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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

6 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
  4. Sto­ries about cor­rup­tion are noth­ing new for Ukraine. But after the Kyiv Inde­pen­den­t’s pub­li­ca­tion of the fol­low­ing report on the cor­rupt mil­i­tary lead­er­ship of the Ukrain­ian Inter­na­tion­al Legion, ques­tions about the depth of the cor­rup­tion guid­ing Ukraine’s mil­i­tary response are hard to ignore. Recall how we’ve already received warn­ings about the reck­less mil­i­tary lead­er­ship expe­ri­enced by some Ukrain­ian vol­un­teers, issu­ing basi­cal­ly sui­ci­dal orders. It was so bad they lit­er­al­ly left the front-lines and con­tact­ed the inter­na­tion­al press to high­light the sit­u­a­tion to the world. The new report in the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent describes a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion, with com­man­ders send­ing unpre­pared troops into extreme­ly dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions with lit­tle to no back­up. It’s so bad that a num­ber of vol­un­teers with spe­cial forces expe­ri­ence have quit the unit, refus­ing to fol­low­ing com­man­ders who seem to be try­ing to get them killed.

    The new report is also notable for how exten­sive it is, with writ­ten tes­ti­monies from over a dozen cur­rent and for­mer mem­bers of a spe­cif­ic unit in the Inter­na­tion­al Legion. And as we’re going to see, that cor­rupt lead­er­ship appears to have the back­ing of the top lead­er­ship in the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary. Noth­ing has been done about the com­plaints despite the sol­diers bring­ing them all the way to Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skiy’s office. That’s part of what makes the report so stun­ning: all of the reports of cor­rupt lead­er­ship are about this one par­tic­u­lar unit, but way this unit’s lead­er­ship has been allowed to oper­at­ed with impuni­ty sug­gests these prob­lems are far more wide­spread.

    As the arti­cle describes, the Inter­na­tion­al Legion is con­trolled by two branch­es of the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary: Ukraine’s Ground Forces over­see some units, while the Defense Ministry’s Direc­torate for Intel­li­gence (GUR) over­sees the oth­er. The par­tic­u­lar unit in this report oper­ates under the GUR, so this is, in part, an issue with the lead­er­ship of Ukraine’s mil­i­tary intel­li­gence. It sounds like this unit was, at is peak strength, up to 500 peo­ple, com­pro­mis­ing about one-third of the Inter­na­tion­al Legion.

    The com­man­ders of the GUR-run wing of the Legion report direct­ly to the head of the GUR, Kyry­lo Budanov. Zelen­skiy appoint­ed Budanov to head the intel­li­gence com­mit­tee in the president’s office in late July. Offi­cial­ly, the GUR wing of the Legion is run by major Vadym Popyk. But unof­fi­cial­ly, it’s a trio of fig­ures who actu­al­ly run the unit: Popy­k’s right-wing hand Taras Vashuk (“young Taras”); Vashuk’s uncle (“old” Taras); and 60-year old Sasha Kuchyn­sky. As we’re going to see, Kuchyn­sky is basi­cal­ly a mob­ster who runs to the Taras­es when­ev­er he gets into trou­ble.

    The fact that Sasha Kuchyn­sky is a crim­i­nal mob­ster who only joined the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary in Feb­ru­ary of 2022 is notable in and of itself, but also keep in mind that Zelen­skiy began releas­ing pris­on­ers with “real com­bat expe­ri­ence” that same month, on the con­di­tion that these pris­on­ers fight in the ‘hottest’ spots in the war.

    So was Sasha Kuchyn­sky a for­mer sol­diers who hap­pened to be impris­oned? Nope, it’s worse. Instead, it appears that ‘Sasha Kuchyn­sky’ is actu­al­ly the Pol­ish mob­ster Piotr Kapus­cin­s­ki. Kapus­cin­s­ki was want­ed to fraud in Poland in 2014, when he dis­ap­peared, only to resur­face in Ukraine in 2016. Kapus­cin­s­ki was sub­se­quent­ly inves­ti­gat­ed by Ukrain­ian author­i­ties for aggra­vat­ed rob­bery and sex­u­al assault in Octo­ber 2016 and sen­tenced to a year in a Ukrain­ian prison. Poland request­ed his extra­di­tion upon his release in 2017, but Ukraine said they would try him them­selves instead. That does­n’t appear to have hap­pened. Instead, Kapuscinski/Kuchynsky resur­faced again in 2021 when he a pis­tol and bul­lets were found dur­ing a vehi­cle search. A sub­se­quent search of a build­ing he was using turned up explo­sives. Kapuscinski/Kuchynsky was fac­ing sev­en years in a Ukrain­ian prison, and yet he was released almost imme­di­ate­ly on a $2,500 bail. Then the war broke out in Feb­ru­ary, at which point he joined the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary. The courts then sus­pend­ed his case. His $2,500 bail was returned in May.

    That’s the guy over a dozen sol­diers are accus­ing of giv­ing crim­i­nal orders. Orders that amount to effec­tive sui­cide mis­sions car­ried out in a man­ner that left a num­ber of sol­diers feel­ing like he was try­ing to get them killed. Beyond that, Kapuscinski/Kuchynsky appar­ent­ly has a predilec­tion for issu­ing order to loot. Like lit­er­al­ly order­ing sol­diers under his com­mand to go to a shop­ping mall and take all of the jew­el­ry and elec­tron­ics or expen­sive fur­ni­ture. There’s even a Youtube video show­ing a group of sol­diers refus­ing to go along with one of his loot­ing orders as crowds of angry locals gath­er around. Weapons also seem to have a ten­den­cy to dis­ap­pear under his com­mand. In some cas­es it appears that he con­fis­cat­ed the weapons and ammu­ni­tion and then sells to back to the sol­diers. But this a mob­ster we’re talk­ing about, we who knows where it’s all ulti­mate­ly going.

    So had there been any response now that these sol­diers are alleg­ing all of these crimes? Yes, in a sense. Things got worse after they filed their com­plaints with Pres­i­dent Zelen­skiy’s office. The sol­diers who made these accu­sa­tions start­ed to feel under pres­sure and receive threats.

    The oth­er response is that a large num­ber of these for­eign vol­un­teers have quit the unit, espe­cial­ly vol­un­teers with spe­cial forces expe­ri­ence. It’s a remind that this sto­ry isn’t just about ram­pant cor­rup­tion in Ukraine. It’s about how that ram­pant cor­rup­tion is seri­ous­ly dis­rupt­ing Ukraine’s abil­i­ty to fight this con­flict. It’s part of why it’s going to be inter­est­ing to see what, if any, response there is from Ukraine’s West­ern part­ners in this war. It’s not like it’s helps the West achieve its goals against Rus­sia if Ukraine is treat­ing the vol­un­teers so poor­ly that they’re quit­ting. And yet it also appears that this Pol­ish mob­ster is being pro­tect­ed by peo­ple very close to the top of the mil­i­tary hier­ar­chy. It’s a sto­ry about not just cor­rup­tion but seem­ing­ly untouch­able cor­rup­tion:

    The Kyiv Inde­pen­dent

    Sui­cide mis­sions, abuse, phys­i­cal threats: Inter­na­tion­al Legion fight­ers speak out against leadership’s mis­con­duct

    August 17, 2022 11:00 pm
    by Anna Myro­niuk and Alexan­der Khre­bet

    Dis­claimer: The Kyiv Inde­pen­dent is pub­lish­ing this inves­ti­ga­tion to shed light on the alleged abuse of pow­er in the lead­er­ship of one wing of the Inter­na­tion­al Legion – a legion cre­at­ed for for­eign fight­ers ded­i­cat­ed to defend­ing Ukraine. The mem­bers of the Legion’s unit say that they report­ed their com­man­ders’ mis­con­duct to Ukrain­ian law enforce­ment, the par­lia­ment, and Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelensky’s Office, but saw no prop­er reac­tion and thus turned to jour­nal­ists as a last resort. Sol­diers who point­ed at the prob­lems with­in this unit of the Legion claim they received threats for speak­ing up. For their safe­ty, we do not dis­close their iden­ti­ties.

    Top find­ings:

    * The lead­er­ship of the intel­li­gence-run wing of the Inter­na­tion­al Legion is alleged­ly impli­cat­ed in var­i­ous vio­la­tions, includ­ing abuse, theft, and send­ing sol­diers unpre­pared on reck­less mis­sions.
    * One of the unit’s com­man­ders and a fre­quent sub­ject of the sol­diers’ com­plaints is an alleged for­mer mem­ber of a crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tion from Poland, want­ed at home for fraud. In the Legion’s unit, he is involved in coor­di­nat­ing mil­i­tary oper­a­tions and logis­tics.
    * The legion’s fight­ers accuse him of abus­ing pow­er by order­ing sol­diers to loot shops, threat­en­ing sol­diers with a gun, and sex­u­al­ly harass­ing the legion’s female medics.

    In ear­ly May, a fight­er from Brazil arrived in Ukraine to join the Inter­na­tion­al Legion fol­low­ing Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelensky’s call to “cit­i­zens of the world” to come and help defend Ukraine.

    He thought his vast expe­ri­ence in the Brazil­ian army had pre­pared him for pret­ty much any task.

    Yet he was nei­ther ready to car­ry out sui­cide mis­sions by order of his com­mand, nor to tol­er­ate orders to loot and steal.

    As a pla­toon com­man­der of the Inter­na­tion­al Legion, he was ordered to do just that.

    The Brazil­ian offi­cer recalls his sub­or­di­nates say­ing, before resign­ing from the legion: “We came here to help these peo­ple to fight for this coun­try, against this inva­sion. We didn’t come here to do exact­ly what f*cking Russ­ian peo­ple do when they’re on Ukrain­ian soil.”

    The Kyiv Independent’s inves­ti­ga­tion reveals endem­ic prob­lems in one of the Inter­na­tion­al Legion’s wings that is over­seen by Ukraine’s intel­li­gence.

    Some of the unit’s com­man­ders are impli­cat­ed in arms and goods theft, sex­u­al harass­ment, assault, and send­ing unpre­pared sol­diers on reck­less mis­sions, accord­ing to mul­ti­ple sources.

    The alle­ga­tions in this sto­ry are based on inter­views with legion­naires, writ­ten tes­ti­monies of over a dozen for­mer and cur­rent mem­bers of the legion, and a 78-page report they’ve put togeth­er about prob­lems with­in this par­tic­u­lar unit of the Inter­na­tion­al Legion.

    For about four months, for­eign fight­ers have been knock­ing on the doors of high offices ask­ing for help. The report was filed to the par­lia­ment, and writ­ten tes­ti­monies were sent to Zelensky’s office. Aly­ona Ver­byt­s­ka, the president’s com­mis­sion­er for sol­diers’ rights, con­firmed she had received legion­naires’ com­plaints and passed them on to law enforce­ment.

    But author­i­ties, sol­diers say, are reluc­tant to solve the issue.

    Failed lead­er­ship?

    The Inter­na­tion­al Legion, sol­diers say, con­sists of two wings. Ukraine’s Ground Forces over­see one. The Defense Ministry’s Direc­torate for Intel­li­gence, known under its Ukrain­ian acronym GUR, coor­di­nates the oth­er.

    The alle­ga­tions in this report con­cern the GUR-run wing of the Legion. At its strongest, this unit had up to 500 peo­ple, and com­prised about one-third of the Inter­na­tion­al Legion, accord­ing to the Kyiv Inde­pen­den­t’s sources among the sol­diers.

    ...

    Accord­ing to mem­bers of the intel­li­gence-run wing of the Legion, their com­man­ders report direct­ly to the head of GUR, Kyry­lo Budanov, who Zelen­sky also appoint­ed to head the intel­li­gence com­mit­tee in the president’s office in late July.

    Offi­cial­ly, the GUR wing of the Legion is run by major Vadym Popyk. How­ev­er, he is not run­ning the unit on his own.

    The pow­er is in the hands of a few peo­ple: Popyk’s right hand, major Taras Vashuk (referred to by sol­diers as “young Taras”), an intel­li­gence offi­cer in his late 20s or ear­ly 30s, accord­ing to the for­eign fight­ers; Vashuk’s uncle, also Taras (referred to as “old” Taras) and also an intel­li­gence offi­cer; and 60-year old Sasha Kuchyn­sky.

    “They are like best buds,” an Amer­i­can legion­naire told the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent of the three men.

    Young Taras, old Taras, and Sasha run the oper­a­tions of the unit. They send sol­diers on mis­sions and coor­di­nate the intel­li­gence wing of the Legion’s work. Sasha is also in charge of logis­tics and sup­plies.

    The legion­naires accuse the trio of var­i­ous wrong­do­ings. For the two Taras­es, the major com­plaints con­cern them send­ing sol­diers on sui­cide mis­sions.

    An Amer­i­can sol­dier inter­viewed by the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent described a cou­ple of mis­sions that took place near the south­ern city of Myko­laiv, one of the war’s hot spots.

    Russ­ian troops dis­cov­ered their squad’s posi­tion and start­ed to shell it heav­i­ly. The rest of the troops retreat­ed from the sec­ondary posi­tion behind them, leav­ing the squad to hold the front line alone, with no back­up.

    “We were lit­er­al­ly left (behind) and they did­n’t want to evac­u­ate us,” the sol­dier said. His fel­low sol­dier, Scott Sib­ley, was killed, while three oth­ers were severe­ly injured on that mis­sion.

    Short­ly after the squad escaped the shelling, anoth­er group from the same unit was ordered to take the same posi­tion.

    “We told the com­man­der those posi­tions were dis­cov­ered by Rus­sians… If we go back there, we are all dead,” the Amer­i­can sol­dier told the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent.

    The old­er Taras did not lis­ten and sent anoth­er group to the very same place, the sol­dier said. The sto­ry repeat­ed itself, but this time with four killed, mul­ti­ple injured, and one tak­en cap­tive. The cap­tive sol­dier, Andrew Hill, now faces a fake “tri­al” and pos­si­ble exe­cu­tion in Russ­ian-occu­pied Donet­sk on accu­sa­tions of being a mer­ce­nary.

    Sasha Kuchynsky’s actions, how­ev­er, stand out in their breadth of alleged wrong­do­ing.

    Apart from send­ing fight­ers to die, legion­naires said, Kuchyn­sky forced them to help him loot stores. Fight­ers told the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent that he is also a heavy drinker who abus­es his sub­or­di­nates.

    Anoth­er sol­dier, an Amer­i­can Jew, told the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent that Jew­ish sol­diers expe­ri­enced anti­semitism from Kuchyn­sky. He empha­sized that he did not encounter it from any­one else in the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary.

