ISW Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, 17 April – TTG

Kupiansk is at the crossroads of everything. The rail lines from Russia, and others from the Russian-occupied east, connect to the city, making it a natural resupply point for this entire front. (Map from DailyKos)

Russian forces likely captured the Port of Mariupol on April 16 despite Ukrainian General Staff denials, reducing organized Ukrainian resistance in the city to the Azovstal factory in eastern Mariupol. Russian and DNR forces released footage on April 16 confirming their presence in several key locations in southwestern Mariupol, including the port itself. Isolated groups of Ukrainian troops may remain active in Mariupol outside of the Azovstal factory, but they will likely be cleared out by Russian forces in the coming days. Russian forces likely seek to force the remaining defenders of the Azovstal factory to capitulate through overwhelming firepower to avoid costly clearing operations, but remaining Ukrainian defenders appear intent on staging a final stand. Russian forces will likely complete the capture of Mariupol in the coming week, but final assaults will likely continue to cost them dearly.

Russian forces continued to amass on the Izyum axis and in eastern Ukraine, increasingly including low-quality proxy conscripts, in parallel with continuous – and unsuccessful – small-scale attacks. Russian forces did not take any territory on the Izyum axis or in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts in the past 24 hours. Russian forces deploying to eastern Ukraine reportedly continue to face significant morale and supply issues and appear unlikely to intend, or be able to, conduct a major offensive surge in the coming days. Deputy Ukrainian Minister of Defense Anna Malyar stated on April 17 that the Russian military is in no hurry to launch an offensive in eastern Ukraine, having learned from their experience from Kyiv – but Russian forces continue localized attacks and are likely unable to amass the cohesive combat power necessary for a major breakthrough.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces likely captured the Port of Mariupol on April 16 despite Ukrainian General Staff denials.
  • Russian forces likely seek to force the remaining defenders of the Azovstal factory to capitulate through overwhelming firepower to avoid costly clearing operations, but remaining Ukrainian defenders appear intent on staging a final stand.
  • Evgeny Prigozhin, financier of the Wagner Group, is likely active on the ground in eastern Ukraine to coordinate Wagner Group recruitment and funding.
  • Russian forces continued their build up around Izyum but did not conduct any offensive operations.

The Ukrainian Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported on April 16 that the Kremlin is increasingly arresting Russian and proxy officers for failures in Ukraine. The GUR reported Russian military authorities established a commission intended to run from March 2 to April 24 in occupied Horlivka to identify the reasons for personnel shortages among Russian forces. The GUR reported that Russian investigators discovered the commanders of Russia’s 3rd Motor Rifle Brigade was 100% staffed at the beginning of the invasion when it in fact only had 55% of its personnel and arrested two battalion commanders in the brigade. The GUR also reported the FSB arrested DNR Defense Spokesperson Eduard Basurin for his ”careless statement” on April 11 revealing Russian intent to use chemical weapons in Mariupol, though there is still no independent confirmation of the Ukrainian claim of Russian chemical weapons use.

Comment: In other news, Zelenskiy told CNN that between 2,500 and 3,000 Ukrainian servicemen were killed in the war and that about 10,000 Ukrainian servicemen were injured. Ukrainian estimate of Russian casualties is around 20,000 dead. The Ukrainian MOD also reported yesterday, “Due to the lack of human resources, the invaders are trying to bring local residents of temporarily captured territories into the war. So, in the city of Izium, forced mobilization of men has begun.” 

Seems the Russians have drained DNR and LNR of available manpower in their conscription round ups. I can almost guarantee these new “recruits” are poorly trained and equipped, with some reports of Mosin Nagant rifles being issued to these poor bastards. They’re either rusted or still clogged with cosmoline. Their motivation and reliability are obviously suspect. If I was a Russian commander, I wouldn’t trust them to guard supply columns much less use them in an assault against prepared Ukrainian positions. It’s not just Russian logistics that are in bad shape.


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64 Responses to ISW Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, 17 April – TTG

  1. Degringolade says:

    I dunno TTG.

    Like I said before, can’t say as I think that anyone is giving us information that is worth a bucket of warm spit.

    I have a hunch things aren’t exactly as outlined here. We’ll see.

  2. Leith says:

    That Ukraine Army thrust from Chuhuiv looks to be an attempt to cut the log train of the Russian BTGs in Izium. There might be another pincer east of Izium moving north towards Borova. They may or may not be able to put that Russian salient in a cauldron as the Oskol river can prevent their link-up. But they can perhaps play hell with Russian reinforcement and resupply.

  3. Poul says:

    Ponsonby’s Ten Commandments of War Propaganda from WW1 era goes for both Russia and Ukraine today.

    Both sides casualty numbers are so No. 7.

  4. Leith says:

    So someone in Russia’s 3rd Motor Rifle Brigade was making big bucks off of phony payrolls. I hope they got the right guys. Could well have been the Brigade Commander and his staff blaming it on lower levels.

    Corruption is endemic if salaries of ghost soldiers are being siphoned off by the brass. Makes it sound like a third world army. At least one ARVN division commander kept KIA on the rolls and pocketed their pay and rations according to Andrew West’s book
    I believe some Iraqi Army units did something similar back when Maliki was PM.

    Or it sounds like a larger scale of the ‘no-show’ jobs that the mafia pioneered in the US construction industry.

    • blue peacock says:

      We spend more on our military than the next 10 countries combined. Can we take on all the next 10 countries militarily? How much of this spending goes to deliver the actual product or service and how much is pilfered and how much is spent in boondoggles?

      I have a college buddy who worked at Booz Allen who was the prime on the Trailblazer program for NSA. After over $1.5 billion was spent they scrapped it because it didn’t go anywhere. The Beltway Bandits however made off with the loot. How many more programs are there like that?

