Mitch Joel WARNING... LONG RANT! It takes a lot for me to both get angry and publish about it. Canada’s…
Putin’s War Russia-Ukraine 21 March 2023-
Intercepted calls from the front lines in Ukraine show a growing number of Russian soldiers want out
(AP) The calls offer a rare glimpse of the war as it looked through Russian eyes — a point of view that seldom makes its way into Western media, largely because Russia has made it a crime to speak honestly about the conflict in Ukraine. They also show clearly how the war has progressed, from the professional soldiers who initially powered Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion to men from all walks of life compelled to serve in grueling conditions.
The prospect of another wave of mobilization lingers, even as Moscow has been trying to lure people into signing contracts with the military. Russia’s annual autumn conscription draft kicked off in October, pulling in some 130,000 fresh young men. Though Moscow says conscripts won’t be sent to Ukraine, after a year of service they automatically become reservists — prime candidates for mobilization.
Ukraine war latest: Russia ‘concerned’ control is slipping in parts of country, analysts suggest; Putin moving forces in east – ‘new wave’ predicted
(Sky news) Ukrainian officials expect to face a new wave of attacks on the eastern front, as Russia moves troops and equipment into the area. Meanwhile, a barrage of overnight strikes set fire to an oil refinery in Ukraine, while a railway junction was hit in Russian-occupied Donetsk.
Fires at oil refinery and railway after strikes View post
Ukraine expects to face ‘new wave’ of attacks on eastern front View post
Russian officials ‘increasingly concerned’ about losing authoritarian control in some areas View post
Biden threatens to veto Israel-only aid bill View post
Philip Ingram analysis:Who is winning the war? View post
Explained:How the Black Sea became a crucial theatre View post
Live reporting by Brad Young
Russian Planes Reportedly Dropped Mines Along Ukraine’s Safe Corridor For Grain Ships
Russian planes reportedly have mined the maritime corridor that Ukraine established in the western Black Sea in order to safeguard the export of grain to Europe and Africa. It seems to be the first time in Russia’s 21-month wider war that the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s aircraft have deployed sea mines.
Russian planes reportedly have mined the maritime corridor that Ukraine established in the western Black Sea in order to safeguard the export of grain to Europe and Africa. It seems to be the first time in Russia’s 21-month wider war that the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s aircraft have deployed sea mines.
Anne Applebaum: There Are No Rules
States and quasi-states are using extreme, uninhibited violence against civilian populations
(The Atlantic) Although terrorist tactics are usually associated with small revolutionary movements or clandestine groups, terrorism is now simply part of the way Russia fights wars. Although a sovereign state and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia first began deliberately hitting civilian targets in Syria in 2015. …
In Ukraine, Russia has once again used artillery, cruise missiles, and drones, including Iranian drones, to hit an even wider range of civilian targets: houses, apartment buildings, churches, restaurants, ports, grain silos. Just last week, Russian missiles hit a shop and café in the small village of Horza, killing more than 50 people. This kind of strike had no conventional military justification. The point is to create pain, cause civilian deaths, and sow disruption—nothing else. Russian propagandists praise the destruction and call for more: “We should wait for the right moment and cause a migration crisis for Europe with a new influx of Ukrainians,” one of them told a television talk show.
Ukraine’s Strike Campaign Against Crimea Seeks to Degrade Russian Defenses in Southern Ukraine and Supports Ongoing Ukrainian Counteroffensive Operations
Nicole Wolkov and Mason Clark
ISW special edition update on Ukraine’s strike campaign against Crimea
Key Takeaway: Ukrainian forces have conducted a campaign of strikes against Russian military infrastructure, headquarters, and logistics routes in Crimea since June 2023 in order to degrade the Russian military’s ability to use Crimea as a staging and rear area for Russian defensive operations in southern Ukraine. Ukrainian strikes on logistics routes are disrupting Russian supplies to Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblast. Strikes on Black Sea Fleet assets are degrading its role as a combined arms headquarters but have not defeated it as a naval force. Ukrainian strikes generate outsized morale shocks among Russian commanders and in the Russian information space. Western provision of long-range missiles to Ukraine would amplify this ongoing, essential, and timely campaign to weaken Russia’s ability to defend southern Ukraine.
Gwynne Dyer: Ukrainian forces soon in position to starve out Russian army
The breakthrough in Ukraine is happening now, but in slow motion.
(London Free Press) It’s nothing like the great breakthroughs of the mid-twentieth century wars, when combined air and ground forces would tear a hole in the enemy line, the tanks would pour through, and the front would roll back several hundred kilometres before it stabilized again.
The breakthrough in Ukraine is happening now, but in slow motion. Even on the fastest-moving front, in western Zaporizhzhia, it has taken the Ukrainian infantry ten weeks to advance ten kilometres through the dense and heavily defended Russian minefields, not much faster than the British army at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
But the Ukrainians finally have broken through the main Russian line just to the west of the fortified village of Verbove, and they have expanded the breech wide enough to start moving heavy equipment through it.
There are further, less well built Russian entrenchments behind this line, and even more trenches are being dug farther south right now, so don’t imagine Ukrainian tank columns racing across the landscape. Unless the Russian army collapses, it’s never going to be like that again.
Russia accuses Ukraine’s Western allies of helping attack its Black Sea Fleet headquarters
(AP) — Russia on Wednesday accused Ukraine’s Western allies of helping plan and conduct last week’s missile strike on the Black Sea Fleet’s headquarters on the annexed Crimean Peninsula.
“There is no doubt that the attack had been planned in advance using Western intelligence means, NATO satellite assets and reconnaissance planes and was implemented upon the advice of American and British security agencies and in close coordination with them,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a briefing.
The Kim-Putin meeting signals a potential new era in relations between Moscow and Pyongyang.
