Putin’s War Russia-Ukraine 21 October 2022 –

Written by  //  February 1, 2023  //  Russia, Ukraine  //  No comments

Four maps that explain the Russia-Ukraine conflict
Institute for the Study of War (ISW)
More on Putin’s War

Putin Wants Revenge Not Just on Ukraine But on the U.S. and Its Allies
When Vladimir Putin declared war early Thursday morning, he did not set Ukraine as his ultimate target. The Russian leader focused instead on the U.S. and its allies, placing them at the center of a speech that set the night’s invasion in motion. It was the West, he said, that created the “fundamental threats” to Russia that prompted him to attack Ukraine, and it is the West, he said, that Russia would seek to humble in the ensuing war. (24 February 2022)
Putin’s war in Ukraine through a historical lens
(The World) MARCO WERMAN, HOST: Russian leader Vladimir Putin likes to compare himself to the 18th-century Russian czar Peter the Great. Putin says his goals are the same as a czar. He’s on a historic quest to win back Russian territory. But author and Kremlinologist Mark Galeotti has another take. He says Putin risks looking more like Nicholas II. That’s Russia’s last czar who had a historic falling out with the Russian public and was forced to abdicate. I asked Galeotti, author of the new book Putin’s Wars: From Chechnya to Ukraine, why he thinks the war in Ukraine will be Putin’s final military action.
MARK GALEOTTI, GUEST: Firstly, because this much-vaunted military has been chewed to pieces, and although they’re busy trying to replenish it with mobilized reservists, people who scarcely remember which is the dangerous end of a Kalashnikov. Nonetheless, we’re seeing that just as Ukraine is increasingly acquiring a 21st-century army because of the training and kit that NATO’s providing. Well, now the Russians increasingly are fielding what could be described as a late Soviet 20th-century army. So, I think, first of all, just Putin’s capacity to fight more wars, he’s going to be dramatically limited, whatever happens in Ukraine. But secondly, it also speaks to, I think, the dying days of Putinism. Putin, like any other kind of leader who depended not on democratic legitimation or anything else, depended on the myth, the myth of his own success, the myth that he was a man who never makes a blunder, that he always wins his wars, which in the past he had. Now that is becoming very much a thing of the past. (31 October)

Foreign Affairs Jan/Feb 2023
Putin’s Last StandThe Promise and Peril of Russian Defeat
With little prospect of dictating Putin’s actions, the West will have to prepare for the next stage of Russia’s disastrous war of choice.
War is inherently unpredictable. Indeed, the course of the conflict has served to invalidate widespread early prognostications that Ukraine would quickly fall; a reversal of fortunes is impossible to discount. It nevertheless appears that Russia is headed for defeat. Less certain is what form this defeat will take. Three basic scenarios exist, and each one would have different ramifications for policymakers in the West and Ukraine. …

1 February
Ian Bremmer: Time favors … Ukraine or Russia?
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been grinding on for nearly a year (or nearly a decade if you ask the Ukrainians). In this time, momentum has swung back and forth between Russia and Ukraine. But now, the front lines have stabilized, making gains harder to come by for both sides.
There’s consensus that in the near term, Moscow will be unlikely to achieve its war aims and Kyiv will be equally unlikely to liberate all its territory. A lasting ceasefire, let alone a negotiated settlement, remains as distant as ever because neither country is willing to make territorial concessions as long as they believe they can achieve a stronger negotiating position through continued fighting. And both sides still believe defeat is unthinkable and victory is at least possible (if not likely).
There’s no end in sight to what seems to be evolving into a war of attrition. Which raises the critical question: Who has the advantage in a drawn-out war, Russia or Ukraine?
Ukraine Fears New Offensive Is Underway as Russia Masses Troops
Russia is massing hundreds of thousands of troops and stepping up its bombardment, perhaps signaling the biggest assault since the start of the war. “I think it has started,” Ukraine’s leader says.
Russia-Ukraine war live: Zelenskiy signals ‘reforms’ ahead of EU summit in Kyiv; Netanyahu open to mediator role ‘if asked’
Ukrainian and European Union officials to hold talks on Friday; Israeli PM says he was asked to mediate last year but declined

31 January
Seeing a Prize, Russia Inundates a Ukraine City With Troops
The battle in the eastern Ukraine city of Bakhmut is growing in importance, as both sides pour forces into the battle.
Russian forces are ratcheting up pressure on the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, pouring in waves of fighters to break Ukraine’s resistance and targeting supply lines in a bloody campaign aimed at securing Moscow’s first significant battlefield victory in months.
Eleven months after Moscow launched its invasion, Bakhmut and the areas around it have become a center of intense fighting, with growing importance as both sides add forces to the battle. Russia intensified its effort to capture Bakhmut, which may be key to seizing the entire Donbas area, after months of bombardment beginning in the summer yielded few gains.

