Big 120+ missile attack on Ukraine yesterday (29 December). Last big attack was on 16 December. Russia has been making a large missile bombardment every 10 or 11 days. This attack overwhelmed Ukrainian defenses and the attack resulted in widespread power outages. At least two people were killed.
They may have intended on doing this earlier but on the night of 26/27 December a cruise missile (Soviet-era Tu-141 Stritzh?) was fired at Engel air base near Saratov (this is the second time they have done this attack). This is more than 300 miles (500 kilometers) inside of Russia. Russia claims it was intercepted but three people were killed (who were all officers, which argues that the missile did indeed hit its target). Other reports claim that the missile(s) hit the flight control center, destroyed 5 Tu-85s, killed 17 and wounded 26 (3 serious). It is also claimed that 6 Tu-95s were evacuated from the airbase and flown back to Siberia for safely. It is possible that the Ukrainian strike delayed the Russian attack, so they responded yesterday with their biggest bombardment yet.
Speaking to strikes into Russia, on 26 December four Ukrainian soldiers died in Bryansk Oblast in what was intended to be a commando strike inside of Russia. Their names have been released and there are videos of them.
There has been no significant movement on the front lines since the taking of Kherson on 11 November. There is lots of back-and-forth fighting around Bakhmut with the Ukrainians now pushing the Russians back. I have not been following this fight closely on this blog and not sure who has a consistently developed account of this fighting. Are the casualties for both sides high? Is Russian being bled to death in the offensive? Is this even a major fight? I really do not know. What I do know is that not much ground has changed hands. Meanwhile, Ukraine is pushing towards the town of Kreminna (pop. 18,417 in 2021). The Ukrainian General Staff has said they have advanced two kilometers in a week. This is more than some advances in WWI but still somewhat shy of being a blitzkrieg. Kreminna is not significant but some of the places beyond it are.
From north to south around Bakhmut: There was fighting around Soledar (pop. 10,490 according to 1 Jan 2022 estimate), just to the north of Bakhmut. It is claimed that the Russians (Wagner Group) took Yakovlivka (pop. 969 in 2001) on 16 December, yet the Ukrainian General Staff is reporting it is being shelled, strongly indicating that they still hold it. Russian has taken the village of Andriivka (Bakhmut Oblast) to the south of Bakhmut. The Russians are also taking Marinka (pop. 9,059 in 2022). The head of DPR is saying as of 19 December that the downtown has been taken. The Ukrainian General Staff is also reporting that it is being shelled by the Russians. This town, near Donetsk, has been fought over since 2015. Also, there has also been some fighting further south around Pavlivka.
If Russia does take Bakhmut it will give them some bragging rights, but it is not particularly significant militarily. It is just a point on a line, and the line can continue behind that point. I gather Ukraine is determined to hold it, so this is a test of strength for both armies. Zelenskyy visited Bakhmut on 20 December. Bakhmut itself is pretty much trashed.
I will put any changes/updates since my last post in italics. A link to a blow up of the map is here: Wikipedia map. It is dated 30 December.
Guessing that the fighting will shift to Ukrainian offensives down the road south from Zaporizhzhia to Melitopol and Berdyansk. This area has been quiet for most of this war. Ukraine will also probably renew offensives between Svatove to Kreminna or to the north of Svatove for the sake of trying to reclaim Lugansk. Meanwhile Russia seems determined to keep attacking along the line between Pavlivka and Bakhmut, which they have been doing for a while. The Deputy Defense Minister of Ukraine is claiming that they could be in Crimea by the end of the year. This may be optimistic. He is also saying that his feeling is that this war will be over by the end of spring. I look forward to his prediction being correct, although I suspect it will not be.
While everyone wants to talk about the next Ukrainian offensive, I can’t say I was overwhelmed by the Ukrainian offensive in Kherson. It lasted for seventy-eight days. They initiated it in late August and it stalled out in early September due to rumored heavy casualties. The later Russian withdrawal from Davydiv Brid and Dudchany in early October appears to have not included much fighting. The withdrawal from the rest of the area in and around Kherson in November also appear to have been done without much serious fighting. It looks like an organized phased withdrawal that Ukraine cautiously followed. Because of the heavy losses in the initial attacks in August/September, it is possible this offensive cost Ukraine more casualties than Russia. This does not lead me to believe that Ukraine is going to conduct a crushing offensive any time this year.
Map from 6 October of Kherson region from @War_Mapper:
Lysychansk fell July 3 to Russia. That was the end of the major Russian offensives. Since then, the largest town to have changed hands is Izyum (pop. 45,884) on 10 September and now Kherson (283,649) on 11 November. The Russian advances are on the outskirts of Bakhmut (pop. 72,310) and threatening to take the city, although it does not appear likely that they will. There are reports and videos of Russia using phosphorus rounds in Bakhmut.
Map from 27 November 2022 of Bakhmut area is from @War_Mapper:
Russia currently occupies five cities: Lysychansk (pop. 95,031), Severodonetsk (pop. 101,135), Mariupol (pop. 431,859), Berdyansk (pop. 107,928) and Melitopol (pop. 150,768). Kherson (pop. 283,649), Slovyansk (pop. 106,972) and Kramatorsk (pop. 150,084) appear to be securely under Ukrainian control.
My speculations on the Russian plans going forward are here: A Projected Plan for the Russo-Ukrainian War | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org). I suspect this war is going to continue until at least the fall of 2023. In the end, this war is going to be won on the field of battle. It is about territory taken and territory held.
We have been looking at six major areas of operations. Only the Donbas appears to be active right now.
1. Kiev (pop: 2,962,180): It appears that Kiev is secure.
2. Odessa (pop: 1,015,826): Appears to be secure. It is also without power thanks to a strike on 9 December by 10-12 Iranian drones. Russia has rejoined the grain deal that they withdraw from on 29 October as a result of Ukrainian attacks on Russian ships near Sevastopol, and they have renewed the grain deal for another 120 days. The shipments still continue and the agreement between Russia, Ukraine and Turkey has resulted in almost sixteen million tons of grain shipped by sea. As of 29 December, the amount of grain shipped from Ukrainian ports and across the Black Sea was 15,960,160 metric tonnes carried in 609 ships according to recent posts on twitter by @exit266. There are 80 days left to the agreement.
3. Kharkov (pop: 1,433,886): Kharkov looks to be secure. Still, it is near the Russian border, so this can change suddenly.
4. The Donetsk and Lugansk provinces (the Donbas): Lysychansk has fallen as of 3 July 2022. Severodonetsk has fallen as of 25 June. According to Ukraine only 10,000 civilians remained in Severodonetsk and only 12,000 remained in Lysychansk. Severodonetsk residents as of 7 August still do not have water. Slovyansk (pop. 106,972) and Kramatorsk (pop. 150,084) appear safe now. It was claimed there are only about 22 – 24,000 people left in Slovyansk.
The Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) is reporting as of 16 December that they had 4,133 soldiers killed and 17,379 wounded (4.20-to-1 wounded-to-killed ratio). This includes the 13 killed and 50 wounded reported from 01.01.22 to 02.25.22. This is 58 killed and 248 wounded the period from 2 – 8 December (4.28 wounded-to-killed ratio) and 74 killed and 226 wounded from 10 – 16 December (3.05-to-1 wounded-to-killed ratio). Not sure what happened to the 9th. For the period of 16 – 22 December (overlapping dates on 16 December) they report 43 killed, but do not report the wounded. Through the 16th, this is 108% casualties out of an estimated initial force of 20,000. The DPR website is back to posting and has backdated its post since 2 December. They have been very diligent about regularly updating this site. On 13 December, Daria Morozova, who heads the DPR Ombudsman reporting, stated to TASS that 104 DPR servicemen has been returned to the DPR. Overall, they report that 135 DPR fighters have been freed from Ukrainian captivity. She also reports that another 31 servicemen are undergoing medical treatment in other Russian regions. DPR servicemen being exchanged in prisoner exchanges is interesting in light of Ukraine actually trying them for treason (see below).
The DPR have been surprisingly diligent about regularly reporting their casualty figures. They have been reporting 64 to 95 killed a week since mid-August. Before then it was 127 for the week of 8.12.22-08.18.22, which is the highest since the week of 4.15.22-04.21.22 (225 killed). The number killed in December has dropped the last three weeks to 58/74/43 (through the 23rd), indicating a lower level of intensity. One wonders if some Russian losses or contractors are being included in these figures. Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) is reported as of 5 April to have had 500-600 killed out of an estimated force of 14,000. This is 21% casualties, assuming a 4-to-1 killed ratio. Don’t know how many of DPR and LPR forces are Russians from Russia as opposed to locals.