    The sol­dier also says Kuchyn­sky demand­ed to have a share of the gear and equip­ment that the sol­dier bought for his close peers from the legion. When the sol­dier refused to give it away, Kuchyn­sky point­ed a gun at him.

    “And then Sasha (Kuchyn­sky) just start­ed yelling, scream­ing,” the sol­dier recalled. “He said, ‘I know there’s stuff here. Give me your stuff’.”

    “And in front of the trans­la­tor, he rais­es his weapon at me. And I was like: ‘You’re gonna shoot me? You’re gonna shoot me.’ And then there’s like this kind of look of, hon­est­ly, remorse, but like ‘Oh, f*ck’ and he put down his gun,” the sol­dier went on.

    He said that he once met a legion­naire at whom Kuchyn­sky had also raised a gun.

    Accord­ing to anoth­er Amer­i­can legion­naire, Kuchyn­sky also harassed female medics in their unit, using sex­u­al­ly sug­ges­tive lan­guage with them. Accord­ing to the Amer­i­can sol­dier, the legion’s medics com­plained, but nobody did any­thing about it. The for­eign medic he knew that was harassed by Kuchyn­sky is no longer with the Legion and has since left Ukraine, he said.

    When in trou­ble, legion­naires say, Kuchyn­sky would turn to Taras Vashuk for a cov­er-up.

    “Sasha would call Taras and get con­fir­ma­tion that he can do what­ev­er he wants to do. And Taras would con­stant­ly back him up,” a Scan­di­na­vian sol­dier told the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent.

    How­ev­er, to date, Kuchyn­sky remains in his de-fac­to com­mand­ing posi­tion in the Legion despite his sub­or­di­nates’ com­plaints and despite the fact that, accord­ing to Ukrain­ian law, he can’t as a for­eign­er hold exec­u­tive roles in the army.

    When con­front­ed with legion­naires’ accu­sa­tions, Kuchyn­sky refused to address them.

    “It’s up to the Mil­i­tary Prosecutor’s Office to address these ques­tions,” he told the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent over the phone. “No com­ments. I’m busy.”

    He then hung up.

    An inves­ti­ga­tion by the Mil­i­tary Prosecutor’s Office wouldn’t be the first time Kuchyn­sky has had trou­ble with the law.

    ‘Sasha Kuchyn­sky’

    Accord­ing to the Kyiv Independent’s sources inside the legion, Sasha Kuchyn­sky is not the man’s real name. He is alleged­ly Piotr Kapus­cin­s­ki, a for­mer mem­ber of a crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tion from Poland, who fled to Ukraine after sev­er­al run-ins with the law.

    Upon request from the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent, our col­leagues from the Belling­cat inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism group ran an image com­par­i­son of the pho­tos of Sasha Kuchyn­sky, pro­vid­ed by the legion­naires, and pho­tos of Piotr Kapus­cin­s­ki from Pol­ish media. The results sup­port the con­clu­sion that the pho­tos are of the same per­son.

    In Poland, Kapus­cin­s­ki is want­ed for fraud and faces up to eight years in prison. Accord­ing to Pol­ish Gaze­ta Wybor­cza, he has pre­vi­ous­ly served time.

    He fled Poland in 2014, and resur­faced in Ukraine two years lat­er. He was inves­ti­gat­ed in Ukraine for aggra­vat­ed rob­bery and sex­u­al assault in Octo­ber 2016 but was only charged with rob­bery. In Novem­ber 2016, he was detained and spent over a year behind bars.

    War­saw asked Kyiv to extra­dite Kapus­cin­s­ki in 2017, but Ukrain­ian author­i­ties said they would first try him them­selves.

    He resur­faced again in May 2021, when law enforce­ment searched his vehi­cle where they found a semi-auto­mat­ic pis­tol and bul­lets and pro­ceed­ed to search a build­ing that he used, find­ing explo­sives. He faced up to sev­en years in prison for pos­ses­sion of ille­gal weapons but was almost imme­di­ate­ly released on bail of near­ly $2,500.

    After the all-out Russ­ian war broke out in Feb­ru­ary, Kapus­cin­s­ki joined the mil­i­tary, at which point the courts sus­pend­ed his case and then paid back his bail in May 2022.

    His crim­i­nal past did not pre­vent Kapus­cin­s­ki from get­ting into the Legion and obtain­ing an exec­u­tive role there. The leg­is­la­tion says all for­eign recruits must go through back­ground checks before join­ing the Ukrain­ian army. It’s not clear whether a crim­i­nal record counts as a deal break­er.

    In Ukraine, cit­i­zens can serve in the mil­i­tary if they have ongo­ing crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings or a spent con­vic­tion. The law, how­ev­er, doesn’t refer to for­eign­ers. So when a Ukrain­ian court sus­pend­ed Kapuscinski’s case and paid back his bail, it was apply­ing the same norm that applies to Ukraini­ans.

    In the Legion, Kuchyn­sky (Kapus­cin­s­ki) calls him­self a colonel and wears a colonel’s epaulet, accord­ing to the sol­diers’ tes­ti­monies and the pho­tographs of Kuchyn­sky the legion­naires pro­vid­ed to the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent. In fact, for­eign­ers are only allowed to serve in Ukraine’s Armed Forces in the low­er ranks, as pri­vates, sergeants, and pet­ty offi­cers.

    Since the start of the year, the man who calls him­self Sasha Kuchyn­sky has alleged­ly gone from a crim­i­nal sus­pect on bail to a free man and de-fac­to com­man­der in a high-pro­file Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary unit.

    For his alleged wrong­do­ings in the Inter­na­tion­al Legion, Kuchyn­sky has already been ques­tioned mul­ti­ple times.

    First, by the Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice of Ukraine (SBU) after threat­en­ing one of the Amer­i­can sol­diers with a gun. Accord­ing to the sol­dier, Kuchyn­sky didn’t face any con­se­quences.

    Then, by the Mil­i­tary Pros­e­cu­tion Office fol­low­ing oth­er legion­naires’ com­plaints against him, accord­ing to the Kyiv Independent’s law enforce­ment sources. The com­plaints alleged abuse of pow­er, fraud, and assault. Kuchyn­sky denied the accu­sa­tions and kept his job. The inves­ti­ga­tion, how­ev­er, is ongo­ing.

    Sent to die

    The probe into Sasha Kuchyn­sky, among oth­er episodes, con­cerns him send­ing sol­diers on what they call a sui­cide mis­sion in Sievierodonet­sk, a key city in Luhan­sk Oblast that Russ­ian troops seized in late June.

    Accord­ing to the Brazil­ian fight­er who spoke to the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent, Kuchynsky’s orders were incon­sis­tent.

    At first, the Brazilian’s unit spent two weeks prepar­ing for a dem­i­ning mis­sion in Zapor­izhzhia Oblast, a south­ern region.

    In ear­ly June, a few days into the mis­sion, they were sud­den­ly moved to anoth­er loca­tion. Kuchyn­sky ordered them to go to Sievierodonet­sk in the east­ern Luhan­sk Oblast and hold a posi­tion close to ene­my lines.

    Going into one of the war’s main hotspots was very dif­fer­ent from a dem­i­ning mis­sion. That would­n’t have been a prob­lem if they were pre­pared for it, the Brazil­ian offi­cer said, but they weren’t.

    “We’ve been two weeks prepar­ing these guys with all the type of train­ing and met­al detec­tors and anti mines…and now you’re going to send us to the indus­tri­al zone to the urban type of com­bat. Sasha, this is crazy,” the legion­naire recalls telling his com­man­der.

    “I under­stand. I am with you there, but that’s the order,” Kuchyn­sky report­ed­ly replied.

    The Brazil­ian fight­er start­ed plan­ning the oper­a­tion in Sievierodonet­sk, but nei­ther Kuchyn­sky nor Taras Vashuk, the oth­er com­man­der, gave him any infor­ma­tion – which he said they were sup­posed to – about the sit­u­a­tion on the ground. By then, Sievierodonet­sk was a cen­ter of heavy fight­ing. Ukrain­ian troops would retreat from the city a cou­ple of weeks lat­er.

    “A lot of ques­tions asked were not answered, like where friend­ly troops were,” the Brazil­ian offi­cer said.

    Only lat­er did he learn that the pre­vi­ous group sent on this very mis­sion came under friend­ly fire by Ukrain­ian sol­diers. Anoth­er Brazil­ian legion­naire was killed and they had to retreat.

    “We got into the field with­out know­ing what was going on,” the offi­cer said.

    “I real­ized those motherf*ckers won’t let us plan,” he said of Sasha and Taras. “They would just bring us into the mid­dle of the place, dump us there to fight, dump us there to die.”

    Upon arrival, a Ukrain­ian spe­cial forces ser­vice­man filled them in. He told the Brazil­ian that Ukrain­ian troops are inside the build­ings along their way, but they have no estab­lished com­mu­ni­ca­tion with them so they shoot at every­one who breaks through.

    “What the f*ck? How are we gonna pass? These (Ukrain­ian) guys are gonna shoot at us?” the Brazil­ian said he asked.

    “Yeah, that’s right. We need to hide,” the Ukrain­ian sol­dier report­ed­ly told him.

    They spent four days there instead of the planned two. They ran out of food and water and asked for rota­tion, but Kuchyn­sky, who sent them there, wouldn’t reply.

    “Nobody slept, every­body’s super tired. Some of my guys are dehy­drat­ed, and one injured guy. And we stood there. That’s when Sasha (Kuchyn­sky) went off the radar,” he said.

    Soon some­one they didn’t know got in touch via radio say­ing a new group was on their way. The sol­diers arrived but then left in the mid­dle of the night with­out say­ing any­thing. The next day, anoth­er squad came in to replace them.

    The Brazil­ian believes that Kuchyn­sky had no plan for their extrac­tion.

    “A bunch of wannabes, play­ing with peo­ple’s lives,” he said of the unit’s lead­er­ship. His account of sui­cide mis­sions is con­firmed by oth­er sol­diers – both in their con­ver­sa­tions with the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent and in their offi­cial tes­ti­monies they filed to the President’s Office.

    The Brazil­ian pla­toon leader and a cou­ple of his sol­diers got injured but sur­vived. After final­ly get­ting evac­u­at­ed from Sievierodonet­sk, most of the squad fight­ers decid­ed to quit the Legion.

    “We’re not f*cking stay­ing. We’re leav­ing,” the fight­er recalled them say­ing.

    The team of the Brazil­ian fight­er is not the only one that left the Legion, dis­ap­point­ed.

    For­eign­ers quit­ting the Inter­na­tion­al Legion due to poor orga­ni­za­tion, lack of equip­ment, and indef­i­nite con­tracts have already made head­lines across inter­na­tion­al media.

    Shop­ping mall plun­der

    Around the time of the Bat­tle of Sievierodonet­sk in ear­ly June, the legion­naires received a con­tro­ver­sial task from Kuchyn­sky: to dri­ve from their base to a local shop­ping mall in the front-line city of Lysy­chan­sk in Luhan­sk Oblast and take mer­chan­dise from the shops.

    “I direct­ly heard Sasha Kuchynsky’s order to the sol­diers of my unit to break into the shop­ping cen­ter, col­lect the fur­ni­ture and elec­tron­ics as soon as pos­si­ble and col­lect all pos­si­ble valu­ables along the way,” a Cana­di­an fight­er wrote in his state­ment fol­low­ing the inci­dent.

    Accord­ing to the sol­diers’ offi­cial tes­ti­monies obtained by the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent, “Sasha” also told sub­or­di­nates to take what­ev­er they liked: shoes, wom­en’s clothes, jew­el­ry, watch­es, and elec­tron­ics.

    Many sol­diers obeyed as they come from pro­fes­sion­al mil­i­tary back­grounds where they don’t ques­tion supe­ri­ors’ com­mands.

    “(Nor­mal­ly) you should say ‘yes, sir’ and get it done. Because you believe that your com­man­der knows what he’s ask­ing you to do…You just assume that this action is legal, and you’re going to go for it. You’re not sup­posed to ques­tion it,” the Brazil­ian legion­naire told the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent.

    “Locals saw how we loaded the fur­ni­ture which made me very uncom­fort­able. It felt like we were rob­bing them. I didn’t come to Ukraine for this,” a tes­ti­mo­ny of a Columbian sol­dier reads.

    “There were local res­i­dents near the shop­ping mall, one of whom, see­ing this, shout­ed insults, and the oth­ers looked at us with reproach and con­dem­na­tion. I don’t know whether it was legal or not but I felt ashamed to car­ry out the order of Sasha Kuchyn­sky and take away fur­ni­ture and valu­ables from stores dur­ing hos­til­i­ties and in front of local res­i­dents who suf­fered from the war,” a French legion­naire wrote in his state­ment.

    Some sol­diers refused to fol­low the order.

    [see youtube video ]

    In a video obtained by the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent, some for­eign­ers can be heard in the shop­ping mall ques­tion­ing the legal­i­ty of “Sasha’s” orders.

    “We will not be impli­cat­ed by any means as loot­ers. We will not stand for this,” an Eng­lish-speak­ing sol­dier is heard say­ing.

    He then tells the crowd that he will not stay in front of the stolen goods and is going down­stairs to wait until the car picks him up and dri­ves back to the base. “Sasha” becomes angry at the sol­diers’ refusal to car­ry out his orders.

    “Lis­ten, (do not set) con­di­tions for me. This is an order, to stay here and wait for the com­man­der. This is an order. You get it? An order. This is the army,” the Pol­ish com­man­der says in bro­ken Russ­ian.

    “I do not find that order law­ful. We do not see this as rea­son­able,” the sol­dier replies.

    The video ends with the sol­dier say­ing to his peers: “Let’s go down­stairs, guys. We are not play­ing these games.”

    Accord­ing to the legion­naires, Kuchyn­sky ordered sim­i­lar loot­ings on mul­ti­ple occa­sions and Ukrain­ian sol­diers were ordered to par­tic­i­pate as well.

    The legion­naires don’t know where the items were sent to. In a video obtained by the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent, one sol­dier is heard say­ing in Russ­ian that the fur­ni­ture and elec­tron­ics tak­en from the mall were for their unit’s head­quar­ters in Kyiv.
    Theft alle­ga­tions

    Accord­ing to the legion­naires, they reg­u­lar­ly wit­nessed what they believe were sus­pi­cious arms move­ments.

    “The car is com­ing, the cars going, the box­es of weapons com­ing, the box­es of weapons going,” one of the Amer­i­can sol­diers said.

    Despite the legion’s armory rooms being loaded with all sorts of heavy weapon­ry and ammu­ni­tion, the sol­diers say they often didn’t end up in their hands.

