Mark Hertling on the OSCE Moscow Mechanism report – TTG 

Having now read this most recent @usosce summary report three times yesterday and again once this morning, I’ve tried to wrap my head around Russian military actions in Ukraine. I can’t. With each read, there’s more disgust.

A thread on war crimes.

The US rep to @OSCE is @mikercarpenter, a man I deeply respect from previous interactions. Having served many years in Europe, I have deep appreciation and respect for the very difficult mission the Commission has executed over the years.

Here’s a summary of what OSCE does. It originated in a mid-1975 Conference held in Helsinki and it was created as a forum to discuss issues between the eastern and western bloc during the cold war. 57 countries participate. The OSCE helps in conflict prevention, crisis management, and post-conflict rehabilitation. In effect, their primary mission is to prevent conflict, but they also contribute to arms control, promotion of human rights, free and fair elections, protection of the free press. Since 2014, after the MH17 shootdown and the Russian invasion, they’ve had steady presence in Ukraine. 

This report on and evidence of war crimes committed by Russia is staggering:

– Systemic, planned, deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on civilians

– Establishment of formal torture chambers and extrajudicial executions

– Mass forcible transfer and use of “filtration centers” 

– Widespread mass rapes and indiscriminate murders, including these acts against 100’s of children

– Approved looting and resale of stolen personal property

– Conscription of Ukrainians to fight AGAINST their fellow citizens

– Use of banned weapons against Ukraine and Ukrainian citizens

– Precision targeting of hundreds of protected infrastructure: Schools, hospitals, water and energy plants, military medical treatment centers

– The theft of thousands of tons of grain as part of a with a planned attempt to exacerbate famine in other regions/countries. 

All wide-scale and flagrant breaches of the rules of land warfare and established international law…and morality: It is relatively easy to tie all these acts to specific violations of International Humanitarian Law under the Geneva Conventions and its additional protocols.

Sherman is alleged to have said: “War is hell.” Those who’ve experienced it, who have the responsibility of command and waging war, know that’s true. But one of the many jobs of military leaders is to “control violence.” Morality, law, training and discipline requires it. Unfortunately, there will always be conflict. But societies and humanity have evolved and attempted to reduce human suffering through:

– Trained and disciplined professional armies

– Leader accountability

– Precision weapons

– Laws and protocols

– Advanced in human morality and decency 

Every army will have individuals who violate these laws and standards of discipline within their ranks. In combat, I had several instances where I had to discipline those who did. But what Russia is doing is widespread, inherent in their actions, blessed by their leaders. That’s why Putin must remain a pariah on the world stage…forever. No coming back. That’s why Russian commanders must be held accountable for criminal action. “Lack of knowledge” or “just following orders” aren’t excuses. No deliberations or cease fires, continued support. 

Comment: This is a summary of the recent OSCE Moscow Mechanism report by retired LTG Mark Hertling (@MarkHertling) on his twitter account. I haven’t been able to find the actual report, but I’ve provided links to the remarks by the US Ambassador to the OSCE, Michael Carpenter, along with the State Department comments on the report.

I’ve seen a lot of comments asking why the West is raising such a stink this time after offering such a muted and short lived response in 2014. The short answer is that the 2014 invasion was dramatically different from this one. And so is Ukraine. The seizure of Crimea was swift and almost bloodless. The Russians were known as the polite green men. They were bold and competent. Even the Donbas, although far messier, appeared to be far more a civil war than an invasion. Novorossiya, as it became known, had real heroes like Givi and Motorola. 

This time, it’s far different. What was to be a swift decapitation of the government in Kyiv failed. The Russian Army is bringing the worse caricatures of the clumsily violent and cruel Red Army to life. Where is the brilliant and competent Russian Armed Forces that saved Syria from imminent defeat at the hands of the jihadis? Do they really think inflicting widespread and deliberate cruelty is going to win the war in Ukraine? Is this the only lesson they took from fighting the jihadis? Too bad. Russia and the Russian military had such promise.


