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SITREP 6/3/23: West Stymied by Strong Russian Economic Showing
Today, we start with some economic news. There has been a spate of recent headlines decrying Russia’s economic elasticity and resilience:
Several outlets this week are crying woe because they’ve crunched the numbers and have concluded that Russia is spending a comparatively tiny amount on the war, and that the U.S.’s Brzeszinski Redux plan to pull Russia into another Afghanistan-like quagmire is not working.
The article goes on to state the following:
The direct fiscal cost of the war — spending on soldiers and machines — is estimated to be about 3% of Russia's GDP, or roughly $67 billion a year, according to the report. That figure comes from a comparison of Moscow's pre-invasion spending forecasts for defense and security with what it actually spent.
By historical standards, the current war pales in comparison. The Soviet Union during World War II, for example, spent about 61% of GDP, and the US at the same time put about 50% of its GDP toward the conflict.
The headlines are all drawing from the same well of the Economist deep dive, which gives the following chart:
Their article begins thusly:
Since russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 it has caused enormous damage. Thousands of people have died and billions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure has been destroyed in Ukraine. Yet all this damage has come at a relatively mild cost to Russia. As we have reported, its economy is holding up much better than almost anyone expected. And the direct fiscal cost of the war—what it is spending on men and machines—is surprisingly low.
What’s most interesting is that typically such articles would try desperately to find some ‘silver lining’ for their audience, expose some weakness by which Russia is actually being hurt despite these figures. But they were able to find nothing. The article gives reasons for why the expenditures are so low, which include:
Plus, the technology underpinning armed forces today is more advanced than ever, which means militaries require fewer people and machines for a war effort.
So they’re admitting that Russia’s armed forces are so advanced that they need to spend relatively little money in order to decimate all of NATO in Ukraine?
Their other reason does make a good point:
The second is economic. Russia would struggle to expand the war effort without costing its citizens dearly: printing money would spur inflation, eroding living standards; loading up banks with public debt might have a similar effect; tax rises or a big shift in public expenditure towards defence would also eat into personal incomes. This is a problem for Vladimir Putin, who has presidential elections in 2024. Mr Putin’s victory seems certain, but he does not want the potential embarrassment of large demonstrations, as happened for example in legislative elections in 2011. “Of course, national defence is the top priority,” he said recently, “but in resolving strategic tasks in this area, we should not repeat the mistakes of the past and should not destroy our own economy.”
They attempt to frame this economic decision by Putin as something bad, yet clearly they’re tacitly agreeing with the wisdom of the decision, as they themselves state that the war is costing very little and Russia’s economy is balanced and unharmed. So where’s the rub?
All they could find to gloat about was that Russia incurred many sanctions and lost energy dominance in Europe. But does it look like Russia is the worse for wear on that account?
The quote at the end is interesting as well. It gives insight into many of the things we’ve discussed before, that Putin’s decisions around the SMO are tuned towards keeping the Russian economy strong as the primary concern. Some will balk and say, ‘well doesn’t he care about the lives of Russian servicemen, Donbass civilians, etc.! By slow-walking the war while privileging the economy, he’s causing more suffering and harm to the people!’
And it’s a fair point, it really is. Nothing in war is black and white, as I constantly remind you. There is no one perfect, silver bullet decision. Sure, Putin’s decisions have ramifications that are negative. But the overall positive likely outweighs them, in the long run at least. People who focus on the short term now are often incapable of projecting conflicts and geopolitical imperatives into the distant future. The truth is, making Russia economically powerful can bring far less overall harm and suffering in a grander, long-term timeline, but you have to take off your blinders to be able to see such a ‘gestalt’ perspective.
Putin is preparing Russia for the long term plans that the West/NATO have in store for it, most people simply can’t extrapolate that far because they don’t have the facts or experience necessary to see what’s happening on the ground. It’s clear that NATO is preparing much wider wars for Russia. They are setting the stage for a variety of conflicts to engulf the Russian borders with all neighboring hostile states. From Lithuania and Latvia to Poland (Kaliningrad provocations) to Kazakhstan, Georgia, and many more. This Ukraine conflict is just another small step in a much grander design. Putin is slowly and correctly developing Russia’s economic engine to withstand those future much more pernicious conflicts.
As evidence of this, news from yesterday has updated us on some of Russia’s grander developments for its armed forces:
Russia says it will form two new military districts and two armies this year. This was announced by Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Federation
The districts are Moscow and Leningrad, and Defense Minister Shoigu announced their formation back in December.
As for the armies, one will be combined arms, the second air assault,
It is also planned to create an army corps, the Azov naval region and the formation of five new divisions and 26 brigades.
According to Western experts, on the formation of two new armies and two military districts in Russia, the production of the necessary new equipment and the training of personnel are almost complete.
Under the leadership of the new Stavka, the Russian Army aims to return to the principle of active attack, and the concept of active defense moves to the second plan.
According to the principle of the Soviet shock army, a much more numerous and well-equipped new structure, suitable for deep breakthrough operations, is being formed.
