One year, when I was in college, it snowed. At lot. And no, that’s not because it was during the Ice Age.
In any case, this was Kentucky, where snowplows were considered exotic beasts and 30” of white stuff was enough to literally call out the National Guard, declare a statewide emergency, and put the campus on a lockdown. Also, since this was Kentucky, and college, and and the dorms were segregated by gender, it took roughly twelve hours before the dorm where I lived was missing big chunks of walls and ceilings. Twenty-four before someone on my floor decided that patterning a 12 gauge shotgun on the fire door was a keen idea.
Stick with me. This is going somewhere.
In order to distract the student body before our snow break generated a body count, the campus administration quickly came up with a series of competitions, from snow sculpture to a makeshift musical, in a desperate attempt to keep us from being the idiots that we were. And somehow, in that middle of that, I found myself playing in a campus-wide, winner-take-all, no-holds-barred tournament of that most time-consuming and monotonous game: Risk.
If you’ve never played Risk … don’t bother. But for anyone who has, you’re almost certainly familiar with the final stage of the game, when the last two players on the board are trying to drive each other to extinction. What I mostly remember from that tournament, again and again, was that the final stage looked like this: Player 1 tried to push player 2 off the map, but got carried away and fell short. What looked like a massive army at the outside dwindled as it fought and spread. That left their forces spread paper thin all over the map, easy pickings for Player 2 when that player mounted their own counteroffensive. If the first player didn’t start with enough to guarantee carrying them through, they often found the tables turning. Quickly.
The idea of “the hunter becoming the hunted” has long roots. Greek mythology has a very literal version of this, when the hunter, Actaeon, is transformed into a deer by the goddess Artemis and is then chased and torn apart by his own hunting dogs (yeeks). Real life rarely provides such clear examples as board games and myth, but what’s going on right now in Ukraine certainly seems pretty close.
Even though Russia spent much of last week floating claims that they were going to take more and more and more of Ukraine, the truth seems to be that Putin’s offensive in the Donbas has stalled out short of objectives. While there continues to be fierce exchanges at many points along the front line, and Russia continues to launch attacks toward positions like Bakhmut and Bohorodychne, there are no confirmed reports of a significant gain by Russian forces in over two weeks. In that same period, a number of villages either returned to Ukraine or been thrown into dispute as Ukraine has refused to give Russian forces a chance to catch their breath.
At this point, the Ukrainian ministry of defense estimates the Russians have suffered 39,000 killed in action over the course of the invasion. U.S. intelligence estimates that 85% of the Russian military is already actively engaged in Ukraine. When Russia discovered it could not quickly take all of Ukraine, it withdrew and refocused on capturing a much smaller area. Months later, it hasn’t managed to accomplish even that.
The biggest signal of a big change in the conflict continues to be in the west. That’s where Ukraine is demonstrating to a suddenly terrified Russia just who is in control of the situation. Ukrainian forces have isolated what’s reported to be over 1,000 Russian troops in the town of Vysokopillya. Ukraine has planted neat patterns of craters on both the Antonovskyi Bridge outside Kherson and the Kakhova Bridge 50km to the north, both to limit the utility of those bridges and to make it clear to Russia that they can close those bridges whenever they want. And Ukraine has taken down a series of bridges across the Inhulets River, showing that they can isolate Russian forces inside Kherson oblast, making it extremely difficult for Russia to move to points of conflict, or to get supplies to their troops in forward positions.
Russia seems to be responding by attempting to build a series of pontoon bridges to cross the wide Dnipro River near Kherson, a tactic that cannot hope to keep the area adequately supplied, even if they make it work. Pontoon bridges are easy to take out. So are vehicles queuing to get onto a pontoon bridge, something Russia might remember from a place called Bilohorivka.
There are now more reports of abandoned Russian positions, and of positions in the city of Kherson that have been handed on inexperienced troops and Russian sympathizers, as the experienced Russian forces have apparently gone out to powder their nose.
That thread also reports Russian soldiers shedding their uniforms, and Russian troops looting in the high end areas of the city. There are also reports of more explosions on the bridge and just outside the city. In essence, Vysokopillya is just a miniature version of Kherson. Or Kherson is a larger version of Vysokopillya. In both cases, they my not yet be physically surrounded, but the range and precision of Ukrainian weapons mean they are effectively surrounded.
One other thing you can pick up by playing Risk: Ukraine is a really difficult place to hold. It touches so many areas. Scandinavia. Southern Europe. Northern Europe. They can all reinforce Ukraine.
Explosion at Horlivka
Showing that Ukraine’s new use of precision guided weapons that can hit well behind Russian lines, there was this explosion on Saturday in Horlivka, in Russian-occupied territory north of Donetsk. The target seems to have been a repair facility for Russian equipment, and past tense is definitely deserved.
The distance of this strike means it might have been drone-guided artillery, rather than HIMARS. Either way … what a shot.
Thermite in Donetsk
At this point, there have been dozens, if not hundreds, of videos of Russia using white phosphorus munitions in this invasion, usually against urban areas. But this is just flat out strange. On Saturday evening, the sky over Russian-occupied Donetsk was weeping that all too familiar fire.
The best bet on this is that someone simply screwed up. There has also been a lot of speculation that this is a false flag operation, something that Moscow dreamed up in order to justify doing … something. Maybe issuing a general mobilization and sending people to the front with clubs.
It certainly could have come from Ukraine, especially from someone still boiling over Russia’s continued attacks on civilian areas. But if so, this is the first time Ukraine has been seen using incendiaries since the invasion began.
Russian And friends Follies
Strike up the Liberty Bell March!
In this first one, the tank driver apparently forgets that tanks have a barrel, and that barrel can’t magically pass through trees.
This Belarus crew is out to show they are better showmen than Kadyrov’s Chechens.
Proof that WWII era tanks just don’t want to go to Ukraine.
This instructional video on how to throw your own people off a tank, then repeatedly almost run over them, has been seen before, but is worth a repeat.
Missile go up, missile go down. Very close to where missile go up.
I would love to know what this guy says shortly after this missile launches. I can’t stop matching this thing. Somehow … so satisfying.
Showing Josh Hawley how it’s done.
And finally, the musical part of our program. Please stick with this one at least 30 seconds until you can see the expansive, enthusiastic audience.
Reports that Yaremivka (яремовка) and Studenok (студенок) on either sides of the Siverskyi Donets River between Izyum and Slovyansk have been abandoned by Russian forces who packed up and left no idea if this has any implications
Multiple reports that Russia has people out there on Sunday trying to patch the damaged bridges. If there is a top 10 “jobs I don’t want to do today…”
This is reportedly the results of a Ukrainian strike on a Russian base in Chulakivk, which is on that spit of land that juts back to the west beneath Kherson. According to the tweet, “it is no longer there.”
Click here to donate to help those escaping Putin's illegal invasion of Ukraine.