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31 Responses to Mark Hertling on the OSCE Moscow Mechanism report – TTG 

  1. Fred says:

    “Here’s a summary of what OSCE does. It originated in a mid-1975 …. The OSCE helps in conflict prevention, crisis management, and …. In effect, their primary mission is to prevent conflict, … free and fair elections, protection of the free press.”

    The OSCE seem to have completely failed in the collapse of the USSR, and in Ukraine, both in 2014, in the conflict between then and February of this year, and now. MH114 was discussed at lenght on SST and the consensus was not the same as the OSCE’s stated here.

    ” The mission reported conscription was imposed on all local men between the age of 18 and 65 in areas under Russian control in the Donbas as well as of the oblasts of Kharkiv, Kherson, and Sumy. ”

    Essentially the entire adjult male population of areas they control?

    On related news Zelinsky fired a bunch of his intel people. So apparently the Russians weren’t completely incompetent. Previously he (Zelinsky) arrested his political opponents and banned the major political opposition parties. So much for the OSCE support for free elections.

    Let me know if you need another denunciation of this war of aggression, torture, shooting civilians, etc. Hate to get the ritual ‘putin’s puppet’ routine for pointing out countervailing information.

  2. Barbara Ann says:

    The full report can be downloaded here: and just to play Devil’s advocate, I would point out that the executive summary includes the following qualifier:

    The second mission shares the doubts expressed by the first mission as to whether the Russian attack on Ukraine per se could qualify as a “widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population”, which provides the context for crimes against humanity.

    This does not excuse the crimes committed, but it is worth noting that the OSCE themselves question whether they meet the “widespread or systematic” criteria.

    • TTG says:

      Barbara Ann,

      Thanks. I figured it had to be somewhere on the OSCE site. It just never dawned on me to click on the English arrow when i searched for it.

    • leith says:

      Barbara Ann –

      That qualifier seems more like a minority opinion rather than an overall belief by the entire OSCE.

      Guess which member or members might have insisted on that.

  3. Steve says:

    “What was to be a swift decapitation of the government in Kyiv failed. ”

    I find it astonishing that such a goal, initially suggested by a barking mad pundit on Russian TV, should have become the basic assumption – upon which all else is based – espoused by the DCIA, Bill Burns, whose knowledge and experience of Russia and its institutions should have caused alarm bells to ring around his office. Now NATO is in a cauldron of its own making, and which will not leave an opening for retreat.

    Meanwhile the OSCE has suddenly become a source of reliable information when, their reporting of the beginnings of a major Ukrainian offensive to roll over Donbas between Feb 16 and 23, is totally disregarded as a Causus Belli for Russia’s intervention in the region.

  4. Fourth and Long says:

    Horse twaddle from the obsessive Russia hating Kagans et al. You left out the incubator babies.

  5. walrus says:

    The report was constructed from information supplied by the Ukrainian Government, cross checked by two women who visited that country. If you ask me, the report has a predetermined, biased and untruthful conclusion, which is not surprising given OSCE membership. There is also a disclaimer that stops short of accusing Russia of a systematic campaign.

    It should be noted that Russia refused to even answer the OSCE letter of invitation to participate.

    As usual, there is no reference to Ukrainian atrocities.

    • TTG says:


      You seem anxious to exonerate Russia of any possible wrongdoing. Read the report or at least skim through it. It’s long. The report does mention and comment on reported Ukrainian atrocities. As for sources, the report states:

      “In the preparation of this report, the mission of experts used several main methods of fact- finding, relying on various sources of information. First, it built on the data contained in the first report on Ukraine produced under the OSCE Moscow Mechanism in April 2022, as well as on other reports, comments and statements produced by international organizations (UN, OSCE, Council of Europe, EU), States, NGOs, and media.”

      Three experts were chosen to continue the investigation. Two did go to the three sites of the most horrific atrocities, Irpin, Bucha and Hostomel.

      • Fred says:


        The OSCE sent 2 lawyers and a sociologist. What, exactly, are they expert in? Reading the reports the Ukrainians, the Ukrainian allies, and the pro-Ukrainian media provide? OSCE has been around since before the EU, why didn’t they ever invite the Russians to join?

