Russia: Cornered In Crimea

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September 20, 2022: Ukraine launched a series of offensive operations that started on August 29th in the south. This was no surprise and Russia had moved a lot of troops from the north to block any Ukrainian attacks in Kherson province or Donbas to the east. All this turned out to be a deception and on September 6 Ukraine launched a more powerful surprise offensive in the northeast (Kharkiv province). Many Russian units panicked and fled when they realized they might be surrounded. This included units falling apart with troops abandoning tanks and other major items of equipment. By the 11th Russia announced it was withdrawing from Kharkiv province. The withdrawal was already in progress when Russia made it official. The offensive spread to Donbas, causing a retreat from several towns that had come under Russian control in 2014. The offensive kept going in Kharkiv province with Ukrainian troops reaching the Russian border in many places. Meanwhile the southern (Kherson province) offensive began on August 29th as a distraction, then expanded as Russian units panicked when they realized that Ukrainian HIMARS vehicles carrying GMLRS guided missiles were destroying the remaining bridges on the Dnieper River and trapping thousands of Russian troops. The Ukrainian missiles also hit Russian supply storage sites leaving the trapped troops without ammunition, fuel and other supplies.

Ukrainian forces are now attacking on a broad front and expect to control all of Kherson province by the end of the year. This means major losses for the Russian in terms of troops captured or driven out of the area. In addition, Ukraine will control most of the water supply for the Crimean Peninsula and control territory close enough to the Kerch Strait bridge to damage or destroy it with missiles or airstrikes. The Kerch Strait bridge was completed in 2014 at a cost of nearly four billion dollars. It is the main supply route between Russia and Crimea. The only other rail line runs from Donbas to Crimea and is under attack by Ukrainian partisans.

Russia troop losses are another problem. Russia is unable to recruit enough troops to replace losses and a recent leaked report from the Russian Ministry of Finance completed in late August gave the Russian army’s “special military operations” in Ukraine some death toll numbers. According to this report, the Russian government needs to allocate 361 billion rubles for the pensions of the fallen Russian troops, an average of about 7 million rubles per person, and a total of 48,759 dead. Ukrainian military intel currently puts the Russian dead at about 54,000, a number many Westerners dismiss as inflated. Another Russian weakness that is largely ignored by Western media is the degree of corruption in the Russian military. This has led to chronic shortages of essential supplies and equipment for the troops. This was particularly the case with thousands of Russian “reserve” troops recruited and financed by individual provinces. The central government ordered this mobilization but many provinces were unable to comply. Those that did sent volunteers who were too old or out of shape for military service. These men were attracted by the high bonuses and monthly pay promised. Those that survived their two months in Ukraine found that the money has not been deposited in their bank accounts as promised. Conscripts are banned by law from serving combat outside Russia. Conscripts have also learned to avoid the deceptive offers to become a better paid contract soldier because it would make them eligible for service in Ukraine. All this means Russia cannot obtain enough new troops to replace heavy losses in Ukraine. Ukrainian and NATO electronic monitoring of Russian communications confirms that replacements are lacking for troops lost (killed, wounded or captured) in combat. Russian commanders are also concerned about their supply situation. They are not receiving enough ammunition, especially artillery shells and rockets. Food, clothing and medical supplies are inadequate, especially now that winter is coming and most of the troops will be at the front, not in barracks or other housing. Hunger, cold and a lack of fire (artillery) support makes troops more willing to desert or surrender at the first opportunity.

