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UKRAINE CALLS FOR RUSSIA TO BE DECLARED ‘TERRORIST STATE’ AFTER DAMNING REPORT

Zelenskiy’s chief of staff says sanctions should go further as international group concludes Russia’s actions pass terrorism threshold

Patrick Wintour

29 Sept. 2022

The Guardian

 

The head of the Office of the Ukrainian Presidency has called for sweeping American and European sanctions targeting Moscow after an official report drawn up by an international working group concluded Russia should now be declared a “state sponsor of terrorism”.

The call from Andriy Yermak, the second most powerful Ukrainian government official after president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, came after Ukraine accused Russia of sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines, an accusation that adds to its claim that Russia has shown all the characteristics of a terrorist state under US and international law.

Such a designation, resisted so far by the US administration, would allow for secondary sanctions to be imposed on any entity or individual trading or supporting Russia government bodies, including state-owned banks. It would also allow US nationals and employees to sue Russia for money damages or material compensation for personal injury or death caused by the Russian state’s terrorism. Russians seeking to enter the US would face heightened restrictions. Yermak praised existing sanctions, but said the impact had not been decisive, adding: “It is often said that money is like water: it always finds a way to flow. To combat this, the west needs to double down on existing sanctions.”

He was speaking after a report by an international working group on sanctions advising the Ukrainian government concluded that Russia had reached the legal definition of a “terrorist state” under US and Canadian law. Such a designation has only ever been handed to North Korea, Syria, Iran, and Cuba, and would probably result in Russia’s complete ejection from the financial system, and raise fresh questions about its status as a UN security council member.

The report, drawn up by leading lawyers, economists and diplomats and published on Thursday, said: “The essence of terrorism can be well summarised as ‘premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets’.”  It said horrific events in Ukraine were “not one-off instances [involving] rogue elements of the Russian armed forces” but were “designed and conducted with the specific intent of terrorising the Ukrainian population”. Since the Russian state was the main perpetrator, it went beyond being a sponsor of terrorism, the report said.

The instances cited that could be deemed terrorism include events in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, where international experts found evidence of rape, torture, waterboarding and sexual violence, the firing of Russian missiles at a shopping mall in Kremenchuk, killing at least 20

people and injuring dozens more, and during the siege of Mariupol, when the Russian assault killed as many as 22,000 civilians and destroyed 95% of the city. It said damage had been inflicted on at least 131,300 civilian homes, 188,100 vehicles, 934 education facilities and 2,472 healthcare facilities. The report was prepared by a sanctions committee including Michael McFaul, the former US ambassador to Russia and was commissioned by Yermak.

The authors admit that there is a risk that such an extreme measure may prove counterproductive, for instance by scuppering the fragile deal to allow the export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea. But they say mitigation measures are available, including a US government statement that its citizens could not sue Russia individually, so eating into Russian state assets held abroad.

The report said “the time for incrementalism is over”. It said: “Through its actions in their war against Ukraine, the Russian Federation has met or exceeded any reasonable legal or policy threshold for designating as a state sponsor of terrorism with respect to other nations and entities currently holding the designation.  “War crimes versus acts of terrorism are distinctions without a difference. The kind, extent, and purpose of premeditated, politically motivated violence that the Russian state is deploying against Ukrainian noncombatants is shocking. It demands a response.”

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FRESH EVIDENCE EMERGES OF ALLEGED RUSSIAN ATROCITIES IN ONCE-OCCUPIED UKRAINE

More than 400 bodies were found in a mass burial site when Ukrainians took back a town that Russians occupied

By Stephen Kalin

Sept. 28, 2022

The Wall Street Journal

IZYUM, Ukraine–In the early-August heat, Vitaliy Boroviy fished a pair of bloated bodies from the river bisecting this eastern Ukrainian town. From their bound hands, the municipal funeral director surmised that they had been detained, tortured and killed by occupying Russian forces.  Mr. Boroviy arranged their burial as best he could, interring them in a pine forest along with more than 400 others who perished during Russia’s five-month occupation, which Ukrainian forces brought to an end this month.

When that mass burial site was uncovered by Ukrainian authorities on Sept. 15, it was unclear who most of the victims were and how they died. Since then, a picture has emerged from residents of a town subject to escalating torture and killings as Ukrainian forces closed in this summer.

Mr. Boroviy, a lanky and soft-spoken 55-year-old, said he buried so many bodies in Izyum that he ran out of wood to make new coffins and wrapped some of them in blankets. On separate occasions, Russian soldiers ordered him to collect two bodies from wooded areas, where he suspects they were dumped after being tortured.

He buried five more bodies with ropes still tied around their necks, suggesting they had been executed or died by suicide. Other bodies, collected near a bridge over the river and on roads leading out of the town, he said, carried bullet wounds indicating to him they had been shot as they fled.

Exhumation of the mass burial site was completed on Friday, revealing that most of the 436 bodies had signs of violent death including gunshot wounds, broken limbs, bound hands and amputated genitalia, Kharkiv regional governor Oleg Sinegubov said last week.

At least three other burial sites have been found in other liberated cities of Kharkiv, the area encompassing Izyum, according to Mr. Sinegubov.

The signs of violence found in Izyum recall some of the war’s grisliest killings in Bucha and other towns and villages around Kyiv this spring. Those killings occurred as Russian forces attacking the capital were halted and pummeled by Ukrainian defenders.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sept. 16 accused Russia of repeating in Izyum what it did in Bucha, where more than 450 bodies were recovered. “We have just begun to learn the full truth about what was happening in the Kharkiv region,” he said.

The Kremlin hasn’t commented on Mr. Zelensky’s allegations. Leonid Slutsky, head of the Russian parliament’s international affairs committee, has characterized his comments as lies. The Kremlin didn’t respond to a request for comment for this article.

In Izyum, which is known as a strawberry-growing hub and had a prewar population of some 46,000, the violence swelled over a lengthy occupation as Ukrainian forces closed in, residents say.

Russian invasion forces seized Izyum in late March and turned it into a hub for its efforts to seize the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Moscow moved troops and armored vehicles into the town as it struck south, seeking to encircle Ukrainian troops to the east. Forensic examiners worked at the mass burial site where more than 400 bodies were found.  Ukrainian investigators who exhumed the site said many of the soldiers’ bodies showed traces of torture.

Russia’s violent capture of Izyum, when it bombarded the town with artillery and airstrikes, killed dozens of civilians, many of whom were left on the street or buried in courtyards and public parks. Mr. Boroviy said volunteers helped him dig them up and carry them across the river to the gravesite, over a footbridge, the only one remaining after the rest were blown up.

The gravesite, just off the main road into Izyum from the north, abuts a formal cemetery named Shakespeare. Hundreds of small mounds of the forest’s sandy soil are marked with wooden crosses bearing numbers and in some cases names and dates of birth and death. All around are trenches dug by the Russians and abandoned ahead of the Ukrainian advance.

Mr. Boroviy, who previously worked at a local school as a night watchman, has been helping bury Izyum’s dead for two decades through a company that sells coffins and gravestones. One of his customers, the municipal funeral service, hired him after another employee struggled to keep track of bodies piling up under Russian occupation. He became its director in May when the previous director left town.  Mr. Boroviy said he wrote down where the bodies were taken from and tried to identify them, but that wasn’t always possible.

Decaying corpses were pulled from the rubble of buildings destroyed in aerial attacks during the Russian takeover, including more than 50 people who had huddled in an underground shelter and an unidentified Ukrainian sharpshooter, according to the funeral services director and residents who lived in a building that collapsed. Later, others killed during the Russian occupation were moved quickly to the morgue rather than left to rot in the streets. Many of these bodies ended up in the mass burial site.  One day, a Russian soldier showed Mr. Boroviy a freshly covered pit at the gravesite and told him: “Seventeen of your soldiers are here.” He made a wooden cross to mark the spot.

