Monday, August 8, 2022

Putin’s desperation

Jerusalem Post, Letters to the Editor August 8, 2022

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes in “How significant is the latest Russia-Iran satellite launch?” (August 4): “the Russian leader rarely admits actions his country takes.” Now that is an understatement! Russia for weeks denied that it was about to invade Ukraine and when it did, it denied that it ever invaded.

Russian propaganda has reached unprecedented levels, as Predrag Petrović, the researcher at the Belgrade Center for Security Policy observes following the events in Kosovo: “Somewhere around half past seven on July 31, when sirens were activated in Kosovska Mitrovica and other places in the North where Serbs live, and then barricades were erected, the information was still fresh and scarce, and militant Russian and pro-Russian Telegram channels actively entered the game, and for hours they are filled with a mixture of information, semi-information and complete disinformation and distortions.”

So, on the one hand, we have a desperate Putin who is losing the war in Ukraine, transferring troops from the Donbas to the Kherson area to prevent a Ukrainian counterattack; and on the other, we have an undeterrable Iran approaching the bomb and Russia launching an Iranian satellite.

Surely the answer to Bob’s question is a no-brainer? If this time, in contrast to 1938, the West is trying to prevent Putin from occupying Europe, they better stop Iran from destroying not only Europe but everyone. Have they learned anything from February 24?



Saturday, July 30, 2022

Alexei Arestovich's 2019 prediction of the 2022 Russia-Ukraine war (with English subtitles)


Arestovich’s analysis was eerily accurate. I’ve been following his daily conversations with lawyer Mark Feygin since the war started, but this is the first time I ran across what he had said three years ago.

Arestovich is currently an Adviser to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine

Friday, July 29, 2022

Yuri Fedorov - Before the battle for Kherson

 Radio Svoboda 

Yuri Fedorov

The following is a modified Google translate from Russian

In early July, when Russian troops reached the borders of the Lugansk region, another phase of the war in Ukraine ended. Two or three weeks later, the contours of a new strategic situation and, consequently, the next stage of hostilities were outlined. More than half of the Russian forces deployed to Ukraine are located in the Donetsk region. Their primary task is to capture Bakhmut and the Slavyansk-Kramatorsk agglomeration, and then occupy the entire region. As a result, they expect in Moscow, the most important strategic goal of Vladimir Putin will be fulfilled - to include the entire territory of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in the so-called people's republics. The rest of the Russian troops are engaged in positional battles in the Kharkiv and Kherson regions, holding back the onslaught of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. At the same time, the annexation of the territories occupied by Russia is being prepared. By declaring them part of the Russian Federation, the Kremlin, in the event of de-occupation attempts, can threaten to use all the means available to the country, including nuclear weapons.

In Ukraine, a decision was made to advance in the south. Task number one is to defeat the Russian group on the right bank of the Dnieper and liberate Kherson. With a favorable development of events, the offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine can be continued to liberate the entire Kherson region, the occupied part of the Zaporozhye region and access to the Perekop isthmus and the approaches to Chongar. But even if only Kherson can be liberated by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, this will be the largest military and political victory for Ukraine and a heavy defeat for Russia. In particular, plans to annex the Kherson region will be frustrated: it is impossible to hold a "referendum" at the gunpoint of Ukrainian HIMARS.

How successful can the Ukrainian offensive in the south be and how will the situation develop in the autumn-winter campaign of 2022? In recent weeks, many articles have appeared in the West arguing that Ukraine cannot win the war with Russia, and therefore must agree to a settlement of the conflict on Russian terms; in other words, capitulate. Leaving aside the question of the motivation of the authors of such statements, some of which may be quite sincerely mistaken, I will turn to the facts.

In the first 7–10 days of the war, as a result of the unpreparedness of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the political leadership of the country for war, Russian troops approached Kyiv, Chernigov, Sumy and Kharkov, seized vast territories in the south. However, by the end of March they were forced out of the northeastern regions. Moscow announced the battle for the Donbass, which will decide the fate of the war. Russia's achievements in this "battle" are not impressive: it took more than three months to reach the borders of the Lugansk region. Despite the superiority of the Russian troops in armaments, sometimes multiple, the pace of the offensive turned out to be extremely low, and the losses were very high. British Chief of Defense Staff Admiral Anthony Radakin said that during the four and a half months of the war, Russia lost about 1,700 tanks and 4,400 armored fighting vehicles. This exceeds the data on the losses of these weapons provided at that time by the Ukrainian military command.