Ukrainian troops have none of these problems, save for artillery, and that is a major reason for recent successes in combat. Ukraine always had more troops in Ukraine than Russia but over the last few months more of them have received combat training and are led by officers and NCOs that are far more competent than their Russian counterparts. The Russians still cling to the Soviet-era centralized command system and lack of NCOs. For over a decade Ukrainian troop have been adopting Western methods, which means more NCOs and units giver “mission orders” that include permission to improvise. The Ukrainians are demonstrating the superiority of this approach against an opponent using centralized command. This is disastrous for the Russians who don’t have enough troops to cover the long front lines in southern (Kherson province) and Donbas. If the Russians are driven out of all Ukraine except Crimea, there is a tiny front line (a narrow bit of land connecting Ukraine with the Crimean Peninsula. Normally that would be an advantage, but with the Ukrainians that close the GMLRS guided missiles used by HIMARS vehicles can hit just about anything in Crimea because GMLRS has a range of 80 kilometers. The U.S. has finally agreed to supply Ukraine with the larger (300-kilometer range) ATACMs missile that HIMARS vehicles can also use. One 610mm ATACMS missile or six 226mm rockets can be carried and launched by a HIMARS vehicle. The 226mm rockets are heavily used in Ukraine and production has been increased to deal with that. There are several thousand ATACMs missiles available and in 2024 ATACMS will be replaced by the smaller PrSM (Precision Strike Missile), so that HIMARS can carry and launch two of them. PrSM has a range of 500 kilometers. Production of PrSM began this year but the missile won’t officially enter service until 2024.

The American decision to send ATACMS was recently suspended because of Russian threats to use nuclear weapons. This threat caused some senior American officials to urge caution. Ukrainians responded by pointing out the growing criticism of Putin within Russia and ultra-nationalists often agreeing with that. Many ultra-nationalists insist that victory could be achieved simply by ordering a total mobilization. This ignores the fact that ever since the Soviet Union collapsed Russians have been very vocal in their opposition to conscription, which is the primary means for carrying out a mass mobilization. The government-controlled media does not discuss Russian defeats in Ukraine but at the local level most Russians know of a local family that had a son killed or badly wounded in Ukraine. That has not triggered calls for mass mobilization because it is obvious that Russia is not threatened and is the aggressor in Ukraine. Russians also know that the international reaction to the attack on Ukraine has meant economic problems for the average Russian because of growing inflation, product shortages and unemployment. Many American decision makers are either ignorant of this reality or choose to ignore it. This helps Putin while complicating Ukrainian efforts to drive the Russians out and end the war.

Russian media and government officials are having a hard time explaining the recent Russian defeats in Ukraine. The media also consists of pro-war Russian commentators who communicate via encrypted messages on Telegram, a popular cell phone app in Russia and Ukraine. Early on many of these Russian Telegram based military blogers (“mil-blogers” supported the invasion and were supplied with information by the Russian government, including opportunities to spend some time with the troops inside Ukraine. By June the Russian mil-blogers were no longer reporting the official Russian version of events in Ukraine, but what was being reported by Russian veterans of the fighting in Ukraine. Recently that included numerous reports of the disastrous Russian defeats in Ukraine. More Russians are openly demanding to know who was responsible these massive defeats. This puts the government in a difficult position because leader Vladimir Putin cannot be blamed, at least not openly or officially. Instead, more senior officers (generals) in charge of troops in Ukraine are blamed, as well as the Minister of Defense. All of these officials work for and often report directly to Putin. This is no secret and the most recent disasters in Ukraine have generated more speculation on how much longer Putin can cling to power. Openly criticizing Putin often leads to an untimely death either because of an accident or sudden illness. What Putin and his critics can agree on is the best strategy in Ukraine is to concentrate attacks on industry, transportation and civilian infrastructure in general. Railroads and buildings can’t shoot back.