25 January
Paule Robitaille: Putin’s imperial ambitions must be crushed
(National Post) Until recently I believed the war in Ukraine was amenable to compromise. Giving up Ukrainian claims to the Donbass and Crimea seemed like a reasonable price to pay to end Europe’s most ruinous and shattering conflict since the Second World War. But four weeks on the road in the ex-Soviet Union this past fall has disabused me of that notion. To me the prospect of negotiating with Vladimir Putin feels as futile as bargaining with Hitler.
Not a day went by during my stay in Ukraine that there wasn’t an air raid, no matter where I was in the country. There’s nothing like scurrying into an underground shelter with your neighbours to understand what it feels like when another country wants you dead, regardless of who you are, whether you’re combatant or civilian. No one wants to end up like the residents of that apartment block in Dnipro that was hit by a Russian anti-ship missile, originally designed to sink aircraft carriers. Tens of dead, maimed and missing. Terror isn’t an incidental part of Russian military strategy; it’s central to their efforts.

Ukraine war: Serbia uproar over Wagner mercenaries recruiting for Russia
(BBC) A Russian news video claiming to show Serbian “volunteers” training to fight alongside Russian troops in Ukraine has prompted outrage in Serbia, exposing its complex relationship with Moscow.
Russia’s Wagner mercenary group made the Serbian-language videos to encourage recruitment for the war.
Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, reacted angrily on national TV.

16 January
High-ranking Wagner Group member seeks asylum in Norway
(AP via Globe & Mail) A Russian man who reportedly is a former high-ranking member of the Russian private military contractor Wagner Group, has sought asylum in Norway, authorities said Monday.
The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration, also known by its Norwegian acronym UDI, confirmed to The Associated Press that Andrey Medvedev has sought shelter in Norway.
Medvedev, who according to the Norwegian news agency NTB on Monday has been on the run since he defected from the Wagner Group on July 6…reportedly has told a Russian human rights group that he is ready to tell everything he knows about the Wagner Group, its activities and its owner Yevgeny Prigozhin, a millionaire with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Wagner Group includes a large number of convicts recruited in Russian prisons who have spearheaded attacks in Ukraine. The group has has become increasingly influential in Africa, where it has been pushing Russian disinformation, building alliances with regimes and gaining access to oil, gas, gold, diamonds and valuable minerals.
Why “General Armageddon” got demoted
By Willis Sparks
(GZero) By demoting General Armageddon, Putin may be reasserting the centrality of Russia’s uniformed military as the driving force in Ukraine — and himself as Russia’s one true wartime leader. … That’s especially important at a moment when the Wagner Group is actively promoting its role this week in the claimed capture of a strategically important Ukrainian town called Soledar — though Ukraine denies that city is fully lost.

13 January
‘Hellish’ battle for Soledar symbolises state of Russia’s war in Ukraine
Fall of saltmining town would be propaganda coup for Kremlin but analysts say scale of casualties make it a pyrrhic victory
On Friday, as Russia’s defence ministry said its forces had taken full control of the saltmining town, western analysts suggested that, if true, it would be at best a pyrrhic victory, gained at high cost to fighters from the Wagner mercenary group of Yevgeny Prigozhin, who claimed the town had fallen on Wednesday.
Ukrainian officials denied the Russian claim, suggesting they were still holding on and counterattacking, with the Ukrainian military spokesperson Serhii Cherevatyi reporting “ongoing battles”
Crucially, Ukraine still appears to control the road beyond the town, connecting neighbouring Bakhmut and Soledar with Sloviansk and Kostyantynivka, whose capture would further threaten Ukrainian defenders in Bakhmut. What is clear is that the battle for Soledar and Bakhmut has become emblematic of the current state of the war on Ukraine’s eastern front, and more widely symbolic of the state of Moscow’s offensive.

12 January
Putin’s shake-up of Russia’s commanders won’t quell infighting
Both Western security analysts and pro-war Russian ultranationalists are skeptical the reshuffle will lead to game-changing tactics or restore momentum to Russia’s campaign.
(Politico Eu) After only three months as overall commander of Russia’s war, General Sergei Surovikin has been replaced by his boss, Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, the country’s most senior soldier. Colonel General Alexander Lapin was promoted to chief of the general staff of the ground forces.
Both Western security analysts and pro-war Russian military veterans, however, are skeptical this game of musical chairs will trigger any game-changing tactics or help restore momentum to the Russian campaign. Surovikin will continue as Gerasimov’s battlefield deputy.
Putin’s military reshuffle is more about politics than a change of strategy
Dan Sabbagh Defence and security editor
The Russian president may have put Gen Gerasimov in charge of the invasion to balance tensions between the army and the Wagner group
(The Guardian) … A more likely scenario is that the latest reshuffle is political, coming just at the moment when Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner private military group appears to be, finally, making ground in Soledar. As Prigozhin not very tactfully claimed earlier this week: “No one except for Wagner took part in the storm of Soledar.”
Such is the degeneration of Russia’s regular forces following nearly 11 months of war that Wagner was estimated by the west this week to account for “a quarter or more of Russian combatants” in Ukraine.
Prigozhin and Surovikin are allies, who many believe hope to usurp the Kremlin military establishment of Gerasimov and his immediate boss, defence minister Sergei Shoigu.
Sir Lawrence Freedman, author of Command, a book about the politics of military operations, said: “My suspicion is that this is a move by the old guard against what was seen to be a Prigozhin-Surovikin axis, prompted by Wagner’s propaganda about the Soledar-Bakhmut battle and complaints about Gerasimov’s lack of support.”
That would suggest that Putin is trying to balance tensions between Wagner and the regular army, rather than develop any fresh military strategy.

