather crude alle­ga­tions, there were no deliv­er­ies of weapons and mil­i­tary equip­ment from Rus­sia.

The rebels were armed thanks to the defec­tion of Russ­ian-speak­ing Ukrain­ian units that went over to the rebel side. As Ukrain­ian fail­ures con­tin­ued, tank, artillery and anti-air­craft bat­tal­ions swelled the ranks of the auton­o­mists. This is what pushed the Ukraini­ans to com­mit to the Min­sk Agree­ments.

But just after sign­ing the Min­sk 1 Agree­ments, the Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko launched a mas­sive anti-ter­ror­ist oper­a­tion (ATO/Антитерористична операція) against the Don­bass. Bis repeti­ta pla­cent: poor­ly advised by NATO offi­cers, the Ukraini­ans suf­fered a crush­ing defeat in Debalt­se­vo, which forced them to engage in the Min­sk 2 Agree­ments.

It is essen­tial to recall here that Min­sk 1 (Sep­tem­ber 2014) and Min­sk 2 (Feb­ru­ary 2015) Agree­ments did not pro­vide for the sep­a­ra­tion or inde­pen­dence of the Republics, but their auton­o­my with­in the frame­work of Ukraine. Those who have read the Agree­ments (there are very, very, very few of those who actu­al­ly have) will note that it is writ­ten in all let­ters that the sta­tus of the Republics was to be nego­ti­at­ed between Kiev and the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Republics, for an inter­nal solu­tion to the Ukraine.

That is why since 2014, Rus­sia has sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly demand­ed their imple­men­ta­tion while refus­ing to be a par­ty to the nego­ti­a­tions, because it was an inter­nal mat­ter of the Ukraine. On the oth­er side, the West—led by France—systematically tried to replace the Min­sk Agree­ments with the “Nor­mandy for­mat,” which put Rus­sians and Ukraini­ans face-to-face. How­ev­er, let us remem­ber that there were nev­er any Russ­ian troops in the Don­bass before 23–24 Feb­ru­ary 2022. More­over, OSCE observers have nev­er observed the slight­est trace of Russ­ian units oper­at­ing in the Don­bass. For exam­ple, the U.S. intel­li­gence map pub­lished by the Wash­ing­ton Post on Decem­ber 3, 2021 does not show Russ­ian troops in the Don­bass.

In Octo­ber 2015, Vasyl Hryt­sak, direc­tor of the Ukrain­ian Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice (SBU), con­fessed that only 56 Russ­ian fight­ers had been observed in the Don­bass. This was exact­ly com­pa­ra­ble to the Swiss who went to fight in Bosnia on week­ends, in the 1990s, or the French who go to fight in the Ukraine today.

The Ukrain­ian army was then in a deplorable state. In Octo­ber 2018, after four years of war, the chief Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary pros­e­cu­tor, Ana­toly Matios, stat­ed that Ukraine had lost 2,700 men in the Don­bass: 891 from ill­ness­es, 318 from road acci­dents, 177 from oth­er acci­dents, 175 from poi­son­ings (alco­hol, drugs), 172 from care­less han­dling of weapons, 101 from breach­es of secu­ri­ty reg­u­la­tions, 228 from mur­ders and 615 from sui­cides.

In fact, the army was under­mined by the cor­rup­tion of its cadres and no longer enjoyed the sup­port of the pop­u­la­tion. Accord­ing to a British Home Office report, in the March/April 2014 recall of reservists, 70 per­cent did not show up for the first ses­sion, 80 per­cent for the sec­ond, 90 per­cent for the third, and 95 per­cent for the fourth. In October/November 2017, 70% of con­scripts did not show up for the “Fall 2017” recall cam­paign. This is not count­ing sui­cides and deser­tions (often over to the auton­o­mists), which reached up to 30 per­cent of the work­force in the ATO [anti-ter­ror­ist oper­a­tional] area. Young Ukraini­ans refused to go and fight in the Don­bass and pre­ferred emi­gra­tion, which also explains, at least par­tial­ly, the demo­graph­ic deficit of the coun­try.

The Ukrain­ian Min­istry of Defense then turned to NATO to help make its armed forces more “attrac­tive.” Hav­ing already worked on sim­i­lar projects with­in the frame­work of the Unit­ed Nations, I was asked by NATO to par­tic­i­pate in a pro­gram to restore the image of the Ukrain­ian armed forces. But this is a long-term process and the Ukraini­ans want­ed to move quick­ly.

So, to com­pen­sate for the lack of sol­diers, the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment resort­ed to para­mil­i­tary mili­tias. They are essen­tial­ly com­posed of for­eign mer­ce­nar­ies, often extreme right-wing mil­i­tants. In 2020, they con­sti­tut­ed about 40 per­cent of the Ukrain­ian forces and num­bered about 102,000 men, accord­ing to Reuters. They were armed, financed and trained by the Unit­ed States, Great Britain, Cana­da and France. There were more than 19 nationalities—including Swiss.

West­ern coun­tries have thus clear­ly cre­at­ed and sup­port­ed Ukrain­ian far-right mili­tias. In Octo­ber 2021, the Jerusalem Post sound­ed the alarm by denounc­ing the Cen­turia project. These mili­tias had been oper­at­ing in the Don­bass since 2014, with West­ern sup­port. Even if one can argue about the term “Nazi,” the fact remains that these mili­tias are vio­lent, con­vey a nau­se­at­ing ide­ol­o­gy and are vir­u­lent­ly anti-Semit­ic. Their anti-Semi­tism is more cul­tur­al than polit­i­cal, which is why the term “Nazi” is not real­ly appro­pri­ate. . . .

. . . . These mili­tias, orig­i­nat­ing from the far-right groups that ani­mat­ed the Euro­maid­an rev­o­lu­tion in 2014, are com­posed of fanat­i­cal and bru­tal indi­vid­u­als. The best known of these is the Azov Reg­i­ment, whose emblem is rem­i­nis­cent of the 2nd SS Das Reich Panz­er Divi­sion, which is revered in the Ukraine for lib­er­at­ing Kharkov from the Sovi­ets in 1943, before car­ry­ing out the 1944 Oradour-sur-Glane mas­sacre in France.

Among the famous fig­ures of the Azov reg­i­ment was the oppo­nent Roman Pro­tas­se­vitch, arrest­ed in 2021 by the Belaru­sian author­i­ties fol­low­ing the case of RyanAir flight FR4978. On May 23, 2021, the delib­er­ate hijack­ing of an air­lin­er by a MiG-29—supposedly with Putin’s approval—was men­tioned as a rea­son for arrest­ing Pro­tas­se­vich, although the infor­ma­tion avail­able at the time did not con­firm this sce­nario at all.

But then it was nec­es­sary to show that Pres­i­dent Lukashenko was a thug and Pro­tas­se­vich a “jour­nal­ist” who loved democ­ra­cy. How­ev­er, a rather reveal­ing inves­ti­ga­tion pro­duced by an Amer­i­can NGO in 2020 high­light­ed Protassevitch’s far-right mil­i­tant activ­i­ties. The West­ern con­spir­a­cy move­ment then start­ed, and unscrupu­lous media “air-brushed” his biog­ra­phy. Final­ly, in Jan­u­ary 2022, the ICAO report was pub­lished and showed that despite some pro­ce­dur­al errors, Belarus act­ed in accor­dance with the rules in force and that the MiG-29 took off 15 min­utes after the RyanAir pilot decid­ed to land in Min­sk. So no Belaru­sian plot and even less Putin. Ah!… Anoth­er detail: Pro­tas­se­vitch, cru­el­ly tor­tured by the Belaru­sian police, was now free. Those who would like to cor­re­spond with him, can go on his Twit­ter account.

The char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the Ukrain­ian para­mil­i­taries as “Nazis” or “neo-Nazis” is con­sid­ered Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da. Per­haps. But that’s not the view of the Times of Israel, the Simon Wiesen­thal Cen­ter or the West Point Academy’s Cen­ter for Coun­tert­er­ror­ism. But that’s still debat­able, because in 2014, Newsweek mag­a­zine seemed to asso­ciate them more with… the Islam­ic State. Take your pick!

So, the West sup­port­ed and con­tin­ued to arm mili­tias that have been guilty of numer­ous crimes against civil­ian pop­u­la­tions since 2014: rape, tor­ture and mas­sacres. But while the Swiss gov­ern­ment has been very quick to take sanc­tions against Rus­sia, it has not adopt­ed any against the Ukraine, which has been mas­sacring its own pop­u­la­tion since 2014. In fact, those who defend human rights in the Ukraine have long con­demned the actions of these groups, but have not been sup­port­ed by our gov­ern­ments. Because, in real­i­ty, we are not try­ing to help the Ukraine, but to fight Rus­sia.

The inte­gra­tion of these para­mil­i­tary forces into the Nation­al Guard was not at all accom­pa­nied by a “denaz­i­fi­ca­tion,” as some claim. Among the many exam­ples, that of the Azov Regiment’s insignia is instruc­tive:

In 2022, very schemat­i­cal­ly, the Ukrain­ian armed forces fight­ing the Russ­ian offen­sive were orga­nized as:

  • The Army, sub­or­di­nat­ed to the Min­istry of Defense. It is orga­nized into 3 army corps and com­posed of maneu­ver for­ma­tions (tanks, heavy artillery, mis­siles, etc.).
  • The Nation­al Guard, which depends on the Min­istry of the Inte­ri­or and is orga­nized into 5 ter­ri­to­r­i­al com­mands.

The Nation­al Guard is there­fore a ter­ri­to­r­i­al defense force that is not part of the Ukrain­ian army. It includes para­mil­i­tary mili­tias, called “vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions” (добровольчі батальйоні), also known by the evoca­tive name of “reprisal bat­tal­ions,” and com­posed of infantry. Pri­mar­i­ly trained for urban com­bat, they now defend cities such as Kharkov, Mar­i­upol, Odessa, Kiev, etc.

Part Two: The War

As a for­mer head of the War­saw Pact forces in the Swiss strate­gic intel­li­gence ser­vice, I observe with sadness—but not astonishment—that our ser­vices are no longer able to under­stand the mil­i­tary sit­u­a­tion in Ukraine. The self-pro­claimed “experts” who parade on our screens tire­less­ly relay the same infor­ma­tion mod­u­lat­ed by the claim that Russia—and Vladimir Putin—is irra­tional. Let’s take a step back.

The Out­break Of War

Since Novem­ber 2021, the Amer­i­cans have been con­stant­ly threat­en­ing a Russ­ian inva­sion of the Ukraine. How­ev­er, the Ukraini­ans did not seem to agree. Why not?

We have to go back to March 24, 2021. On that day, Volodymyr Zelen­sky issued a decree for the recap­ture of the Crimea, and began to deploy his forces to the south of the coun­try. At the same time, sev­er­al NATO exer­cis­es were con­duct­ed between the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea, accom­pa­nied by a sig­nif­i­cant increase in recon­nais­sance flights along the Russ­ian bor­der. Rus­sia then con­duct­ed sev­er­al exer­cis­es to test the oper­a­tional readi­ness of its troops and to show that it was fol­low­ing the evo­lu­tion of the sit­u­a­tion.

Things calmed down until Octo­ber-Novem­ber with the end of the ZAPAD 21 exer­cis­es, whose troop move­ments were inter­pret­ed as a rein­force­ment for an offen­sive against the Ukraine. How­ev­er, even the Ukrain­ian author­i­ties refut­ed the idea of Russ­ian prepa­ra­tions for a war, and Olek­siy Reznikov, Ukrain­ian Min­is­ter of Defense, states that there had been no change on its bor­der since the spring.

In vio­la­tion of the Min­sk Agree­ments, the Ukraine was con­duct­ing air oper­a­tions in Don­bass using drones, includ­ing at least one strike against a fuel depot in Donet­sk in Octo­ber 2021. The Amer­i­can press not­ed this, but not the Euro­peans; and no one con­demned these vio­la­tions.

In Feb­ru­ary 2022, events were pre­cip­i­tat­ed. On Feb­ru­ary 7, dur­ing his vis­it to Moscow, Emmanuel Macron reaf­firmed to Vladimir Putin his com­mit­ment to the Min­sk Agree­ments, a com­mit­ment he would repeat after his meet­ing with Volodymyr Zelen­sky the next day. But on Feb­ru­ary 11, in Berlin, after nine hours of work, the meet­ing of polit­i­cal advi­sors of the lead­ers of the “Nor­mandy for­mat” end­ed, with­out any con­crete result: the Ukraini­ans still refused to apply the Min­sk Agree­ments, appar­ent­ly under pres­sure from the Unit­ed States.Vladimir Putin not­ed that Macron had made emp­ty promis­es and that the West was not ready to enforce the agree­ments, as it had been doing for eight years.

Ukrain­ian prepa­ra­tions in the con­tact zone con­tin­ued. The Russ­ian Par­lia­ment became alarmed; and on Feb­ru­ary 15 asked Vladimir Putin to rec­og­nize the inde­pen­dence of the Republics, which he refused to do.

On 17 Feb­ru­ary, Pres­i­dent Joe Biden announced that Rus­sia would attack the Ukraine in the next few days. How did he know this? It is a mys­tery. But since the 16th, the artillery shelling of the pop­u­la­tion of Don­bass increased dra­mat­i­cal­ly, as the dai­ly reports of the OSCE observers show. Nat­u­ral­ly, nei­ther the media, nor the Euro­pean Union, nor NATO, nor any West­ern gov­ern­ment reacts or inter­venes. It will be said lat­er that this is Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion. In fact, it seems that the Euro­pean Union and some coun­tries have delib­er­ate­ly kept silent about the mas­sacre of the Don­bass pop­u­la­tion, know­ing that this would pro­voke a Russ­ian inter­ven­tion.

At the same time, there were reports of sab­o­tage in the Don­bass. On 18 Jan­u­ary, Don­bass fight­ers inter­cept­ed sabo­teurs, who spoke Pol­ish and were equipped with West­ern equip­ment and who were seek­ing to cre­ate chem­i­cal inci­dents in Gor­liv­ka. They could have been CIA mer­ce­nar­ies, led or “advised” by Amer­i­cans and com­posed of Ukrain­ian or Euro­pean fight­ers, to car­ry out sab­o­tage actions in the Don­bass Republics.