Putin is also under pressure from the ultra-nationalists to order a full mobilization and the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Putin had also threatened to use nukes after the first Russian defeat when Russian troops took heavy losses and were forced to withdraw from northern Ukraine and the capital Kyiv. Putin was told by his own nuclear weapons experts that the use of nukes in Ukraine would be the first such use since World War II, when only the Americans had these weapons. Now several NATO nations have nukes, as does unstable Russian neighbor North Korea. Using nukes against Ukraine risked nuclear retaliation by NATO nations, including the United States. Russia would become a pariah state for having been the first to use nukes. Russian diplomats confirmed that. Nukes were removed from the options list. That left full mobilization, which Putin’s political and military advisors feared would create a popular backlash. After months of extreme economic sanctions, many Russians are angry about rising prices and less, or no, income because the sanctions have shut down a lot of Russian companies. Going to war with the rest of Europe is not seen as a viable solution. There is growing anger among Russians towards Putin, who has been the undisputed Russian leader for two decades. That anger has turned into more public criticism, despite the physical threats to such critics. When you have so many critics that threats and physical intimidation no longer work, it’s time to reconsider the Ukrainian situation. Putin critics call for just getting out of Ukraine and making peace with NATO. Putin sees this as leading a new Russian government without Putin. The Russians are not only losing in Ukraine, they are also losing in Russia.

Another blow to Russian morale is the recent discovery of hundreds of Ukrainian civilians killed and buried in recently liberated Kharkiv province. Many of these victims were shot in the head and their hands tied behind their backs. Some bodies showed signs of torture. Ukraine wants a war crimes investigation into Russian responsibility for this. Most of these graves were found in areas that the Russians occupied early in the war. Ukraine has called on the UN to send inspectors to verify these discoveries and help prepare a war crimes case against Russia.

Syria, Turkey And Iran

Russia still has commitments in Syria and with Turkey and Iran. Despite the desperate situation in Ukraine, there remain some Russian warplanes and troops in Syria.

Syria continues to be a major problem for Turkey while increased trade with Russia has provided a needed economic boost. Turkish relationships with Russia begin in Syria and elsewhere are increasingly merging in Syria. At the same time the war in Syria continues to slow down. In the northwest (Idlib province) there are over 10,000 Islamic terrorists holding about half the province against weak but persistent attacks by Syrian troops. Most of the casualties in Idlib are caused by Russian airstrikes. The Kurdish-controlled northeast, including Hasaka and parts of Deir Ezzor and Aleppo provinces, continues to be attacked by Turkish forces, but not in a major way. That is changing as Turkey persuades Russia to shift its air support to assist Turkish operations.

Turkey is also continuing its “decapitation” (assassination) program against Kurdish civil and military leaders, especially those supporting the Kurdish led SDF (Syrian Defense Forces) militia and Turkish, Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish separatists operating in northern Syria. Turkey uses electronic eavesdropping on Kurds suspected of supporting the Kurdish rebels and separatists. Air strikes, usually with UAVs armed with laser guided missiles, do most of the killing and a lot of the surveillance.

Turkey is striving to achieve control of a 30-kilometer-deep (into Syria) border strip along the length of its Syrian border. The Assads and Kurds agree that this border strip is a bad idea.

The Iranians continue to seek cooperation from the Turks, Syrians and Russians in getting Iranian forces close enough to the Israeli border to make attacks possible, but until recently no one is interested. Iranian efforts in Syria and Lebanon are very low-budget and Iranian officers in charge of this have to make do with very little. This has changed recently as Iran has been supplying Russia with weapons, including dozens of Shahed 136 cruise missile UAVs, to be used in the Ukraine fighting. In return Iran is getting some modern (Su-35) jets and spare parts for some of their older Russian made warplanes. Some of the Shahed 136 UAVs were recently used against Ukrainian forces in the southeast. The Shahed 136 was effective, but not spectacularly so. The explosive warhead only weighs 36 kg (80 pounds), compared to 10 kg for a 155mm shell or 23 kg (51 pounds) of explosives for a 114 kg (250 pound) aircraft bomb. The Iranian UAV is expensive for a weapon that can only be used once and has reliability problems. At least one Shahed 136 was discovered by Ukrainians after it crashed on its way to a target.