      People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. We have a lot of corruption that would rival any banana republic. And we also have much human rights and civil liberties violations. We should be more circumspect in lecturing others and instead be much more focused on cleaning house here at home.

      • TTG says:

        blue peacock,

        We spend a quarter of our defense budget on pay and benefits for the active force. That probably includes DoD civilian pay and benefits. Seeing what thievery did to the Russian military, I think the money we spend on personnel costs is well spent. There’s enough thievery done on the defense contractor management level.

        • blue peacock says:


          OK. The thievery takes place in the other 75% of the budget which at nearly $1 trillion borrowed from our grandkids is a helluva a lot. How many mansions and Caribbean vacations does that support? Of course the politicians from both parties also have their palms greased. Not to pick on the Dems but how has Nancy who spent most of her adult life Congress land up with a $100 million net worth.

          • TTG says:

            blue peacock,

            I have no idea of the full extent of the thievery and graft in the higher echelons of defense contractors and, as you mention, the politicians. It’s no doubt more than it should be. The bulk of the Pelosi family wealth is from her husband, who owns and operates a San Francisco-based real estate and venture capital investment firm. That’s big bucks there.

  5. Fred says:

    A brigade with 55% manpower rather than 100% sure accounts for a lack of success. So was the other 45% never there or deserted before combat? How many other units were in the same shape? Did our own intelligence people know that before, or were they still trying to figure out who was behind all that “”Russia Collusion “?

  6. walrus says:

    I do not trust any of the ISW reports as far as I can throw them because they consistently and uncritically quote Ukrainian Government sources as fountains of truth and slant every observation they make towards their objective – doing everything possible to destroy Russian morale. However it is necessary to read them to gauge the scale and quality of the information operation campaign (Aka Propaganda) being run by the Neocons against Russian and Western publics alike.

    They consistently hammer themes of a low quality, poorly lead and corrupt Russian Army engaged in futile “small scale” attacks on heroic Ukrainian forces. This crap is aimed at destroying the morale of both the Russian community and troops. The only theme I haven’t (yet) noticed in an ISW report is that of “war profiteers” making out with soldiers wives and girlfriends left behind. Every other trope is there. The objective as far as Western publics are concerned is to shore up domestic support for our continued investment in Ukrainian war.

    I should add that there are websites that purvey the opposite viewpoint. The truth is somewhere in between. Of course Russias forces are beset by problems and stupidities, what Army isn’t?

    The only two things we can all be sure of at present are:

    1) Every Western Government and defence force will be using this conflict as an opportunity to clean out their stores of old equipment by donating it to Ukraine.

    2) Every chiseller, con man and out an out crook will be making their way to Washington to try and get Uncle Sam to buy their wares for supply to Ukraine.

    I suggest re – reading “Catch 22” and its sequel “Closing Time” are worthwhile to get a glimpse of the folly now occuring.

    • TTG says:


      You don’t think Russian troops or even the MOD leadership in Moscow pay any attention to ISW reports, do you? As you said, they have plenty of their own government cheerleaders to keep their morale up. We can surely bet that the ISW is not the objective truth. We won’t know that, if at all, for some time. Even our intelligence agencies don’t have all the answers now. We all thought the Russian army was 10 feet tall and damned near invincible based on Syria and the popular press. We got that one wrong, didn’t we. As Chief Dan George said in “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” all we can do is “endeavor to persevere.”

      • Fred says:


        “We all thought the Russian army was 10 feet tall and damned near invincible…”

        I got in a bit of trouble back in the early ’80s for saying the Russian Navy had a bunch of junk dating back to WW2 that hadn’t moved from the pier in decades, just like our ‘reserve fleet’. The admiral commanding subron 2 at the time wasn’t too concerned about the opinion of an E-6, but boy was my XO pissed off. It seems not too much has changed, other than ‘diversity’ and the amount of rust on our active ships (which is disgraceful).

    • drifter says:

      Actually, there’s no reason at all to believe “the truth is somewhere in between.” It may be something altogether different. And it may be unknown to the propagandists.

  7. walrus says:


    ISW don’t write reports without a reason. Sure the Russian MOD don’t pay attention but the American and European general public does. Furthermore I’m sure folks with Russian relatives as well as Russian Internet users read this stuff and it affects their perception of what is happening. That will eventually transfer into voting intentions.

    Why does that even matter? Because military adventures have financial costs. Civilian infrastructure projects will be forgone to pay for this crap. Taxes will be higher as well.

    It seems like every time America gets close to paying itself a “Peace dividend” a new monster is discovered to forestall defence cutbacks and stimulate new defence investment.

    • Fred says:


      “It seems like every time America gets close to paying itself a “Peace dividend” a new monster is discovered …”

      That’s the borg playbook. It lead to all those great vicories by Bush, Barack and the current occupant of the White House. I’m sure we’re do for more “russia collusion” and another Chinese virus before the next rounds of elections is concluded. Might happen in France first this time around though.

    • Muralidhar Rao says:

      Walrus I agree with your last paragraph, we sure have a knack to find monsters to slay. Remember Bin Laden, Saddam, Quaddaffi and the only one that got away were the Ayatollahs! Even with all that bragado Trump didn’t touch them.
      By the way did you notice the MSM is reporting that the whole west including US is running low on ammo and Javelins and we are not even in the fight. Now it begs he question if the Rooskies are so incompetent how come they can bomb with their missiles, lob artillary at will and take out the ammo depots as well as fuel storage. Some thing doesn’t make sense to me

  8. mcohen says:

    I like cosmoline.where did you get that.seinfeld perhaps

    • TTG says:


      Cosmoline is an oily, waxy preservative used to coat weapons going into long term storage. As it ages, it becomes a bitch to remove.

      • PeterHug says:

        Has anyone ever made a cleaner specifically formulated to remove aged cosmoline? That sounds like it would be a fun project.