    “Dur­ing my stay in Sievierodonet­sk, a civil­ian vehi­cle paint­ed in cam­ou­flage con­tain­ing ther­mal imagers arrived,” a Columbian sol­dier wrote in his tes­ti­mo­ny. “They were not dis­trib­uted among the sol­diers due to their alleged absence. Mean­while, Sasha Kuchyn­sky pro­posed to the mil­i­tary per­son­nel of the Inter­na­tion­al Legion to buy these ther­mal imagers for $300.”

    “I think, Sasha Kuchyn­sky arti­fi­cial­ly cre­at­ed the impres­sion of a short­age of some ammu­ni­tion to ille­gal­ly enrich him­self by pro­vid­ing it to fight­ers (for mon­ey) as if from him­self,“ anoth­er fight­er from Colum­bia wrote in his tes­ti­mo­ny.

    Accord­ing to him, two of his fel­low sol­diers dam­aged their hear­ing due to the lack of head­phones that he knew were in their armory, under Kuchynsky’s con­trol.

    Sol­diers say Kuchyn­sky would take away part of the ammu­ni­tion they would inde­pen­dent­ly receive from vol­un­teers and donors. They called it the “Sasha tax.”

    “So you have to give Sasha what he wants. And then you can give (the rest) of this stuff to your guys,” one of the Amer­i­can sol­diers said. “Every­thing just seems like a cov­er-up. It’s very strange. It feels like an (orga­nized) busi­ness.”

    The same hap­pened to anoth­er Amer­i­can sol­dier. His ship­ment arrived at the base while he was on a mis­sion. When he returned, some parcels were gone.

    “It was labeled for our team. So basi­cal­ly, sim­ple as that, half of the stuff was­n’t there.”

    Wait­ing for solu­tion

    The for­eign sol­diers say they did not want to pub­li­cize the cri­sis in the Inter­na­tion­al Legion and tried to solve the issue behind the scenes.

    They first com­plained to their com­man­ders, then law­mak­ers, and final­ly went as far as the President’s Office. Since the Legion was cre­at­ed upon Zelensky’s order, for­eign fight­ers count­ed on his admin­is­tra­tion’s sup­port, but did not get much help from there, they said.

    Aly­ona Ver­byt­s­ka, the president’s com­mis­sion­er for sol­diers’ rights, told the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent she had informed her supe­ri­ors about the legion­naires’ com­plaints. She did not elab­o­rate on who exact­ly she report­ed to.

    In the President’s Office, two peo­ple over­see the Legion for Zelen­sky, accord­ing to the Kyiv Independent’s sources close to the Office. They are Vitaliy Mar­tyniuk, a nation­al secu­ri­ty expert, and Roman Mashovets, deputy head of the Office and for­mer employ­ee of the GUR intel­li­gence agency.

    ...

    Com­plain­ing to the President’s Office didn’t work out. Things even got worse, the sol­diers said, as those who sound­ed an alarm about the Legion’s lead­er­ship start­ed to feel under pres­sure and receive threats.

    Mean­while, many pro­fes­sion­al mem­bers left the unit due to alleged mis­man­age­ment and prob­lems with paper­work. The Legion failed to pro­vide some of them with offi­cial con­tracts.

    “There were real­ly good spe­cial (forces) guys. I mean, not from the reg­u­lar mil­i­tary. A lot of spe­cial (forces) guys lit­er­al­ly just said: ‘No, thank you. We can’t work like that any­more’,” an Amer­i­can sol­dier said.

    Those who stayed in the unit want it to keep help­ing Ukraine to stand against Rus­sia. To do it effec­tive­ly, they believe, the Legion must be reformed under new lead­er­ship.

    “I have a very, very, very pleas­ant expe­ri­ence with every­body in the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary out­side of Sasha and Taras­es,” one of the Amer­i­can sol­diers said.

    “I’ve always just kind of kept my mouth shut. Just because peo­ple like Sasha real­ly dis­cred­it all of this,” he said.

    ———–

    “Sui­cide mis­sions, abuse, phys­i­cal threats: Inter­na­tion­al Legion fight­ers speak out against leadership’s mis­con­duct” by Anna Myro­niuk and Alexan­der Khre­bet; The Kyiv Inde­pen­dent; 08/17/2022

    “The alle­ga­tions in this sto­ry are based on inter­views with legion­naires, writ­ten tes­ti­monies of over a dozen for­mer and cur­rent mem­bers of the legion, and a 78-page report they’ve put togeth­er about prob­lems with­in this par­tic­u­lar unit of the Inter­na­tion­al Legion.”

    This isn’t just some alle­ga­tions from a hand­ful of dis­grun­tled sol­dier. Over a dozen for­mer and cur­rent mem­bers of the Inter­na­tion­al Legion pro­vid­ed writ­ten tes­ti­monies. And this 78-page report on ram­pant mis­con­duct is just about a sin­gle unit.

    And while it might be tempt­ed to dis­miss the alle­ga­tions as just prob­lems with a sin­gle unit of the Inter­na­tion­al Legion, it’s the fact that these com­plaints have already gone all the way up to the pres­i­den­tial office and still don’t appear to be yield­ing any sort of results oth­er than reprisals against the sol­diers that sug­gests the prob­lems with this unit’s lead­er­ship are far more wide­spread. The fact that we’ve already heard sim­i­lar com­plaints about abus­es and poor mil­i­tary lead­er­ship from Ukrain­ian vol­un­teers also sug­gests that this isn’t just a prob­lem with the Inter­na­tion­al Legion. It’s a lead­er­ship cor­rup­tion prob­lem:

    ...
    The Inter­na­tion­al Legion, sol­diers say, con­sists of two wings. Ukraine’s Ground Forces over­see one. The Defense Ministry’s Direc­torate for Intel­li­gence, known under its Ukrain­ian acronym GUR, coor­di­nates the oth­er.

    The alle­ga­tions in this report con­cern the GUR-run wing of the Legion. At its strongest, this unit had up to 500 peo­ple, and com­prised about one-third of the Inter­na­tion­al Legion, accord­ing to the Kyiv Inde­pen­den­t’s sources among the sol­diers.

    ...

    The for­eign sol­diers say they did not want to pub­li­cize the cri­sis in the Inter­na­tion­al Legion and tried to solve the issue behind the scenes.

    They first com­plained to their com­man­ders, then law­mak­ers, and final­ly went as far as the President’s Office. Since the Legion was cre­at­ed upon Zelensky’s order, for­eign fight­ers count­ed on his admin­is­tra­tion’s sup­port, but did not get much help from there, they said.

    Aly­ona Ver­byt­s­ka, the president’s com­mis­sion­er for sol­diers’ rights, told the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent she had informed her supe­ri­ors about the legion­naires’ com­plaints. She did not elab­o­rate on who exact­ly she report­ed to.

    ...

    Com­plain­ing to the President’s Office didn’t work out. Things even got worse, the sol­diers said, as those who sound­ed an alarm about the Legion’s lead­er­ship start­ed to feel under pres­sure and receive threats.
    ...

    And in the case of this par­tic­u­lar unit, the lead­er­ship cor­rup­tion prob­lems appear to stem from the top, with a trio a fig­ures being seen as being at the heart of it: two intel­li­gence offi­cers — Taras Vashuk (‘Young Taras’), his uncle (‘Old Taras’) — and 60-year old Sasha Kuchyn­sky. It sounds like Sasha caus­es trou­ble and then turns to the Taras­es for a cov­er-up:

    ...
    Accord­ing to mem­bers of the intel­li­gence-run wing of the Legion, their com­man­ders report direct­ly to the head of GUR, Kyry­lo Budanov, who Zelen­sky also appoint­ed to head the intel­li­gence com­mit­tee in the president’s office in late July.

    Offi­cial­ly, the GUR wing of the Legion is run by major Vadym Popyk. How­ev­er, he is not run­ning the unit on his own.

    The pow­er is in the hands of a few peo­ple: Popyk’s right hand, major Taras Vashuk (referred to by sol­diers as “young Taras”), an intel­li­gence offi­cer in his late 20s or ear­ly 30s, accord­ing to the for­eign fight­ers; Vashuk’s uncle, also Taras (referred to as “old” Taras) and also an intel­li­gence offi­cer; and 60-year old Sasha Kuchyn­sky.

    “They are like best buds,” an Amer­i­can legion­naire told the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent of the three men.

    Young Taras, old Taras, and Sasha run the oper­a­tions of the unit. They send sol­diers on mis­sions and coor­di­nate the intel­li­gence wing of the Legion’s work. Sasha is also in charge of logis­tics and sup­plies.

    The legion­naires accuse the trio of var­i­ous wrong­do­ings. For the two Taras­es, the major com­plaints con­cern them send­ing sol­diers on sui­cide mis­sions.

    ...

    When in trou­ble, legion­naires say, Kuchyn­sky would turn to Taras Vashuk for a cov­er-up.
    ...

    But the scan­dalous nature of this unit’s lead­er­ship isn’t lim­it­ed to a lack of any dis­ci­pline for Sasha Kuchyn­sky. There’s also the fact that Kushyn­sky does­n’t appear to be who he claims to be and is instead Piotr Kapus­cin­s­ki, a Pol­ish crim­i­nal who fled in 2014 while under inves­ti­ga­tion by Pol­ish author­i­ties and resur­faced in Ukraine in 2016. He was inves­ti­gat­ed in Ukraine for aggra­vat­ed rob­bery and sex­u­al assault and end­ed up spend­ing a year in prison. War­saw asked for his extra­di­tion in 2017, but Ukraine said they would try him first. It’s not clear that Ukraine tied him at all. Instead, he resur­faced again in May 2021 when Ukrain­ian law enforce­ment searched his vehi­cle, found a pis­tol, and then search a build­ing he used and found explo­sives. Fac­ing up to sev­en years in prison on the explo­sives charges, he was almost imme­di­ate­ly released on a bail of $2,500. He then joined the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary Fol­low­ing the start of the con­flict in Feb­ru­ary, at which point the courts sus­pend­ing his case. His bail was even paid back in May.

    ...
    “Sasha would call Taras and get con­fir­ma­tion that he can do what­ev­er he wants to do. And Taras would con­stant­ly back him up,” a Scan­di­na­vian sol­dier told the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent.

    How­ev­er, to date, Kuchyn­sky remains in his de-fac­to com­mand­ing posi­tion in the Legion despite his sub­or­di­nates’ com­plaints and despite the fact that, accord­ing to Ukrain­ian law, he can’t as a for­eign­er hold exec­u­tive roles in the army.

    .,..

    Accord­ing to the Kyiv Independent’s sources inside the legion, Sasha Kuchyn­sky is not the man’s real name. He is alleged­ly Piotr Kapus­cin­s­ki, a for­mer mem­ber of a crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tion from Poland, who fled to Ukraine after sev­er­al run-ins with the law.

    Upon request from the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent, our col­leagues from the Belling­cat inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism group ran an image com­par­i­son of the pho­tos of Sasha Kuchyn­sky, pro­vid­ed by the legion­naires, and pho­tos of Piotr Kapus­cin­s­ki from Pol­ish media. The results sup­port the con­clu­sion that the pho­tos are of the same per­son.

    In Poland, Kapus­cin­s­ki is want­ed for fraud and faces up to eight years in prison. Accord­ing to Pol­ish Gaze­ta Wybor­cza, he has pre­vi­ous­ly served time.

    He fled Poland in 2014, and resur­faced in Ukraine two years lat­er. He was inves­ti­gat­ed in Ukraine for aggra­vat­ed rob­bery and sex­u­al assault in Octo­ber 2016 but was only charged with rob­bery. In Novem­ber 2016, he was detained and spent over a year behind bars.

    War­saw asked Kyiv to extra­dite Kapus­cin­s­ki in 2017, but Ukrain­ian author­i­ties said they would first try him them­selves.

    He resur­faced again in May 2021, when law enforce­ment searched his vehi­cle where they found a semi-auto­mat­ic pis­tol and bul­lets and pro­ceed­ed to search a build­ing that he used, find­ing explo­sives. He faced up to sev­en years in prison for pos­ses­sion of ille­gal weapons but was almost imme­di­ate­ly released on bail of near­ly $2,500.

    After the all-out Russ­ian war broke out in Feb­ru­ary, Kapus­cin­s­ki joined the mil­i­tary, at which point the courts sus­pend­ed his case and then paid back his bail in May 2022.
    ...

    The spe­cial treat­ment of Kuchyn­sky did­n’t end there. Accord­ing to Ukrain­ian law, for­eign­ers can’t serve as offi­cers in the mil­i­tary. He’s oper­at­ing at a high­er rank than Ukrain­ian law allows. Beyond that, it sounds like the sus­pen­sion of his court case and pay­back of his bail after join­ing the mil­i­tary is a right grant­ed only to Ukrain­ian cit­i­zens. For what­ev­er rea­son, this Pol­ish mob­ster just keeps get­ting spe­cial treat­ment. The kind of spe­cial treat­ment that has land­ed him into a posi­tion of an untouch­able crim­i­nal mil­i­tary offi­cer:

    ...
    His crim­i­nal past did not pre­vent Kapus­cin­s­ki from get­ting into the Legion and obtain­ing an exec­u­tive role there. The leg­is­la­tion says all for­eign recruits must go through back­ground checks before join­ing the Ukrain­ian army. It’s not clear whether a crim­i­nal record counts as a deal break­er.

    In Ukraine, cit­i­zens can serve in the mil­i­tary if they have ongo­ing crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings or a spent con­vic­tion. The law, how­ev­er, doesn’t refer to for­eign­ers. So when a Ukrain­ian court sus­pend­ed Kapuscinski’s case and paid back his bail, it was apply­ing the same norm that applies to Ukraini­ans.

    In the Legion, Kuchyn­sky (Kapus­cin­s­ki) calls him­self a colonel and wears a colonel’s epaulet, accord­ing to the sol­diers’ tes­ti­monies and the pho­tographs of Kuchyn­sky the legion­naires pro­vid­ed to the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent. In fact, for­eign­ers are only allowed to serve in Ukraine’s Armed Forces in the low­er ranks, as pri­vates, sergeants, and pet­ty offi­cers.

    Since the start of the year, the man who calls him­self Sasha Kuchyn­sky has alleged­ly gone from a crim­i­nal sus­pect on bail to a free man and de-fac­to com­man­der in a high-pro­file Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary unit.
    ...