In addition, Iran expects Russia to be more helpful in Syria, where Russia already has an understanding with Israel that involves Russia not interfering with Israeli airstrikes on Iranian targets. In return Israel does not supply Ukraine with weapons. Most Israelis support the Ukrainians but they also recognize the threat from Iranians in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. Russia and Iran are still negotiating on this issue.

In August Russia and Iran signed a new agreement that expanded economic and political cooperation between the two nations. This agreement ignores sanctions currently imposed on Russia and Iran and formalizes the cooperation between the two oil producers to evade Western efforts to prevent Iran and Russia from exporting its oil. The new agreement also confirms joint efforts to support each other militarily. Iran has supported the Russian invasion of Ukraine while Russia backs Iranian threats to other Middle Eastern oil producers. This does not include unofficial Russian agreements in Syria that keep Israel and Russia from going to war because of continued Israeli attacks on Iranian forces in Syria. Russia continues to support Iranian efforts to expand its influence over the Iraqi government.

This new arrangement means problems with Israel-Russia understandings in Syria. Israel sometimes fires on Iranian forces operating near the Israeli border. Israel also shares intel with Russia and Syria about Syrian officers who are secretly working for Iran. The Iranians pay well, and in dollars. Israel occasionally releases evidence of this to the media so Iranians back home have another reason to oppose Iranian foreign wars. Negotiations have been underway between Iran and Russia/Syria since 2020 but have not made much progress. Continuing Iranian sponsored violence is just another incentive for Syria to get the Iranian agents away from the Israeli border area.

Israel has not been providing any weapons to Ukraine because of Iranian activity near the Israeli border in Syria. Israel needs to maintain good relations with Russia to deal with the Iranian threat. Russia told Israel that sending weapons to Ukraine could reduce Russian cooperation in Syria against Iran. Most Israelis support Ukraine, but the Iranian threat is very real and next door, so Israeli politicians cannot ignore it unless they want to lose their next election. Russia does not want to lose its relationships with Israel but now Iran is in a position to force the matter. Russia appears to be seeking a compromise with Israel that will not offend Iran.

Other parties in Syria have been renegotiating relationships in Syria. In May Syrian leader Bashar Assad made an unannounced visit to Iran, apparently to negotiate how Syria and Iran will take over Russian bases and any Russian equipment left behind. Most Russian ground forces in Syria are returning to Russia because of the war in Ukraine. These Russian troops consist of special operations forces, military advisers and tech support personnel who help maintain Russian weapons used by Syria. The departing Russian troops are first moved to a Russian controlled airbase near the Mediterranean coast and then flown back to Russia. Some of the abandoned bases were transferred to Iranian control and used by Iran-backed militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah. Iran is one of the few countries to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has even sent the Russians some weapons via the Caspian Sea which borders Russia and Iran. The Assad visit was announced after he left Iran to return to Syria.

September 18, 2022: Russia said it would concentrate on civilian targets after its ground forces suffered major losses in the past three week. Russia is using unguided missiles for most of these attacks. This includes older S-300 anti-aircraft missiles launched at ground targets. The S-300 missile guidance system cannot be used against ground targets so these missiles are fired at large urban areas where they will hit something or someone.

September 16, 2022: The Ukrainian offensive has shifted to the south where there are frequent air and artillery attacks, mainly by the Ukrainians. This includes precision attacks on Russian military and Ukrainian collaborator officials. In occupied Kherson province several GMLRS guided missiles hit an office in a municipal building in the provincial capital where a meeting of senior collaborator officials was being held. The precision and timing of this attack indicates an inside informant proving real time intelligence for the missiles. Meanwhile in Donbas an explosion at a meeting of some collaborator officials was attributed to feuds among collaborator officials. This is not unusual but have become more common as Ukrainian forces gain more ground. In all the Russian occupied territories Russians and Ukrainian collaborators are leaving. This has led Russia to cancel plans to hold fake elections to approve these parts of Ukraine to become Russian territory.