There has been an assassination attempt reported on 4 November against a DPR judge, the one who tried the now released two British and the Moroccan fighter. He is seriously injured, having been shot several times.
5. Mariupol (pop: 431,859): The population of the city is down to 100,000 or less. The mayor, who is no longer in the city, claimed that more than 10,000 people have been killed. The head of DPR (Donets People’s Republic) has said over 5,000 people have been killed. Ukraine is now claiming at least 22,000 civilians have been killed there. We have no evidence supporting a number this high. The city has been decimated, lots of buildings and houses destroyed. Mariupol has no power, gas or water. There was an explosion in Mariupol on 23 December. Two were injured.
There is a mass grave being reported outside of Mariupol near the town of Manhush. It looks like around 200 graves have been dug. Another mass grave is also being reported on 23 April. So far, they appear to be graves for hundreds of people, vice thousands. A third mass grave has been reported. I do have my doubts about some of the higher claims of civilians dead at Mariupol. They are reporting as of 7 July additional “mass burials” at Staryi Krym. Article is attached: https://www.ibtimes.com/mass-burial-site-near-mariupol-doubles-size-15000-ukrainians-likely-buried-there-3566928. Still not convinced that this demonstrates tens of thousands killed in Mariupol.
Prisoner Exchanges: Russia has claimed that they captured 2,439 prisoners from the siege of Mariupol. It appears that some have been exchanged including 144 prisoners exchanged on 29 June, including 95 from Mariupol, 43 from the neo-fascist militia unit the Azov regiment. It appears that 53 Ukrainian prisoners were killed when the building exploded that they were housed at in Olenivka near Donetsk (actually it appears that the figure may be 42). On 21 September there was a big exchange of 55 Russians and the Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk for 215 Ukrainians. This was brokered by Turkey and included five senior commanders from the defense of Mariupol. These five commanders from Mariupol are to be detained in Turkey for the duration of the war. A 188 of the prisoners were fighters who defended Mariupol. Of these, 108 were members of the Azov regiment. There were also prisoner exchanges on 2 September (14 Ukrainian soldiers) and 30 September (4 Ukrainian soldiers and 2 civilians). On 11 October it was reported that the bodies of 62 Ukrainians were returned home, including some held at the prison in Olenivka. Also, there was another prisoner exchange of 32 Ukrainians, and they received the body of an Israeli citizen who fought for Ukraine. It was announced on 13 October there was another prisoner exchange for 20 Ukrainians. On 17 October, there was yet another exchange that released 110 female prisoners for 110 Russian captives, 80 sailors and 30 service personnel. This includes 37 women that were captured in the siege of the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol. Two Ukrainian female captives opted to stay in Russia, reducing the final count to 108. Another prisoner exchange on 26 October of 10 Ukrainians, including returning the body of a 24-year-old American Joshua Alan Jones of Tennessee, who was killed-in-action on 23 August near Yegorovka (there are several places in Ukraine with that name). There have also been unannounced local prisoner exchanges, as detailed in this article: ‘No trust’: Clandestine world of Ukraine prisoner swaps (yahoo.com). Another prisoner exchange occurred on 29 October of 52 Ukrainians (2 civilians) for 50 Russians. Another 107 POWs have been released as of 3 November, including 74 Avostal defenders. I gather Russia still holds more POWs than Ukraine does. So, it does appear that of the 2,439 prisoners taken at Mariupol, at least 394 have been returned to Ukraine and up to 53 were killed in captivity. It does appear that Russia is still holding onto 2,000 or so defenders of Mariupol. It appears that Russia is still holding a lot more POWs than Ukraine is holding. On 11 November, another 45 Ukrainians were released. There were two more prisoners releases this week, one of 35 (and one Russian civilian) on 23 November and one of 50 on 24 November. In the 24 November exchange was 19 defenders from Mariupol and seven from Snake Island. On 26 November a swap of nine Ukrainian soldiers and 3 civilians for 9 Russian soldiers. 1 December another 50 for 50 prisoners were exchanged, the fourth prisoner swap in the last two weeks. On 6-7 December another 60 prisoners were exchanged, 14 from Azovstal. On 14 December, another 64 Ukrainians and 5 bodies were recovered in an prisoner exchange. Also one American, Air Force veteran, 35-year-old Rawandian-born Suedi Murekezi was exchanged. He had been arrested in Kherson back in June.
Russia has returned over 1,000 civilians and military personnel to Ukraine since March. The total number captured by Russia is probably 6,000 to 7,000 or more. One Russian, possibly a recently exchanged prisoner, was executed by the Russian Wagner Group for treason using a sledgehammer.
There is a recent UN report on prisoners of war that is worth looking at. They interviewed 159 prisoners held by Russia and 175 held by Ukraine: Ukraine / Russia: Prisoners of war | OHCHR. They report that the vast majority of the Ukrainian prisoners of war they interviewed were tortured and ill-treated. In the case of Russian prisoners, they received credible allegations of summary executions of persons hors de combat and several cases of torture and ill-treatment. Both Russia and Ukraine are signatories to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. This article is worth reading: In Ukraine, families scramble for news of their POWs – CSMonitor.com.
6. Crimea & Kherson (pop: 283,649): Kherson is now back under Ukrainian control as of 11 November. It is secure but in range of Russian artillery fire and will be for a while. Not sure what the current remaining population is there. I gather it is tens of thousands of people. It was shelled Christmas eve and ten civilians were killed. There appears to be no military reason for this attack. Kherson and parts of Kherson province continued to be shelled.
Melitopol still has 70,000 residents. Mykoliav, which is still sometimes hit by Russian ordnance, is reportedly down to about 230,000 residents out of its pre-war population of 480,000.
On 5 December Putin did drive a German Mercedes across the bridge at Kerch straight. More videos for the home front morale.
Big hit on barracks in Melitopol on 10 December. Up to 200 Russians may have been in the barracks. Don’t have a reliable count of casualties, but the videos of the attack are truly scary. I assume this was done by HIMARs. Have heard nothing further on this strike that would confirm the casualties.
Weather: Kharkov at 3 PM: It is 40 degrees (4 Celsius) and cloudy. Clear but cold weather for the next seven days, but mostly above freezing. Sunrise is now at 7:33 and sunset is at 3:42, giving them a little over eight hours of daytime to operate it.
Kherson is 48 degrees (9 Celsius) and partly cloudy. Clear but cold weather for the next seven days, but mostly above freezing. Sunrise at 7:34 and sunset at 4:10.
Ukrainian Army Build-up:
Ammo is the big story now, with the U.S. doing a six-fold boost in artillery shell production. We have supposedly already sent 1 million rounds to Ukraine. We are currently producing 14K 155mm rounds a month. Expect to have 20K a month by spring and a whole lot more later. Ukraine is also producing 152mm rounds. I do not know what Russian production is, but suspect it is less. Just a reminder, in the long run GDP = military power. Not sure why this concept is so hard for some people to grasp (including Hitler and Tojo).
Do not know the current strength of the deployed Ukrainian Army but am guessing that it is between 200,000 to 300,000 troops. They clearly are going to have to build it up to 400,000 or more in response to Russia’s partial mobilization.
The big news is what is occurring off the battlefield, where U.S. and other international aid is now providing more than $100 billion in aid to Ukraine. Over the long run this will change the military balance between Ukraine and Russia, unless Russia fully mobilizes for war. They seem hesitant to do this. The last G-7 meeting has committed to providing indefinite support to Ukraine for its defense against the Russian invasion. The reality is that they will have to dish out $100 billion a year for 2023 and maybe 2024 or longer to make this work.
My original off-the-cuff estimate was that Ukraine needed $100-120 billion in aid a year. The U.S. has earmarked in its defense budget $44.9 billion for Ukraine for FY 2023, so it does appear that they will be doing their part in 2023. As long as the west is willing to provide Ukraine $100+ million a year in aid, I don’t see how Ukraine can lose the fight. This all points to the war continuing until at least the fall of 2023.
The U.S. defense budget has been signed by the President. It has been increased to $858. This includes $44.9 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine and NATO. Last year’s budget was $768 billion. This defense budget is almost half the GDP of Russia.
On the twitter account @ianbremmer he has posted the following aid chart on 21 December for Ukraine:
Eyeballing the chart shows 48 + 30 + 7 + 6 + 4 + 3 + 2 +2 +1 + 1 + 1 +1 + 1 +1 +1 = 109 billion in aid provided in 2022.