So, Russia is forming, by some accounts, two huge new army corps and two entire new military districts, which is big news. This is part of Russia’s continued expansion under Shoigu’s directives to increase the total ground forces by something like 300k troops to a standard professional contract force of 600-700k ground troops.
This follows other rumored tidbits like the following:
‼️ 🇷🇺‼️ Something big is brewing - Russia pulls 3,000 more tanks out of storage - But not all of them are going to Ukraine‼️
This past weekend, starting last Friday, Russia pulled three thousand more tanks out of various warehouses and began loading them onto trains.
Not all of these trains go to Ukraine, some go to the western border regions of Russia.
Specifically, areas near Murmansk/Kola, not far from the Norway/Finland border, north/northwest of St. Petersburg, near Vyborg, which is not too far from the Finnish border ⚠️⚠️⚠️
Don’t mind the hysterical tone of the above, but the news would coincide with the planned creation of new military districts, one being the Leningrad zone, which is precisely on the Finnish border that the above post mentions.
The point is that, Russia is clearly preparing itself very calmly and methodically for much larger global conflicts on the horizon in the medium to long term future.
I hate to say it, but it’s looking more and more likely that the West will have no choice but to spark off a WW3 type scenario. The West is losing far too much ground far too fast, economically and by every other measure. Western economies are dying while Asia and China are ascendant. There are movements being made now that are so dangerous to the West as to threaten its existence. Months ago, when Brazil’s Lula had made a passive mention of a Brics currency, we all commented on it, but didn’t think too much of it. Now he’s outright calling for all South America to have its own currency; he’s doing what got Gaddafi killed by NATO.
The West’s time is running out for their ability to control the world. Their hegemony relied on the Western financial system and its tentacular grip on every developing country of the ‘global south’. But now they’re being bypassed and obsoleted. For instance, just last week it was announced that China’s UnionPay has surpassed VISA for the first time in total global transactions:
CHINA'S UnionPay surpassed Visa for the first time in 2022, securing 40.03 percent of global debit card transactions, China Media Group (CMG) reported on Sunday, citing latest statistics compiled by industry platform Nilson Report.
"Debit cards with the UnionPay brand held a market share of 40.03 percent of all debit card purchase transactions, an increase of 139 basis points (bps)," read the Nilson Report.
Visa's share of debit card transactions was down 82 bps to 38.78 percent in 2022, ranking second to UnionPay, according to the report.
While these formative, gestational events shake the bedrock of the world, Putin remains disciplined while calmly prosecuting a war he’s winning with a tiny fraction of his country’s resources.
But I don’t want to alarm people too soon. I don’t think it’s yet written in stone that WW3 will in fact go down just because we are careening towards it. There’s still a decent amount of time left—particularly a few European election cycles—where I think the right political moves will stave off that outcome. But it will have to come down to citizens’ movements slowly throwing out their leaders over the next few years and electing ones capable of pumping the brakes. That’s much harder than it sounds, given that democracy no longer exists in the West and all Western countries’ election processes are likely fully compromised at this point, but there’s still a chance.
The citizens clearly hate their leaders, just yesterday Scholz was widely booed by his people:
🇩🇪Germans disrupted the performance of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the SPD festival in the city of Falkensee, calling him a bandit and a deceiver.
In the video, a crowd of people boos the politician's speech, calling him a "warmonger", a "liar" and a "bandit".
Germans remember the war and do not want a repeat.
And that’s become more and more common of late:
Now compare Russia’s economic situation to the great ‘debt ceiling debacle’ that’s chewed up headlines for weeks in the U.S., with its attendant impending catastrophies. Hell, it’s even now been confirmed that those rumors about senators receiving emergency satellite phones in case of a ‘disruptive event’ were in fact true:
CBS now reports:
Amid growing concerns of security risks to members of Congress, over 50 senators have been issued satellite phones for emergency communication, people familiar with the measures told CBS News.
The satellite phone technology has been offered to all 100 senators. CBS News has learned at least 50 have accepted the phones, which Senate administrative staff recommend senators keep in close proximity during their travels.
In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee last month, Senate Sergeant at Arms Karen Gibson said satellite communication is being deployed "to ensure a redundant and secure means of communication during a disruptive event."
Gibson said the phones are a security backstop in the case of an emergency that "takes out communications" in part of America. Federal funding will pay for the satellite airtime needed to utilize the phone devices.
I guess not all kooky rumors turn out to be fake.
But my point in making the parallel is simply to underscore the fact that Putin is creating order and livable harmony in his Russian society. You don’t see Russian Duma members being issued emergency phones for a ‘disruptive event’ nor citizens storming their capitol buildings, nor forecasters predicting catastrophe if an emergency debt bill isn’t passed.
With that said, in other economic news, Russia has to some extent too much of a good problem, as oxymoronic as that sounds.
It’s being reported that Russian unemployment has dropped to a record, historic low. This may sound like a great thing but Western press has sprung into action to find the hidden downside. Which is, according to them, that the unemployment is so low only because everyone is working and employers can’t find more unemployed people to staff needed positions.