        Let me know if I need to insert another denunciation of Russia’s invasion here.

        • TTG says:


          Lawyers and sociologists are trained to gather data by observation and interview. They’re also trained to analyze that data and report it. Sounds like a good choice for this kind of OSCE investigation. I don’t know if the OSCE invited the Russians to take part in either of these Moscow Mechanism investigations or if the Russians refused such an invitation. I thought they were part of the long running OSCE mission in Ukraine.

          You’re a bitter man, Fred, a bitter, bitter man.

          • Fred says:


            Ah the discredit, disqualify again. “Lawyers and sociologists are trained to gather data by observation and interview. ” No kidding. Didn’t you read the report you linked to? It tells you where, and when, they got their data. I agree with Walrus’ comment below, there’s plenty of crimes to answer for, though I include provoking the war to begin with as one. To quote Talleyrand, It was worse than a crime, it was a mistake.

            The EU is discovering two can play the economic warfare game. Right now Russia isn’t collapsing, but the EU is facing a worse recession than the US is in right now. Trump warned them on over reliance on Russian fuels, they laughed. At least they still have a friendly press suppressing the news on protests throughout the EU over what is happening to their economies.

      • walrus says:

        TTG, I’m sure that both Russia and Ukraine have war crimes to answer for. However I don’t believe we will get any truth out of OSCE.

    • Muralidhar Rao says:

      Sir you are absolutely right about this OSCE report. Not long ago every one was screaming to high heavens about Russian bombing of a hospital about a month ago then recently UN furnished (Honestly I was surprised that they could produce such a factual report) a report about Ukranian troops taking over the hospital and storing their weapons and even firing them at Russian troops. So if Russian’s responded with return fire it was a legitimate act. If I am not wrong the Russian’s accused OSCE being used as a spying mission prior to the start of the war

  6. Tidewater says:

    I am agnostic on this, and I think OSCE is a good idea, but I think it ought to be noted that in March troops of the DPR captured the headquarters of the OSCE in Mariupol. They claimed that they found there a very large archive of OSCE investigatory work including videos and depositions etc. of war crimes and other significant criminal matters in Ukraine that go back to 2014. They showed photos of the archive and I counted in one bookcase close to one hundred reports in notebooks, as well as what I assume were video depositions in plastic folders. This is, among other things, a fascinating historical resource, if I may be forgiven for such a detached observation. It ought to be put on the internet, including the videos.

    Now, the DPR authorities have also claimed, again backed by photos, that the OSCE warehouse held a large number of Italian-made mortar rounds with manufacturer dates of March 11, 2022. Weird, and no doubt typically Ukrainian hanky panky, as they used to say on the Richmond T-D. Were they for sale by somebody there? Or what?

    A following, preliminary examination of the OSCE archive led to accusations by Russian and DPR authorities that documents that show Ukrainian guilt in war crimes which should have been added to and included in the appendices, I assume, of certain completed and published OSCE reports, were not submitted or mentioned in said OSCE reports, and they were extremely relevant to these reports. Hence, the Russians are charging collusion and what might even be considered to be a criminal conspiracy with neo-Nazi Banderites.

    Russia had previously rejected the extension of OSCE monitoring, not only because of allegations of complicity in concealing Ukrainian war crimes but also because some OSCE vehicles had been discovered to have been used by some Ukrainian troops on the battlefield.

    Frankly, I don’t know what to think anymore, but I am convinced that matters can only escalate, and, as far as I am concerned, there are questions about the OSCE representatives in Ukraine; but practically, it is, in effect, a mooted matter.

    I might add here that I have given it a bit of the old college try on how maritime traffic works in the German Bight, and as I said before there can be little doubt that the critical NATO Ro-Ro heavy equipment ‘wet dock’ port of Bremerhaven can be shut down for a long time, possibly years, by one missile salvo from a Russian submarine in the Barents sea. Just take out two locks (one end or both) and a railroad bridge or two. That is one place NATO will not get into or out of.

