May 25, 2024

This is the update for Week 106 of Putin’s punitive expedition into Ukraine.

Russians go to the polls March 15-17 to elect a new president. Words to describe the suspense have not been invented. Putin’s apparatchiks have disqualified the two declared candidates that might have attracted anti-Putin protest votes. And he killed the only guy who could give him a run in a free and fair (lolol) election. So we’re looking forward to four more years of Vladimir “savior of Western Civilization” Putin lumbering about the European political landscape.

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Five weeks ago, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky relieved commander-in-chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi. This week, he appointed him as Ukraine’s ambassador to Great Britain. This is a good move. Zaluzhnyi is highly regarded in the West. The UK is a critical ally, and the ambassadorship has been vacant since July. General Syrskyi will do better if his old boss is out of the country and not watching over his shoulder. 

The House passed a “minibus” Wednesday. The bill passed with a unanimous Democrat bloc. Along the way, nearly all Republican policy riders were stripped out. I only bring this up because the “minibus” funding the Defense Department gets a vote in two weeks. That bill will inevitably include some money for Ukraine and will pass the same way. It is also a matter of weeks before Biden’s Defense supplemental for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan gets a vote. It, too, will pass.


READ: Solid Democrat Bloc Helps Speaker Johnson Push the ‘Minibus’ Over the Top


In a VIP post, I covered the fallout from Russian intelligence intercepting a highly classified discussion by senior German military officials detailing Germany’s strategy for helping Ukraine (Spoiler Alert: they won’t do much) and divulging classified operational details of French and British support. The smoke still hasn’t settled on this.


How a Russian Intelligence Coup Has Upset Germany’s Politics and Its Relations With NATO Partners


Europe was also rattled when a Russian ballistic missile, allegedly targeting Ukrainian naval drone facilities in Odesa, landed less than 500 meters from President Zelensky and Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Neither were hurt.


READ: Russian Missile Narrowly Misses Motorcade Carrying Ukraine’s Zelensky and Greece’s Prime Minister


Here are some of my past updates. 

Putin’s War, Week 105. Sweden Prepares to Be Heard

Putin’s War, Week 104. Second Anniversary of the 72-Hour Special Military Operation

Putin’s War, Week 103. Avdiivka Abandoned

Putin’s War, Week 102. Zaluzhny Is Out, Syrsky Is In, and the Ukraine Aid Bill Advances

Putin’s War, Week 101. How to Not Fire Your Commanding General and the EU Approves Massive Aid Package

Putin’s War, Week 100. Missing Prisoners, Hungary on the Hotspot, and Shell Hunger Returns

Putin’s War, Week 99. Not All Battlefields Are in Ukraine

Putin’s War, Week 98.

Putin’s War, Week 97. The Missile War Continues 

Putin’s War, Week 96. Blowback From a Sunk Ship as Russia Launches Largest Missile Attack of the War 

For all my Ukraine War coverage, click here.

Politico-Strategic Level

Ding Dong, the Witch, is Dead…

Victoria Nuland, who has been blamed for everything from crop failure to boils on the ass, announced she is retiring from the State Department. Don’t expect anything to change.


READ MORE: Victoria Nuland, Bête Noire of the Anti-American Left and Pro-Russian Right Retires From State Department


Medvedev Says the Quiet Part Out Loud

Well, actually, he said the loud part out loud. 

We constantly hear from pro-Russian voices on social media (like David Sacks) and in Congress (looking at you, JD Vance) that all that is needed to stop this war is for negotiations to begin on how much of Ukraine has to be surrendered to make Putin feel good about himself. We have the answer. There is no limit on the amount of territory that Russia declares to be its own.

In this speech by Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of the Russian Security Council, he flat out says that Ukraine does not exist.