To some extent it’s true, though it’s difficult to say how much of a ‘bad thing’ this is exactly when your entire country has jobs. But specifically from the military lens, I had already written last month about how many Russian arms corporations are struggling to fill the positions in their expanded production lines. Since every arms manufacturer is now whizzing along at a minimum of a 3X shift increase, they’re reportedly having trouble filling all the new job openings. Of course, pro-Ukrainian press reports this being the fault of ‘low wages’ for these positions. However, most Russian arms manufacturers are located in rural Siberian regions, famously east of the Urals as per Stalin’s strategic withdrawal of Russian factories there during WW2 to keep them out of reach for German bombers. And so the wages are in fact commensurate with the regions they operate in, though they may be considered lower than average by Moscow’s standards.
But the article above tries desperately to paint Russia’s record low unemployment in a bad light despite the fact that their own listed figures show Russia’s remarkable economic recovery:
GDP rose 3.3% in April, the economy ministry estimated, while retail sales and industrial output demonstrated strong growth in annual terms, according to statistics service Rosstat, benefiting from the low base effect from last year.
This commenter encapsulated the truth of it:
Meanwhile, Raytheon’s stock reportedly dropped precipitously on news of the Patriot’s terrible performance:
Particularly given the fact that Russian MOD announced the destruction of another set of enemy air defenses in Kiev in last night’s strikes:
The Russian Defense Ministry spoke about the night missile attack on Kyiv:
“Tonight, the Russian Aerospace Forces carried out a group strike with long-range precision-guided air-launched weapons against enemy air defense systems covering key critical military infrastructure facilities in Ukraine. All designated targets have been hit."
Objective control footage confirming the defeat of the SAM in Kyiv has been published previously.
This was supported by footage which once again showed AD firing off into the night sky followed by a huge series of explosions on the ground, that silenced those sams:
At around 1:40 in the above video, you can even see an AD missile arcing back into the ground after a possible hit on the launcher. Or it could be just another faulty Patriot, as usual.
The hunt for Ukrainian air defense continues - during the night strike on Kyiv, the next positions of the enemy air defense systems were hit
Combined night attacks on Kyiv again proved their effectiveness. Despite the opposition of the enemy, information is received about multiple arrivals. This attack involved both Geraniums and cruise missiles. In the course of the raid, power was temporarily lost in Kyiv - at the moment it is not clear whether this was caused by the defeat of energy infrastructure facilities or preventive shutdowns.
In addition, our troops once again tried to hit the enemy's air defenses and, judging by the incoming footage, they were successful. The video immediately showed several successful arrivals at the positions of one of the enemy air defense systems. At least one installation was destroyed and another had a spontaneous launch of a rocket, which soon fell on the city and exploded.
It is worth noting that the enemy, despite multiple evidence of hitting at least several targets, continues to claim that all missiles and UAVs were intercepted. However, there is certainly nothing new here.
In general, it can be stated that the combined strikes again showed their effectiveness even against a target that was maximally covered by air defense, formed according to the NATO model.
It is unlikely that there is a city in the world now more reliably covered by Western air defense systems than Kyiv. And still, the RF Armed Forces carry out regular and successful attacks that overcome enemy air defenses.
Here’s another interesting post-op for the related GUR HQ strike days ago:
How was this strike prepared?
Two days before the missile attack on the GUR building, Kiev was attacked by drones. In total, about 40 UAVs were recorded, some of which were probably used to open camouflaged positions of air defense systems. It is known that the area of Rybalsky Island, where the buildings of the GUR are located, was covered from the territory of the Muromets Park by the calculations of the IRIS-T and Patriot air defense systems.
According to some reports, after a massive drone raid on May 27 and 28, a significant part of the ammunition of the Kiev air defense system was spent, and by the morning of May 30, the calculations of the air defense systems were waiting for the delivery of new ammunition and were not ready to fire.
What weapons were used to strike?
There are several main versions of what was actually applied to the GUR building.
Version one. Judging by the presence of two sets of stabilizers, a subsonic X-35U anti-ship missile with the ability to work on ground targets was caught on video surveillance recordings. It differs from Patriot anti-aircraft missiles in both size and placement of stabilizers. In addition, Patriot missiles do not fall to the ground in dive mode and could not "accidentally fall" on the GUR complex in Kiev, as some bloggers wrote earlier.
Version two. A P-800 Onyx missile of the Bastion coastal complex with a launch range of 300-400 km flew in from the water near the GUR building. Its speed and ability to maneuver with heavy overloads made it possible to carry out such an attack. (Military chronicle of TG)
But back to the WW3 issue for a moment. One last thing that must be said though is there has in fact been a marked increase in ominously strong language from the Russian side which does give an unsettling account of where things are headed.
As some may have seen, Medvedev has recently called for the total extinction of the Ukrainian state:
And more troublingly, Russian Duma deputy and head of A Just Russia party, Oleg Nilov, has just stated that if Ukraine continues striking Russian cities, Russia will soon have to “unsheathe its tactical nukes”.