They gazed into the workings of a Russian rocket launchpad. They tucked into crab dumplings, sturgeon and entrecôte. And they lifted their glasses at a flower-lined table in the conference room of a remote Russian spaceport, toasting the Kremlin’s “sacred struggle” against Western adversaries whom they branded a “band of evil.”
‘Everything is ahead of us’: Ukraine breaks Russian stronghold’s first line of defence
In an exclusive interview, a leading Ukrainian general says his forces have made a vital breakthrough near Zaporizhzhia
(The Guardian) Ukrainian forces have decisively breached Russia’s first defensive line near Zaporizhzhia after weeks of painstaking mine clearance, and expect faster gains as they press the weaker second line, the general leading the southern counteroffensive has said.
Brig Gen Oleksandr Tarnavskiy estimated Russia had devoted 60% of its time and resources into building the first defensive line and only 20% each into the second and third lines because Moscow had not expected Ukrainian forces to get through.
Ukraine says Jeddah talks ‘huge blow’ to Russia, new meeting agreed
(Reuters) – A senior Ukrainian official said on Monday that the weekend’s talks in Saudi Arabia about the war in Ukraine dealt a “huge blow” to Russia, and that the participants agreed to hold another meeting of political advisers within about six weeks.
Ukraine calls Jeddah talks productive, Russia calls them doomed
(Reuters) – A senior Ukrainian official said on Sunday that talks in Saudi Arabia to make headway towards a peaceful settlement of the war with Russia had been productive, but Moscow called the meeting a doomed attempt to swing the Global South behind Kyiv.
More than 40 countries, including China, India, the United States, and European countries, but not Russia, took part in the Jeddah talks that ended on Sunday (6 August). … Saudi Arabia’s Media Ministry said participants had agreed on the importance of continuing consultations to pave the way for peace. European officials have said participants planned to establish working groups to address specific problems raised by the war.
Any closer to peace after Jeddah talks?
(GZERO) The Ukrainian delegation reportedly said Zelensky’s proposals were supported by several in attendance.
Meanwhile, China’s special envoy for Eurasian affairs, Li Hui, noted that the participants had “many disagreements,” adding “we have heard different positions, but it is important that our principles are shared.” Beijing also reportedly expressed enthusiasm for a third round of talks.
We’ll be watching to see what Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is trying to rehabilitate his image after years of very bad PR and boost his profile as a legitimate international interlocutor, does next. He had a lot riding on this summit, and while Ukraine and Russia seem too far apart to imagine any significant progress, China’s involvement offers a glimmer of hope.
Ukraine war latest: Missile attacks reported across Ukraine after Moscow issues retaliation threat; US drone ‘intercepted by Russian jet’
(Sky News) A Ukrainian sea drone has attacked a Russian fuel tanker near Crimea Bridge, 24 hours after another struck a Black Sea Fleet ship near the port of Novorossiysk; missile attacks have been reported across Ukraine after Moscow warned of retaliation.
China to attend talks on Ukraine in Saudi Arabia that exclude Russia
Chinese move is boost for Ukraine and Saudi hosts
Russia not invited to talks
Ukraine hopes to leverage Saudi diplomatic reach
(Reuters) – China on Friday said it would send a senior official to Saudi Arabia for weekend talks on finding a peaceful settlement to the war in Ukraine, a forum that excludes Russia, in a diplomatic coup for Kyiv, the West and the Saudi hosts.
By pulling out of the Ukrainian grain deal, Russia risks alienating its few remaining partners
(AP) By pulling out of a landmark deal that allowed Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea, Russian President Vladimir Putin is taking a gamble that could badly damage Moscow’s relations with many of its partners that have stayed neutral or even been supportive of the Kremlin’s invasion of its neighbor.
Russia also has played the role of spoiler at the United Nations, vetoing a resolution on extending humanitarian aid deliveries through a key border crossing in northwestern Syria and backing a push by Mali’s military junta to expel U.N. peacekeepers — abrupt moves that reflect Moscow’s readiness to raise the stakes elsewhere.
Putin’s declared goal in halting the Black Sea Grain Initiative was to win relief from Western sanctions on Russia’s agricultural exports. His longer-term goal could be to erode Western resolve over Ukraine and get more concessions from the U.S. and its allies as the war grinds toward the 17-month mark.
The Kremlin doubled down on terminating the grain deal by attacking Ukrainian ports and declaring wide areas of the Black Sea unsafe for shipping.
But with the West showing little willingness to yield any ground, Putin’s actions not only threaten global food security but also could backfire against Russia’s own interests, potentially causing concern in China, straining Moscow’s relations with key partner Turkey and hurting its ties with African countries.
Russia targets Ukraine’s port of Odesa and calls it payback for a strike on a key bridge to Crimea
(AP) — Ukraine said its forces shot down Russian drones and cruise missiles targeting the Black Sea port of Odesa before dawn Tuesday in what Moscow called “retribution” for an attack that damaged a crucial bridge to the Crimean Peninsula.
The Russians first sought to wear down Ukraine’s air defenses by firing 25 exploding drones and then targeted Odesa with six Kalibr cruise missiles, the Ukrainian military’s Southern Command said.
Ships Bound for Ukraine Will Be Considered Hostile, Russia Says
(NYT Live) The comments by Moscow’s Defense Ministry came after Russia withdrew from a deal allowing Ukraine to ship grain, and after strikes that Ukraine said were aimed at grain infrastructure.
Here’s what we’re covering:
Wheat prices spike after Russia raises tensions in the Black Sea.
Russia strikes Odesa for a second day after withdrawing from the grain deal.
Video suggests Wagner leader visited Belarus to address his troops this week.
Britain’s spy master says Putin cut a deal with Prigozhin to end the Wagner mercenaries’ brief revolt.
The Pentagon unveils $1.3 billion for Ukraine, bringing total new U.S. aid this week to $2.3 billion.
