PatrickLancaster
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US Navy veteran and independent crowd-funded journalist.
I show what the western media will not show you.
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❗️🇵🇱🇷🇺Mercenaries from Poland confirmed that they took an active part in the attack on the Belgorod region.

This was reported by Visegrad 24, citing the Polish Volunteer Corps:

"Everyone asks us one question, did we take part in the operation in the Belgorod region... The answer is unequivocal: of course yes!" - The TV channel Polsat News quoted the corps as saying.

According to the report, Polish mercenaries were directly involved in combat operations together with saboteurs from the Russian Volunteer Corps (a terrorist organization banned in Russia).

It became known about the infiltration of saboteurs into the Belgorod region on May 22. Later, the Defense Ministry said that the members of the sabotage group were blocked and defeated.

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Russian Frontline Combat For Ukraine's Last Stronghold

Bilohorivka / Білогорівка (Ukrainian) or BeloGorlovka / Белогоровка (Russian) is the last stronghold of Ukraine forces in the Sievierodonetsk Raion, Luhansk Oblast UA(As called by Ukraine) or LPR (As called by Russia). It is located in Lysychansk area.
The battle for this area has been raging for years with reports of the town changing hands many times. In this report I take you to the Russian BeloGorlovka frontline and show you how Russian forces engage Ukrainian forces in battle in the attempted to take the town. During filming Russian forces attacked Ukrainian forces with 120 mm heavy mortar system and intern Ukraine charged them with Kamikaze attack drones.

00:23:47
⚡️📣 5 Days Under Fire in Russia Frontline Of Belgorod! ⚡️📣 MUST WATCH ALL

I spent five days underfire in Russia everywhere from the frontline, with first responders, civilians and everything in-between to show you the most in-depth English documentary on the Belgorod region of Russia.
You must watch the full film as no one else has documented the real facts on the ground as we have. In this film we show you exactly how Ukraine has been hammering the Russian city and region of Belgorod with Western supplied weapons in huge cross border attacks. We also speak to locals (both Russian and British) about the situation and we show you the interworking of the Emergency, military, medical infrastructures. You will see what is really happening in Russia not just what the main stream media wants you to see. keep in mind Belgorod is Russia and in no part a disputed land.

02:38:38
⚡️📣On location where a Ukrainian rocket attack destroyed 9 floors of an apartment building killing many civilians in Belgorod.

Our friend Ian Turner AKA "The Belgorod Brit from ENGLAND" is reporting the only English report as of yet on location for our channel so you can see what the locals are living through. Ian is a British man and teacher that has been living in Belgorod for many years. He is showing us the real situation.

00:00:53
Ukraine shells cafe in Russia’s Donetsk

Three people were killed in the attack on the capital of the Donetsk People’s Republic, local authorities have said.

The Paradise cafe in the Kirovsky District suffered a “direct hit,” Denis Pushilin wrote on Telegram. A female employee and two customers lost their lives in the shelling, the regional leader added.

Eight others, including a child, suffered moderate injuries, Pushilin wrote.

According to the regional chief, Ukrainian forces used a US-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket system to carry out the attack. One of the projectiles struck the cafe, damaging to its outer wall and blowing out the windows throughout the building, while another landed nearby, he said.

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💥Currently missile attack on the centre Donetsk

looks like the air defence is dealing with it successfully. Also a series of heavy arrivals on some of the outer suburbs , more info as it comes

🌎Secret import of Russian gas

Although the EU has significantly reduced gas purchases from Russia, most of it still arrives (https://wiadomosci.onet.pl/swiat/rosyjski-gaz-wciaz-plynie-do-europy-oto-powody/trgbcck?utm_source=wiadomosci.onet.pl_viasg_wiadomosci&utm_medium=referal&utm_campaign=leo_automatic&srcc=undefined&utm_v=2) there, both through pipelines and in the form of LNG, still providing energy to European homes and businesses, as well as helping to make money for the companies that transit it for further entry into world markets.

According to the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), the total share of Russian gas in EU imports reached 15% last year. At the same time, almost a quarter of European LNG imports from Russia (22%) were sold to Asian countries.

Among European countries, Austria and Hungary are the largest importers of Russian gas. Pipeline gas continues to flow to them through the Austrian gas hub Baumgarten via gas pipelines crossing Ukraine. In addition, recently countries have ...