    And beyond the ‘sui­cide mis­sion’ orders he was giv­en, there were the loot­ing orders that were actu­al­ly caught on video. That’s part of what makes this sto­ry seem­ing­ly emblem­at­ic of a much larg­er mil­i­tary cor­rup­tion issue: they caught this loot­ing on video. It’s post­ed on Youtube. We can see the sol­diers refus­ing to go along with the loot­ing orders, and hear Kuchyn­sky con­tin­ue to demand that they engage in the loot­ing. And yet noth­ing has been done. He’s allowed to act with impuni­ty:

    ...
    Around the time of the Bat­tle of Sievierodonet­sk in ear­ly June, the legion­naires received a con­tro­ver­sial task from Kuchyn­sky: to dri­ve from their base to a local shop­ping mall in the front-line city of Lysy­chan­sk in Luhan­sk Oblast and take mer­chan­dise from the shops.

    “I direct­ly heard Sasha Kuchynsky’s order to the sol­diers of my unit to break into the shop­ping cen­ter, col­lect the fur­ni­ture and elec­tron­ics as soon as pos­si­ble and col­lect all pos­si­ble valu­ables along the way,” a Cana­di­an fight­er wrote in his state­ment fol­low­ing the inci­dent.

    Accord­ing to the sol­diers’ offi­cial tes­ti­monies obtained by the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent, “Sasha” also told sub­or­di­nates to take what­ev­er they liked: shoes, wom­en’s clothes, jew­el­ry, watch­es, and elec­tron­ics.

    ...

    Some sol­diers refused to fol­low the order.

    [see youtube video ]

    In a video obtained by the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent, some for­eign­ers can be heard in the shop­ping mall ques­tion­ing the legal­i­ty of “Sasha’s” orders.

    “We will not be impli­cat­ed by any means as loot­ers. We will not stand for this,” an Eng­lish-speak­ing sol­dier is heard say­ing.

    He then tells the crowd that he will not stay in front of the stolen goods and is going down­stairs to wait until the car picks him up and dri­ves back to the base. “Sasha” becomes angry at the sol­diers’ refusal to car­ry out his orders.

    “Lis­ten, (do not set) con­di­tions for me. This is an order, to stay here and wait for the com­man­der. This is an order. You get it? An order. This is the army,” the Pol­ish com­man­der says in bro­ken Russ­ian.

    “I do not find that order law­ful. We do not see this as rea­son­able,” the sol­dier replies.

    The video ends with the sol­dier say­ing to his peers: “Let’s go down­stairs, guys. We are not play­ing these games.”

    Accord­ing to the legion­naires, Kuchyn­sky ordered sim­i­lar loot­ings on mul­ti­ple occa­sions and Ukrain­ian sol­diers were ordered to par­tic­i­pate as well.

    The legion­naires don’t know where the items were sent to. In a video obtained by the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent, one sol­dier is heard say­ing in Russ­ian that the fur­ni­ture and elec­tron­ics tak­en from the mall were for their unit’s head­quar­ters in Kyiv.
    ...

    Final­ly, there’s the sus­pi­cious arms move­ments. Just how many weapons are get­ting siphoned off for Kuchyn­sky’s orga­nized crime asso­ciates? Or just his own per­son­al prof­it? We can only spec­u­late, because it’s clear Ukrain­ian author­i­ties are deter­mined to look the oth­er way:

    ...
    Accord­ing to the legion­naires, they reg­u­lar­ly wit­nessed what they believe were sus­pi­cious arms move­ments.

    “The car is com­ing, the cars going, the box­es of weapons com­ing, the box­es of weapons going,” one of the Amer­i­can sol­diers said.

    Despite the legion’s armory rooms being loaded with all sorts of heavy weapon­ry and ammu­ni­tion, the sol­diers say they often didn’t end up in their hands.

    “Dur­ing my stay in Sievierodonet­sk, a civil­ian vehi­cle paint­ed in cam­ou­flage con­tain­ing ther­mal imagers arrived,” a Columbian sol­dier wrote in his tes­ti­mo­ny. “They were not dis­trib­uted among the sol­diers due to their alleged absence. Mean­while, Sasha Kuchyn­sky pro­posed to the mil­i­tary per­son­nel of the Inter­na­tion­al Legion to buy these ther­mal imagers for $300.”

    “I think, Sasha Kuchyn­sky arti­fi­cial­ly cre­at­ed the impres­sion of a short­age of some ammu­ni­tion to ille­gal­ly enrich him­self by pro­vid­ing it to fight­ers (for mon­ey) as if from him­self,“ anoth­er fight­er from Colum­bia wrote in his tes­ti­mo­ny.
    ...

    Have any West­ern part­ners been ship­ping things like Stinger mis­siles to the Inter­na­tion­al Legion? If so, let’s hope they’re keep­ing very close track of them because that sounds like the kind of hard­ware that a cer­tain Pol­ish mob­ster’s asso­ciates might be inter­est­ed in.

    And in oth­er news...or maybe not...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 19, 2022, 4:02 pm
  5. Fol­low­ing up on the dis­turb­ing report in the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent — a report based on the tes­ti­monies of vol­un­teers in the Inter­na­tion­al Legion describ­ing sui­ci­dal orders from their lead­er­ship, includ­ing a Pol­ish mob­ster, and gross cor­rup­tion includ­ing the theft of weapons and orders to loot civil­ian areas, and how the cor­rup­tion lead­er­ship was being pro­tect­ed at the high­est lev­els of gov­ern­ment — here’s a set of arti­cle excerpts about what is becom­ing a major theme in the cov­er­age of the con­flict in Ukraine: the retrac­tion and sup­pres­sion of neg­a­tive infor­ma­tion about Ukraine’s con­duct of the war.

    This isn’t a new theme. Recall how the head of Amnesty’s Ukraine office, Oksana Pokalchuk, resigned in protest fol­low­ing the release of the report describ­ing the sta­tion­ing of Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary units in civil­ian areas. Despite those protests, Pokalchuk was list­ed on the Myrotvorets “black­list” web­site as an ene­my of Ukraine, list­ing her as a “par­tic­i­pant in acts of human­i­tar­i­an aggres­sion in Ukraine” and “guilty of deny­ing Ukraine’s right to defend itself.“ And as the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, Amnesty ulti­mate­ly retract­ed the report. Well, note exact­ly a retrac­tion. Amnesty appeared to stand by its find­ings, but added the caveat that Rus­sia is moral­ly respon­si­ble for any civil­ian deaths suf­fered as a result of sta­tion­ing of mil­i­tary units near civil­ians. Yep, that appears to be how this ‘retrac­tion’ went down. But those details were large­ly lost in the cov­er­age of the retrac­tion. The head­line of ‘Amnesty retracts report’ was the main sto­ry.

    As we’re going to see in the sec­ond arti­cle excerpt below, CBS had a retrac­tion of its own this month. In this case, it was report that found that only ~30% of the weapons shipped to Ukraine were actu­al­ly reach­ing the front line. It obvi­ous­ly did­n’t go over well. CBS ulti­mate­ly retract­ed it on the basis that the per­son who was the source of that ~30% claim — Jonas Ohman, the founder of pro-Ukraine non­prof­it Blue-Yel­low — was refer­ring to ship­ments in April when he that state­ment and has now con­clud­ed that the sit­u­a­tion has “improved”. We aren’t told how much it’s improved (only 50% stolen?), just that it’s improved. Also, CBS notes that the US sent Brigadier Gen­er­al Gar­rick M. Har­mon to Kyiv to mon­i­tor weapons ship­ments. Those two details were appar­ent­ly the basis for CBS retract­ing its report. It’s not exact­ly a com­pelling refu­ta­tion.

    And final­ly, as we’re going to see in a recent Gray­zone arti­cle, there does­n’t appear to a short­age of peo­ple in Ukraine who are will­ing to share their expe­ri­ences of ram­pant cor­rup­tion, theft, the sta­tion­ing of troops in civil­ian areas, or dan­ger­ous sui­ci­dal orders. Plen­ty of peo­ple have those tales to share. The short­age is in West­ern reporters who are allowed to actu­al­ly con­vey these sto­ries.

    It’s an infor­ma­tion block­ade. An infor­ma­tion block­ade that requires the occa­sion­al forced retrac­tion. Some­times mul­ti­ple retrac­tions at the same time. So, first, here’s a look at the retrac­tion of that Amnesty report. A retrac­tion that was­n’t real­ly a retrac­tion, but more just a refram­ing of the under­ly­ing find­ings to make it sound less bad for Ukraine:

    CNN

    Amnesty regrets ‘dis­tress’ caused by report on Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary, but stands by find­ings

    By Rad­i­na Gigo­va,
    Updat­ed 6:46 AM ET, Mon August 8, 2022

    (CNN)Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al said it “deeply regrets the dis­tress and anger” caused by a report the group pub­lished on the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary’s fight­ing tac­tics, but added that it “ful­ly” stands by the find­ings, which con­clud­ed those tac­tics vio­lat­ed inter­na­tion­al human­i­tar­i­an law.

    The human rights watch­dog pub­lished a press release last week accus­ing Ukrain­ian forces of putting civil­ians in har­m’s way by set­ting up mil­i­tary bases in res­i­den­tial areas, includ­ing schools and hos­pi­tals and launch­ing attacks from pop­u­lat­ed civil­ian areas.

    Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky lashed out at the group’s report, argu­ing that it tried to “shift the respon­si­bil­i­ty” of civil­ian deaths in Ukraine away from Rus­sia.

    The report sparked the res­ig­na­tion of the head of Amnesty in Ukraine, Oksana Pokalchuk, who said she had tried to dis­suade the orga­ni­za­tion from pub­lish­ing the report as it appeared.

    “If you don’t live in a coun­try occu­pied by invaders that are tear­ing it to pieces, you prob­a­bly don’t under­stand what it’s like to con­demn an ??army of defend­ers,” Pokalchuk said in a state­ment on Face­book.

    “Such impor­tant reports, which are pub­lished at such a moment and in such a con­text, can­not fail to con­tain infor­ma­tion about the oth­er side of the war, about the one who start­ed this war,” she added. “The orga­ni­za­tion cre­at­ed mate­r­i­al that sound­ed like sup­port for Russ­ian nar­ra­tives. Seek­ing to pro­tect civil­ians, this research instead became a tool of Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da.”

    Ukraine’s for­eign min­is­ter, Dmytro Kule­ba, also hit out at the report, tweet­ing that it “dis­torts real­i­ty, draws false moral equiv­a­lence between the aggres­sor and the vic­tim, and boosts Rus­si­a’s dis­in­for­ma­tion efforts.”

    Fol­low­ing the back­lash, Amnesty said in a state­ment to CNN Sun­day: “While we ful­ly stand by our find­ings, we regret the pain caused and wish to clar­i­fy a few cru­cial points.”

    The watch­dog reit­er­at­ed that it had “doc­u­ment­ed how in all 19 of the towns and vil­lages we vis­it­ed, we found instances where Ukrain­ian forces had locat­ed them­selves right next to where civil­ians were liv­ing, there­by poten­tial­ly putting them at risk from incom­ing Russ­ian fire.”

    “We made this assess­ment based on the rules of inter­na­tion­al human­i­tar­i­an law (IHL), which require all par­ties to a con­flict to avoid locat­ing, to the max­i­mum extent fea­si­ble, mil­i­tary objec­tives with­in or near dense­ly pop­u­lat­ed areas. The laws of war exist in part to pro­tect civil­ians, and it is for this rea­son that Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al urges gov­ern­ments to com­ply with them,” the watch­dog said.

    “This does not mean that Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al holds Ukrain­ian forces respon­si­ble for vio­la­tions com­mit­ted by Russ­ian forces, nor that the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary is not tak­ing ade­quate pre­cau­tions else­where in the coun­try,” it said.

    Experts not asso­ci­at­ed with Amnesty have found that pat­terns of vio­lent acts by Russ­ian forces in Ukraine meet the qual­i­fi­ca­tion of crimes against human­i­ty.

    “We must be very clear: Noth­ing we doc­u­ment­ed Ukrain­ian forces doing in any way jus­ti­fies Russ­ian vio­la­tions,” Amnesty said. “Rus­sia alone is respon­si­ble for the vio­la­tions it has com­mit­ted against Ukrain­ian civil­ians. Amnesty’s work over the last six months and our mul­ti­ple brief­in­gs and reports on Rus­si­a’s vio­la­tions and war crimes reflect their scale and the grav­i­ty of their impact on civil­ians.”

    Amnesty said it reached out to the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment on July 29 detail­ing the find­ings.

    In our let­ter, we includ­ed GPS coor­di­nates and oth­er sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion about the loca­tions, includ­ing schools and hos­pi­tals, where we had doc­u­ment­ed Ukrain­ian forces bas­ing them­selves among civil­ians. We did not make this infor­ma­tion pub­lic in our press release due to the secu­ri­ty risks it would pose to both Ukrain­ian forces and to the civil­ians we inter­viewed,” the watch­dog said.

    “Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al is not attempt­ing to give the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary detailed instruc­tions regard­ing how they should oper­ate — but we call on the rel­e­vant author­i­ties to abide by their inter­na­tion­al human­i­tar­i­an oblig­a­tions in full,” Amnesty said. “Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al’s pri­or­i­ty will always be ensur­ing that civil­ians’ lives and human rights are pro­tect­ed dur­ing con­flict.”

    In his com­ments on Thurs­day, Zelen­sky accused Amnesty of hand­ing a pro­pa­gan­da vic­to­ry to Moscow.

    “We saw today a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent report from Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al, which, unfor­tu­nate­ly, tries to amnesty the ter­ror­ist state and shift the respon­si­bil­i­ty from the aggres­sor to the vic­tim,” Zelen­sky said.

    ...

    ———

    “Amnesty regrets ‘dis­tress’ caused by report on Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary, but stands by find­ings” by Rad­i­na Gigo­va; CNN; 08/08/2022

    “Fol­low­ing the back­lash, Amnesty said in a state­ment to CNN Sun­day: “While we ful­ly stand by our find­ings, we regret the pain caused and wish to clar­i­fy a few cru­cial points.””

    Poof, it’s retract­ed. It’s the pow­er of out­cry. And yet, when we look at the mod­i­fied ver­sion of Amnesty’s report, the group did­n’t appear to be retract­ing its find­ings at all. Instead, they sim­ply issued state­ments empha­siz­ing that Amnesty’ finds Rus­sia to be sole­ly moral­ly cul­pa­ble for any civil­ian deaths expe­ri­enced as a result of Ukraine’s deci­sion to base mil­i­tary units in civil­ian areas. I was a non-denial denial. But that was good enough, as long as it prompt­ed head­lines about Amnesty retract­ing the report:

    ...
    The watch­dog reit­er­at­ed that it had “doc­u­ment­ed how in all 19 of the towns and vil­lages we vis­it­ed, we found instances where Ukrain­ian forces had locat­ed them­selves right next to where civil­ians were liv­ing, there­by poten­tial­ly putting them at risk from incom­ing Russ­ian fire.”