        • TTG says:


          I’ve used mineral spirits and even acetone. It’s still a lot of work to get the last bits out of every nook and cranny.

        • walrus says:

          Fingernails. I share TTG’s experience when I was issued a brand new L1A1 SLR.

  9. English Outsider says:

    For all I know the Russian army might be an unholy mess of corruption and incompetence. Or it might be a shining example of impeccable procurement practice and honed to the peak of military proficiency. Since I know little of armies and less of Russia I’m OK with leaving that question open.

    But that little has been enough to make it obvious to me, since February 21st if I’d had my wits about me and since February 24th since I didn’t, that our unfortunate Ukrainian proxies have not only lost the unnecessary war into which we plunged them – or encouraged them if that’s a more charitable interpretation – but will now go on to lose great chunks of their country.

    TTG – you’ve allowed me to state that view in your previous comment sections. It’s six years since I discovered the Colonel’s unique site and almost as long as that since I’ve taken your summaries and analyses as gold standard. So when I put such views forward I’m aware that I might have got the whole thing dead wrong – especially the military side of things. In any case, as I’ve said before, my dislike of Brussels might be leading me to take a lopsided view of the politics of it all.

    Putting that aside there are still conclusions beyond dispute. Three, by my count.

    The first is that HMG doesn’t come out of it well. My opinion of Macron and Scholz dropped like a stone after February 21st, but not of Johnson. He was at rock bottom to start with. He’s since stayed there. But that’s a private grief for us in England so I shan’t air it here.

    In any case Johnson isn’t one of the major players. Maid of all work for the Washington neocons, HMG, and some of that work decidedly scrubby, but nothing much more than that.

    The second is that whatever one thinks of the merits of our activities in the Ukraine, we in the West have screwed up so badly in the sanctions war. It’s unbelievable that when the Russian economy didn’t fall apart as hoped, our various leaders didn’t draw back and have another think. Instead they’re doubling down.

    The USA might get away with it but I’m hearing the bell tolling for Europe. Europe wasn’t in great shape before, but unless Scholz manages to find a spine he’s going to take us all down into a future inconceivable only a few months ago. Pity that at such a time the European superpower should be led by a creditable impersonation of a heap of jelly, and not only a pity for Germany.

    The third conclusion can be drawn from a brief clip I link to below. I had a quick look at “The White Tiger” a little time ago but only a very quick one. It wasn’t anything I could relate to much. But I don’t like to leave stuff hanging so thought I better dig it out again and see how it ended. And then realised that although to us the Russian invasion of Ukraine is seen as just that, to the Russians it not only goes deeper, it’s been going deeper for some time.

    It’s ’45, after victory. “He” is the White Tiger, the tank that is the embodiment of fascism deep in the European psyche. It’s coming back some time, says Ivan, maybe fifty years time, maybe longer. When it does, I’ll be loaded and ready for it.

    Putting out movies like that is called shaping the narrative. Doesn’t need a lot of shaping for Russians anyway, not when the most destructive war in their history is still a living memory. How foolish of the losers running the West, in that time before February 21st, not to look over the fence and see what the other side was thinking.

    • TTG says:


      Nobody of any seriousness thought the Russian economy would grind to a halt overnight. The process will grind on for months or longer. The Lada production line shut down a month ago. The Uralvagonzavod tank production line just shut down. Both shut downs are due to a lack of critical Western components. That is the already serious consequences of those sanctions. It wasn’t supposed to be this way, but thievery and corruption made a mockery of much of Putin’s years long push for self sufficiency. Nothing in the West has shut down. The economies in the West and in Russia will both eventually adjust. Neither will totally collapse, but Russia will undoubtedly suffer more. The sanction war is a long war, not a single battle.

      I’ve watched “The White Tiger” before. I thought it was a great movie with real T-34/85s. I agree there is an eternal Russian message in the ending. But most seem to forget Ukraine’s part in defeating facism in WWII. They were totally overrun by the German Army and the Ukrainians had to pay a dear price to liberate their country. The final message of “The White Tiger” could also apply to the Ukraine-Russia situation. The Ukrainians must once again pay a dear price to rid their lands of a foreign invader rife with fascists and bent on extermination and eradication of the Ukrainian culture. It appears to be an eternal battle. Why so many cannot see what an existential fight this is for the Ukrainians is beyond me.

      On a more general note, your comments are always well written, well thought out and most welcome. We don’t always agree. So what. If we did, life would be boring and neither of us would learn anything new. Besides, we can always bond over fine hatchets and so many other things.

      • Richard Ong says:

        ** a foreign invader rife with fascists and bent on extermination and eradication of the Ukrainian culture**

        That’s a bizarre characterization of the Russians and their objectives. Where is there the tiniest sliver of evidence that Ukrainian culture is a concern of the Russians?

        As opposed to neutralizing the scumbag Azov element in the Ukrainian government and military, keeping Ukraine out of NATO, and figuratively slamming the table in front of Blinken and telling him the next time we tell you over and over and over again that something is an existential concern just maybe next time you won’t play dismissive and arrogant games with US. Plenty of evidence for that.

        • TTG says:

          Richard Ong,

          “Where is there the tiniest sliver of evidence that Ukrainian culture is a concern of the Russians?”

          Haven’t you read any of Putin’s speeches or writings? How about any of the Russian TV commentators? There’s plenty of talk about why there shouldn’t be a Ukraine.

          There is no Azov or Right Sector elements in the Ukrainian government. There are two Azov battalions in the Ukrainian military. Ukraine has desired NATO entry for over a decade. NATO has kept them at arms length. Why does Ukraine want entry into NATO? Because Russia presents an existential threat. Since Russia did invade, it was not just a theoretical threat.