11 January
Kyiv’s Forces Capture Wagner Fighters’ Laser Devices Used To Detect Drones
The Ukrainian military has reportedly captured the Wagner Group’s novel laser detection device, called the Spider. Sergey Flash, a Ukrainian soldier, shared images of the Spider system that had allegedly been captured during a battle. The captured helmet-mounted device, used as a passive military defence and also had a manual with instructions in Russian. Russia’s private military company, the Wagner Group, is reportedly operating Russia’s prized T-90M tanks in Ukraine.

10 January
Head of Russia’s Wagner group says his troops have taken control of Soledar
(The Guardian) In his nightly address on Tuesday, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanked the “heroic” defenders of Soledar but gave no update on the military situation.
In his address the previous night, Zelenskiy said Ukrainian troops were withstanding “new and even tougher assaults” on the city, amid speculation he was preparing public opinion for the loss of the town. He said Russian forces had taken huge losses in the battle.
“The area near Soledar is covered with corpses of the invaders … this is what madness looks like,” said Zelenskiy. He said the town was completely destroyed and that the Ukrainian resilience had won “additional time and strength” for Ukrainian forces.
Putin’s faltering Ukraine invasion exposes limits of Russian propaganda

9 January
The Long War in Ukraine
The West Needs to Plan for a Protracted Conflict With Russia
By Ivo H. Daalder and James Goldgeier
(Foreign Affairs) Although Ukrainian forces were able to make dramatic gains in the early fall of 2022 and show no sign of letting up the fight, the dynamic of war shifted again in the final months of the year. Ukraine enters 2023 battered and deeply bruised, not least by Russia’s unrelenting missile attacks against its power grid and other civilian infrastructure. Along with reportedly more than 100,000 Russian troops, huge numbers of Ukrainian military personnel and civilians have been killed in the war. Moreover, unlike in the first 10 months of war, there will probably be no significant changes to the current lines of confrontation over the coming months. For one thing, Russia lacks the personnel and materiel to go on the offensive anytime soon, and its missile and drone attacks against Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure have only hardened Ukrainians’ determination to resist. At the same time, Ukraine will find it increasingly difficult to breach Russian defenses at an acceptable cost. Ukrainian forces may continue to launch successful offensives through specific Russian lines, for example, in the south toward Melitopol and the Sea of Azov. But unless Russian defenses collapse completely, Ukraine lacks the personnel to hold such gains for long without exposing itself to Russian counterattacks elsewhere.
Kyiv withstands bombs and blackouts as Russia fails to cripple capital
By Siobhán O’Grady and Anastacia Galouchka
As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters a new year, residents of the Ukrainian capital are living dual lives, caught between a veneer of normality and the trauma of war

8 January
Ukraine’s nation-building progress spells doom for Putin’s Russian Empire
(Atlantic Council) The widespread habit of underestimating Ukrainian agency has led to misleading perceptions of today’s conflict and an over-emphasis on Great Power politics. Such thinking discounts the fact that the Ukrainian people are directly responsible for their country’s recent emergence from centuries of Russian domination and have consciously chosen a democratic, European future. This is the ultimate reason why Putin launched Europe’s largest armed conflict since World War II, and it will continue to reshape the geopolitical landscape long after Russia’s criminal invasion is over.
All countries are defined by common experiences that guide them as nations and determine their future destiny. In Ukraine’s case, it is possible to identify a number of key moments and prominent trends over the past three decades of independence that have placed the country firmly on a path toward democratic development and Euro-Atlantic integration.

5 January
Putin Calls a 36-Hour Cease-Fire, but Ukraine and U.S. Are Skeptical
The cease-fire would coincide with the Eastern Orthodox Christmas on Saturday, but Kremlin adversaries and some analysts call it a ploy for military and political advantage.

4 January
For Russian Troops, Cellphone Use Is a Persistent, Lethal Danger
Ukrainian artillery targets Russian soldiers by pinpointing their phone signals. Despite the deadly results, Russian troops keep defying a ban on cellphone use near the front.
(NYT) …despite a ban on personal cellphones, Russian soldiers in the war zone are still using them to call wives, girlfriends, parents and each other, and still exposing themselves to Ukrainian attacks. After a strike that killed dozens — possibly hundreds — of Russian soldiers this week, one of the deadliest since the invasion began, the Russian military itself acknowledged the problem, using it to explain the heavy losses.

3 January
Russia’s Depraved Decadence The Russians continue to murder both Ukrainians and their own young men for Putin’s mad scheme.
By Tom Nichols
(The Atlantic) The Russians, according to the Ukrainian government, fired more than 80 weapons (mostly, it seems, Iranian-made drones) at Ukraine since the start of the new year, and the Ukrainians claim they intercepted every one of them. But the attack is more evidence that Russia’s war on Ukraine is, at this point, an attempt to murder civilians and torment the survivors enough to press their government to capitulate. The Russians, of course, have misjudged their enemy: The Ukrainians have no intention of surrendering and are fighting back with great effectiveness. The Russian high command learned this yet again over the holiday weekend, when the Ukrainians scored a direct hit on a makeshift Russian barracks, killing at least 89 soldiers.
I write “at least” 89 because that is the number the Russians admit were killed, and therefore it is almost certainly a lie meant to hide larger casualties. …
The successful Ukrainian defense and the Russian losses are good news for Ukraine. Every bit of optimism, however, must be tempered by two realities. First, Ukraine remains outnumbered and potentially outgunned by a much larger Russian Federation. … The second reality, however, is that the Russians don’t really care about losses”.