What Russians saw on TV: The traitor and the ‘indisputable hero.’
Putin will not attend an August summit in South Africa in person, the Kremlin says.
All Is Not Well on Russian Front Lines
Dara Massicot, a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, focusing on Russian defense and security issues.
(NYT Opinion) In the wake of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s failed rebellion, it seems as if Russia’s leaders are living in an alternate reality.
The sequence of events speaks for itself. Russian troops waved through Wagner columns on their way to Moscow, and curious civilians greeted them in the street with snacks; President Vladimir Putin recast this sight as a unified Russian society. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu hid out of sight as his subordinates chatted with Mr. Prigozhin; he emerged days later to praise officers for their loyalty. One of Russia’s most experienced generals, Sergei Surovikin, was filmed in a nondescript room requesting that Wagner stand down; he has not been seen since, while Russia’s incompetent military leadership team remains in place. Most strangely, Mr. Prigozhin — the architect of it all — goes between being unpersoned to apparently meeting with Mr. Putin to smooth over differences of opinion.
Thousands of Ukraine civilians are being held in Russian prisons. Russia plans to build many more
(AP) Thousands of Ukrainian civilians are being detained across Russia and the Ukrainian territories it occupies, in centers ranging from brand-new wings in Russian prisons to clammy basements. Most have no status under Russian law.
And Russia is planning to hold possibly thousands more. A Russian government document obtained by The Associated Press dating to January outlined plans to create 25 new prison colonies and six other detention centers in occupied Ukraine by 2026.
In addition, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree in May allowing Russia to send people from territories with martial law, which includes all of occupied Ukraine, to those without, such as Russia. This makes it easier to deport Ukrainians who resist Russian occupation deep into Russia indefinitely, which has happened in multiple cases documented by the AP.
Russian General Denounces His Bosses as Officers Are Fired or Questioned
The Wagner group mutiny three weeks ago has exposed dissension and fueled a shake-up in the Russian military, as it tries to fend off a Ukrainian advance.
(NYT) A top Russian general in Ukraine has lashed out at his bosses after being fired from his command, accusing them of undermining the war effort with dishonesty and politicking, in the latest sign of turmoil within the Kremlin’s military leadership.
In a four-minute recording released late Wednesday night, Maj. Gen. Ivan Popov addressed his troops, accusing his superiors of inflicting a blow on his forces by removing him from his post in retaliation for voicing the truth about battlefield problems to senior leadership behind closed doors. His firing, and the unusual public airing of his grievances, reflected the disarray that has roiled Russia’s military command since a failed mutiny three weeks ago.
Russia ousts general leading Moscow’s fight in southern Ukraine
When Will Putin Finally Grasp That Russia Has Lost?
That the war is going badly for Russia is seemingly something everyone knows but him
By Jeremy Kinsman
Analysis: Ukraine rolls back 6 months of Russian gains in 5 weeks
Assessment of Ukraine’s counteroffensive suggests it has retaken 253sq km (98sq miles) of its territory since June.
(Al Jazeera) Ukraine’s counteroffensive slowed down visibly in the 72nd week of the war because of entrenched Russian defences as NATO allies pledged more heavy weaponry for the fight.
That assessment was given by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in an interview, but even as he spoke, the United States was helping to move Ukraine past that obstacle, pledging to give it cluster bombs designed for use against heavily fortified defensive positions.
After Armed Rebellion, Putin Tries to Reinforce His Defenses
[T]he Russian president is rewarding loyalty among the ruling elite and showering his most important constituency — the men with guns — with cash.
For decades, people who know him say, Mr. Putin has been remarkably focused on his personal security and on preventing rivals from using the powers of government against him. Now, in the aftermath of last month’s short-lived rebellion led by Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner private mercenary group that fought for Russia in Ukraine, Mr. Putin appears to be scrambling to coup-proof his system once more.
… But analysts say they believe that Mr. Putin will face new threats, especially as he continues to empower a patchwork security apparatus composed of different interests and power centers. On Tuesday, Russia suffered yet another embarrassment when several drones were intercepted in the Moscow region, the latest in a series of aerial attacks on Russia’s capital for which the Kremlin has blamed Ukraine.
Russian elite brace for sweeping Kremlin investigation into Wagner rebellion
rumors abounded and paranoia deepened over whether Prigozhin had support from the upper reaches of Russia’s military or security services, and what the probes might reveal about treachery within Putin’s regime.
(WaPo) The Kremlin was in overdrive on Thursday striving to consolidate control and project an image of normalcy as questions swirled about the whereabouts of a top general, and Russia’s elite steeled themselves for a sweeping investigation into last weekend’s mercenary rebellion.
Among those being questioned, according to Russian media and members of the elite, was Gen. Sergei Surovikin, commander of the Russian aerospace forces, who had good relations with Wagner boss Yevgeniy Prigozhin. He reportedly intervened to sort out Prigozhin’s demands for ammunition after complaints that his fighters were poorly supplied.
Kremlin-connected political consultant Sergei Markov said the investigation into the mutiny was far-reaching.
“Everyone who was close to Prigozhin is being investigated,” Markov said. “I am sure that at least several hundred people are being investigated. The aim is to get information about who in reality took part or did not take part, to find out who took part in the betrayal, who took part in some kind of negotiations and should have told the authorities about it.”
After Failed Mutiny in Russia, U.S. Sanctions Wagner Funders as Fighters Remain in Africa & Syria
After the Wagner Group’s aborted mutiny in Russia, the Biden administration has imposed new sanctions on companies accused of profiting from the activities of the Wagner Group in Africa. This comes as Russian military police raided Wagner mercenary bases in Syria. Meanwhile, in Belarus, where Wagner Group leader Prigozhin is now exiled, The New York Times is reporting on construction of a new military base for Wagner fighters given the option of relocating there after the failed uprising. We speak with political scientist Kimberly Marten, who has been studying the Wagner Group for years and says that despite recent events, Russia’s war in Ukraine and its presence in other countries is unlikely to be affected.