Furthermore, some people have noted a shift in the ever-decorous and politic Putin, when he recently not only has begun referring to the West as “our once-partners” or “used to be partners”, but some have pointed out that in a recent statement, Putin has appeared to subtly hint at something when he referred to Ukraine as the “so-called state of Ukraine”.
This may not sound like a lot, but to someone as tactful and politically-mannered as Putin, even small nuances of this sort could be layered in meaning and represent large shifts in policy.
There’s been talk more and more about Russia’s red lines being crossed and that U.S. and the West don’t respect these ‘lines’ because Russia has not ‘acted’ in retaliation. I disagree with this premise, of course, but there is truth to the fact that there are certain escalations Ukraine is doing and can keep continuing to do for which there is no appropriate ‘answer’. For instance, shelling Russian cities and killing civilians cannot simply be answered in kind and Russia may at some point feel they have no choice but to show Ukraine’s handlers a real red line by popping off a tactical nuke somewhere as a statement.
For now, though, we can argue about Russia’s retaliatory measures. For instance, Budanov has proudly taken responsibility for much of the asymmetrical terror actions against Russia recently. And now, new reports continue to come in that he was killed in the strikes on the GUR HQ.
Some Ukrainian channel reportedly said his funeral is being planned and it is claimed the post was subsequently taken down. It’s most likely a fake psyop from one side or the other, but something to keep an eye on.
An intriguing post has surfaced online. Perhaps in this way readers are being prepared for a massive campaign against Budanov?
Ukrainian media burying Budanov
The National Centre "Ukrainian House" has begun preparations for the funeral of a "very important man", Ukrainian media reports.
📝 "The funeral will take place soon. Workers said Kirill Budanov, who died after a recent rocket attack on the GUR, will be buried," the Ukranian channels wrote.
It is not yet possible to verify this information. We are waiting for official confirmation.
Yesterday, it was claimed that Budanov released a statement. But strangely, his ‘statement’ had nothing to do with the strikes on the GUR nor dispelling the rumors of his death, but was something oddly anachronistic about Crimea. In fact, it’s worthy of ridicule in its own right:
On the left is when he claimed that Ukraine would enter Crimea long before the end of spring. On the right, his ‘new statement’ which claims that Ukraine did in fact already liberate Crimea—but you see, they did it psychologically.
His satire-level reasoning is that, since Ukraine has engineered mass psychological worry and disturbance of the Crimean population, this is tantamount to having taken it entirely. Well, that’s all folks, nothing to see here, you can all go home, I guess.
I suppose soon Zelensky will utilize the same tactic in proclaiming victory in his phantom offensive. Since they’ve established that simply bringing the specter of an offensive is consummate to physically carrying it out and winning, then all they have to do is make us believe it’s real and the war is over. Magical, huh? If only Manstein, Rommel, Guderian, and co., could have learned such a strategy, how the world would be different!
Oh, and by the way, just for kicks here’s a list someone compiled of all the official predictions Budanov has made thus far since the start of the war:
The head of Ukrainian intelligence Kirill Budanov believes that all his predictions about the course of the SMO have come true.
May 24, 2022:
By the end of , we must enter the territory of Crimea.
I grew up in Crimea. And we'll be back there soon. Yes, we will return with weapons. ... not in the summer, but before the end of spring , perhaps a little earlier.
At the end of spring, it should all be over. By the summer , it'll be done. (referring to the entire war)
Budanov said he expects the fighting in March to be "the hottest," adding that Ukraine is planning a serious offensive in the spring.
Ukraine and Russia will fight this spring in a decisive battle before the end of this war.
I still have a period of time [for the AFU to enter the Crimea in the spring] Everything is going according to schedule.
“I do not know why you focus so much on Crimea.”
Well, maybe by ‘return to Crimea’ he meant to express his hopes of being buried there.
And speaking of the GUR HQ hit, several sources are now reporting a ‘confirmation’ that a new star has appeared in Langley’s CIA headquarters, on the wall representing agents slain in the line of duty:
They write that after the blow to the building of the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine, a new star appeared on the board of honor for the dead CIA employees, the 140th in a row (for the entire existence of the CIA - at the beginning of May there were 139).
It’s said that there was definitely 139 stars at the beginning of May, and suddenly after the GUR HQ strike, a 140th star has been printed ‘in honor of the fallen’. Interesting if true. I guess those emergency MedEvac flights out of Rzeszow weren’t fast enough.
And another MI6 newswire:
British intelligence agency MI-6 sent intelligence to the Office of the President of Ukraine and the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, emphasizing that the units of the Wagner PMC will remain on the territory of Ukraine, and the number of" musicians " will be doubled.
According to British intelligence, Wagner is withdrawing men from Bakhmut to be manned before the Ukrainian counteroffensive, to be used as an operational reserve in the hottest sectors of the front.