To the east of Kherson province, in Zaporizhzhya province, Ukrainian partisans blew up part of the railroad running through the city of Melitopol. This rail line runs from Russian controlled Donbas to Crimea and supplies Russian forces with fuel, weapons and other supplies. Ukrainian forces also use GMLRS guided missiles to hit Russian bases and supply storage sites in the area. Ukrainian forces still control northern Zaporizhzhia province. Russia took the southern portion of the province early in the 2022 invasion. This included the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. The partisan forces have been increasingly active in the area and also supply Ukrainian forces with the location of targets for the GMLRS missiles or artillery. Ukrainian forces expect to take the rest of Zaporizhzhia province before the end of the year but have to be careful with the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which has gradually shut down its six nuclear reactors. This is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and supplies about a fifth of all the electricity in Ukraine. The last reactor was shut down on September 11th and all the reactors are being completely shut down. There is still a problem with spent, but still highly radioactive, fuel rods stored on the power plant grounds. These are a nuclear hazard if hit by artillery fire or any explosives.

September 10, 2022: Ukraine tracks the quality and quantity of Russian weapons used against them. This is part of an 0ngoing effort to track Russian dependence on foreign components, usually electronic, for many of their weapon systems. Particularly troublesome are dual-use items that are used in military and non-military equipment. Sometimes Russia finds a way to adapt a civilian item to military use. That item, and its adaptation, is added to the sanctions list. Russia is constantly seeking ways to get around the sanctions, such as using the electronics in major household appliances in military UAVs. The only way to track their success at that is to constantly shift through the debris left behind when a guided weapon strikes and catalog the key components. Sanctions are easy to declare but require a lot of effort to make them work.

September 8, 2022: In northeast Syria (Hasaka province) Kurdish SDF forces clashed with ISIL, leaving one ISIL gunman and two Kurds dead. In the northwest (Idlib province) Russia warplanes carried out fourteen airstrikes on several Islamic terror groups in the province, killing over a hundred people. This is part of the Russian air support provided to the Assad government to justify the Russian deal with the Assads to obtain long-term leases for a Russian air field and naval base in adjacent Latakia province. The Hmeimim airbase there was built by Russia in 2015 near the port city of Latakia, which is 85 kilometers north of Tartus and 50 kilometers from the Turkish border. Part of the Tartus port has become a long-term foreign base for Russia, along with Hmeimim. As long as the rebels are active in Idlib they will be a threat to the Russian bases.

September 7, 2022: Russia is losing control of the 20 percent of Ukrainian territory they occupy. Even in areas like Crimea and Donbas they have occupied since 2014, the inhabitants are refusing to support the Russian war effort. Currently, few Ukrainians or Russians living in Crimea or Donbas are willing to join the military or police. This is the result of the populations in Crimea and Donbas realizing that Russia could lose control of these areas to Ukrainian forces, which does not work out well for “collaborators.” Returning to post-war Russia is not an attractive prospect either. One thing both Ukrainian residents and Russian immigrants of these occupied territories have learned since 2014 is that living standards are higher in Ukraine than in Russia. When Ukraine became independent of Russia in 1991, living standards were equal. Russian soldiers invading Ukraine since then were surprised at how much better Ukrainian living standards had become than Russia’s. Russian propaganda had implied that Ukrainians were repressed and impoverished, not better off and willing to fight and defeat their Russian “liberators”.

Local security forces in Crimea and Donbas have been there since 2014 but the high casualties suffered by front line troops meant a lot the troops occupying Crimea and Donbas were sent to the front, where most became casualties. Russia needs fewer troops in Crimea now that they have withdrawn most of their warships, aircraft and shipyard workers to Russia. Ukrainian partisans have been more active in Crimea, destroying military aircraft with seeming impunity. Similar attacks are made on prominent Russians in Crimea and Ukrainian collaborators. In Donbas ethnic Russians and their Ukrainian collaborators are also under attack and departing for Russia or, if Ukrainian, quietly switching sides. Donbas used to be a good source of Russian troops but the heavy casualties and Ukrainian offensive and partisan activity in Donbas has put an end to Russian recruiting efforts there.