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has provided chilling confirmation that Russia’s attack on Ukraine is an old-fashioned imperial war with the end goal of extinguishing Ukrainian identity. Speaking at a March 4 festival in Sochi, Medvedev spelled out his rejection of Ukrainian statehood and elaborated on the imperial objectives underpinning Russia’s ongoing invasion. “One of Ukraine’s former leaders once said Ukraine is not Russia. That concept needs to disappear forever,” he declared. “Ukraine is definitely Russia.”

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This is not an outlier. Putin and Russian media outlets have made no secret of Russia’s territorial ambitions. The inability of many in the US to believe what Putin tells us his objectives are makes me wonder if most of the country has drifted to the left half of the IQ Bell Curve, if they are getting paid, or if they are Russian cheerleaders.

As Lithuania’s minister of foreign affairs noted:


BACKGROUND:

Did a Quickly Deleted Essay in Russian Media Explain What Vladimir Putin Wants Russia to Gain From the Ukraine Invasion? – RedState

Putin’s Threats to Sweden and Finland Are Much More Real Than They Are Being Given Credit For


Who Wore It Better?

Finland Says “Go For It”

Security Guarantees

Ukraine and Spain have begun talks on a bilateral security treaty.

The G7 and approximately 30 other countries have signed bilateral security assistance pacts with Ukraine.


BACKGROUND:

Putin’s War, Week 100. Missing Prisoners, Hungary on the Hotspot, and Shell Hunger Returns – RedState

NATO Summit Highlights NATO Unity on Ukraine but Also Reveals Divisions – RedState

Putin’s War, Week 74. The Crack in the Russian Wall Appears and Ben & Jerry’s Employees Join the Russian Army


Again, a war that was conceived to dismember Ukraine and reduce the rump state to a Muscovite satrapy has expanded NATO and anchored Ukraine more firmly to the West than anything possible without the war.

Ukraine and Estonia are on the verge of signing a mutual security agreement.

Why Is Putin Obsessed With Poland?

One of the standard Putin and Russian propaganda points is that they aren’t only facing Ukrainian troops, they are also confronted by large numbers of “Polish mercenaries.” The Poles are conspiring to invade and annex Western Ukraine. In fact, the Polish mania was displayed in Putin’s “interview,” or more accurately, soliloquy, with Tucker Carlson.

Watch the whole video analyzing that interview; it makes a helluva lot more sense than the original item.

              

 

More ICC Indictments

The ICC has issued arrest warrants for Lieutenant General Sergei Kobylash, commander of Russia’s long-range aviation, and Admiral Viktor Sokolov, Black Sea fleet commander.

The court’s pretrial chamber found that the “two suspects bear responsibility for missile strikes carried out by the forces under their command against the Ukrainian electric infrastructure from at least 10 October 2022 until at least 9 March 2023,” the ICC said in the statement.

The two military leaders are alleged to have directed attacks at civilian objects and caused excessive incidental harm to civilians or damage to civilian objects, both war crimes under the Rome Statue, the international treaty that founded the ICC.

The court’s pretrial chamber found that even if the civilian targets like electric infrastructure could have qualified as military objectives, “the expected incidental civilian harm and damage would have been clearly excessive to the anticipated military advantage.”

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This puts them in the dock along with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, for the war crimes of “unlawful deportation” and “unlawful transfer” of children from occupied areas.

Bringing Russian civilian and military leaders to account for their role in fomenting this war is critical so that no one else is tempted to try it.

Russians Gonna Russian

Sri Lanka has canceled the visitor visas for approximately 288,000 Russians, many of them attempting to wait out the war.

However, concerns have been raised over thousands of Russians and a smaller number of Ukrainians staying in the country for an extended period of time and even setting up their own restaurants and nightclubs.

Tourism minister Harin Fernando told Daily Mirror that the ministry has been receiving complaints of some Russian tourists running unregistered and illegal businesses in the southern part of the country.

Raids were conducted by the authorities following discussions with the Immigration Department, he said.

It comes amid a furious social media backlash over Russian-run businesses with a “whites only” policy that strictly bars locals. These businesses include bars, restaurants, water sports and vehicle hiring services.

