UPDATE: Mark Sumner
Russia is also capable of creating disasters. Though they’re definitely not natural.
UPDATE: Mark Sumner
This is another of those images that makes my jaw drop. Look at the arrow locations. Now think about what it would be like to try and walk up to and beyond those locations.
UPDATE: Mark Sumner
Don’t you dare step across this line! Well, okay, but not this line. This time I mean it! Oh, come on guys…
UPDATE: Mark Sumner
Rheinmetall has reportedly reached out to Ukraine to negotiate the delivery of their next generation Panther KF51 tank, a Leopard 2 replacement. It’s supposed to be both faster and tougher than the existing tank without being heavier. However, it’s also unlikely to roll off the assembly line for about two years, so this is definitely long term planning.
UPDATE: Mark Sumner
A portion of a message from Russian Telegraph channel “GREY ZONE.”
A f*ck-up is underway around Vuhledar, and it is happening over and over again, often in the command of the same units … [the 155th Naval Brigade of the Pacific Fleet] along with the marines from the 40th Separate Naval Infantry Brigade and the special forces of the 14th Spetsnaz Brigade.
These scenes speak for themselves. At least 30 units of lost equipment, burning tankers running around, and … BMPs crushing friendly forces.
Russian military sites are using the images of the fight provided by Ukraine, because Russia is giving them nothing.
UPDATE: Mark Sumner
This is a large Mi-24 gunship, the kind that was famously known as a “Hind” during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. It’s often compared to an old U.S. Huey in that it also sometimes serves as a troop transport.
It’s not clear what role this particular helicopter was playing on the front, but the way it goes out is interesting — because it first lands on the battlefield. Maybe it was brought down by anti-aircraft fire, or just a lucky rifle shot, but it seems to come down without drama. Then, after settling safely on the ground, the Mi-24 gets taken out by artillery. That seems like a pretty odd ending for a helicopter.
On Thursday morning, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine warned in their daily update that Russia is “Trying to take full control over the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.” In the process, Russia is attacking at five points of the line: near Kupyansk in the far north; in the area around Kreminna; north and south of the long-battered city of Bahkmut; northwest of Donetsk around Avdiivka; and in the south along a front that includes the town of Vuhledar.
This “five fronts” approach led Russia to spawn at least 19 assaults on Ukrainian towns and villages. It also shelled an astounding 115 settlements, hit 67 sites with attacks from MLRS, conducted 41 air strikes, and engaged in three long-range missile attacks. All that in a single day.
The scale of the Russian offensive, when written out this way, is certainly daunting. In fact, it looks overwhelming. And it might be, if almost every aspect of this winter offensive didn’t seem to be generating an absolute disaster for Russia. That includes two battles that are now vying to enter the record book as among Russia’s top five defeats of the entire invasion.
Back in May, kos wrote about Russia’s attempted crossing of the Siverskyi Donets River near Bilohorivka. At the same time that Russia was attacking the city of Severodonestk, it attempted to create a makeshift bridge across the river, which would have allowed it to bring forces rapidly into areas that were then behind the Ukrainian lines. Only Ukraine spotted the effort while the bridge was still in the planning and was prepared on the south bank of the river.
Over a three-day period, Russia made as many attempts to cross the river; even though they were aware they were under Ukrainian observation and that artillery was being brought to bear on their bridge under construction, they tried again. And again. Each time, Ukraine waited until the bridge was almost complete, and until Russian forces were lined up to cross, before simply pulverizing whole lines of vehicles. In all, at least 82 armored vehicles were destroyed, including 14 tanks and 35 BMP armored fighting vehicles.
Though Russia lost more forces in the attempt to drive that “40 kilometer convoy” down the road from Belarus to Kyiv, it’s hard to find an incident where Russia suffered a larger loss in a smaller space than on that riverbank west of Bilorivka.
But that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped trying. Over the last week, Russia made at least two attempts to move north near the town of Vuhledar. The first of these ended in a widely reported disaster. So did the second. But now the scale of the failure related to an effort to advance to the southwest of Vuhledar on Tuesday is becoming clear and … holy ****.
