“On Popasna, 1 May 2021” – TTG

Ukrainian soldiers inside a bunker near the front line in Popasna, Ukraine, Jan. 24, 2022. The “stay calm” posture in Ukraine has left analysts guessing about its leadership’s motivation, but some say that after eight years of war, the country simply calculates the risks differently. (Brendan Hoffman/The New York Times)

Arm chair analysts are again accusing me of spreading Ukrainian propaganda, but, alas, you cannot escape the truth. The situation now has changed there, aviation was used and half the town was captured. I was not in Popasna, but I communicated very closely with those who were there. All the data is from their words and radio exchanges, which I heard personally. Now it has become an open secret, but the main strike force in Popasna is the Wagner PMC.

The PMC drove into the location of our battalion just at the time when I I was there, which I will talk about later. They came in well equipped. Trucks with personal belongings of fighters, trucks with DShK machine guns mounted on the UAZ-Patriots and a section with two D-30 howitzers. The entire corridor on the first floor was crammed with crates of UAVs, electronic warfare gear and generators. The boys are all equipped awesomely – armor vests, tactical vests, helmets and other things that we never dreamed of. True, they were all dressed in summer gear – straight from Africa and into the snow. The guys did not understand where they were and asked me where they were and how to call the Russian Federation.

In total, 500 people came to us, although, according to them, the total number is three times more – they are in other locations. Wagner also brought its own artillery and MLRS. Two hundred fifty people were immediately sent to Popasna, without even having time to unload their trucks and get their gear. The rest were sent a day later – also without their gear. Two of the mercenaries were left at the location, who unloaded the PMC’s gear to be sent to the front.

According to the radio exchange, at first everything was great. The Ukrainians had 20 200s, a lot of prisoners. And then something incomprehensible began – the wounded were sent to the hospitals. A fighter arrives in a taxi with a hand torn off by a fragment, satisfied and happy, “I’m going home, to Moscow! Well, fuck such a war! The infantry is thrown onto the concrete! We entered on two BTRs. Two missiles from Bayraktar and 19 people were gone!”

Then “refuseniks” began to arrive – those who refused to continue to fight. The contract allows it. A Kalmyk said, “There were only Kalmyks in my platoon. Everyone died, I was the only one left. Three assaults. We reach the concrete bunkers, they close the armored shutters and call mortar and artillery fire on themselves. And everyone is fucked. Machine gunners are purely snipers, they land without a miss. I personally won’t go again.”

From the radio exchange, I heard how the headquarters of the PMC in Pervomaiskoye was struck with artillery, apparently with 152mm. Immediately 50 200s, ammunition stockpile detonated, and trucks with gear scattered around the area. In the news, it was reported as the shelling of civilians in Pervomaiskoye.

In general, in March, the unit based at our location lost about half of its personnel. In April, I bought equipment from “refuseniks” – armored vests, tactical vests and uniforms. It doesn’t make much difference in who to throw at concrete fortifications – professionals with five assignments behind them or miners with no experience – the result will be the same.

According to the comments of the PMC soldiers, the Russian Marines who fought beside them fought well.

Comment: This is a recent account of the fighting at Popasna in the Donbas. It was written by an LNR militia volunteer and posted on his LiveJournal account. He is not just a kid and has been posting on LiveJournal for quite a while. He appears to be working in an LNR militia unit headquarters. It is interesting to note that Popasna was the front line when the invasion started… and still is.

Most of this translation is by @mdmitri91 from South West London. I just tried to clean it up a little. The reference to 200s means killed in action. The “refuseniks” refers to Russian draftees who are, by law, not required to be deployed outside of Russian territory. And below is an article on the Wagner Group’s recent activities.

TTG

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-61311272

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33 Responses to “On Popasna, 1 May 2021” – TTG

  1. mcohen says:

    Where is wagner.who is paying them.

    • TTG says:

      mcohen,

      Wagner Group is, at least ostensibly, owned and financed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch with close links to Putin. It is speculated that the Wagner Group is used by the Russian government to allow for plausible deniability in certain conflicts. Prigozhin also financed the Internet Research Agency and is often called Putin’s chef because of his restaurants and catering businesses. His operations are closely integrated with Russia’s MOD and the GRU. Wagner Group is probably much more like an Air America than a Blackwater as far its government connections go.