Operational Level

The operational picture remains largely unchanged from last week. Both sides have made minor gains along the line of contact. The Russians still claim the initiative launching dozens, if not hundreds, of attacks each week. This tempo forces the Ukrainian Army to focus on detecting and breaking up the attacks to the exclusion of their own operations. 

Unlike last winter, Russia has not been able to threaten the Ukrainian power grid. According to the UK Ministry of Defense, it isn’t because they didn’t try.

Russia stepped up its drone attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure throughout February, but the airstrikes failed to severely damage Ukraine’s power grid, according to the British Ministry of Defense (MoD).

In an intelligence update Monday, U.K.’s MoD said that Russia undertook a “campaign” of one-way unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attacks against Ukrainian infrastructure last month, including Kyiv’s electrical power network. The drone strikes took place across Ukraine, and damage to local power infrastructure was reported in the Donetsk, Dnipro and Lviv regions.

Casualty Estimate

The UK Ministry of Defense issued a casualty estimate for Russian forces in Ukraine since the war began. It tracks a bit higher than the US estimate of 315,000 dead and wounded. The takeaway from this number is that the Russian Army, numbering some 220,000, that invaded two years ago has been utterly destroyed.

Russia Will Not Send Its Best Tank to Ukraine

The T-14 Armata is of the  Russian wunderwaffen genre that supposedly outclasses anything in the West. In reality, it has never gone into full production. It had to be towed away from the 2015 May Day parade because its transmission failed. The head of the company that makes them says they won’t make an appearance in combat in Ukraine because they are just too good.

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Another Russian Ship Sunk

A Russian guided-missile corvette was sunk by Ukrainian drones in the Kerch Strait.


BACKGROUND: Russian Navy Loses Another Missile Ship to Ukrainian Drones


Digging In

The biggest change we’ve seen since replacing General Zalushnyi as commander-in-chief is a focus on preparing in-depth defensive positions. There are political and tactical reasons for this. Politically, Ukraine wants to minimize the loss of troops. General Syrskyi got a reputation, deserved or not, for being careless with the lives of his troops during the battle for Bakhmut. He’s probably interested in sending a tacit message that those losses were not all his own doing. Tactically and operationally, these positions increase Russian losses, minimize the chance for a Russian breakthrough or attempt to launch a new front from Russian territory, and free up troops for offensive action.

There are a lot more detailed maps available in this thread.

Czechia to the Rescue

A couple of weeks ago, Czech President Petr Pavel announced that his country had located between 800,000 and 1,000,000 15mm artillery rounds. All that was needed was the money to buy them.

The deal has been closed.

No one knows for sure the source of this ammunition, but it is thought to come from countries sympathetic to Ukraine that are reluctant to burn bridges with Russia…like India.

Terror Attacks Continue

Slovakia Loses Air Defense

In March 2023, Slovakia lost a US Patriot battery that was sent to replace a Slovakian S-300 surface-to-air missile system donated to Ukraine. That Patriot battery, probably shifted to Ukraine, was replaced by an Italian SAMP/T system. Now the Italians have pulled that system back because “it is needed elsewhere.”

Given Slovak President Robert Fico’s bromance with Putin and refusal to contribute to Ukraine’s fight for independence, his statement wondering who would protect nuclear plants in Slovakia (from who?) is rather pathetic.

Is “Take No Prisoners” Russian Policy?

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Reports and video evidence are mounting that indicate the execution of prisoners of war is sufficiently widespread in the Russian Army that it may be command policy. General Tomoyki Yamashita was hanged in Manila in 1946 for atrocities, including the summary execution of prisoners of war committed by his troops even when not acting on his direct command. Hopefully, this will eventually be applied to Russian generals.

Recruited By Deception

Stories about foreigners ending up in the Russian Army are legion.

Last year, the subject was Nepalis who came to Russia for work and stayed for the war.

Now, the focus is on Indians.

In fact, Indian intelligence says it has uncovered a criminal network that recruits unsuspecting Indians for the Russian Army.