          • Muralidhar Rao says:

            TTG I don’t get it. You say “There is no Azov or Right Sector elements in the Ukrainian government. There are two Azov battalions in the Ukrainian military.” It begs the question why were they named Azov Battalions if they have no Azov members in it? Is the Ukranian language so limited to vocabulary they couldn’t find a different name for these Battallions? By the way did you notice that the members of the Battalions have Nazi symbols on their uniforms? As a matter of fact I remember reading a military attache from our embassy went to their meeting wearing similar insignia. What gives? Thanks

          • TTG says:

            Muralidhar Rao,

            The name Azov has been around for centuries as in the Sea of Azov and the town of Azov in Russia. You’re reading too much into the name. Yes, there are neo-nazis in the Azov battalions, just as in Prigozhin’s Wagner Group. Their commander and a number of its members also sport nazi tatoos like some Azov members. Westerners, including Russians have a macabre fascination with nazi symbology.

      • Stefan says:


        The Israeli Knesset didn’t forget the fact that many Ukrainians fought and died for the Nazis and fascism in WW2 and sent tens of thousands of Jews to their deaths at various death camps. Zelenskiyy’s rather luke warm response, and outright protests from some corners in the Israeli government, was a stark reminder of this fact. Ukrainians still have statues commemorating the fascists who fought with the Nazis, national commemoration events in remembrance of Ukrainians who died in WW2 always have an oversized Nazi representation and Zelenskyy himself has refused to condemn Ukrainians who fought for the Nazis, and we have standing units of the Ukrainian military that are openly new-Nazi. A quick google will confirm all it this although the same western media outlets who published the information years ago seems to have forgotten their own material. Although a small percentage of the overall Ukrainian population, the fascists/neo Nazis punch way above their weight. Sure, the Russians play this up and exaggerated it, but the Azov Regiment was committing war crimes against ethnic minorities, including the Ukrainian Roma community years ago. The issue was important enough for US lawmakers to eventually add into law wording making it illegal for any US military aid to be given to the Azov Regiment. All militaries, US and Russian included, have an issue with far right elements. Anyone really think the US law banning military equipment being given to the Azov Regiment is being followed now? To my knowledge the Ukrainian military is the only military in the world with units comprised of Neo Nazis and actively recruiting foreign Nazi fighters. These fighters, not made into mince meat in various areas in Eastern Ukraine, will eventually come back to the US, UK, Europe, with combat skills and know how and our respective populations will suffer because of it. No reason why one cannot support Ukraine whilst still not forgetting these deplorable facts that can, and should be, addressed.

        • Leith says:

          Stefan –

          What has the Israeli Knesset said about the many Russians that fought and died for the Nazis and fascism in WW2? Tens of thousands of them served in both Vlasov’s Russian Liberation Army and in Waffen SS units that murdered tens of thousands of Jews. Many Russians served the NAZIs, compared to them the number of Ukrainians who fought for the NAZIs were a drop in the bucket.

          There are more monuments in Canada to Ukrainians who fought against Bolsheviks than there are in Ukraine. And the majority of those ethnic Ukrainians that worked with the Germans were born as Austro-Hungarian citizens prior to WW1, after which their Galician homeland was given first to Poland and then to Stalin.

          BTW about six to seven million Ukrainians fought the NAZIs. Over a million of them were KIA while wearing Soviet Army uniforms. Millions came home without limbs or otherwise badly wounded. The Soviet flag over Hitler’s Reichstag was raised by an 18-year old private from Kiev. One of the other famous photographs of WW2 is of Ukrainian junior commissar Yeryomenko assuming command after his Battalion Commander was killed and standing up under fire urging his men to counterattack. Thousands of Ukrainians were honored as Heros of the Soviet Union for their valor in WW2. In late 41, Marshall Timoshenko, a Ukrainian, commanded the entire southern half of the Eastern Front, allowing Zhukov to save Moscow. General Cherevichenko, a Ukrainian, beat von Runstedt during the first Battle of Rostov. General Rodion Malinovsky, a Ukrainian, defeated German attempts to surround Stalingrad, a major contribution to the Soviet victory there. Ivan Kozhedub, a Ukrainian fighter ace with 60 solo victories over the Luftwaffe is the highest scoring Allied fighter pilot of WW2. There were many more, too many to list here.

          • Stefan says:


            I seemed to have missed the Russian leader going to the Israeli Knesset, hat in hand, looking for help and comparing their situation to the Holocaust.

            Many Ukrainians did fight the Nazis. As someone else pointed out on this thread, it was mostly the grandparents of those Ukrainians in the east fighting with the Russians today against the Ukrainian government. Western Ukraine, who is the west is supporting today, largely supported the Nazis. Their grandchildren are in the Azov Regiment and were committing war crimes against ethnic minorities pre 2022 invasion.

            There is a no excuse for a Ukrainian regiment named after a Neo Nazi paramilitary group that is recruiting a training Neo Nazis from around the world. Even the brain dead Congress realised this and banned our resources from propping the Nazis up. No excuse. The only good Nazi is a dead one.

            We can’t ignore the outsized power the far right has in Ukraine. When its Jewish president is afraid, on Jewish media, to condemn Ukrainian collaborators with the Nazis in WW2, there is a huge issue.

            All the best to the Ukrainian forces, but we can’t change the fact that the heirs of the anti Nazi history in Ukraine were more often than not the same people fighting the Ukrainian government today. We also can fully support the Ukrainian cause, whilst at the same time, hoping that every Nazis fighting on either side gets put out of commission for good and all Nazi units are smashed never to rise again, I think “DOL” as a concept, cannot condone the support of Nazis formations. The Neo Nazi ideology, at its core, is the antithesis of DOL.

          • TTG says:


            Azov is not a nazi or neo-nazi term. Do you consider the Sea of Azov to be a nazi body of water or the Russian town of Azov to be a nazi town? Russia’s premier neo-nazi unit, the Wagner Group, has been and are still committing war crimes in the Donbas and in Africa yet it remains one of Moscow’s “go to” forces.