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Scott Ritter: We are witnessing the bittersweet birth of a new Russia
Building Novorossiya back up after Ukrainian neglect and war is a monumental but unavoidable task

Tucker Carlson’s confused exasperation over Russian President Vladmir Putin’s extemporaneous history lesson at the start of their landmark February interview (which has been watched more than a billion times), underscored one realty. For a Western audience, the question of the historical bona fides of Russia’s claim of sovereign interest in territories located on the left (eastern) bank of the Dnieper River, currently claimed by Ukraine, is confusing to the point of incomprehension.

Vladimir Putin, however, did not manufacture his history lesson from thin air. Anyone who has followed the speeches and writings of the Russian president over the years would have found his comments to Carlson quite familiar, echoing both in tone and content previous statements made concerning both the viability of the Ukrainian state from an historic perspective, and the historical ties between what Putin has called Novorossiya (New Russia) and the Russian nation.

For example, on March 18, 2014, during his announcement regarding the annexation of Crimea, the president observed that “after the [Russian] Revolution [of 1917], for a number of reasons the Bolsheviks – let God judge them – added historical sections of the south of Russia to the Republic of Ukraine. This was done with no consideration for the ethnic composition of the population, and these regions today form the south-east of Ukraine.”

Later during a televised question-and-answer session, Putin declared that “what was called Novorossiya back in tsarist days – Kharkov, Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson, Nikolayev and Odessa – were not part of Ukraine then. These territories were given to Ukraine in the 1920s by the Soviet Government. Why? Who knows? They were won by Potemkin and Catherine the Great in a series of well-known wars. The center of that territory was Novorossiysk, so the region is called Novorossiya. Russia lost these territories for various reasons, but the people remained.”

Novorossiya isn’t just a construct of Vladimir Putin’s imagination, but rather a notion drawn from historic fact that resonated with the people who populated the territories it encompassed. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was an abortive effort by pro-Russia citizens of the new Ukrainian state to restore Novorossiya as an independent region. 

While this effort failed, the concept of a greater Novorossiya confederation was revived in May 2014 by the newly proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. But this effort, too, was short-lived, being put on ice in 2015. This, however, did not mean the death of the idea of Novorossiya. On February 21, 2022, Putin delivered a lengthy address to the Russian nation on the eve of his decision to send Russian troops into Ukraine as part of what he termed a Special Military Operation. Those who watched Tucker Carlson’s February 9, 2024, interview with Putin would have been struck by the similarity between the two presentations.

While he did not make a direct reference to Novorossiya, the president did outline fundamental historic and cultural linkages which serve as the foundation for any discussion about the viability and legitimacy of Novorossiya in the context of Russian-Ukrainian relations.

“I would like to emphasize,” Putin said, “once again that Ukraine is not just a neighboring country for us. It is an integral part of our own history, culture, and spiritual space. It is our friends, our relatives, not only colleagues, friends, and former work colleagues, but also our relatives and close family members. Since the oldest times,” Putin continued, “the inhabitants of the south-western historical territories of ancient Russia have called themselves Russians and Orthodox Christians. It was the same in the 17th century, when a part of these territories [i.e., Novorossiya] was reunited with the Russian state, and even after that.”

The Russian president set forth his contention that the modern state of Ukraine was an invention of Vladimir Lenin, the founding father of the Soviet Union. “Soviet Ukraine is the result of the Bolsheviks’ policy,” Putin stated, “and can be rightfully called ‘Vladimir Lenin’s Ukraine’. He was its creator and architect. This is fully and comprehensively corroborated by archival documents.”

Putin went on to issue a threat which, when seen in the context of the present, proved ominously prescient. “And today the ’grateful progeny’ has overturned monuments to Lenin in Ukraine. They call it decommunization. You want decommunization? Very well, this suits us just fine. But why stop halfway? We are ready to show what real decommunizations would mean for Ukraine.”

In September 2022 Putin followed through on this, ordering referendums in four territories (Kherson and Zaporozhye, and the newly independent Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics) to determine whether the populations residing there wished to join the Russian Federation. All four did so. Putin has since then referred to these new Russian territories as Novorossiya, perhaps nowhere more poignantly that in June 2023, when he praised the Russian soldiers “who fought and gave their lives to Novorossiya and for the unity of the Russian world.”