In fact, as ear­ly as Feb­ru­ary 16, Joe Biden knew that the Ukraini­ans had begun shelling the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion of Don­bass, putting Vladimir Putin in front of a dif­fi­cult choice: to help Don­bass mil­i­tar­i­ly and cre­ate an inter­na­tion­al prob­lem, or to stand by and watch the Russ­ian-speak­ing peo­ple of Don­bass being crushed.

If he decid­ed to inter­vene, Putin could invoke the inter­na­tion­al oblig­a­tion of “Respon­si­bil­i­ty To Pro­tect” (R2P). But he knew that what­ev­er its nature or scale, the inter­ven­tion would trig­ger a storm of sanc­tions. There­fore, whether Russ­ian inter­ven­tion were lim­it­ed to the Don­bass or went fur­ther to put pres­sure on the West for the sta­tus of the Ukraine, the price to pay would be the same. This is what he explained in his speech on Feb­ru­ary 21.

On that day, he agreed to the request of the Duma and rec­og­nized the inde­pen­dence of the two Don­bass Republics and, at the same time, he signed friend­ship and assis­tance treaties with them.

The Ukrain­ian artillery bom­bard­ment of the Don­bass pop­u­la­tion con­tin­ued, and, on 23 Feb­ru­ary, the two Republics asked for mil­i­tary assis­tance from Rus­sia. On 24 Feb­ru­ary, Vladimir Putin invoked Arti­cle 51 of the Unit­ed Nations Char­ter, which pro­vides for mutu­al mil­i­tary assis­tance in the frame­work of a defen­sive alliance.

In order to make the Russ­ian inter­ven­tion total­ly ille­gal in the eyes of the pub­lic we delib­er­ate­ly hid the fact that the war actu­al­ly start­ed on Feb­ru­ary 16. The Ukrain­ian army was prepar­ing to attack the Don­bass as ear­ly as 2021, as some Russ­ian and Euro­pean intel­li­gence ser­vices were well aware. Jurists will judge.

In his speech of Feb­ru­ary 24, Vladimir Putin stat­ed the two objec­tives of his oper­a­tion: “demil­i­ta­rize” and “denaz­i­fy” the Ukraine. So, it is not a ques­tion of tak­ing over the Ukraine, nor even, pre­sum­ably, of occu­py­ing it; and cer­tain­ly not of destroy­ing it.

From then on, our vis­i­bil­i­ty on the course of the oper­a­tion is lim­it­ed: the Rus­sians have an excel­lent secu­ri­ty of oper­a­tions (OPSEC) and the details of their plan­ning are not known. But fair­ly quick­ly, the course of the oper­a­tion allows us to under­stand how the strate­gic objec­tives were trans­lat­ed on the oper­a­tional lev­el.

Demil­i­ta­riza­tion:

  • ground destruc­tion of Ukrain­ian avi­a­tion, air defense sys­tems and recon­nais­sance assets;
  • neu­tral­iza­tion of com­mand and intel­li­gence struc­tures (C3I), as well as the main logis­ti­cal routes in the depth of the ter­ri­to­ry;
  • encir­clement of the bulk of the Ukrain­ian army massed in the south­east of the coun­try.

Denaz­i­fi­ca­tion:

  • destruc­tion or neu­tral­iza­tion of vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions oper­at­ing in the cities of Odessa, Kharkov, and Mar­i­upol, as well as in var­i­ous facil­i­ties in the ter­ri­to­ry.

2. Demil­i­ta­riza­tion

The Russ­ian offen­sive was car­ried out in a very “clas­sic” man­ner. Initially—as the Israelis had done in 1967—with the destruc­tion on the ground of the air force in the very first hours. Then, we wit­nessed a simul­ta­ne­ous pro­gres­sion along sev­er­al axes accord­ing to the prin­ci­ple of “flow­ing water”: advance every­where where resis­tance was weak and leave the cities (very demand­ing in terms of troops) for lat­er. In the north, the Cher­nobyl pow­er plant was occu­pied imme­di­ate­ly to pre­vent acts of sab­o­tage. The images of Ukrain­ian and Russ­ian sol­diers guard­ing the plant togeth­er are of course not shown.

The idea that Rus­sia is try­ing to take over Kiev, the cap­i­tal, to elim­i­nate Zelen­sky, comes typ­i­cal­ly from the West—that is what they did in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and what they want­ed to do in Syr­ia with the help of the Islam­ic State. But Vladimir Putin nev­er intend­ed to shoot or top­ple Zelen­sky. Instead, Rus­sia seeks to keep him in pow­er by push­ing him to nego­ti­ate, by sur­round­ing Kiev. Up till now, he had refused to imple­ment the Min­sk Agree­ments. But now the Rus­sians want to obtain the neu­tral­i­ty of the Ukraine.

Many West­ern com­men­ta­tors were sur­prised that the Rus­sians con­tin­ued to seek a nego­ti­at­ed solu­tion while con­duct­ing mil­i­tary oper­a­tions. The expla­na­tion lies in the Russ­ian strate­gic out­look since the Sovi­et era. For the West, war begins when pol­i­tics ends. How­ev­er, the Russ­ian approach fol­lows a Clause­witz­ian inspi­ra­tion: war is the con­ti­nu­ity of pol­i­tics and one can move flu­id­ly from one to the oth­er, even dur­ing com­bat. This allows one to cre­ate pres­sure on the adver­sary and push him to nego­ti­ate.

From an oper­a­tional point of view, the Russ­ian offen­sive was an exam­ple of its kind: in six days, the Rus­sians seized a ter­ri­to­ry as large as the Unit­ed King­dom, with a speed of advance greater than what the Wehrma­cht had achieved in 1940.

The bulk of the Ukrain­ian army was deployed in the south of the coun­try in prepa­ra­tion for a major oper­a­tion against the Don­bass. This is why Russ­ian forces were able to encir­cle it from the begin­ning of March in the “caul­dron” between Slavyan­sk, Kram­a­torsk and Severodonet­sk, with a thrust from the East through Kharkov and anoth­er from the South from Crimea. Troops from the Donet­sk (DPR) and Lugan­sk (LPR) Republics are com­ple­ment­ing the Russ­ian forces with a push from the East.

At this stage, Russ­ian forces are slow­ly tight­en­ing the noose, but are no longer under time pres­sure. Their demil­i­ta­riza­tion goal is all but achieved and the remain­ing Ukrain­ian forces no longer have an oper­a­tional and strate­gic com­mand struc­ture.

The “slow­down” that our “experts” attribute to poor logis­tics is only the con­se­quence of hav­ing achieved their objec­tives. Rus­sia does not seem to want to engage in an occu­pa­tion of the entire Ukrain­ian ter­ri­to­ry. In fact, it seems that Rus­sia is try­ing to lim­it its advance to the lin­guis­tic bor­der of the coun­try.

Our media speak of indis­crim­i­nate bom­bard­ments against the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion, espe­cial­ly in Kharkov, and Dan­tean images are broad­cast in a loop. How­ev­er, Gon­za­lo Lira, a Latin Amer­i­can who lives there, presents us with a calm city on March 10 and March 11. It is true that it is a large city and we do not see everything—but this seems to indi­cate that we are not in the total war that we are served con­tin­u­ous­ly on our screens.

As for the Don­bass Republics, they have “lib­er­at­ed” their own ter­ri­to­ries and are fight­ing in the city of Mar­i­upol.

3. Denaz­i­fi­ca­tion

In cities like Kharkov, Mar­i­upol and Odessa, the defense is pro­vid­ed by para­mil­i­tary mili­tias. They know that the objec­tive of “denaz­i­fi­ca­tion” is aimed pri­mar­i­ly at them.

For an attack­er in an urban­ized area, civil­ians are a prob­lem. This is why Rus­sia is seek­ing to cre­ate human­i­tar­i­an cor­ri­dors to emp­ty cities of civil­ians and leave only the mili­tias, to fight them more eas­i­ly.

Con­verse­ly, these mili­tias seek to keep civil­ians in the cities in order to dis­suade the Russ­ian army from fight­ing there. This is why they are reluc­tant to imple­ment these cor­ri­dors and do every­thing to ensure that Russ­ian efforts are unsuccessful—they can use the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion as “human shields.” Videos show­ing civil­ians try­ing to leave Mar­i­upol and beat­en up by fight­ers of the Azov reg­i­ment are of course care­ful­ly cen­sored here.

On Face­book, the Azov group was con­sid­ered in the same cat­e­go­ry as the Islam­ic State and sub­ject to the platform’s “pol­i­cy on dan­ger­ous indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions.” It was there­fore for­bid­den to glo­ri­fy it, and “posts” that were favor­able to it were sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly banned. But on Feb­ru­ary 24, Face­book changed its pol­i­cy and allowed posts favor­able to the mili­tia. In the same spir­it, in March, the plat­form autho­rized, in the for­mer East­ern coun­tries, calls for the mur­der of Russ­ian sol­diers and lead­ers. So much for the val­ues that inspire our lead­ers, as we shall see.

Our media prop­a­gate a roman­tic image of pop­u­lar resis­tance. It is this image that led the Euro­pean Union to finance the dis­tri­b­u­tion of arms to the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion. This is a crim­i­nal act. In my capac­i­ty as head of peace­keep­ing doc­trine at the UN, I worked on the issue of civil­ian pro­tec­tion. We found that vio­lence against civil­ians occurred in very spe­cif­ic con­texts. In par­tic­u­lar, when weapons are abun­dant and there are no com­mand struc­tures.

These com­mand struc­tures are the essence of armies: their func­tion is to chan­nel the use of force towards an objec­tive. By arm­ing cit­i­zens in a hap­haz­ard man­ner, as is cur­rent­ly the case, the EU is turn­ing them into com­bat­ants, with the con­se­quen­tial effect of mak­ing them poten­tial tar­gets. More­over, with­out com­mand, with­out oper­a­tional goals, the dis­tri­b­u­tion of arms leads inevitably to set­tling of scores, ban­dit­ry and actions that are more dead­ly than effec­tive. War becomes a mat­ter of emo­tions. Force becomes vio­lence. This is what hap­pened in Tawar­ga (Libya) from 11 to 13 August 2011, where 30,000 black Africans were mas­sa­cred with weapons para­chut­ed (ille­gal­ly) by France. By the way, the British Roy­al Insti­tute for Strate­gic Stud­ies (RUSI) does not see any added val­ue in these arms deliv­er­ies.

More­over, by deliv­er­ing arms to a coun­try at war, one expos­es one­self to being con­sid­ered a bel­liger­ent. The Russ­ian strikes of March 13, 2022, against the Myko­layev air base fol­low Russ­ian warn­ings that arms ship­ments would be treat­ed as hos­tile tar­gets.

The EU is repeat­ing the dis­as­trous expe­ri­ence of the Third Reich in the final hours of the Bat­tle of Berlin. War must be left to the mil­i­tary and when one side has lost, it must be admit­ted. And if there is to be resis­tance, it must be led and struc­tured. But we are doing exact­ly the opposite—we are push­ing cit­i­zens to go and fight and at the same time, Face­book autho­rizes calls for the mur­der of Russ­ian sol­diers and lead­ers. So much for the val­ues that inspire us.

Some intel­li­gence ser­vices see this irre­spon­si­ble deci­sion as a way to use the Ukrain­ian pop­u­la­tion as can­non fod­der to fight Vladimir Putin’s Rus­sia. This kind of mur­der­ous deci­sion should have been left to the col­leagues of Ursu­la von der Leyen’s grand­fa­ther. It would have been bet­ter to engage in nego­ti­a­tions and thus obtain guar­an­tees for the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion than to add fuel to the fire. It is easy to be com­bat­ive with the blood of oth­ers.

4. The Mater­ni­ty Hos­pi­tal At Mar­i­upol

It is impor­tant to under­stand before­hand that it is not the Ukrain­ian army that is defend­ing Mar­i­oupol, but the Azov mili­tia, com­posed of for­eign mer­ce­nar­ies.

In its March 7, 2022 sum­ma­ry of the sit­u­a­tion, the Russ­ian UN mis­sion in New York stat­ed that “Res­i­dents report that Ukrain­ian armed forces expelled staff from the Mar­i­upol city birth hos­pi­tal No. 1 and set up a fir­ing post inside the facil­i­ty.”

On March 8, the inde­pen­dent Russ­ian media Lenta.ru, pub­lished the tes­ti­mo­ny of civil­ians from Mar­i­oupol who told that the mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal was tak­en over by the mili­tia of the Azov reg­i­ment, and who drove out the civil­ian occu­pants by threat­en­ing them with their weapons. They con­firmed the state­ments of the Russ­ian ambas­sador a few hours ear­li­er.

The hos­pi­tal in Mar­i­upol occu­pies a dom­i­nant posi­tion, per­fect­ly suit­ed for the instal­la­tion of anti-tank weapons and for obser­va­tion. On 9 March, Russ­ian forces struck the build­ing.Accord­ing to CNN, 17 peo­ple were wound­ed, but the images do not show any casu­al­ties in the build­ing and there is no evi­dence that the vic­tims men­tioned are relat­ed to this strike. There is talk of chil­dren, but in real­i­ty, there is noth­ing. This may be true, but it may not be true. This does not pre­vent the lead­ers of the EU from see­ing this as a war crime. And this allows Zelen­sky to call for a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

In real­i­ty, we do not know exact­ly what hap­pened. But the sequence of events tends to con­firm that Russ­ian forces struck a posi­tion of the Azov reg­i­ment and that the mater­ni­ty ward was then free of civil­ians.

The prob­lem is that the para­mil­i­tary mili­tias that defend the cities are encour­aged by the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty not to respect the cus­toms of war. It seems that the Ukraini­ans have replayed the sce­nario of the Kuwait City mater­ni­ty hos­pi­tal in 1990, which was total­ly staged by the firm Hill & Knowl­ton for $10.7 mil­lion in order to con­vince the Unit­ed Nations Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil to inter­vene in Iraq for Oper­a­tion Desert Shield/Storm.