2022

31 December
Missiles rain down on Ukraine as Putin gives combative New Year speech
(WaPo) This New Year’s message was notably different from previous years, a reflection of the new path the country has taken since Russia invaded Ukraine this February.
In the address, which was broadcast at midnight on Russian state television in line with the country’s 11 different time zones, Putin said Russia was fighting in Ukraine to protect its “motherland” and called 2022 “a year of hard, necessary decisions” and “fateful events” that had laid the foundation of Russia’s future and independence.
In the nine-minute message — the longest New Year’s address in Putin’s two-decade rule — he thanked the Russian army for its “strength of spirit and courage,” before launching into a tirade against the West, which he has repeatedly blamed for provoking the offensive.

29 December
An excellent history of Russia’s wars in winter
Russia’s New Winter War
Could Putin Go the Way of Napoleon and Hitler?
By Antony Beevor
Conclusion:
(Foreign Affairs) Putin’s new commander in chief in the south, General Sergei Surovikin, is determined to clamp down on attempts by some conscripts to avoid combat. Many have been resorting to the sabotage of fuel, weapons, and vehicles, to say nothing of self-inflicted wounds and desertion. Yet the Russian army’s long-standing structural problem—its shortage of experienced noncommissioned officers—has also led to a terrible record of maintaining weapons, equipment, and vehicles. These problems will become especially costly in winter with sensitive technology such as drones.
As both sides enter a far more challenging season of fighting, the outcome will largely depend on morale and determination. While Russian troops curse their shortages and lack of hot food, Ukrainian troops are now benefiting from supplies of insulated camouflage suits, tents with stoves, and sleeping bags provided by Canada and the Nordic nations. Putin seems to be in denial about the state of his army and the way that General Winter will favor his opponents. He may also have made another mistake by concentrating his missiles against Ukraine’s energy network and its vulnerable civilian population. They will endure the greatest suffering, but there is little chance that they will break.

22 December
Russia-supporting Wagner Group mercenary numbers soar
(BBC) Fighters from Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group have ballooned from 1,000 to nearly 20,000 in Ukraine, British government officials say, a sign of Russia’s growing reliance on the military contractor in support of its invasion.
The private military company is now actively promoting its role in the war. As is its main backer, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the man once known as Putin’s chef. But, so far, Wagner’s bark seems to be proving worse than its bite.
The BBC has been briefed by UK officials who’ve been tracking the activities of the Wagner Group. They say the group is now playing a much higher profile role in the war in Ukraine. But officials add that Wagner has also traded “quality for quantity” and is now facing the same challenges and losses on the battlefield as the wider Russian military.

21 December
Putin Concedes Military Failings, but Insists Russia Will Fight On
Nodding to criticism that his army lacked the basic necessities to wage war, the Russian leader said his government was providing “everything that the army asks for.
(NYT) After months of blistering assessments from inside and outside Russia that his war effort in Ukraine lacked even the basic resources necessary to prevail, President Vladimir V. Putin delivered his own verdict on that criticism on Wednesday: It’s valid.
In an unusual acknowledgment of Russia’s shortcomings in a speech at the Ministry of Defense in Moscow, the Russian leader ticked off a list of areas his military must improve on. He declared that drones must be able to communicate targeting information through encrypted channels “in real time.” He said the military needed to “improve the command and control system” and its ability to strike back at enemy artillery.
And he nodded to the widespread reports of soldiers’ being sent to the front without basic equipment, instructing officers to pay attention to “medical kits, food, dry rations, uniforms, footwear, protective helmets and bulletproof vests.”

19 December
Diane Francis: Nuremberg not Negotiations
The world wants peace, but Putin does not. … The only way to achieve peace is to intensify the war until Putin is defeated or removed, and his regime can be prosecuted for perpetrating war crimes, genocide, mass murder, and global terrorism.
A turning point was reached last week when Ukraine struck air bases deep inside Russia — which crossed Putin’s so-called “red line”. Ukraine took no credit, which provided America with plausible deniability, but some raised concerns in Washington and Europe that Kyiv could overplay its hand and provoke more escalatory action from Russia. The attacks, however, demonstrated a new military capability, called Putin’s bluff, exposed the vulnerability of Russia’s air defenses, and briefly boosted Ukrainian morale.