Each of the attacks at Vuhledar seems to have resulted in greater losses than the last. Which should not be a surprise. When Russia keeps trying to make the same kind of advance in the same location, artillery, MLRS, and drones are already targeting the area and ready to go. So Ukraine can dispatch them even faster and more efficiently. That’s just how it worked at Bilohorivka — each Russian defeat was worse than the one that came before.
And in this case, Russian forces seem to be moving slowly through relatively open territory, over roads that are heavily mined. Videos show vehicles creeping along, trying to swing around when members of their convoy strike a mine, and coming under patient, precise strikes from artillery guided in by drones hovering constantly overhead. All the while, Russian infantry clusters first around one vehicle, then another, dashing without an apparent plan from place to place, trying to find something like safety … until all the vehicles, and the people, are gone.
Though this video attributes the destruction to the use of HIMARS, really, there doesn’t seem to be good evidence that this is the case.
Just look at that area. Look at the clear, prolonged view that Ukrainian forces have of the approaching Russians. Any precision artillery is capable of this sort of brutal disassembly. Even traditional artillery could manage it with the real-time correction available from observation drones.
On the left of this image is some of the carnage in the wake of the attempted bridge crossing at Bilohorivka. On the right is a partial scene from one of the disasters near Vuhledar. It’s not certain which list of losses is greater, and Russia might try it again today.
And wait. That’s not all.
The biggest offensive that pro-Russian channels have been talking about for the last two weeks was the supposedly enormous move that was coming from Kreminna. After weeks of Ukrainian forces knocking on the city’s door, Russian forces—including both Wagner Group and VDV—were supposedly massed in the area for a major attack that would see Russia remove Ukrainian forces from Luhansk, recapture Lyman, and once again threaten to attack major cities in Donetsk across that same Siverskyi Donets River.
What had been seen so far didn’t look that major, as Ukraine reportedly repulsed attacks on two small villages northwest of Kreminna, but the big show was reportedly still coming. And here it is…
[Previous video of the Kreminna area and some associated text deleted after it proved to be from several months ago.]
The New York Times reported on Kreminna this morning, warning that, “Better trained and equipped Russian divisions have joined tens of thousands of newly mobilized soldiers trying to break through well fortified Ukrainian lines.”
If this is the case—and it matches the scale of the build-up that’s been described by both Russian and Ukrainian sources—then a single defeat in the woods south of Kreminna, and the repulse of attacks on small towns along the highway to the west of the city certainly isn’t the end of this struggle. But it’s one helluva beginning.
Among the locations where Ukraine reports repelling Russian forces on Wednesday are Stelmakhivka, west of Svatove, and Bilohorivka, 12 km to the south of Kreminna. But, unlike Tuesday, Kreminna and the villages immediately to the west and south were not on the list of places where Russian assaults had been driven back. Either that’s a sign that Russia’s actions in the area were limited, or it’s a signal that Russia is meeting with some success in parts of this battle. Right now, we don’t know.
Further south, Ukraine reported halting Russian advances in Bakhmut, Krasna Hora, Paraskoviivka, Ivanivske, and Chasiv Yar. That’s pretty much everywhere that fighting was going on in the Bakhmut area. However, there’s no doubt that Russia has continued attempted movements both north and south of the city, and the situation there remains tenuous. The addition of names like Fedorivka and Vesele to this list shows that Russian forces are continuing to attempt a movement north and west of the breakthrough made near Soledar two weeks ago.
Bohoyavienka shows up on the list, and its position 8 km behind Vuhledar would be concerning, but this apparently refers to the pile of wreckage seen above, which was made along a highway running west of Vuhledar that would have led to Bohoyavienka had Russia not been stopped where they were.
Another concerning location on the list is Novokalynove, which is several kilometers from any previously reported Russian action in the area northwest of Donetsk. Hopefully, this is also an “assault in the direction of...” and not anything happening close to that location.
Good news, everyone. Over 10 million Americans have volunteered to go off to Ukraine and join Russian death row prisoners in fighting for Wagner Group. So many Americans have signed up, that Wagner can stop hauling people out from under their prison bunks.