West­ern politi­cians have accept­ed civil­ian strikes in the Don­bass for eight years, with­out adopt­ing any sanc­tions against the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment. We have long since entered a dynam­ic where West­ern politi­cians have agreed to sac­ri­fice inter­na­tion­al law towards their goal of weak­en­ing Rus­sia.

Part Three: Con­clu­sions

As an ex-intel­li­gence pro­fes­sion­al, the first thing that strikes me is the total absence of West­ern intel­li­gence ser­vices in the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the sit­u­a­tion over the past year. In Switzer­land, the ser­vices have been crit­i­cized for not hav­ing pro­vid­ed a cor­rect pic­ture of the sit­u­a­tion. In fact, it seems that through­out the West­ern world, intel­li­gence ser­vices have been over­whelmed by the politi­cians. The prob­lem is that it is the politi­cians who decide—the best intel­li­gence ser­vice in the world is use­less if the deci­sion-mak­er does not lis­ten. This is what hap­pened dur­ing this cri­sis.

That said, while some intel­li­gence ser­vices had a very accu­rate and ratio­nal pic­ture of the sit­u­a­tion, oth­ers clear­ly had the same pic­ture as that prop­a­gat­ed by our media. In this cri­sis, the ser­vices of the coun­tries of the “new Europe” played an impor­tant role. The prob­lem is that, from expe­ri­ence, I have found them to be extreme­ly bad at the ana­lyt­i­cal level—doctrinaire, they lack the intel­lec­tu­al and polit­i­cal inde­pen­dence nec­es­sary to assess a sit­u­a­tion with mil­i­tary “qual­i­ty.” It is bet­ter to have them as ene­mies than as friends.

Sec­ond, it seems that in some Euro­pean coun­tries, politi­cians have delib­er­ate­ly ignored their ser­vices in order to respond ide­o­log­i­cal­ly to the sit­u­a­tion. That is why this cri­sis has been irra­tional from the begin­ning. It should be not­ed that all the doc­u­ments that were pre­sent­ed to the pub­lic dur­ing this cri­sis were pre­sent­ed by politi­cians based on com­mer­cial sources.

Some West­ern politi­cians obvi­ous­ly want­ed there to be a con­flict. In the Unit­ed States, the attack sce­nar­ios pre­sent­ed by Antho­ny Blinken to the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil were only the prod­uct of the imag­i­na­tion of a Tiger Team work­ing for him—he did exact­ly as Don­ald Rums­feld did in 2002, who had thus “bypassed” the CIA and oth­er intel­li­gence ser­vices that were much less assertive about Iraqi chem­i­cal weapons.

The dra­mat­ic devel­op­ments we are wit­ness­ing today have caus­es that we knew about but refused to see:

  • on the strate­gic lev­el, the expan­sion of NATO (which we have not dealt with here);
  • on the polit­i­cal lev­el, the West­ern refusal to imple­ment the Min­sk Agree­ments;
  • and oper­a­tional­ly, the con­tin­u­ous and repeat­ed attacks on the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion of the Don­bass over the past years and the dra­mat­ic increase in late Feb­ru­ary 2022.

In oth­er words, we can nat­u­ral­ly deplore and con­demn the Russ­ian attack. But WE (that is: the Unit­ed States, France and the Euro­pean Union in the lead) have cre­at­ed the con­di­tions for a con­flict to break out. We show com­pas­sion for the Ukrain­ian peo­ple and the two mil­lion refugees. That is fine. But if we had had a mod­icum of com­pas­sion for the same num­ber of refugees from the Ukrain­ian pop­u­la­tions of Don­bass mas­sa­cred by their own gov­ern­ment and who sought refuge in Rus­sia for eight years, none of this would prob­a­bly have hap­pened.

Civil­ian casu­al­ties caused by active hos­til­i­ties in 2018–2021, per ter­ri­to­ry

 

In ter­ri­to­ry con­trol- led by the self-pro- claimed “Republics”

In Gov­ern­ment- con­trolled ter­ri­to­ry

 In “no man’s land”

 Total

Decrease com­pared with pre­vi­ous year, per cent

2018

128

27

7

162

41.9

2019

85

18

2

105

35.2

2020

61

9

0

70

33.3

2021

36

8

0

44

37.1

Total

310

62

9

381

 

Per cent

81.4

16.3

2.3

100.0

 

As we can see, more than 80% of the vic­tims in Don­bass were the result of the Ukrain­ian army’s shelling. For years, the West remained silent about the mas­sacre of Russ­ian-speak­ing Ukraini­ans by the gov­ern­ment of Kiev, with­out ever try­ing to bring pres­sure on Kiev. It is this silence that forced the Russ­ian side to act. [Source: “Con­flict-relat­ed civil­ian casu­al­ties, Unit­ed Nations Human Rights Mon­i­tor­ing Mis­sion in Ukraine.]

Whether the term “geno­cide” applies to the abus­es suf­fered by the peo­ple of Don­bass is an open ques­tion. The term is gen­er­al­ly reserved for cas­es of greater mag­ni­tude (Holo­caust, etc.). But the def­i­n­i­tion giv­en by the Geno­cide Con­ven­tion is prob­a­bly broad enough to apply to this case. Legal schol­ars will under­stand this.

Clear­ly, this con­flict has led us into hys­te­ria. Sanc­tions seem to have become the pre­ferred tool of our for­eign poli­cies. If we had insist­ed that Ukraine abide by the Min­sk Agree­ments, which we had nego­ti­at­ed and endorsed, none of this would have hap­pened. Vladimir Putin’s con­dem­na­tion is also ours. There is no point in whin­ing afterwards—we should have act­ed ear­li­er. How­ev­er, nei­ther Emmanuel Macron (as guar­an­tor and mem­ber of the UN Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil), nor Olaf Scholz, nor Volodymyr Zelen­sky have respect­ed their com­mit­ments. In the end, the real defeat is that of those who have no voice.

The Euro­pean Union was unable to pro­mote the imple­men­ta­tion of the Min­sk agreements—on the con­trary, it did not react when Ukraine was bomb­ing its own pop­u­la­tion in the Don­bass. Had it done so, Vladimir Putin would not have need­ed to react. Absent from the diplo­mat­ic phase, the EU dis­tin­guished itself by fuel­ing the con­flict. On Feb­ru­ary 27, the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment agreed to enter into nego­ti­a­tions with Rus­sia. But a few hours lat­er, the Euro­pean Union vot­ed a bud­get of 450 mil­lion euros to sup­ply arms to the Ukraine, adding fuel to the fire. From then on, the Ukraini­ans felt that they did not need to reach an agree­ment. The resis­tance of the Azov mili­tia in Mar­i­upol even led to a boost of 500 mil­lion euros for weapons.

In the Ukraine, with the bless­ing of the West­ern coun­tries, those who are in favor of a nego­ti­a­tion have been elim­i­nat­ed. This is the case of Denis Kireyev, one of the Ukrain­ian nego­tia­tors, assas­si­nat­ed on March 5 by the Ukrain­ian secret ser­vice (SBU) because he was too favor­able to Rus­sia and was con­sid­ered a trai­tor. The same fate befell Dmit­ry Demya­nenko, for­mer deputy head of the SBU’s main direc­torate for Kiev and its region, who was assas­si­nat­ed on March 10 because he was too favor­able to an agree­ment with Russia—he was shot by the Mirotvorets (“Peace­mak­er”) mili­tia. This mili­tia is asso­ci­at­ed with the Mirotvorets web­site, which lists the “ene­mies of Ukraine,” with their per­son­al data, address­es and tele­phone num­bers, so that they can be harassed or even elim­i­nat­ed; a prac­tice that is pun­ish­able in many coun­tries, but not in the Ukraine. The UN and some Euro­pean coun­tries have demand­ed the clo­sure of this site—refused by the Rada.

In the end, the price will be high, but Vladimir Putin will like­ly achieve the goals he set for him­self. His ties with Bei­jing have solid­i­fied. Chi­na is emerg­ing as a medi­a­tor in the con­flict, while Switzer­land is join­ing the list of Russia’s ene­mies. The Amer­i­cans have to ask Venezuela and Iran for oil to get out of the ener­gy impasse they have put them­selves in—Juan Guai­do is leav­ing the scene for good and the Unit­ed States has to piteous­ly back­track on the sanc­tions imposed on its ene­mies.

West­ern min­is­ters who seek to col­lapse the Russ­ian econ­o­my and make the Russ­ian peo­ple suf­fer, or even call for the assas­si­na­tion of Putin, show (even if they have par­tial­ly reversed the form of their words, but not the sub­stance!) that our lead­ers are no bet­ter than those we hate—for sanc­tion­ing Russ­ian ath­letes in the Para-Olympic Games or Russ­ian artists has noth­ing to do with fight­ing Putin.

Thus, we rec­og­nize that Rus­sia is a democ­ra­cy since we con­sid­er that the Russ­ian peo­ple are respon­si­ble for the war. If this is not the case, then why do we seek to pun­ish a whole pop­u­la­tion for the fault of one? Let us remem­ber that col­lec­tive pun­ish­ment is for­bid­den by the Gene­va Con­ven­tions.

The les­son to be learned from this con­flict is our sense of vari­able geo­met­ric human­i­ty. If we cared so much about peace and the Ukraine, why didn’t we encour­age the Ukraine to respect the agree­ments it had signed and that the mem­bers of the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil had approved?

The integri­ty of the media is mea­sured by their will­ing­ness to work with­in the terms of the Munich Char­ter. They suc­ceed­ed in prop­a­gat­ing hatred of the Chi­nese dur­ing the Covid cri­sis and their polar­ized mes­sage leads to the same effects against the Rus­sians. Jour­nal­ism is becom­ing more and more unpro­fes­sion­al and mil­i­tant.

As Goethe said: “The greater the light, the dark­er the shad­ow.” The more the sanc­tions against Rus­sia are dis­pro­por­tion­ate, the more the cas­es where we have done noth­ing high­light our racism and ser­vil­i­ty. Why have no West­ern politi­cians react­ed to the strikes against the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion of Don­bass for eight years?

Because final­ly, what makes the con­flict in the Ukraine more blame­wor­thy than the war in Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya? What sanc­tions have we adopt­ed against those who delib­er­ate­ly lied to the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty in order to wage unjust, unjus­ti­fied and mur­der­ous wars? Have we sought to “make the Amer­i­can peo­ple suf­fer” for lying to us (because they are a democ­ra­cy!) before the war in Iraq? Have we adopt­ed a sin­gle sanc­tion against the coun­tries, com­pa­nies or politi­cians who are sup­ply­ing weapons to the con­flict in Yemen, con­sid­ered to be the “worst human­i­tar­i­an dis­as­ter in the world?” Have we sanc­tioned the coun­tries of the Euro­pean Union that prac­tice the most abject tor­ture on their ter­ri­to­ry for the ben­e­fit of the Unit­ed States?

To ask the ques­tion is to answer it… and the answer is not pret­ty.

2.   In the ongo­ing series on the Ukraine war, Mr. Emory has advanced the metaphor of the war and its atten­dant cov­er­age as some­thing akin to the myth­i­cal Philoso­pher’s Stone of the alchemists. Instead of chang­ing lead into gold, it is chang­ing indi­vid­u­als and insti­tu­tions in the West into the same fab­ric as Volodomyr Via­tro­vy­ch’s Ukrain­ian Insti­tute of Nation­al Mem­o­ry.

Recent­ly, Yahoo News has begun reg­u­lar­ly post­ing arti­cles from Ukrain­s­ka Prav­da.

This is part of a U.S.-funded media array in Ukraine, designed to com­mu­ni­cate open­ly pro­pa­gan­dized cov­er­age of things Ukrain­ian.

Yahoo’s pre­sen­ta­tion of Ukrayin­s­ka Prav­da exem­pli­fies Mr. Emory’s metaphor.

“Army of Secret Pro­pa­gan­dists in Ukraine Fund­ed by U.S. to Win West­ern Hearts and Minds for NATO Poli­cies” by Evan Reif; Covert Action Mag­a­zine; 5/12/2022.

Ukrayin­s­ka Prav­da

. . . . Not relat­ed to the orig­i­nal Prav­da, this was found­ed in 2000 by Georgiy Gongadze, a Geor­gian right-wingter­ror­ist. One of the most pop­u­lar news out­lets in Ukraine, they now have near­ly one mil­lion fol­low­ers on Twit­ter.

As is fit­ting for their his­to­ry, they are unbe­liev­ably far-right. Indeed, the site has an entire sec­tion ded­i­cat­ed to his­tor­i­cal revi­sion­ism. They wor­ship Ban­dera and the OUN, alter­nate between deny­ing and jus­ti­fy­ing geno­cide, and defend the SS Gali­cia divi­sion, war crim­i­nals respon­si­ble for many atroc­i­ties, I am still sur­prised from time to time how brazen the Ukrain­ian far right can be, in this coun­try which the press tells us has no Nazi prob­lem.

Their exec­u­tive direc­tor, Andrey Bobo­rykin, works for CORE. The edi­tor-in-chief, Andrey’s wife Sevgil Musaye­va, got some­what famous back dur­ing the Maid­an coup for found­ing Crimea SOS, an NGO found­ed with NED cash work­ing for the return of Crimea to Ukrain­ian con­trol, most­ly by offer­ing what they call “ver­i­fied infor­ma­tion” but giv­en their fund­ing, is like­ly any­thing but. . . .

3. Part and par­cel to the white­wash­ing of the Nazi affil­i­a­tion of the Azov for­ma­tions in Ukraine, the Ukrain­ian Kalush Orchestra–winner of t he 2022 Euro­vi­sion song quest–capped off their per­for­mance with a call to release the Azov com­bat­ants holed up in the tun­nels beneath the Azovstal steel mill.

The absence of com­men­tary on the Nazi ori­en­ta­tion of the Azov units is rou­tine in the West at this point.

Ukraine band makes plea for Mar­i­upol at Euro­vi­sion final;” Reuters.com; 5/14/2022.