    “We made this assess­ment based on the rules of inter­na­tion­al human­i­tar­i­an law (IHL), which require all par­ties to a con­flict to avoid locat­ing, to the max­i­mum extent fea­si­ble, mil­i­tary objec­tives with­in or near dense­ly pop­u­lat­ed areas. The laws of war exist in part to pro­tect civil­ians, and it is for this rea­son that Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al urges gov­ern­ments to com­ply with them,” the watch­dog said.

    “This does not mean that Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al holds Ukrain­ian forces respon­si­ble for vio­la­tions com­mit­ted by Russ­ian forces, nor that the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary is not tak­ing ade­quate pre­cau­tions else­where in the coun­try,” it said.

    ...

    Amnesty said it reached out to the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment on July 29 detail­ing the find­ings.

    In our let­ter, we includ­ed GPS coor­di­nates and oth­er sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion about the loca­tions, includ­ing schools and hos­pi­tals, where we had doc­u­ment­ed Ukrain­ian forces bas­ing them­selves among civil­ians. We did not make this infor­ma­tion pub­lic in our press release due to the secu­ri­ty risks it would pose to both Ukrain­ian forces and to the civil­ians we inter­viewed,” the watch­dog said.

    “Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al is not attempt­ing to give the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary detailed instruc­tions regard­ing how they should oper­ate — but we call on the rel­e­vant author­i­ties to abide by their inter­na­tion­al human­i­tar­i­an oblig­a­tions in full,” Amnesty said. “Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al’s pri­or­i­ty will always be ensur­ing that civil­ians’ lives and human rights are pro­tect­ed dur­ing con­flict.”
    ...

    And on that same day Amnesty ‘retract­ed’ its report, we got reports about anoth­er retrac­tion. This time it was CBS’s inves­ti­ga­tion on the ram­pant theft of aid, includ­ing weapons ship­ments. As CBS ini­tial­ly report­ed, only 30% of the donat­ed weapons were actu­al­ly mak­ing it there. It did­n’t go over well, obvi­ous­ly. Like Amnesty, CBS’s ‘retrac­tion’ was a lit­tle more sub­stan­tive than Amnesty’s retrac­tion in that it involved an actu­al revi­sion of their find­ings. When Jonas Ohman — the founder of pro-Ukraine non­prof­it Blue-Yel­low — made that claim about only 30% of the aid mak­ing it through to the front lines, he was refer­ring to the sit­u­a­tion back in April. Amnesty updat­ed their report to indi­cate that Ohman said the sit­u­a­tion has improved. How much has it improved? Who knows. We’re just told it’s improved. Also, the US sent Brigadier Gen­er­al Gar­rick M. Har­mon — to Kyiv specif­i­cal­ly to mon­i­tor the use of mil­i­tary aid. And that was it. Ohman’s state­ment about a vague ‘improve­ment’ in the flow and the US send­ing a gen­er­al to assess the sit­u­a­tion were the basis for CBS retract­ing the report:

    Busi­ness Insid­er

    CBS par­tial­ly retracts doc­u­men­tary that out­raged Ukraine by claim­ing that US weapon ship­ments were going miss­ing

    Sinéad Bak­er
    Aug 8, 2022, 5:10 AM

    * CBS said it was updat­ing a doc­u­men­tary that said most weapons sent to Ukraine don’t reach the front.
    * It admit­ted that a fig­ure it cit­ed claim­ing only 30% of mil­i­tary aid arrives was out of date.
    * The doc­u­men­tary angered some in the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment. CBS said it was adding “new infor­ma­tion.”

    CBS par­tial­ly retract­ed a doc­u­men­tary in which it said that ship­ments of weapons to Ukraine from the US had been going miss­ing.

    CBS tweet­ed on Mon­day that it had removed a a video pro­mot­ing the doc­u­men­tary that includ­ed a months-old quote say­ing most aid was not mak­ing it to Ukraine’s front lines.

    It said it was updat­ing the doc­u­men­tary, called “Arm­ing Ukraine,” with “new infor­ma­tion” about the deliv­ery of mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine.

    Among the mate­r­i­al removed was a quote the founder of pro-Ukraine non­prof­it Blue-Yel­low, Jonas Ohman, who said in late April that only around 30% of aid was reach­ing the front lines in Ukraine.

    CBS said that “Since that time, Ohman says deliv­ery has improved.” It also not­ed that the US had sent an offi­cial — Brigadier Gen­er­al Gar­rick M. Har­mon — to Kyiv specif­i­cal­ly to mon­i­tor the use of mil­i­tary aid.

    “We are updat­ing our doc­u­men­tary to reflect this new infor­ma­tion and air at a lat­er date,” CBS said.

    CBS also updat­ed an arti­cle accom­pa­ny­ing the doc­u­men­tary.

    The US and oth­er nations have sent Ukraine vast quan­ti­ties of weapons since Rus­sia invad­ed on Feb­ru­ary 24.

    ...

    CBS not­ed that allied coun­tries send weapons to the Ukrain­ian bor­der with Poland, where they are tak­en hun­dreds of miles east to the front­lines.

    The mov­ing front and the need to rely part­ly on vol­un­teers to trans­port the weapons “has made deliv­ery of the mil­i­tary aid dif­fi­cult for those attempt­ing to nav­i­gate the dan­ger­ous sup­ply lines to their des­ti­na­tion,” CBS report­ed.

    Ukraine’s Cen­tre for Strate­gic Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Infor­ma­tion Secu­ri­ty argued against the claims of the doc­u­men­tary.

    Dur­ing the recent infor­ma­tion attack against Ukraine, @CBSNews pub­lished an omi­nous sto­ry about West­ern weapons alleged­ly “dis­ap­pear­ing” in Ukraine and being used for “unknown pur­pos­es.” Here are some facts and points refut­ing the sto­ry. 1/6— Strat­com Cen­tre UA (@StratcomCentre) August 5, 2022

    It described a series of over­sight mea­sures which it said help keep track of donat­ed weapon­ry, includ­ing a sys­tem also used by the US mil­i­tary.

    It not­ed that CBS did not ini­tial­ly ask Har­mon, the US senior offi­cer, to com­ment.

    “Ukraine has offi­cial­ly invit­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives of its part­ners to mon­i­tor the use of weapons, striv­ing to ensure max­i­mum trans­paren­cy,” it said.

    Mykhai­lo Podolyak, advi­sor to Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skyy, seemed to respond to the doc­u­men­tary on Sun­day in a tweet that said Rus­sia was try­ing to dis­cred­it Ukraine with “alle­ga­tions” about where its weapons are end­ing up.

    ...

    Podolyak said the loca­tion of all weapons giv­en to Ukraine was known: “This a war live where every­thing is seen: total account­ing and con­trol. ”

    ————-

    “CBS par­tial­ly retracts doc­u­men­tary that out­raged Ukraine by claim­ing that US weapon ship­ments were going miss­ing” by Sinéad Bak­er; Busi­ness Insid­er; 08/08/2022

    “Among the mate­r­i­al removed was a quote the founder of pro-Ukraine non­prof­it Blue-Yel­low, Jonas Ohman, who said in late April that only around 30% of aid was reach­ing the front lines in Ukraine.”

    The heart of the report — the claims that only 30% of aid was mak­ing to the front lines — was removed. Why? Because the source of that claim now insists the sit­u­a­tion has ‘improved’. And also the US sent a gen­er­al to mon­i­tor the weapons flow. Keep in mind that if the US felt the need to send Gen­er­al Har­mon to Kyiv to mon­i­tor the weapons flow, that’s not exact­ly con­tra­dict­ing the idea that there could be a prob­lem with theft. Quite the oppo­site:

    ...
    CBS said that “Since that time, Ohman says deliv­ery has improved.” It also not­ed that the US had sent an offi­cial — Brigadier Gen­er­al Gar­rick M. Har­mon — to Kyiv specif­i­cal­ly to mon­i­tor the use of mil­i­tary aid.

    “We are updat­ing our doc­u­men­tary to reflect this new infor­ma­tion and air at a lat­er date,” CBS said.
    ...

    Also note the laugh­able asser­tions made by Mykhai­lo Podolyak, the advi­sor to Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Zelen­skiy: The loca­tions of ALL donat­ed weapons are know. It’s all very trans­par­ent, you see:

    ...
    Mykhai­lo Podolyak, advi­sor to Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skyy, seemed to respond to the doc­u­men­tary on Sun­day in a tweet that said Rus­sia was try­ing to dis­cred­it Ukraine with “alle­ga­tions” about where its weapons are end­ing up.

    ...

    Podolyak said the loca­tion of all weapons giv­en to Ukraine was known: “This a war live where every­thing is seen: total account­ing and con­trol. ”
    ...

    And those two same-day retrac­tions of reports crit­i­cal of Ukraine’s exe­cu­tion of the war bring us to the fol­low­ing Gray­zone piece about those exact top­ics. As we’re going to see, the big sto­ry in this report is how the big sto­ries aren’t get­ting out because it’s not being allowed. Whether it’s sto­ries about stolen weapons, stolen med­ical sup­plies, the sta­tion­ing of troops in civil­ian areas, or the issu­ing of sui­ci­dal orders. These kinds of reports are sim­ply not allowed to get out in the West­ern press (at least not with­out some quit retrac­tions):

    The Gray­zone

    Ukraine war vet­er­ans on how Kiev plun­dered US aid, wast­ed sol­diers, endan­gered civil­ians, and lost the war

    Lind­sey Snell and Cory Popp
    August 18, 2022

    “The weapons are stolen, the human­i­tar­i­an aid is stolen, and we have no idea where the bil­lions sent to this coun­try have gone,” a Ukrain­ian com­plained to The Gray­zone.

    In a video sent via Face­book mes­sen­ger in July, Ivan* can be seen stand­ing next to his car, an ear­ly 2010s mod­el Mit­subishi SUV. Smoke is pour­ing out of the rear win­dow. Ivan laughs and pans his phone’s cam­era across the length of the vehi­cle, point­ing out bul­let holes. “The tur­bocharg­er died in my car,” he said, pan­ning his phone toward the front of the vehi­cle. “My com­man­der says I should pay to repair it myself. So to use my own car in the war, I need to buy a new tur­bocharg­er with my own mon­ey.”

    Ivan flipped the cam­era toward his face. “Well, you fuc king moth­er­fuc ker mem­bers of par­lia­ment, I hope you f uck each oth­er. Dev­ils. I wish you were in our place,” he said.

    Last month, Ukraine’s par­lia­men­tar­i­ans vot­ed to give them­selves a 70% salary increase. Fil­ings indi­cate the raise was enabled and encour­aged by the bil­lions of dol­lars and euros of aid that have poured in from the US and Europe.

    “We, the Ukrain­ian sol­diers, have noth­ing,” said Ivan. “The things the sol­diers have been giv­en to use in the war came direct­ly from vol­un­teers. The aid that goes to our gov­ern­ment will nev­er reach us.”

    Ivan has been a sol­dier since 2014. Cur­rent­ly, he’s sta­tioned in the Don­bas region, where he is tasked with using small, con­sumer-grade drones to spot Russ­ian posi­tions for artillery tar­get­ing. “There are so many prob­lems on the front­line now,” he said. “We don’t have an inter­net con­nec­tion, which makes our work basi­cal­ly impos­si­ble. We have to dri­ve to get a con­nec­tion on mobile devices. Can you imag­ine?”

    Anoth­er sol­dier in Ivan’s unit sent us a video of him­self from a trench near the front­lines in Don­bas. “Accord­ing to doc­u­ments, the gov­ern­ment has built us a bunker here,” he says. “But as you see, there are only a few cen­time­ters of a wood cov­er­ing over our heads, and this is sup­posed to pro­tect us from tank and artillery shelling. The Rus­sians shell us for hours at a time. We dug these trench­es our­selves. We have two AK-74s between 5 sol­diers here, and they jam con­stant­ly because of all the dust.

    “I went to my com­man­der and explained the sit­u­a­tion. I told him it’s too hard to hold this posi­tion. I told him I under­stand this is a strate­gi­cal­ly impor­tant point, but our squad is bro­ken, and no relief is com­ing for us. In 10 days, 15 sol­diers died here, all from shelling and shrap­nel. I asked the com­man­der if we could bring some heavy equip­ment to build a bet­ter bunker and he refused, because he said the Russ­ian shelling could dam­age the equip­ment. Does he not care that 15 of our sol­diers died here?”

    ...

    Illya*, a 23 year-old sol­dier from Kiev, says his unit is fac­ing the same con­di­tions in anoth­er part of the Don­bas region. He joined the Ukrain­ian Army short­ly after the war start­ed. He has a back­ground in IT and knew such exper­tise was in high demand. “If I had known how much decep­tion there was in this Army, and how every­thing would be for us, I nev­er would have joined,” he said. “I want to go home, but if I flee, I face prison.”

    Illya and the oth­er sol­diers in his unit lack weapons and pro­tec­tive gear. “In Ukraine, peo­ple cheat each oth­er even in war,” he said. “I’ve watched the med­ical sup­plies donat­ed to us being tak­en away. The cars that drove us to our posi­tion were stolen. And we have not been replaced with new sol­diers in three months, though we should have been relieved three times by now.”

    “Every­one is lying”: US doc­tor describes shock­ing cor­rup­tion

    Saman­tha Mor­ris*, a doc­tor from Maine, went to Ukraine in May to try to help pro­vide med­ical train­ing for sol­diers. “The first time I crossed the bor­der from Poland, I had to hide my med­ical sup­plies under mat­tress­es and dia­pers to pre­vent them from being stolen,” she said. “The bor­der guards on the Ukrain­ian side will just take things, and tell you, ‘we need this for our war,’ but then, they just steal the items and resell them. Hon­est­ly, if you don’t hand-deliv­er dona­tions to the intend­ed recip­i­ents, the items will nev­er reach them.”

    Mor­ris and a few oth­er Amer­i­can med­ical pro­fes­sion­als began to hold train­ing cours­es in Sumy, a mid-sized city in north­east­ern Ukraine. “We drew up a con­tract with the gov­er­nor in Sumy, though all they pro­vid­ed to us were meals and lodg­ing, and the lodg­ing was just us sleep­ing in the same pub­lic uni­ver­si­ty we held our train­ing cours­es in,” she said. “The Sumy gov­er­nor had a friend, a local busi­ness­man, and he demand­ed that this busi­ness­man be added to the con­tract as a ‘liai­son’ between us and the city of Sumy. And as a liai­son, he would get a per­cent­age fee of the con­tract. Our lawyers tried to nego­ti­ate the busi­ness­man out of the con­tract, but the gov­er­nor of Sumy wouldn’t budge. We ulti­mate­ly just signed the con­tract so we could hold our train­ings.”