At the same time, systemic flaws in the Russian military system were revealed, which cannot be eliminated in combat conditions. First of all, the Russian armed forces were lined up like a blitzkrieg army. It was assumed that the airborne divisions and strike formations would capture the key political and military centers of Ukraine or the Baltic states (these countries were on the Kremlin’s list of priority targets), reach the Polish border or even break through to the Vistula in a few days. Moscow then intended to present NATO with "The Devil’s Alternative": capitulation or nuclear war. Such ideas predetermined the special role of the Airborne Forces, consisting of four divisions and four brigades, in planning future operations and in the structure of the armed forces. An attempt to capture the airfield in Gostomel in order to land a landing force capable of capturing Kyiv failed. After that, the Airborne Forces were used (and are being used) in Ukraine in the most dangerous areas as an elite motorized infantry and, accordingly, suffer heavy losses. The share of the ground forces, which bear the brunt of hostilities, has been underestimated in Russia to 28 percent of the total armed forces (in the Chinese army, for example, the ground forces account for 50 percent of the personnel). These forces are not enough to achieve a convincing victory in any lengthy war with the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Perhaps, understanding this circumstance, the Russian command planned, repeating the experience of the Second World War, powerful tank strikes, breakthroughs in the enemy’s defenses, encirclement and destruction of his groupings. These plans remained on paper. The saturation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with modern light anti-tank weapons devalued the actions of tank units. Javelin missiles (6,500 of them were delivered to Ukraine) destroyed the tanks before they had time to reach the distance of aimed fire. The presence of a large number of man-portable air defense missile systems among the Ukrainian troops made it possible, to some extent, to neutralize the superiority of Russia in front-line aviation. As a result, Russian forces have had to rely on missile strikes, mainly on civilian targets, and "barrage" tactics - massive artillery raids that wipe out one city block after another from the face of the earth. High-precision American multiple launch rocket systems, creating serious logistical difficulties for the Russian army, reduce the effectiveness of artillery. As a result, in the autumn-winter campaign, Russia's superiority in arms will, if not reduced to zero, then significantly weakened.

The first major battles of the new phase of hostilities may begin as early as August, when Ukrainian troops are expected to move to the offensive on Kherson. It has a good chance of success for two reasons. Firstly, the supply lines of the Russian group on the right bank pass through two bridges across the Dnieper: along the Antonovsky bridge near Kherson and on the other, located next to the dam of the Kakhovskaya hydroelectric power station. Both bridges are extremely vulnerable and will most likely be destroyed by HIMARS strikes before the offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Secondly, a significant part of the Russian troops is involved in protracted battles in the Donetsk region. If some of them are transferred to the south to repel the Ukrainian offensive, then the task of occupying the entire Donetsk region will certainly not be completed. Consequently, the main political goal of the "battle for Donbass" will not be achieved.

The loss of the right-bank part of the Kherson region may mean the beginning of the failure of the entire "special military operation." How Moscow will solve the problem of retaining these lands is not yet clear. One can, however, assume that such a task has no real solution at all, unless the Kremlin decides to mobilize the conscripts. But even in this case, it will take a considerable time, at least one and a half to two months, and by this time the fate of Kherson will be decided.

The contours of the first stage of the autumn-winter campaign are seen more or less clearly: the "battle for Kherson." You can design various scenarios for the further development of events. But all of them, in fact, come down to two main options: either Moscow is forced to negotiate on Ukrainian terms (that is, at least leaves the Ukrainian territories occupied after February 23), or the war of attrition continues, in which Ukraine will receive a growing economic and military assistance from Western countries. Given the balance of power between Russia and the "collective West", Moscow will not be able to avoid defeat in this war.

Yuri Fedorov is a military-political expert based in Prague




Sunday, July 17, 2022

New York, a mile from the front


I was surprised to find out that there is a town of New York in the Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, 40 miles south of Kramatorsk and 15 miles west of Horlivka.  The interactive map  shows that it is a mile away from the front.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

"It's voluntary blindness". Andrei Loshak about the attitude towards the war in Russia

Radio Svoboda

Andrei Loshak 

Translated through google translate, with corrections:

Sergei Medvedev: Today our guest is Andrei Loshak, a journalist, documentary filmmaker, author of the film Broken Ties which was recently released on the Current Time TV channel. The film is heavy, it cuts like a surgical scalpel into the current Russian consciousness, which for the most part supports the war in Ukraine, shows how this war cut Russian families in half. In this regard, the first question is: is it Putin's war or is it Russia's war against Ukraine?

Andrei Loshak: I don't have exact answers. I ask myself these questions all the time. The burden of this shame and horror, of course, leads to a state of agitation. Still, I still believe that the ultimate responsibility, of course, lies with Putin: all this happens based on some of his personal interests and ideas about the world order. And then just a huge country is already involved in all this. To me, this is more of a story about how propaganda works.