The Russians, who had dug trenches and posted tanks in the forest nearby, forbid burial ceremonies. Sometimes, Mr. Boroviy said, he unloaded bodies there but was forced by shelling to return a day or two later to bury them. He estimated the death rate in Izyum during Russia’s occupation was four times as high as usual, even after more than half the population had fled.

As the Ukrainians halted the Russian advance earlier this summer, Izyum became a target for Ukrainian artillery, including high-tech rocket launchers supplied by the U.S., which hammered Russian positions to lay the ground for a rapid offensive this month.

In one strike in late June, Ukrainian forces hit Russian military headquarters at a school in Izyum, killing 17 Russian service members, including a colonel and two majors, wounding more than 20 and destroying many vehicles, Ukrainian soldiers have said, citing their own intelligence.

Russian troops suspected residents of covertly aiding the advancing forces, according to interviews with more than a dozen locals. Soldiers, along with a police force from eastern areas of Ukraine that Russia cleaved from Kyiv’s control in 2014, targeted men with even tangential ties to the Ukrainian military or security forces. They detained people for keeping photos or maps on their phones deemed suspicious. Residents said they stayed out of public sight whenever possible to avoid abuses

As the Ukrainian military closed in on Izyum last month, Mr. Boroviy said he faced mounting threats from jumpy Russian soldiers who believed the movements required by his job were ideal cover for an enemy scout.

Soldiers asked him why he was often going to the edge of town and working in the forest and said they suspected him of coordinating artillery and mortar attacks. He said they thrust their rifle muzzles into his chest and shot the ground between his feet.

On Sept. 3, he said, men wearing the uniform of Russian military police and balaclavas covering their faces pulled up to his home in a white Russian-made jeep. They took him to Izyum’s central police station, where he was held in near total darkness in a dingy concrete cell below ground and interrogated about alleged contacts with the Ukrainian security service.

In a windowless shooting range in the basement of the police station, Mr. Maximov said he was blindfolded and sustained hearing loss in his left ear from severe beatings. He said his tormentors suffocated him with a gas mask and connected wires from a military field telephone to metal cuffs binding his hands and feet, shocking him with electricity that would knock him off his chair.

With him in the cell were four other men, including two former soldiers who had served in Ukrainian forces that sought to reclaim eastern territories from Russian troops and their local allies in 2014.

One of them, Serhiy Kostomarov, said the Russian-installed Ukrainian police took him to the station on Aug. 9 after finding his military papers and medals during a home search.

For two days, he said, they beat his backside so badly that he couldn’t sit, shocked his legs with electricity and placed a plastic bag over his head while beating him in the chest to make him gasp for air. Then they left him in the cell for a week before resuming interrogations and beatings.

On Sept. 9, the eve of the Ukrainian seizure of Izyum, the pro-Russian separatists guarding the prisoners turned visibly nervous. They threatened to toss grenades into the cells in the event of a Russian retreat, said Mr. Maximov.

By dawn, the Ukrainian guards had changed into civilian clothes and opened the cells’ heavy iron doors. “Run away,” Mr. Maximov recalled them telling the prisoners, warning that the Russians would come and kill them.

He and Mr. Kostomarov said they ran out of the police station with others to find the streets of Izyum abandoned and checkpoints unmanned. The Russians had imposed a three-day curfew and then fled, locals said. By midday, the Ukrainians were back in control of the town.  Serhiy Kostomarov said he was beaten and left in a cell.

At the mass gravesite last week, body bags were lined up on the ground as locals trickled into a white tent to give testimony to police investigators about how their loved ones had died.

Mr. Boroviy suspects more graves have yet to be found, containing bodies that the Russians disposed of themselves. “Families come to us and ask where the body is, but we have no bodies,” he said.

Artem Bondar contributed to this article.

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WHY THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION HAS NO VETO POWER AT THE UNITED NATIONS

The RF is not a member of the UN

China (Republic of China) was charter member of the United Nations from 1945. It was not the People’s Republic of China which currently holds a permanent seat in the Security Council of the United Nations. In fact the Korean war of the early 1950’s pitted a coalition of the United Nations against Communist North Korea, Communist China and the USSR..

In the struggle between Communist and Nationalist China, the Communists ultimately prevailed in the 1950’s, but its was not until much later that the Peoples Republic of China became a UN member and succeeded to China’s permanent seat  at the UN Security council  This required a formal application by the Peoples Republic pursuant to the UN Charter and a two thirds vote of the UN General Assembly. This happened in 1971 largely as  result of President Nixon’s and Henry Kissinger’s efforts, two very dubious historical figures in terms of integrity. Many opposed argued that this was a bizarre reward for Chinese communist bad behavior.

The USSR was a charter member of the UN. On December 8, 1991 the leaders of the three most prominent Soviet Republics, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia in Biloveznka Puscha, Belarus concluded an agreement dissolving the USSR. Two weeks later in Alma Alta, Kazakhstan eleven former Soviet Republics concluded a separate agreement dissolving the USSR. Thereupon former Soviet Permanent Representative to the UN Vorontsev acting on behalf of Russian president Boris Yeltsin delivered a letter to the  UN Secretary General informing him of the dissolution and requesting accession of the Russian Federation to the USSR seat as  permanent member of the UN Security Council.  Allegedly the UN Secretary General disseminated this letter among the UN member states with no further action taken.

 

Since then the Russian Federation has acted as if its request had been approved and intimating both actual UN membership and a permanent seat t the U SC participating both as a member of  the UN at various fora and  as a successor to the USSR at the UN SC. However no formal application for UN membership by the RF was submitted ever. Nor has any vote been taken.

 

The UN has a process for UN membership. The State submits an application to the Secretary-General and a letter formally stating that it accepts the obligations under the Charter. The Security Council considers the application. Any recommendation for admission must receive the affirmative votes of 9 of the 15 members of the Council, provided that none of its permanent members have voted against the application. If the Council recommends admission, the recommendation is presented to the General Assembly for consideration. A two-thirds majority vote is necessary in the Assembly for admission of a new State.

 

In its Preamble, the Charter lays out its purposes of practicing tolerance and living together in peace, uniting strength to maintain international peace and security, ensuring that armed force will not be used except in  the common interest.

 

Given Russia’s offensive behavior in only thirty years culminating in the current aggression which includes indisputable evidence of war crimes and probably more such as crimes against humanity and attempted genocide, Russia’s chances for immediate admission are negligible.  The recent UN GA vote allowing President Zelensky to address the UN GA opening session virtually rather than in person of 101 in favor, only 7 opposed and 19 abstentions was symbolic of the international community’s opprobrium.

 

Thus upon motion by a UN SC permanent member similarly to the Korean situation the UN should send a coalition of its forces to Ukraine to assist the Ukrainians in the defense of their national

sovereignty and territorial integrity.

 

In the long term Russia should be admitted as a UN member (but, certainly not a permanent member of the UN SC) for the sake of the UN’s legitimacy as a  venue for peaceful dialogue and conflict settlement,  but only after Russia is demilitarized similarly to Nazi Germany in the late 1940’s and accession to the Non Proliferation Treaty  as  non-nuclear state. This is a road map with viable variations certainly a possibility. It is a tall order and requires political will and integrity, certainly not a traditional characteristic of international approaches.  This approach is one for the future viability of the UN  as a peacekeeping mechanism on the international stage. It should also serve to settle the current conflict in Ukraine.

 

The Russians need to realize that their methods of conducting international relations have no place in today’s world. Russia may renege on all opportunities and become a pariah, with continuing sanctions and designation as a state sponsoring terrorism. That, however, may be too much to expect from the traditionally servile and imperialistically predisposed Russian populace.