      • mcohen says:

        Thanks.i asked this question a few times but no one seems to know.Mercenaries add an interesting dynamic because they can highlight the true interests and intentions of the hands moving the pieces.

  2. Al says:

    Russians are starting to sound off about how Putin has failed to adequately prepare the military with first-aid kits for the invasion of Ukraine, comparing photos allegedly depicting Russian kits side-by-side with Ukraine’s, which appear to be more fully stocked to save a wounded soldier’s life.

    The Russian first-aid kits, in contrast, appear to contain the bare minimum: what looks like several instruction manuals and possibly something to tie off a tourniquet. The Ukrainian kits, on the other hand, seem to have a whole number of tools, including scissors, an intubation tube to help someone with a blocked airway breathe, and more.

    The original source of the images is not immediately clear, but they appear to be linked to several popular Russian Telegram and blog accounts, including one that is involved in a fundraising effort for the Russian military.

    But the stark contrast is emblematic of a broader undercurrent that has surprised military analysts in the last several months: For all the talk about the Russian military being incredibly powerful, the Russian military was woefully underprepared for the kind of large-scale invasion Putin wanted to wage.

    The shortcomings of the Russian military have been glaring throughout, and have only been mounting. Moscow quickly realized it didn’t have enough manpower to launch an invasion in Ukraine, and has worked, largely unsuccessfully, to try to recruit more troops. In the early days when Russian forces worked to capture Kyiv, they fell apart at the seams and just stalled outside of the city, running out of fuel and supplies.

    But in the case of the first-aid kits, the Russians likely could have prepared for this in advance if they cared an iota about saving their own troops’ lives, stated Jeffrey Edmonds, a former Russia director on the White House National Security Council.

    “That shows a lack of concern because the Russians have invested a lot of money in their military, and I’m certain the combat first-aid kits would not have broken the bank,” Edmonds told The Daily Beast. “That’s not a failure of procurement, in the sense that… that’s an attitude or an approach or a command climate” they could change.

    The kind of lack of concern can trickle down into morale problems in the Russian military, and make them falter on the ground as well. Indeed, Russian troops have been abandoning their weapons and equipment for weeks and suffering from morale problems, according to a senior U.S. defense official.

    “If I were a Russian soldier, I might think, ‘Well, okay, my general health in combat really isn’t something that’s valued that much,’” Edmonds said. “It just shows a level of concern for your soldiers.”

    Moscow’s problems are bigger than just planning and logistics, though. As Russia has failed to capture Kyiv, the military has rerouted to focus on eastern Ukraine. But there, too, Russians have been bumbling through it. They haven’t been able to capture the last holdout of the besieged port city of Mariupol, Azovstal, a steel and iron plant.

    “Such a first-aid kit is not useless, but it is much worse than the ones the Ukrainians have.”
    More broadly, the Russians have had “a lack of strategic intelligence” for some time now, and throughout Ukraine, their missile strikes have had a “significant number of failures” and haven’t been as accurate as they would like them to be, a senior U.S. defense official said on a call Friday.

    The problems with the first-aid kits, though, could speak to a number of issues Russia has been running into, as Russian soldiers appear to have few supplies that can save their lives if they’re suffering from life-threatening injuries.

    “A modern first-aid kit costs a lot of money, and the Soviet first-aid kit is already in stock, there is no need to buy it,” the Conflict Intelligence Team, a nonprofit investigative team, said in a briefing last week. “Such a first-aid kit is not useless, but it is much worse than the ones the Ukrainians have… The Ukrainian army has much more time to save the wounded before they die.” [Gotta wonder which one of Putin’s buddies made off with the $$ intended for first aide kits]

    • TTG says:

      Al,

      I can’t get too outraged about spartan individual first aid kits (IFAK). In the 1970s US Infantry, and even into the 1980s, we carried one small canvas or nylon belt pouch with one wound dressing. First aid training went well beyond that, but it relied on improvised items for the most part. All other first aid equipment was carried by the platoon medic. Perhaps the Russians rely more on platoon or company medics. But the contrast between those Russian IFAKs and those carried by Ukrainians or most any other infantryman is stark. Of course field medicine has advanced a lot since my days as an infantryman. Those blood coagulant powders and bandages in use now are real life savers.