Firstly, it is said that Wagner is getting a one month respite for the month of June. Now this report claims Wagner’s numbers will be doubled and they will be sent as operational reserve to whichever frontline Zelensky decides to toss his meat.
On that note, there’ve been some things brewing as well. For instance, Wagner’s infamous commander Dmitry Utkin has gotten into a kerfuffle with Chechen commanders, including Kadyrov and Adam Delimkhanov.
But first, before we even get to that, let’s clear something up. The Ukrainian narrative about this phantasmic character of Utkin is that he’s a famed Russian neo-Nazi, based on that one photo you’ve all seen, the bald, grimacing, shirtless guy with the SS tattoos on his shoulders. However, many sources indicate that that photo is fake and that is not Dmitry Utkin, and that in fact the guy on the left below is the real Utkin:
As one Tweeter wrote:
I almost feel bad for doing this but ... the man on the left is the elusive Dmitry Utkin (picture from a few days ago) and the man on the right is the scary Czech SS Dollar Tree Twitter version of Utkin. The fact that the ones in the know keep it going is pretty funny.
There are very few photos of the real Utkin so it’s difficult to be 100% certain, however here are some other claimed photos of him from the Chechen war and/or Syrian conflict:
These are just some of the claimed photos, but no one actually knows which guy he is, and some have stated that he’d previously had an interview with Russia’s Channel One (presumably by phone/writing) where he denied having any such tattoos as attributed to him by the one infamous photo.
The fact is, he’s a shadowy right hand man to Prigozhin and stays out of the limelight and so it’s impossible to know for certain.
Either way, he released a statement yesterday towards the Chechens. And without recounting the entire back and forth, as it’s simply not substantive enough to spend that much time on, there were simply disagreements and some apparent professional rivalry between Wagner and the Chechens, including counter-claims of who took more of Marinka and other cities, as well as Chechens being insulted by Prigozhin’s glib remark that he had no clue what frontline Chechens operate on and that he “hadn’t seen them anywhere”, which is equivalent to saying ‘they’re not doing anything.’
The arguments included Wagner’s other famed commander Lotus, but as of today it’s reportedly been patched up. Of course, the Ukrainian side wouldn’t let a little drama go to waste so they road its coat tails with fake propaganda about Wagner/Chechens getting into firefights and being at each other’s throats.
#BREAKING The founder of Wagner PMC Yevgeny Prigozhin said that he had phoned the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov. According to him, they agreed to "release the conflict on the brakes."
Of course, Prigozhin also couldn’t let the conflict go without adding his usual gibe:
The commanders of the Wagner PMC were greatly offended by the words of the Chechens, which could lead to a very serious internal conflict. Prigozhin: "In the showdown between Akhmat and PMC Wagner, the winner would have been obvious, but a lot of blood would have been spilled."
As well as this unneeded parting shot:
Vladimir Putin was forced to convene the Security Council to look into the situation.
- Yevgeny Prigozhin answered with restraint, so that he would not be accused of inciting ethnic hatred.
- "In Russia, national minorities can speak out against Russians, and Russians cannot speak out against national minorities with impunity."
Considering Prigozhin is Jewish, wouldn’t he be one of the very ‘national minorities’ he’s ribbing here?
But this is only relevant in light of recent news that the Chechens have been given full go ahead to storm and take Marinka. I reported on it last time as maybe just a shallow movement but now there’ve been signals from several authoritative sources that the next major action from the Russian side is in fact full capture of Marinka, which some predict will happen in the near future because of how many resources Russia is now suddenly pouring into it.
The units of the 150th motorized rifle division, the 5th Brigade and the "Akhmat" special forces advanced further to the west Situation in #Marinka.
One Russian commander stated that Marinka needs to be captured in order to enable Russia’s further offensive developments in the area.
In other frontline news, Russia inflicted some new strikes that reportedly hit a motherlode of troops:
⚠️ Brief summary of the situation at the front. Kharkov direction.
Tonight, a high-precision weapon hit the base of the so-called "Kraken" battalion in Kharkov.
According to intelligence, at the time of the strike, not only members of the Kraken were present at the base point, but also their coordinators, as well as some members of the RDC banned in the Russian Federation.
From the radio interception of the enemy’s conversations, it follows that we are talking about several dozen killed and wounded militants.
When new information about the losses of the enemy appears, we will supplement the news.
What’s interesting is how, every time such a strike occurs, Ukraine naturally denies it or deflects. However, almost invariably much later on they own up to it and we learn the harsh truth.
For instance, just recently last week, the AFU published this note of eulogy about a group of fighters killed in a strike long ago which they had denied at the time. Special forces ‘Safari’ regiment published the following about a strike last year which wiped out 23+ elite members:
It only took them a year to fess up.
In other news, Ukraine did manage to inflict some potentially successful strikes, as Berdiansk was hit by a barrage of missiles. Most of them were shot down, including Tochkas that were apparently used as decoys to oversaturate the AD, while the Storm Shadows did the main work.