Ukraine’s Kalush Orches­tra on Sat­ur­day made a plea for the city of Mar­i­upol and its Azovstal plant at the end of their appear­ance in the Euro­vi­sion Song Con­test.

“Please help Ukraine, Mar­i­upol. Help Azovstal right now,” lead singer Oleh Psiuk shout­ed from the front of the stage in the Ital­ian city of Turin after the band per­formed its song “Ste­fa­nia”.

Russ­ian forces have been con­stant­ly bom­bard­ing the steel­works in the south­ern port of Mar­i­upol, the last bas­tion of hun­dreds of Ukrain­ian defend­ers in a city almost com­plete­ly con­trolled by Rus­sia after more than two months of a siege. . . .

4. Also exem­pli­fy­ing the ide­o­log­i­cal and jour­nal­is­tic per­ver­sion of West­ern cov­er­age of Azov for­ma­tions is the New York Times piece about Azov wives req­ui­si­tion­ing inter­na­tion­al aid for the Azovstal com­bat­ants.

The arti­cle fea­tured mer­cy pleas from Katery­na Prokopenko–the wife of Azov com­man­der Colonel Denys Prokopenko.

” ‘On the Last Breath’ ” Wives Seek Mer­cy for Mar­i­upol Troops” by Maria Vareniko­va and Marc San­to­ra; The New York Times; 5/11/2022; P. A6 [West­ern Print Edi­tion.]

5. Colonel Prokopenko’s per­spec­tive on the pos­si­ble “false flag” explo­sion on the Mar­i­upol Dra­ma The­ater is inter­est­ing. We can but won­der what he might dis­close to Russ­ian intel­li­gence offi­cers about the inci­dent.

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

  1. “ . . . . 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. . . .”
  2. “ . . . . 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. . . .”

Sym­bol of Azov Bat­tal­ion, with sun wheel aka son­nen­rad

6a. Joe Biden man­i­fest­ed con­sum­mate hypocrisy with his con­dem­na­tion of Pay­ton Gen­dron, the appar­ent Buf­fa­lo shoot­er. Endors­ing the 14 words mint­ed by David Lane and uti­liz­ing the Sun Wheel sym­bol embraced by the Azov Bat­tal­ion, Gen­dron was align­ing him­self with the same forces the U.S. backs in Ukraine.

“How Shoot­ing Sus­pec­t’s Racist Writ­ings Reveal Links to Oth­er Attacks” by Alan Feuer; The New York Times; 5/17/2022; p. A15 [West­ern Print Edi­tion].

. . . . At one point in his post, the Buf­fa­lo sus­pect asks him­self the broad­est ques­tion pos­si­ble: “What do you want?”

He answered with a 14-word sen­tence that is a com­mon slo­gan among neo-Nazi groups and argues for the preser­va­tion of the white race and its chil­dren.

That sen­tence — known in far-right cir­cles as the “14 Words” — was coined by David Lane, a mem­ber of a far-right group known as the Order. It embod­ies the cen­tral white suprema­cist tenet that white peo­ple will not sur­vive unless imme­di­ate action is tak­en.

The suspect’s use of the 14 Words is not the only time he makes ref­er­ence to neo-Nazism in his writ­ing. The first page of the work is embla­zoned with a sym­bol called the son­nen­rad or sun­wheel. The son­nen­rad is an ancient Euro­pean rune that, like the swasti­ka, was appro­pri­at­ed by the Nazis to embody their ide­al vision of an Aryan iden­ti­ty. . . .

6b. As dis­cussed in FTR #780, Swo­bo­da main­tains a street-fight­ing cadre called Com­bat 14.

“The Kiev Esca­la­tion Strat­egy”; german-foreign-policy.com; 3/06/2014.

. . . . On the oth­er hand, this should draw atten­tion because Svo­boda hon­ors Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor, Stepan Ban­dera and his Orga­ni­za­tion of Ukrain­ian Nation­al­ists (OUN), respon­si­ble for hav­ing com­mit­ted mas­sacres par­tic­u­larly of Jew­ish Ukraini­ans and Poles.[4] Svo­boda, accord­ing to activists in Kiev, still dis­poses of an ille­gal armed wing known as “C14.“[5] This has been con­firmed a few days ago by the BBC, which reports “C14’s” size alleged­ly at 200 mem­bers — and took over the head­quar­ters of the Com­mu­nist Par­ty, an act that turns the spot­light on the con­cept of rule of law applied now in the pro-West­ern Ukraine. The name “C14” (“Com­bat 14″) is prob­a­bly a seman­tic flirt with the name “C18” (“Com­bat 18″) one of the inter­na­tional net­works of neo-Nazi ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions, with which the “C14,” of course, shares no orga­ni­za­tional ties. At the same time, the name points to the num­ber “14.” In fas­cist cir­cles this refers to the “four­teen word” slo­gans of com­mit­ment to the “white race.” As the leader of Svoboda’s ally “C14” explained, his orga­ni­za­tion is in a “strug­gle” with “eth­nic groups” that are wield­ing, among oth­er things, “eco­nomic and polit­i­cal pow­er.” The “eth­nic groups” he is refer­ring to are “Rus­sians and Jews.“[6] . . . .

6c. Com­bat 14’s name derives from “the four­teen words” mint­ed by David Lane, a mem­ber of the Order that killed talk show host Alan Berg. (See excerpt below.) The words are: “We must secure the exis­tence of our peo­ple and a future for white chil­dren.”

“Ter­ror­ist, ’14 Words’ Author, Dies in Prison”; South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter; Fall 2007 [Issue #127]

. . . . Neo-Nazi activist April Gaede, a Kalispell, Mont., res­i­dent who cor­re­spond­ed fre­quent­ly with Lane, announced with great fan­fare that she and “the gals from WAU [Women For Aryan Uni­ty]” had estab­lished a David Lane Memo­r­i­al Fund to cov­er the expens­es of inter­ring Lane’s remains.

Accord­ing to Gaede, Lane told her that he want­ed to be cre­mat­ed and have his ash­es placed in the cap­stone of a pyra­mid mon­u­ment. How­ev­er, Gaede wrote on the racist online forum Storm­front, “Since we are not in a sit­u­a­tion to build a mon­u­ment in a White home­land,” Gaede was arrang­ing to instead dis­trib­ute Lane’s ash­es among 14 small­er, portable pyra­mids, which would then be enshrined in the homes of 14 white nation­al­ist women. (The num­ber of pyra­mids is a direct ref­er­ence to “the 14 words,” the white nation­al­ist catch­phrase authored by Lane: “We must secure the exis­tence of our peo­ple and a future for white chil­dren.”) . . . .

7a. Gen­dron’s man­i­festo ref­er­enced Bren­ton Tar­rant, the Christchurch, NZ shoot­er, who had appar­ent­ly vis­it­ed Ukraine and alleged­ly net­worked with the Azov Bat­tal­ion.

Even The New York Times not­ed the pos­si­ble con­tact between Azov and Tar­rant.

   “Ukraine’s Ultra-Right Increas­ing­ly Vis­i­ble as Elec­tion Nears” [AP]; The New York Times; 3/27/2019.

. . . . The Ukrain­ian far right also appears to have ties in oth­er coun­tries. Aus­tralian Bren­ton Tar­rant, accused of slaugh­ter­ing 50 peo­ple at two mosques in the city of Christchurch in New Zealand, men­tioned a vis­it to Ukraine in his man­i­festo, and some reports alleged that he had con­tacts with the ultra-right. The Soufan Cen­ter, a research group spe­cial­iz­ing on secu­ri­ty, has recent­ly alleged pos­si­ble links between Tar­rant and the Azov Bat­tal­ion. . . .

7b. A pri­vate intel­li­gence group–the Soufan Center–has linked Tar­rant to the Azov Bat­tal­ion.

“Intel­brief: The Transna­tion­al Net­work That No One Is Talk­ing About;” The Soufan Net­work; 2/22/2019.

In the wake of the New Zealand mosque attacks, links have emerged between the shoot­er, Brent Tar­rant, and a Ukrain­ian ultra-nation­al­ist, white suprema­cist para­mil­i­tary orga­ni­za­tion called the Azov Bat­tal­ion. Tarrant’s man­i­festo alleges that he vis­it­ed the coun­try dur­ing his many trav­els abroad, and the flak jack­et that Tar­rant wore dur­ing the assault fea­tured a sym­bol com­mon­ly used by the Azov Bat­tal­ion. . . .

 

 

 

Discussion

3 comments for “FTR#1245 How Many Lies Before You Belong to The Lie?, Part 18”

  1. While the con­flict in Ukraine shows no end in sight, it does sound like we could be look­ing at the end of the ini­tial stages of the war and the emer­gence of a new phase of con­flict fueled by the advanced West­ern weapons sys­tems already flood­ing into the coun­try. And as the fol­low­ing arti­cles remind us, these new weapon sys­tems don’t just promise to change the bal­ance of the con­flict, but also the strate­gic nature of the fight­ing on the ground. In par­tic­u­lar, pow­er­ful new mis­sile sys­tems could reshape the bat­tle­field in part by dra­mat­i­cal­ly extend­ing the range of Ukraine’s offen­sive reach, both on land and at sea. Accord­ing to reports from last week, the US is set to send Ukraine pow­er­ful new anti-ship mis­sile sys­tems that could poten­tial­ly force Rus­si­a’s navy out of the Black Sea. So when we’re wait­ing to see whether or not Rus­sia decides to occu­py the entire South­ern Coast of Ukraine and major cities like Odessa, the fact that Ukraine is poised to get the capac­i­ty to block Russ­ian out of the Black Sea should be kept in mind.

    But beyond those anti-ship mis­siles are the like­ly deliv­ery of pow­er­ful Mul­ti­ple Launch Rock­et Sys­tems (MLRS) that could pose a pow­er­ful threat to Russ­ian mis­sile and artillery plat­forms. Experts pre­dict that, with near week­ly new aid pack­ages being announced for Ukraine, it’s just a mat­ter of time for the US deliv­ers these weapon sys­tems. And when that hap­pens, the nature of the bat­tle­field con­flict could shift to one of duel­ing hit-and-run counter-bat­tery attacks on the oth­er side’s mis­siles and artillery plat­forms. A lot more mis­siles and artillery rounds are going to be fired much longer dis­tances in both direc­tions as Ukraine’s capac­i­ty to strike deep into the heart of rebel-held ter­ri­to­ries, or even inside Rus­sia, is steadi­ly expand­ed. So we should expect a inten­si­fi­ca­tion of fight­ing, but also like­ly an inten­si­fi­ca­tion of the destruc­tion of civil­ian areas in par­tic­u­lar in rebel held ter­ri­to­ries. In oth­er words, while we have no idea how this next phase of the con­flict will play out, we can be high­ly con­fi­dent that it will involve a dra­mat­ic esca­la­tion in the destruc­tion of rebel held civil­ian areas.
    Ok, first, here’s a report from last week about the US get­ting ready to arm Ukraine with new anti-ship mis­siles. Mis­siles pow­er­ful enough to block Rus­sia out of the Black Sea:

    Reuters

    Exclu­sive: U.S. aims to arm Ukraine with advanced anti-ship mis­siles to fight Russ­ian block­ade

    By Mike Stone
    May 19, 2022 9:41 PM CDT
    Updat­ed

    WASHINGTON, May 19 (Reuters) — The White House is work­ing to put advanced anti-ship mis­siles in the hands of Ukrain­ian fight­ers to help defeat Rus­si­a’s naval block­ade, offi­cials said, amid con­cerns more pow­er­ful weapons that could sink Russ­ian war­ships would inten­si­fy the con­flict.

    Ukraine has made no secret it wants more advanced U.S. capa­bil­i­ties beyond its cur­rent inven­to­ry of artillery, Javelin and Stinger mis­siles, and oth­er arms. Kyiv’s list, for exam­ple, includes mis­siles that could push the Russ­ian navy away from its Black Sea ports, allow­ing the restart of ship­ments of grain and oth­er agri­cul­tur­al prod­ucts world­wide.

    Cur­rent and for­mer U.S. offi­cials and con­gres­sion­al sources have cit­ed road­blocks to send­ing longer range, more pow­er­ful weapons to Ukraine that include lengthy train­ing require­ments, dif­fi­cul­ties main­tain­ing equip­ment, or con­cerns U.S. weapon­ry could be cap­tured by Russ­ian forces, in addi­tion to the fear of esca­la­tion. read more

    But three U.S. offi­cials and two con­gres­sion­al sources said two types of pow­er­ful anti-ship mis­siles, the Har­poon made by Boe­ing (BA.N) and the Naval Strike Mis­sile made by Kongs­berg (KOG.OL) and Raytheon Tech­nolo­gies (RTX.N) were in active con­sid­er­a­tion for either direct ship­ment to Ukraine, or through a trans­fer from a Euro­pean ally that has the mis­siles.

    In April, Ukraine’s Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skiy appealed to Por­tu­gal to pro­vide the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary with Har­poons, which have a range of up to almost 300 km.

    But there are sev­er­al issues keep­ing Ukraine from receiv­ing the mis­siles. For one, there is lim­it­ed avail­abil­i­ty of plat­forms to launch Har­poons from shore — a tech­ni­cal­ly chal­leng­ing solu­tion accord­ing to sev­er­al offi­cials — as it is most­ly a sea-based mis­sile.

    Two U.S. offi­cials said the Unit­ed States was work­ing on poten­tial solu­tions that includ­ed pulling a launch­er off of a U.S. ship. Both mis­siles cost about $1.5 mil­lion per round, accord­ing to experts and indus­try exec­u­tives.

    About 20 Russ­ian Navy ves­sels, includ­ing sub­marines, are in the Black Sea oper­a­tional zone, the British defense min­istry has said.

    Bryan Clark, a naval expert at the Hud­son Insti­tute, said 12 to 24 anti-ship mis­siles like the Har­poon with ranges over 100 km would be enough to threat­en Russ­ian ships and could con­vince Moscow to lift the block­ade. “If Putin per­sists, Ukraine could take out the largest Russ­ian ships, since they have nowhere to hide in the Black Sea,” Clark said.