          • Leith says:

            Stefan –

            I agree 100% with “The only good Nazi is a dead one.”

            Why do you ignore the NAZI units within the Donetsk and Luhansk paramilitaries? They use NAZI symbols and fascist aesthetics. Their ideology is of national purity, although they have recruited neo-Nazis from around the world to join their ranks.

            Why ignore the outsized power the far right has in Russia? Putin seems intent on turning Russia into a full-fledge NAZI state. Why ignore the Chechen and OMON atrocities in Ukraine?

          • Stefan says:


            The Regiment in question was not named the Azov because of the historical and geographical connections to the word. It was named the Azov because of its connections to the Neo Nazi paramilitary of the same name. A quick google of western media, pre-invasion, will show this. It was widely covered, along with the extensive connections between the Nazi paramilitary and the unit. This is fact. Most coverage, pre invasion, also did not buy the supposed efforts to sever the link between the Regiment and the Neo-Nazis. The fact that there are currently foreign neo Nazis fighting in this unit should make it clear what they are all about.

            Again, there is a huge difference between individual fighters with Nazi leanings and a government actually sanctioning a full on Neo Nazi unit as part of its national forces structure. In the case of the Nazis of the Azov, they are designated a special operations outfit. When a government sets up units specifically for Nazis it lends legitimacy to their ideology. Full stop. Admitting the historical and current fact of this regiment does not deletimize the Ukrainian fight. I would argue doing mental and lingustic gymnastics to avoid what is clear to all and sundry gives aid and comfort to the Russians and their claim this is about de-Nazification.

            We have Nazis in the military. Back in the 1980s Neo Nazi skinheads who got into trouble with the law were sometimes given the option by judges, join the military or go to prison. Much has changed since then. But could you image the 83rd “Dixie Division”?


            I am sorry, I said “the only good Nazi is a dead Nazi”. I didn’t say the only good Nazi was a dead Ukrainian Nazi. My issue is with a policy where Neo Nazi paramilitaries are made official government units and then upgraded AFTER credible allegations of war crimes have been made.

            My suggestion? Let’s put the Nazis on all sides in Crimea, seal the border and let them fight it out to the last man. Calling Putin a Nazi, or stating that he wants to turn Russia into a Nazi state really sounds like the worst of main stream media reporting at the moment and adds nothing to the conversation.

            There are Nazis on both sides and are to be condemned, only one side has given them their own units and made them part of the official state army.

            Of course war crimes on all sides are to be condemned. That is clear, but bringing it up seems to be more of a way to move past that Ukraine has sanctioned the Neo Nazi ideology in its forces and has a leader who has refused to condemn the Ukrainian traitors who fought for the Nazis and played a role in the Holocaust.

            I have never gotten the concept of admitting facts to somehow lesson support for a particular cause. These are facts. To accept them doesn’t mean you don’t support the Ukrainian fight and actually deflates Russian claims when you point out the actual support for the extreme right is rather limited. When you get into the “what aboutism” on the subject it ends up looking like there is more to this issue than there is.

          • TTG says:


            The Azov regiment merely retained the name of the oligarch-funded paramilitary that it started as. It also kept the unit insignia. None of that has been hidden or glossed over. What I don’t know is if any members of the Azov regiment were ever investigated by the Ukrainian government or prosecuted for any war crimes committed in the early years.

      • English Outsider says:

        TTG – things not going too well on that front. I left the Gränsfors Bruk hatchet out in the rain for a couple of nights and it’s not as handsome as it was. Also sometimes use it two handed and I’m not sure it’s built for quite that degree of force. As for sharpening, that’s quite an art. If you could put up a video of how it’s best done …

        But the Ukraine. As a Westphalian isolationist I could wish the UK wasn’t sounding off so much. As far as HMG is concerned this speech back in 2019 sets the tone.

        Blair at a side meeting banging the same drum. As then, so now. Our politicians like the idea of leading Europe against the Russian foe though I’m not sure the 27 like it quite as much.

        When it gets to the serious stuff, and setting aside the rights and wrongs of the case, I believe this extract from Burns’ summary of the position in the Ukraine was remarkably prescient.

        “1. (C) Summary. Following a muted first reaction to
        Ukraine’s intent to seek a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) at the Bucharest summit (ref A), Foreign Minister Lavrov and other senior officials have reiterated strong opposition, stressing that Russia would view further eastward expansion as a potential military threat.

        ” NATO enlargement, particularly to Ukraine, remains “an emotional and neuralgic” issue for Russia, but strategic policy considerations also underlie strong opposition to NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia.

        ” In Ukraine, these include fears that the issue could potentially split the country in two, leading to violence or even, some claim, civil war, which would force Russia to decide whether to intervene.”

        I believe Minsk 2 was the last chance to avert that and am now almost sure that the belated attempts by Scholz and Macron to get at least part of Minsk 2 implemented, as also Macron’s talk of a new “security architecture” for Europe, were window dressing.

        I believe Moscow is or could be dangerous and believe the same of the Washington neocons. Moscow because it holds most of the cards – not forgetting they have their hawks too, who are quite as scary as ours – and Washington because whatever one thinks of its aims, the incompetence they have so far displayed in attempting to achieve them is just unbelievable.

        As for Europe, including my own country, that is now reduced to little more than the battleground upon which Washington and Moscow will fight it out.

        A very willing battleground, if I am to judge from friends all over Europe with whom I now have to tread very carefully indeed, if I’m not to upset them by setting out my own view of the case.

        I don’t think that’s just my anecdotal impression. I heard of an opinion poll in Germany showing 75% were keen on punishing Russia with further sanctions. It started off with the politicians putting their case to a doubtful electorate but we’ve ended up with the electorate pushing the politicians on! So I don’t quite see how the politicians can now get off the sanctions escalator.