Shot down 9M79 Tochka missile:
Above are the before and after satellite photos of the claimed hit on a Berdiansk port warehouse.
🇷🇺🇺🇦 The AFU attacked the territory of the seaport in Berdyansk.
According to preliminary information, three to six Storm Shadow missiles hit the city. According to some reports, four people were injured as a result of the strike, but damage was avoided. The air defense system worked.
Judging by the footage that appeared on the network, a rocket or its fragments fell on a construction site on the territory of the port, 150 meters from the Grain Terminal of the Berdyansk Sea Port.
Of course, it’s questionable of what importance that place was, which probably explains why they were able to hit it to begin with. Berdiansk is not exactly a central Russian military area and likely has light defenses that can get overwhelmed. The town might very well have only one Pantsir-S1 type unit, while being under a wider S-300/400 umbrella from much farther off, like Mariupol, etc.
There’s a reason why everytime you hear of a “major Ukrainian strike”, it’s always on some questionable backwater area. With that said, if it’s true that Storm Shadows were used rather than the Tochkas we actually have full confirmation by way of photos, then it only goes to prove that the SS’s are at least somewhat of a threat.
And a new photo of an actual Su-24 sporting the SS’s under its wings has been released:
As reported last time, Russia was said to have hit the Su-24 base near Khmelnitsky last week, possibly damaging/destroying anywhere between 2-5 planes depending on which report you believe. But they appear to still have some left.
And for those doubting Russia’s abilities to strike these things, including Ukrainian AD, an interesting set of archival photos have also bubbled up to the spotlight.
Not only this photo showing a huge Ukrainian S-300 base that was completely wiped out in the early part of the SMO:
It appears to be an entire AD regiment with at least a couple battalions of units if not more, totally wiped out.
And for each such ineffectual Ukrainian strike, Russia does dozens of its own. A litany of targets were hit yesterday and today, from Dnipropetrovsk to Khimprom plant in Slavyansk, to Iskander strikes on Kharkov and strikes on AFU’s rear facilities in the Kupyansk area.
The other big news was another attempted incursion into Russia’s Belgorod region by the claimed ‘RDK’, which is the self-styled ‘Free Legion of Russia’, claimed to be Russian volunteers who’ve defected to the AFU. Of course, we know that to be bunk and most of the operative battalions are staffed with the usual bandit list of AFU, SBU, mercs, etc.
However, this time Russia was more prepared and the assailants achieved even less than last time when they “invaded” 500 meters into Grayvoron before getting obliterated. For context, here are the two areas they’ve probed thus far:
This time the “unarmed, untrained conscripts” which Ukraine claims are stationed by Putin on the border dealt an instantaneous blow to the mighty elite AFU units. The enemy’s tactics were well thought out: they used engineering vehicles to plow through a minefield while tanks and other support marched behind. But once the engineering vehicles themselves were taken out by mines then bombed, the others began to flee and many were hit in the process:
A reported 50+ of Zelensky’s fodder were senselessly killed for another cheap PR stunt which failed. Videos of their bodies can be seen here (18+): Video Link (Alt Link). But it does give Western yellow press a chance to drum up fake stories, short-lived as they are, about Russian ‘panic’ and chaos in the border regions, none of which exists.
Now, Belgorod and Kursk regions both are training new militias utilizing Wagner training regimens to defend from these very incursions:
By the way, the problem with Ukrainian propagandists and the 2D bloggers who support them is that they don’t actually follow the war in depth. I happen to have my ear on the ground on both sides, and get a complete picture of what happens in incidents like the above. They’ll report about untrained conscripts and mass disorientation but they don’t see things like the post-op interviews with the actual participants, like this motor rifle soldier on the Russian side who took part in repelling the RDK attacks near Shebekino, and who reports the defense was organized and competent.
Meanwhile, Zelensky continues to trot the globe and beg for increasingly ridiculous amounts of arms.
He’s even now requesting 50 total Patriot batteries, on top of the 2 or 3 already given. Note that a battery has up to 8 launchers, so his request amounts to upwards of 400+ new launchers. What happened to the previous ones?
That’s not to mention that a single Patriot battery costs over $1 billion:
So he in effect wants $50B worth of Patriots, pronto.
The Narco-Fuhrer also admitted that any new Ukrainian offensive would result in large amounts of casualties from Russia’s overwhelming air superiority:
It’s fascinating how the Russian air force, so often derided as useless is in actuality the most feared element to Ukrainians on the ground. Remember this?
And what’s interesting is, most aviation discussions revolve solely around fixed wing craft comparisons, mostly because that’s the only arena Ukraine at least has some competing elements. But in rotary craft, i.e. attack choppers specifically, Ukraine has nothing to match Russia. And while Russian fighter-bombers do the most work against fixed targets like HQs, bunkers, etc., it can be argued that Russian attack helicopters like the Ka-52s, Mi-28s, Mi-24/35s, Mi-17s, etc., produce by far more results against mobile armor targets.