    Rus­sia has already suf­fered loss­es at sea, notably the sink­ing of the cruis­er Mosk­va, the flag­ship of its Black Sea fleet.

    WHO GOES FIRST?

    A hand­ful of coun­tries would be will­ing to send Har­poons to Ukraine, the U.S. offi­cials and the con­gres­sion­al sources said. But no one wants to be the first or only nation to do so, fear­ing reprisals from Rus­sia if a ship is sunk with a Har­poon from their stock­pile, the third U.S offi­cial said.

    That U.S. offi­cial said one coun­try is con­sid­er­ing being the first to sup­ply the mis­sile to Ukraine. Once that “well stocked” nation com­mits to send­ing Har­poons, oth­ers might fol­low, the offi­cial said.

    The Naval Strike Mis­sile (NSM) can be launched from the Ukrain­ian coast and has a range of 250 km. It also takes less than 14 days train­ing to oper­ate.

    The sources said NSMs were viewed as less logis­ti­cal­ly dif­fi­cult than Har­poons, because NATO allies could loan mobile ground launch­ers which are avail­able, and war­heads from Nor­way.

    The first two U.S. offi­cials and the con­gres­sion­al sources said the Unit­ed States was try­ing to work out a way for Ukraine to obtain NSM and launch­ers from Euro­pean allies.

    The con­gres­sion­al sources said anoth­er option would be for Nor­way to donate NSMs to Ukraine, an idea sup­port­ed by Nor­we­gian mem­bers of par­lia­ment. The Nor­we­gian Min­istry of Defense declined to com­ment on what addi­tion­al con­tri­bu­tions of arms and defense equip­ment it may con­sid­er offer­ing to Ukraine.

    ...

    Anoth­er weapon high on Ukraine’s shop­ping list are Mul­ti­ple Rock­et Launch Sys­tems (MLRS) such as the M270 made by Lock­heed Mar­tin (LMT.N) which can strike a tar­get 70 or more kilo­me­ters away, a three-fold increase over many of their cur­rent how­itzer rounds. read more

    In recent weeks, the Biden admin­is­tra­tion decid­ed instead to send M777 towed how­itzers which could be deployed faster and shipped in larg­er quan­ti­ties, the two U.S. offi­cials said.

    The two U.S. offi­cials said the M270 or sim­i­lar sys­tem like the M142 HIMARS would be con­sid­ered for ship­ment to Ukraine once Con­gress passed a $40 bil­lion sup­ple­men­tal fund­ing bill that would autho­rize an addi­tion­al $11 bil­lion worth of Pres­i­den­tial Draw­down Author­i­ty. That lets the pres­i­dent autho­rize the trans­fer of excess weapons from U.S. stocks with­out con­gres­sion­al approval in response to an emer­gency. read more

    ————

    “Exclu­sive: U.S. aims to arm Ukraine with advanced anti-ship mis­siles to fight Russ­ian block­ade” by Mike Stone; Reuters; 05/19/2022

    “But three U.S. offi­cials and two con­gres­sion­al sources said two types of pow­er­ful anti-ship mis­siles, the Har­poon made by Boe­ing (BA.N) and the Naval Strike Mis­sile made by Kongs­berg (KOG.OL) and Raytheon Tech­nolo­gies (RTX.N) were in active con­sid­er­a­tion for either direct ship­ment to Ukraine, or through a trans­fer from a Euro­pean ally that has the mis­siles.”

    The arm­ing of Ukraine is about to be tak­en up anoth­er notch: pow­er­ful anti-ship mis­siles that could effec­tive­ly block Rus­sia from the Black Sea are like­ly going to be deliv­ered soon. It’s the kind of devel­op­ment that sig­nif­i­cant­ly rais­es the stakes of this con­flict. If Russ­ian does­n’t win, it poten­tial­ly los­es access ot the Black Sea:

    ...
    But there are sev­er­al issues keep­ing Ukraine from receiv­ing the mis­siles. For one, there is lim­it­ed avail­abil­i­ty of plat­forms to launch Har­poons from shore — a tech­ni­cal­ly chal­leng­ing solu­tion accord­ing to sev­er­al offi­cials — as it is most­ly a sea-based mis­sile.

    Two U.S. offi­cials said the Unit­ed States was work­ing on poten­tial solu­tions that includ­ed pulling a launch­er off of a U.S. ship. Both mis­siles cost about $1.5 mil­lion per round, accord­ing to experts and indus­try exec­u­tives.

    About 20 Russ­ian Navy ves­sels, includ­ing sub­marines, are in the Black Sea oper­a­tional zone, the British defense min­istry has said.

    Bryan Clark, a naval expert at the Hud­son Insti­tute, said 12 to 24 anti-ship mis­siles like the Har­poon with ranges over 100 km would be enough to threat­en Russ­ian ships and could con­vince Moscow to lift the block­ade. “If Putin per­sists, Ukraine could take out the largest Russ­ian ships, since they have nowhere to hide in the Black Sea,” Clark said.

    ...

    The Naval Strike Mis­sile (NSM) can be launched from the Ukrain­ian coast and has a range of 250 km. It also takes less than 14 days train­ing to oper­ate.
    ...

    But it’s not just longer-ranger pow­er­ful anti-ship sys­tems that are under con­sid­er­a­tion. Pow­er­ful mod­ern artillery and Mul­ti­ple Rock­et Launch Sys­tems are aren’t pend­ing approval:

    ...
    Anoth­er weapon high on Ukraine’s shop­ping list are Mul­ti­ple Rock­et Launch Sys­tems (MLRS) such as the M270 made by Lock­heed Mar­tin (LMT.N) which can strike a tar­get 70 or more kilo­me­ters away, a three-fold increase over many of their cur­rent how­itzer rounds. read more

    In recent weeks, the Biden admin­is­tra­tion decid­ed instead to send M777 towed how­itzers which could be deployed faster and shipped in larg­er quan­ti­ties, the two U.S. offi­cials said.

    The two U.S. offi­cials said the M270 or sim­i­lar sys­tem like the M142 HIMARS would be con­sid­ered for ship­ment to Ukraine once Con­gress passed a $40 bil­lion sup­ple­men­tal fund­ing bill that would autho­rize an addi­tion­al $11 bil­lion worth of Pres­i­den­tial Draw­down Author­i­ty. That lets the pres­i­dent autho­rize the trans­fer of excess weapons from U.S. stocks with­out con­gres­sion­al approval in response to an emer­gency. read more
    ...

    And as the fol­low­ing arti­cle describes, these mis­sile sys­tems would­n’t just be resup­ply Ukraine’s dwin­dling sup­plies. They could strate­gi­cal­ly trans­form the nature of this con­flict into a bat­tle of long-range hit and run counter-bat­tery fire. And as Mark Can­cian, a retired Marine Corps colonel who stud­ies the war for the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies, put it, at the rate the US is announc­ing new aid pack­ages for Ukraine — about one a week now — he would­n’t be sur­prised if the approval for these weapons sys­tems could come as ear­ly as this week:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    West­ern artillery surg­ing into Ukraine will reshape war with Rus­sia

    By Dan Lamothe
    Updat­ed April 30, 2022 at 4:19 p.m. EDT
    Pub­lished April 30, 2022 at 6:00 a.m. EDT

    The West­ern artillery flood­ing into Ukraine will alter the war with Rus­sia, set­ting off a bloody bat­tle of wits backed by long-range weapons and forc­ing both sides to grow more nim­ble if they hope to avoid sig­nif­i­cant fatal­i­ties as fight­ing inten­si­fies in the east, U.S. offi­cials and mil­i­tary ana­lysts pre­dict.

    The expand­ed artillery bat­tle fol­lows Russia’s failed effort to rapid­ly seize Ukraine’s major pop­u­la­tion cen­ters, includ­ing the cap­i­tal, Kyiv. It comes as the gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky and his West­ern bene­fac­tors brace for what is expect­ed to be a grind­ing cam­paign in the Don­bas region. The con­flict there is expect­ed to show­case the long-range can­nons that are a cen­ter­piece of Russia’s arse­nal, weapon­ry already used to dev­as­tat­ing effect in places such as Mar­i­upol, a south­ern port city that has been pul­ver­ized by unre­lent­ing bom­bard­ment.

    Defense Sec­re­tary Lloyd Austin, speak­ing along­side his Cana­di­an coun­ter­part at the Pen­ta­gon on Thurs­day, said long-range artillery will prove “deci­sive” in the next phase of the war. The Biden admin­is­tra­tion, which along with Cana­da is train­ing small num­bers of Ukrain­ian troops how to oper­ate the dozens of 155 mm how­itzers that both coun­tries have pledged to pro­vide, is expect­ed to approve the trans­fer of even more artillery to Ukraine in the com­ing days, Austin said.

    The U.S. and Cana­di­an how­itzers bound for Ukraine are towed on trail­ers, while those pledged by France — sys­tems known as self-pro­pelled Cae­sar how­itzers — fire the same 155 mm explo­sive rounds, but from the back of a truck chas­sis.

    The Unit­ed States alone already has promised Zelen­sky near­ly 190,000 artillery rounds, plus 90 how­itzers to fire them. As of Thurs­day, more than half had arrived in Ukraine, said a senior U.S. defense offi­cial who, like some oth­ers, spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty under ground rules set by the admin­is­tra­tion.

    A new $33 bil­lion request to Con­gress for addi­tion­al Ukraine aid includes pro­posed fund­ing for “longer-range artillery of a heav­ier cal­iber,” Sec­re­tary of State Antony Blinken told law­mak­ers on Capi­tol Hill, though he stopped short of iden­ti­fy­ing which spe­cif­ic sys­tems are under con­sid­er­a­tion. Oth­er allies, such as Britain and Swe­den, also could send artillery, ana­lysts said.

    To date, Rus­sia and Ukraine have trad­ed fire using some of the same sys­tems, includ­ing the pow­er­ful 300 mm Smerch mul­ti­ple-launch rock­et sys­tem, which can shoot rounds some 55 miles, and aging 122 mm how­itzers first field­ed in the 1960s. The intro­duc­tion of var­i­ous West­ern artillery pieces is expect­ed to accel­er­ate a tac­ti­cal shift by both sides to employ what is known as counter-bat­tery fire, in which mil­i­tary forces seek out their enemy’s artillery, deter­mine its loca­tion and attack, ana­lysts said.

    “You’re try­ing to find, fix and fin­ish,” said George Fly­nn, a retired three-star Marine gen­er­al and for­mer artillery offi­cer. “You want to find the ene­my how­itzers. You want to fix their posi­tion. And then you want to fin­ish them off. That’s the essence of tar­get­ing.”

    After an artillery unit attacks an adver­sary, it needs to keep mov­ing, Fly­nn said. “Once you get into a counter-bat­tery fight, it’s shoot and scoot,” he added. “You don’t stick around and let your­self get tar­get­ed.”

    Ukraine’s abil­i­ty to tar­get Russ­ian artillery units is espe­cial­ly impor­tant, ana­lysts say, because of the Kremlin’s demon­strat­ed will­ing­ness to lob round after round into cities and towns, destroy­ing civil­ian homes and infra­struc­ture. “Just the exis­tence” of more Ukrain­ian artillery units per­form­ing counter-bat­tery fire will degrade Russia’s abil­i­ty to “sit there, pile up ammo and go to town,” said Scott Boston, a for­mer U.S. Army field artillery offi­cer who stud­ies the Russ­ian mil­i­tary for the Rand Corp.

    “The prob­lem” that Ukraine and its West­ern allies would “like to impose on the Rus­sians,” he said, “is for them to nev­er have con­fi­dence that a head­quar­ters, or a key ammu­ni­tion dump, or an impor­tant clus­ter of fir­ing plat­forms, can ever be sta­tion­ary for very long.”

    The Pen­ta­gon on Fri­day assessed that Rus­sia has not been as effec­tive as it would like at using long-range artillery. A senior defense offi­cial not­ed that, as the West con­tin­ues to send so much artillery to Ukraine, “this could become a bit of a gun bat­tle.”

    Artillery units often dis­guise them­selves with cam­ou­flage or oth­er forms of cov­er, and it can require a mix­ture of intel­li­gence, unmanned air­craft and radar to spot them. The West is pro­vid­ing Ukraine with drones and counter-bat­tery radar to do just that.

    Zelen­sky also has request­ed some form of mul­ti­ple-launch rock­et artillery, such as the high­ly accu­rate M142 High Mobil­i­ty Artillery Rock­et Sys­tem, known as HIMARS, that is used by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. Such weapons launch rounds quick­ly, which is use­ful in fir­ing on ene­my artillery forces before they repo­si­tion, said Mark Can­cian, a retired Marine Corps colonel who stud­ies the war for the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies in Wash­ing­ton.

    Can­cian, a for­mer artillery offi­cer, said that there “will be a lot of pres­sure to pro­vide” HIMARS in the com­ing days and that he would not be sur­prised to see the Unit­ed States begin sup­ply­ing it soon. Anoth­er type of mul­ti­ple-launch rock­et sys­tem, such as the M270 oper­at­ed by the U.S. Army, also could be sent, he sur­mised. The HIMARS is new­er and moves about the bat­tle­field more freely, while the M270 car­ries more rock­ets.

    “I think there will be a lot of pres­sure to pro­vide that, and since we seem to be announc­ing an aid pack­age a week, I wouldn’t be sur­prised to see HIMARS next week or the week after,” Can­cian said.

    ...

    ———-

    “West­ern artillery surg­ing into Ukraine will reshape war with Rus­sia” by Dan Lamothe; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 04/30/2022

    “To date, Rus­sia and Ukraine have trad­ed fire using some of the same sys­tems, includ­ing the pow­er­ful 300 mm Smerch mul­ti­ple-launch rock­et sys­tem, which can shoot rounds some 55 miles, and aging 122 mm how­itzers first field­ed in the 1960s. The intro­duc­tion of var­i­ous West­ern artillery pieces is expect­ed to accel­er­ate a tac­ti­cal shift by both sides to employ what is known as counter-bat­tery fire, in which mil­i­tary forces seek out their enemy’s artillery, deter­mine its loca­tion and attack, ana­lysts said.