 

The process should begin immediately. Minister Lavrov, a war criminal himself, should never have been permitted to enter the United States during the recent UN events. Immediately, the United States as a permanent UN SC member should move to preclude Russia all access to the UN due to the fact that it is not a member. In view of the bogus referendum in Ukraine’s occupied regions, sanctions should be heightened, the Western countries should recall their diplomats and oust the Russian diplomats/spies from their territories and declare the RF a state sponsor of terrorism. This is only the beginning. The end as outlined above is full Russian demilitarization and accession to NPT.

 

 

Sept. 29, 2022                                                                                         Askold Lozynskyj

 

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RUSSIA IS A FAILED STATE

By ALEXANDER J. MOTYL

09/27/22

The Hill

The first step in Russia’s disintegration was Vladimir Putin’s painstaking construction of a fascist political system centered on him and his personality cult as an infallible, vigorous and macho leader. Outsiders were impressed with what seemed to be a powerful and effective political system. In reality, Putin’s solipsistic fascism was unsustainable. It rested on Putin’s ability to project youth and vigor, qualities that inevitably diminished with age. It also increased elite in-fighting, bureaucratic empire building, systemic corruption, and individual buck-passing, thereby eviscerating the state and reducing it to a brittle shell, while at the same time transforming the economy into a source of personal enrichment for competing elites. Small wonder that the state’s vaunted military modernization was a bust.

The Putin state survived because Russian elites, like most Russians, found it to be convenient to pretend that all was well and that Russia was great again. That illusion crumbled in the aftermath of Putin’s idiotic decision to go for a quick, victorious, little war with Ukraine. The war also has delivered a body blow to the state. The military has proved to be inept. The policymakers lacked a clear plan of what they hoped to achieve. And the economy went into a slow secular decline, as a result of Western sanctions and unrestrained elite theft of scarce resources.

The war proved to be the spark that ignited the conflagration that threatens to burn down the Russian state. Putin is rapidly losing legitimacy, at home and abroad. The secret police are angry with him for blaming them for the military fiasco. The generals are angry that the war is destroying the armed forces. The pro-war faction in the policy elite blames him for being too soft. The pro-peace faction blames him for being too hard.

Russia’s foreign allies are also losing whatever respect they had for Putin. At the recent summit of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Samarkand, Putin publicly had to justify his actions in Ukraine to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who made no secret of Russia’s having become a very junior partner in their supposed alliance. Both Xi and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi defended the territorial integrity of Kazakhstan, a country that Russian imperialists of Putin’s ilk have long aspired to seize. At a reception pointedly ignored by Xi, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took advantage of a photo opportunity to show himself seated above Putin, a signal that no Kremlinologist could possibly miss. And, adding insult to injury, Kyrgyzstan’s president showed up late for a meeting with Putin.

The Russian population appears increasingly aware of Putin’s diminishing authority and legitimacy. The initial enthusiasm for the war has visibly diminished. The soldiers, too, are demoralized and blame the leadership for their woes. An armed resistance movement appears to have emerged and is actively fire-bombing draft boards and derailing trains. A Telegram channel

that caters to Russian partisans provides instructions on how to assassinate officials. Local elites throughout Russia are demanding Putin’s resignation.

With Putin’s announcement of a partial mobilization of reservists on Sept. 21, thousands went to the streets and protested and tens of thousands suddenly realized that the war had come home and worried about their sons and husbands dying on the front. Over a thousand people have been arrested; many others have bought one-way airline tickets or driven their cars to the nearest border. The flows will only increase as Russians come to realize that a secret clause in Putin’s announcement foresees the drafting of up to a million men.

The most telling mark of state failure is the loss of control over the forces of coercion. The Russian army is increasingly refusing to fight, so much so that the Duma felt the need to pass legislation specifying that desertion, surrender, insubordination and misuse of military property required tougher sentences. Given the poor condition of front-line soldiers, Moscow has taken to enlisting senior citizens, teenage graduates of military academies, mercenaries and hardened criminals. None of these groups can be expected to fight with conviction or elan, and the criminals are most likely to turn their guns against the officers who view them as cannon fodder.

Two well-organized, well-funded private armies already exist next to the inefficient and incompetent state-run armed forces: the Wagner Group, numbering 8,000 mercenaries; and the so-called Kadyrovites, some 12,000 Chechen fighters loyal to and paid by the Chechen strongman, Ramzan Kadyrov. The head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is believed to aspire to succeed Putin, while the duplicitous Kadyrov, though outwardly Putin’s ally, surely will stab his master in the back when the time is right. The Kremlin also has begun forming non-Russian battalions that, as history shows, often turn into the cores of future armies. With so many armed groups running around, with so much visible discontent, Russia is ripe for civil conflict, perhaps even civil war.

Yes, the fascist Russian state has failed. It kills foreigners with abandon — and now it also kills its own subjects. All that’s left to do is for Russian elites and masses to realize this fact, abandon their illusions about ever being “great” again, and take to restructuring the Russian Federation and establishing a post-Putin regime. Most of Russia’s neighbors know that the probability of the Russian state’s collapse is approaching 100 percent. Nervous Western elites, who thus far have preferred to ignore this eventuality, would do well to get on the bandwagon and prepare for a great power’s bloody demise.

 

Alexander J. Motyl is a professor of political science at Rutgers University-Newark. A specialist on Ukraine, Russia and the USSR, and on nationalism, revolutions, empires and theory, he is the author of 10 books of nonfiction, as well as “Imperial Ends: The Decay, Collapse, and Revival of Empires” and “Why Empires Reemerge: Imperial Collapse and Imperial Revival in Comparative Perspective.”

 

 

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HUNDREDS OF RUSSIAN VEHICLES, WEAPON SYSTEMS SEIZED DURING KHARKIV COUNTERATTACK

September 26, 2022

The Kyiv Independent

by Igor Kossov

 

Ukraine’s successful counterattack in Kharkiv was important in many ways.

The armed forces liberated a vast territory, inflicted serious damage to Russian formations there, and sent Russian morale plummeting, as Ukrainian spirit soared.

But it also brought a big haul of Russian vehicles and weapon systems, which will make a noticeable difference in the battles ahead, military analysts told the Kyiv Independent.

“That’s certainly way more than whatever Ukraine has lost during this offensive,” said Kirill Mikhailov, an expert with the Russia investigative project, the Conflict Intelligence Team. “So finishing the offensive with a net positive of vehicles is like, wow.”

Russia being Ukraine’s top military donor is not just a meme. By sheer number of vehicles, Russia’s contribution is impressive. Since the large-scale invasion began, Ukraine has captured 392 Russian tanks, 178 armored fighting vehicles, 421 infantry fighting vehicles, and 400 trucks, vehicles, and jeeps, according to the open-source investigative project Oryx. Ukraine also got many different support, command, artillery, and anti-aircraft vehicles. Because Oryx only publishes visually confirmed data, those numbers may actually be higher.

The Kharkiv counteroffensive forms a significant percentage, with 563 vehicles reported captured in the country since Aug. 29.

According to combined daily lists by Oryx, from Sept. 1 to 23, Ukrainians captured over 100 tanks, close to 200 infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers, over 20 command and control vehicles, and dozens of artillery pieces. Close to 100 trucks and jeeps were also taken, along with some more specialized vehicles.

Oryx’s lists include the combined totals for the whole country. But Jakub Janovsky, a military analyst and member of the Oryx team, who compiles these lists, said that 75-80% of these were captured in Kharkiv.

“For Ukraine, it is a substantial boost that will help replace lost equipment and use the rest to equip some new units – definitely quite useful for offensive operations,” Janovsky said.

Spokespeople for the Ukrainian Armed Forces declined to provide exact numbers of captured weapons and vehicles to the Kyiv Independent.