Russian General Arrested Following Wagner Mutiny
(Moscow Times) The Defense Ministry has yet to comment on the alleged arrest of Surovikin, who has not been seen in public since Saturday, when Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin launched an armed rebellion against Russia’s military leadership. “The situation with him was not ‘OK.’ For the authorities. I can’t say anything more,” one of the sources said. According to the second source, the arrest was carried out “in the context of Prigozhin.”
Senior Russian General Knew About Wagner Leader’s Mutiny Plans – NYT
Russia’s former top commander in Ukraine, General Sergei Surovikin, had advanced knowledge of Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin’s plans to topple the country’s military leadership last weekend, The New York Times reported Tuesday, citing unnamed U.S. officials.
“Prigozhin would not have launched his uprising unless he believed that others in positions of power would come to his aid,” according to the officials cited by the newspaper.
Intelligence and Russia’s Pseudo-Coup
Yet again, the spooks come through for Western policymakers trying to decipher riddles wrapped in mysteries inside enigmas
Even by impressively high Russian standards for weirdness, last weekend witnessed a strange series of events unfold in that country at war. Tensions that had been building inside Russia’s military machine over the last 18 months, as the Kremlin tried and failed to subdue Ukraine at an appalling cost in lives and treasure, finally burst forth in public.
How the attempted rebellion in Russia could affect Putin’s war in Ukraine
(PBS Newshour) … for more insight on what the revolt means for Russia’s war in Ukraine, we turn to Samuel Bendett, a Russian military analyst for the Center for Naval Analyses.
Samuel, what lies ahead for the Wagner Group? Because Yevgeny Prigozhin has said that his fighters will never accept the options that Vladimir Putin put to them today, which is fight for Russia, go home or go to Belarus.
Samuel Bendett: This is something that a lot of us are trying to figure out. And these questions are probably going to reverberate for the next several weeks, if not months. Clearly, Wagner is not dismantled. Clearly, it’s still a functioning organization. Clearly, there are officers in the Wagner Group that are still with Prigozhin.
And, clearly, Wagner is still a useful force internationally, especially in Africa, when it comes to many of Russia’s geopolitical interests. So it isn’t as simple as simply dismantling Wagner. There’s a lot of money invested. There’s a lot of effort invested.
Wagner mercenary chief says Russia’s war in Ukraine based on lies
Prigozhin takes feud with top brass to new level
Accuses it of deceiving Putin over Ukraine war
Says war was about army chief’s vanity and personal glory
Says oligarchic ruling clan wanted to enrich itself
(Reuters) – Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Friday that the Kremlin’s rationale for invading Ukraine was based on lies concocted by his perennial adversary – the army’s top brass.
“There was nothing out of the ordinary happening on Feb. 24 … the Defence Ministry is trying to deceive society and the president and tell us a story about how there was crazy aggression from Ukraine and that they were planning to attack us with the whole of NATO,” Prigozhin said, calling the official version “a beautiful story”.
“The war was needed … so that [Defence Minister Sergei] Shoigu could become a marshal … so that he could get a second ‘Hero’ [of Russia] medal. The war wasn’t needed to demilitarise or denazify Ukraine.”
Wagner spearheaded Russia’s capture of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut last month, and Prigozhin has used its battlefield success – achieved at enormous human cost – to publicly criticise Moscow with seeming impunity.
He has not, however, criticised President Vladimir Putin, on whose support he ultimately depends.
Putin Talks Tough While Ukraine Makes Gains
Ukraine’s counteroffensive is on the move, but so are Putin’s nuclear weapons.
By Tom Nichols
(The Atlantic) The Ukrainians are making progress in their long-awaited counteroffensive. Meanwhile, the Russian president is talking like a gangster and rattling the nuclear saber—again.
the war in Europe grinds on, consuming lives, burning cities, and threatening global peace. The Ukrainian counteroffensive is now clearly under way, and Kyiv’s forces are making incremental but concrete gains along the front. The Ukrainians are, for the moment, calm and confident; the Russians less so. …
As for Putin’s threats, the Russian president seems to be venting and showing off, which is one way to know that we are not yet in a crisis. When national leaders stop appearing in public, and both Moscow and Washington go quiet, that’s a time to worry.
Russian forces face shortage of tanks as counteroffensive creeps forward
Ukraine forces slowly pushing back Putin’s troops, claims Kyiv, aided by western hardware
Russia’s forces are suffering a shortage of tanks, the country’s defence minister has admitted, as Ukraine’s offensive in the south and east continued to push back the frontline with the help of western hardware.
Putin sides with military chiefs over placing Wagner under direct control
Russian leader says move must be made ‘as quickly as possible’ after Wagner boss refuses to sign contracts
After a destructive feud between his top military chiefs and the mercenary warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin, Vladimir Putin has appeared to side with his top brass, calling for Russia’s “volunteer detachments” fighting in Ukraine to be placed under the direct control of the defence ministry.
The decision severely undermines Prigozhin, who has turned Wagner’s role in the capture of Bakhmut into an outsized public profile in Russia that he uses to berate Putin’s generals and promote himself.
Belarus starts taking delivery of Russian nuclear weapons
Lukashenko says he already has Russian tactical nuclear weapons
Indicates delivery process is ongoing
Says their use can be swiftly agreed with Moscow
(Reuters) – Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said his country has started taking delivery of Russian tactical nuclear weapons, some of which he said were three times more powerful than the atomic bombs the US dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
The deployment is Moscow’s first move of such warheads – shorter-range less powerful nuclear weapons that could potentially be used on the battlefield – outside Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Russia, which will retain control of the tactical nuclear weapons, would start deploying them in Belarus after special storage facilities to house them were made ready.