    A bat­tle of duel­ing long-range artillery and mis­sile counter-bat­tery fire. That’s what experts are expect­ing to unfold after Ukraine receives these advanced weapon sys­tems. Which could be approved as soon as this week. Or maybe it will be next week’s aid pack­age. Or the week after that. It real­ly is just a mat­ter of time, and prob­a­bly not very much time:

    ...
    The Pen­ta­gon on Fri­day assessed that Rus­sia has not been as effec­tive as it would like at using long-range artillery. A senior defense offi­cial not­ed that, as the West con­tin­ues to send so much artillery to Ukraine, “this could become a bit of a gun bat­tle.”

    Artillery units often dis­guise them­selves with cam­ou­flage or oth­er forms of cov­er, and it can require a mix­ture of intel­li­gence, unmanned air­craft and radar to spot them. The West is pro­vid­ing Ukraine with drones and counter-bat­tery radar to do just that.

    ...

    Can­cian, a for­mer artillery offi­cer, said that there “will be a lot of pres­sure to pro­vide” HIMARS in the com­ing days and that he would not be sur­prised to see the Unit­ed States begin sup­ply­ing it soon. Anoth­er type of mul­ti­ple-launch rock­et sys­tem, such as the M270 oper­at­ed by the U.S. Army, also could be sent, he sur­mised. The HIMARS is new­er and moves about the bat­tle­field more freely, while the M270 car­ries more rock­ets.

    “I think there will be a lot of pres­sure to pro­vide that, and since we seem to be announc­ing an aid pack­age a week, I wouldn’t be sur­prised to see HIMARS next week or the week after,” Can­cian said.
    ...

    So with Ukraine poised to start receiv­ing advanced medi­um range mis­sile and artillery weapon sys­tems that would sig­nif­i­cant­ly expand Ukraine’s abil­i­ty to launch attacks against Rus­si­a’s own mis­siles and artillery sys­tems, it’s impor­tant to keep in mind one of the implic­it impli­ca­tions of this shift in the con­flict: there’s going to be a lot more shelling of the sep­a­ratist-con­trolled areas where Russ­ian artillery and mis­sile sys­tems are oper­at­ing. And that means pre­sum­ably means a lot more shelling of those res­i­den­tial areas.

    It rais­es the ques­tion of how the world is going to react to the heavy shelling by Ukrain­ian forces of those rebel-held cities and vil­lages. So with that in mind, here’s a report from back in Novem­ber 2021, about what life was like in those rebel-held cities before the start of Rus­si­a’s inva­sion: shelling. Con­stant shelling. That was how a 66-year-old res­i­dent of the town of Hor­liv­ka (Gorlov­ka), on the edge of rebel held ter­ri­to­ry, described life there since 2014. Reg­u­lar shelling and even vis­i­ble trac­er bul­lets when she goes out at night. Some of the peo­ple inter­viewed were forced to live in the base­ment of a destroyed school since their house was destroyed by shelling in July 2014. So as the shelling of rebel-held civil­ian areas of Ukraine inevitably increase as a result of this shift on the bat­tle­field, it’s going to be impor­tant to rec­og­nize that’s hap­pen­ing, but it’s also going to be impor­tant to rec­og­nize that these civil­ians areas have already been rou­tine­ly shelled since 2014:

    Reuters

    Life under siege: res­i­dents fear new surge of war in rebel-held east Ukraine

    By Alexan­der Ermochenko
    Novem­ber 26, 2021 8:58 AM CST
    Updat­ed

    HORLIVKA, Ukraine, Nov 26 (Reuters) — For sev­en years Lidia Lenko has put up with stray bul­lets fly­ing through her kitchen win­dow and shrap­nel bursts that left jagged pock­marks in the green met­al fence out­side her home.

    Now she is liv­ing through what she fears is anoth­er upswing in the slow-burn­ing war between pro-Russ­ian sep­a­ratists and gov­ern­ment forces in east­ern Ukraine.

    Once, says the 66-year-old, she believed in the pos­si­bil­i­ty of peace. “But now we lis­ten, we see on TV that there are some talks going on, but there is no relief at all. We only feel the effect on us, when there’s shelling.

    “When I go out­side in the dark, I see night trac­er bul­lets. If these were peace­ful times, I would say they were fire­work sparklers. But in fact it is ter­ri­fy­ing... It’s get­ting worse and worse by the day now.”

    On the edge of Hor­liv­ka, a town con­trolled by the sep­a­ratists since 2014, Lenko and her neigh­bours are trapped between the two war­ring sides in a con­flict that the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment says has killed more than 14,000 peo­ple.

    Rus­sia has accused Ukraine of prepar­ing to try to recap­ture the break­away east­ern regions by force — some­thing Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skiy again denied on Fri­day.

    Ukraine fears Rus­sia might use that as a pre­text to launch a full-scale war. Moscow says this is false and alarmist.

    ‘CONSTANT FEAR’

    Tatiana Toloshi­na, 60, lives in a bat­tered shack with gap­ing holes in the roof. She keeps ducks, rab­bits, pigs and hens, and has built an exten­sive larder fit to with­stand a siege, with jars of pick­les and crates full of apples, car­rots and cab­bage.

    “When the shelling starts, I try to hide in the base­ment. Maybe it won’t save me that much. But at least it is some­how com­fort­ing,” she said.

    “We hear the shelling. We live in con­stant fear. Because it’s impos­si­ble, you nev­er know where it’s going and where it will land.”

    Alek­sander Stu­denikin and his wife live in the base­ment of a ruined school, with a can­dle burn­ing on the table and an old TV set in the cor­ner. Their own house was destroyed by shelling in July 2014.

    ...

    ———-

    “Life under siege: res­i­dents fear new surge of war in rebel-held east Ukraine” by Alexan­der Ermochenko; Reuters; 11/26/2021

    “Alek­sander Stu­denikin and his wife live in the base­ment of a ruined school, with a can­dle burn­ing on the table and an old TV set in the cor­ner. Their own house was destroyed by shelling in July 2014.”

    Again, that was Novem­ber of 2021, three months before Rus­si­a’s inva­sion, an inva­sion jus­ti­fied in large part around claims of ongo­ing threats to the civil­ians in these rebel held areas like Hor­liv­ka. It’s part of the con­text of this expect­ed deliv­ery of much longer-range weapon sys­tems capa­ble of strike deep into rebel held ter­ri­to­ries. As Ukraine gets more and more of these longer-range weapon sys­tems, we real­ly should expect the lev­el­ing of these rebel held cities.

    And as the fol­low­ing ‘War Crimes Watch’ report from the AP last week warns us, when these rebel held towns do end up expe­ri­enc­ing attacks on civil­ian infra­struc­ture, like hos­pi­tals and schools, we’re prob­a­bly going to be told it was the result of Russ­ian attacks. At least that was clear­ly the case in this War Crimes report on the tar­get­ing of schools in Ukraine. As we can see, even schools bombed in Hor­liv­ka (Gorlov­ka) are being blamed on Rus­sia, despite the fact that the town is con­trolled by rebel forces and local news reports stat­ed the school was destroyed by Ukrain­ian forces try­ing to cap­ture the town. So when Ukrain­ian forces assault rebel held towns, the destruc­tion is going to be blamed on Rus­sia. That’s lit­er­al­ly already hap­pen­ing. It’s an omi­nous sign of what to expect once all those mis­sile launch­ers and how­itzers are deliv­ered:

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    War Crimes Watch: Tar­get­ing schools, Rus­sia bombs the future

    By JASON DEAREN, JULIET LINDERMAN and OLEKSANDR STASHEVSKYI
    May 17, 2022

    KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — As she lay buried under the rub­ble, her legs bro­ken and eyes blind­ed by blood and thick clouds of dust, all Inna Levchenko could hear was screams. It was 12:15 p.m. on March 3, and moments ear­li­er a blast had pul­ver­ized the school where she’d taught for 30 years.

    Amid relent­less bomb­ing, she’d opened School 21 in Cherni­hiv as a shel­ter to fright­ened fam­i­lies. They paint­ed the word “chil­dren” in big, bold let­ters on the win­dows, hop­ing that Russ­ian forces would see it and spare them. The bombs fell any­way.

    Though she didn’t know it yet, 70 chil­dren she’d ordered to shel­ter in the base­ment would sur­vive the blast. But at least nine peo­ple, includ­ing one of her stu­dents — a 13-year-old boy — would not.

    “Why schools? I can­not com­pre­hend their moti­va­tion,” she said. “It is painful to real­ize how many friends of mine died … and how many chil­dren who remained alone with­out par­ents, got trau­ma­tized. They will remem­ber it all their life and will pass their sto­ries to the next gen­er­a­tion.”

    ___

    This sto­ry is part of an ongo­ing inves­ti­ga­tion from The Asso­ci­at­ed Press and the PBS series “Front­line” that includes the War Crimes Watch Ukraine inter­ac­tive expe­ri­ence and an upcom­ing doc­u­men­tary.
    ___

    The Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment says Rus­sia has shelled more than 1,000 schools, destroy­ing 95. On May 7, a bomb flat­tened a school in the east­ern vil­lage of Bilo­horiv­ka, which, like School No. 21 in Cherni­hiv, was being used a shel­ter. As many as 60 peo­ple were feared dead.

    Inten­tion­al­ly attack­ing schools and oth­er civil­ian infra­struc­ture is a war crime. Experts say wide-scale wreck­age can be used as evi­dence of Russ­ian intent, and to refute claims that schools were sim­ply col­lat­er­al dam­age.

    But the destruc­tion of hun­dreds of schools is about more than top­pling build­ings and maim­ing bod­ies, accord­ing to experts, to teach­ers and to oth­ers who have sur­vived con­flicts in the for­mer Yugoslavia, in Syr­ia and beyond. It hin­ders a nation’s abil­i­ty to rebound after the fight­ing stops, injur­ing entire gen­er­a­tions and dash­ing a country’s hope for the future.

    In the near­ly three months since Rus­sia invad­ed Ukraine, The Asso­ci­at­ed Press and the PBS series “Front­line” have inde­pen­dent­ly ver­i­fied 57 schools that were destroyed or dam­aged in a man­ner that indi­cates a pos­si­ble war crime. The account­ing like­ly rep­re­sents just a frac­tion of poten­tial war crimes com­mit­ted dur­ing the con­flict and the list is updat­ed dai­ly.

    In Cherni­hiv alone, the city coun­cil said only sev­en of the city’s 35 schools were unscathed. Three were reduced to rub­ble.

    The Inter­na­tion­al Crim­i­nal Court, pros­e­cu­tors from across the globe and Ukraine’s pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al are inves­ti­gat­ing more than 8,000 reports of poten­tial war crimes in Ukraine involv­ing 500 sus­pects. Many are accused of aim­ing delib­er­ate­ly at civil­ian struc­tures like hos­pi­tals, shel­ters and res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hoods.

    Tar­get­ing schools — spaces designed as havens for chil­dren to grow, learn and make friends — is par­tic­u­lar­ly harm­ful, trans­form­ing the archi­tec­ture of child­hood into some­thing vio­lent and dan­ger­ous: a place that inspires fear.

    A geog­ra­phy teacher, Ele­na Kudrik, lay dead on the floor of School 50 in the east­ern Ukrain­ian town of Gorlov­ka. Amid the wreck­age sur­round­ing her were books and papers, smeared in blood. In the cor­ner, anoth­er life­less body — Ele­na Ivano­va, the assis­tant head­mas­ter— slumped over in an office chair, a gap­ing wound torn into her side.

    “It’s a tragedy for us ... It’s a tragedy for the chil­dren,” said school direc­tor Sergey But, stand­ing out­side the brick build­ing short­ly after the attack. Shards of bro­ken glass and rub­ble were sprayed across the con­crete, where smil­ing chil­dren once flew kites and posed for pho­tos with friends.

    A few kilo­me­ters away, at the Sonechko pre-school in the city of Okhtyr­ka, a clus­ter bomb destroyed a kinder­garten, killing a child. Out­side the entrance, two more bod­ies lay in pools of blood.

    Valenti­na Grusha teach­es in Kyiv province, where she has worked for 35 years, most recent­ly as a dis­trict admin­is­tra­tor and for­eign lit­er­a­ture instruc­tor. Russ­ian troops invad­ed her vil­lage of Ivankiv just as school offi­cials had begun prepa­ra­tions for war. On Feb. 24, Russ­ian forces dri­ving toward Kyiv fatal­ly shot a child and his father there, she said.

    “There was no more school­ing,” she said. “We called all the lead­ers and stopped instruc­tion because the war start­ed. And then there were 36 days of occu­pa­tion.”

    They also shelled and destroyed schools in many near­by vil­lages, she said. Kinder­garten build­ings were shat­tered by shrap­nel and machine-gun fire.

    Despite the wide­spread dam­age and destruc­tion to edu­ca­tion­al infra­struc­ture, war crimes experts say prov­ing an attack­ing military’s intent to tar­get indi­vid­ual schools is dif­fi­cult. Russ­ian offi­cials deny tar­get­ing civil­ian struc­tures, and local media reports in Russ­ian-held Gorlov­ka alleged Ukrain­ian forces try­ing to recap­ture the area were to blame for the blast that killed the two teach­ers there.

    But the effects of the destruc­tion are indis­putable.

    ...

    After the attack on School 50 in Gorlov­ka, shat­tered glass from blown-out win­dows lit­tered the class­rooms and hall­ways and the street out­side. The floors were cov­ered in dust and debris: cracked ceil­ing beams, slabs of dry­wall, a tele­vi­sion that crashed down from the wall. A cell phone sat on the desk next to where one of the teach­ers was killed.

    ...

    ———–

    “Inten­tion­al­ly attack­ing schools and oth­er civil­ian infra­struc­ture is a war crime. Experts say wide-scale wreck­age can be used as evi­dence of Russ­ian intent, and to refute claims that schools were sim­ply col­lat­er­al dam­age.