In addition, huge stockpiles of ammunition were taken. While there are no confirmed numbers for how much was acquired, Janovsky’s best guess is that Ukraine may have claimed “hundreds” of anti-tank weapons and “tens of thousands” of artillery rounds.

It’s not clear how many vehicles will be used or cannibalized for parts (which will still aid the war effort). And as the New York Times reported, the underground economy of captured Russian equipment is not always straightforward. A lot of captured equipment is exchanged for urgently needed supplies, as sending everything to Kyiv for inventorization can be fiddly and time-consuming when lives are on the line.

Russia lost over 200 tanks to destruction and capture during the Kharkiv operation. This was a heavy blow against the units in the area, including elements of Russia’s 1st Tank Army. Though they have now retreated towards Russia, it will not be easy for them to recover their losses, said Serhiy Zgurets, director of the consulting company Defense Express.

Ukraine has been asking Western allies for modern tanks for months but NATO countries have dragged their feet. The tanks Ukraine received from other countries, mainly from Poland, are older Soviet models.

Two-thirds of the 100 tanks captured in the first three weeks of September are T-72s. The rest are T-80s. Both are Soviet-era tanks with modern upgrades.

The specific versions include T-72B, T-72B3, T-72BA, T-80U, T-80BV and T-80BVMs. A handful of tanks on the list haven’t been identified exactly.

The T-72 family dates back to the late 1960s and has since served in dozens of countries around the world, including Ukraine, with a plethora of modifications and upgrades. Zgurets said the T-72s will be useful to fill out Ukraine’s tank fleet or used for parts.

Captured T-72B3s and T-72B3Ms were upgraded with Western technology in the 2010s. Indeed, Russian tanks used during the offensive have been shown to have parts made by French defense contractor Thales Group. The company has been accused of violating sanctions to sell military parts to Russia. Thales denied wrongdoing.

The T-80s, incorporating features from some earlier tanks, entered service in the 1970s and have also been in use through the modern day. Ukraine operates its own version developed from the T-80, the BM Oplot.

“The T-80U is probably the best Soviet tank,” said Mikhailov.

“And then we have the T-80BVMs, which are one of the best Russian tanks out there and they outclass, for example, the Ukrainian T-64s,” he added. “The most renowned tank in the Ukrainian army is currently a T-80BVM, the so-called Bunny.” Abandoned in March and captured by Ukrainians, Bunny laid waste to Russian vehicles and tanks, CNN reported.

Ukrainian tank experts, including the renowned Mykola Slamakha, consider the T-80BVM and T-90M to be the best Russian tanks in terms of survivability and effectiveness of fire. And Ukraine just happened to capture a T-90M intact.

There was buzz when Ukrainians confirmed their capture of the first intact example of a T-90M Proryv, Russia’s most modern main battle tank. Experts said that it will allow Ukraine and Western countries to analyze its capabilities and learn about the Russian military.

“Everyone would love to get their hands on it, especially in the West, because it’s Russia’s most modern tank, and not too much is known really about its capabilities,” said Mikhailov.

Janovsky was more restrained in his assessment, saying: “I assume that Americans already had all the design schematics, so this could be mostly about finding how well/poorly various features were implemented, looking at materials used, looking for imported components that might not yet be hit by export controls, and looking for any vulnerabilities.”

Zgurets said that the interesting part of the T-90M is its unified tactical control system, designed to enable integrated command and control of troops. The Russian armed forces are using this system to improve automation during battle, he said.

The “nakidka” cover that was found on the captured unit is meant to protect it against thermal cameras and radar.

According to Oryx, Russia has deployed T-90s in Ukraine but until recently, their numbers were fairly low.

“They have been quite useful, quite powerful. But the problem is that there aren’t too many of them. And of course, they are not new,” said Mikhailov.

Indeed, T-90s were essentially designed as up-gunned T-72s with more technology added. The T-90M is one of the most recent versions. According to the annual reference guide Military Balance 2021, the Russians had just 10 T-90Ms in operation.

In the first three weeks of September, Ukraine captured over 100 BMP infantry fighting vehicles, about three-quarters of which were BMP-2s. There were also older BMP-1s and the more advanced BMP-3s.

The original BMP-1 was a revolutionary design in its time, a midpoint between an armored personnel carrier (APC) and a light tank, helping popularize the role of infantry fighting vehicles worldwide. However, it had numerous flaws that Russia tried to address in the BMP-2, which improved the main weapon and missile launcher and rearranged the way troops sit inside the vehicle. The BMP-3 changes the layout yet again and is even heavier, with more powerful weapons.

“For battlefield use, I would rate infantry fighting vehicles (BMPs, etc) as the most important, tanks second, artillery after that,” said Janovsky. “Relatively speaking, Ukraine has a reasonable number of tanks, but it needs more IFVs — especially to equip their new units.”

“(BMP-2s) are pretty decent vehicles when it comes to the current situation on the battlefield,” Mikhailov added. He said that it doesn’t look like Russia is pulling many BMP-2s out of storage, which might mean that it doesn’t have that many of them — or that they are being cannibalized or there are other issues preventing their use on the battlefields of Ukraine.

Janovsky noted that Russia is replacing lost BMP-2s and 3s with older models — BMP-1s and MT-LBs, multipurpose vehicles that can serve as transport, tug/tractor, or mount weapons.

Between Sept. 1-23, Ukraine also captured 43 BTRs, which are wheeled APCs. These include the Soviet BTR-80s and the better-armed BTR-82s.

During this timeframe, Ukraine also captured a number of vehicles used for command and control, observation, staff, etc. These include 14 examples of R-149MA1 and eight R-149MA3 command vehicles. The unified tactical control system is integrated into them, according to InformNapalm. Ukraine also captured fire control and observation vehicles like 1V12s, 1V14s, and one rarer 1V1003.

These vehicles may contain intelligence as they are often stationed at or function as command posts.

“When it comes to command-staff vehicles, what’s interesting is the software, the algorithms that simplify combat actions,” said Zgurets. This can be useful to develop ways to combat them. However, he added, Ukrainian forces have been getting their hands on these kinds of vehicles since the earliest phases of the war.

Western intelligence gains haven’t stopped there. Ukrainian forces captured an intact jamming pod, part of the SAP 518-SM Regata electronic warfare suite from a Russian Su-30SM jet. This allows intelligence analysts to look at the electronics within, see how it’s made and whether it contains any useful data.

The fire control vehicles can also go with the self-propelled artillery that the Russian forces have abandoned. Ukraine has captured three dozen 152-millimeter artillery pieces of various sorts and more than a dozen Grad multiple rocket launchers.

Janovsky said that the artillery could be used to replace some Ukrainian losses. “But since Ukraine has a shortage of Soviet-standard artillery ammo, captured ammo is likely to be a lot more useful to Ukraine.”

The Kharkiv operation can also help Ukraine’s arsenal by proving to Western supporters that military aid is not in vain, making them willing to keep it flowing.

“The fact that the counteroffensive operation was so successful showed Western countries that Ukraine can defend its territory and it needs certain types of weapons,” said Alina Frolova, a defense expert with the Ukrainian think tank Center for Defense Strategies.

“I think this will substantially increase the speed of delivery of certain weapons to Ukraine,” she added.

 

Igor Kossov is a reporter at the Kyiv Independent. He has previously covered conflict in the Middle East, investigated corruption in Ukraine and man-made environmental damage in Southeast Asia. He has a Master’s in Journalism from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and was published in the Kyiv Post, USA Today, The Atlantic, Daily Beast and Foreign Policy.