September 6, 2022: In northern Mali (central Africa) the government is sending some of its Russian Wagner Group mercenaries to the area. Earlier in the year a French UAV had captured video of Wagner Group men burying bodies to conceal an attack that killed civilians rather than Islamic terrorists. Currently Germany and Russia are at war with each other in Ukraine and the UN does not want to deal with any of that in Mali where the government continues to deny accusations that its security forces and Russian Wagner Group mercenaries are responsible for atrocities committed against Mali civilians. France released a video taken from a French UAV showing Wagner Group men collecting and burying civilians the Russians and Mali security forces had killed. Mali describes the Wagner Group men as military trainers. The Wagner Group men are armed and often accompany Mali forces on operations. Mali is a major god producer in Africa and pays for the thousand Wagner Group men in gold.

September 4, 2022: North Korea has agreed to send a thousand workers to eastern Ukraine (Donbas) to help with construction projects. The North Korean workers are already in Russia, where they have been stuck since 2020 because North Korea shut its borders because of covid19. Russia is also sending North Korea large quantities of wheat because North Korea has officially recognized the Russian arranged independence of the two provinces in Donbas. Those two provinces are still a war zone but North Korea is sending the workers anyway because it is an opportunity to earn hard currency. Russia is also buying artillery ammunition (shells and rockets) from North Korea, to replace the ammo used against Ukrainian forces or destroyed by Ukrainian missile attacks. These attacks on ammo storage sites have been particularly heavy and caused noticeable shortages at the front, where Ukrainian troops noted the decline in Russian artillery fire. Russia can pay for the ammo with food, which North Korea is desperately in need of. Since North Korea and Russia share a border, and a rail link, moving these goods is not subject to any outside interference. North Korea seizes any economic opportunity it can because the country is in bad economic shape and it has been getting worse because of covid19 lockdowns and continued economic mismanagement. Foreign economists estimate that North Korean GDP has declined at a rate of 2.4 percent a year over the last five years.

September 1, 2022: Ukraine’s responses to the sudden Russian 2022 invasion taught it and NATO allies valuable lessons on how best to adapt to wartime conditions. Ukraine had already learned much about the differences between how Russia and NATO countries fought wars after the 2014 Russian attack that took Crimea and Donbas. Ukraine had already decided to turn west, not towards Russia, for economic development, and the 2014 war convinced Ukraine that abandoning their Cold War era Russian (Soviet) military practices was also a good idea. Russian doctrine still stressed centralized control and little or no innovation at the front lines. Ukraine adopted the more innovation-tolerant Western model and that proved to be a lifesaver when the Russians invaded in 2022.

Ukraine had to quickly absorb hundreds of thousands of volunteers and get them some essential training as well as effective weapons. In the months before the invasion the Ukrainians were already receiving new weapons and equipment from NATO countries. Ukrainian troops quickly learned how to deal with unfamiliar weapons and equipment. Cell phone videos were found to be the most effective way to quickly distribute lessons learned with new weapons and equipment. Ukraine had an edge over Russia, and most NATO countries, when it came to software development capability and soon came up with new apps and systems that did things no software available to NATO countries could do.

August 30, 2022: A long delayed (by the Russian invasion of Ukraine) shipment of Ukrainian grain has left Ukraine headed for Yemen. This delivery of 37.000 tons of grain will prevent a major famine in Yemen. The grain will be turned into flour during a short stopover in Turkey. This shipment will provide a one-month supply for four million Yemenis. Obtaining regular shipments of Ukrainian grain is not possible because the fighting has destroyed a large portion of the 2022 crop. The Ukrainians are on the offensive to clear Russian forces out of the grain producing areas. There is no fixed time table on how long that will take.

