By “Russian forces,” he means “Wagner mercenaries.” The Wagnerites have been obsessed with Bakhmut for no other reason than “this is the only place where anything Russia is advancing.” It’s personal PR. Except losing two months worth of gains isn’t advertising much, and Wagner has to keep recruiting in prisons to replenish their cannon fodder supplies.
As always, none of this matters. Thousands are dying for a strategically insignificant piece of land. And I include Ukraine in this—there’s a river that runs through the eastern one-third of the city, essentially the industrial district. All of it is flattened, so it has no value to anyone. So why wouldn’t Ukraine simply fall back behind a river Wagner has zero chance of ever crossing? But like Severodonetsk, Ukraine has a policy of surrendering nothing without a fight.
Among this war’s many casualties, Russia’s vaunted propaganda machine stands tall. The same people who helped elect Donald Trump and fueled Brexit are now struggling to deal with a bunch of cartoon shiba inus on Twitter. On the diplomatic stage, no one believes Russia’s claims, not even supposed allies like Cuba, China, and India. Only North Korea, Belarus, Eritrea, and Nicaragua play along.
So when Russia claimed Ukraine was planning on blowing the dam at Nova Kakhovka, as a pretext to something, not even pro-Russian Telegram sources bought it. Russia’s Wagner mercenaries, on their GreyZone Telegram channel, were explicitly dismissive: “The enemy has absolutely no motive to blow up the hydroelectric power station. The Armed Forces of Ukraine want to take Melitopol in the spring, the front of the battle for it is planned to be opened from the Zaporozhye region, and also, in fact, to attack from Kherson.” Seems obvious, right?
Other outlets have pointed out that the left bank (that is, the southern and eastern sides) of the Donetsk will suffer significantly greater flooding, which also happens to be the side that Russia is withdrawing toward. This modeling confirms that Russia would flood the lower-elevation side, which is also the side Russia is moving to.
So to recap:
1) Ukraine wouldn’t blow the dam, because that’s the route toward Melitopol and Crimea. They need the bridge intact.
2) Russia wouldn’t blow it, because it would flood their own retreat and defensive positions south of Kherson.
So why has Russia been making those claims? Beats me. Could simply be a way to instill the proper urgency in its loyal civilians in Kherson, to get them to move out ASAP. Ironically, Kherson city would be mostly spared, except for the harbor and docklands. Or it could be simple Russian idiocy.
(Incidentally, Russia isn’t evacuating all civilians from Kherson, just Vichy traitors, Russian officials, their families, civilians brought in for the “referendum,” and imported teachers needed because Ukrainians refused to teach the approved propagandist curriculum.)
Anyway, the dam threats were starting to wear thin, no one giving them much heed, so Russia has moved to a new, more hysterical one—Ukraine is ready to detonate a nuclear “dirty bomb”—a crude device that combines radioactive material with conventional explosives. Russian defense minister Sergey Shoigu literally called up the defense ministers of Turkey, France, and the U.K. today to share this claim. So what is going on here?
No, Ukraine isn’t going to detonate anything nuclear on their own soil. That is beyond ridiculous. But Russian leadership and state TV have been threatening nuclear reprisal against Ukraine for months. Heck, Vladimir Putin himself threatened a nuclear response to anyone who helped arm Ukraine the first days of the war. Everyone ignored him and his threat was, as usual, empty.
Indeed, the West has made very clear that if Russia escalates by using a tactical nuke, it will draw the NATO alliance into the war. While the details of any Western reprisals have been vague in substance, they’ve explicitly ruled out a nuclear response. There would be no need for one, as NATO could use conventional means to target what’s left of Russia’s shredded military in the region, including its Black Sea fleet.
Perhaps by creating the information conditions to blame Ukraine for any nuclear detonation, Russia thinks it might avoid the consequences of its own actions.
Yet a tactical nuclear detonation would look a lot different than a “dirty bomb”—a conventional explosion laced with radioactive material. The difference would be immediately obvious. So would Russia rig up a dirty bomb for this pathetic ruse? And if so, to what end, as that would have a far more limited impact on the battlefield. So what exactly would that accomplish?