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UKRAINE’S NEW OFFENSIVE THREATENS MOSCOW’S CONTROL OF LANDS IT SEEKS TO ANNEX

Wrecked Russian armor and corpses of Russian troops line the roads in northern Donetsk as Ukraine pushes deeper into Donbas

By Yaroslav Trofimov

Sept. 27, 2022

The Wall Street Journal

 

RUBTSY, Ukraine—The Ukrainian military offensive that ousted Russian troops from the Kharkiv region early this month has now crossed deep into the northern part of the nearby Donetsk region, increasingly threatening Russian control over lands that Moscow seeks to annex as sovereign territory in coming days.

Here in Rubtsy, a village in the Donetsk region that Russia captured in late April, advancing Ukrainian forces stream east past burned-out carcasses of Russian tanks and the bloated bodies of Russian soldiers that remain on roadsides. Trophy pieces of Russian armor are being towed in the opposite direction, to be repaired and reused.

The Ukrainian push here, east of the Oskil River, aims to encircle the strategic town of Lyman, where street battles have begun, and ultimately target the northern parts of the nearby Luhansk region. Russia is wrapping up sham referendums it is staging in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, collectively known as Donbas, and two occupied regions of southern Ukraine, aiming to formally incorporate them into Russia as soon as this week.

Demoralized by recent defeats in Kharkiv, Russian soldiers on this front line continue to retreat, despite arriving reinforcements. On Sunday, Ukrainian forces took several prisoners in a nearby village because many of the Russian soldiers were drunk, said a Ukrainian soldier. “The ones who were sober ran away, and the ones who were drunk didn’t even realize that the village was being attacked, and got caught,” he said.

The soldier showed off two recently captured Russian T-80 tanks that had been towed to his position, the Russian tactical sign Z on their armor painted over with the white cross marking Ukrainian armor on this front. One only needed a battery change, he said. The other would require more intensive repairs because the retreating Russian crew had thrown a hand grenade into the barrel. “We’ll fix them and use them against the Russians,” he said.

In addition to the offensive in the northern Donetsk region, Ukrainian forces in recent days also expanded their foothold east of the Oskil river in the area of Kupyansk, the seat of Russian administration for the roughly 3,500 square miles of the Kharkiv region that Ukrainian forces liberated this month. That defeat forced Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to mobilize hundreds of thousands of reservists, and to call the annexation referendums. A separate Ukrainian push south of Lyman this month reclaimed the town of Svyatohirsk that Russian forces seized as recently as July.

Ukrainian forces remain on the defensive in other parts of the Donetsk region, such as the city of Bakhmut that Russian troops led by the Wagner mercenaries have been trying to storm for over two months, and Avdiivka near the regional capital. Russia currently controls about two-thirds of the region.

Here in the northern Donetsk region, Ukrainian forces are pursuing the remains of the Russian army that retreated from the city of Izyum in the southern Kharkiv region on Sept. 10. That pullback, described by the Russian Ministry of Defense as a deliberate redeployment to better protect Donbas, was far from orderly, as judged by a large quantity of burned-out Russian armor along the road east of Izyum and in the pine forests surrounding it.

One tank had its turret flip upside down and land on top of it, the body of a crew member carbonized between the plates of his flak jacket. Somehow still intact, Russian Army rations of bacon were scattered by the wreck. Another tank sank while attempting a pontoon crossing over the Oskil, just its barrel and the top of its turret visible above the river’s fast waters.

Russian soldiers fleeing Izyum have scattered in small bands during the retreat, said the commander of a Ukrainian Army company that established an outpost in Rubtsy three days ago.

“Many are still hiding in the woods, some with weapons, some without weapons. That’s why we have to be vigilant, especially at night,” said the commander. “Sometimes they come out to the road by themselves to surrender because they have no food, no water, no nothing.”

With no electricity or cellphone service in the area, many of the remaining residents of Rubtsy, a leafy village with a prewar population of 1,500 people, flock to the commander’s outpost, using its Starlink terminal to communicate with relatives and friends elsewhere in Ukraine and abroad. There is no other Ukrainian government presence here so far.

“Mostly old people have remained in the village,” the commander, with the rank of captain, said. “They come for help, and we help with whatever we can—especially medication.”

As he spoke, a battered car with several villagers rolled up. “Please, don’t hand us over again; we’ve had enough with all this shooting. I can’t take it anymore,” Maria Savchenko implored as she asked for access to Wi-Fi. Anatoly Konoplya complained that six homes were destroyed by Russian bombs behind his street. Under the Russian occupation, he said, “we were like mice, sitting all the time in the basement and not coming out.”

Shortly after the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24, Anatoly Khutornoy and his wife, Tetyana, moved to Rubtsy from the city of Slovyansk, which remains under Ukrainian control, hoping to sit out the war in what seemed like remote countryside. Instead, they have had to live through two battles, first when the Russians seized the village on April 26, and then when Ukrainian forces reclaimed it this month.

“We thought it would be quiet here, and it turned out quite the opposite,” Mr. Khutornoy mused. He asked visitors for a cigarette, something that has been unavailable here for weeks. “I am so desperate for a smoke. I am ready to roll up my own ears.”

His wife, still rattled by the recent fighting, said she was relieved that the Ukrainian army was back. “This day couldn’t have come soon enough. We are here on our own land, and those people came here saying they want to free us. Free from what?”

Under Russian rule, the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, a proxy statelet that Moscow established since occupying parts of the Donetsk region in 2014, created its own administration in Rubtsy, naming a new village mayor. These officials and other collaborators have all escaped as the Ukrainian army arrived, said Vladimir Gurenkov, a retired miner from Donetsk city who moved here in 2010.

He recalled, pained, the day when the Ukrainian army retreated under fire in April. “I am so glad Ukraine is back now,” Mr. Gurenkov said. “Putin wanted to show his strength here, and he just lost. The Russian world has collapsed.”

In the nearby village of Lozove, secured by Ukrainian forces on Saturday, 17-year-old Ivan Buddenyi was also giddy with delight. “We have been waiting for this day ever since these animals came in,” he said as he examined his school, which served as an outpost for Russian forces. Its windows were blown out, doors pushed in. “We couldn’t live normally as long as they were here,” he added, shouting “Glory to Ukraine.”

Villages such as Rubtsy have survived the two changes in control with relatively limited damage, except for the main square, which bears the traces of Russian aerial bombing in March. But others, such as the village of Yatskivka, are nearly completely destroyed, with twisted remains of burned houses and fragments of armored vehicles meshed together amid giant craters.

One of a handful of remaining residents in Yatskivka, a retired woman, tried to extinguish a lingering fire in a bombed-out building next to the remains of her home. She brought bucket after bucket of water from a swimming pool in a former resort across the street that was used by Russian troops. Melted military walkie-talkies lay on the ground and a warning sign “Mines” was scrawled by the entrance.

“I have lived here all my life, happy with everything Ukrainian, and Putin just came and brought here his Russian world. Now everything is burned down, nothing is left here,” the woman lamented as she filled another bucket. She said she was too afraid to give her name. “If they come back,” she added, “they could execute me.”

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A WESTERN STRATEGY FOR UKRAINE

Part 2

September 26, 2022

By Kurt Volker

CEPA

Thanks to the courage and determination of the Ukrainian people, the country’s future as a sovereign, independent, European democracy is assured. Enormous challenges remain, but Ukraine will not be defeated. The fighting now is to determine Ukraine’s borders, and the state of the Russian military and regime that remains after the war.

Such an outcome would not have been possible without over $15bn in US military assistance provided this year, along with support from many other allies. Despite a slow start and unnecessary restrictions along the way, the Biden administration deserves enormous credit for saving Ukraine.

Yet assuring Ukraine’s survival is not the same as having a military strategy, and for achieving long-term Ukrainian and European security. Such a strategy requires a clear goal, assuring the means needed to achieve this goal, developing plans for how to proceed, mitigating the risks that Russia still represents, and putting in place the structures for the long term security of the country, and of Europe.