18 December
Kissinger calls for a negotiated peace in Ukraine, Kyiv dismisses his proposal
(Reuters) – Veteran U.S. diplomat Henry Kissinger said the time is approaching for a negotiated peace in Ukraine to reduce the risk of another devastating world war, but the Kyiv government dismissed his comments as amounting to “appeasing the aggressor” and said there could be no deal involving ceding territory.
Kissinger, 99, and an architect of the Cold War policy of detente towards the Soviet Union as secretary of state under Republican presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, has met Russia’s Vladimir Putin multiple times since he first became president in 2000.
Putin meets generals as reports of offensive grow
(BBC) But analysts have questioned Russia’s ability to launch a new offensive on the Ukrainian capital, and White House spokesperson John Kirby said that US intelligence officials “aren’t seeing any indication that there’s an imminent move on Kyiv”.
Senior US defence officials told the Reuters news agency that Russia had been forced to use decades-old ammunition with high failure rates as it burns through its supplies.
They added that “the rate of fire that Russia has been using its artillery and rocket ammunition” could see them run out of reliable munitions by early 2023.
Russia’s ability to mount Kyiv offensive questioned by analysts
Ukrainian commander-in-chief General Valeriy Zaluzhny said he expected a new Russian assault on Kyiv in early 2023.
(Al Jazeera) Despite the Ukrainian capital suffering one of the largest missile attacks since the beginning of the Russian invasion in February, analysts doubt that Moscow is capable of mounting a new ground offensive against Kyiv early next year as Russian forces remain ill-prepared and badly battered after 10 months of warfare.

16 December
Putin’s War
Secret battle plans, intercepts and Russian soldiers’ accounts show how a “walk in the park” became a disaster for Moscow.
(NYT) In interviews, Putin associates said he spiraled into self-aggrandizement and anti-Western zeal, leading him to make the fateful decision to invade Ukraine in near total isolation, without consulting experts who saw the war as pure folly. Aides and hangers-on fueled his many grudges and suspicions, a feedback loop that one former confidant likened to the radicalizing effect of a social-media algorithm. Even some of the president’s closest advisers were left in the dark until the tanks began to move. As another longtime confidant put it, “Putin decided that his own thinking would be enough.”
The Russian military, despite Western assumptions about its prowess, was severely compromised, gutted by years of theft. Hundreds of billions of dollars had been devoted to modernizing the armed forces under Mr. Putin, but corruption scandals ensnared thousands of officers. One military contractor described frantically hanging enormous patriotic banners to hide the decrepit conditions at a major Russian tank base, hoping to fool a delegation of top brass. The visitors were even prevented from going inside to use the bathroom, he said, lest they discover the ruse.
Once the invasion began, Russia squandered its dominance over Ukraine through a parade of blunders. It relied on old maps and bad intelligence to fire its missiles, leaving Ukrainian air defenses surprisingly intact, ready to defend the country. Russia’s vaunted hacking squads tried, and failed, to win in what some officials call the first big test of cyberweapons in actual warfare. Russian soldiers, many shocked they were going to war, used their cellphones to call home, allowing the Ukrainians to track them and pick them off in large numbers. And Russia’s armed forces were so stodgy and sclerotic that they did not adapt, even after enduring huge losses on the battlefield. While their planes were being shot down, many Russian pilots flew as if they faced no danger, almost like they were at an air show.
Stretched thin by its grand ambitions, Russia seized more territory than it could defend, leaving thousands of square miles in the hands of skeleton crews of underfed, undertrained and poorly equipped fighters. Many were conscripts or ragtag separatists from Ukraine’s divided east, with gear from the 1940s or little more than printouts from the internet describing how to use a sniper rifle, suggesting soldiers learned how to fight on the fly. With new weapons from the West in hand, the Ukrainians beat them back, yet Russian commanders kept sending waves of ground troops into pointless assaults, again and again.

11 December
Anne Applebaum on the state of U.S.-Russia relations, and the course of the war in Ukraine (audio)
(CBC Radio The Sunday Magazine) Nearly 10 months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, author, historian and The Atlantic staff writer Anne Applebaum joins host Piya Chattopadhay for a wide-ranging conversation about the state and future of the war as the year draws to a close. Applebaum considers what this past week’s release of American basketball star Brittney Griner in exchange for a convicted Russian arms dealer reveals about U.S.-Russia relations, and offers analysis on the evolving strategies of Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s allies.
Fierce claims to Crimea highlight slim chance of Russia-Ukraine peace deal
Francesca Ebel
(WaPo) After nine months of death and destruction, the key to Russia’s war against Ukraine lies in the craggy, sea-swept peninsula of Crimea — with its limestone plateaus and rows of poplar trees — which Russia illegally annexed in 2014. It was in Crimea in February 2014, not February 2022, that Russia’s invasion and occupation of Ukraine began. And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky insists that only by retaking Crimea will the war end, with Ukraine defeating its Russian invaders. But for Russian President Vladimir Putin, the annexation of Crimea has become a pillar of his legacy, which would crumble if he loses the peninsula. Putin has indicated that any effort by Ukraine to retake Crimea would cross a red line that he would not tolerate.