A listing of the aid provided by nation is given by Ukrainian journalist Volodymyr Dacenko on twitter (2Volodymyr_D_). I have not checked it for accuracy, but it appears to actually be incomplete, with no flags given for Turkey or Slovenia.
The chart is tracking the percent of a nation’s weapons that are provided to Ukraine, so the numbers given are the total numbers of weapons the country has and then smaller figures (that are hard to read) are what was actually provided. For example, he records the U.S. with 6,209 tanks, but none have been provided to Ukraine. He records that the U.S. has 1,523 self-propelled guns, 2,151 howitzers and 800 HIMARS, M270 and ATACMS. He has 216 of these systems have been transferred to Ukraine. The last figure on the chart appears to be a total for NATO, although the math does not alwasy work (for example the total artillery systems listed as provided add up to 563, including 6 from Australia, but the total for NATO is only 450). Anyhow, interesting graphic but you do have to blow it up on your big computer screen to read it. There is probably an argument he is trying to make with this graphic.
The U.S. M142 Himars (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) have arrived in Ukraine. This is an updated version of the MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) and has 6 rockets. They have built over 500 of them. I gather Ukraine currently has at least 12 of them (others are saying 16) and as of 4 October, we have just announced we are providing them four more. Volodymyr Dacenko chart is saying 38 have been provided.
We so far have not sent Ukraine any of the 300-kilometer range ATACMS missiles and as of 15 September, have indicated that we have no plans to do so. Russia has been protesting strenuously against this. This range would give Ukraine the ability to completely cover Sevastopol and strike at the bridge on the Kerch straight connection the rest of the Russia to Crimea. Russia has been moving many of its ships from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk in Russia, out of the 300-kilometer range. On the other hand, the Ukrainian R-360 Neptune anti-ship missiles that sunk the Russian cruiser Moskva also have a range of up to 280 kilometers (170 miles) kilometers and can certainly reach Sevastopol and I gather the bridge from Kerch to Crimea. As we have seen from the Ukrainian strike on Saki Airbase in Crimea on 9 August, they already have the ability to reach out and touch the Russians well behind the lines.
Poland is now providing Ukraine with updated Soviet T-72s, the PT-91 Twardy. Some claim 200 are being provided. Poland has already provided Ukraine with 240 Polish T-72s. Decenko is showing 270 tanks provided by Poland out of 320+ total provided by NATO. As of early December, Poland has made a deal to receive 1000 K2 Tanks and 672 K-9A1 artillery from South Korea. This will free up more T-91 Tawdy tanks and 2S1 Gvozdika artillery for Ukraine.
Turkey has provided Ukraine with 50 Kirpi APCs, and another 150 more are expected, but I do not see Turkey flag on his graphic. Slovenia as of 19 September will provide Ukraine with 28 M-55S MBTs, which is a heavily upgraded version of the old Soviet T-55. I also do not see Slovenia’s flag on his graphic. These tanks have been provided. There is an on-going discussion of the U.S. providing Ukraine with M1-A1s or A2s or Germany providing them with Leopard 2s. The Leopard 2 is still in production and is the M1-A2, after declining to production of one tank a month in 2016. These transfers to Ukraine have not been resolved.
The focus is now on providing missile defense to Ukraine. So far Germany has provided 30-50 Gepards and is promising a Apside SAM battery and some older Hawk SAMs. The U.S. has provided considerable SAM help. They are now going to provide 8 NASAMS, two of which have already arrived, and I gather have already provided 1,400 Stingers. The U.S. has informally agreed to provide Ukraine with Patroits and appears to be moving rapidly to deploy them. It has set up training for them.
I do not know the status of providing fighter jets to Ukraine. I gather the U.S. has provided none and will not be. It does look like the Slovakian Mig-29s were retired on 27 August but have yet to be shipped to Ukraine. They had 11 in service.
Not sure how large the army now is (assume over 200,000). There is a Ukrainian Territorial Defense Force of 100,000 to 200,000. Wikipedia was reporting 209,000 in their armed forces and 102,000 paramilitary. They are now reporting their armed forces at 196,600. President Zelensky said on 21 May that 700,000 soldiers are defending Ukraine. Most of those are militia. The Ukrainian army is around 200,000 and I gather is going to grow to 300,000. It does take a while to build up an army and training in the middle of a war is always a challenge. The upper limit of mobilization is around 5% of the population (there have been cases where it has been higher). So Ukraine with a population of 40 million can build up an army of 2 million, especially if it continues to receive significant outside help.
The Azov Regiment that was holding in Mariupol was actually a National Guard unit. That is the case with some of the foreign volunteer battalions also. There are some foreign volunteer units that have been there a while, including two Chechen battalions and a Georgian unit.
The two Chechen battalions include the older established Dudayev Battalion of several hundred men and a new battalion of men formed mostly from Chechen emigrees from other parts of Europe. These units are not under formal command of the Ukrainian military. The Ukrainian parliament on 18 October voted to recognize Chechnya as an independent country.
There also the independent Belarussian Kastus Kalinouski Battalion, which as of 5 March is reported to have 200 members. It is reported that they have had thousands of volunteers. The existence of this unit, of course, threatens to bring the war into Belarus at some point. One can envision a number of such scenarios in a few months or a few years.
There is also a group of Russian defectors and dissidents fighting for Ukraine, called the Freedom of Russia Legion. It was created in March 2022. It is reported to be more than 500 people. It has been joined by the ex-vice chairman of Gazprombank, Igor Volobuyev. Among its stated goals is the disposition of Russia president Putin. See: https://web.archive.org/web/20220408160703/https://time.com/6165422/russians-in-ukraine/ and Former Gazprombank executive Igor Volobuev joins the Freedom to Russia Legion within the Ukrainian Armed Forces (novayagazeta.eu).
On 31 August the Svoboda Rossii (Freedom of Russia) Legion that is part of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the newly appearing National Republican Army (NRA) have created a political union headed a Russian former deputy of the Duma, Ilya Ponomarev. The NRA is the mysterious new opposition movement inside of Russia that is known only to the Kiev-based Ponomarev. They claim to have assassinated Darya Dugina. There is also a “Russian Volunteer Corps” in Ukraine that has not yet agreed to this political union. Still, this does indicate that some permanent Russian opposition is forming in Ukraine, however insignificant. It could become significant given time.
A Russian propaganda twitter account (AZ Osint) did provide a detailed listing on 17 June of “Number of Foreign Mercenaries in Ukraine.” Their source is the Russia Ministry of Defense. They claim that there were a total of 6,956 foreign fighters of which 3,221 remain as of June 17. They do not list any foreign fighters from Russia, Belarus or Chechnya, although I know they exist (see the paragraphs above). Now, this is a likely Russian propaganda site, and probably the data offered is between 50% to 100% false (certainly the 3rd column is), but it is the first detailed estimate I have seen of the number of foreign fighters provided. If I was doing propaganda, I would not really want to admit that individuals from 64 countries are in Ukraine providing them help. This sort of reinforces that narrative that the whole world condemns Russia. The Russian defense minister claimed around 2 September that since the beginning of the operations that 2,831 foreign mercenaries have been “demilitarized.” A Newsweek article dated 12 October claims that more than 20,000 foreign fighters from 52 countries have joined the war in Ukraine. Do not know their source for this statistic.
The U.S. is now admitting that it helped target Russian generals. See: American intel used to kill Russian generals in Ukraine: US officials. This is something we had assumed for a while. See: How Much is U.S. Intelligence helping Ukraine? | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org) and How Much is U.S. intelligence helping Ukraine? – part 2 | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org). They admitted that U.S. intel helped with tracking the sunk Russian cruiser Moskva, which we had also assumed: Official: US gave intel before Ukraine sank Russian warship. Apparently, they did not provide specific targeting information. So far eleven named generals have been reported killed in this war. Four deaths have been confirmed and three are still alive. No generals have been reported killed since 5 June 2022. The current claims of a Lt. General being captured in the fighting at Balakliya appears to have been a Lt. Colonel. Still, capturing a Lt. Colonel is no small deal. On 20 September, a Russian Major General, Oleg Tsokov, was wounded near Svatove and evacuated.
Russian Army Build-up:
I am guessing the Russian has around 200,000 troops deployed in Ukraine. They are now, as of 21 September, calling up 300,000 reservists. So potentially, they could be looking at up to 500,000 troops in Ukraine come this spring (it will probably be less than that as deployed).