Sergei Medvedev: But is it purely a propaganda fight? Your film made me re-watch a lot. At first, consciousness refused to believe: how is it that most of your compatriots fit into this war?! Pelevin said 15 years ago: "Russia has found a national idea - and this is Putin." It sounded like a joke at the time, but over the years I have come to understand the greater truth of this statement. Now, after watching this film, listening to these arguments, seeing these faces, I understand that the war has become an important assembly point for Russia, just as at first Putinism and the entire Putin project groped for some very important point of identity. This is not an aberration, but a harsh reality with which we now live.

Andrey Loshak: I'm afraid you are right about something, and Pelevin is right about something. This grain fell into the prepared soil. But, in my opinion, at some point there was a fork in the road: I don’t know, it was 1999, when Yeltsin appointed a successor, or later, maybe 2004, when something could still be reconsidered. At some point, Putin appeared with his own idea of ​​how everything works, with his authoritarian tendencies, and then the country, first the leader, and then the people who at that moment were passionate about consumption (zero years, when oil prices only grew ), everyone at that moment massively tried to gain this fat, to bask in this oil feast.

At some point, the choice was made, and then some irreversible trends began, the person grew, sprouted, it was already impossible to move him from there, he was not going to leave. There has always been a liberal part that looked at all this with horror, which showed itself in 2012, received a powerful response in the nose and fled to the corners, into private life.

It seems like we've been going through these forks all the time and making the wrong choices. There was Navalny. I believe that at some point we should have united around him. The person took upon himself the courage and responsibility to try to achieve some kind of our representation by political means; We went through all these forks very wrong. Putin at that moment simply sprouted further, strengthened. He, too, is in some kind of Maslow's pyramid. At first he strengthened himself, enriched himself, then he wanted to leave some mark on history, to conquer what, as it seems to him, was unfairly taken away.

This is a common, collective responsibility for everything that happened. I have not yet learned to distinguish collective responsibility from collective guilt. Look: it seems that both responsibility and guilt, one and the same, can be presented to everyone, except perhaps for political prisoners. As a result, this toad puffed up on its own, and on the other hand, our inactivity, passive participation also helped this.

Sergey Medvedev: On the one hand, Russian fascism, which is quite obvious to many of us, was ripening, and on the other hand, this life was so convenient: we kind of realized civic instincts, went to rallies, said the right things, wrote, were not afraid of anyone he spent the day in jail. But all the same, this sliding along the inclined plane continued, and you don’t even understand where it was necessary to catch on in order to stop all this: maybe, really, on Navalny.

What is your attitude towards the interviewed people - sympathy, contempt, pity? Many of them are zombified, bitten, this is a totalitarian sect. For Ukrainians, they will be accomplices in aggression, because they justify, for example, what happened recently in Kremenchug. On the other hand, people write: they are also victims of propaganda. Do you think they are victims or aggressors?

Andrei Loshak: They are passive accomplices. We probably feel the same way about the German layman who continued to enjoy life, waving swastika flags while the monstrous crimes of the regime were taking place, simply because he did not really want to go into details where his Jewish neighbors had gone. This is voluntary blindness, they will have to answer for it, this is a minus in karma, let's say so. It seems that this can be explained, and from this point of view, of course, they are victims, because for the last 20 years they have been subjected to massive shelling from propagandistic shit-throwers, their brains are really very polluted. But, on the other hand, there is the Internet, there are their relatives who are trying to convey some truth, at least a different point of view. No, they categorically do not want to hear it, stand their ground.

Sergei Medvedev: This is a new type of person. "Homo putinus" (Putin's man) is a continuation of the Soviet man, but in some completely new guise. Maybe it's even comparable to North Korea or the Soviet people of the days of sports parades - genuine delight on the faces of North Koreans who watch Kim Jong-un, scary videos. Some kind of anthropological evolution has also taken place here, people have frozen faces.

Andrei Shipilov wrote a good thing: you can watch this film without sound and subtitles, and you can still see who speaks and how. There are suffering faces expressing empathy, and there are people with some kind of frozen expressions, especially the mother of a Tatar girl: she has a constantly blissful smile on her face. This is indeed some kind of new anthropology, but it is not very new either. I remembered your film and the famous article "No Country for Old Men" - this is the same diagnosis, these are people who have lost empathy, they have been replaced by propaganda clichés. There has been some very terrible evolution.