The story of those who fought and gave their lives to Novorossiya is one that I have wanted to tell for some time now. I have borne witness here in the United States to the extremely one-sided coverage of the military aspects of Russia’s military operation. Like many of my fellow analysts, I had to undertake the extremely difficult task of trying to parse out fact from an overwhelmingly fictional narrative. Nor was I helped in any way in this regard by the Russian side, which was parsimonious in the release of information that reflected its side of reality.

In preparing for my December 2023 visit to Russia, I had hoped to be able to visit the four new Russian territories to see for myself what the truth was when it came to the fighting between Russia and Ukraine. I also wanted to interview the Russian military and civilian leadership to get a broader perspective of the conflict. I had reached out to the Russian Foreign and Defense ministries through the Russian Embassy in the US, bending the ear of both the Ambassador, Anatoly Antonov, and the Defense Attache, Major-General Evgeny Bobkin, about my plans.

While both men supported my project and wrote recommendations back to their respective ministries in this regard, the Russian Defense Ministry, which had the final say over what happened in the four new territories, vetoed the idea. This veto was not because they didn’t like the idea of me writing an in-depth analysis of the conflict from the Russian perspective, but rather that the project as I outlined it, which would have required sustained access to frontline units and personnel, was deemed too dangerous. In short, the Russian Defense Ministry did not relish the idea of me being killed on its watch.

Under normal circumstances, I would have backed off. I had no desire to create any difficulty with the Russian government, and I was always cognizant of the reality that I was a guest in the country.

The last thing I wanted to be was a “war tourist,” where I put myself and others at risk for purely personal reasons. But I also felt strongly that if I were going to continue to provide so-called “expert analysis” about the military operation and the geopolitical realities of Novorossiya and Crimea, then I needed to see these places firsthand. I strongly believed that I had a professional obligation to see the new territories. Fortunately for me, Aleksandr Zyryanov, a Crimea native and director general of the Novosibirsk Region Development Corporation, agreed.

It wasn’t going to be easy.

We first tried to enter the new territories via Donetsk, driving west out of Rostov-on-Don. However, when we arrived at the checkpoint, we were told that the Ministry of Defense had not cleared us for entry. Not willing to take no for an answer, Aleksandr drove south, towards Krasnodar, and then – after making some phone calls – across the Crimean Bridge into Crimea. Once it became clear that we were planning on entering the new territories from Crimea, the Ministry of Defense yielded, granting permission for me to visit the four new Russian territories under one non-negotiable condition – I was not to go anywhere near the frontlines.

We left Feodosia early on the morning of January 15, 2024. At Dzhankoy, in northern Crimea, we took highway 18 north toward the Tup-Dzhankoy Peninsula and the Chongar Strait, which separates the Sivash lagoon system that forms the border between Crimea and the mainland into eastern and western portions. It was here that Red Army forces, on the night of November 12, 1920, broke through the defenses of the White Army of General Wrangel, leading to the capture of the Crimean Peninsula by Soviet forces. And it was also here that the Russian Army, on February 24, 2022, crossed into the Kherson Region from Crimea.

The Chongar Bridge is one of three highway crossings that connect Crimea with Kherson. It has been struck twice by Ukrainian forces seeking to disrupt Russian supply lines, once, in June 2023, when it was hit by British-made Storm Shadow missiles, and once again that August when it was hit by French-made SCALP missiles (a variant of the Storm Shadow.) In both instances, the bridge was temporarily shut down for repairs, evidence of which was clearly visible as we made our way across, and on to the Chongar checkpoint, where we were cleared by Russian soldiers for entry into the Kherson Region.

At the checkpoint we picked up a vehicle carrying a bodyguard detachment from the reconnaissance company of the Sparta Battalion, a veteran military formation whose roots date back to the very beginning of the Donbass revolt against the Ukrainian nationalists who seized power in Kiev during the February 2014 Maidan coup. They would be our escort through the Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions – even though we were going to give the frontlines a wide berth, Ukrainian “deep reconnaissance groups”, or DRGs, were known to target traffic along the M18 highway. Aleksandr was driving an armored Chevrolet Suburban, and the Sparta detachment had their own armored SUV. If we were to come under attack, our response would be to try and drive through the ambush. If that failed, then the Sparta boys would have to go to work.