What should be the Western goal in Ukraine? President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian leadership have articulated it many times already: Ukrainian victory. It is essential for the security of Europe that Ukraine defeat the Russian military and restore control over all its occupied territory. Anything less would reward Putin’s aggression and leave in place a Russian military force that would regroup and attack again.

A fascist and imperialist Russia, willing to use force to expand its territory and address imagined historical grievances, is a threat to all of Europe, not just Ukraine. Europe will only be safe when Russia accepts that it must live within its own borders.

Despite the obvious self-interest in such a position, however, Western leaders have seldom if ever articulated such a clear goal. Instead, due to reflexive concerns about “escalation” and “provoking” Russia, Western leaders speak only in reactive terms – helping Ukraine to defend itself. Accordingly, despite the massive assistance being given, there is no clear sense of what must yet be done for Ukraine to win. Western aid is always just enough, but never really enough.

Putin is already waging a massive war of aggression. There is no need to worry about provoking him. Rather, Western leaders should recognize that the last thing Putin can afford is to draw other countries into the war. The Russian military is already losing the war it has chosen to fight. Expanding the conflict would simply accelerate Russia’s destruction. Putin makes threats of

escalation to cause fear in the West, but the reality is that his own forces fear escalation even more.

For Ukraine to win — and to do so as swiftly as possible with minimum loss of life — the United States and its allies must provide a steady, uninterrupted supply of ammunition and arms to Ukraine. But they must also adjust their military assistance in the following ways:

  1. Stop placing restrictions on assistance. In particular, we should immediately provide Ukraine with the longest-range artillery shells in our armory, so they can more effectively take out Russian supply lines, including ammunition, fuel, other logistics, and forward command positions. The currently supplied range of 80km (50 miles) does not allow Ukraine to hit Russian forces in Sevastopol, elsewhere in Crimea, the Kerch Strait bridge, or in much of Donbas. The argument that this restriction prevents Ukraine from attacking targets in Russia itself is false. The Ukrainians can already attack inside Russian territory, using existing weapons systems, if they wish to do so. They do not do so out of respect for US requests, and the fact that they rely upon a continued US supply of ammunition and arms. They will equally respect US wishes with 300km (186 mile) range shells.
  2. Provide Ukraine with combat aircraft and tanks. With long-range artillery, Ukraine will gradually be able to take out the means for Russia to sustain its forces in the field. We have seen this already east of Kharkiv and near Kherson. But Ukraine will need to fight from the air and to roll forward with armor in order to retake territory swiftly and with minimal casualties. The US can backfill other allies who could donate Soviet-made fighter aircraft, or provide used F-16 and A-10 aircraft. Ukrainian pilots are highly skilled and can easily adapt to different airframes. Some have already been trained on Western airframes. This is even more the case with armored vehicles.
  3. Strengthen air defenses around Ukrainian cities. Russia has exhausted its ability to launch offensive operations to take territory away from Ukrainian defenders. One of the few means left to inflict pain on Ukraine is to send missiles and bombs to hit its cities. Russia has relatively few precision-guided munitions left, so these are dumb bombs that have indiscriminate effects on civilian populations. The West should do as much as possible to help Ukraine establish its own “iron dome” around cities to save lives, especially now that Iranian-built drones are being used against urban targets.
  4. Strengthen Ukraine’s internal logistics network. As Ukraine advances into Russian-occupied areas, it will need to move its logistical system further forward. This will be increasingly challenging, and Western armed forces and contractors will need to train and assist Ukraine in building a robust internal logistics network to accomplish the task.

Providing the right equipment is essential to Ukraine executing the best possible on-the-ground strategy for retaking its territory as well as restoring port operations at Odesa and direct air services.

Ukraine must use long range artillery and fighter aircraft to significantly degrade Russia’s ability to sustain its deployed forces. This autumn, Ukraine should be able to retake Kherson city and

the west bank of the Dnipro river and make further gains in Donbas. By degrading Russian supply lines throughout the winter, Ukraine will emerge in a relatively stronger position to take back more territory next year.

In particular, Ukraine must take out Russian military infrastructure in Crimea, which enables Russia to continue to sustain its Black Sea fleet and threaten shipping in the western Black Sea. Just as with Snake Island in the western opening to Odesa, taking out the naval facilities at Sevastopol at the eastern opening would deny Russia the ability to base and resupply its naval forces in that area. They would need to go to Novorossiysk in Russian territory for berthing and re-supply. This will enable Ukraine to re-open Odesa not only for grain shipments, but the full range of commercial shipping essential to getting its economy back on its feet again, and ensuring Ukraine is able to help meet global food demand.

As Ukraine’s successes mount, Putin is already reacting and showing signs of weakness. Shopping for military equipment in North Korea and Iran, and mobilizing 300,000 reservists of far lower quality than already degraded regular forces, are all signs that Putin knows his military is failing.

It is essential that at such a dangerous moment, the West sends clear signals to Putin – as US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan did on September 25 — that any use of nuclear weapons (or other weapons of mass destruction) would have devastating consequences for Russia. Strategic nuclear deterrence still works, as any strategic nuclear use would ensure Russia’s destruction. But the Russian military must know that even the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine would result in a ruinous conventional response against Russia’s military capabilities.

Putin himself was careful to make clear that his recent threat to use nuclear weapons was linked to defending Russia’s territorial integrity. While he seeks to imply that the Ukrainian territory he wants to annex after sham referendums will also be defended with nuclear weapons, the reality is that he and his military know that this is not actually Russian territory and not worth the risk of nuclear use.

One way to mitigate Putin’s threats is to pierce the disinformation bubble his regime creates. It is essential that Western leaders continuously repeat that there is no threat to Russia itself: no one is attacking Russia, bombing Russian cities, killing Russian civilians, taking Russian territory, and so forth. Russia is attacking Ukraine, but no one is attacking or will attack Russia.

Likewise, the West must continuously strive to get truthful information about the war to the Russian people. Putin’s wall of information is permeable. The mass exodus response to his announced mobilization clearly shows that the Russian people are aware that things are not as presented by the Kremlin. They need access to reliable information which, if provided, will increase internal pressure to accelerate Russia’s pull back.

Finally, it is not too soon to begin planning the long-term structures of Ukrainian and European defense. Ukrainian armed forces need significant internal reform, including in logistics, internal communication, and training. They will need to be outfitted with the best possible Western military equipment in modern, full spectrum air, land, and sea forces. They will need to

drastically reform the defense industrial complex, breaking up Ukroboronprom, its state-owned defense manufacturer, licensing and engaging in joint ventures for military production inside Ukraine, and jettisoning corrupt or poorly performing parts of the defense industry. Western assistance here is critical as well.

Finally, it is clear from the Swedish and Finnish decisions to join NATO that neutrality in Europe is no longer a viable option. Ukraine will need security guarantees for the future, and the only guarantee that has proven to be effective thus far is NATO. It is too soon to make any steps toward Ukrainian NATO membership, but depending on how the war ends, the United States and Europe will have to give this fresh consideration.

This is the second in a series of four essays outlining a Western strategy for Ukraine in the months and years ahead. They address: rebuilding the Ukrainian economy; winning the war; a long-term perspective on Russia; and a long-term perspective on completing a Europe whole, free and at peace.

 

Ambassador Kurt Volker is a Distinguished Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA.) A leading expert in US foreign and national security policy, he served as US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations from 2017-2019, and as US Ambassador to NATO from 2008-2009.

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RUSSIA MOBILIZES QUARTER-MILLION MEN, UKRAINE SHRUGS, FIGHTS ON

Moscow’s new troops are unlikely to be fully integrated for several months, giving Kyiv time to press its offensive

By Thomas Grove

Sept. 23, 2022

The Wall Street Journal

 

After seven months of war, Ukraine now faces Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans to mobilize more than a quarter of a million men for his invasion, in what the Kremlin hopes will be a display of the massive human resources available to it. Kyiv’s response: Keep calm and continue tactics that have proven to work.