    This is a bad situation about to get worse.

    • mcohen says:

      Thanks for post on germany.Just curious.why did you bring it up

      • Tidewater says:


        Thanks for the comment. First, I got interested in this low-lying fenland region off the North Sea, with its mud flats and high tides, from yachting books. But I also have a suspicion that the war in Ukraine and the destiny of NATO will be decided in large part by Germany. Either Germans simply sweep their current ruling politicians out of power now and find new leaders who will negotiate with Russia, normalize relations, respect Orthodoxy, remove sanctions, and get back to business, or there could be a period of violent internal unrest, including terrorism, followed by governmental suppression of the populace with these German Quislings (as they will be seen) grinding Germany down into poverty, forcing a formidable people to knuckle under to a bizarre, hopelessly unrealistic neocon American/ NATO line, until inevitably the volk simply rise up and kill them. I don’t see how Germany can stay the current course. And I don’t think that it will go on for years with NATO continually doubling down and new weapons introduced and thousands of deaths–the whole war thing never quite stopping and off the front pages. No, I think there will be a steady uptick of violence with Americans and British military operators targeted and killed as soon as next week. In the coming months, continuing American aggressiveness and recklessness could increase to a point where there could be a sudden flash war. (I am aware that this speculation could seem over the top, or even too optimistic, given the looming possibilities.) But wouldn’t a conventional war have to be stopped? Wouldn’t such a shocking flare-up force almost immediately the sudden reappearance, if in a new form, some of that old-time European appeasement or even a kind of (disguised) form of capitulation? This volte-face would come, of course, painfully and humiliatingly in the face of American fury and reprisal, but it would come after several trillion dollars worth of missile salvo damage. And therefore it would come. This flash war would be one that had been carefully designed by the Russian general staff to accomplish in the short time that it was allowed, before the sudden emergency halt to the missile salvos, the most economic damage possible to significant places studied for years. The destruction at Bremerhaven would also mean that the NATO plan of moving large American forces and armored units overseas on an emergency basis from places like Fort Sill or Fort Drum, will be seriously challenged. In fact, the entire NATO plan can now be questioned. If the schleuse gates which lead into a wet dock area designed for enormous heavy lift ships can be smashed, there would not be water inside the inner harbor for the ship to enter the lock, or for military equipment to be landed, even if the locks were cleared. If the ship ever got to
        Bremerhaven it would be aground at this point. It might stay in the Weser but it could not unload at the quays there. The gantries would be down and that part of the port cut off with bridges down. This area is not designed for driving a tank off a ship, anyway. It’s for containers. Those locks are enormous and take a long time to build or repair. True, there are other ports, possibly Zeebrugge–though what an attack would do there is quite unclear–and right from the beginning, the NATO plan seems to have a serious potential dislocation built into it, given Russian deep strike capability. And Bremerhaven and the German Bight would only be a part of the overall Russian attack on NATO logistics. I think Rotterdam could be wrecked as well, for example. The possibilities are intriguing.

        Something’s gotta give in Germany…

        • mcohen says:

          A weakened German manufacturing base only serves Chinese exports.I mean China moved into Italy and easily took over.European manufacturing is a direct competitor of china and the silk road.Russia is riding the good spot with a bet either way.
          Unless the horse dies before the finish line.then all bets are off.

  7. mcohen says:

    The failure of the Russians to take kyiv in February is interesting now looking back.It would have led to a totally different scenario.All those trucks lined up.Seems surreal .Where did they all go to afterwards.
    Ah so ah so.They all went to KFC for some of the colonels chicken.
    Zelensky is purging and will get all the collaborators out.They failed in there job to hand the capital to the russians.i am speculating here.
    Let’s say the war that is happening now was never on the cards and Russia was promised a “q uick one” what does that mean.
    Zelensky was warned Russia is going to attack.Absolutely.
    Pieces in place.Belarus ready..Traitors in place.
    Paratroopers ready for heroic airport YouTube.
    Europe warned of consequences.Nuclear facilities secured.Snake island secured

    And then someone moved the goalposts.