Putin has announced on 14 October that 220,000 reservists have been mobilized and the mobilization effort will be over in two weeks. 33,000 of them have been assigned to units and 16,000 of them have already been deployed to Ukraine. I guess the rumors of a million people being drafted are false. It looks like Putin is looking to fight this war to a bloody stalemate and then negotiate a settlement to hang onto 1 or 3 or 5 provinces or areas. This is in line with what I have discussed before: A Projected Plan for the Russo-Ukrainian War | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org). The partial mobilization was announced to have been completed on 28 October. Does this mean that the 500,000+ Russians draft dodgers can now safely slink back into Russia?
The Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu stated on 28 October that 300,000 have already been mobilized and their average age is 35 (this seems really old…). 82,000 have been sent to Ukraine and 41,000 are already engaged in the front line. He also noted that mobilization has not ended. On 4 November Putin stated at 318,000 reservists and “new volunteers” have been mobilized and 49,000 are in combat zones.
This partial mobilization is clearly not popular with on-going protests in various parts of Russia and a mass migration of young Russian males to neighboring countries. Forbes Russia is claiming 600,000 to 700,000 people have left Russia since mobilization has begun. There were over 8,500 that crossed the border into Finland on 24 February, and most are heading to Finland, Georgia and Kazakhstan. It is claimed in Ukraineskaya Pravda that 200,000 people have migrated to Khazakhstan. This includes two brave souls who sailed for 300 miles across the Bering Strait to Alaska (still part of the U.S., not annexed by Russia). They sailed from the village of Egvekinot and landed at St. Lawrence Island (not named after me). I am certain we will give them asylum.
During the Vietnam war, between 30,000 to 100,000 Americans went to Canada to avoid the draft. The Vietnam War in total was bigger. lasted longer, and bloodier than the war in Ukraine has been so far. It shows an anti-war/establishment/government movement in Russia that is potentially larger than the one in the U.S. during the Vietnam War. One wonders what is going to be the long-term political, social and economic impact of this war on Russia. The Vietnam War was very much part of the re-definition of America at the time.
Not sure that the reservists and draftees that have been mobilized are all that motivated. Some are being immediately moved down to the battlefield, which I suspect is also not a particularly good idea. My bias would be to train them for a three-six months before deploying them in Ukraine. Russia is continuing its twice a year conscription, with the fall draft consisting of 120,000. Unlike the called up “reservists,” those drafted won’t be sent to fight in Ukraine. So, Russia certainly is going to have additional manpower. They now need to train, organize, equip and supply them. This is no small job.
There was a protest/revolt of up to 500 uniformed men in the Belgorod region complaining over their conditions and equipment. There are videos of this, see: Russians forced to go to war rise up in revolt after being treated like ‘cattle’ – World News – Mirror Online. According to at least one account, these men were mobilized in the Bryansk region and refuse to go to the front. They complain that their training consisted only of being taken to the firing range once to shoot. One wonders if this is an isolated incident or a sign of a much more widespread problem.
Their previous biannual call-up started up on 1 April, and Putin signed a decree ordering up 134,500 new conscripts into the army. The Chechen leader was claiming on 28 June that he is assembling four more large battalions to send to Ukraine. They are reporting to be also recruiting 1,500 prisoners for their army. The videos of some of these efforts are on the internet. Still, 1,500 prisoners out of army of 200,000+ is hardly a game changer. These efforts were obviously not enough, resulting in Putin calling up 300,000 “reservists.”
Russia is rumored to be recruiting from the scattered former fighters among the thousands of Afghani refugees. Suspect they will get some recruits but can’t envision it will be a lot. Russia is not exactly loved in Afghanistan. Suspect this reporting is overblown.
In the end Russia’s effort is a partial mobilization that was needed to maintain parity on the battlefield. We shall see if this is enough, because, you know, half-measures have worked so well in the history of warfare.
It does appear that Iran has provided drones to Russia. Still not sure to what extent or how many drones will be provided, but it does appear that two Iranian drones have been shot down by the Ukrainian army in the first half of September. The Iranians have an active drone industry with a range of smaller and larger drones for various missions.
Russia was previously planning to add another 137,000 service members to its armed forces (not just army), pushing their armed forces up to 1,150,628.
The Russian defense budget for 2023 is $159 billion, up from $111 billion in 2022. This appears to now be around 9% of GDP.
It is now claimed by the U.S. that there are a “relatively small number” of Iranians in Crimea helping to train and provide tech support for Russia, I assume with their drones. Does this mean that it is now copacetic for NATO to place training and technical support forces in western Ukraine? A Ukrainian official has stated that Iranian advisors were killed as a result of a Ukrainian military strike in Crimea in October.
Opposing forces: Ukraine had before the war an army (ground forces) of 169,000 in 2016. The Russian army (not armed forces) was 280,000. The current Ukrainian army is now probably over 200,000. The Russian army (ground forces) in and around Ukraine is probably around 150,000 (up to 190,000). Donetsk PR is estimated at 20,000 and Lugansk at 14,000. Russia has added at least 41,000 troops to the front line from their new partial mobilization effort and will be adding more. Potentially up to 300,000. Most likely by the spring next year, both armies will be sporting 400,000 or more troops. Right now, they both appear to be operating at about half that size. It does appear that by next spring, the level of intensity and casualties from this war will be a count twice as high as it currently has been.
General Valery Zaluzhny, the head of the Ukrainian armed forces, said in an interview on 16 December that Russia is preparing 200,000 fresh troops to launch another attack on Kiev in February or March or maybe late January. This is sort of line with my assumption that the Russian Army in Ukraine will be built up to around 400,000 troops by spring. Suspect the same or more for Ukraine.
Economics and the Home Fronts: The U.S. congress has approved a $40 billion aid bill for Ukraine. That along with previous aid from dozens of other countries ($20-$25 billion), new economic aid from the G-7 (now reported at $19.8 billion), the previous U.S. aid bill in March ($13 billion), and so forth, is pushing the amount of aid this year towards $100 billion (40.1 + 25 + 19.8 + 13 + 0.7 = 99). This is enough to match the entire Russian 2021 defense budget of 61.7 billion and keep the Ukrainian economy afloat. It means that Ukraine can stay in this war for an extended fight. It changes the strategic balance and strategic considerations.
There is a recent Economist article that nicely summarizes and updates this: Who is doing most to help Ukraine against Russia? | The Economist. Basically, U.S. is providing over $50 billion (this actually seems a little low) and Europe is providing another $35 billion, while places like Germany ($9+), Poland ($8), UK ($7), France ($5) etc. are providing additional aid above and beyond the “Europe” category. Total count from all sources is clearly in excess of $120 billion. The key is: are they also going to do that in 2023?
The discussion of the economic situation and the home fronts has been updated in a separate rambling blog post: The Home Fronts during the Russo-Ukrainian War – update 2 | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org). The IIF (Institute of International Finance) is estimating that the Russian economy will shrink by 15% this year and 3% in 2023. This is in line with previously reported estimates of an 8-12% decline in the Russian economy. The IMF has just made a forecast as of 27 July that the Russian economy will only shrink 6% this year. This is not a lot. The previous IMF forecast in April was an 8.5% contraction. The IMF is still looking at a 3.5% contraction in 2023. According to a study from Yale, foreign companies accounted for 40% of Russia’s GDP. Russia is going to be hurt by this in the long run.
Latest updates on the Russian economy has inflation running at 12-15% for the year. The Russian central bank in August revised it GDP forecast to shrink by 4-6%. Back in April it was saying 8-10% contraction. The IMF is also currently predicting a 6% contraction. The problem for Russia is that much of the decline appears permanent and will continue into 2023 and for as long as the war continues. The Russian economy is now officially in a recession. GDP fell by 4% in the third quarter after a 4% contraction in the second quarter. This is 4% contraction overall for the year. Meanwhile the U.S. GDP is growing by 2.9% (November estimate).
Russia has lost professional workers to flight from the country. The Federal State Statistic Service (Rosstat) is reporting 419,00 left Russia in the first half of 2022. They are claiming that 321,000 have returned. These are lower figures that people have previously reported (see paragraph below). See: Rosstat: Since the beginning of the year, 419 thousand people have left russia – DW – 06.09.2022.
