Reports continue to stream in of confirmed and rumors Ukrainian advances. In Mark Sumner’s last update, he gave up trying to post an accurate map. There isn’t one that can keep up with Ukraine’s shockingly fast rate of advance.
Tomorrow, Sunday, I’ll make an effort to collate advances. For now, we’re likely at 3,000 square kilometers liberated since Monday, and the rate of advance remains unchecked by any organized opposition in the Kharkiv direction, in the country’s northeast. I’ll update with some of the rumored advances below, but for now, I want to focus on this:
[Update: The “unconfirmed reports” are not confirmed … as false We have conclusive evidence that Russia is still in control of the Donetsk airport.]of
Donetsk is the capital of Donetsk Oblast, where Russians have spent over eight years trying to push Ukraine away.
In 2014, frustrated with an Orange Revolution that ousted the Kremlin’s puppet in Kyiv, Russia instigated its first war against Ukraine, using proxies to carve out two “republics”—Donetsk (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republics (LPR).
For whatever reason, Russia never took advantage of Ukraine’s then-corrupt and hopelessly outclassed military to inflict deeper damage, and the conflict festered over the following eight years until this February’s invasion. Still, the two fake Donbas republics served to destabilize the regime in Kyiv, while providing an artificial barrier to NATO membership; the alliance will not accept new members with internal territorial disputes. Had Russia focused its entire war might in Donbas in February, pushing to those oblasts’ administrative borders, there’s a good chance the West would’ve mostly stayed out of the conflict, like they did during Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea. Instead, Vladimir Putin overreached, just one of myriad mistakes that have led Russia down such a ruinous path.
Another one of those mistakes—Russia never bothered to economically build up their slices of Donetsk and Luhansk, leaving them economic basket cases. Russia’s neglect wasn’t particularly noteworthy—Russia doesn’t care about the economic conditions of its own citizens outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg—but why would any Ukrainian, even the Russian-speaking ones, look at what was happening in Russian-occupied Donbas and think “I want me some of that.” Indeed, Russia leaned on rote WWII fetishization and grandiose imperialistic claims to instill pride in its subjects.
Yet this war hasn’t been kind to Russian-occupied Donbas. The two proxy armies have suffered a disproportionate number of the war dead and injured. LPR’s population is only 400,000, and DPR’s is 2.3 million—compared to the rest of Ukraine’s 30 million. Yet their men up to the age of 65 have been forcefully conscripted.
More videos here and here. This wasn’t a war these poor saps wanted to fight, yet they have been pressed into battle with zero training and WWII era equipment … or even older.
Do these look like fierce warriors? Those helmets are ancient, and the rest of their gear OMG.
These souls are all likely dead, maybe in one of those ridiculous “reconnaissance by fire” efforts around Popasna, or Izyum, or Dovhen’ke. You know the ones—Russia sends a squad of proxy cannon fodder to see if a town has resistance. If so, they all die. But whatever, Russia saturates the position with artillery. When done, they send the next squad. Rinse, lather, repeat, until a squad makes it to the new grid marker and dies. Start the process over.
That’s why Russia has advanced so slowly. This is not an efficient or effective way to wage war. Yet Russia has mostly made sure to protect its soldiers from this meat grinder tactic. It’s the Donbas fodder that gets thrown into that wood chipper.
Look at these sad sacks, lucky enough to get captured this week during the Kharkiv offensive:
What do they care about Izyum or Kupiansk or Vladimir Putin? They are watching their comrades die for a war they never asked for, with no bearing to their lives. And there are too many stories like this one:
A mother living in Donetsk said in an interview that her son had initially avoided conscription because he had previously completed his military service.
“He wasn’t the fighting type,” she said, recalling he would tell her: “Mum, I just can’t kill a person.” But in April, she said, he was picked up off the street, put on a bus and driven to the conscription office, with time only to call his mother and ask her to bring him some personal belongings. “They drove him to the conscription office, changed his clothes, changed his shoes and drove him to the base and then to the fighting,” she said.
He was killed a few weeks later. “I think he probably didn’t kill anyone, in the end,” she added. “He didn’t get the time.”
There’s a reason I get no pleasure seeing pictures of dead Russians (Wagner mercenaries the exception)—too many are like this kid, trying to avoid getting sucked into Putin’s meat grinder. If it’s them or Ukrainian soldiers, then of course, the choice is obvious. But best case is they surrender or quit. And we’re seeing more of that lately.