New Weapons

Hammer AASM

                  

 

Combat Operations

Measure-Countermeasure

The ubiquity of drone jammers along the line of contact has led to this attempt to reduce their effectiveness.

Time will tell if the reliability problems inherent in wire-guided missiles have been overcome in wire-guided drones.

Survivability

This is an M2 Bradley that was hit by two Russian anti-tank-guided missiles. The Bradley was equipped with Bradley Reactive Armor Tiles (BRAT). The key takeaway is that the Bradley remained operational, and none of the crew was injured. This kind of crew survivability, when contrasted with the “turret toss” one usually sees when a projectile hits a Russian vehicle, increases crew confidence and lets them take risks with a very good chance of surviving.

Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures

Hitching a Ride

Failed Attack in Avdiivka Salient

In this video, a BTR is carrying an external load of nine or ten troops with three inside attacks as part of a single-vehicle operation near Stepove. This is not the Russian Army’s first rodeo at trying to force their way through this area, as witnessed by the dead BTR. There are four other destroyed BTRs in the same area. 

The BTR comes under machinegun fire at 0:15. The vehicle halts, and the troops un-ass at 0:20. They are still under small arms fire and take two or three casualties. At 0:25, a Bradley IFV opens up. The BTR becomes a pending catastrophic kill by 0:36, as you can see smoke from an internal fire coming out of the driver’s hatch. By 1:10, you can see where the Bradley rounds are passing through the right side of the vehicle, exiting through the rear, and hitting men covering there. At 1:18, a suicide drone enters from the 3 o’clock position and detonates on a cluster of troops at 1:20. Another drone enters the picture from 8 o’clock and takes out a group hiding by the BTR’s left rear wheel at 1:38. Another drone comes in from 2 o’clock and explodes at 1:54. What looks like mortar fire begins arriving at 1:56.

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Russian Attack Repelled Near Lyman

Russian Dismounted Attack in Avdiivka Salient Broken Up by DPICM

Night Ambush

Hard Lesson

You can hear the DPICM base ejection charge go off at 0:13. The soldier hits the ground. Then he gets up just as the bomblets start to explode at 0:20.

Close Combat

In this video, two Ukrainian soldiers hold their trench/bunker against a Russian assault by a judicious use of hand grenades. The last Russians go down to rifle fire at 2:39; at 3:02, one of the Ukrainians goes Rambo.

Northern Front

Kharkiv

Kupyansk

This area is stable. Last week, there was a report of a Russian buildup in the area, but nothing has come of that.

Donbas

Bahkmut-Klishchiivka-Andriivka

Russia continues to make small gains north of Bakhmut. Their operational objective seems to be Chasiv Yar, some five miles behind the front lines. This appears to be the main focus of Russian efforts in Ukraine.

Avdiivka

The Russian advance into the Avdiivka Salient halted. The Ukrainians conducted a successful counterattack, regaining control of Toneke.

Don’t Bunch Up, Part Whatever

Southern Front

Zaporizhzhia

Robotyne-Verbove- Novoprokopivka

Russian attacks against Robotyne continued, but the line remained stable.

Kherson

Krynky

The battle lines remain unchanged.

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Rear Areas

Crimea

Feodosia Oil Terminal

Russia

St. Petersburg

Belgorod

Cherepovets

Cherepovets is approximately 200 miles north of Moscow.

What’s Next

We’re looking at the end of winter and the approach of the spring rainy season. Don’t expect anything different from what we see now for another six weeks. By the time the campaigning season rolls around, Ukraine could have an air force that could support ground operations and protect Ukrainian forces from Russian air strikes. The Russians are making a maximum effort to advance to the historical boundaries of Donbas. This accounts for their major effort in what should be an operational backwater like Bakhmut. It was rumored that this offensive was supposed to present Putin with the prize of totally possessing Luhansk and Donetsk. If this story is true, it will be interesting to see if the action there continues after the election. 

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