It has previously been reported that 3.9 million Russians left the country in the first three months of 2022. This obviously was not permanent migration. A recent non-governmental survey states that the average age of Russians who left the county after Feb. 24 is 32 years old, while 80% of them have a higher education degree. Between January and May of 2022, the population of the Russian Federation fell by over 430,000 people, 20% of those having left the country according to Rosstat. The long-term impact on Russia of this is significant and it may affect the country for decades. This article is worthwhile: ‘We realized that there’s no way we can return’: Russia’s best and brightest are leaving the country in record numbers. 6 young Russians explain why they left (msn.com). The Central Bank of Russia is reporting that 458 billion rubles (7.46 billion dollars) has been withdrawn from personal accounts since 21 September. The estimated GDP of Russia $2.133 trillion (IMF 2022), or 1.776 trillion (World Bank 2021) or 1.483 trillion (United Nations 2020). So, this is 0.3% to 0.5% of GDP that I am guessing has just migrated out of the country in the last month.
Added to that professional migration, it is estimated by the Gaidar Institute (which is still independent) that 250 to 350,000 people have left because the partial mobilization. See: IGOR YEFREMOV: “RAPID DEPARTURE OF EVEN A FEW HUNDRED THOUSAND RUSSIANS OF WORKING AGE CAUSES A VISIBLE BLOW TO THE LABOR MARKET” (The Gaidar Institute) (iep.ru). This is also lower than some previous claims (for example Forbes says 600,000 to 700,000, see above under “Russian Army Build-up”). Still, this adds up to potentially a half-million or more who have left the country because of the war.
A major part of this war is about who is getting hurt the worst economically and how long people can stand the pain. The IMF predictions for the EU is 2.6% growth for 2022 and 2.3% growth for the U.S. This is down from the over 5% growth both experienced last year. Eurozone inflation for October is up to 10.7%, so this part of Putin’s plan is working. Whether it will be enough over the next six months to turn Europe away from supporting Ukraine is another subject. From a practical point of view, around half the aid going to Ukraine is the from the U.S., the other half is from the EU. There is some other international support (like Japan).
I have seen and estimated for Ukraine was a 45% decline and IMF has estimated a 35% decline (and 8.5% for Russia). Not sure that is the case anymore with $100 billion in aid coming in (Ukrainian GDP was $181 billion). According to Ukraine, its GDP has dropped by 30% in the first nine months of this year. According to Zelenskyy, thanks to the October round of missile attacks, 30% of Ukraine’s power stations have been destroyed.
Price of oil (Brent Crude) is at 83.38 as of 9:21 AM. I gather it is below $90 because of reduced demand from China. This lower price does hurt Russia. Saudi Arabia and OPEC decided in October to cut production by 2 billion barrels. This cut clearly helped Russia and may have affected U.S. politics. It is a dangerous political play by Saudi Arabia considering that its leadership is not well loved in the west. The U.S. did submit a bill in congress to halt all arm sales to Saudi Arabia for one year (this seems mild actually). President Biden has said that Saudi will face “consequences” for this oil production cuts. Saudi Arabia has announced $400 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Saudi currently produces around 10.6 million barrels a day. As I pointed out in my old post (link is above “Home Fronts”), below $80 a barrel used to be the point where the Russian government budget would go into the red. Needless to say, low oil prices starve the Russian war machine. The Ruble has continued to decline down to 72.47 to the dollar. The Ukrainian Hryvnia is steady at 36.57 to a dollar.
There has been a reduction in Russian energy imports from the west. This reduction in energy imports had led to a $5.9 billion budget shortfall for Russia in August, as their government budget is mostly tied to taxes on their energy sector. They previously were running in the black. They are now reporting that the Russian government is having to do a 10% across the board cut because of the budget shortfalls.
The cost to the west of this war includes, in part, an inflation rate that last in September that was 9.1% in the U.S. (but is currently near 0%), was 8.6% in the EU (is currently at 8.9%) and was 9.4% in UK.
The daughter of Russia oligarch and nationalist Alexander Dugin, Daria Dugina (age 29), was blown up in her car on 20 August by what appears to be a remote-controlled detonated bomb. While I have assumed that the most likely option was that it was just business and Dugin was the target, the U.S. intelligence services appear to have concluded that it was done under direction of elements in the Ukrainian government, using the lady (with her 12-year old child with her) who Russia previously was reported to have run off to Estonia The U.S. did not know about this, and certainly would have objected if they did. President Zelenskyy may not have known about this before it happened.
A new outfit called the National Republican Army (NRA) has taken credit for this through a pronouncement read by a Ukrainian-based former Russian Duma member Ilya Ponomarev. Nobody has heard of these people before. It is an alleged partisan group working to overthrow the government of Putin. Ponomarev (b. 1975) was only member of the Russian Duma to vote against the annexation of Crimea back in March 2014. Needless to say, he no longer lives in Russia. The NRA’s leader is “Aleksandr.” Don’t know how many people are in the organization besides him.
It does appear that Putin has ridden out the political blowback from the partial mobilization. This has included 1) municipal councils in St. Petersburg and Moscow petitioning for his removal; 2) street protests in Moscow, St. Petersburg and elsewhere against the mobilization. According to OVD-Info, so far 16,437 people have been arrested or detained in Russia for anti-war activism since the start of the invasion and at least another 1,300 were detained or arrested around 21 September, 3) famed musician Alla Pugacheva speaking out against the invasion, and 4) mass migration from the country that may be as many as a half-million people. Still, it appears the government is securely in power and are going continue the war for 2023.
On 9 December, there was a big explosion at an empty shopping mall in Moscow. Hard to tell what was going on. Not every single fire in Russia is related to this war. Another defenestration case on 24 December. This time it was a Russian oligarch at a party in India. At least 22 Russian oligarchs and senior business executives have died this year. This has generated speculation, but there appears to be no unifying theme to their deaths, except that eight of them have fallen out of windows/balconies/downstairs/cliffs/boats. The average life expectancy for men in Russia is 66.49 years (World Bank 2020). For the U.S. it is 74.50 and for Norway it is 81.60.
Casualties: The commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian miliary, Valerii Zaluzhny, on 21 August stated that almost 9,000 Ukrainian military have died in the war. This is a lower estimate than most people have given (although we have leaned towards the lower estimates). Not sure if these figures included militia losses (like Azov Regiment). If Ukraine lost almost 9,000, then hard to believe the Russian losses are that much higher. On 1 December a presidential advisor stated that Ukraine has lost between 10,000 and 13,000 troops killed.
I did do a briefing on 7 December in Norway that concluded:
Losses in 2022:
- 13,500 – 16,500 killed
- 54,000 – 66,000 wounded
- 6,000 captured
- 1,000 missing
- 16,028 – 19,028 killed (including LPR and DPR)
- 64,112 – 76,112 wounded
- 1,000 captured
- 1,000? missing
- 6,655 killed as of 1 December
- Real figure is probably thousands more
The (slightly edited) full briefing is here (the figures are on slide 46): Some Observations from the War in Ukraine (2)
The Pentagon has just claimed that total Russian losses may exceed 110K. That is in line with my figures.
The Russian Defense Minister is now claiming as of 21 September that they have lost 5,937 killed in this war. This is their first update since March. This figure is probably low. A BBC News effort to count Russian casualties by name from open sources has come up with a figure of 6,476 as of 15 September. There are also losses of 3,069 for the DPR and at least 600 for the LPR (and I suspect the figure is higher). So, it appears that Russia and their allied losses are at least 9,606 killed and this probably does not include Chechens or the Wagner Group. He also claimed that almost 90% of the wounded have already returned to service and Ukrainian losses were 61,207 dead and 49,368 wounded. On 21 September, the Ukrainian General Staff put Russian killed at 55,110. On 25 March the Russian Defense Ministry stated that their losses were 1,351 Russians killed and 3,825 wounded (a 2.83-to-1 wounded-to-killed ratio).
The BBC Russia count of Russian dead is up to 7,822 Russians reported killed as of 21 October. This includes 41 recent draftees. My general sense is that the Russia army let itself get seriously depleted and should have started partial mobilization sooner. Sending recently mobilized troops to hold the line is not a good use of personnel.
There are rumors in mid-October that Russian has suffered 90,000 irrecoverable losses. Sources are reports from Russian news service Meduza quoting unnamed FSB source (would FSB know Army losses?). An irrecoverable loss is killed, seriously wounded or missing. So maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of those losses are killed, which does produce a figure on the high side in my opinion. I assume Ukraine does know how many Russians it has captured, but I have never seen a figure for that.
Meanwhile the Ukrainian deputy defense minister on 16 October is claiming that they exchanging losses with the Russians at a rate of 1 to 6.5. I do not trust such a claim.