  3. Pacifica Advocate says:

    I find it really fascinating how Patrick Armstrong’s “Russian Sitreps” no longer appear on this blog.

    Those were always a key part of why I attended to this place. Then there’s also Larry Johnson–

    The Good Colonel seems to have jettisoned him the moment his analysis failed to prop up the propaganda. I’ve read what he has to say on his new blog (and I remember the old, pro-Hillary anti-Obama one, “No Quarter”–available on the Wayback Machine, showing how he helped start up the whole “Obama isn’t an actual American Citizen” line of Rethuglican critique), and it’s pretty clear that this blog has suddenly turned into a place where “analysis” shifts with the winds of prevailing DC rhetoric.

    • TTG says:

      Pacifica Advocate,

      Patrick Armstrong’s sitreps haven’t appeared here since the start of the invasion because Patrick stopped writing them. He stated on his blog that he was “going to pause this site and my other activities for a while until I see how things break out.” The Russian invasion took him by surprise, just as it took many of us here by surprise. I would welcome his comments and sitreps here if he chose to start writing them again. I would hazard a guess that Colonel Lang feels the same.

      • Pat lang says:

        Both PA and LJ chose to stop posting. pA would be welcomed back any time.

        • English Outsider says:

          Colonel – the last post of substance I saw was on March 18th –

          “I did not expect Russia to invade Ukraine. I was quite definite about it several times: “Russia will not invade Ukraine” I said. I envisaged several possibilities but nothing like what we have seen in the last weeks. My argument was based on the assumption that Moscow did not want to take ownership of, in Åslund’s words, “the poorest country in Europe“. I still do not think that it does – I believe that Moscow wants a neutral and de-nazified Ukraine that is a buffer between it and NATO. I am also coming to believe that Novorossiya, more or less in its historical borders as formed by Katherine when recovered from the Ottomans, will be independent. The chance that it would remain part of Ukraine has probably passed. As I wrote in 2014 “In short, the West broke Ukraine, it now owns it. Or, to put it more precisely, it owns that part that Moscow doesn’t want. And what part that is is entirely up to Moscow to choose“. Moscow is choosing now.”

          https://patrickarmstrong.ca/2022/03/18/what-i-got-wrong-and-why/

          Prophetic. On March 20th there was an announcement of a hiatus –

          “I am going to pause this site and my other activities for a while until I see how things break out.

          “What was a post-retirement hobby – a continuation of my job of trying to figure out what was happening in Russia – has now led to accusations of being a Russian agent of disinformation.

          “Deviation from the approved narrative is to risk, at best, being accused of sowing disinformation and, at worst, of treason.

          “I’m too old for this.”

          https://patrickarmstrong.ca/2022/03/20/hiatus/

          One hopes the hiatus will be short. I miss Mr Armstrong’s summaries and analyses.

          Another Canadian based authority who went dark was Professor Robinson. I miss him too – he was also on the ball very early in 2014 on events in the Donbas. His last entries show the progression from scepticism about the invasion to, as it seems to me, disappointment and disillusionment. A journey many made with him.

          This entry shows the view most took before the invasion. Invasion unlikely –

          https://irrussianality.wordpress.com/2022/02/18/pictures-of-an-invasion-force-not-so-much/#more-6906

          But then Robinson senses worse coming and writes urgently “The war in Donbas must end now!” Robinson is referring, of course, not to the war we’re seeing now, but to the war we in the West forgot about. The war raging in the Donbas after 2014.

          It is here also that Robinson implies a question I recently ventured to put to TTG. What happened around that time that made the Russians move so fast? –

          ” But, as I’ve long said, this is precisely how large-scale war between Russia and Ukraine will begin – not because one day Vladimir Putin invades Ukraine out of the blue for no reason, but because of something that happens on the front line in Donbass which causes a violent Russian response.”

          https://irrussianality.wordpress.com/2022/02/18/the-war-in-donbass-must-end-now/

          It’d be good to know what that “something” was.

