Ukraine update: Russian propagandists show how to turn a humiliating defeat into a great victory

Ukraine update: Russian propagandists show how to turn a humiliating defeat into a great victory

Sometime around Dec. 9 or 10, Russian forces mounted a major attack on the town of Velyka Novosilka in southern Ukraine. The Russian milblogger “Novorossiya Z.O.V.”, with 300,000 followers, reported the assault:

The decision to attack in the Velyka Novosilka area looks potentially dangerous for the right flank of the Ukrainian grouping in the Donbass.

Back in the spring, Russian troops had a chance to wedge in this direction 15-20 km deeper, but it did not work out.
If success is achieved now, two important operational tasks will be solved:

– access to the highway Zaporozhye – Donetsk, which is guaranteed to complicate the supply of the APU group;

– create a threat to the formation of the “Vuhledar pocket”, which will save Russian troops from a head-on attack on Vuhledar through uncomfortable terrain and will allow three combat-ready Ukrainian brigades to be taken into the operational “semi-ring”.

Exciting stuff for the pro-Russia crowd! Let’s look at where that is on the map. First up, here’s the big-picture view: 

Ukraine’s front lines

This attack was at the southernmost point of the front. Here’s the closeup: 

Russia really really really wants Vuhledar. As you can see, it would partly cut off supply lines to several front-line towns just west of Donetsk city (at the right edge of this map). However, an entire naval infantry regiment has been wiped out trying to get there through Pavlivka, and Vuhledar is high terrain, making it extremely difficult to approach over vast, open, agricultural steppe. 

Some Russian therefore got the bright idea: “Why not go through Velyka Novosilka instead, thus cutting off its supply lines to Pavlivka and Vuhledar from the west?” Why not, indeed? A look a the map shows there’s actual logic here. 

The problem is that Ukraine knows the importance of holding Velyka Novosilka, as that entire stretch of front depends on it for supplies. Suffice to say, it’s really well-defended. “Back in the spring, Russian troops had a chance to wedge in this direction 15-20 km deeper, but it did not work out,” wrote that milblogger above nonchalantly. “It did not work out” is the propagandist way of saying, “We got our asses handed to us.” Yet what he fails to mention is that at the time, that corner of the front wasn’t particularly well-defended, and Russia did miss an opportunity to make some gains given its fragmented and disjointed attacks across five different axes. Since then, Ukraine has turned the settlement into a stronghold. 

That didn’t stop Russia from attacking hard. And the end result looks something like this: 

Russian wreckage from failed attack on Velyka Novosilka

That picture alone shows five destroyed infantry fighting vehicles and one tank, all conveniently lined up for easy pickings. That was very considerate of the Russians. 

And that little snapshot might point to even bigger losses, as Ukraine claimed it destroyed 24 tanks and eight armored infantry vehicles yesterday—a dramatic increase compared to the typical two three tanks on an average day. In fact, we haven’t seen numbers this high since the liberation of Kharkiv oblast. 

As for those Russian propaganda outlets, don’t worry: They’ve got this. You see, the attack all went according to plan! Mega-popular Russian milblogger Alexander Khodakovsky, with 630,000 Telegram subscribers, boasted about their great victory:

According to the latest data, ours in the Velyka Novosilka direction have returned to their original position. Everything was planned as an offensive, but in fact it took place as a reconnaissance in force. I am not exaggerating – everyone who was not involved in assault operations very carefully observed the enemy by all means and learned a lot of useful things. As for the offensive, the result speaks of insufficient readiness. But it’s also good that they didn’t cling to the advanced positions, left almost without a fight by the enemy, for the sake of a red piece on the map, and become targets in the shooting range.

You see, it was a glorious attack, and they won! He’s totally not exaggerating. But then they decided that maybe they weren’t ready, and it wasn’t an attack, it was just reconnaissance, and they had won and everything and Ukraine wasn’t even fighting back, so they decided to retreat anyway. Glory to Russia!

Though I will admit, some of that logic is sound. Russia should retreat from everywhere, lest they become targets in the shooting range for the sake of a red piece on the map. Why stop here?

Regardless, I bet they did learn some things. Like, perhaps, don’t attack all clumped in a neat line, making it extra easy for Ukrainian defenders to pick off one by one. You’d think they would’ve learned that months ago, but here we are. This time they learned, and you know that because he’s not even kidding! Maybe they learned not to attack at all! That would be a valuable lesson indeed. They certainly learned that they can’t sneak up on the Ukrainians, who were watching them get slaughtered the entire time: 

A Ukrainian drone streams back live footage of a failed Russian attack on Velyka Novosilka, Donetsk Oblast, over Google Meet to a combined command center. Ukrainian forces have taken advantage of these consumer-grade tools to provide commanders with real-time ISR.

— OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) December 11, 2022

Now we wait to see if Russia keeps pounding their heads against Velyka Novosilka like they did in Svatove, and they keep doing in Bakhmut. But really, look at that drone footage. It’s all open field, with Ukraine holding deeply entrenched positions, all under clear view of the defenders. 

Ukraine just completed a troop rotation in Bakhmut. 

“The situation around Bakhmut will stabilize in the near future. The AFU transferred up to 3-4 brigades from different directions to Bakhmut, including the brigades that stood on the right bank of the Dnipro. There was a rotation of separate brigades that held defense….

— NOËL 🇪🇺 🇺🇦 (@NOELreports) December 12, 2022

A much-deserved rest for the troops rotated out, having held the town and its suburbs for the last couple of months. Now Russia’s hapless and weary Wagner convicts and conscripts have to continue their attacks against fresh, well-equipped defenders. (The Ukrainian troops in Kherson had the best, most modern gear we’ve yet seen.) 

Re-upping this from yesterday’s update in case you missed it over the weekend:

Bakhmut These images shows the RU progress in the Bakhmut area for the last 3 months. Can we all calm down now? 2022-08-31 vs 2022-12-11

— Def Mon (@DefMon3) December 11, 2022

We’re talking maybe 100 square kilometers total around Bakhmut in the last three months? In that same time period, Ukraine liberated 25,000 square kilometers in Kharkiv and Kherson oblasts. 

The International Olympic Committee is exploring ways to loosen its bans on athletes from Russia and Belarus, which would allow them to participate in the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics, most likely as independent competitors.

— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) December 12, 2022

Hell no. The IOC still hasn’t even stripped Russia’s women’s figure skating team of their gold medal after one of their star skaters was caught cheating, failing a drug test. They are as corrupt and disgusting as FIFA. 

Another Moscow mall goes up in flames. 

В Подмосковье горит очередной торговый центр. На этот раз пожар в ТЦ «Стройпарк» под Балашихой.

— SOTA (@Sota_Vision) December 12, 2022

As Mark Sumner wrote on Friday: 

The explosion has been blamed on everything from a missile to an electrical fault in stories so far, but this certainly looks like a planned and sequenced explosion. If I had to guess at the cause of this blast, I would say “insurance.”

Sanctions are biting the Russian economy, which has lost access to Western (likely high-margin) goods. What’s a mall operator gotta do? Collecting insurance money seems like a good exit plan. 

Fun fact about Russia: almost every car has a dash cam because of rampant insurance fraud. Look at this compilation video: (Volume down, the music is obnoxious.)

Seems like a joke, right? Lighting up malls and factories and other businesses for insurance money isn’t a stretch for these people. 

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