    War crimes you say

    Seriously.what kind of idiotic,stupid,mentally deficient,bananahead adults are in charge of this further enviromental degradation of this planet and its inhabitants

  8. jim ticehurst says:

    It looked Like Putin was Naive in the Begging…Did What He Said He Would Do…Pre Staged For Months..Then No Compromises..No NEgoations With NATO or EU..He Went in With His Forty Mile Long Convoy..It Sat there Open Exposed For Weeks..

    I Think Putin Was Suprised and Caught Off Guard That The Clinton Russian Haters..Started Arming Ukraine…Enough Tank Busters to Blow Up His Convoys

    After That The War Was On..Putin Was All Rage..and Revenge..Brutal Ruthless Deadly..
    This Campaign Is Different..Thats The NEW Russia.. Not The One In Syria..

    or the Donbas Campaign…The Dirty Money and Dirty Motives Here..Russia is WAY over The Line Now..

  9. JK/AR says:


    Fred I note has already mentioned this up top and reading through I see Mcohen has as well. So I do a threepeat:

    I’d add, riffing off Tidewater’s “This is a bad situation about to get worse” and combining that with this from that link “And in an additional threat, Russia’s former President Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy head of the Security Council, warned Ukraine of a “Judgement Day” if it were to attack Crimea.”

    I’d simply ask, what’s it all mean? I was sort of under the impression “we” proceeding along so swimmingly this mess would have been over weeks ago and Putin, tail tucked and resigned to merely ceremonial duties back home.

  10. Babeltuap says:

    OSCE should look into our elections. Russia and US Federal election officials have the same thing going on; they don’t give a damn what anyone thinks.

  11. T says:

    Something else to remember with disgust – The Madonna of Gorlovka, Christina Zhuk.

    Warning its a horrible image. Something that I’m sure fires up the blood of many people even years later and surely features in an OSCE report somewhere.

  12. JK/AR says:

    Ahoy TTG,

    Figured that might be something to pique your interests.

    (I don’t possess the requisite Historical foundation to intelligently assess that.)

    • TTG says:


      Poland is upping her defense spending to 5% of GDP and expanding her armed forces. Poland, Ukraine, the Baltics and probably a few others are surely going to form a NATO-like alliance beyond NATO. I doubt this alliance will be as complete as the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was, but it will be formidable.

      • JK/AR says:


        “I doubt this alliance will be as complete as the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was … ”

        This would be the ‘Visegrad …. Forgive my ignorance as what, just about, all my concentration was being oh, early first term Obama, focused on .. CENTCOM.

        Anyway I paid some attention then – negligible since. Hence my turning to Wiki:

        (I’m pretty sure Hillary doesn’t like me much – Guess we’ll I just need keep paying closer attention.)

        How’s about TTG – A reasonably thorough analysis brief from – you choose – to the current situation (excluding, as you may, “a large part” of what [the former?] Visegrad has to its immediate south and southeast?).

        ‘Curious minds’ you understand …

        • TTG says:


          I was referring to the days of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which began back in the 14th century with the marriage of Poland’s Queen Jadwiga and Lithuania’s pagan Grand Duke Jogaila. Jogaila allowed himself to be baptized in order to have a proper Catholic wedding and became Władysław II Jagiełło. The union, not the marriage, lasted for over three centuries. It’s a fascinating region and era that’s often ignored or glossed over in European history.

          I forgot about the Visegrad Group. Reminds me of a group of neighbors who may not see eye to eye on everything, but manage to get along for the good of the neighborhood. Hungary’s Orban may have his heart with Putin, but his mind is with the rest of the EU and the Visegrad Group. I know there are several other groupings of East European states that include Romania, the Baltics and others. I do think Russia’s invasion is drawing these East European frontline states into a much closer cooperative union. That union will include Ukraine whether she formally enters NATO or not. Turkey’s role in this developing union may be interesting. I’ll think about this some more.

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