    In the two months she spent in Ukraine, Mor­ris says she encoun­tered theft and cor­rup­tion more times than she could count. “The lead doc­tor at the mil­i­tary base in Sumy has ordered med­ical sup­plies from and for the mil­i­tary at dif­fer­ent points in time, and he has had 15 trucks of sup­plies com­plete­ly dis­ap­pear,” she said. The mil­i­tary first aid kits she had intend­ed to give to sol­diers once they grad­u­at­ed her train­ing pro­gram were stolen. She saw the same kits for sale at a local mar­ket days lat­er.

    “I got a call from a nurse at a mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal in [the Ukrain­ian city of] Dnipro,” Mor­ris recalled. “She said the pres­i­dent of the hos­pi­tal had stolen all the pain med­ica­tions to resell them, and that the wound­ed sol­diers being treat­ed there had no pain relief. She begged us to hand-deliv­er pain med­ica­tions to her. She said she would hide them from the hos­pi­tal pres­i­dent so that they’d reach the sol­diers. But who can you trust? Was the hos­pi­tal pres­i­dent real­ly steal­ing the med­ica­tions, or was she try­ing to con us into giv­ing her pain med­ica­tions for her to sell or use? Who knows. Every­one is lying.

    Donat­ed pro­tec­tive mil­i­tary equip­ment and com­bat med­ical sup­plies have flood­ed Ukraine’s online mar­ket­places. Sell­ers are care­ful to hide their iden­ti­ties, often cre­at­ing new ven­dor accounts for each sale and will­ing to ful­fill orders exclu­sive­ly by mail. “We have found armored hel­mets giv­en as aid from the Amer­i­cans for sale on web­sites,” Ivan said. “You know, inside the hel­met, the class of pro­tec­tion and brand are writ­ten. We saw this brand before and real­ized the hel­mets were the ones giv­en to us as aid. Some of us tried to con­tact the sell­ers to set up a meet­ing, so we could prove they were sell­ing stolen aid, but they were sus­pi­cious and stopped respond­ing to us.”

    Ivan says he has heard about the theft of weapons donat­ed from West­ern coun­tries, but point­ed out that sev­er­al sol­diers in his unit are shar­ing a sin­gle AK-74. “I wouldn’t know about how they’re steal­ing the weapons, because the weapons nev­er reach the Ukrain­ian sol­diers in the first place,” he said. “And if they were giv­ing more than small mis­siles and rifles, if they were giv­ing us what we actu­al­ly need to fight Rus­sia, they would be weapons too big to steal.”

    “I don’t think they want us to win”: Ukraini­ans scoff at West­ern aid

    Ivan is not opti­mistic about Ukraine’s chances to win the war. “There won’t be a Don­bas left,” he said. “The Rus­sians will destroy it, or they’ll con­trol all of it, and then they’ll move on to the south. And now, as it is, I’d say 80% of the civil­ians who have stayed in Don­bas sup­port Rus­sia and leak all of our loca­tion infor­ma­tion to them.”

    When asked if he thought the US and Euro­pean coun­tries tru­ly want Ukraine to win the war, Ivan laughed. “No, I don’t think they want us to win,” he said. “The West could give us weapons to make us stronger than the Rus­sians, but they don’t do this. We know Poland and the Baltic coun­tries want us to win, 100%, but their sup­port isn’t enough.”

    “It is obvi­ous that the US doesn’t want Ukraine to win the war,” said Andrey*, a Ukrain­ian jour­nal­ist based in Myko­layiv. “They only want to make Rus­sia weak. No one will win this war, but the coun­tries the US is using like a play­ground will lose. And the cor­rup­tion relat­ed to the war aid is shock­ing. The weapons are stolen, the human­i­tar­i­an aid is stolen, and we have no idea where the bil­lions sent to this coun­try have gone.”

    Andrey is espe­cial­ly appalled by the lack of ser­vices pro­vid­ed to inter­nal­ly dis­placed Ukraini­ans. “It real­ly isn’t a mys­tery why every­one wants to go to Europe,” he said. “There’s a refugee cen­ter near Dnipro, for exam­ple, and dis­placed peo­ple are only allowed to stay there for three days. And it’s 45 or 50 peo­ple in one big, open room with one bath­room and a tiny kitchen. Hor­ri­ble con­di­tions. So after the three days, if they have no mon­ey, no clothes, noth­ing, they are kicked out and have no choice but to go back to their homes in dan­ger­ous areas. We must ask our gov­ern­ment where all the aid mon­ey has gone, when our sol­diers don’t have what they need, and our civil­ians don’t have safe places to stay.”

    For­eign jour­nal­ists cov­er up grim real­i­ty with tri­umphal­ist delu­sions

    Before the war start­ed, Andrey spent sev­er­al years report­ing on cor­rup­tion and crooked politi­cians in Ukraine. After an inves­ti­ga­tion into a gov­ern­ment offi­cial in Odessa result­ed in death threats against his wife and young daugh­ter, Andrey sent them to live with rel­a­tives in France. “Ukraine is a democ­ra­cy, right? So the gov­ern­ment won’t press on you in an offi­cial way. First, you get phone calls warn­ing you to stop. Then, they offer you mon­ey to stop. And then, if you refuse to be bought, you should be pre­pared for an attack.

    “Real jour­nal­ism is dan­ger­ous here,” he con­tin­ued. “You see, since the war start­ed, we have these new star reporters, and every day, they write that ‘Putin is bad, the Russ­ian sol­diers behave very badly…today, the Ukrain­ian army killed 1,000 Rus­sians and destroyed 500 Russ­ian tanks.’ They get a mil­lion fol­low­ers on Twit­ter because they lie, and this isn’t real report­ing. But if you write about the cor­rup­tion in the Armed Forces, and have real examples…you won’t be famous, and you’ll be in trou­ble.”

    Andrey has been pick­ing up extra work as a fix­er, arrang­ing inter­views and trans­lat­ing for for­eign jour­nal­ists in Ukraine to cov­er the war. “I have worked with about a dozen jour­nal­ists from dif­fer­ent coun­tries in Europe,” he said. “All of them have been shocked. They left Ukraine shocked. They said they could not believe the sit­u­a­tion here. But this shock did not make it into any of their arti­cles about the war. Their arti­cles said that Ukraine is on the road to vic­to­ry, which is not true.”

    Ukrain­ian sol­diers and vol­un­teers con­firm Ukraine’s Armed Forces endan­ger civil­ians

    In July, we spent the night at a hotel in Kram­a­torsk and were con­cerned to see that neo-Nazi Azov bat­tal­ion sol­diers were among the hotel’s guests. On August 4th, Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al pub­lished a study reveal­ing that since the start of the war in Feb­ru­ary, Ukrain­ian forces have endan­gered civil­ians by estab­lish­ing bases in schools and hos­pi­tals and oper­at­ing weapons sys­tems in civil­ian areas, which is a vio­la­tion of inter­na­tion­al law.

    Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al now plans to “ re-assess” its report, in response to a mas­sive pub­lic out­cry after its pub­li­ca­tion, but Ukrain­ian sol­diers and for­eign vol­un­teers have con­firmed that Ukrain­ian armed forces main­tain a heavy pres­ence in civil­ian areas. “Our bases were most­ly built in Sovi­et times,” said Ivan. “So now, Rus­sia knows our bases inside and out. It’s nec­es­sary to spread the sol­diers and weapons out to oth­er places.”

    A for­mer US ser­vice­man who goes by the moniker “Ben­jamin Vel­cro” was a vol­un­teer fight­er for the Inter­na­tion­al Legion of Ter­ri­to­r­i­al Defense of Ukraine, the Ukrain­ian Armed Forces’ offi­cial unit for for­eign vol­un­teers. He spent five months in var­i­ous parts of Ukraine, and says that sol­diers being sta­tioned in civil­ian areas was a com­mon occur­rence.

    “When­ev­er I hear that Rus­sia bombed a school, I just kin­da shrug,” the Amer­i­can for­eign fight­er said. “Because I gar­risoned inside a school. That’s a fact. The school didn’t have kids in it, so it’s not like they were endan­ger­ing chil­dren. So all it takes is for Ukraine to say, ‘Ah! They hit a school!’ And that cumu­lates into an easy media nar­ra­tive on their part.”

    ...

    *Sev­er­al inter­view sub­jects request­ed to be quot­ed under assumed names to pro­tect them­selves from poten­tial dan­ger

    ————–

    “Ukraine war vet­er­ans on how Kiev plun­dered US aid, wast­ed sol­diers, endan­gered civil­ians, and lost the war” by Lind­sey Snell and Cory Popp; The Gray­zone; 08/18/2022

    “Andrey has been pick­ing up extra work as a fix­er, arrang­ing inter­views and trans­lat­ing for for­eign jour­nal­ists in Ukraine to cov­er the war. “I have worked with about a dozen jour­nal­ists from dif­fer­ent coun­tries in Europe,” he said. “All of them have been shocked. They left Ukraine shocked. They said they could not believe the sit­u­a­tion here. But this shock did not make it into any of their arti­cles about the war. Their arti­cles said that Ukraine is on the road to vic­to­ry, which is not true.”

    As Andrey the Ukrain­ian jour­nal­ist warns us, it’s not that there’s a lack of sto­ries ema­nat­ing out of Ukraine about ram­pant cor­rup­tion and theft. Those sto­ries are there and Ukraini­ans want to share them with the world. But those sto­ries don’t fit into the pre­scribed nar­ra­tive and sim­ply aren’t being told by the inter­na­tion­al press. Beyond that, local jour­nal­ists who seri­ous­ly inves­ti­gate the crime and cor­rup­tion face gov­ern­ment reprisals. The world is get­ting is a warped san­i­tized depic­tion of real­i­ty on the ground:

    ...
    Before the war start­ed, Andrey spent sev­er­al years report­ing on cor­rup­tion and crooked politi­cians in Ukraine. After an inves­ti­ga­tion into a gov­ern­ment offi­cial in Odessa result­ed in death threats against his wife and young daugh­ter, Andrey sent them to live with rel­a­tives in France. “Ukraine is a democ­ra­cy, right? So the gov­ern­ment won’t press on you in an offi­cial way. First, you get phone calls warn­ing you to stop. Then, they offer you mon­ey to stop. And then, if you refuse to be bought, you should be pre­pared for an attack.

    “Real jour­nal­ism is dan­ger­ous here,” he con­tin­ued. “You see, since the war start­ed, we have these new star reporters, and every day, they write that ‘Putin is bad, the Russ­ian sol­diers behave very badly…today, the Ukrain­ian army killed 1,000 Rus­sians and destroyed 500 Russ­ian tanks.’ They get a mil­lion fol­low­ers on Twit­ter because they lie, and this isn’t real report­ing. But if you write about the cor­rup­tion in the Armed Forces, and have real examples…you won’t be famous, and you’ll be in trou­ble.”
    ...

    And note how these Gray­zone reporters them­selves wit­nessed Azov sol­diers stay­ing in the same hotel they were stay­ing at in Kram­a­torsk. It’s like the worst pos­si­ble group of neigh­bors to find, giv­en the sit­u­a­tion. That was in July, before Amnesty issued its now-retract­ed report on the sta­tion­ing of mil­i­tary units amidst civil­ians:

    ...
    In July, we spent the night at a hotel in Kram­a­torsk and were con­cerned to see that neo-Nazi Azov bat­tal­ion sol­diers were among the hotel’s guests. On August 4th, Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al pub­lished a study reveal­ing that since the start of the war in Feb­ru­ary, Ukrain­ian forces have endan­gered civil­ians by estab­lish­ing bases in schools and hos­pi­tals and oper­at­ing weapons sys­tems in civil­ian areas, which is a vio­la­tion of inter­na­tion­al law.

    Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al now plans to “ re-assess” its report, in response to a mas­sive pub­lic out­cry after its pub­li­ca­tion, but Ukrain­ian sol­diers and for­eign vol­un­teers have con­firmed that Ukrain­ian armed forces main­tain a heavy pres­ence in civil­ian areas. “Our bases were most­ly built in Sovi­et times,” said Ivan. “So now, Rus­sia knows our bases inside and out. It’s nec­es­sary to spread the sol­diers and weapons out to oth­er places.”

    A for­mer US ser­vice­man who goes by the moniker “Ben­jamin Vel­cro” was a vol­un­teer fight­er for the Inter­na­tion­al Legion of Ter­ri­to­r­i­al Defense of Ukraine, the Ukrain­ian Armed Forces’ offi­cial unit for for­eign vol­un­teers. He spent five months in var­i­ous parts of Ukraine, and says that sol­diers being sta­tioned in civil­ian areas was a com­mon occur­rence.

    “When­ev­er I hear that Rus­sia bombed a school, I just kin­da shrug,” the Amer­i­can for­eign fight­er said. “Because I gar­risoned inside a school. That’s a fact. The school didn’t have kids in it, so it’s not like they were endan­ger­ing chil­dren. So all it takes is for Ukraine to say, ‘Ah! They hit a school!’ And that cumu­lates into an easy media nar­ra­tive on their part.”
    ...

    And then there’s the first­hand accounts of ram­pant equip­ment short­ages, cou­pled with dan­ger­ous lead­er­ship that is effec­tive­ly assign­ing troops to sui­cide mis­sions. Sui­cide mis­sions that sound very sim­i­lar to the kind of abu­sive lead­er­ship recent­ly report­ed on in the Kyiv Post, where a Pol­ish mob­ster, Piotr Kapus­cin­s­ki, was effec­tive­ly put in charge of a wing of the Inter­na­tion­al Legion and pro­ceed­ed to steal weapons and issue orders to loot civil­ian areas. The same sto­ries keep pop­ping up...coverage of which keep get­ting squashed:

    ...
    Ivan has been a sol­dier since 2014. Cur­rent­ly, he’s sta­tioned in the Don­bas region, where he is tasked with using small, con­sumer-grade drones to spot Russ­ian posi­tions for artillery tar­get­ing. “There are so many prob­lems on the front­line now,” he said. “We don’t have an inter­net con­nec­tion, which makes our work basi­cal­ly impos­si­ble. We have to dri­ve to get a con­nec­tion on mobile devices. Can you imag­ine?”

    Anoth­er sol­dier in Ivan’s unit sent us a video of him­self from a trench near the front­lines in Don­bas. “Accord­ing to doc­u­ments, the gov­ern­ment has built us a bunker here,” he says. “But as you see, there are only a few cen­time­ters of a wood cov­er­ing over our heads, and this is sup­posed to pro­tect us from tank and artillery shelling. The Rus­sians shell us for hours at a time. We dug these trench­es our­selves. We have two AK-74s between 5 sol­diers here, and they jam con­stant­ly because of all the dust.

