Ukraine update: Russian moves reek of desperation as battered troops head east

Ukraine update: Russian moves reek of desperation as battered troops head east

The atrocities committed by Russian troops in Bucha have resulted in world fury. They may not, however, be an outlier. Journalists and Ukrainian officials have little to no knowledge of what is going on in the areas of Ukraine that remain under Russian occupation, but claims that Ukrainian citizens are being forcibly deported to Russia (a possible move to “cleanse” Ukrainian cities of their current Ukrainian inhabitants) are numerous, and in Mariupol, officials are claiming that Russia is using the “mobile crematorium” units spotted prior to the war to collect and burn the bodies of possibly tens of thousands of civilians. It would not be out of character for Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin’s government to issue such orders, and we have already seen that Russian military units retreating from Kyiv appeared to be more dedicated to looting than they were to combat. The urgency of forcing a Russian retreat escalates with each passing day.

Russian military leaders continue to show remarkable incompetence, and new signs suggest their indifference extends to their own troops. Many of their Kyiv-area units were shredded by Ukrainian defenders, but are now apparently being redeployed east in that tattered state. The 4th Guards Tank Division, a supposedly elite Russian unit, got so thoroughly thrashed that less than half of it appears to remain—but they, too are being redeployed to the new frontlines. It may be an act of desperation, as Russia launches a new “suicidal” run to cut off Ukrainian defenders in Donetsk before eastern Europe’s spring rains turn the whole region into a muddy bog. Or it may simply be that there’s nobody left in Putin’s hollowed-out military who knows how to do anything but bomb civilians and steal washing machines.

We began the war with American military experts expressing astonishment at the utter inability of the famed Russian army to supply its own troops, coordinate their movements, or even secure their communications. None of those things have seen improvement as the war goes on, and now the very forces that found their Kyiv assault unsustainable due to the damage done to their supply lines and frontline forces are now limping, wounded, toward a Russian operation that appears to be premised on doing the very same thing.

Here at home, Republican senators are doing what Republican senators do best: nothing. Led by Rand Paul, they’re blocking steeper sanctions against Putin and Russia; in the House, 63 House Republicans even voted against a resolution expressing support for NATO and its backing of democratic principles. You can pretend that it’s weird for the party that supported Trump’s international extortion and hoax-premised attempted coup to be uncomfortable with steep punishments of governments that use violence to upend democracies, but that’s because you’re imagining the Republican Party as it was a generation ago—before Fox News made both propaganda and fascist aspirations central to the conservative movement.

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