The Russian leader announced in March he had agreed to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, pointing to the U.S deployment of such weapons in a host of European countries over many decades.
Did Russia Just Destroy a Dam to Thwart Ukraine’s Counter Offensive?
The former US Ambassador to Ukraine thinks so.
(Global Dispatches) In an interview yesterday, the former US Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst told me [Mark Leon Goldberg] that all signs to point to Russian malfeasance. He explains that the now flooded battle lines along the Dnipro river were likely to be a key focus of a Ukrainian counteroffensive aimed at cutting off the “land bridge” between Russian-occupied Ukraine in the east and Russian-occupied Crimea in the south.
John Herbst: Well, a cui bono analysis would point the finger at the Russians because this dam will seriously complicate Ukraine’s plans for a counter-offensive in the south. And we know the Russians have been extraordinarily nervous about this counter-offensive. So again, a cui bono analysis would point the finger at them. And what we know — what the international community knows — is that the Russians have mined that dam since last fall when they were worried about a possible Ukrainian offensive across the Dnipro river. And I’ve heard from non-official Ukrainian sources, but credible ones, that the explosion was from within. And that’s an area, of course, which the Russians control, as opposed to, being the result of Ukrainian artillery firing into the dam.
If, indeed, Putin ordered the destruction of the dam on the very first day of a Ukrainian counter-offensive it would imply a willingness to sharply shift tactics beyond the routine attacks on civilian infrastructure we have seen thus far — the ruthless bombing of apartment buildings, schools and hospitals. Rather, blowing up a dam to forestall a Ukrainian advance suggests that Russia is willing to spark a major (and indiscriminate) ecological and humanitarian disaster if doing so is believed to provide some near term benefit to Moscow.
Putin probably ordered the destruction of the Kakhovka dam. But would he also instigate a major nuclear crisis, including the potential meltdown of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant?
That we do not know the answer to this question is what makes this moment so dangerous — for those in Ukraine and beyond.
… The Kakhovka dam was built over sixty years ago and forms a massive reservoir, roughly the size at the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Upstream, the dam provides water to prevent a meltdown at Europe’s largest Nuclear Power Plant. (The IAEA says there’s no immediate risk to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant — the cooling ponds are not rapidly depleting.)
Russia and Ukraine trade blame for destruction of Kakhovka dam, power plant
Zelensky accuses Russia of ‘ecocide’ and ‘deliberate destruction’ of dam
U.S. has not determined blame for damage to dam, White House says
Maps show how damaged Kakhovka dam hurts both Ukraine and Russia
(WaPo) Ukraine and Russia on Tuesday accused the other of attacking a major dam and hydroelectric power plant in southern Ukraine, which unleashed flooding near the front lines. Officials on both sides ordered residents to evacuate as water gushed from the rupture in the Kakhovka dam on the Dnieper River, which separates Ukrainian and Russian forces.
The world’s atomic energy watchdog warned the warring sides not to undermine the safety of the nearby nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia but said there was “no immediate risk” to it.
Key Ukrainian dam blown up, Kyiv blames Russia
Those living near the Nova Kakhovka hydroelectric plant have been urged to leave their homes.
(Politico Eu) Explosions at a major hydroelectric plant in eastern Ukraine have unleashed flooding across the war-torn region, threatening the lives of civilians, officials in Kyiv said early Tuesday.
In a statement posted Tuesday morning, Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command said “Russian occupation troops blew up the dam” at Nova Kakhovka, in the Kherson region. “The scale of destruction, speed and amount of water, and likely areas of flooding are being determined.”
Wagner captures Russian commander as Prigozhin feud with army escalates
Lt Col Roman Venevitin seen telling interrogator he ordered troops to shoot at convoy of mercenaries
(The Guardian) Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner group of mercenaries has captured a Russian commander, as the notorious leader further escalates his feud with the regular army.
In a video posted on Prigozhin’s social media channels, Lt Col Roman Venevitin, the commander of Russia’s 72nd Brigade, tells an interrogator that, while drunk, he had ordered his troops to fire on a Wagner convoy.
Last week, Prigozhin accused the Russian army of trying to blow up his men as they were pulling back from the eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut.
Prigozhin, who has been arguing with top military officials for months, announced last week that his troops had largely pulled back from Bakhmut, most of which they captured last month after taking heavy casualties. The city is now believed to be controlled by the regular Russian forces.
Large-scale drone attack hits Moscow for first time in Ukraine war
Rare strike on Russian capital unnerves Muscovites who had been told conflict would not threaten them
(The Guardian) Moscow has been targeted with a large-scale drone attack for the first time in its 15-month-old war in Ukraine, marking a new inflection point in the conflict, with the Kremlin threatening to take the “harshest possible measures” in response to the strikes.
Russia continues to pummel Ukraine with deadly missile and drone strikes on a near-daily basis. Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, faced its third air raid in 24 hours on Tuesday morning.
Video posted on social media early on Tuesday showed one low-flying drone exploding in a field outside Moscow, and others flying over houses in the city’s expensive Rublyovka district or tower flats in south-west neighbourhoods. Another video from Moscow’s outskirts showed a Pantsir surface-to-air missile system firing at a target nearby.
Ian Bremmer: No, the US didn’t “provoke” the war in Ukraine
Is the US to blame for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
That’s what Jeffrey Sachs thinks. In a recent op-ed titled “The War in Ukraine Was Provoked” the Columbia University professor – a man I’ve known and respected for a solid 25 years, who was once hailed as “the most important economist in the world” and who’s played a leading role in the fight against global poverty – argues that the United States is responsible for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine 15 months ago.
The War in Ukraine Was Provoked—and Why That Matters to Achieve Peace
By recognizing that the question of NATO enlargement is at the center of this war, we understand why U.S. weaponry will not end this war. Only diplomatic efforts can do that.