          Then the key date, February 21. On the Russian recognition of the self-declared republics that took place on that day –

          “Certainly, the situation is far from healthy. As I say, my strong impression is that this is not what Moscow had planned all along. Rather it’s a product of a realization that the West is not interested in meeting its demands (which to my mind were never very realistic) and also that Ukraine will never implement the terms of the Minsk agreements. Blocked from any other path, the Kremlin has therefore taken this one. Where it will lead, I do not dare to predict.”

          https://irrussianality.wordpress.com/2022/02/21/quick-reaction-to-putins-speech-recognizing-dpr-lpr/

          Then on to the final posts which, again as I read them, are saying “Hell, I’m done with this lot!”

          “Let us hope that it (an invasion) doesn’t happen. If it does, you’ve seen the last of me.”

          https://irrussianality.wordpress.com/2022/02/23/pre-emptive-condemnation/

          And soon after –

          “BLOG TERMINATED

          “FEBRUARY 24, 2022 …

          “In line with my last post, Irrussianality has ceased operation as of today.

          “God bless you all!”

          https://irrussianality.wordpress.com/2022/02/24/blog-terminated/

          But you can’t keep a good scholar down. I looked the Professor up just now and saw an article entitled “Sticking my head out again”. I do hope Mr Armstrong follows suit.

          To my mind that last article referred to gets to the root of the matter. Russia has turned its back on the West. It confirms the premonition I think many felt on February 21st. “If not actually dead, Russian Westernism is somewhere close to it.”

          I believe it’s as dead as a doornail at the moment, Colonel, Russian Westernism. They’ll be arguing for ever about who killed it. My guess is that it was the West; and that Putin and a whole lot of other Russians were more than happy to see us do it.

          https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/russia-at-a-turning-point

          • d74 says:

            “It’d be good to know what that “something” was. ”

            On that point Putin has the answer.
            According to him, the Russians have found documents showing a Ukrainian offensive against the 2 republics in early April. The documents have been published. Are they forgeries?

            The 100,000 or so men gathered in the Donbass had a purpose.
            There was no doubt that the forces of the 2 republics were unable to spread the shock.

          • Pat lang says:

            EO
            His choices.

          • Steve says:

            Colonel Lang,

            Given what was happening in Donbas from Feb 16 onward – confirmed by the OSCE monitoring mission – what other choices did the Russians have? Did they not have a case under the 2015 R2P laws? What other direction was open to them after the US closed off any diplomatic approach before the invasion began?

          • Pat Lang says:

            Steve
            Rubbish! Their choice was to not invade Ukraine and instead to fight to defend their own borders.

          • Steve says:

            EO,

            The Canadian article is very much in line with Alastair Crooke’s broader geo-political analyses long predating these more recent events.

          • Steve says:

            Colonel,

            And sit out what was so obviously about to happen in Donbass?

          • Pat Lang says:

            Steve
            Donbas IS NOT part of Russia.

          • Eric Newhill says:

            EO,
            The hawks in your country and mine claim to have an unquestioned sense of responsibility to protect UKR, but Putin was supposed to just hunker down in Russia and not protect the people of the Donbas from an impending UKR final solution to that problem (= a major operation to kill them all). The Donbas has a much tighter connection to Russia than UKR does to the UK and USA.

            There is not even the slightest attempt to understand that Russia could be operating on the same set of expressed principles as the west.

            Now someone here did attempt to address that failure to understand the other side’s motives and levers (important, IMO, so as to work out a diplomatic solution) by saying that it is possible to appreciate that Russia can be – and is – operating on the same principles as we are and still oppose the invasion and fight them. That is some “interesting”, truncated – and, frankly, extremely belligerent – thinking, that distills down to, “We just want to fight Russia and screw diplomacy. Now is our golden opportunity”.

            The entire situation is a massive diplomatic failure; one so bad that I am compelled to put a foot in the camp that believes the US/NATO deliberately guided Russia and UKR into conflict for the purpose of harming Russia, if not totally destroying her. This would be a hair brained scheme on a par with the neocons’ plan to re-make the Middle East.

            In attempting to mask the true source and aim of this conflict, we get all kinds of “logic” from people trained to hate Russia over a life time that doesn’t add up, because it cannot add up because it isn’t the truth.