5-6 December
Another airfield ablaze as drone attacks hit Russia for 2nd straight day
Ukrainian officials have not formally confirmed strikes on Russian air bases
(CBC) A third Russian airfield was ablaze on Tuesday from a drone strike, a day after Ukraine demonstrated an apparent new ability to penetrate hundreds of kilometres deep into Russian air space with attacks on two Russian air bases.
Explosions rock two Russian airbases far from Ukraine frontline
Russia confirms blasts at military facilities as Kyiv finds way to target long-range bombers
Strikes deep inside Russia highlight Ukraine’s tactical ingenuity
Luke Harding
Explosions at Russian airbases are latest example of Kyiv’s continuing capacity to surprise
(The Guardian) The exact cause of the explosion was uncertain. But it appears Ukraine has found a way to target Russia’s long range Tu-95 and Tu-22M aircraft, which are stationed at the airstrips. Since October the Kremlin had used these strategic bombers to wreck Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, bit by bit, leaving millions without heat and electricity as winter arrives.
Soon after the blasts at the airbases, Russia launched a long anticipated mass strike against Ukraine, involving air-and sea-launched missiles from the Black and Caspian Seas.
Ukraine claimed to have shot down 60 of a total of 70 incoming missiles, a new record in the effectiveness of its air defence systems. The Russian defence ministry claimed to have hit 17 targets.
In Kyiv, air raid sirens sounded, and people took shelter in underground metro stations, but no missiles hit the capital, and after three hours the all clear was sounded. The strikes plunged some parts of the country into blackout at a time when temperatures are well below zero, but they appeared to have been significantly less successful in disrupting the Ukrainian power grid than the previous Russian mass missile attack on 23 November.

29 November
The Hard Truth About Long Wars
By Christopher Blattman
Why the Conflict in Ukraine Won’t End Anytime Soon
Most conflicts are brief. Over the last two centuries, most wars have lasted an average of three to four months. That brevity owes much to the fact that war is the worst way to settle political differences.
As the costs of fighting become apparent, adversaries usually look for a settlement.
Many wars, of course, do last longer. Compromise fails to materialize for three main strategic reasons: when leaders think defeat threatens their very survival, when leaders do not have a clear sense of their strength and that of their enemy, and when leaders fear that their adversary will grow stronger in the future. In Ukraine, all these dynamics keep the war raging.
… The war in Ukraine is just the most recent example of a fight that grinds on not because of strategic dilemmas alone but because both sides find the idea of settlement repugnant.
The principles and obsessions of Ukrainian and Russian leaders fuel the conflict.
Recently, realists such as Henry Kissinger and Stephen Walt have urged Ukraine to overcome its ideological barriers and trade some degree of sovereignty for peace. The difference between such realists and the idealists who want Ukraine to keep fighting is simple: they disagree on the cost of the concessions Ukraine might have to make to produce a deal and on the level of Russia’s ideological commitment to the conquest of its neighbor.

23-25 November
Millions without heat or power
(Reuters) – Millions of Ukrainians were still without heat or power on Friday after the most devastating Russian air strikes on its energy grid so far, with residents warned to brace for further attacks and stock up on water, food and warm clothing.
Ukrainian energy systems on brink of collapse after weeks of Russian bombing
(WaPo) After just six weeks of intense bombing of energy infrastructure, Russia has battered Ukraine to the brink of a humanitarian disaster this winter as millions of people potentially face life-threatening conditions without electricity, heat or running water.
As the scope of damage to Ukraine’s energy systems has come into focus in recent days, Ukrainian and Western officials have begun sounding the alarm but are also realizing they have limited recourse. Ukraine’s Soviet-era power system cannot be fixed quickly or easily. In some of the worst-hit cities, there is little officials can do other than to urge residents to flee — raising the risk of economic collapse in Ukraine and a spillover refugee crisis in neighboring European countries.
… Military experts said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was trying to compensate for territorial losses, and to create a sense of war fatigue among Ukraine’s European NATO allies in hopes that they will eventually pressure Kyiv to make concessions and slow arms shipments that enabled Ukraine’s victories.
… For weeks, Russian missiles have targeted key components of Ukraine’s electrical transmission system, knocking out vital transformers without which it is impossible to supply power to households, businesses, government offices, schools, hospitals and other critical facilities.
During a briefing for reporters on Tuesday, Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, the head of Ukrenergo, the state-run power grid operator, called the damage to the power system “colossal.”

15 November
How to end the war in Ukraine? Sit down and talk. It’s time.
By Katrina vanden Heuvel
(WaPo)…exercising diplomacy is just common sense — and there are signs that the White House might be slowly coming around to the possibility.
Russia has in effect already lost the war. President Vladimir Putin’s dreams of annexing Ukraine are shattered. His military weakness has been exposed, his economy damaged, his country isolated, his support weakened. His troops have suffered horrendous casualties; their morale is broken, their ammunition short.
Ukraine’s advances on the battlefield have likewise come at a horrible cost. Milley estimates that each side has suffered at least 100,000 casualties. Totally dependent on aid from the West, Ukraine’s forces are also short on soldiers, guns, air support and artillery. Millions of Ukrainians have been displaced. Russia has savaged Ukraine’s electrical grid. Liberated Kherson, like much of the country, faces a “humanitarian catastrophe.” And as Putin mobilizes more troops, there is little chance that Russia can be dislodged from much of the Russian-speaking east, much less from Crimea.

9-10 November
Battle of Kherson: Russian retreat confirms Putin is losing the war
By Andriy Zagorodnyuk
(Atlantic Council) Russia’s November 9 announcement of a general withdrawal from Kherson is further confirmation that Vladimir Putin is losing the war. The Battle of Kherson itself is still far from over, of course. Ahead are days and possibly weeks of further fighting as tens of thousands of Russian troops attempt to withdraw in good order from strongly entrenched defensive positions. It is entirely possible that this could turn into a rout as isolated pockets of Russian soldiers attempt to save themselves.
Ukrainian officials reacted to news of Russia’s decision to withdraw with an abundance of caution, reflecting concerns in Kyiv that the Kremlin may be seeking to lure Ukrainian troops into a well-prepared trap. Nevertheless, it is already apparent that the Battle of Kherson will end in a landmark Ukrainian victory that will have major ramifications for the further conduct of the war.