August 23, 2022: Two Russian Tu-95 bombers violated South Koreas’ ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone). Russia said it was a scheduled flight but South Korea was not informed. Russia is angry with South Korea for arming Poland. South Korea has sold $5.8 billion worth of tanks, self-propelled artillery and ammunition to Poland. Deliveries are to be made within a year and Polish tank crews begin training in South Korea this October. This purchase is part of Poland’s effort to improve its defenses in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine. In July Poland ordered billions of dollars-worth of South Korean K2 tanks, K9 self-propelled 155mm howitzers and FA-50 jet trainers reconfigured for combat use. While the K2 and K9 purchase amounts to nearly a thousand vehicles (most built in Poland under license), only 48 FA-50s are being purchased. The subsequent order was for armored vehicles delivered as soon as possible. Poland has also ordered 64 AH-64 helicopter gunships from the United States. Poland has been sending a lot of its older weapons to Ukraine.

August 18, 2022: Ukrainian tactics are constantly evolving in the war against the Russians. In part that’s because the Ukrainians quickly adapt to new opportunities. At the time that gives them an opportunity to further confuse the Russians, who aren’t quite sure what the latest Ukrainian tactic is or exactly how it works. A recent example was the unexpected attack on a Russian airbase in Crimea, 300 kilometers away from the front lines. Commercial satellite photos soon revealed the before and after of the attack and revealed it was not, as the Russians claimed, some sloppy handling of aircraft bombs but large explosions in nine of the parking spaces for each aircraft. All nine warplanes were destroyed. But by what? Initially the Ukrainians said nothing, but later an official said that it was the work of Ukrainian special forces. Despite this, the Russians preferred to believe it was some kind of missile or UAV attack, local Ukrainian partisans or something else. This tactic is frequently used when the opportunity presents itself. New weapons, like GMLRS guided rockets launched from a HIMARS vehicle, leave identifiable debris after they explode. Other guided explosive objects are more difficult to identify and these aircraft may have been destroyed by partisans who got onto the base and quickly attached small explosive devices to the aircraft and detonated them with a timer or remotely as they fled. The local partisans needed help in obtaining such specialized explosives and that’s what Ukrainian special forces are for. This was a tactic first used by British commandos in World War II, who developed a special explosive device that destroyed the aircraft after the British were away from the base. Whatever the cause, it led to Russia moving the remaining aircraft out of Crimea and back to Russia. That, plus the growing attacks and threats of violence against Russian civilians living in occupied territory, led to many more Russians in Crimea returning to Russia.

The “Russians Go Home” atmosphere is worse in the other occupied territories. Russia held a fake election in Crimea years ago and officially annexed it. International law, the UN and most of the world do not recognize these annexations. There is an increasingly violent guerrilla war in these occupied territories between the illegal Russian civilians and the native Ukrainians. The Russification program in these territories is not only opposed but also documented with cellphone videos. Ukraine doesn’t have to convince the rest of the world that these Russian fake election tactics are illegal and are using all means at their disposal to drive Russian soldiers and civilians out. This includes the efforts of Ukrainian military intel to discover, document and expose Russian disinformation efforts. Ukrainians, having been subject to Russian disinformation and occupation of Ukraine for centuries, use that experience to detect and discredit Russian disinformation efforts. Ukrainians have also taken advantage of the poor morale and performance of Russian troops in Ukraine to come up with ways to make Russians even more fearful and uncertain about how the Ukrainians are beating them.

These tactics are one of the reasons why a recent Ukrainian opinion poll showed 98 percent of Ukrainian s believe their forces are winning the war, and 64 percent believe Ukraine will take back all the Ukrainian territory currently occupied by Russia.

August 16, 2022: A former Russian paratrooper, Pavel Filatyev, reached France and received asylum. Filatyev had written a book called ZOV (A Call) that reported on his experiences in Ukraine. This sort of thing is now a crime in Russia.

 

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