Andrei Loshak: Perhaps I agree. For these people, empathy turns on only when they talk about family. And I like this dramatic move: we take the stories of a family split. Still, when they talk about their children, this mask comes off, as happened with Renata's mother Venera, who sat with a strange blissful smile, and then burst into tears, because the conversation turned to something that was close and understandable to her. I don't understand what's going on with them, but it's really, as you rightly noted, some kind of mask.

Yesterday I had the broadcast of "Full Albats": Evgenia Markovna has her own YouTube channel, and Lev Gudkov from Levada was there. I spoke there about comparisons about the Third Reich, Albats said that it seems to her to be stretched, because after all the same Germans during the Third Reich were a more united nation, there really was enthusiasm, eyes burned (signs of a totalitarian society). In North Korea, everything is also probably more monolithic, at least it used to be. I was there in 2004 and saw it all, although it is very difficult to distinguish the truth from facades, grimaces, masks.

Here people, although they are not emotional, their eyes do not speak, they feel in depth, in fact they make excuses, they have a justifying intonation, they are not very sure of what they say. To my clarifying questions, trying to find some logic in their words, they begin to crumble, compose themselves again, lie. In my opinion, this is a sign that they do not believe in this chimera.

Sergey Medvedev: Yes, it seems to be difficult for them, but at some point a salutary propaganda formula comes into their heads, and they seize on it with relief: yes, we were forced, forced, we had to do this, but this is not a war, a special operation! And this impenetrable smile appears: they found this formula, hid their inner doubt under it.

Andrei, when you first contacted a person, could you guess in advance what the position would be: by social status, by age group, by profile?

Andrey Loshak: At first I found couples, searched social networks for the cries of the soul that "my relatives stopped understanding me." I was internally ready for this film, because back in 2014 I saw this split on social networks. Now, after February 24, there was an explosion on Facebook. In my bubble, of course, these were people who were against, and who had broken relationships with those who were for. The most difficult thing was to get the consent of those who are in favor. Further it was an absolute random. I did not make any special social portrait, so that it would be  some kind of more or less representative sample.

There was a famous story of Jean-Michel Shcherbak. He is a mulatto, his mother is Russian, and his father is black. With the outbreak of the war, he left for Europe, wrote a very penetrating post about himself and his mother, who, a parishioner of the Sretensky Monastery, was once fed there by Tikhon Shevkunov, found herself in such harsh hands. They walked together, he sang in the church choir, once there was a normal family life, but then she became completely rabid and cursed him. I don’t have a single hero who would take it and tear it up, saying: I don’t want any communication at all. All the same, they in my film all suffer, somehow they try to get closer, except, probably, married couples, who simply break up, and that’s it. And when there is blood, family ties, the call of blood in the end still turns out to be stronger.

Sergei Medvedev: Yes, mother and daughter still hold out to the last.

Andrei Loshak: For the first months they could not communicate at all. Two months have passed - the rapprochement begins. It must be understood that the most stubborn Putinists, who have not a shadow of a doubt, simply did not speak to me: either they did not answer, or they wished me dead. Perhaps that is why we do not see representatives of this section, who would voice all this without a shadow of a doubt in a chased voice.

Sergei Medvedev: But can we find any obvious lines along which society is split in relation to the war? The older and younger generation, the city against the countryside, state employees, state-dependent people against freelancers? I look who is in favor of the war: the head teacher, a poultry farm worker, a pensioner, a former investigator. These are people brought up, created and nourished by the state.

Andrei Loshak: I will object to you: there is a programmer, and he is in Leipzig, works in a Western company, and he really wants to return to Russia and raise it from its knees, because "the whole world is threatened by a new liberal order", and other nonsense.

Sergey Medvedev: This is from the series - Peter the pig, who moved to Paris (famous caricature). He sits and sits, bored, and then hangs a portrait of Stalin on the wall and starts printing. In my opinion, this is such an immigrant syndrome.

Andrei Loshak: There is a 30-year-old entrepreneur Yakov from Novorossiysk, he has a sister in Kharkov, and he does not believe a single word of hers. On the part of state employees - please, Renata, a pediatrician, Galina, who works in the Samara Philharmonic, she is also a state employee. Of course, I feel terrible for them.

It seems to me that everything is more difficult. The Levada figures terrify me in general, I don’t even want to believe them. According to Levada, for example, 52% of young people support all this. This is something incredible! My field observations do not confirm this, but I understand that young people are taken seriously. But, of course, there are more supporters with every ten: 60+ - more, 70+ - even more, and at some point it reaches almost 100%. This, of course, is some kind of age thing, because the Soviet resentment of young people is generally incomprehensible, it does not work very well with them.