Moscow is banking on its efforts, which are already under way, to throw another 300,000 mobilized soldiers into its faltering attack on Ukraine. Russia’s goal is to harden battle positions that it gained in Ukraine’s east and south and prevent further losses like those it suffered earlier this month in the northeast, when its forces were routed by a swift Ukrainian advance and driven from the strategically important city of Izyum.

Ukraine still has months to make gains before the mobilized troops are integrated into the Russian army, giving it a window of opportunity to carry on with plans to win back territory. For now, Kyiv is unlikely to accelerate any offensive operations in the south or east of the country, Ukrainian and Western military analysts say.

Even with the new forces in place, Ukraine’s use of Western weapons and nimble force structures will likely give it the upper hand against Russia’s reliance on sheer numbers of likely demoralized troops, they said. “They’re trying to boost their numbers without remedying their weaknesses,” said Mykola Bielieskov, research fellow at the Kyiv-based National Institute for Strategic Studies, a government-backed think tank.

Since Mr. Putin’s mobilization announcement earlier this week, thousands of men across Russia with prior military service have been rounded up at home and their places of work to start a planned two-week training period before they are deployed in some cases to front lines.

The Kremlin leader said in a nationwide address Wednesday that the measures were necessary “for the protection of the motherland, its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

For Russia, mobilization will ensure that the conflict continues for the foreseeable future, even if it doesn’t bring any immediate gains. It plays to Russia’s belief it can tolerate the pain of the war longer than the Ukrainians or their Western backers in Europe, which will be paying more for energy over the winter months. “Even if it’s not delivering results on the battlefield, prolonging the conflict is consistent with [Russia’s] theory of victory, which is undermining Ukraine’s depth, which is us” in the West, said Jack Watling, senior research fellow of land warfare and military sciences at the Royal United Services Institute, a think tank in London.

For now, Ukraine’s strategy is to continue to probe Russian front-line weaknesses to find the right opportunities to attack with minimal losses. While Ukraine still has a massive advantage in manpower, it must remain selective in how to apply pressure to Russia’s front to preserve both valuable Western equipment and energy for a fight that will likely continue for months at least.  “The Ukrainians do have time and they do not want to conduct increasingly risky offensive operations in which they’re attacking larger Russian units without the necessary conditions of optimal attack,” said Mr. Watling. “They don’t want to deplete their troops and their logistics and then be hit by new Russian units when they’re most exhausted.”

Even with an overall advantage, Ukraine’s offensives in the south and northeast have depleted the manpower and equipment it has available to advance on Russian positions.  “We also need to regroup forces and also have to rotate forces quite a lot,” said Mr. Bielieskov.

The Russian military’s most immediate challenge is to decide how to absorb such a large number of people. Russian military training isn’t centralized, like in the U.S., and is done instead within the units where soldiers will serve. With the best officers of those units already on the front, the quality of training might be compromised, analysts say.

The Russian armed forces also must decide how to use the incoming manpower in ways that maintain morale and unit cohesion. Newly mobilized soldiers might be used to backfill the hardest-hit units, which in some cases have lost well more than half their soldiers. That move could upset already flagging spirits among combining battle-weary soldiers with new troops who aren’t there voluntarily, said Mr. Watling. “That won’t massively increase combat power,” he said.

The other alternative is to create entirely new units from scratch. Russia experimented with such a move in June when it created the Third Army Brigade from volunteers in various battalions over the spring and summer, when the Kremlin hoped to avoid the politically risky move of calling for a mobilization.

The brigade, however, never had the chance to fight as a cohesive force. It was initially expected to be deployed in the Donbas area in Ukraine’s east, but some units were sent to the Kharkiv region to reinforce Russian positions against Ukraine’s advance. Those units formed part of the mass retreat by Russian soldiers several days later. Other units were then sent to southern Ukraine.

For Moscow, the mobilization is aimed at trying to repeat successes its forces achieved in May and June, when their advantage in artillery and manpower enabled them to slowly and methodically mow through Ukrainian positions to take the cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.

Since then, Ukraine’s use of Western weaponry, in particular High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or Himars, has helped stop Moscow’s advance and left Russian positions vulnerable to Ukraine’s smaller and faster units. “Russians want attrition, they want formations clashing en masse—that’s where they’re used to having the advantage,” said John Spencer, chair of urban warfare studies at the Madison Policy Forum. “But the Ukrainians won’t give them that.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons and mobilize 300,000 reservists for the war in Ukraine drew widespread condemnation from world leaders.

With winter coming, both sides will have to think about the logistical challenges that lie ahead. Ukraine expects Western aid to help it weather the cold months ahead, while Russia has longer supply lines to feed. Massing troops on the front will likely only aggravate those challenges and might force Russia to decide whether to give priority to supplies for troops or ammunition for the conflict. “This winter, Russian forces will face the same dilemma as German forces invading Russia in 1941, that is, do you deliver ammunition and fuel or will it be food and clothes, because logistics will already be less robust,” said Mr. Bielieskov. “We’ve destroyed thousands of their trucks.”

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RUSSIA WILL SNAP

September 26, 2022

Diane Francis

 

A mass exodus afflicts Russia because few believe that only 300,000 men with military experience will be called up. The actual target is one million, according to Noble Peace Prize winning newspaper Novaya Gazeta Europe, a belief underscored by the aggressiveness of the regime’s press-gang methods. Thousands of men without experience are chased down and loaded onto buses or planes for training and deployment to the front lines. Anti-war protesters, without military experience, are being arrested then forced to enlist or face jail. Students are snatched from schools in Siberia. Ukrainians inside occupied areas are being forced to join. Central Asian migrants are targeted, and non-Russian minorities are disproportionately drafted. The result of this round-up is that borders and airports are clogged with lineups, and, two hours after Putin’s announced mobilization, millions of Russians googled “how to break an arm at home” to evade. Polls now show that opposition to Putin’s war increases slightly, but Russians remained imprisoned inside a military dictatorship. Even so, former U.S. Special Ambassador to Ukraine Kurt Volcker said, at the Global Business Forum in Banff, that “something’s going to snap on the Russia side. Putin has no way back.”

Such a massive grassroots pushback against a partial mobilization bodes badly for Putin’s attempt to replenish his battered armed forces. But it also bodes badly for the future of Russia in the long run. His conscription drive will simply create a larger ragtag army than already exists — one that has been outmaneuvered by the cunning Ukrainians armed by the West. To date, Kyiv has proven that quality and morale outflank quantity and demoralization. If Putin actually believes that 300,000 unwilling and hapless conscripts can turn the tide in Russia’s favor, then he has once more succumbed to his twin delusions of overestimating his army and underestimating his foe’s capability.

Another open secret in military circles is that the Russian army is as riddled with alcoholism as is Russian society — notably in the poor and remote regions where recruitment is most aggressive. Brawling and drunkenness are widespread among Russian soldiers. A drunken fight in occupied Kherson recently left three Russian soldiers dead, according to reports. The Russian military forbids alcohol from being available or sold within 300 meters of military bases in eastern Russia (where most recruits come from) but there are reports that, in war torn Ukraine, Russian troops trade fuel and food for alcohol. After the February 24 invasion, intoxication was prevalent as was also the case during the Donbas border conflict with Ukrainians that dragged on for eight years after Russia’s first invasion in 2014.

But Putin’s “partial” mobilization marks a new, sinister pivot, speculates German military expert Gustav Gressel. “The [Russian forces] are pretty much in disarray. This force is exhausted by now. It can’t be regenerated by volunteers. My gut feeling is that Putin doesn’t really care about the inferior quality [of new troops being assembled]. So my guess is that the overall aim of this is to make Ukraine run out of bullets before Russia runs out of soldiers,” he said.