          • Steve says:

            Colonel,

            Was Kosovo (a true turning point in US/Russia relations) a part of the US?

          • jld says:

            Pat Lang
            Ukraine is NOT part of the US.

  4. Pat Lang says:

    Johnson is unable to control his personl insults against people who disagree with him (including me) and will never be posted on Turcopolier again. Suggest you follow his example and absent yourself.

  5. Fourth and Long says:

    One of my primary questions has to do with an unvoiced contradiction in the prevalent western narrative. Simple to illustrate.

    One: Russia has been proved to be a “Paper Tiger” militarily. Because it cannot conquer cities only mere kilometers from its own borders, which are defended mostly by citizen forces.

    Two: We must therefore with great urgency, speed and expense further extremely arm ourselves and our allies, and marshall them, to protect ourselves from the aforesaid Paper Tiger military.

    Slight oversimplification, only for brevity and the sake of highlighting the extreme contradiction.

    The Russian threat has a long history of being exceedingly misrepresented and exaggerated in the US and UK. Nothing change$.

    • cobo says:

      I don’t begrudge one bit the costs of building and maintaining our military at full and ready for the tasks it faces. On the other hand, what we pay for better be the best in hand for our forces. And what we build here we pay for here – no fancy financing necessary, infrastructure, education, healthcare all done by Americans for Americans – well fed, well educated, healthy and strong Americans. Period.

      • Kilo 4/11 says:

        Well said.
        Fantastic art! You studied at the National Academy for Witches?
        La verdad? Maybe if I’d have studied there, I would have become the successful poet I once dreamed of being!

    • Christian J. Chuba says:

      Russian military performance has been is consistently underrated by the U.S. and this is at the heart of my skepticism now. Maybe it is different this time but we are in the ‘Russia is both evil and incompetent’ phase of reporting. Just waiting for the dust to settle, the sooner the better.

      Our past (mis)-judgements about Russia: WW2, Afghanistan, and Syria … hmm just realized that Russia’s list is much shorter than ours but that’s a different issue.

      WW2 – To us, ww2 was Pearl harbor and D-Day

      Afghanistan – They did lose here. It was their Vietnam with comparable losses to ours.

      Syria – The Russian backed SAA was whipped until it wasn’t. I remember hearing that Russia wouldn’t be able to keep their aircraft flying because of sand.

      • TTG says:

        CJC,

        You must have read the annual publication of “Soviet Military Power,” followed by “Russian Military Power,” put out by DIA. It routinely painted the Soviet and Russian soldier as ten feet tall, probably to sell the public on ever increasing defense budgets. Still, we have never underestimated Soviet or Russian military power. We never thought the Ukrainian military could stand this long against a Russian military onslaught. If anything, we sold the Ukrainians short.

        • English Outsider says:

          TTG – there’s a most interesting take from Colonel Macgregor on that.

          https://youtu.be/8hFaPNvhbUk?t=258

          I’ve started it from where Colonel Macgregor starts speaking but am not able to further shorten it by omitting further interludes. One can however skip the commercial breaks by using the forward key a few times.

          What it shows, and what has been clear from the start, is that there are two very different takes on how this war is progressing. I see those two different takes on the Colonel’s site too.

          Very different takes indeed! In one Kiev is winning, or at least holding its own. In the other Kiev is getting badly beaten and defeat is only a question of time.

          But surely what we have seen is an initial “invasion lite” in the hope of a quick peace settlement, followed by recognition that there will be no peace settlement and the war will therefore have to be fought to the end.

          We’re therefore also seeing an alteration in Russian war aims. At first something like Minsk 2 would have done, maybe even keeping the Donbas within the Ukraine. That and ensuring Ukraine stayed neutral.

          It did look for a brief time as if that’s how the Turkish peace negotiations were going, but according to the Turks NATO pressure squashed the chances of that flat.

          That obviously out of the question, what we’re now seeing demanded by the Russian Parliament amounts to a material alteration in the Russian war aims.

          These new war aims being the removal of territory as far as Odessa from the control of Kiev. I suppose the Russian Parliament feels that now Russia has had to put the work in it might as well go the whole hog.