The UN is reporting as of 26 December at least 6,884 civilians confirmed dead in the war. Of those 4,052 of the deaths are in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk with 483 killed in territory controlled by Russian separatists. One wonders how many of the claimed Mariupol casualties are included in these figures.
From 1-30 November, OHCHR recorded 688 civilian casualties (162 killed). Of those, 153 were killed and 487 injured due to explosive weapons with wide area effects and 9 were killed and 39 injured due to mines and explosive remnants of war.
From 1-26 December, OHCHR recorded 681 civilian casualties (165 killed). Of those 144 were killed and 493 injured due to explosive weapons with wide area effects and 21 were killed and 23 injured due to mines and explosive remnants of war.
They did include this chart in one of their earlier reports:
On 5 December, the First Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Yevhen Yenin, said that according to National Police over 9,400 civilians have been killed in Russian shelling.
More than 26,000 people have died in this conflict: 5,937 or more (Russian Army) + 9,000 or more (Ukrainian Army) + 6,884 (Civilians) + 4,133 (DPR) + 600 (LPR) = 26,554. It is probably in excess of 36,000 total deaths depending on Ukrainian and Russian military deaths and the real count of civilian losses.
On 14 November a Taiwanese fighter, “Jonathan” Tseng Sheng-Guang, is reported to have died in Ukraine. The first Japanese volunteer fighter, under the name of Dobure, also has been killed in Ukraine. It is reported that at least 16 Belarussians have died fighting for Ukraine. It has been reported that two Azerbaijani volunteers have died fighting for Ukraine. The total number of Americans killed in the war is seven killed in combat and two civilians. Three have been captured of which all three have now been exchanged, as has one detained civilian.
Air Power: The Pentagon on 12 March is reporting that Russia is flying about 200 sorties a day. The Ukrainian air force has 56 operational jets flying 5 to 10 hours a day. March 22 it was reported by the U.S. that Russia flew more than 300 sorties into Ukraine. March 24 it was reported that more than 250 Russian sorties were flown, mostly around Kiev and Kharkov. On 12 May, the U.S. was claiming that the Russians flew 300 sorties over Ukraine in the last 24 hours. On 14 May they were claiming 250 Russian sorties. It has been pretty consistent reporting of 250-300 sorties a day for quite some time now. For 24 August Ukraine reported 200 Russian sorties over Ukraine.
On 3 September is it stated that Ukraine did 40 sorties, which is a record. On 18 September they claimed to have launched 20 air strikes, on 22 September launched 25 and on 11 October launched 15 air strikes. This is a fairly low level of air activity.
@Oryx, which is a twitter account worth following, is reporting as of 14 September that since the start of the war 53 Russian aircraft have been destroyed as have 42 Ukrainian aircraft. This is all counted by photo confirmation. On 19 September, U.S. General James Hecker stated that Ukraine has shot down 55 Russian aircraft in the war. He stated that he was pretty sure that all of those losses were due to surface-to-air missiles, SA-10s and SA-11s. This count does not include non-battle losses and accidents (of which there are some). It appears no Russian planes have been shot down in air-to-air combat and maybe only a handful of Ukrainian planes.
The Russians are now reported to be using loitering munitions. Ukraine has been using them since the start of the war. There are also reported of drone-on-drone engagements and have been 9 such cases reported. So drone vs drone combat is now a thing.
Missile Defense: In his 5 July video, Denys Davydov states almost 80% of Russian missiles are being intercepted by anti-missile defenses. I have seen this claim repeated elsewhere but have no idea as to its validity. On 10 October, Ukraine intercepted only 43 out of the 84 missiles (51%) fired at it. On 11 October, they intercepted 20 out of 28 (71%). On 16 October there was another wave of missiles targeting Ukraine’s energy structure. The Mayor of Kiev (heavy weight world champion Vitali Klitschko) said that 23 of the 28 drones fired at Kiev were intercepted. Overall, 42 drones were fired at Ukraine and they claimed to have shot down 36 of them.
The bombardment on 31 October consisted of over 50 Russian missiles/drones, of which 44 were claimed to have been shot down. Ukraine claims to have shot down 73 of the over 100 missiles fired in the bombardment of 15 November. Fragments of one Ukrainian air defense missile landed in Poland killing two. The missile that landed in Poland on 15 November was probably a Soviet-era S-300 surface-to-air missile, of which most versions have a range of less than 100 miles. Pretty hard for this to be anything other than Ukrainian. On 23 November, there was a large missile attack where Ukraine claimed 51 out of 70 missiles shot down. This attack shut down all the power in Kiev and killed four civilians there. The large attack on 5 December claimed around 60 missiles shot down out of around 70 fired, which is 86% intercepted. This is particularly good. On 16 December, they claimed to have intercepted 60 out of 74, or 81%.
For the attack on 29 December, Ukraine does report shooting down 54 out of 69 cruise missiles and 11 Iranian drones. This comes out to 81% intercepted except other reports are saying over 120 missiles were fired. So, is the interception rate more like 54%? Anyhow, it does look like the Russians overloaded the Ukrainian missile defense this time. As this is supposedly their tenth such strike (I have not verified the count), then it is about time Russia figured this out. The question is: does Russia have the resources to keep doing this?
The U.S. has unofficially agreed to provide Ukraine with Patriot air defense missile systems. Should be interesting to see how well they do. Not sure when they are arriving, but it looks like we are set up to ship them and to start training Ukrainians at Grafenwoehr in Germany.
End of the War: It does look like Russia intends to hold onto most of Donetsk and Lugansk provinces, the majority of Kherson province (but not the capital) and four-fifths of Zaporizhzhia province. The capital Zaporizhzhia (pop. 722,713) is held by Ukraine. So, parts of four out of Ukraine’s 24 provinces and Crimea.
Populations of partly or completely occupied areas (2019 estimates):
Crimea: 2,033,700 (2001 census)
Sevastopol: 509,992 (2021 estimate)
Population of Ukraine (excluding Crimea), 2022 estimate: 41,167,336
What they are willing to later negotiate away to achieve peace or a ceasefire is unknown. Russia has now annexed Lugansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in addition to Crimea and Sevastopol. This sort of indicates that there is no basis for a negotiated settlement. Zelenskyy did lay out a 10-point peace plan in November. It includes:
5. Restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity
6. Total withdrawal of all Russian troops from all of Ukraine.
7. Punishment for war crimes.
The UN General Assembly did recently pass a resolution supporting reparations from Russia, but this does not appear to be in Zelenskyy’s ten-point plan.
Russia’s current peace position is that Ukraine must be demilitarized and de-nazified (is that a word) and Russia keeps Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia (and I guess must hand over the last two province’s capitals), Crimea and Sevastopol. The Russian foreign minister Lavrov did say on 29 Dec: “Putting forward all sorts of ideas and ‘formulas of peace,’ Zelensky cherishes the illusion of achieving, with the help of the West, the withdrawal of our troops from the Russian territory of Donbas, Crimea, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson region, the payment of reparations by Russia, and the surrender of international tribunals and the like. Of course, we will not talk to anyone on such conditions.”
This looks like an extended war, and I don’t think it will be over before the end of summer 2023. It may continue for years: So How Long is this War Going to Last? | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org) and Possible Outcomes of the War? | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org).
Latest war atrocity report is a video of a Russian soldier mutilating a captured Ukrainian soldier. Gather this video is recent and from the area of Severodonetsk. This of course, just reinforces the popularly perceived image of Russians as particularly brutal and “orc-like.” These types of reports, along with all the civilians being killed by shelling, only goes to further isolate Russia. It also shows a lack of discipline by command.
Reports every week of significant civilian casualties in strikes against cities not near the front line. Russia is claiming it is striking at military targets in and around these cities, but there does not seem to be a lot of discrimination in their target selection or the weapons that they use.
Amnesty International has published a new report on the attack on the theater in Mariupol that killed hundreds, declaring it a war crime where the theater was the intended target. The death toll for this attack is often given as 600, but Amnesty International does state that it is likely much smaller than previously reported: “at least a dozen people died in the attack, but also that it is likely that many additional fatalities remain unreported.”
As of July, the police in the Kiev region have exhumed 1,346 bodies and 300 people are still missing. I assume the UN counting efforts have now picked up most of these civilian deaths. Ukraine has identified ten Russian soldiers wanted for “pre-mediated murder” in Bucha. They are all enlisted from the 64th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade.
There are also various accusations against the Russian Army Chechen unit operating around Bucha: Brutal Sect of Putin’s Army Accused of Murdering Their Own Comrades.