In major setback for Putin, Russia withdraws from a key city in southern Ukraine
(NPR) A key city that Russians captured on the second day of their invasion of Ukraine is on the verge of returning to Ukrainian control.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered his troops to retreat out of the Ukrainian city of Kherson to the eastern bank of the Dnipro River on Wednesday on the recommendation of the commander of Russia’s forces in Ukraine, Gen. Sergei Surovikin.
“The decision to defend on the left bank of the Dnipro is not easy, but at the same time we will save the lives of our military personnel and the combat capability of our forces,” Surovikin said in televised remarks as he presented a report on the Russian military campaign to Shoigu.
Russian-installed official in Ukraine’s Kherson region dies in car crash
(Reuters) – One of Russia’s most prominent officials in Ukraine was killed in a car crash on Wednesday, a blow to Moscow in the southern Kherson region amid growing talk it is poised to withdraw its forces from the city of the same name.

7 November
Russia’s heavy casualties in Ukraine spark outcry and rare official response
Steep Russian casualties in key battles in eastern Ukraine have prompted an unusual public outcry — and sharp criticism of military commanders — by surviving soldiers and family members of recently conscripted fighters, who say their units were led to slaughter in poorly planned operations.
The uproar over battlefield losses near Vuhledar in the Donetsk region prompted an official statement from the Russian Defense Ministry, which sought to play down the reportedly high death toll among soldiers in the 155th Separate Guards Marine Brigade, which led Moscow’s offensive in the area.
It was the first time since the start of Russia’s invasion that the ministry has officially responded to reports of mass casualties and criticism of commanders on Telegram, the main platform used by officials as well as by reporters and bloggers covering the Russian war.

3 November
Russia’s war on Ukraine latest news: Retreat in southern Ukraine signalled
(Reuters) – Russian forces are likely to abandon their foothold on the west bank of Ukraine’s Dnipro River, a Russian-installed occupation official said, signalling a massive Russian retreat that, if confirmed, would be a major turning point in the war.
Ukraine capable of retaking Kherson from Russia -Pentagon chief
World must stand with Kyiv as Putin counts on “General Winter”, EU says

2 November
Grain deal U-turn offers lesson in calling Vladimir Putin’s bluff
Russian leader has backed down in face of defiance, and move also shows Turkey’s growing influence
Russia reinforces military, expands Kherson evacuations
Russia has told civilians to leave an area along the eastern bank of the Dnieper River in the Ukrainian province of Kherson.
Russia had previously ordered civilians out of a pocket it controls on the west bank of the river, where Ukrainian forces have been advancing for weeks with the aim of capturing the city of Kherson.
Russian-installed officials said they were extending that order to a 15km (nine mile) buffer zone along the east bank too. Ukraine says the evacuations include forced deportations from occupied territory, a war crime. The mouth of the Dnieper has become one of the most consequential front lines in the war.

1 November
Russia’s Wagner Group ‘have as much power in Kremlin as ministers’
Russian dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky tells UK parliamentary group of ‘terrorism’ threat
(The Guardian) The leaders of the Wagner Group, the Russian mercenary group answerable to Vladimir Putin, now have as much political influence in the Kremlin as the foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu. … Mikhail Khodorkovsky told the foreign affairs committee that Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman who finally admitted in September 2022 that he had founded the group, had as much access to Putin as the formal government officials.
He said Prigozhin was behind the recent appointment of General Sergey Surovikin to head the military operation in Ukraine and was working in close conjunction with him in Ukraine.

27 October
‘Kill Everyone’: Russian Violence in Ukraine Was Strategic
This story is part of an AP/FRONTLINE investigation that includes the War Crimes Watch Ukraine interactive experience and the documentary “Putin’s Attack on Ukraine: Documenting War Crimes,” on PBS.
Takeaways from investigation of Russian general in Ukraine
The Associated Press and FRONTLINE are gathering, verifying and documenting evidence of potential war crimes in Ukraine, including direct attacks on civilians, and attacks on civilian infrastructure including hospitals, schools, residential areas and sites protected under international humanitarian law. War Crimes Watch Ukraine tracks evidence by incident or attack.

26 October
Putin Repeats Unsupported ‘Dirty Bomb’ Claim, Fueling Fears of Escalation
(NYT) The Russian leader said, without offering evidence, that Ukraine was planning to detonate a bomb designed to spread radioactive material. Washington warned that Moscow could be trying to create a pretext for its own attack.
Putin repeats unfounded accusations that the West has labeled disinformation.