Our first destination was the city of Genichesk, a port city along the Sea of Azov. Genichesk is the capital of the Genichesk District of the Kherson Region and, since November 9, 2022, when Russian forces withdrew from the city of Kherson, it has served as the temporary capital of the region. Aleksandr had been on his phone since morning, and his efforts had paid off – I was scheduled to meet with Vladimir Saldo, the local Governor.

RT

Genichesk is – literally – off the beaten path. When we reached the town of Novoalekseyevka, we got off the M18 highway and headed east along a two-lane road that took us toward the Sea of Azov. There were armed checkpoints all along the route, but the Sparta bodyguards were able to get us waved through without any issues. But the effect of these checkpoints was chilling – there was no doubt that one was in a region at war.

To call Genichesk a ghost town would be misleading – it is populated, and the evidence of civilian life is everywhere you look. The problem was, there didn’t seem to be enough people present. The city, like the region, is in a general state of decay, a holdover from the neglect it had suffered at the hands of a Ukrainian government that largely ignored territories that had, since 2004, voted in favor of the Party of Regions, the party of former President Viktor Yanukovich, who was ousted in the February 2014 Maidan coup. Nearly two years of war had likewise contributed to the atmosphere of societal neglect, an impression which was magnified by the weather – overcast, cold, with a light sleet blowing in off the water.

As we made our way into the building where the government of the Kherson Region had established its temporary offices, I couldn’t help but notice a statue of Lenin in the courtyard. Ukrainian nationalists had taken it down in July 2015, but the citizens of Genichesk had reinstalled it in April 2022, once the Russians had taken control of the city. Given Putin’s feeling about the role Lenin played in creating Ukraine, I found both the presence of this monument, and the role of the Russian citizens of Genichesk in restoring it, curiously ironic.

Vladimir Saldo is a man imbued with enthusiasm for his work. A civil engineer by profession, with a PhD in economics, Saldo had served in senior management positions in the “Khersonbud” Project and Construction Company before moving on into politics, serving on the Kherson City Council, the Kherson Regional Administration, and two terms as the mayor of the city of Kherson. Saldo, as a member of the Party of Regions, moved to the opposition and was effectively subjected to political ostracism in 2014, when the Ukrainian nationalists who had seized power all but forced it out of politics.

Aleksandr and I had the pleasure of meeting with Saldo in his office in the government building in downtown Genichesk. We talked about a wide range of issues, including his own path from a Ukrainian construction specialist to his current position as the governor of Kherson Oblast.

We talked about the war.

But Saldo’s passion was the economy, and how he could help revive the civilian economy of Kherson in a manner that best served the interests of its diminished population. On the eve of the military operation, back in early 2022, the population of the Kherson Region stood at just over a million, of which some 280,000 were residing in the city of Kherson. By November 2022, following the withdrawal of Russian forces from the right bank of the Dnieper River – including the city of Kherson – the population of the region had fallen below 400,000 and, with dismal economic prospects, the numbers kept falling. Many of those who left were Ukrainians who did not want to live under Russian rule. But others were Russians and Ukrainians who felt that they had no future in the war-torn region, and as such sought their fortunes elsewhere in Russia.

“My job is to give the people of Kherson hope for a better future,” Saldo told me. “And the time for this to happen is now, not when the war ends.”

Restoration of Kherson’s once vibrant agricultural sector is a top priority, and Saldo has personally taken the lead in signing agreements for the provision of Kherson produce to Moscow supermarkets. Saldo has also turned the region into a special economic zone, where potential investors and entrepreneurs can receive preferential loans and financial support, as well as organizational and legal assistance for businesses willing to open shop there.

The man responsible for making this vision a reality is Mikhail Panchenko, the Director of the Kherson Region Industry Development Fund. I met Mikhail in a restaurant located across the street from the governmental building which Saldo called home. Mikhail had come to Kherson in the summer of 2022, leaving a prominent position in Moscow in the process. “The Russian government was interested in rebuilding Kherson,” Mikhail told me, “and established the Industry Development Fund as a way of attracting businesses to the region.” Mikhail, who was born in 1968, was too old to enlist in the military. “When the opportunity came to direct the Industry Development Fund, I jumped at it as a way to do my patriotic duty.”