Sergei Medvedev: This is a secondary, induced Soviet resentment. People who have not eaten Soviet ice cream talk with nostalgia about Soviet ice cream and soda for three kopecks. They did not see this, but with all the more enthusiasm they fit into the ready-made myth.

Andrey Loshak: They hear this “boo-boo-boo” from their parents: oh, how it was in the Soviet Union, what ice cream it was! It seems to them that this is Wonderland, where everything was cheap, equal and tasty.

Sergei Medvedev: It is clear that there will still be a reconciliation in some form, the war will somehow transform, end in two, five, ten years. Anyway, these are the people with whom to live, one way or another. What to do next with the civil war, with the split within society?

Andrey Loshak: How can we accept this and pretend that this did not happen, simply because of the feeling of an intellectual mission, that we have to explain something to these people? Of course, they cannot be left alone with Solovyov, Simonyan and Kandelaki *, who wrote an excellent review of my film: this is inhumane. Apparently, we must try to do something to the last, in order to still break through to the other side. Even this film: it received a great response, it sold very well, but, to be honest, I don’t see any feedback from that side. Maybe there is some kind of "sold out to America", but there is no reflection on this topic, not exactly repentance, but at least a meaningful reaction in the comments.

Sergei Medvedev: We are all in our bubbles. In any case, this is a very important attempt, a document for the future, a document of the era, this film should be reviewed both in five and ten years, so that the heroes of the film look at themselves and understand what happened to us and what can be done to prevent this from happening again. 

Kandelaki, who wrote an excellent review of my film”  - Loshak meant her review on his facebook from June 27, 2022

 Finally a decent review:

 "I watched Andrei Loshak's film "Broken Ties"

 No joy writing this text. I dislike the fact that journalists who were once among the best in the country are confidently following the path Savik Shuster trampled.

 Deliberate or unintentional betrayal of your country in the name of ideals that Soros, British intelligence and corrupt elites have invented for you, for whom, the people, for centuries, have been a bargain in the struggle for power.

 A sad video essay that is no different from any liberal editorial show sipping wine and broadcasting from Georgia, Latvia or Poland.

 To make it short:

- Russia is bad,

- it's bad in Russia,

- onions were 22 rubles each,

- Ukrainian youth do not see freedom of speech in Russia,

- pro-Russian old men cannot explain why Ukrainians should kill Ukrainians (it's about Bucha),

 - Families are divided by conflict: all young men and women are on the other side, and their blind, according to Andrei, are adults - here.

 The girl in the frame - the same one who complains about the lack of freedom of speech and talks about "blurry stories" with Navalny - exclaims: what Nazis do we have here?!

 About hundreds of tattoos and chevrons of the SS "Dead Head" division, about "Galicia" parades and the streets of Bandera, the girl is silent.

 Probably didn’t leave the house.

 Andrei Loshak does not understand why Ukrainians would kill Ukrainians.

 Well, I would go to the Azov regiment during these 8 years of war and ask.

 Maybe he would have been told what the flights to the peaceful Donbass were for, why they decided to crush people with tanks, and then, and right now, to continuously bomb.

 I would go to Mariupol, Melitopol, Lugansk, Kherson, Novaya Kakhovka. I would like to listen about the violence of Ukrainian nationalists against those Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine who remained on the other side of the front in 2014.

 Journalism must be about the facts. She would be good with a genuinely broad spectrum of opinions. It's really cool if such films leave room for reflection. In general, it was possible not to tire myself by sewing a patchwork blanket about bad Russia and beautiful Ukraine.

 It was enough for a black screen screen screen with the text: "I am against the fact that

Russia protects people from death."

Tina Kandelaki

Thursday, July 7, 2022

An encounter at Maccabi


Yesterday morning at 8:00 am sharp I went for a blood test at Maccabi and started talking amicably with the Russian nurse while she was drawing my blood about what languages I speak since she wanted to know where I know Russian from. So, I briefly explained and then I remembered the film Broken Ties and suggested she see it, as I do to everyone, particularly Russians, these days. She asked me how I know about the film, and I said I was following events closely and explained briefly what the film was about. “You know”, she said, “it is happening in my family too.”   Then she added – “which side are you on?”  “Ukraine”, I said. Her eyes widened, the visible part of her face went pale (both of us had masks on) and she said “OK, that’s it, goodbye”. 

I almost laughed and said: “I’m sorry I ruined your day”, but we managed to talk another few minutes.  “What can you expect from a comic?”, she said, to which I said that Ronald Reagan was an actor and turned out to be one of the better presidents.

I managed to show her the link to Broken Ties and she will watch it. Of course, the probability that she would change her mind is almost nil, but what matters is that we managed to talk about in a calm and pleasant way.