In other words, Putin’s strategy is to weaponize soldiers by using them as “cannon fodder”. This would, if true, take a page out of Stalin’s hideous World War II “human-wave tactic” which consisted of pushing forward large numbers of inadequately armed or trained Russian infantry to grind down the Germans. Casualties back then were horrific, as they are now, but no one knows the number except Putin who admits to only 6,000 deaths – and yet he is calling up 300,000 more replacements. Even more shocking, his recruitment efforts are targeting Russian minorities such as Tatars, Asian ethnics in Siberia and the Far East, as well as Central Asian migrants who are working in Russia, not white Russians in European Russia.

“Look at the guys taken prisoner in the east of Ukraine. There are few soldiers with Slavic appearance among them. In my opinion, the chauvinist, racist and Nazi government of Russia is simply using [Central Asian] migrant workers [and Russians from Far East regions] as `cannon fodder’. This is done so that there is less noise, so that the mothers of Russian soldiers do not make a fuss when they receive the “Cargo 200” [death notice],” said Valentina Chupik, a migrant rights activist who was deported last year from Russia.

The harvesting of minorities and the disadvantaged has upset leaders of Central Asian regimes, led by defiant Kazakhstan which was the first former Soviet state to criticize the Ukrainian invasion. Four countries have banned their citizens from serving as foreign mercenaries in Russia’s army and decreed that those caught defying the ban will receive five-year prison sentences. Also victimized, but inside Russia, are Asian or Turkic minorities who are being disproportionately called up.

“Crimean Tatars received about 90 percent of draft notices in Crimea, but make up 13 to 15 percent of the population of the peninsula. Such scale of mobilization can lead to a hidden genocide of the Crimean Tatar people,” said Yevhen Yaroshenko with Human rights organization “Crimea SOS”. Another spokesman from Buryatia, a Republic in Siberia bordering Mongolia, said: “When it comes to Buryatia, this is not a partial mobilization, this is a total mobilization. And it amazes me how people who know how much Vladimir Putin likes to lie believe that this will be a partial mobilization.” News organizations report that military police arrived at Buryat State University, after Putin’s announcement, “to take students straight from classes”.

Forcing ethnic populations to go to war is politically smarter than forcing those living in Russia’s big European cities who often have relatives or business links with Ukraine and Europe. But the strategy may backfire as word spreads about discrimination. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, for instance, has publicly encouraged draftees to “sabotage” Russian military efforts and has also offered guarantees of safety to Russian soldiers who surrender. To counter this, Putin has signed into law an edict that deserters, insubordinates, or those who refuse to serve will receive 10-year prison sentences.

European countries bordering Russia have also decided to refuse entry to Russians seeking asylum from the war. Gabrielus Landsbergis, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, said Russian draft dodgers won’t change the system. “Lithuania will not be granting asylum to those

who are simply running from responsibility. Russians should stay and fight. Against Putin,” he stated on Twitter.

News of military setbacks in Ukraine, the draftee rush for the exits, plus Europe’s tough stance toward all Russians, is making an impact on the Russian public. “Currently, about 20 percent of Russians say they do not agree with Russia’s actions in Ukraine, up from 14 percent in March. They are more likely to be young residents of Moscow or other large cities, and consumers of news from the internet,” according to reliable polling. Besides that, an estimated 6 million Russians have left the country to live abroad since Putin took power 22 years ago. This year, another 4 million left for “travel or business purposes”, according to official government data published by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), wrote the independent newspaper Moscow Times. It also reported in May that “it’s unclear how many of these Russians have since returned to their home country.”

A telling poll by Levada Center in Moscow teased out negative attitudes of Russians by avoiding direct questions about Putin or politics, but by asking them to describe their emotional reactions to the “Military Action in Ukraine”. It reveals underlying concerns and a demographic divide.

Cracks are appearing in Russia, and Putin’s final energy card in Europe has backfired and emboldened the continent. But neither side in the conflict will cede ground or negotiate which means the war will likely last well into 2023, added Kurt Volcker. “The winter will be worse for Russia than Ukraine,” he said. “Russia is forward-deployed with vulnerable supply chains. Ukraine has home field advantage with supplies and local support. Ukraine will continue to advance, it won’t be easy, and the war will last well into 2023 unless something snaps in Russia.”

Volcker doesn’t believe that Putin will use nuclear weapons, or that Western resolve will ebb “because the war crimes and atrocities appall people around the world.” In 1982, Russian strongman Leonid Brezhnev died, weak leadership followed, Russia’s unsuccessful war in Afghanistan ended, and the Soviet Union dissolved. “Putin is in his 70s, has health issues, and is in an unsustainable position. Russia can’t win. The regions will stop paying attention to Moscow, and Siberia, Tatarstan and others will drift away. The Center won’t hold. The oligarchs, military, and media won’t want another strong man.”

But Putin remains in control, tightens his grip over the military, and lately his critics have been falling out of windows or down stairs. If the war becomes a stalemate and grinds on, will he use a nuke or be replaced? Both outcomes are unlikely. And Western nuclear powers must continue to forcefully and publicly articulate the Armageddon a Putin nuke would unleash on Russia and, if he uses one, retaliate in kind. But now they must re-double sanctions and heavy weapon shipments to help Ukraine defeat the tsunami of “cannon fodder” that Putin plans to release. Failing a regime change anytime soon, only rhetorical and artillery escalations will turn the tide and free Ukraine and the world from this odious military dictatorship.

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UN REPORT REVEALS RUSSIAN FORCES RAPED, TORTURED UKRAINIAN CHILDREN

The age of “victims of sexual and gendered-based violence” in Ukraine by Russian forces “ranged from 4 to 82 years,” an independent commission has found.

By Mary Papenfuss

Sept. 24, 2022

Huffpost

 

Russian troops raped and tortured children in Ukraine, and brutally executed a “large number” of civilians among an appalling list of “war crimes” uncovered in a shocking investigation for the United Nations.

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine — convened in March and staffed by international legal experts — reported the disturbing findings Friday in Geneva, describing a long list of appalling abuses and atrocities by Russian forces.

“Based on the evidence gathered by the commission, it has concluded that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine,” Erik Mose, a Norwegian judge and chairman of the three-member commission, said in a statement to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Among the most disturbing crimes the commission has documented involve cases in which children were “raped, tortured and unlawfully confined,” according to the findings.

The age of “victims of sexual and gendered-based violence ranged from 4 to 82 years,” Mose said in a statement. In some cases ”relatives were forced to witness the crimes,” Mose noted in his statement.

Children were also killed and wounded in “indiscriminate attacks” on civilians by Russian forces using explosive weapons, the investigation found.

Commission members “were struck by a large number of executions and other violations by Russian forces, and the Commission received consistent accounts of torture and ill-treatment,” Mose noted in his statement.

The commission is continuing to investigate executions in 16 towns and settlements, and has “credible allegations regarding many more cases of executions, which we are documenting further,” Mose added.

Many of the examined bodies showed evidence of “prior detention of the victims, as well as visible signs of executions, such as hands tied behind backs, gunshot wounds to the head, and slit throats,” the commission found.

The findings have been consistent with reports of war crimes from other international human rights groups, Western governments and Ukrainian authorities.

The U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine earlier this year documented illegal killings — including summary executions of civilians — in more than 30 settlements in the Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions by Russian armed forces while they controlled these areas in late February and March.

The Independent International Commission headed by Mose also investigated atrocities in the same areas.

Investigators visited 27 towns and settlements and interviewed more than 150 victims and witnesses, according to the report. They also inspected “sites of destruction, graves, places of detention and torture,” as well as remnants of weapons, said Mose.