And a new report confirms just this. It says that Russian Ka-52/Mi-28s armed with 9K121 Vikhr anti-tank guided missiles in fact kill more armor than ground systems like ATGMs. Even in the Grayvoron incursion a week or two ago, videos showed that Russian Ka-52s were the first to spring into action against the mixed AFU units long before any Russian reserves arrived on the ground.
The AFU has nothing in this capacity: they retain some old Mi-8s that can shoot dumb-fire NAR rockets, but that’s a very long shot from the pinpoint accurate Russian guided missiles on Ka-52s/Mi-28s, etc.
My point in saying this is, if and when the big ‘grand offensive’ actually comes, it will likely be Russian attack choppers that do most of the work in stopping the advance of armored units. Jet and fighter-bomber craft don’t really have much that can hit mobile armored units. The new UMPC glide bombs for instance are presumably GPS/Glonass guided which means they’re really only for hitting a static, pre-inputted coordinate.
Similarly, Russian fighter-bomber craft can have various TV guided missiles like Kh-59s, Izdeliye 305Es, etc., but they’re not really ideal for that either, though they can be used for the purpose. It’s not efficient, as an Su-34 might fire off one TV-guided AGM and then have to circle around all while the co-pilot guides it to target. Then after circling, they can fire another one but by then the column might’ve driven behind tree cover.
An attack helicopter can hover and observe just a few meters above tree cover from many kilometers away, then launch a sequential array of guided missiles at every vehicle in the column one by one without needing to ‘circle around’ or wasting time. They are basically highly mobile airborne ATGM units. Not to mention the fact that the Ka-52 can hold way more guided Vikhr missiles than a fighter-bomber can hold TV-guided AGMs. And the latest ‘M’ variants of Ka-52/Mi-28 can also shoot the same TV-guided LMUR 305Es anyway, so no matter how you look at it they’re a much more versatile platform for this purpose.
There were talks about Ukraine potentially getting AH-64 Apaches from the U.S. to fill this one critical gap, but that seems to have fizzled out. So as of now, Ukraine has nothing in its arsenal that can match this one key battlefield disparity.
Also, here’s an interesting report on Russian mining tactics in the Zaporozhye front, and how the AFU is trying to solve the issue before their ‘offensive’:
Before breaking through Russian fortifications in a counteroffensive, the Ukrainian Armed Forces need to clear their minefields, - Washington Post. At the same time, you need to do this quietly, so that the Russians do not notice. Therefore, even now Ukrainian sappers are manually engaged in mine clearance at night.
The commander of the sappers of the 1st tank brigade "Climate" told WP that the work has been going on for several weeks. Once the path is cleared, signs are put up — sometimes illuminated, with beams directed away from the Russian positions — to indicate a safe road.
Also, the military of the ArmedForces of Ukraine told how the Russian Armed Forces install their mines.First there is one line of anti-tank mines, then a line of anti-personnel mines next to booby traps, and then another line of anti-tank mines.There are especially many defensive fortifications of the Russian Federation in the Zaporozhye region, where the front line, in fact, has been turned into a fortress.
And speaking of equipment, a few updates on that front:
Recall the new leak from last week about the broken down American Strykers sent to Ukraine. Apparently, that rumor too is indirectly confirmed with the new report that U.S. equipment drawn down from Kuwait to be sent to Ukraine was in fact largely FUBAR’d as well:
WASHINGTON — Equipment drawn from the U.S. Army’s Kuwait-based pre-positioned stock bound for Ukraine was not ready for combat operations, the Pentagon’s inspector general has found.
During the inspector general’s audit of that pre-positioned stock area, the fifth of seven such locations around the world, “we identified issues that resulted in unanticipated maintenance, repairs, and extended leadtimes to ensure the readiness of the military equipment selected to support the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” the May 23 report stated.
All six of the M777 howitzers and 25 of 29 M1167 High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles were not “mission ready” and required repairs before U.S. European Command could send the equipment to Ukraine.
So basically, an audit found things like “all 6 of the M777s” and 25/29 of the M1167 vehicles from this stock were defective. It turns out the contractor was “not meeting their maintenance obligations” for over 19 months.
The report startled the U.S. auditors because they found that if this equipment was in fact needed by the U.S. itself for emergency purposes, it would have likewise been unusable:
“In addition, if U.S. forces needed this equipment, they would have encountered the same challenges.”
And as to the state of the disrepair, apparently it was so bad it was judged the M777 unit would have “killed somebody” if it was actually used in that state:
When the team arrived at Camp Arifjan in March 2022, the contractor provided a howitzer that it said was fully mission capable. But the weapon system was not maintained according to the standard technical manual, per the mobile repair team, and “ ‘would have killed somebody [the operator],’ in its current condition,” the report stated.