Or at least, that’s what Wagner Group is claiming.
If you were unaware there was a commercial … there was a commercial. One that was seen by whole dozens of Americans, 10 million of whom signed up.
Don’t worry if you’re one of the 9 million Americans apparently not considered good enough to be hurled out of a trebuchet by Wagner. There are plenty of other Russian mercenary groups being formed. You can always go zerg for Gazprom. Or you could sign up for the Russian Naval forces, because those guys are … well, see the pictures of Vuhledar above.
If you’re tempted by Wagner’s commercial, just hurry right on over there, and don’t let the screen door hitcha where the good lord splitcha.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was apparently everywhere, meeting with everyone on Wednesday. The images of him standing in his military garb amongst the business-suited men and women of European leadership continue to be absolutely iconic. The day that Zelenskyy next knots up a tie is going to be both extraordinarily happy, and kind of disappointing.
While in the U.K. on Tuesday, Zelenskyy made an open play for the British government to pack a few modern jets in with those Challenger tanks that will be reaching Ukraine in about a month. On Wednesday evening, following Zelenskyy’s talks with seemingly every European leader, there was a message that appeared to indicate that—typhoons? tornados? mirages? Eurofighters?—were on the way.
Zelenskky’s chief of staff, Andrii Yermak, told reporters that, "The issue of long-range weapons and fighter jets for Ukraine has been resolved. Details a little later."
That’s definitely something to anticipate. Russia has lost at least three Su-25 attack aircraft that were providing support to Russian forces near Bakhmut over the last week. However, these planes have continued to give Russia an edge when an a breakthrough is needed, and Ukraine’s Air Force, though it carried out a reported 21 air strikes on Wednesday, is at a definite disadvantage when it comes to making an impact at the front.
However, it’s unclear not just what Europe would be willing to send, but what they could send that would be appropriate to the situation.
Reuters is reporting this morning that SpaceX is going to take steps to prevent Ukraine from using the Starlink internet system to conduct offensive operations. Company president Gwynne Shotwell said that “Ukrainians have leveraged [Starlink] in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement," and that the system was “never meant to be weaponized.”
In replies on Twitter, Elon Musk has indicated that this has to do with the use of Starlink by Ukrainian drones and that, confusingly, this is a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. Both “do” and “don’t” seem to involve denying services to Ukraine.
Starlink has proven to be an effective means of communicating with larger, long-range drones because its transmissions don’t depend on local infrastructure and are difficult to block. However, it’s difficult to understand what either Shotwell or Musk is saying as a reason for this action.
Ukraine has made effective use of unmanned aircraft for spotting enemy positions, targeting long-range fires and dropping bombs.
"There are things that we can do to limit their ability to do that," [Shotwell] said, referring to Starlink's use with drones. "There are things that we can do, and have done."
Exactly who was complaining about how Ukraine was using Starlink? Did this request come from Russia, or did SpaceX, acting on its own, decide that this was something Ukraine wasn’t allowed to do?
(Advisor to President Zelenskyy, Mykhailo Podolyak)
Though Musk has often behaved as if the service is in some way a gift to Ukraine, both terminals and the monthly service fees in Ukraine are currently being paid. In many cases, volunteer groups have provided Starlink devices to Ukraine and are picking up the cost of their use. Presumably, SpaceX will also move to ban drones being used by these groups.
Hasta la vista, baby. One of Russia’s “terminator” fighting vehicles was among that wreckage near Kreminna.
Yesterday, I defended the position that, sure, he’s been sailing straight into the weeds for years, but not even Seymour Hersh is that dishonest and foolish. I was wrong. He’s exactly that dishonest and foolish. Naturally, the New York Post is running Hersh’s absolutely unsupported claims today, because trying to make things worse is the New York Post motto. Hersh himself is now eagerly sharing his story with Russian state media agency, TASS.
Markos and Kerry are joined by University of St. Andrews Professor of Strategic Studies, Phillips P. O’Brien. O’Brien, an expert in military history, explains how we got to where we are right now, what is unique about the world’s reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the parallels between the conservative movement’s isolationism in World War II and now.