The first year of the fund’s operation saw Mikhail hand out 300 million rubles (almost $3.3 million at the current rate) in loans and grants (some of which was used to open the very restaurant where we were meeting.) The second year saw the allotment grow to some 700 million rubles. One of the biggest projects was the opening of a concrete production line capable of producing 60 cubic meters of concrete per hour. Mikhail took Alexander and me on a tour of the plant, which had grown to three production lines generating some 180 cubic meters of concrete an hour. Mikhail had just approved funding for an additional four production lines, for a total concrete production rate of 420 cubic meters per hour.

“That’s a lot of concrete,” I remarked to Mikhail.

“We are making good use of it,” he replied. “We are rebuilding schools, hospitals, and government buildings that had been neglected over the years. Revitalizing the basic infrastructure a society needs if it is to nurture a growing population.”

The problem Mikhail faces, however, is that most of the population growth being experienced in Kherson today comes from the military. The war can’t last forever, Mikhail noted. “Someday the army will leave, and we will need civilians. Right now, the people who left are not returning, and we’re having a hard time attracting newcomers. But we will keep building in anticipation of a time when the population of the Kherson region will grow from an impetus other than war. And for that,” he said, a twinkle in his eye, “we need concrete!”

I thought long and hard about the words of Vladimir Saldo and Panchenko as Aleksandr drove back onto the M18 highway, heading northeast, toward Donetsk. The reconstruction efforts being undertaken are impressive. But the number that kept coming to mind was the precipitous decline in the population – more than 60% of the pre-war population has left the Kherson region since the Russian military operation began.

According to statistics provided by the Russian Central Election Commission, some 571,000 voters took part in the referendum on joining Russia that was held in late September 2022. A little over 497,000, or some 87%, voted in favor, while slightly more than 68,800, or 12%, voted against. The turnout was almost 77%.

hese numbers, if accurate, implied that there was a population of over 740,000 eligible voters at the time of the election. While the loss of the city of Kherson in November 2022 could account for a significant source of the population drop that took place between September 2022 and the time of my visit in January 2024, it could not account for all of it.

The Russian population of Kherson in 2022 stood at approximately 20%, or around 200,000. One can safely say that the number of Russians who fled west to Kiev following the start of the military operation amounts to a negligible figure. If one assumes that the Russian population of the Kherson Region remained relatively stable, then most of the population decline came from the Ukrainian population.

While Saldo did not admit to such, the Governor of the neighboring Zaporozhya Region, Yevgeny Balitsky, has acknowledged that many Ukrainian families deemed by the authorities to be anti-Russian were deported following the initiation of the military operation (Russians accounted for a little more than 25% of the pre-conflict Zaporozhye population.) Many others fled to Russia to escape the deprivations of war.

Evidence of the war was everywhere to be seen. While the conflict in Kherson has stabilized along a line defined by the Dnieper River, Zaporozhye is very much a frontline region. Indeed, the main direction of attack of the summer 2023 Ukrainian counteroffensive was from the Zaporozhye region village of Rabotino, toward the town of Tokmak, and on towards the temporary regional capital of Melitopol (the city of Zaporozhye has remained under Ukrainian control throughout the conflict to date.)

I had petitioned to visit the frontlines near Rabotino but had been denied by the Russian Ministry of Defense. So, too, was my request to visit units deployed in the vicinity of Tokmak – too close to the front. The closest I would get would be the city of Melitopol, the ultimate objective of the Ukrainian counterattack. We drove past fields filled with the concrete “dragon’s teeth” and antitank ditches that marked the final layer of defenses that constituted the “Surovikin Line,” named after the Russian General, Sergey Surovikin, who had commanded the forces when the defenses were put in place.

The Ukrainians had hoped to reach the city of Melitopol in a matter of days once their attack began; they never breached the first line of defense situated to the southeast of Rabotino.

Melitopol, however, is not immune to the horrors of war, with Ukrainian artillery and rockets targeting it often to disrupt Russian military logistics. I kept this in mind as we drove through the streets of the city, past military checkpoints, and roving patrols. I was struck by the fact that the civilians I saw were going about their business, seemingly oblivious to the everyday reality of war that existed around them.