    Yes, wide­spread dam­age and destruc­tion is seen as evi­dence of Russ­ian War crimes accord­ing to some experts. And yet war crimes experts also point out in this same report that prov­ing an attack­ing mil­i­tary’s intent ot tar­get indi­vid­ual schools is dif­fi­cult despite the wide­spread dam­age and destruc­tion. But it’s in the case of the tar­get­ing of a school in Gorlov­ka (Hor­liv­ka), were we see how easy it can be for these kinds of inves­ti­ga­tions to get absolute­ly warped to the point of being an inver­sion of what hap­pened: a school was destroyed in the city and it’s being treat­ed in this war crimes report as an open ques­tion as to whether or not it was Russ­ian or Ukrain­ian forces behind it, despite local new reports indi­cat­ing it was Ukrain­ian forces try­ing to retake the area:

    ...
    The Inter­na­tion­al Crim­i­nal Court, pros­e­cu­tors from across the globe and Ukraine’s pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al are inves­ti­gat­ing more than 8,000 reports of poten­tial war crimes in Ukraine involv­ing 500 sus­pects. Many are accused of aim­ing delib­er­ate­ly at civil­ian struc­tures like hos­pi­tals, shel­ters and res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hoods.

    Tar­get­ing schools — spaces designed as havens for chil­dren to grow, learn and make friends — is par­tic­u­lar­ly harm­ful, trans­form­ing the archi­tec­ture of child­hood into some­thing vio­lent and dan­ger­ous: a place that inspires fear.

    A geog­ra­phy teacher, Ele­na Kudrik, lay dead on the floor of School 50 in the east­ern Ukrain­ian town of Gorlov­ka. Amid the wreck­age sur­round­ing her were books and papers, smeared in blood. In the cor­ner, anoth­er life­less body — Ele­na Ivano­va, the assis­tant head­mas­ter— slumped over in an office chair, a gap­ing wound torn into her side.

    “It’s a tragedy for us ... It’s a tragedy for the chil­dren,” said school direc­tor Sergey But, stand­ing out­side the brick build­ing short­ly after the attack. Shards of bro­ken glass and rub­ble were sprayed across the con­crete, where smil­ing chil­dren once flew kites and posed for pho­tos with friends.

    A few kilo­me­ters away, at the Sonechko pre-school in the city of Okhtyr­ka, a clus­ter bomb destroyed a kinder­garten, killing a child. Out­side the entrance, two more bod­ies lay in pools of blood.

    ...

    Despite the wide­spread dam­age and destruc­tion to edu­ca­tion­al infra­struc­ture, war crimes experts say prov­ing an attack­ing military’s intent to tar­get indi­vid­ual schools is dif­fi­cult. Russ­ian offi­cials deny tar­get­ing civil­ian struc­tures, and local media reports in Russ­ian-held Gorlov­ka alleged Ukrain­ian forces try­ing to recap­ture the area were to blame for the blast that killed the two teach­ers there.

    But the effects of the destruc­tion are indis­putable.

    ...

    After the attack on School 50 in Gorlov­ka, shat­tered glass from blown-out win­dows lit­tered the class­rooms and hall­ways and the street out­side. The floors were cov­ered in dust and debris: cracked ceil­ing beams, slabs of dry­wall, a tele­vi­sion that crashed down from the wall. A cell phone sat on the desk next to where one of the teach­ers was killed.
    ...

    You have to won­der if the destroyed school is the same par­tial­ly destroyed school that was already being used as a civil­ian res­i­dence in that above report from back in Novem­ber. If not, it’s just a mat­ter of time. The main ques­tion at this point for that unfor­tu­nate school in Gorlov­ka is what type of weapon sys­tems will ulti­mate­ly fin­ish the job, assum­ing the job has­n’t already been fin­ished.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 23, 2022, 3:55 pm
  2. Posted by Dave Emory | May 23, 2022, 4:31 pm
  3. How long before we get reports of mass deser­tions from the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary? That’s the ques­tion raised by a recent Wash­ing­ton Post report based on the accounts of Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary per­son­nel who lit­er­al­ly sought out media atten­tion to decry the extreme lack of sup­port they are receiv­ing from Ukraine’s mil­i­tary lead­er­ship. They make it sound like an effec­tive sui­cide mis­sion.

    But as we’re also going to see, part of what makes the near com­plete black­out on any reports of Ukrain­ian casu­al­ties so omi­nous is that it turns out these troops who are going to the media to report on the lack of sup­port from their lead­er­ship are over­whelm­ing­ly new civil­ian draftees who were giv­en almost no train­ing and then imme­di­ate­ly sent off to fight on the direct front lines in the Don­bass. It’s the kind of sce­nario that real­ly does sug­gest new recruits are effec­tive­ly being treat­ed like fod­der for Russ­ian artillery.

    So what kinds of loss­es are these troops describ­ing? Well, the fol­low­ing report in pri­mar­i­ly based on the accounts of Com­pa­ny Com­man­der Ser­hi Lap­ko and his top lieu­tenant Vitaliy Khrus, who retreat­ed from the front lines to a hotel last week where they reached out to the Wash­ing­ton Post to make pub­lic their con­cerns. Accord­ing Lap­ko, of the 120 troops ini­tial­ly under his com­mand three months ago, only 54 remain. The rest were injured, killed, or desert­ed. Lap­ko and Khrus were arrest­ed for deser­tion hours after the inter­view. Inter­est­ing­ly, it sounds like Lap­ko’s deci­sion to pull his troops from the front lines was trig­gered when he arrived at mil­i­tary head­quar­ters in Lysy­chan­sk after two weeks in Toshkiv­ka. His bat­tal­ion com­man­der and team had moved to anoth­er town with­out inform­ing him, tak­ing food, water and oth­er sup­plies. It’s why Lap­ko responds to the charges by assert­ing that his unit was desert­ed first.

    But the report isn’t based entire­ly on the account from this unit. Oth­er units fight­ing in the Don­bass have also post­ed on Telegram voic­ing a sim­i­lar sense that they had been aban­doned and left to wage a sui­cide mis­sion.

    So as we’re still left wan­der­ing this infor­ma­tion black hole when it comes to accu­rate report­ing on the sit­u­a­tion in Ukraine, it’s worth keep­ing in mind that it’s not just the case that the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary has imposed an infor­ma­tion block­ade on Ukrain­ian casu­al­ties. It’s also appar­ent­ly the case that Ukraine has been send­ing bare­ly-trained civil­ian recruits direct­ly to the front lines of the Don­bass with lit­tle to no train­ing or equip­ment on what amounts to a sui­cide mis­sion:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Ukrain­ian vol­un­teer fight­ers in the east feel aban­doned

    By Sudarsan Ragha­van
    Updat­ed May 26, 2022 at 5:38 p.m. EDT|Published May 26, 2022 at 2:46 p.m. EDT

    DRUZHKIVKA, Ukraine — Stuck in their trench­es, the Ukrain­ian vol­un­teers lived off a pota­to per day as Russ­ian forces pound­ed them with artillery and Grad rock­ets on a key east­ern front line. Out­num­bered, untrained and clutch­ing only light weapons, the men prayed for the bar­rage to end — and for their own tanks to stop tar­get­ing the Rus­sians.

    “They [Rus­sians] already know where we are, and when the Ukrain­ian tank shoots from our side it gives away our posi­tion,” said Ser­hi Lap­ko, their com­pa­ny com­man­der, recall­ing the recent bat­tle. “And they start fir­ing back with every­thing — Grads, mor­tars.

    “And you just pray to sur­vive.”

    Ukrain­ian lead­ers have pro­ject­ed and nur­tured a pub­lic image of mil­i­tary invul­ner­a­bil­i­ty — of their vol­un­teer and pro­fes­sion­al forces tri­umphant­ly stand­ing up to the Russ­ian onslaught. Videos of assaults on Russ­ian tanks or posi­tions are post­ed dai­ly on social media. Artists are cre­at­ing patri­ot­ic posters, bill­boards and T‑shirts. The postal ser­vice even released stamps com­mem­o­rat­ing the sink­ing of a Russ­ian war­ship in the Black Sea.

    Ukrain­ian forces have suc­ceed­ed in thwart­ing Russ­ian efforts to seize Kyiv and Kharkiv and have scored bat­tle­field vic­to­ries in the east. But the expe­ri­ence of Lap­ko and his group of vol­un­teers offers a rare and more real­is­tic por­trait of the con­flict and Ukraine’s strug­gle to halt the Russ­ian advance in parts of Don­bas. Ukraine, like Rus­sia, has pro­vid­ed scant infor­ma­tion about deaths, injuries or loss­es of mil­i­tary equip­ment. But after three months of war, this com­pa­ny of 120 men is down to 54 because of deaths, injuries and deser­tions.

    The vol­un­teers were civil­ians before Rus­sia invad­ed on Feb. 24, and they nev­er expect­ed to be dis­patched to one of the most dan­ger­ous front lines in east­ern Ukraine. They quick­ly found them­selves in the crosshairs of war, feel­ing aban­doned by their mil­i­tary supe­ri­ors and strug­gling to sur­vive.

    “Our com­mand takes no respon­si­bil­i­ty,” Lap­ko said. “They only take cred­it for our achieve­ments. They give us no sup­port.”

    When they could take it no longer, Lap­ko and his top lieu­tenant, Vitaliy Khrus, retreat­ed with mem­bers of their com­pa­ny this week to a hotel away from the front. There, both men spoke to The Wash­ing­ton Post on the record, know­ing they could face a court-mar­tial and time in mil­i­tary prison.

    “If I speak for myself, I’m not a bat­tle­field com­man­der,” he added. “But the guys will stand by me, and I will stand by them till the end.”

    The vol­un­teers’ bat­tal­ion com­man­der, Ihor Kisile­ichuk, did not respond to calls or writ­ten ques­tions from The Post in time for pub­li­ca­tion, but he sent a terse mes­sage late Thurs­day say­ing: “With­out this com­man­der, the unit pro­tects our land,” in an appar­ent ref­er­ence to Lap­ko. A Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary spokesman declined imme­di­ate com­ment, say­ing it would take “days” to pro­vide a response.

    “War breaks peo­ple down,” said Ser­hiy Haidai, head of the region­al war admin­is­tra­tion in Luhan­sk province, acknowl­edg­ing many vol­un­teers were not prop­er­ly trained because Ukrain­ian author­i­ties did not expect Rus­sia to invade. But he main­tained that all sol­diers are tak­en care of: “They have enough med­ical sup­plies and food. The only thing is there are peo­ple that aren’t ready to fight.”

    But Lap­ko and Khrus’s con­cerns were echoed recent­ly by a pla­toon of the 115th Brigade 3rd Bat­tal­ion, based near­by in the besieged city of Severodonet­sk. In a video uploaded to Telegram on May 24, and con­firmed as authen­tic by an aide to Haidai, vol­un­teers said they will no longer fight because they lacked prop­er weapons, rear sup­port and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship.

    “We are being sent to cer­tain death,” said a vol­un­teer, read­ing from a pre­pared script, adding that a sim­i­lar video was filmed by mem­bers of the 115th Brigade 1st Bat­tal­ion. “We are not alone like this, we are many.”

    Ukraine’s mil­i­tary rebutted the vol­un­teers’ claims in their own video post­ed online, say­ing the “desert­ers” had every­thing they need­ed to fight: “They thought they came for a vaca­tion,” one ser­vice mem­ber said. “That’s why they left their posi­tions.”

    Hours after The Post inter­viewed Lap­ko and Khrus, mem­bers of Ukraine’s mil­i­tary secu­ri­ty ser­vice arrived at their hotel and detained some of their men, accus­ing them of deser­tion.

    The men con­tend that they were the ones who were desert­ed.

    Wait­ing to die

    Before the inva­sion, Lap­ko was a driller of oil and gas wells. Khrus bought and sold pow­er tools. Both lived in the west­ern city of Uzh­horod and joined the ter­ri­to­r­i­al defense forces, a civil­ian mili­tia that sprang up after the inva­sion.

    Lap­ko, built like a wrestler, was made a com­pa­ny com­man­der in the 5th Sep­a­rate Rifle Bat­tal­ion, in charge of 120 men. The sim­i­lar­ly burly Khrus became a pla­toon com­man­der under Lap­ko. All of their com­rades were from west­ern Ukraine. They were hand­ed AK-47 rifles and giv­en train­ing that last­ed less than a half-hour.

    “We shot 30 bul­lets and then they said, ‘You can’t get more; too expen­sive,’ ” Lap­ko said.

    They were giv­en orders to head to the west­ern city of Lviv. When they got there, they were ordered to go south and then east into Luhan­sk province in Don­bas, por­tions of which were already under the con­trol of Moscow-backed sep­a­ratists and are now occu­pied by Russ­ian forces. A cou­ple dozen of his men refused to fight, Lap­ko said, and they were impris­oned.

    The ones who stayed were based in the town of Lysy­chan­sk. From there, they were dis­patched to Toshkiv­ka, a front-line vil­lage bor­der­ing the sep­a­ratist areas where the Russ­ian forces were try­ing to advance. They were sur­prised when they got the orders.

    “When we were com­ing here, we were told that we were going to be in the third line on defense,” Lap­ko said. “Instead, we came to the zero line, the front line. We didn’t know where we were going.”

    The area has become a focal point of the war, as Moscow con­cen­trates its mil­i­tary might on cap­tur­ing the region. The city of Severodonet­sk, near Lysy­chan­sk, is sur­round­ed on three sides by Russ­ian forces. Over the week­end, they destroyed one of three bridges into the city, and they are con­stant­ly shelling the oth­er two. Ukrain­ian troops inside Severodonet­sk are fight­ing to pre­vent the Rus­sians from com­plete­ly encir­cling the city.

    That’s also the mis­sion of Lapko’s men. If Toshkiv­ka falls, the Rus­sians can advance north toward Lysy­chan­sk and com­plete­ly sur­round Severodonet­sk. That would also allow them to go after larg­er cities in the region.

    When the vol­un­teers first arrived, their rota­tions in and out of Toshkiv­ka last­ed three or four days. As the war inten­si­fied, they stayed for a week min­i­mum, some­times two. “Food gets deliv­ered every day except for when there are shellings or the sit­u­a­tion is bad,” Khrus said.