There are reports that entire units of Donbas conscripts are abandoning positions or surrendering en masse in both the Kharkiv and Kherson fronts. And while originally skeptical, the evidence is becoming more and more obvious as Ukraine moves through empty positions, and more and more pictures of POWs emerge.
What’s more, notice in the video above they take note of the looting. It’s not just that their officers are scum criminals. They loot because they don’t have those things back home. These Donbas residents have been propagandized by Russia that they have it better than the rest of Ukraine. Yet they step over the line, and people have washing machines. Yes, the memes are funny, but they also speak to the massive inequities between Ukraine—which remember, is the second poorest nation in Europe—and both the Donbas and Russian hinterlands.
So given the choice, why would they choose to live in a place that doesn’t value their lives, that force-conscripts them into a war they never asked for, that equips and treats them so poorly, and that is clearly economically disadvantaged?
A Ukrainian liberation of the entire Donbas seems inevitable at this point. There are no men left to resist.
So what are the possibilities:
- A localized Orange Revolution in those two places, ousting the pro-Kremlin puppets and spurring a bloodless reintegration with the rest of Ukraine.
- Disorganized mass surrender, Ukrainian troops enter, some local forces resists, others throw away their weapons and gear and go home.
- Negotiated surrender. We saw the Taliban employ this tactic to great effect in Afghanistan, and rumors are that Russian and Ukrainian commanders have been negotiating Vovchank’s surrender on Russia’s border. There is an evacuation of Russian residents and collaborators. Once finished, Russian forces might simply retreat back to Russia. Same could happen here in Donbas, with Ukrainian commanders negotiating Ukraine’s entrance into Donetsk and the rest of the Donbas.
- More war. Maybe those sad Donbas troops are propagandized enough that they believe horror stories about Ukrainian rule, and they fight for their home turf like they won’t fight for the rest of Ukraine. Possible, but doesn’t seem likely.
Funny, I wrote the meat of this story on Friday, and planned to run it on Sunday to give myself a little breather and time off. But given how quickly things are moving, there’s a very real chance this may already be happening, and that the Ukrainian flag could be flying over Donetsk in short order.
That is, of course, a best-case scenario. But the myth of Donbas superiority is in tatters, and there’s little reason left for anyone except Moscow’s quisling puppets to look east for the region’s future.
Rebuilding Ukraine will cost hundreds of billions. Given the tattered state of Russian-occupied Donbas, that part of the country might cost even more to rebuild.
Rumors have Ukrainian soldiers well north of this, outside Vovchank’s gates:
Remember, during Ukraine’s first Kharkiv counter-offensive a few months ago, we dreamed of Ukraine getting within artillery range of either Kupiansk or Vovchansk? Both were critical supply hubs, and either would’ve crippled the Russian war effort. It didn't happen then, but now, Ukraine will soon be in physical control of both.
Without Kharkiv advances, we would’ve been thrilled with 400 square kilometers liberated in Kherson. Poor guys have been overshadowed.
The Antonovsky bridge is usable again—Russia moved to supply trucks gingerly over the rickety span today. Ukrainian sources say that they’ve let it be half-assed repaired on purpose—Russian and proxy forces are invited to leave … on foot. Heavy equipment wouldn’t make it across.
If Jews didn’t exist to blame for everyone’s ills, imagine how much personal responsibility people would be forced to endure.
RT’s Margarita Simonyan is one of the Kermlin’s most notorious propagandists. We’ve seen her in plenty of videos railing against the Nazis in Ukraine. Suddenly, she’s all kumbaya?
Yup, we know where this is all going.
Remember the 3rd Army Corps? They were that unit of around 15,000 volunteers from all of Russia’s regions, that supposedly was going to help spearhead new Russian advances. Well …
That inverted triangle with the circle is the symbol of the 3rd Army Corps. They finally got sent somewhere, to Kupyansk, and the result seems inevitable—poorly trained, old, out-of-shape volunteers who signed up to escape Russia’s culture of microloan debt never stood a chance.
Nearly 4,000 square kilometers, and this is very conservative speculation. Doesn’t include hundreds more gained in Kherson oblast.
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