Ukraine has sentenced a 21-year old POW, Vadim Shishimarin, to life in prison for shooting a civilian on 28 Feb. in the Sumy region who was talking on his phone. His sentence was reduced to 15 years on an appeal. He is one of fifteen people in Ukraine facing war crime trails while another 120 people charged remain at large. Thirteen cases have been submitted to courts and seven verdicts have been issued. Two POWs pleaded guilty on 26 May of firing Grad rockets from Russia’s Belgorod region towards Kharkov on 24 Feb. Three suspects are charged with sexual violence and 64 for willful killing or ill-treatment of civilians. As of July, they are investigating 20,100 alleged offenses. The Ukrainian officials have a list of over 600 suspects. Ukraine is now reporting for October that they are investigating 40,400 war crimes. This whole process actually does seem to be systematic, legal and properly done.
Ukraine has exhumed 447 bodies from the mass grave site at Izyum, 425 civilians and 22 Ukrainian servicemen. Of those, 30 are reported to have shown signs of torture. This is according to the Ukrainian government but is probably a reasonable assessment. It does not appear to be another Bucha.
Ukraine has exhumed more than 600 bodies of civilians in the Kharkov region. No reports yet if any are showing signs of torture or execution. They have exhumed 146 bodies in Lyman, 111 civilians and 35 military personnel. According to Ukraine nearly 900 bodies have been found in the de-occupied territories of the Kherson region, 700 civilians, more than 80 military and more than 100 Russian military.
A Dutch court has convicted two Russians (including Igor Girkin) and a Ukrainian in absentia for the downing of Malaysian Flight MH-17 (298 killed) over Donbas in 2014. One Russian tried in absentia was absolved.
The big news of the last week was the videos that appears to document the killing to 10 to 12 Russian POWs in Makiivka on 12 November by their Ukrainian capturers. There is a claim that one Russian POW, standing up near them, fired on Ukrainian guards. If that is the case, it still does not explain how all ten+ people laying on the ground were killed, unless it was done deliberately. Even it a combat situation in the face of machineguns, there should be some survivors. Combat mortality of machine guns ranges up to 0.58 (see War by Numbers, pages 184 – 187) making it pretty hard to kill all ten of them unless they were specifically targeted (0.58 to the 10th power to estimate the odds of all ten being accidently killed in return fire produces a figure of less than 1% (00.4)).
Needless to say, Ukraine also conducting some war crimes has long been a concern of mine. As I suspect this is going to be a multi-year war and the critical element is going be whether the west continues to support Ukraine year-after-year, then Ukraine is going to need to continue providing accountability to the west for its actions if it expects to continue receiving aid. Ukraine currently does not have universal support in the U.S. Congress.
There is also a video out there in the early days of the war of Ukrainian soldiers shooting several Russian prisoners in their legs. There is a second video showing Ukrainian troops executing what appears to be four Russian prisoners seven miles SW of Bucha. See: https://news.yahoo.com/video-appears-show-ukrainian-soldiers-192219323.html. More detailed description from BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/61025388. It is on Youtube, if you want to look it up. I believe they are members of the Georgian Legion, a group of Georgian volunteers fighting for Ukraine.
There are also some retribution killings going on: Ukrainian Chief Intelligence Directorate: another traitor of Ukraine found shot. Ukraine stated on 8 June that they are investigating nearly 480 people for treason and collaboration. I have seen pictures (as of 13 November) of Ukrainians publicly tying two collaborators to posts in Kherson. This is not cool. Not as nasty as Russia executing people with sledgehammers, but still not cool.
Amnesty international has called out Ukraine for endangering civilians. This is probably a valid criticism and needs to be responded to. Those Ukrainian supporters who are dismissing the Amnesty International report are probably doing a disservice to Ukraine.
I do believe that Ukraine needs to hold their troops accountable for any actions that violate the laws of war. Attacking the critics does not do that. The fact that the number of such actions done by Russia is much, much greater does not obviate this need or somehow become anti-Ukrainian. For example, I have not heard the results of any investigation into the Russian prisoners that were kneecapped back in March.
There is also the issue of corruption. In 2021 The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions index ranked Ukraine at 122 out of 180 countries with a score of 32 out of 100. Ukraine has a Global Corruption Barometer of 23%, which is the percentage of public service users paid a bribe in the previous 12 months. Russia is ranked lower than Ukraine with a rank of 136, score of 27 and barometer of 27%. Many of the former CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) tend to be riddled with corruption and unwarranted influence on the government by businesses.
Ukraine did extend martial law for another 90 days until 21 November. This was done by vote from the parliament of 328 voting for it (out of 450). It would be good to have let it expire. Zelenskyy is now requesting another 90-day extension of martial law until 19 February 2023.
There are still 12 or 13 political parties banned in Ukraine, although one recently petitioned to have the ban removed. It was denied. The Communist Party of Ukraine had been banned again as of 5 July and its assets seized. This was the third time Ukraine has banned various forms of it (in 1991, 2015 and now 2022). In the last election it was allowed to stand, in 2012, it won 13% of the vote. Zelensky signed a decree on May 14 outlawing all political parties deemed to be “pro-Russian.” I will point out that even during the height of the cold war and McCarthyism, the Soviet Union funded American Communist Party, founded 1919, was not banned. The U.S. did put into place the Alien Registration Act/Smith Act in 1940 which indicted 215 people until a number of convictions were ruled unconstitutional in 1957 by the Supreme Count. The Kyiv Independent is twittering on 7 July that the authorities have detained a 63-year-old woman in Kharkov for supporting Russia’s war on social media. One must be careful that while fighting for their own freedom, that the government does not become yet another source of oppression.
Ukraine is not treating Ukrainians who fight for Russia, LPR or DPR as POWs and has instead charged them with crimes. See: Inside courts where Ukrainian judges try Ukrainian POWs – JusticeInfo.net. Still, it does appear that they are then exchanging some of them later in the prisoner exchanges.
It was reported on 22 December that Ukraine cancelled the press accreditation of well-known Danish journalist Matilde Kimer. She was expelled from Russia in August for a ten-year period. Now is not allowed in Ukraine?
It is claimed that Belarus shot down a Ukrainian S-300 air-defense missile in its territory. In November one such missile landed in Poland killing two civilians. More noise from Belarus, with their units being reported to have withdrawn from the Ukrainian border while Russian troops are being sent there to train. I still doubt that they will join the war. Belarus has 60,000 troops and now they are trying to recruit another 20,000. This is from a country that the government was almost overthrown two years ago by popular acclaim. Ukraine has an 891-kilometer border (554 miles) with Belarus, so Ukraine must maintain some forces there. Belarus has stated on 16 October that a little less than 9,000 Russian troops will be stationed in Belarus to protect it borders.
Ukraine has been made a candidate member of the European Union as of 23 June. It still means that it will be years before Ukraine becomes part of the EU, but this is a big first step. The Ukraine government applied for EU membership less than week after Russia first invaded them. Moldova was also granted candidate membership. Georgia has not (and it is not on good terms with Russia).
This was the issue that started all the turmoil in 2013. This is the issue that fueled all the conflict over the last nine years, for the Euromaidan revolt occurred when Ukrainian President Yanukovich decided to join Putin’s Eurasian Union vice the EU. The subsequent conflicts included the whole three-month Euromaidan revolt in the dead of winter of 2013-2014 that led to over 100 Ukrainians being killed, many protesters shot in the street by President Yanokovich’s security forces; the seizure of Crimea; the creation of LPR and DPR; the subsequent war; and now this war. Ukraine certainly has paid a much higher cost to join the EU than anyone else ever has. Current polling (Reuters April 5) shows that 91% of the Ukrainians support joining the EU.
Finland and Sweden signed the accession protocol to join NATO on 5 July, along with all 30 members of NATO. They officially applied to join NATO on May 18. There was an objection from Turkey, but Sweden and Finland have resolved their issues just before the summit in Madrid in early July. As of 1 October, 28 NATO members have ratified the accession protocol. It does require unanimous consent of all 30 members for them to join NATO. It does add an 810-mile (1300 km) border with Russia, but NATO already abuts Russian and Belarussian territory in the Baltic states and Norway abuts Russia above the arctic circle. Also, Denmark has joined the common EU defense cooperation, something which it has stayed out of for three decades. The United States voted on 4 August to the accession of Finland and Sweden into NATO by 95-1. The remaining two states that need to vote for this are Hungary and Turkey. Hungary is not going to get around to it until early 2023. Do not have a date for Turkey. So far the largest opposition to this has been in France, which had 63 deputies opposed, 61 abstain, and 532 voted for it. The U.S. had one senator oppose, one abstain, and 95 vote for it. Albania, Denmark, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg and Romania had no opposing votes. Meanwhile, on 30 September, the president of Ukraine formally applied to join NATO.