          Thus demonstrating what has been clear from the start. The longer this war goes on the more Kiev loses. And if one thinks about it, that is how it must be. Once the Russians have taken territory in the majority Russian areas of the Ukraine they dare not return it to Kiev. If they do, Kiev will penalise the ethnic Russians living in that territory who collaborated or who are suspected of collaboration.

  6. Bill Roche says:

    Repeatedly stated, I am not military guy and look at events w/a naive eye BUT, the big take away I have is that Ukrainians were underestimated; why? Careerist herein have suggested that the UKM profited by American training right down to the platoon level. I’ll make a wild assumption that Ukr. Gen’l staff were invited to Army War College. Unless our military messed up, shouldn’t we have expected a very improved Ukr military? But where to now? Have the Ukrainians reduced the fight to “bleeding time” in Donbass? They’ll lose that fight, Russian has more blood to shed and I don’t believe public opinion in Moscow will dissuade Putin. As Russian approaches 5/9 he has sold his war as a necessary conflict to rid our little Ukrainian brothers of their romance w/t Nazis (there’s the irony, it is the Russian who views other Slavs as “untermenschen”). Will prolonged battle in the east invite Russia to send in heavy bombers and destroy Ukraine wholesale? I think I read Putin said no Ukr destruction w/b tolerated on Russian soil. So, I can destroy your cities but you better not touch mine. Ukraine has no means of destroying Russian cities anyway. I don’t see a good end for Ukraine if war goes on. Putin maybe willing to kill every Ukrainian necessary to make them love and obey Russia. Where to from here?

    • TTG says:

      Bill Roche,

      Ukrainian officers, NCOs and enlisted personnel have attended all levels of US military courses in, most likely, great numbers for the last eight years. We’ve set up courses in Ukraine to mirror those courses. That’s how we’ve operated even before the time I was a butter bar. Judging from Ukrainian brigade structure, we didn’t take away their artillery heavy Soviet heritage. From what I’ve seen in the last 70 days, I think we got it about right. What we did not expect was how bad a job Gerasimov, Shoigu and others did with modernizing the Russian forces. They convinced us they could talk the talk, but in two months they haven’t been able to walk the walk. They may have fooled themselves, as well. We talk about Ukrainian corruption which is still bas across broad swaths of the country, but by most measures and studies, Russia is even more corrupt, especially within the military and the logistical support system for that military.

      • Bill Roche says:

        You mentioned Ukrainian officers and NCOs have both been involved in USA instruction and courses. Believe it or not I can recall an “off the cuff talk” I over heard in the Ft. Jackson Mess (I was there on KP b/c the damned Jets beat the Colts in ’69 S.B.!) between an officer and three NCOs about the value of cadre to unit effectiveness. Recently I’ve thought how “tight” that relationship must have been be throughout the past 70 days in UkM. But despite being well lead, equipped, and motivated, the UkM has no answer for high level bombing of Kharkiv, Livov, and Ki’ev. I fear that, combined w/long range artillery, is the next move for the Russians. We are in a pickle. Ukraine needs Jets. If NATO give them jets we risk war w/Russia. Then there is the difference b/t taking land (destruction) and holding land (occupation). Like it or not we need to help Putin find an “off ramp” for this affair.

  7. JK/AR says:

    I’d greatly preferred not coming onto any of these related threads however … TTG, … Colonel Lang?

    Forth & Longs’ at timestamp May 6, 2022 at 9:35 am – I’d greatly appreciate an explication thereon.

    I quite understand a bunch of Russian flag-staff & tanks & flagship & et cetera have been liquidated (by the plucky Ukrainians – with “some assistance”) But those self-same amateur hour forces require[d][s] a/the “full-court press” of combined NATO supply and replenish – repeatedly?

    “Something” to this amateur’s eye appears amiss.

    • TTG says:

      What’s amiss? The Russian military is massive with a lot of men and a lot of equipment. And they are lethal. Stopping that force naturally requires a massive NATO logistical effort. The Russians are not ten feet tall as some have hoped and many feared, but they are certainly not push overs, either.

  8. Poul says:

    The Ukrainians seems to have redrawn from Popasna so Wagner must have done their job?

    https://twitter.com/Militarylandnet/status/1523218842952269824

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