        Blinken, Sullivan and Biden have had little luck getting India and China on side. Nor MENA nor in fact the rest of the world. I don’t see how they can go for China given that China is now a key supplier. I really don’t believe they’re thinking it through.

        The neocons now look like sheep caught in a bramble patch. The more they push the more entangled they get. Again setting aside the rights and wrongs of the case, we urgently need a return to the cool realism embodied in the Burns summary.

        • TTG says:


          For your hatchet, I suggest a light sanding of the handle, if needed to smooth the surface, and rubbing in some boiled linseed oil. If the head is rusted, I’d use white vinegar and some fine steel wool. If the rust is particularly stubborn, you can soak it for a while. Don’t worry about it no longer looking new. A hatchet should have character with use. The less you do to renew it, the better. I’ll find a good video for sharpening using fine sandpaper. That’s the method I use for axes and knives now. I’ve also filed a finer profile on my hatchets and axe, but I don’t know if that’s necessary on a Gränsfors Bruk. Probably not.

          I know you put a lot of faith in what Minsk 2 could have done, but it never would have dampened Ukraine’s enthusiasm for NATO membership. It would not have assuaged Moscow’s stated security concerns and there’s a good chance we would still be in the same situation we now find ourselves in. Moscow’s effort to cripple NATO definitely blew up it her face. NATO is as strong and focused as ever and may expand this Summer. I doubt NATO would have formally admitted Ukraine anytime soon no matter how badly Kyiv wanted in.

          I did hear about India’s buying of a great deal of discounted Russian oil. China seems to seeking a more neutral position. If the choice is between being locked into the Russian economy or maintaining her position in the current world economic order, China seems to prefer enhancing her position in the world economy. That’s all Washington could have hoped for.

        • Bill Roche says:

          E.O. While reading your comment to TTG I was stopped by Lazrov’s remarks re Ukraine in NATO. He said that it would be an emotional issue for Russia. That’s clear as can be. Ukraine in NATO is forever gone and Russia w/n accept the loss of what it believes it owns; the Ukrainian people. It d/n matter if the issue was raised in 1891, or 2014. The bottom line is, Ukraine rejects Russian absorption. Ah, but lets talk “autonomy”. Austrians could grant autonomy to the Hungarians b/c they never believed they owned Hungary, but Putin tells Ukrainians you don’t exist; you’re Russian. You can’t negotiate that. That’s why I knew in ’91 this war would come. There’s no other solution and it would never be the little guy mugging the big one. The answer to why is Russia.

      • Seamus Padraig says:

        I agree there is an eternal Russian message in the ending. But most seem to forget Ukraine’s part in defeating facism in WWII. They were totally overrun by the German Army and the Ukrainians had to pay a dear price to liberate their country.

        I think you mean Eastern Ukraine’s part in defeating fascism. Western Ukraine, then as now, was firmly in the grip of Banderism and fought with the Germans. Eastern Ukraine, on the other hand, was historically ‘Novorossiya’, so it’s pretty much inconceivable that they would fight against Russia, then or now.

        • Bill Roche says:

          SP: The Bolsheviks fought against Ukrainian independence after WW I. Lenin “sent” many dissidents north to die b/f his NEP stopped it. Under Stalin, collectivization was revisited. After the communists killed 6MM Ukrainian farmers (’31-’33) one could understand why some Ukrainians would like to see them gone. Do you think the Holodomore had any thing to do w/some Ukrainians in Galizia attempting to defeat the commies? Galizia was not in the grip of Bandera but in the grip of the Nazi’s post ’41 who were assisted by Stephan Bandera. After Holodomore, who would expect Ukrainians to support the communists?

    • Steve says:


      Here is the narrative being swallowed by the US citizenry. From Bloomberg’s “Evening Briefing”: “Kyiv officials stated that Russia has begun its widely expected assault on eastern Ukraine. After having pulled back from the north of the country following a failed effort to take the capital and other major cities….” The military strategy being pursued by the Russians and has been clear to see from the middle of last month, yet the US media continue to publish this nonsense. Ignorance or sheer mendacity to keep the Ukrainian blood flowing.

      Interestingly I’ve seen absolutely nothing on social media from my former military colleagues (Brits) who know a line of propaganda when they see one and there are no blue and yellow emojis in sight.

      When one wonders what the West is supporting it’s worth looking at the compendium of crimes being perpetrated by the “victims” upon their own people, over there on “The Grayzone”. It isn’t slick and most of the information is from first hand sources, not filtered through a UK or US PR agency – or Moscow for that matter. Much of it I’ve already seen, though there are many stories I’ve previously missed. All in all it begs the question: What is the nature of the enemy of “our” enemy? The answer is something of which we should rightly be ashamed.

    • fredw says:

      English Outsider

      “the unnecessary war into which we plunged them”

      No. Just no! We didn’t plunge them into this war. The Ukrainians made choices about the world they wanted to live in. We encouraged them in various ways, but we never invested the resources to be more than an outside influence. (We had some real stupidity in progress in Iraq and Afghanistan that monopolized our limited bandwidth and guaranteed that we didn’t have resources to spend on the orange revolution.) The fact that the US got involved does not mean that the Ukrainians had no agency. They made the decisions they did in order to make their world as good as they could. And they did so knowing the likely Russian reactions. Our involvement also did not deprive the Russians of agency. They had the support of nearly half the population 15 years ago. All they had to do was to offer Ukraine a decent deal. Against the amounts we actually invested in Ukraine, they could pretty easily have outbid us. They were not and are not as rich as the US, but they have much more GDP per person than Ukraine. They made their choices to be menacing rather than supportive. The Ukrainians made their choices accordingly.