(Common Dreams) Regarding the Ukraine War, the Biden administration has repeatedly and falsely claimed that the Ukraine War started with an unprovoked attack by Russia on Ukraine on February 24, 2022. In fact, the war was provoked by the U.S. in ways that leading U.S. diplomats anticipated for decades in the lead-up to the war, meaning that the war could have been avoided and should now be stopped through negotiations.
Recognizing that the war was provoked helps us to understand how to stop it. It doesn’t justify Russia’s invasion. A far better approach for Russia might have been to step up diplomacy with Europe and with the non-Western world to explain and oppose U.S. militarism and unilateralism. In fact, the relentless U.S. push to expand NATO is widely opposed throughout the world, so Russian diplomacy rather than war would likely have been effective.
Russia’s Rogue Commander Is Playing With Fire
Yevgeny Prigozhin has picked a public fight with the Russian military leadership in Ukraine. Why does the Kremlin tolerate him?
By Mikhail Fishman
(The Atlantic) In his videos, Prigozhin refers to Putin as the supreme commander in chief who understands the Wagner Group’s needs and gives orders that would fulfill them. These orders are then sabotaged by the military command.
In other words, Prigozhin is sticking with the lifesaving formula known in Russia as the “good tsar surrounded by bad boyars.” To turn on Putin would be suicide for him: He is waging an unequal fight with the Russian military leadership that has come to look like a fight for his own survival, and in which Putin is his only cover.
Legally, the Wagner Group shouldn’t exist. Russian law holds mercenary activities to be punishable by years in prison. And yet, with Putin’s blessing, the Wagner Group has evolved into a powerful private army with its own heavy weaponry and even its own air force.
African leaders plan ‘peace mission’ to Russia and Ukraine.
(NYT) South Africa’s president said officials from six nations would visit Kyiv and Moscow as part of the initiative. The time frame remained unclear.
As South Africa faces increasing pressure over its close ties to Russia, the country’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, said on Tuesday that leaders from six African countries would visit Moscow and Kyiv on a “peace mission” in a bid to end the war in Ukraine.
Mr. Ramaphosa said both President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine welcomed the initiative — which includes Egypt, Zambia, Senegal, Uganda and the Republic of Congo — in separate phone calls over the weekend.
16 May UPDATE
Yes, Russia Is Using Ancient Tanks in Combat in Ukraine. But Not as Tanks.
The surprising resurgence of the Soviet-era T-54 has taken a new twist —supposedly used not so much as tanks, but as armored artillery vehicles firing indirect shells at distant targets.
Russia Sending T-55s to Ukraine?
This tank series formed the backbone of the Warsaw Pact’s armor fleets throughout the Cold War and were built in vast numbers, with it thought that perhaps as many as a 100,000 manufactured by the time its production ended in the 1980s. Because of this the T-54/55 still provides service in large quantities all around the world today, with many users choosing to undertake thorough upgrades to their fleets to keep them viable.
Russia Sending T-55s to Ukraine? (YouTube)
Some footage on social media is sparking speculation that the Russian forces in Ukraine may soon be fighting in museum pieces.
Wagner chief offered to give Russian troop locations to Ukraine, leak says
Yevgeniy Prigozhin said he would tell Ukraine’s military where to attack Russian troops if it pulled its own forces back from the beleaguered city of Bakhmut, where Wagner mercenaries were taking heavy losses
(WaPo exclusive) Prigozhin said that if Ukraine’s commanders withdrew their soldiers from the area around Bakhmut, he would give Kyiv information on Russian troop positions, which Ukraine could use to attack them. Prigozhin conveyed the proposal to his contacts in Ukraine’s military intelligence directorate, with whom he has maintained secret communications during the course of the war, according to previously unreported U.S. intelligence documents leaked on the group-chat platform Discord.
Two Ukrainian officials confirmed that Prigozhin has spoken several times to the Ukrainian intelligence directorate, known as HUR. One official said that Prigozhin extended the offer regarding Bakhmut more than once, but that Kyiv rejected it because officials don’t trust Prigozhin and thought his proposals could have been disingenuous.
A U.S. official also cautioned that there are similar doubts in Washington about Prigozhin’s intentions. The Ukrainian and U.S. officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information.
But there is no debating Prigozhin’s bitter frustration with the grinding fight in Bakhmut. He has complained, publicly and privately, that the Russian Defense Ministry has not given his fighters the ammunition and other resources they need to succeed. Bakhmut, in eastern Ukraine, has seen some of the bloodiest fighting of the war. Over the past few months, in a grinding back and forth measured by city blocks, Ukrainian and Russian forces have taken steep casualties.
Four Russian military aircraft shot down near Ukraine, Russian daily reports
(Reuters) – The Russian news outlet Kommersant reported that two Russian fighter jets and two military helicopters had been shot down on Saturday close to the Ukrainian border, in what would be a spectacular coup for Kyiv if confirmed.
Kommersant, a respected, independent business-focused daily, said on its website that the Su-34 fighter-bomber, Su-35 fighter and two Mi-8 helicopters had made up a raiding party, and had been “shot down almost simultaneously” in an ambush in the Bryansk region, adjoining northeast Ukraine.
Wagner boss Prigozhin says situation on Russian flanks near Bakhmut is bad
(Reuters) – The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group said on Thursday that his forces’ flanks were under pressure near the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, resulting in the loss of ground that his men had captured at heavy cost.
Yevgeny Prigozhin has argued that it is the job of regular Russian forces to protect Wagner’s flanks near Bakhmut, the city at the centre of the longest and bloodiest battle of the war.
Russian brigade seriously damaged, Bakhmut still Moscow’s top target – Kyiv
(Reuters) – Ukraine’s military said on Wednesday its forces had seriously damaged though not destroyed Russia’s 72nd Separate Motor-rifle Brigade near Bakhmut, and that the eastern city remained Moscow’s main target.
Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesperson for Ukrainian troops in the east, said the situation remained “difficult” in Bakhmut, but that Moscow was increasingly forced to use regular army forces because of heavy losses among the Wagner private army group.
Russia’s future rests on Ukraine war, Putin tells Victory Day parade
(BBC) Vladimir Putin has said Russia’s future “rests on” the soldiers fighting in Ukraine, during his annual speech to mark Victory Day in Moscow.
The military parade, which commemorates the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, was scaled back this year for security.
Mr Putin also used his speech to justify his invasion of Ukraine, while accusing “Western globalist elites” of provoking conflicts.
Civilisation is again “at a decisive turning point”, he said in Moscow’s Red Square to a crowd composed of just officials and veterans, as the event was not open to the public.
Addressing the troops fighting in Ukraine – some of whom were present – Mr Putin said a “real war” had been “unleashed” against Russia. The reality is that it was Russia that invaded Ukraine.
Russia’s Wagner boss threatens Bakhmut pullout in Ukraine
By DAVID RISING
(AP) — The owner of Russia’s Wagner military contractor threatened Friday to withdraw his troops next week from the protracted battle for the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, accusing Moscow’s military command of starving his forces of ammunition.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, a wealthy entrepreneur with longtime links to Russian President Vladimir Putin, claimed that Wagner fighters had planned to capture Bakhmut by May 9, Russia’s Victory Day holiday celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany. But they were undersupplied and suffering heavy losses, he said, and would hand over operations to the regular army on May 10.
No love lost between Russian military and Wagner mercenaries
(AP) A threat by the owner of private Russian military company Wagner on Friday to withdraw his fighters from the battle to seize an eastern Ukrainian city is another flareup in his dispute with Russia’s regular military over credit and tactics in the war. Here is a look at Wagner’s history and its role in the fighting.
Explosion over the Kremlin
What does it mean? More of the same from Russia
Without providing any evidence, or giving any reason why such a thing might be true, Russian authorities blamed Ukraine, claiming that it was an assassination attempt directed against Vladimir Putin.
The Russians have lied about every major event in this war, and have always presented themselves and their president as its victim. So we would be justified in doubting what they say.
Ukrainian authorities deny having anything to do with the drones over the Kremlin. They would have nothing to gain from such an operation, and very much to lose.
My own sense is that the most likely scenario is that Russian state staged the incident as fake justification for war crimes in Ukraine. My own perspective is influenced by my work as a historian of these kinds of operations (false-flag, or maskirovka). I know that they happen. But remember that history is also full of uncoordinated actions and improvisations.
The Russia propaganda response is a reason to believe that this was a Russian maskirovka.
Four Possibilities for the Kremlin Attack
Moscow claims Ukraine struck the Kremlin. The truth is likely worse.
By Tom Nichols
Two drones struck inside the Kremlin complex early this morning. We don’t know exactly what happened, but the Russian claims of a Ukrainian attack are doubtful. Russia may now have a domestic-terrorist problem—but it’s more likely that Vladimir Putin’s regime is preparing an excuse for a new escalation.
First, it is possible that the Ukrainians or some Ukrainian team in Moscow could have used drones. But it is unlikely, because it doesn’t make much sense.
A second possibility is that Russian intelligence and military authorities got wind of a plot by some group to strike the Kremlin, and then let it happen as a way to goad Putin into using even more force in Ukraine.
It is also possible that the strike on the Kremlin came from Russian dissidents, especially if it was done with some sort of crude, jerry-rigged device. Again, unlikely but not impossible, especially with social anger rising over waves of conscription that were supposed to take place out in the Russian boondocks and never touch Moscow and St. Petersburg.
But the most disturbing possibility is that this is a Russian government put-up job from start to finish. There are several reasons this makes more sense than other explanations.
A year of bitter and bloody war in Ukraine has devastated the country, further isolated Russia from the West and fueled economic insecurity around the world.
White House Sets Russian Troop Losses at 100,000 Over Last 5 Months
At least 100,000 Russian fighters have been killed or wounded in Ukraine in the past five months, the White House said on Monday, the latest measure of the vast human toll of President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion.
John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said the figure included 20,000 Russian fighters who had been killed in action. About half of those were mercenaries for the Wagner group, the paramilitary force founded by Yevgeny V. Prigozhin that recruited heavily from Russian prisons to bolster its ranks and carry out a brutal campaign around the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
Russia missile attack on Ukraine injures 34, damages homes
(AP) Russia launched missiles at Ukraine on early Monday, damaging buildings and wounding at least 34 people in the eastern city of Pavlohrad, but failing to hit Kyiv. In what has become a grinding war of attrition, the fiercest battles have been in the eastern Donetsk region.
Russian War Report: Russia cancels Victory Day parades and moves “Immortal Regiment” marches online
Russia escalates Avdiivka, Marinka front lines; Belgorod accidentally bombed by a Russian jet
Russia’s Bashkir battalions form a new motor rifle regiment as more are sent to Ukraine to replenish Russian forces
Russian mobilized soldiers report signs of coercion to join Wagner in support of Bakhmut offensive
Russia cancels Victory Day parades and moves “Immortal Regiment” marches online
Pro-Kremlin experts use false story to claim military upper hand over Ukraine and NATO
Wagner members claim killing of Ukrainian civilians
West prepares for Putin to use ‘whatever tools he’s got left’ in Ukraine
Officials ready for nuclear threats and cyber-attacks as part of Russian response to predicted counter-offensive
Western leaders are preparing for Vladimir Putin to use “whatever tools he’s got left” including nuclear threats and cyber-attacks in response to an expected Ukrainian counter-offensive against Russia.
British officials at the G7 foreign ministers’ summit in Japan said they were expecting Russia to retaliate and “must be prepared” for extreme tactics as it attempted to hold on to Ukrainian territory.