    “I went to my com­man­der and explained the sit­u­a­tion. I told him it’s too hard to hold this posi­tion. I told him I under­stand this is a strate­gi­cal­ly impor­tant point, but our squad is bro­ken, and no relief is com­ing for us. In 10 days, 15 sol­diers died here, all from shelling and shrap­nel. I asked the com­man­der if we could bring some heavy equip­ment to build a bet­ter bunker and he refused, because he said the Russ­ian shelling could dam­age the equip­ment. Does he not care that 15 of our sol­diers died here?”

    ...

    Illya*, a 23 year-old sol­dier from Kiev, says his unit is fac­ing the same con­di­tions in anoth­er part of the Don­bas region. He joined the Ukrain­ian Army short­ly after the war start­ed. He has a back­ground in IT and knew such exper­tise was in high demand. “If I had known how much decep­tion there was in this Army, and how every­thing would be for us, I nev­er would have joined,” he said. “I want to go home, but if I flee, I face prison.”

    Illya and the oth­er sol­diers in his unit lack weapons and pro­tec­tive gear. “In Ukraine, peo­ple cheat each oth­er even in war,” he said. “I’ve watched the med­ical sup­plies donat­ed to us being tak­en away. The cars that drove us to our posi­tion were stolen. And we have not been replaced with new sol­diers in three months, though we should have been relieved three times by now.”

    ...

    Donat­ed pro­tec­tive mil­i­tary equip­ment and com­bat med­ical sup­plies have flood­ed Ukraine’s online mar­ket­places. Sell­ers are care­ful to hide their iden­ti­ties, often cre­at­ing new ven­dor accounts for each sale and will­ing to ful­fill orders exclu­sive­ly by mail. “We have found armored hel­mets giv­en as aid from the Amer­i­cans for sale on web­sites,” Ivan said. “You know, inside the hel­met, the class of pro­tec­tion and brand are writ­ten. We saw this brand before and real­ized the hel­mets were the ones giv­en to us as aid. Some of us tried to con­tact the sell­ers to set up a meet­ing, so we could prove they were sell­ing stolen aid, but they were sus­pi­cious and stopped respond­ing to us.”

    Ivan says he has heard about the theft of weapons donat­ed from West­ern coun­tries, but point­ed out that sev­er­al sol­diers in his unit are shar­ing a sin­gle AK-74. “I wouldn’t know about how they’re steal­ing the weapons, because the weapons nev­er reach the Ukrain­ian sol­diers in the first place,” he said. “And if they were giv­ing more than small mis­siles and rifles, if they were giv­ing us what we actu­al­ly need to fight Rus­sia, they would be weapons too big to steal.”
    ...

    Also note how many of the sources in this report are, them­selves, vol­un­teers shocked by the cor­rup­tion they are expe­ri­enc­ing, like the vol­un­teer doc­tor for Maine. It points towards one of the com­pli­ca­tions for Ukraine in rely­ing so heav­i­ly on inter­na­tion­al vol­un­teers: a lot of those vol­un­teers are going to be enter­ing into that work with lofty ide­al. The kind of lofty ide­al that don’t mesh well with endem­ic gross cor­rup­tion:

    ...
    Saman­tha Mor­ris*, a doc­tor from Maine, went to Ukraine in May to try to help pro­vide med­ical train­ing for sol­diers. “The first time I crossed the bor­der from Poland, I had to hide my med­ical sup­plies under mat­tress­es and dia­pers to pre­vent them from being stolen,” she said. “The bor­der guards on the Ukrain­ian side will just take things, and tell you, ‘we need this for our war,’ but then, they just steal the items and resell them. Hon­est­ly, if you don’t hand-deliv­er dona­tions to the intend­ed recip­i­ents, the items will nev­er reach them.”

    Mor­ris and a few oth­er Amer­i­can med­ical pro­fes­sion­als began to hold train­ing cours­es in Sumy, a mid-sized city in north­east­ern Ukraine. “We drew up a con­tract with the gov­er­nor in Sumy, though all they pro­vid­ed to us were meals and lodg­ing, and the lodg­ing was just us sleep­ing in the same pub­lic uni­ver­si­ty we held our train­ing cours­es in,” she said. “The Sumy gov­er­nor had a friend, a local busi­ness­man, and he demand­ed that this busi­ness­man be added to the con­tract as a ‘liai­son’ between us and the city of Sumy. And as a liai­son, he would get a per­cent­age fee of the con­tract. Our lawyers tried to nego­ti­ate the busi­ness­man out of the con­tract, but the gov­er­nor of Sumy wouldn’t budge. We ulti­mate­ly just signed the con­tract so we could hold our train­ings.”

    In the two months she spent in Ukraine, Mor­ris says she encoun­tered theft and cor­rup­tion more times than she could count. “The lead doc­tor at the mil­i­tary base in Sumy has ordered med­ical sup­plies from and for the mil­i­tary at dif­fer­ent points in time, and he has had 15 trucks of sup­plies com­plete­ly dis­ap­pear,” she said. The mil­i­tary first aid kits she had intend­ed to give to sol­diers once they grad­u­at­ed her train­ing pro­gram were stolen. She saw the same kits for sale at a local mar­ket days lat­er.

    “I got a call from a nurse at a mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal in [the Ukrain­ian city of] Dnipro,” Mor­ris recalled. “She said the pres­i­dent of the hos­pi­tal had stolen all the pain med­ica­tions to resell them, and that the wound­ed sol­diers being treat­ed there had no pain relief. She begged us to hand-deliv­er pain med­ica­tions to her. She said she would hide them from the hos­pi­tal pres­i­dent so that they’d reach the sol­diers. But who can you trust? Was the hos­pi­tal pres­i­dent real­ly steal­ing the med­ica­tions, or was she try­ing to con us into giv­ing her pain med­ica­tions for her to sell or use? Who knows. Every­one is lying.
    ...

    Final­ly, note the obser­va­tion that can basi­cal­ly nev­er be report­ed in the bulk of the West­ern press’s cov­er­age of this con­flict: the vast major­i­ty of the res­i­dents of the Don­bas sup­port the Rus­sians. It’s like the orig­i­nal sin of this con­flict that can­not be acknowl­edged:

    ...
    Ivan is not opti­mistic about Ukraine’s chances to win the war. “There won’t be a Don­bas left,” he said. “The Rus­sians will destroy it, or they’ll con­trol all of it, and then they’ll move on to the south. And now, as it is, I’d say 80% of the civil­ians who have stayed in Don­bas sup­port Rus­sia and leak all of our loca­tion infor­ma­tion to them.”

    When asked if he thought the US and Euro­pean coun­tries tru­ly want Ukraine to win the war, Ivan laughed. “No, I don’t think they want us to win,” he said. “The West could give us weapons to make us stronger than the Rus­sians, but they don’t do this. We know Poland and the Baltic coun­tries want us to win, 100%, but their sup­port isn’t enough.”

    “It is obvi­ous that the US doesn’t want Ukraine to win the war,” said Andrey*, a Ukrain­ian jour­nal­ist based in Myko­layiv. “They only want to make Rus­sia weak. No one will win this war, but the coun­tries the US is using like a play­ground will lose. And the cor­rup­tion relat­ed to the war aid is shock­ing. The weapons are stolen, the human­i­tar­i­an aid is stolen, and we have no idea where the bil­lions sent to this coun­try have gone.”
    ...

    Keep in mind that any mean­ing­ful cov­er­age of the sup­port in the Don­bas for Rus­si­a’s pres­ence and pro­tec­tion neces­si­tates a mean­ing­ful review of the the events of Ukraine since 2014. Espe­cial­ly events in the peri­od around the Maid­an revolt. Events that have been sim­i­lar­ly sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly mis­re­port­ed and warped in the West­ern press vir­tu­al­ly that entire peri­od. It’s part of the depress­ing con­text of the sup­pres­sion of real news out of Ukraine: the cor­rup­tion in Ukraine is so exten­sive even the inter­na­tion­al report­ing about cor­rup­tion in Ukraine is cor­rupt­ed. Which is also a reminder that the endem­ic cor­rup­tion in Ukraine isn’t just a Ukraine thing. It’s more of a group effort at this point.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 20, 2022, 3:35 pm
  6. It hap­pened again. We appear to have received anoth­er report describ­ing night­mare con­di­tions for Ukrain­ian troops. Night­mare con­di­tions that the Ukrain­ian lead­er­ship does­n’t want them dis­cussing with inter­na­tion­al reporters. Recall the report from back in May about Ukrain­ian sol­diers who fled the front lines and retreat­ed to a hotel miles from the front lines where they con­tact Wash­ing­ton Post reporters and detailed their expe­ri­ences. Expe­ri­ences that amount­ed to sui­cide-mis­sion orders for bare­ly-trained troops against far bet­ter trained and equipped Russ­ian forces. Also recall the report we got a few weeks ago about mem­bers of the Inter­na­tion­al Legion describ­ing sim­i­lar sui­cide-mis­sion con­di­tions for the inter­na­tion­al vol­un­teers.

    This time, the night­mare reports are com­ing from troops fight­ing to recap­ture Kher­son. As the arti­cle notes, the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment has been eager to show progress on the fight for Kher­son to its Euro­pean allies poised to expe­ri­ence a par­tic­u­lar­ly expen­sive and cold win­ter in the face of Russ­ian gas sanc­tions. In oth­er words, bad news in the fight for Kher­son could trans­late into bad news about the so-far-unyield­ing sup­port of Ukraine’s Euro­pean neigh­bors, includ­ing ongo­ing mil­i­tary sup­port. To put it anoth­er way, Ukraine needs to show its new inter­na­tion­al investors the their invest­ments aren’t being thrown into a blood-soaked mon­ey pit.

    And yet, based on the reports from these sol­diers it does sound like the bat­tle for Kher­son is rather hope­less. They describe well-for­ti­fied Russ­ian defens­es and 5‑to‑1 casu­al­ty ratios. One of the sol­diers was made pla­toon com­man­der with­out any bat­tle­field expe­ri­ence. His replace­ment after get­ting injured also had no expe­ri­ence. Anoth­er sol­dier said almost every mem­ber of his 120-per­son unit was injured. None of them talked to reporters using their full names, fear­ing dis­ci­pli­nary action.

    The report also describes how reporters are being kept far from the front lines by Ukraine’s mil­i­tary, so the accounts from the eight anony­mous sol­diers in this report are close to all of the infor­ma­tion the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty has received thus far on Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary’s progress on the Kher­son front. Eight anony­mous sol­diers all describ­ing a seem­ing­ly hope­less bat­tle that amounts to a sui­cide-mis­sion:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Wound­ed Ukrain­ian sol­diers reveal steep toll of Kher­son offen­sive

    By John Hud­son
    Sep­tem­ber 7, 2022 at 2:00 a.m. EDT

    SOUTHERN UKRAINE — In dim­ly lit hos­pi­tal rooms in south­ern Ukraine, sol­diers with sev­ered limbs, shrap­nel wounds, man­gled hands and shat­tered joints recount­ed the lop­sided dis­ad­van­tages their units faced in the ear­ly days of a new offen­sive to expel Russ­ian forces from the strate­gic city of Kher­son.

    The sol­diers said they lacked the artillery need­ed to dis­lodge Russia’s entrenched forces and described a yawn­ing tech­nol­o­gy gap with their bet­ter-equipped adver­saries. The inter­views pro­vid­ed some of the first direct accounts of a push to retake cap­tured ter­ri­to­ry that is so sen­si­tive, Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary com­man­ders have barred reporters from vis­it­ing the front lines.

    “They used every­thing on us,” said Denys, a 33-year-old Ukrain­ian sol­dier whose unit fell back from a Russ­ian-held vil­lage after a lengthy bar­rage of clus­ter bombs, phos­pho­rous muni­tions and mor­tars. “Who can sur­vive an attack for five hours like that?” he said.

    Denys and eight oth­er Ukrain­ian sol­diers from sev­en dif­fer­ent units pro­vid­ed rare descrip­tions of the Kher­son coun­terof­fen­sive in the south, the most ambi­tious mil­i­tary oper­a­tion by Kyiv since the expul­sion of Russ­ian forces at the perime­ter of the cap­i­tal in the spring. As in the bat­tle for Kyiv, Ukraine’s suc­cess is hard­ly assured and the sol­diers’ accounts sig­naled that a long fight, and many more casu­al­ties, lie ahead.

    “We lost five peo­ple for every one they did,” said Ihor, a 30-year-old pla­toon com­man­der who injured his back when the tank he was rid­ing in crashed into a ditch.

    Ihor had no mil­i­tary expe­ri­ence before Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. He made a liv­ing sell­ing ani­mal feed to pig and cow farms. His replace­ment as pla­toon com­man­der also has no pre­vi­ous mil­i­tary expe­ri­ence, he said.

    The sol­diers were inter­viewed on gur­neys and in wheel­chairs as they recov­ered from injuries sus­tained in the offen­sive. Some spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to avoid dis­ci­pli­nary action. Oth­ers, like Denys and Ihor, agreed to reveal only their first names. But most spoke plain­ly about the dis­ad­van­tages they faced.

    Russia’s Orlan drones exposed Ukrain­ian posi­tions from more than a kilo­me­ter above their heads, they said, an alti­tude that meant they nev­er heard the buzz of the air­craft track­ing their move­ments.

    Russ­ian tanks emerged from new­ly built cement for­ti­fi­ca­tions to blast infantry with large-cal­iber artillery, the wound­ed Ukrain­ian sol­diers said. The vehi­cles would then shrink back beneath the con­crete shel­ters, shield­ed from mor­tar and rock­et fire.

    Counter-bat­tery radar sys­tems auto­mat­i­cal­ly detect­ed and locat­ed Ukraini­ans who were tar­get­ing the Rus­sians with pro­jec­tiles, unleash­ing a bar­rage of artillery fire in response.

    Russ­ian hack­ing tools hijacked the drones of Ukrain­ian oper­a­tors, who saw their air­craft drift away help­less­ly behind ene­my lines.

    Ukraine has dis­cour­aged cov­er­age of the offen­sive, result­ing in an infor­ma­tion lag on a poten­tial­ly piv­otal inflec­tion point in the near­ly sev­en-month con­flict.

    When Ihor fired on Russ­ian sol­diers with his Kalash­nikov rifle this week, he said, it was his first time shoot­ing at a human being. “You don’t think about any­thing,” he said. “You under­stand, if you don’t do it, they will do it.”