As was the case in Kherson, the entirety of the Zaporozhye Region seemed strangely depopulated, as if one were driving through the French capital of Paris in August, when half the city is away on vacation. I had hoped to be able to talk with Balitsky about the reduced population and other questions I had about life in the region during wartime, but this time Aleksandr’s phone could not produce the desired result – Balitsky was away from the region and unavailable.

If he had been available, I would have asked him the same question I had put to Saldo earlier in the day: given that Putin was apparently willing to return the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions to Ukraine as part of the peace deal negotiated in March 2022, how does the population of his region feel about being part of Russia today? Are they convinced that Russia is, in fact, there to stay?  Do they feel like they are a genuine part of the Novorossiya that Putin speaks about?

Saldo had talked in depth about the transition from being occupied by Russian forces, which lasted until April-May 2022 (about the time that Ukraine backed out of the ceasefire agreement), to being administered by Moscow. “There never was a doubt in my mind, or anyone else’s, that Kherson was historically a part of Russia,” Saldo said, “or that, once Russian troops arrived, that we would forever be Russian again.”

But the declining population, and the admission of forced deportations on the part of Balitsky, suggests that there was a significant part of the population that had, in fact, taken umbrage at such a future.

I would have liked to hear what Balitsky had to say about this question.

Reality, however, doesn’t deal with hypotheticals, and the present reality is that both Kherson and Zaporozhye are today part of the Russian Federation, and that both regions are populated by people who had made the decision to remain there as citizens of Russia. We will never know what the fate of these two territories would have been had the Ukrainian government honored the ceasefire agreement negotiated in March 2022. What we do know is that today both Kherson and Zaporozhye are part of the “New Territories” – Novorossiya.

Russia will for some time find its acquisition of the “new territories” challenged by nations who question the legitimacy of Russia’s military occupation and subsequent absorption of the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions into the Russian Federation. The reticence of foreigners to recognize these regions as being part of Russia, however, is the least of Russia’s problems. As was the case with Crimea, the Russian government will proceed irrespective of any international opposition.

The real challenge facing Russia is to convince Russians that the new territories are as integral to the Russian motherland as Crimea, a region reabsorbed by Russia in 2014 which has seen its economic fortunes and its population grow over the past decade. The diminished demographics of Kherson and Zaporozhye represent a litmus test of sorts for the Russian government, and for the governments of both Kherson and Zaporozhye. If the populations of these regions cannot regenerate, then these regions will wither on the vine. If, however, these new Russian lands can be transformed into places where Russians can envision themselves raising families in an environment free from want and fear, then Novorossiya will flourish.

Novorossiya is a reality, and the people who live there are citizens by choice more than circumstances. They are well served by men like Saldo and Balitsky, who are dedicated to the giant task of making these regions part of the Russian Motherland in actuality, not just in name.

Behind Saldo and Balitsky are men like Panchenko, people who left an easy life in Moscow or some other Russian city to come to the “New Territories” not for the purpose of seeking their fortunes, but rather to improve the lives of the new Russian citizens of Novorossiya.

For this to happen, Russia must emerge victorious in its struggle against the Ukrainian nationalists ensconced in Kiev, and their Western allies. Thanks to the sacrifices of the Russian military, this victory is in the process of being accomplished.

Then the real test begins – turning Novorossiya into a place Russians will want to call home.

 

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Ukraine SitRep: Retreat Continues For Lack Of Defense Lines

 

On February 17, after Ukrainian units in Avdeevka had started to leave their position, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army, General Syrski, announced a retreat to new defense lines:

"Based on the operational situation around Avdiivka, in order to avoid encirclement and preserve the lives and health of the military, I decided to withdraw our units from the city and move to defense on more favorable lines," Syrskyi said.

He emphasized that Ukrainian soldiers had fulfilled their duty with dignity, did their best to destroy the best Russian military units and inflicted significant losses in manpower and equipment on the enemy.

"The lives of servicemen are the highest value. We will take back Avdiivka anyway," the Chief added.

As some had already predicted it turned out that the "more favorable lines" Syrski promoted did not exist.