The former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said last month that Moscow was ready for the Ukrainians to hit back, warning that his country would use “absolutely any weapon” if Kyiv attempted to retake Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.
Wagner mercenary admits ‘tossing grenades’ at injured Ukrainian PoWs
Former convict tells of torturing troops and says he does ‘not regret a single thing’
Vladimir Putin may at last be glimpsing victory
Con Coughlin, The Daily Telegraph defence editor
Irrespective of the validity of the information contained in the leaked documents, the Ukraine conflict may be nearing a watershed moment, one where, without Kyiv receiving more support from the West, there is a real risk of the war ultimately turning in Vladimir Putin’s favour.
(The Telegraph UK) … The documents also seem to confirm what many of us have feared since the outset of this terrible conflict: that some Western leaders have little faith in Ukraine’s ability to achieve victory. One document from early February expresses misgivings about the prospects of Ukraine’s forthcoming counter-offensive, warning that problems with generating and sustaining sufficient forces will only result in “modest territorial gains”.
It could be, then, that even Kyiv’s strongest allies believe the Ukrainian conflict is heading for a bloody stalemate. This could embolden those Western leaders who already have reservations about maintaining their support for Ukraine. This could even have an impact on their commitment to sending weaponry and other aid, which will alarm Kyiv because it has been facing crippling shortages. …
These assessments will certainly lend encouragement to Moscow’s forces which, while lacking the means to conduct their own offensives, have succeeded in strengthening their defences. According to the latest British military intelligence reports this week, the Russians have completed the establishment of three new lines of defensive formations along a 75-mile long stretch of the Zaporizhzhia region in eastern Ukraine to protect Crimea from attack.
Russian pro-war military blogger killed in blast at St Petersburg cafe
Tatarsky was one of the leading voices in the pro-war blogger community. The bloggers, who are frequently former veterans with contacts on the frontlines, often provide a rare insight into Russia’s real performance on the ground and are allowed a surprising amount of leeway to criticise the conduct of the war – although they rarely criticise Putin. In a sign of their growing importance, the Russian president last year established a taskforce to coordinate work between the government and the bloggers. If Tatarsky was deliberately targeted, his death will be the second killing on Russian territory of a prominent pro-war figure.
Prominent Russian military blogger killed in cafe blast: Reports
Explosion in a St Petersburg cafe kills Vladlen Tatarsky, an influential blogger with 560,000 Telegram followers, Russian news agencies say.
Tatarsky is the pen name for Maxim Fomin, who had accumulated more than 560,000 followers on Telegram and was one of the most prominent of the influential military bloggers who have provided an often critical running commentary on Russia’s war in Ukraine.
A St Petersburg website said the explosion took place at a cafe that had at one time belonged to Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner Group of mercenaries fighting for Russia in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Zelenskyy is ‘ready’ for Chinese leader to visit
(AP) — Ukraine’s president invited his powerful Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to visit his nation, saying they haven’t been in contact since the war began and he is “ready to see him here.”
“I want to speak with him,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy told The Associated Press on Tuesday, the week after Xi visited Russian President Vladimir Putin last week. China had no immediate response about whether a Xi visit to Ukraine would happen.
China has been economically aligned and politically favorable toward neighboring Russia across many decades, and Beijing has provided Putin diplomatic cover by staking out an official position of neutrality in the war. Xi, a powerful leader who commands the resources of the world’s most populous nation, is an important player in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and even China’s lack of involvement is a potent statement.
Russia hits Ukraine with missiles, drones as ‘dear friend’ Xi departs
(Reuters) – Russia blasted an apartment block in Ukraine with missiles on Wednesday and swarmed cities with drone attacks overnight, in a display of force as President Vladimir Putin bid farewell to his visiting “dear friend” and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Ecumenical patriarch: Russian Church shares blame for ‘crimes’ in Ukraine
Bartholomew is spiritual head of worldwide Orthodox Church
Says ready to help ‘spiritual regeneration’ of Russia, Ukraine
He angered Moscow by recognising separate Ukraine Church
(Reuters) – The spiritual head of the world’s Orthodox Christians said on Wednesday that Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church shared responsibility for the conflict in Ukraine but that he stood ready to help in Russia’s postwar “spiritual regeneration”.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s comments are a rebuke for Russian Patriarch Kirill, whose full-throated blessing for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has splintered the worldwide Orthodox Church.
The Ecumenical Patriarch is based in Istanbul and is viewed as “first among equals” in the Orthodox Church, which has some 260 million followers worldwide, around 100 million of them in Russia.
Xi invites Putin to China in show of support as Moscow talks continue
Chinese and Russian leaders to discuss Ukraine in formal talks after friendly dinner, while Fumio Kishida meets Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv
Xi and Putin sign agreements as Japan’s leader visits Ukraine
Putin praises Chinese proposal on peace in Ukraine, but no sign of progress
Putin, Xi agree on expanding natural gas trade, other economic ties
Visit by Japan’s Kishida to Kyiv gives sharp contrast to Xi in Russia
(WaPo) Chinese leader Xi Jinping met with Russian President Vladimir Putin for some three hours of formal talks at the Kremlin on Tuesday, the second day of a three-day visit. The leaders signed two agreements, one affirming their partnership and one setting out plans for economic cooperation, which they discussed at a joint news conference. … They did not announce any major progress toward peace in Ukraine.
Xi Seeks Tighter Cooperation With Russia at Kremlin Talks
Xi Jinping promised to strengthen coordination with Russia at a Kremlin summit with President Vladimir Putin on the Chinese leader’s first visit to Moscow since the beginning of Russia’s assault on Ukraine.
(Moscow Times) Both nations seek allies to counteract Western power and the two are expected to sign a raft of economic cooperation agreements.
Putin called the talks “meaningful and frank” and said that Russia, which has been largely cut out of European markets because of sanctions, would be able to meet China’s “growing demand” for energy.