Also, the United States will be establishing a permanent troop presence in Poland, maintain a rotational brigade in Romania, and enhance its rotational deployment in the Baltic States, among other expansions. As of December, the United States has a total of 100,000 troops across all of Europe (including Germany and Italy). Canada is leading a NATO battlegroup of Latvia of around 2,000 soldiers, including troops from Canada, Albania, Czech Republic, Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. Germany is to lead a combat brigade in Lithuania of 3,000 – 5,000 soldiers. The command unit of around 100 soldiers arrived on 4 September. A NATO battalion of about 1,500-1,600 has been stationed there since 2017 and is under command of a German officer. There is also a NATO battle groups in Estonia and Poland. Germany is also now talking about an armored division for protection of NATO’s eastern border.
Poland has completed on 30 June a steel wall on its border with Belarus to curb the flow of asylum seekers from Belarus. The wall is 115 miles long (186 km), 18 feet tall (5.5 meters) and cost $407 million to build (353M Euros). Poland is also building a fence along its border with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, which has irked Russia. Work began in late February. The Polish border with Belarus is 258 miles long (416 km). Poland also announced around 15 July that it will be increasing its defense budget to be 5% of the GDP and building up its army to 300,000 troops. Poland is currently spending 2.4% of its GDP on defense. It is going to increase it next year to 3%. The U.S. currently spends 3.5% of our GDP on defense.
Lithuania has also completed a barrier between itself and Belarus. It is mostly a 4 meter (13 foot) tall steel wire fence topped by concertina barbed wire. It covers approximately 550 kilometers (342 miles) and costs 152M euros. See twitter @LinasKojala post for 29 August for a picture of the fence.
Finland is now also talking about starting to build a barbed-wire fence along its long border with Russian starting early next year. They are looking at it covering 124 miles of the 832-mile border. Estimated cost is $393 million with a completion date of 2026.
A Ukrainian court on 23 May order the arrest of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich. He is accused of treason over the agreement he signed on 27 April 2010 (The Kharkiv Pact) to extend Russian leave on naval facilities in Crimea. Two other former ministers have now also been charged with treason as of 25 July. In 2014 Russian forces in Sevastopol seized all of Crimea and Victor Yanukovich left Ukraine for Russia and was in Moscow by 25 February 2014. He has remained in Russia ever since. The two other charged ministers are also there. He had already received a 13-year jail sentence over a letter he sent to Vladimir Putin on 1 March 2014 asking for Russia to use Russian army and police forces to restore order in Ukraine.
A Russian spy, Victor Muller (real name Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov), was arrested by the Dutch with FBI assistance. He went to John Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies in Washington D.C. and had arranged an internship at the International Criminal Court (ICC). This I find interesting.
Bulgaria is back in the news, with Russia imposing sanctions on 8 November on Bulgaria due to them provided military and financial aid to Ukraine. In the summer Bulgaria announced the mass expulsion of 70 of the Russian diplomatic staff. This is half their staff in the country. On 22 June, the strongly leaning pro-EU and pro-NATO Harvard educated Bulgarian Prime Minister lost a motion of no confidence. He is still ruling, but new elections are being scheduled. They are a member of both EU and NATO. There are strong pro-Russian groups in Bulgaria. This was one of the few NATO or EU nations still sort of sitting on the fence. On 3 November 175 out of 240 members of parliament voted to send weapons to Ukraine. The Bulgarian congress is now providing significant aid to Ukraine over the objections of the president.
Serbian unrest in Kosovo has again become an issue. There have been mass resignations by Serbians from the government. I don’t know enough about the situation to know if this is a local and internal issue or if it being stirred up by outside actors, but the timing is suspicious.
Russia has said that it will leave the International Space Station after 2024. Not sure this means 2025. It is the highest visibility joint project we still have going on with Russia. They are now saying they will send up the first Belorussian cosmonaut in 2023.
Artillery fire was exchanged on 5 October between Azerbaijan and Armenia, as a result of their continuing conflict that Russia is supposed to be policing. There are also now credible reports and videos of Azerbaijanis executing Armenian prisoners. Significant fighting has erupted between Azerbaijan and Armenia on 13 September. There has been a cease-fire as of 15 September. Armenia has said that at least 49 of its soldiers have been killed since fighting erupted early Tuesday. They are now saying 105. Azerbaijan has said it has lost 50 troops. Russia is serving as the peacekeeper force with about 2,000 troops. I gather most of the fighting is artillery shelling. There have been large protests the last few days in the capital of Yerevan, Armenia against the prime minister. Meanwhile, U.S. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is in Yerevan as of 18 September. This visit was then followed by protests in Yerevan against the Russian dominated military alliance CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization), which Armenia, Russia, Belarus and three other post-Soviet states are members of.
Previous recent fights have resulted in at least 2 Armenians killed and more than a dozen wounded and 1 Azeri killed and 3 wounded. Azerbaijan took the border position. Russia is the Armenian-leaning peacekeepers in this area. One wonders if many of the outlying areas of the Soviet empire are going to turn into disorder over the next few months. The Azerbaijan embassy in London was also seized a few months ago by Muslim fundamentalists. Azerbaijan is a secular state. The Muslim fundamentalists may be supported by Iran. On 14 November, there was another round of shelling reported by Armenia at the border. On 26 November, there was another clash along the border, but no losses and then more firing on 27 November, with two Armenians reported wounded. There was another shelling by Azerbaijan reported on 23 December by Armenia. No casualties reported. It appears that Azerbaijan is trying to cut off the Lachin corridor, which connects Armenia with Nagorno-Karabakh.
Meanwhile, there were some anti-government demonstrations in Khazakstan. They are also having blackouts, not caused by bombing. The last time they got in trouble (January 2022), estimates were that 217 to over 230 were killed and they called in over 3,000 Russian paratroopers to help them. There were also major protests in 2011 (14 killed), 2016, 2018, several times in 2019, and 2020. So kind of waiting for next big eruption.
The United States has passed the fiscal year 2023 budget, before the new congress is seated (with Democrats controlling the Senate 51-49 and the Republicans controlling the House 222-213). The end result is that U.S. budget is in place through September 2023 and cannot be overturned or cut by the new Republican majority House, if they so desired. As it is, the majority of Republicans support Ukraine in this war, although there is a vocal minority that is opposed, as is presidential candidate Donald Trump.
The government of Hungary is the one NATO nation that is not clearly behind Ukraine. Hungary is dealing with economic problems and the EU is withholding recovery funding due to a “rule-of-law dispute.” Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 11 October called for a ceasefire in the war and accused the U.S. of fueling the war. He did state that he was on the side of Ukraine. He also stated, “The hope for peace is Donald Trump.” He also has not yet approved Sweden and Finland’s membership into NATO and just torpedoed the latest EU aid effort to Ukraine. Added to that he is doing dickish little things like publicly wearing a scarf showing “greater Hungary.” (which includes parts of Romania and Ukraine).
There are also some protests against the pro-western government of Moldova. Russia still has 1,500 peacekeeping troops in Transnistria.
There are some serious demonstrations going on in Iran since 16 September, now supported by labor strikes. This is serious enough now that is may well overthrow the current regime. It is said that at least nine protesters died in the first five days and Iran is now stating as of 24 September that 41 protesters have been killed. The count is certainly higher than that. An Oslo-based organization called Iran Human Rights is claiming as of 29 November that at least 448 people killed. They previously reported that also 40 security forces were killed. An Iranian general did acknowledge on 27 November that over 300 were dead. These are larger and more virulent than the protests related to the Russo-Ukrainian War. These protests may topple the current Iranian government, which would be a significant event. There are also an armed group (separatists?) that conducted an attack on 30 September in southeastern Iran (city of Zahedan) that killed 19 people.
Also, corrupt Navy-contractor “Fat Leonard” Francis, 57, was detained last Tuesday by Interpol in Venezuela trying to flee to Russia. He had escaped house arrest in San Diego, fled to Mexico then Cuba and was intercepted at the Venezuelan airport. He was not using an alias and should be extradited back to the U.S. He is currently still in Venezuela.
There were two pipelines that were bombed in international waters. Apparently 165 feet of the pipe is destroyed. Sweden is currently investigating but has not found any clear evidence linking Russia to the bombing. That said, it is hard to imagine who else would do this.