25 October
Thomas Friedman: Putin Is Onto Us
The beauty for Putin of an energy bomb is that unlike setting off a nuclear bomb — which would unite the whole world against him — setting off an oil price bomb would divide the West from Ukraine.
I think Putin is assembling a different weapon. It’s an oil and gas bomb that he’s fusing right before our eyes and with our inadvertent help — and he could easily detonate it this winter.
If he does, it could send prices of home heating oil and gasoline into the stratosphere. The political fallout, Putin surely hopes, will divide the Western alliance and prompt many countries — including ours, where both MAGA Republicans and progressives are expressing concerns about the spiraling cost of the Ukraine conflict — to seek a dirty deal with the man in the Kremlin, pronto.
He’s trying to smash Ukraine’s electricity system to ensure a long, cold winter there while putting himself in position to drive up energy costs for all of Ukraine’s allies. And because we — America and the West — do not have an energy strategy in place to dampen the impact of Putin’s energy bomb, this is a frightening prospect. …
As a country, and as a Western alliance, we have no ladder of priorities on energy, just competing aspirations and magical thinking that we can have it all.
Putin scrambles to boost weapons production for Ukraine war
(AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin, facing military production delays and mounting losses, urged his government Tuesday to cut through bureaucracy to crank out enough weapons and supplies to feed the war in Ukraine, where a Western-armed Ukrainian counteroffensive has set back Russia’s forces.
The Russian military’s shortfalls in the eight-month war have been so pronounced that Putin had to create a structure to try to address them. On Tuesday, he chaired a new committee designed to accelerate the production and delivery of weapons and supplies for Russian troops, stressing the need to “gain higher tempo in all areas.”
Russian news reports have acknowledged that many of those called up under a mobilization of 300,000 reservists Putin ordered haven’t been provided with basic equipment such as medical kits and flak jackets, and had to find their own. Other reports have suggested that Russian troops are increasingly forced to use old and sometimes unreliable equipment and that some of the newly mobilized troops are rushed to the war front with little training

21-23 October
Putin has found a new weapon of mass destruction
The Kakhovka dam holds more than 18 million cubic metres of water. If destroyed it would hurl an all-engulfing wall of water into 80 towns and villages along the Dnieper, including Kherson city with a pre-war population of 284,000, drowning thousands, creating a deluge of refugees, depriving the whole of southern Ukraine of its water supply, dangerously cutting off cooling water to the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant and creating severe power outages for hundreds of thousands of people.
Richard Kemp
(The Telegraph UK) Killing thousands of people and unleashing untold environmental damage by blowing up a hydroelectric dam is unlikely to give the slightest pause to Russia’s new supreme commander in Ukraine, General Sergei Surovikin, if he thinks it will bring him military advantage. President Zelensky has suggested that is exactly what Surovikin has in mind to counter a potential Ukrainian breakthrough that threatens defeat for Russia around Kherson.
… Surovikin now faces his greatest challenge: putting an end to Russia’s humiliation in Ukraine. In an unusual admission for a Russian commander he has said “the situation is tense” in the south, ominously adding: “we will not exclude taking the most difficult decisions”.
One of those decisions will be on the Kherson front which holds the key to defending Crimea. For weeks the Ukrainian army has been pressing attacks against Russian troops on the west bank of the River Dnieper, some of which have been repelled. Surovikin also faces huge difficulties keeping an over-stretched Kherson defence force stocked with ammunition, fuel and combat equipment, partly due to the damage inflicted earlier this month on the Kerch bridge from Russia to Crimea, a major supply artery.
If Surovikin decides he cannot hold Kherson city, he may order a withdrawal to the east of the river and, as well as evacuating civilians, there is evidence that Russia has already begun pulling back military equipment and troops rather than risk the significant losses sustained in the north east of the country. If Ukrainian forces do break through there, one option would be to blow up the dam of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant, flooding vast areas along the Dnieper to slow the advance. Zelensky says Russian forces have already prepared the dam for demolition by attaching powerful explosive charges.
The Kakhovka dam holds more than 18 million cubic metres of water. If destroyed it would hurl an all-engulfing wall of water into 80 towns and villages along the Dnieper, including Kherson city with a pre-war population of 284,000, drowning thousands, creating a deluge of refugees, depriving the whole of southern Ukraine of its water supply, dangerously cutting off cooling water to the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant and creating severe power outages for hundreds of thousands of people.

Russia’s grip on Kherson slips as civilians flee Ukraine counteroffensive
Evacuation of city ordered amid fears Russian forces may blow up hydroelectric dam at Nova Kakhovka
(The Guardian) The US thinktank the Institute for the Study of War said the urgent call indicated that the occupiers “do not expect a rapid Russian or civilian return” to the city, and appeared to be trying to depopulate it to damage its “long-term social and economic viability”.
Russia’s position in Kherson has looked vulnerable for weeks, but at one point the Kremlin appeared keen to fight for the city, the only provincial capital its forces have captured in the war, and stationed 20,000 troops in and around it.
But Ukrainian successes on the northern section of the frontline in September, including the recapture of Izium, appear to have persuaded the Russians that they can no longer maintain forces west of the Dnipro because their position is too stretched overall.
Ukraine troops say Russian woes could preface pullback in south
(Reuters) – To the Ukrainian soldiers entrenched north of the Russian-held city of Kherson, a recent drop-off in Russian shellfire and armour movements signals that their foes dug into a nearby tree line are suffering serious manpower, supply and hardware woes.
That may mean the Russians are preparing to abandon their defence of the provincial capital and retreat across the Dnipro River, the soldiers said when Reuters visited their positions on Friday.

Leave a Comment

comm comm comm