    • Bill Roche says:

      E.O. My friend I think you have over analyzed the Ukrainian war. Like a Greek tragedy it was destined to happen. Ukrainians knew this fight was just a matter of time. It was not caused by Russia’s need to control the flat lands from the Urals to the Hart Mtns, nor caused by any nation trying to corner the market on any commodity and surprise, it had nothing to do w/oil. This is primal dominance. Do you believe that Ukrainians should subject themselves to Russia? They don’t want some one to tell them “Russian is not such a bad thing to be”. The day Ukraine declared herself independent, I knew Russia would make war on her. You’r right, it did not have to happen. Ukraine could have accepted a place behind the “Russian, alpha dog in the pack”. In which case Ukraine, as a sovereign state, would have no territory at all. My friend you do not understand deep in the Russian soul is a need to dominate other eastern Europeans. The US and NATO confound that need. The reality is Russia will not accept a sovereign Ukraine (and I suspect a sovereign Lithuania, Latvia, or Estonia). We both agree that Zelinskyy should treat for peace and give up the Donbas and Crimea (w/a water supply). Were I a citizen of Ukraine I would call on my gov’t to then, arm itself to the teeth, and enter into a local alliance of Finland, Sweden, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. In order to provide security from further aggression by the Russians I would encourage my gov’t to sue for membership into NATO. Ukrainians obviously have a need for security … too.

      • Muralidhar Rao says:

        Sir you state “Do you believe that Ukrainians should subject themselves to Russia?” What did Russian’s say to Ukranians that they have to subject themselves to their rule? In 2014 and 2015 the people of Eastern Ukranine revolted against the central govt and both times the Ukranian army was surrounded and they agreed to autonomy for Eastern Ukraine (Pretty close to Serbia and Bosnia though not quiet independent as Bosnia), in the form of Minsk1 and 11. They dragged it on for 8 years and even to the last minute of Feb 21, there were negotiations by Macron and Sholz for some sort of peace deal. So the Ukranians choose the path of war thinking of their supramacy in armour etc. This is a very sad story, even today they are asking their Azov Battalions numbering any where from 4000 to 2000 not to surrender in spite of the fact they can’t reinforce them and not even resupply them condemning them to sure death. What a tragedy

      • Mark Logan says:

        Bill Roche,
        There’s a lot of truth in that, but IMO what spawned the primal urge you speak of was a stance of object hostility towards Russia by the Ukrainian government.

        Russia accepted a sovereign Ukraine for a long time. I recall the old Cold War position of many a nation, that of carefully playing both sides to remain non-aligned. “Managing Washington” was high art, and the most skillful managed to get funding from both Moscow and Washington.

        I understand all this has been rendered moot by the outbreak of hostilities, but I doubt this war was inevitable. Had the Ukrainians acknowledged the loss of those sections of Donbass and Crimea, had they negotiated a water deal for Crimea, I doubt Putin would’ve summoned up his inner Machiavelli.

        • TTG says:

          Mark Logan,

          Don’t you think the seizure of Crimea and the armed support of the Donbas rebels have something to do with Ukrainian animosity towards Russia? We shouldn’t ignore that naked aggression.

          • Mark Logan says:


            I don’t think that. I am aware of the history. The Ukrainians have a case and a right to be pissed off, but realism does not care about feelings or fairness. It can be wise, sometimes, for the weak give the devil his due.

          • TTG says:

            Mark Logan,

            Nah, I can’t abide by that attitude. The devil can go f*ck himself.

          • KMD says:

            If I remember correctly there was a referendum in Crimea as to whether they wished to join Russia or remain a part of Ukraine. Not a seizure and no shots fired. Actual democracy in action.
            As for the Donbas rebels, some background history.

          • TTG says:


            The referendum was after the seizure by the “polite green men” in 2014. It was sovereign Ukrainian land before that and is still recognized as such by most of the world. Reality is that it is now Russian.

          • Mark Logan says:


            Neither can I now, as I said the events have rendered this moot. I was speaking about the policies prior, the stance of abject hostility towards Russia adopted by the Ukrainian government. Zelensky ran on a platform of normalizing relations with Russia and beat a strident Russophobe with it. He fell off that bandwagon while in office.

        • Bill Roche says:

          M.L. In MHO you are taking a short view of the question of Ukrainian independence. Rumblings for Ukrainian independence appeared in the latter part of the 19th century. Ukrainians “asked” the Czar for autonomy b/f WW I. The Czar said no, persist in this and I’ll send soldiers to kill Ukrainians with such thoughts. Ukraine, along w/Galizia, declared independence from Russia after it left WW I. After much blood, the Russian communist said no independence for Ukraine. Some Ukrainians fought along side the Germans after ’41 to be rid of the communist (who murdered 6MM Ukrainians during Holodomore). Turned out to be a bad idea all around. Ukrainians again tried for independence directly after 1945. Stalin scotched that. When the S.U. fell in ’91 Ukraine again declared itself independent. Why is it so hard for people to understand that Ukraine wants to be independent as much as any other nation. The Donbas, Crimea, Minsk Accords, are further chapters in the continuing story of Russian domination of all Slavic neighbors to her west. This war was inevitable. I knew it would come as soon as the Ukrainian people, once again, demanded independence. “Freedom” some one once said.

    • blue peacock says:


      The one thing that you’re missing in your analysis, is the experience of practically all of the former Warsaw Pact countries. They were occupied or to use another word colonized by Russians. You should consider Lech Walesa and the Solidarity movement in Poland. They all have legitimate concerns about Russian dominance and potential for Russian leaders for domestic political reasons to use dreams of a Greater Russia to gain political power and get adventurous again. Minsk 2 did not solve that concern. While our neocons did play a role in Maidan, Putin was not blameless. He too meddled in Ukraine to get those more aligned with him into power. Why are the countries with the strongest antipathy towards Russia, other Eastern Europeans?