On February 17, the same day Syrski announced the retreat, Strana already reported on the lack of new defense lines (machine translation):

Ukrainian photographers Konstantin and Vlada Liberov, who document the war, wonder around which Ukrainian city, next after Avdiivka, the Russians will try to push through the defense of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

They report this in their Instagram.

"So what is the next "fortetsia" - Pokrovsk? Or just Konstantinovka?", - write Liberov, criticizing the command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine because of the lack of a second line of defense in Avdiivka.

"Where is the second line of defense? If you use the Deepstate map, "claws" around the city began to form almost a year ago. It certainly wasn't a surprise. So where's the second line of defense?" The Liberovs ask themselves.

"While the military was waiting for weapons for the Zaporozhye counteroffensive, the enemy passed through the fields, concreted trenches, built entire underground cities… Why didn't we do the same in Avdiivka? Moreover, a blind defense, the purpose of which is to deplete the enemy's forces, is like our official strategy.

Others confirmed the observation (machine translation):

West of Avdiivka, no significant defense line has been built for Ukrainian troops, and the Russian army continues to advance.

This was announced by the editor-in-chief of Censor, Yuri Butusov, following his trip to this area.

"There are no words. Gap: here in Kiev, the supreme commander-in-chief says one thing, but at the front something completely different is happening. I want to say that no field lines of fortifications have been built beyond Avdiivka so far. I saw Russian drones attacking our soldiers in their burrows in the middle of a field, " Butusov said.

According to him, no conclusions are drawn from previous failures.

"If the government can't find builders to build at least basic rear lines of defense, if they can't find engineers to maintain modern equipment, drones, sensors, communications, if they can't find workers and technologists to produce ammunition, then there will never be enough attack aircraft," the journalist added.

The government claimed to have allocated money to local authorities for building defense lines. But such money always seem to drain away before the first fortification gets finished.

A lack of serious organization and incompetence add to the picture (machine translation):

In the absence of fortified trenches in the east of the country, the engineering services of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are to blame.

This was stated in the social network X military engineer with the nickname Corsair.

As stated in a series of his posts, the heads of engineering services of brigades "do not know how to plan ahead and do not submit requests on time."

"When I arrive at a place, I have neither a map nor a proper justification. As a rule, they say: "We need to dig from that stump to planting." But that's not how it works. The defense should be solid, " Korsar wrote.

According to him, engineers do not have wood and concrete either, because "the brigades do not have the willpower to insist on this, and the AHS (operational-tactical group - Ed. ) do not have money."

For construction equipment, you need to sign contracts with businesses, but no one does this.

Since the loss of Avdeevka the Ukrainian forces had to fall back again and again. There are no natural barriers that could be used for defenses and there is no equipment and material to build defense lines across bare land.

Today even the New York Times took note of this:

Surprisingly Weak Ukrainian Defenses Help Russian Advance (archived) - New York Times, Mar 2 2024

Russian forces continue to make small but rapid gains outside of the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka, attributable in part to dwindling Ukrainian ammunition and declining Western aid.

But there’s another reason the Kremlin’s troops are advancing in the area: poor Ukrainian defenses.

Sparse, rudimentary trench lines populate the area west of Avdiivka that Ukraine is trying to defend, according to a Times review of imagery by Planet Labs, a commercial satellite company. These trench lines lack many of the additional fortifications that could help slow Russian tanks and help defend major roads and important terrain.

Avdiivka became the site of a fierce standoff over the last nine months, emerging as one of the bloodiest battles of the war. When Russia captured the city on Feb. 17, its first major gain since last May, the Ukrainian Army claimed it had secured defensive lines outside the city.

But Russian troops have captured three villages to the west of Avdiivka in the span of a week, and they are contesting at least one other.

Avdeevka Feb 17 2024
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Avdeevka Mar 2 2024
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The Ukraine friendly Live UA map from where the above maps were copied is not fully up to date. The town Orlivka, still shown as Ukrainian, is already in Russian hands.

The next geographic feature that might be useful for defense is the north-to-south river and reservoir line 12 kilometer west of Orlivka. Nothing in between was prepared for a serious defense. It can not be held against any serious attacker:

Ukrainian commanders have had ample time to prepare defenses outside Avdiivka. The area has been under attack since 2014, and Ukraine has had a tenuous hold on it since Russia launched its full-scale invasion two years ago.