    Despite the chal­lenges, Ihor said he is eager to return to the front line as soon as he heals. “My peo­ple are there. How can I leave them?” he said.

    ...

    Olek­san­dr, a 28-year-old for­mer con­struc­tion work­er, lost his arm in a mor­tar blast dur­ing the coun­terof­fen­sive last week. He winced with phan­tom pain in his hos­pi­tal bed on Sun­day, say­ing he felt a sting from the fin­gers and hand that were no longer con­nect­ed to his body.

    Olek­san­dr said the Russ­ian artillery fire was relent­less. “They were just hit­ting us all the time,” he said. “If we fire three mor­tars, they fire 20 in return.”

    The Ukrain­ian sol­diers said they had to care­ful­ly ration their use of muni­tions but even when they did fire, they had trou­ble hit­ting tar­gets. “When you give the coor­di­nates, it’s sup­posed to be accu­rate, but it’s not,” he said, not­ing that his equip­ment dat­ed back to 1989.

    Olek­san­dr had nev­er trav­eled to Kher­son before the war, but he said the goal of expelling Russ­ian invaders was worth sac­ri­fic­ing a limb. “It’s our coun­try,” he said.

    Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky said that Ukraine’s forces retook two vil­lages in the Kher­son region, and one of his aides post­ed an image of the Ukrain­ian flag being hoist­ed over the vil­lage of Vysokopillya over the week­end.

    “Ukrain­ian flags are return­ing to the places where they should be,” Zelen­sky said in a video address. But it was impos­si­ble to gauge what progress Ukrain­ian forces have made in their push to expel the Russ­ian invaders from Kher­son.

    The region, which was cap­tured by Rus­sia ear­li­er in the war, forms a cru­cial part of Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s cov­et­ed “land bridge” to Crimea, the penin­su­la that Rus­sia invad­ed and annexed in vio­la­tion of inter­na­tion­al law in 2014.

    How­ev­er bloody the fight, the Ukrain­ian sol­diers said they saw no alter­na­tive.

    “If we don’t stop them, they’re going to just rape and mur­der our peo­ple like they did every­where else,” said Oleksandr’s room­mate in the hos­pi­tal, a 49-year-old con­script­ed sol­dier who asked to be called by his nick­name, “Pinochet.”

    Pinochet said his knee was shat­tered by shrap­nel from a mor­tar that was fired after a drone spot­ted him in the coun­terof­fen­sive. He said that while Ukrain­ian casu­al­ties are sig­nif­i­cant, the side that wages an offen­sive always los­es more sol­diers.

    “There’s noth­ing we can do about it,” Pinochet said. “And we can still win.”

    Russ­ian elec­tron­ic war­fare also posed a con­stant threat. Sol­diers described end­ing their shifts and turn­ing on their phones to call or text fam­i­ly mem­bers — a deci­sion that imme­di­ate­ly drew Russ­ian artillery fire.

    “When we turn on mobile phones or radio, they can rec­og­nize our pres­ence imme­di­ate­ly,” said Denys. “And then the shoot­ing starts.”

    Despite the ban on media vis­its to the front line, there were signs that Russia’s grip on Kher­son might be loos­en­ing.

    In a state­ment on Mon­day, a Krem­lin-backed occu­pa­tion author­i­ty said that plans for a staged ref­er­en­dum in the Kher­son region, a pre­cur­sor to Russ­ian annex­a­tion, were put on hold due to secu­ri­ty issues. The Russ­ian state­ment was lat­er walked back, but it gave the Ukraini­ans opti­mism and sug­gest­ed that, at the least, the coun­terof­fen­sive was caus­ing some dis­ar­ray for the Rus­sians.

    Kyiv is hop­ing that the Kher­son coun­terof­fen­sive will boost nation­al morale and demon­strate to West­ern gov­ern­ments that their bil­lions of dol­lars in eco­nom­ic and mil­i­tary assis­tance are pay­ing off, even as sanc­tions against Rus­sia have raised ener­gy prices and infla­tion and height­ened fears of an even more expen­sive win­ter.

    The Ukrain­ian claims of retak­ing vil­lages such as Vysokopillya could not be con­firmed, though sol­diers inter­viewed said they were able to advance into some pre­vi­ous­ly Russ­ian-con­trolled vil­lages. Those sol­diers declined to name the vil­lages, cit­ing instruc­tions from their supe­ri­ors.

    A group of Wash­ing­ton Post jour­nal­ists who trav­eled with­in three miles of Vysokopillya, in north­ern Kher­son, on Mon­day were pre­vent­ed from enter­ing the vil­lage by Ukrain­ian troops and could not ascer­tain its sta­tus. A local offi­cial said Ukrain­ian and Russ­ian forces were still bat­tling for con­trol.

    A clear pic­ture of Ukraine’s loss­es could not be inde­pen­dent­ly assessed.

    Denys, sit­ting upright on his hos­pi­tal bed, said almost every mem­ber of his 120-per­son unit was injured, though only two were killed.

    A 25-year-old sol­dier being treat­ed for shrap­nel wounds said that, with­in his unit of 100 sol­diers, sev­en were killed and 20 injured. Ihor, the pla­toon com­man­der, said 16 of the 32 men under his com­mand were injured and one was killed.

    Ukraine’s injured sol­diers have been spread out to dif­fer­ent hos­pi­tals across south­ern Ukraine to free up the main med­ical facil­i­ties near the Kher­son region for incom­ing patients.

    The Post is with­hold­ing the names of hos­pi­tals treat­ing sol­diers because such med­ical facil­i­ties have been tar­get­ed by Russ­ian forces through the course of the war.

    On Sun­day, a hos­pi­tal in Myko­laiv, a city near Kher­son, came under Russ­ian shelling. The facility’s pedi­atric clin­ic was so bad­ly dam­aged it was no longer func­tion­al.

    When it comes to casu­al­ties, Rob Lee, a mil­i­tary ana­lyst at the For­eign Pol­i­cy Research Insti­tute, said Ukraine must make sure it retains a fight­ing force large enough to fend off Russ­ian advances in the east, giv­en Moscow’s far larg­er armed forces.

    “If they’re tak­ing heavy casu­al­ties and it con­tin­ues for a long peri­od of time, it can be a prob­lem,” Lee said.

    Ukraine’s reliance on inex­pe­ri­enced sol­diers is also a vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty but not one that is exclu­sive to its forces.

    At the start of the con­flict, Rus­sia and Ukraine fought with pro­fes­sion­al mil­i­tary units. After suf­fer­ing heavy loss­es in the east­ern Don­bas region, each side began deploy­ing vol­un­teer or reservist units with less expe­ri­ence.

    The Kher­son coun­terof­fen­sive is now test­ing Ukraine’s forces in new ways, Lee said.

    Ukrain­ian sol­diers who faced off with Rus­sians over the last few months gained new bat­tle­field acu­men, “but much of that expe­ri­ence like­ly involved hold­ing defen­sive posi­tions,” he said. “Con­duct­ing offen­sive oper­a­tions is far more dif­fi­cult, and it takes time and train­ing.”

    ...

    Each sol­dier said it was impos­si­ble to pre­dict when Kher­son might be lib­er­at­ed, and many said it would depend on when the Ukraini­ans receive enough artillery from allies.

    ...

    ————

    “Wound­ed Ukrain­ian sol­diers reveal steep toll of Kher­son offen­sive” by John Hud­son; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 09/07/2022

    Kyiv is hop­ing that the Kher­son coun­terof­fen­sive will boost nation­al morale and demon­strate to West­ern gov­ern­ments that their bil­lions of dol­lars in eco­nom­ic and mil­i­tary assis­tance are pay­ing off, even as sanc­tions against Rus­sia have raised ener­gy prices and infla­tion and height­ened fears of an even more expen­sive win­ter.”

    It’s not hard to see why the bat­tle for Kher­son would be a high­ly sen­si­tive top­ic for Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment, espe­cial­ly if the bat­tle is not going well. Europe is expe­ri­enc­ing an ener­gy-fueled eco­nom­ic implo­sion as a result of this con­flict. Bad news for Ukraine on the bat­tle­field risks get­ting trans­lat­ed into the crum­bling of that EU sol­i­dar­i­ty with Ukraine.

    So we should­n’t be sur­prised to see that these dire inter­views of injured Ukrain­ian sol­diers appears to be done with­out offi­cial approval. All of the sol­diers describe bru­tal, almost hope­less bat­tle­field con­di­tions. Min­i­mal train­ing. Equip­ment that does­n’t work. High casu­al­ty rates. Seem­ing­ly hope­less con­di­tions. None of them would give their names, fear­ing dis­ci­pli­nary action. In oth­er words, this was a report that was­n’t sup­posed to come out. At least not offi­cial­ly:

    ...
    Denys and eight oth­er Ukrain­ian sol­diers from sev­en dif­fer­ent units pro­vid­ed rare descrip­tions of the Kher­son coun­terof­fen­sive in the south, the most ambi­tious mil­i­tary oper­a­tion by Kyiv since the expul­sion of Russ­ian forces at the perime­ter of the cap­i­tal in the spring. As in the bat­tle for Kyiv, Ukraine’s suc­cess is hard­ly assured and the sol­diers’ accounts sig­naled that a long fight, and many more casu­al­ties, lie ahead.

    “We lost five peo­ple for every one they did,” said Ihor, a 30-year-old pla­toon com­man­der who injured his back when the tank he was rid­ing in crashed into a ditch.

    Ihor had no mil­i­tary expe­ri­ence before Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. He made a liv­ing sell­ing ani­mal feed to pig and cow farms. His replace­ment as pla­toon com­man­der also has no pre­vi­ous mil­i­tary expe­ri­ence, he said.

    The sol­diers were inter­viewed on gur­neys and in wheel­chairs as they recov­ered from injuries sus­tained in the offen­sive. Some spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to avoid dis­ci­pli­nary action. Oth­ers, like Denys and Ihor, agreed to reveal only their first names. But most spoke plain­ly about the dis­ad­van­tages they faced.

    ...

    The Ukrain­ian sol­diers said they had to care­ful­ly ration their use of muni­tions but even when they did fire, they had trou­ble hit­ting tar­gets. “When you give the coor­di­nates, it’s sup­posed to be accu­rate, but it’s not,” he said, not­ing that his equip­ment dat­ed back to 1989.
    ...

    Sim­i­lar­ly, the reporters describe hav­ing very lim­it­ed access to the Kher­son area due to mil­i­tary-imposed jour­nal­is­tic block­ade. So while the accounts from these sol­diers could­n’t be inde­pen­dent­ly ver­i­fied, the infor­ma­tion block­ade is at least con­sis­tent with what we would expect giv­en these anony­mous sol­diers’ tes­ti­monies. We’d pre­sum­ably be hear all sorts of offi­cial updates if the bat­tle was going well. Instead, it’s silence and anony­mous dire updates:

    ...
    The Ukrain­ian claims of retak­ing vil­lages such as Vysokopillya could not be con­firmed, though sol­diers inter­viewed said they were able to advance into some pre­vi­ous­ly Russ­ian-con­trolled vil­lages. Those sol­diers declined to name the vil­lages, cit­ing instruc­tions from their supe­ri­ors.

    A group of Wash­ing­ton Post jour­nal­ists who trav­eled with­in three miles of Vysokopillya, in north­ern Kher­son, on Mon­day were pre­vent­ed from enter­ing the vil­lage by Ukrain­ian troops and could not ascer­tain its sta­tus. A local offi­cial said Ukrain­ian and Russ­ian forces were still bat­tling for con­trol.

    A clear pic­ture of Ukraine’s loss­es could not be inde­pen­dent­ly assessed.

    ...

    Denys, sit­ting upright on his hos­pi­tal bed, said almost every mem­ber of his 120-per­son unit was injured, though only two were killed.

    A 25-year-old sol­dier being treat­ed for shrap­nel wounds said that, with­in his unit of 100 sol­diers, sev­en were killed and 20 injured. Ihor, the pla­toon com­man­der, said 16 of the 32 men under his com­mand were injured and one was killed.
    ...

    Final­ly, it would­n’t be a sto­ry about the war in Ukraine with­out at least one tan­gen­tial ref­er­ence to Ukrain­ian fas­cism. And while we did­n’t see any overt ref­er­ences to a Nazi bat­tal­ion like Azov in this report, note the sol­dier who goes by the nick­name “Pinochet”. Now, it’s pos­si­ble “Pinochet” isn’t a fan of Augus­to Pinochet’s fas­cist regime and adopt­ed that nick­name for an entire­ly unre­lat­ed rea­son. Pos­si­ble, but not very like­ly:

    ...
    “If we don’t stop them, they’re going to just rape and mur­der our peo­ple like they did every­where else,” said Oleksandr’s room­mate in the hos­pi­tal, a 49-year-old con­script­ed sol­dier who asked to be called by his nick­name, “Pinochet.”

    Pinochet said his knee was shat­tered by shrap­nel from a mor­tar that was fired after a drone spot­ted him in the coun­terof­fen­sive. He said that while Ukrain­ian casu­al­ties are sig­nif­i­cant, the side that wages an offen­sive always los­es more sol­diers.

    “There’s noth­ing we can do about it,” Pinochet said. “And we can still win.”
    ...

    Is “Pinochet” cor­rect? Can Ukraine still real­is­ti­cal­ly recap­ture Kher­son? It’s not clear how that’s going to hap­pen based on this report. If there’s some sort of Ukrain­ian secret weapon that can turn the tide of this con­flict they’re doing a good job of keep­ing that secret. It’s the over­ar­ch­ing theme of the cov­er­age of this con­flict: we either get over-the-top good news reports about Ukraine’s impend­ing vic­to­ry. Or no news. Except for the unof­fi­cial reports from sol­diers describ­ing near-sui­ci­dal con­di­tions.

    Also keep mind one of the oth­er major fac­tors loom­ing over this sit­u­a­tion: with Ukraine heav­i­ly reliant on ongo­ing sup­port from Europe at the same time Europe endures grow­ing costs — espe­cial­ly ener­gy costs — as a result of its sup­port for Ukraine, what hap­pens when that sup­port begins to wane in the face of a lack of bat­tle­field progress? Specif­i­cal­ly, what hap­pens to the Ukrain­ian soci­ety if it per­ceives a loss of sup­port from the EU? How will Ukrain­ian soci­ety reshape itself should it face both mil­i­tary loss­es that appear per­ma­nent and a sense of betray­al from its new-ish Euro­pean allies? “Pinochet” and any oth­er fas­cist-sym­pa­thiz­ing sol­diers pre­sum­ably have some ideas about the direc­tion they’d like Ukrain­ian soci­ety to take at that point.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 7, 2022, 4:03 pm

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