      IMO, the US missed a great opportunity to facilitate a new Eastern European security architecture that would have allayed the concerns of all the parties. That may have proven impossible due to the deep mistrust among many of the Eastern Europeans but if the US were the guarantor it could have worked. But we did not then and don’t have now statesmen elected in a good long time. Our elections are a like a pantomime show with a lot of theater and of course added sound bites packaged up by marketing consultants based on polling, focus groups and other tools of the trade learned from CPG marketing. Heavy on the emotional aspects and limited on any kind of strategic policy. There’s also the dark side of campaigns. The labeling of the political opponent in a very personal way as a child rapist or associate of violent criminals and more recently Putin’s puppet. Who but an absolute power-hungry narcissist would want that kinda role. But it is not just the candidates, the political parties and the power lust. The media has also transformed to becoming propagandists and tugging at emotions with the hysteria du jour. In the end we always get Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum who always deploy the same neocon & neoliberal program. We as voting citizens are responsible for that ultimately as we can’t discriminate between the theater and our interests. We are too caught up in the tribalism to see the forest from the trees.

      While it would be my preference that we place primary importance on restoring our constitutional republic from growing authoritarianism and economic concentration, in this situation in Ukraine there’s some logic why the US, the west and most of the former Soviet countries want to deter Putin’s invasion.

      • English Outsider says:

        Well, Blue Peacock, looks as if opinions have now hardened to the point that they’re set in concrete.

        Mine has. The way I see it, the Russians put forward their security demands. We told them to push off.

        One of their security concerns was the safety of the ethnic- or pro-Russian Ukrainians in the Donbas. We told our proxies – or encouraged or let, doesn’t much matter – to threaten the people of the Donbas in two ways. Shelling the civilian population across the line of control. Massing an army on the line of control, threatening a repeat of the ATO.

        The Russians moved to avert the threat. Unless they were going to allow the sort of mayhem in the Donbas we saw in ’14/’15 they didn’t have much choice.

        They will now break up that army on the Donbas. I believe it’s being annihilated right now. They’ll probably alter the political geography of the Ukraine too.

        End of story, for me. Seen worse caused by our neocons in Iraq and Syria and a few other places. A lot worse. Neocons neocon and there’s precious little one can do to alter that.

        Others – most others in the West, seems – see the thing quite differently. Their story’s now set in concrete too. That’s unalterable.

        It’s what comes next that concerns me. The Russians have as I see it averted the threat to the Donbas but they’ve got damn all on their wider security demands. And we’re still telling them to push off. So something’s got to give there.

        Then there’s the sanctions war. More opinions set in concrete on that. Unwinnable, I think. One more heave and we’ve got the bastards, say most.

        Those opinions set in concrete, mine as well as others, lead to their different conclusions.

        Mine is that we’re now seeing the eclipse of Europe, and those of us living in it. Maybe I’m just obstinately sticking to the conclusion on that I arrived at around the 21st of February. I wouldn’t mind being wrong. We’ll see.

  10. Babeltuap says:

    Getting up to 3M people fleeing. Not all of them were exchange students. Many of them worked to keep the government running and utilities. Until they return Ukraine is a smudged fingerprint, shadow on the brain of what it once was. No way around this fact.

    And good luck getting all that back up and running. It will not happen in a matter of months. It will take years. Russia has done enough as is to ruin Ukraine for a long long time and that’s best case scenario right now and the best case is below 20% of it returning in 10 years. It is time to get serious about peace. If that does not happen it’s never going to return. It will be a wasteland.

    • TTG says:


      Most of those fleeing are women and children and, to a lesser extent, the aged. Men stayed. It’s the law as well as the desire to defend the country. Over 66,000 Ukrainian men from abroad also returned to fight. But yes, it will be many years to bring the country back.

      • Fred says:


        Reading your glowing report about Ukrainian men rallying to the casue makes on realize how remarkable it was that Yanukovych could get anyone to vote for him at all, much less gain the presidency and need to be overthrown ‘by the people’. Babeltuap is correct, the government and economy of that country are wrecked. What he misses is that it is now America’s new politically sacred obligation to pay and pay and pay to keep the place going. That should be good for another generation of graft; just like Afghanistan.

    • fredw says:


      “And good luck getting all that back up and running.”

      If the Ukrainians pull this off, they will get assistance and investment at a level they could not have dreamed of before. That will be the only way that Europe can be sure to keep the Russian bear at bay. The only scenario in which I can see them being abandoned is the complete collapse of the Russian federation. Such a collapse would remove the problem from European minds.

      Yes, it will be hard and there will be a lot of suffering along the way. Wars are known for creating such conditions. Too late now to avoid any of that regardless of the outcome of the war. That’s why we try very hard to avoid letting wars start. Except there are always some people tempted to see war as a substitute for success in the activities of peace.

      • Babeltuap says:


        You have profound optimism. Having seen what war does to include massive natural disasters myself I have much less. Where is all the money going to manifest from to rebuild with the global economy highly unstable. Never mind another war breaking out but maybe you are right. I guess we will find out together.

  11. Mark Gaughan says:

    Good sitrep on the war in Ukraine,

  12. Degringolade says:

    Off topidc a little bit.

    Apparently we are crowing about not conducting anti-satellite tests.

    I think that this might be an interesting thing to look into for those of you with better contacts than I have (been out of the game way too long).

    Too much of our military power is reliant on GPS and other fancy geegaws. If we are working on painting our virtue concerning anti-satellite warfare (but if that is true, why do we even have a space force?) someone in the muckety-mucks must realize that there is a threat somewhere.

  13. Al says:

    From the D Brief blog:
    Ukraine’s European allies are repairing damaged jets, and some partnered nations are helping provide spare parts, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Tuesday. “I would just say without getting into what other nations are providing that they have received additional platforms and parts to be able to increase their aircraft fleet size,” he said, and added, “I think I’d leave it at that.”

    Czech defense firms will repair damaged Ukrainian tanks, like T-64s, Prague’s defense ministry said Tuesday. Reuters has a tiny bit more,

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