And how would this bomb be used? Russia can’t drop it on Ukrainian forces, and certainly not in any city. No one believes Ukraine would do that to itself, and nothing Shoigu says will convince anyone otherwise. NATO would respond. So what, Russia drops this nuke or dirty bomb on a cluster of its own forces? Okay, NATO doesn’t respond, but what has Russia accomplished, other than murdering its own troops and irradiating a chunk of Ukraine for a few millennia? (This is nothing new for Ukraine, look at Chernobyl.)
It’s all very odd, as if Russia hasn’t fully gamed out the consequences. It’s a lose-lose proposition, with a greater chance of drawing in a NATO response than in accomplishing anything that might actually help Russia win the war.
In Kherson, nothing new has been confirmed since Mark Sumner’s last update. I’ll update this story with any new developments on the ground. What is clear is that Russia is pulling out its “experienced” combat forces (which is a relative term) and replacing them with conscripts. No one expects the mobiliks to be anything more than a speed bump, even if, optimistically, it’s just about Ukraine managing mass surrenders.
GreyZone, the Telegram channel managed by Wagner mercenaries, is really frustrated. It doesn’t understand why, while Ukraine systematically uses HIMARS and artillery to degrade Russia’s military infrastructure, Russia would rather terrorize civilians with drone attacks. “This, by the way, is about the fact that the enemy stubbornly hit the bridge for three months, while we rejoice at the arrivals of [Iranian drones] that do not affect absolutely anything [in the war],” they wrote.
We’ve noted that from the beginning of the war—how key Ukrainian military infrastructure remains inexplicably intact (like the Ministry of Defense building in Kyiv!) while Russia lobs expensive missiles at civilian apartment complexes and playgrounds. If you want a visceral look at what that really looks like, check out this tweet: (You can click on the image, it’s not sensitive)
We have video of a train carting off at least a half dozen damaged Russian vehicles to Ukraine’s rear, where they will be repaired, refurbished, updated, and then released back into the wild against their former owners. That’s cool enough, but what else do we see?
This rail yard is a critical transportation and supply hub for sustaining Ukraine’s defense. It is full of rail cars used to transport troops and war material to the front, keeping its soldiers well supplied and armed. All of this would be effective military targets for those Iranian drones, able to hit anywhere in Ukraine. The rail lines themselves are easy to repair, but systematically hitting key switches, supply warehouses, headquarter and logistics headquarters, and repair and maintenance equipment would significantly hinder and delay Ukrainian supply efforts.
In the background we can also see grain cars. Hit these railways and cars, and you’re not just impacting the war effort, but also degrading Ukraine’s economy, hindering its ability to sustain its war effort, and placing greater stress on its Western backers. (You already see MAGA Republicans crying about American aid to Ukraine, and that will only grow over time, and that dynamic is playing out with the Far Right in Europe as well.)
Russia’s refusal to systematically hit key military targets, even thought it clearly has the ability to do so, is one of the greatest mysteries of this war. What kind of perverted honor code spares some of the most important military targets, yet hits civilian bus stops, busy intersections at rush hour, and shopping malls?
Russia is a sad, dystopian place.
She doesn’t even ask where her son is, if he’s okay, and if he can come home. Believe it or not, she might even be disappointed, given this:
“My worthless unemployed son/husband will drink himself to death anyway, at least this way I get some money out of it” might be some of the bleakest shit I’ve ever seen.
“Take your hands off my stick!”
I learned a lot from this thread:
Dig into any conflict, and the root causes can be incredibly complex. This thread breaks down the Minsk accords, in a balanced way, to a more understandable level.
This is crazy!
People are pointing out how the tank commander almost dies twice, including the sniper bullet ricocheting off the open ammo cover of his machine gun. That’s intense, yes. And then people marvel at the tank running into supply trucks (which are taken out by infantry). What people are missing, however, is that those trucks are towing artillery. That means that wherever this is in Kherson, Ukrainian forces have outrun the front lines and are wreaking havoc in the rear. Remember, artillery sits back at least 10-15 kilometers from the front. If Ukrainian tanks are running into the enemy’s artillery, that’s terrible news for Russia, and supports rumors that Ukraine is pushing deep into Russian lines in Kherson.
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