    And in recent weeks, he said, the sit­u­a­tion has got­ten much worse. When their sup­ply chains were cut off for two days by the bom­bard­ment, the men were forced to make do with a pota­to a day.

    They spend most days and nights in trench­es dug into the for­est on the edges of Toshkiv­ka or inside the base­ments of aban­doned hous­es. “They have no water, noth­ing there,” Lap­ko said. “Only water that I bring them every oth­er day.”

    It’s a mir­a­cle the Rus­sians haven’t pushed through their defen­sive line in Toshkiv­ka, Khrus said as Lap­ko nod­ded. Besides their rifles and hand grenades, the only weapons they were giv­en were a hand­ful of rock­et-pro­pelled grenades to counter the well-equipped Russ­ian forces. And no one showed Lapko’s men how to use the RPGs.

    “We had no prop­er train­ing,” Lap­ko said.

    “It’s around four RPGs for 15 men,” Khrus said, shak­ing his head.

    The Rus­sians, he said, are deploy­ing tanks, infantry fight­ing vehi­cles, Grad rock­ets and oth­er forms of artillery — when they try to pen­e­trate the for­est with ground troops or infantry vehi­cles, they can eas­i­ly get close enough “to kill.”

    “The sit­u­a­tion is con­trol­lable but dif­fi­cult,” Khrus said. “And when the heavy weapons are against us, we don’t have any­thing to work with. We are help­less.”

    Behind their posi­tions, Ukrain­ian forces have tanks, artillery and mor­tars to back Lapko’s men and oth­er units along the front. But when the tanks or mor­tars are fired, the Rus­sians respond with Grad rock­ets, often in areas where Lapko’s men are tak­ing cov­er. In some cas­es, his troops have found them­selves with no artillery sup­port.

    This is, in part, because Lap­ko has not been pro­vid­ed a radio, he said. So there’s no con­tact with his supe­ri­ors in Lysy­chan­sk, pre­vent­ing him from call­ing for help.

    The men accuse the Rus­sians of using phos­pho­rous bombs, incen­di­ary weapons that are banned by inter­na­tion­al law if used against civil­ians.

    “It explodes at 30 to 50 meters high and goes down slow­ly and burns every­thing,” Khrus said.

    “Do you know what we have against phos­pho­rous?” Lap­ko asked. “A glass of water, a piece of cloth to cov­er your mouth with!”

    Both Lap­ko and Khrus expect to die at the front. That is why Lap­ko car­ries a pis­tol.

    “It’s just a toy against them, but I have it so that if they take me I will shoot myself,” he said.

    Sur­vival

    Despite the hard­ships, his men have fought coura­geous­ly, Lap­ko said. Point­ing at Khrus, he declared: “This guy here is a leg­end, a hero.” Khrus and his pla­toon, his com­man­der said, have killed more than 50 Russ­ian sol­diers in close-up bat­tles.

    In a recent clash, he said, his men attacked two Russ­ian armored vehi­cles car­ry­ing about 30 sol­diers, ambush­ing them with grenades and guns.

    ...

    Lap­ko has rec­om­mend­ed 12 of his men for medals of val­or, includ­ing two posthu­mous­ly.

    The war has tak­en a heavy toll on his com­pa­ny — as well as on oth­er Ukrain­ian forces in the area. Two of his men were killed, among 20 fatal­i­ties in the bat­tal­ion as a whole, and “many are wound­ed and in recov­ery now,” he said.

    Then there are those who are trau­ma­tized and have not returned.

    “Many got shell shock. I don’t know how to count them,” Lap­ko said.

    The casu­al­ties here are large­ly kept secret to pro­tect morale among troops and the gen­er­al pub­lic.

    “On Ukrain­ian TV we see that there are no loss­es,” Lap­ko said. “There’s no truth.”

    Most deaths, he added, were because injured sol­diers were not evac­u­at­ed quick­ly enough, often wait­ing as long as 12 hours for trans­port to a mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal in Lysy­chan­sk, 15 miles away. Some­times, the men have to car­ry an injured sol­dier on a stretch­er as far as two miles on foot to find a vehi­cle, Lap­ko said. Two vehi­cles assigned to his com­pa­ny nev­er arrived, he said, and are being used instead by peo­ple at mil­i­tary head­quar­ters.

    “If I had a car and was told that my com­rade is wound­ed some­where, I’d come any­time and get him,” said Lap­ko, who used his own beat-up car to trav­el from Lysy­chan­sk to the hotel. “But I don’t have the nec­es­sary trans­port to get there.”

    Retreat

    Lap­ko and his men have grown increas­ing­ly frus­trat­ed and dis­il­lu­sioned with their supe­ri­ors. His request for the awards has not been approved. His bat­tal­ion com­man­der demand­ed that he send 20 of his sol­diers to anoth­er front line, which meant that he couldn’t rotate his men out from Toshkiv­ka. He refused the order.

    The final affront arrived last week when he arrived at mil­i­tary head­quar­ters in Lysy­chan­sk after two weeks in Toshkiv­ka. His bat­tal­ion com­man­der and team had moved to anoth­er town with­out inform­ing him, he said, tak­ing food, water and oth­er sup­plies.

    “They left us with no expla­na­tion,” Lap­ko said. “I think we were sent here to close a gap and no one cares if we live or die.”

    So he, Khrus and sev­er­al mem­bers of their com­pa­ny drove the 60 miles to Druzhkiv­ka to stay in a hotel for a few days. “My guys want­ed to wash them­selves for the first time in a month,” Lap­ko said. “You know, hygiene! We don’t have it. We sleep in base­ments, on mat­tress­es with rats run­ning around.”

    He and his men insist­ed that they want to return to the front.

    “We’re ready to fight and we will keep on fight­ing,” Lap­ko said. “We will pro­tect every meter of our coun­try — but with ade­quate com­mand­ments and with­out unre­al­is­tic orders. I took an oath of alle­giance to the Ukrain­ian peo­ple. We’re pro­tect­ing Ukraine and we won’t let any­one in as long as we’re alive.”

    But on Mon­day, Ukraine’s mil­i­tary secu­ri­ty ser­vices arrived at the hotel and took Khrus and oth­er mem­bers of his pla­toon to a deten­tion cen­ter for two days, accus­ing them of deser­tion. Lap­ko was stripped of his com­mand, accord­ing to an order reviewed by The Post. He is being held at the base in Lysy­chan­sk, his future uncer­tain.

    ...

    ———-

    “Ukrain­ian vol­un­teer fight­ers in the east feel aban­doned” By Sudarsan Ragha­van; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 05/26/2022

    The vol­un­teers were civil­ians before Rus­sia invad­ed on Feb. 24, and they nev­er expect­ed to be dis­patched to one of the most dan­ger­ous front lines in east­ern Ukraine. They quick­ly found them­selves in the crosshairs of war, feel­ing aban­doned by their mil­i­tary supe­ri­ors and strug­gling to sur­vive.”

    They knew they were being con­script­ed. But these civil­ian sol­diers weren’t exact­ly expect­ing to be sent to the front lines in the Don­bass. But that’s exact­ly where they were sent, result­ing in heavy loss­es. Of the 120 troops ini­tial­ly under the com­mand of com­pa­ny com­man­der Ser­hi Lap­ko, only 54 remain due to deaths, injuries, and deser­tions:

    ...
    Ukrain­ian lead­ers have pro­ject­ed and nur­tured a pub­lic image of mil­i­tary invul­ner­a­bil­i­ty — of their vol­un­teer and pro­fes­sion­al forces tri­umphant­ly stand­ing up to the Russ­ian onslaught. Videos of assaults on Russ­ian tanks or posi­tions are post­ed dai­ly on social media. Artists are cre­at­ing patri­ot­ic posters, bill­boards and T‑shirts. The postal ser­vice even released stamps com­mem­o­rat­ing the sink­ing of a Russ­ian war­ship in the Black Sea.

    Ukrain­ian forces have suc­ceed­ed in thwart­ing Russ­ian efforts to seize Kyiv and Kharkiv and have scored bat­tle­field vic­to­ries in the east. But the expe­ri­ence of Lap­ko and his group of vol­un­teers offers a rare and more real­is­tic por­trait of the con­flict and Ukraine’s strug­gle to halt the Russ­ian advance in parts of Don­bas. Ukraine, like Rus­sia, has pro­vid­ed scant infor­ma­tion about deaths, injuries or loss­es of mil­i­tary equip­ment. But after three months of war, this com­pa­ny of 120 men is down to 54 because of deaths, injuries and deser­tions.

    ...

    Before the inva­sion, Lap­ko was a driller of oil and gas wells. Khrus bought and sold pow­er tools. Both lived in the west­ern city of Uzh­horod and joined the ter­ri­to­r­i­al defense forces, a civil­ian mili­tia that sprang up after the inva­sion.

    Lap­ko, built like a wrestler, was made a com­pa­ny com­man­der in the 5th Sep­a­rate Rifle Bat­tal­ion, in charge of 120 men. The sim­i­lar­ly burly Khrus became a pla­toon com­man­der under Lap­ko. All of their com­rades were from west­ern Ukraine. They were hand­ed AK-47 rifles and giv­en train­ing that last­ed less than a half-hour.

    “We shot 30 bul­lets and then they said, ‘You can’t get more; too expen­sive,’ ” Lap­ko said.

    They were giv­en orders to head to the west­ern city of Lviv. When they got there, they were ordered to go south and then east into Luhan­sk province in Don­bas, por­tions of which were already under the con­trol of Moscow-backed sep­a­ratists and are now occu­pied by Russ­ian forces. A cou­ple dozen of his men refused to fight, Lap­ko said, and they were impris­oned.

    ...

    “When we were com­ing here, we were told that we were going to be in the third line on defense,” Lap­ko said. “Instead, we came to the zero line, the front line. We didn’t know where we were going.”

    ...

    The casu­al­ties here are large­ly kept secret to pro­tect morale among troops and the gen­er­al pub­lic.

    “On Ukrain­ian TV we see that there are no loss­es,” Lap­ko said. “There’s no truth.”
    ...

    The sense of des­per­a­tion, but also aban­don­ment by Ukraine’s mil­i­tary lead­er­ship, has appar­ent­ly got­ten so bad that the Com­man­der Lap­ko and his top lieu­tenant, Vitaliy Khrus, lit­er­al­ly retreat­ed with mem­bers of their com­pa­ny to a hotel away from the front lines and con­tact­ed the Wash­ing­ton Post to speak about this on record, and were arrest­ed hours lat­er. This was fol­low­ing their rev­e­la­tion that their com­man­ders had already retreat­ed with­out inform­ing them. It’s all part of the grim con­text of the end­less parade of sto­ries seem­ing­ly depict­ing Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary invul­ner­a­bil­i­ty: In real­i­ty, Ukraine was appar­ent­ly send­ing bare­ly-trained new recruits to the front lines with lit­tle equip­ment on de fac­to sui­cide mis­sions and cov­er­ing it up with pro­pa­gan­da about its incred­i­ble mil­i­tary suc­cess­es:

    ...
    When they could take it no longer, Lap­ko and his top lieu­tenant, Vitaliy Khrus, retreat­ed with mem­bers of their com­pa­ny this week to a hotel away from the front. There, both men spoke to The Wash­ing­ton Post on the record, know­ing they could face a court-mar­tial and time in mil­i­tary prison.

    ...

    Hours after The Post inter­viewed Lap­ko and Khrus, mem­bers of Ukraine’s mil­i­tary secu­ri­ty ser­vice arrived at their hotel and detained some of their men, accus­ing them of deser­tion.

    The men con­tend that they were the ones who were desert­ed.

    ...

    Lap­ko and his men have grown increas­ing­ly frus­trat­ed and dis­il­lu­sioned with their supe­ri­ors. His request for the awards has not been approved. His bat­tal­ion com­man­der demand­ed that he send 20 of his sol­diers to anoth­er front line, which meant that he couldn’t rotate his men out from Toshkiv­ka. He refused the order.

    The final affront arrived last week when he arrived at mil­i­tary head­quar­ters in Lysy­chan­sk after two weeks in Toshkiv­ka. His bat­tal­ion com­man­der and team had moved to anoth­er town with­out inform­ing him, he said, tak­ing food, water and oth­er sup­plies.

    “They left us with no expla­na­tion,” Lap­ko said. “I think we were sent here to close a gap and no one cares if we live or die.”
    ...

    And note how it’s just just this one com­pa­ny. Accord­ing to a video uploaded on May 24 by a pla­toon of the 115th Brigade 3rd Bat­tal­ion near Severod­net­sk, they felt like they were being sent to cer­tain death:

    ...
    But Lap­ko and Khrus’s con­cerns were echoed recent­ly by a pla­toon of the 115th Brigade 3rd Bat­tal­ion, based near­by in the besieged city of Severodonet­sk. In a video uploaded to Telegram on May 24, and con­firmed as authen­tic by an aide to Haidai, vol­un­teers said they will no longer fight because they lacked prop­er weapons, rear sup­port and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship.

    “We are being sent to cer­tain death,” said a vol­un­teer, read­ing from a pre­pared script, adding that a sim­i­lar video was filmed by mem­bers of the 115th Brigade 1st Bat­tal­ion. “We are not alone like this, we are many.”

    ...

    The area has become a focal point of the war, as Moscow con­cen­trates its mil­i­tary might on cap­tur­ing the region. The city of Severodonet­sk, near Lysy­chan­sk, is sur­round­ed on three sides by Russ­ian forces. Over the week­end, they destroyed one of three bridges into the city, and they are con­stant­ly shelling the oth­er two. Ukrain­ian troops inside Severodonet­sk are fight­ing to pre­vent the Rus­sians from com­plete­ly encir­cling the city.
    ...

    So while we still don’t have access to accu­rate report­ing on what’s hap­pen­ing in this con­flict, a pic­ture is emerg­ing. A pic­ture of the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment send­ing untrained recruits into a meat grinder and hop­ing no one notices. And large­ly suc­ceed­ing on that front.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 28, 2022, 4:22 pm

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