But the Ukrainian defenses outside Avdiivka show rudimentary earthen fortifications, often with a connecting trench for infantry troops to reach firing positions closest to the enemy, but little else.

But instead acknowledging that and instead of retreating to that river line the Ukrainian command is again throwing reserves into the already crumbling defenses.

Mr. Hrabskyi said Russia was currently preventing Ukrainian troops from shoring up their defenses by relentlessly bombarding them, including with powerful glide bombs carrying hundreds of tons of explosives that can smash through even well-prepared fortifications.

“The quality of these defensive lines cannot be good enough to resist massive bulldozer tactics by the Russian forces,” Mr. Hrabskyi said.

The current political uproar in Europe and the U.S. about the war in Ukraine is an acknowledgment of the fact that Russia is certain to win this fight. I do not expect any serious consequences coming from it.

It will simply take a few more weeks of discussions until resignation sets in.

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Scott Ritter: How the US misleads the world about its involvement in Yemen
While Washington maintains that the strikes on Houthi installations are defensive and fully legal, neither is the case

“The strikes in Yemen were necessary, proportionate, and consistent with international law.” With this statement, the United States delegate to the United Nations defended the joint US-UK military strikes against targets affiliated with the Houthi militia undertaken on the night of January 12, 2024.

The irony of this statement is that it was made before a body, the United Nations Security Council, which had not authorized any such action, thereby eliminating any claim to legitimacy that could possibly be made by the US.

The Charter of the UN specifies two conditions under international law in which military force can be used. One is in the conduct of legitimate self-defense as articulated in Article 51 of the Charter. The other is in accordance with the authority granted by the UN Security Council through a resolution passed under Chapter VII of the Charter.

British Foreign Minister David Cameron cited the UN Security Council in his justification of the UK’s involvement in the attacks on Yemen, claiming that the Council had “made clear” that the “Houthi must halt attacks in the Red Sea.”

While the Security Council had issued a resolution demanding that the Houthi cease their attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea, this resolution was not passed under Chapter VII, and therefore neither the US nor the UK had any authority under international law to carry out their attacks on Yemen.

Both the US and UK invoked the notion of self-defense in their attacks on Yemen, thereby indirectly alluding to a possible cognizable action under Article 51 of the UN Charter. US President Joe Biden justified the US military attack on Houthi militia forces in Yemen in a statement released shortly after the strikes ended. “I ordered this military action,” he declared, “in accordance with my responsibility to protect Americans at home and abroad.” 

The main problem with this argument is that the Houthis had not attacked Americans, either at home or abroad. To the extent that US forces had previously engaged weapons fired by the Houthis, they had done so to shield non-American assets – either the State of Israel or international shipping – from Houthi attack. Under no circumstances could the US argue that it had been attacked by the Houthis.

The US attacks, Biden asserted, “were carried out to deter and weaken the Houthi ability to launch future attacks.”

This language suggests that the US was seeking to eliminate an imminent threat to commercial maritime operations in international shipping lanes. To comply with the requirements of international law regarding collective self-defense – the only possible argument for legitimacy since the US itself had not been attacked – the US would need to demonstrate that it was part of a collective of nation states that were either under attack by the Houthis or were threatened with imminent attack of a nature that precluded seeking Security Council intervention. 

In late December 2023, the US had, together with several other nations, gathered military forces in what was known as Operation Prosperity Guardian to deter Houthi attacks on maritime shipping that had been taking place since November 19, 2023.

However, the US subsequently undermined any case it could possibly have made that its actions were consistent with international law, namely that they were an act of collective pre-emptive self-defense done in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter.

US Central Command (CENTCOM), which is responsible for operations in the Middle East, issued a press release shortly after Washington launched a second attack against a Houthi radar installation that it claims was involved in targeting shipping in the Red Sea.

The statement claimed the attack on the Houthi radar installation was a “follow-on action” of the strikes carried out on January 12, and had “no association with and are separate from Operation Prosperity Guardian, a defensive coalition of over 20 countries operating in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandeb Strait, and the Gulf of Aden.”

By distancing itself from Operation Prosperity Guardian, the US has fatally undermined any notion of pre-emptive collective self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter, highlighting the unilateral, and inherently illegal, nature of its military attacks on Yemen.

 

 

Scott RITTER

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