And that’s not an exaggeration; for anyone that’s familiar with the very spotty service record of the M777, they were known to constantly explode during use and have literally killed multiple service members in the past. From the M777’s own wiki page:
On 20 July 2008, at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, 1-108 FA, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania National Guard, became the first field artillery unit of the National Guard to field and fire the M777. Two soldiers from 2-319 FA were killed from a breech explosion and other members of their gun crew were injured while attempting to fire a M777 at an ISIL mortar position in northern Iraq. Multiple firing incidents have occurred during training with the M777 including a fatal one in February 2014 with 3-321 FA and previously in 2011 with Marines from Camp Lejeune also at Fort Bragg.
So this thing is dangerous to its crews even when it’s maintained, imagine using it when it hasn’t been serviced in 19 months. Just another of the many ‘wonderfully engineered’ American weapons systems, like the Patriot and F-35 before it. Meanwhile, old Soviet iron like the D-20 wheeled out from storage and hasn’t seen maintenance since 1957 still purrs like a baby when it fires.
You can read the rest of the report for a laugh. It includes details on what was wrong with the M777s, including the fact that one of them caught fire when being moved because, they suspect, its brake fluid (what?) wasn’t changed. Jeez, are these things even made for war or what?
When the howitzers reached Poland for distribution to Ukraine, officials there said all six howitzers still had faults that made them non-mission capable, according to the report, including worn firing pins and issues with the firing mechanism. The repairs cost about $17,490 in labor and materials.
But the report doesn’t stop at M777s. The Humvees were rubbish too:
Prior to August 2022, the 401st declared 28 of 29 Humvees as fully mission capable, but when it received an order to pull those out for Ukraine on Aug. 24, only three of the 29 were ready, the inspector general said.
By the way, someone should show this to Trent “Tire Boy” Telenko:
When the vehicles arrived in Poland, officials there reported one of the tires on a Humvee was shredded due to dry rot. When the tire was replaced with a spare, that one also failed due to dry rot, the report described.
He made an entire career in the early part of the SMO from a single autist thread detailing how Russia’s lack of tire care led to the failure of the entire invasion. Guess he should’ve checked his army’s own tires first.
By the way, they list the labor expenses as $174,000 for the Humvee tire changes. Who wouldn’t love to be that mechanic?
This dovetails with another report about how four major Ukrainian arms firms failed to deliver any weapons after receiving hundreds of millions of dollars for the very purpose:
One of the top managers of Progress, Oleksandr Myroniuk, has been charged with document forgery and attempted money laundering. When searching his home in connection to a probe into embezzlement of $580,000 in Defense Ministry’s money on body armor procurement, law enforcement found Hr 17 million, $400,000, and 100,000 euros of unknown origin in Myroniuk’s possession.
Just another tale of the endless corruption in Ukraine, which confirms long-suspected notions of why hundreds of billions of dollars were pumped into the country, yet we still see Ukrainian soldiers riding bicycles to the frontline.
This also jibes with a new story about how American AT-4 anti-tank rocket launchers were now spotted with Mexican cartels, likely purchased from Ukraine on the Dark Web:
It’s no surprise, of course; I’ve covered the videos of Ukrainians selling off their weapons for a long time now. Remember this one?
And by the way, regarding the M777s, as some know, Oryx’s list has the M777 attrition at something near 20-30% with around 30 out of the total ~150 units destroyed. However, I’ve seen recent reports from the Russian side that in fact the number is closer to 90-100, which, if true, would leave only 40-50 or so of the units.
This report is also telling:
ADEQUATE Z: "May has passed, I continue to count the monthly losses of the enemy in artillery. 259 units in total, 19 more than in April. MLRS-9, Grads only. Self - propelled guns-84, 78 domestic, 2 "Crab" and 4 M109. Receiver towed - 166, of which 11 are Western, of which 7 are M777.
The number of full MLRS is steadily decreasing from month to month. The number of self-propelled guns and towed guns increased slightly compared to the previous two months. The percentage of Western equipment in the total number of vehicles packed after its heavy losses in January-March (123 units in three months) remains very low for the second month. Calibres of 122 mm and below are packed with 124 units, almost half of all losses.
Replenishment of losses, which was openly announced during the month, was reduced to American howitzers of an unnamed model and an unnamed quantity. In units, it is most likely 24 or 36, less likely-48.
Western materiel, including that received since the beginning of the year, after the January announcement of large alms for the "counter-offensive", is obviously trying to protect. Purely statistically, some of its share could well have been covered during strikes on the rear of the last month, but there were no clear sources and figures on this score."
Lastly, to touch on upcoming events. Rybar had this interesting report about NATO ELINT craft activity:
🇬🇧🇪🇺🇲🇩🇺🇸 Yesterday's summit in Chisinau was practically not remembered for anything special, despite the artificially inflated hype: not a single significant result, at least publicly, has been achieved.
At the same time, something else happened behind the political events: for the first time, a British reconnaissance aircraft RC-135W operated over the country's territory. And at the very borders, the American RC-135V and RQ-4B, as well as the E-3A AWACS of the NATO Air Force, worked.
Officially, it was said about ensuring the security of the summit, but against the backdrop of the ongoing Air Bastion exercise, as well as the transfer of armored vehicles to Moldova, this looks very interesting.
Not sure what to make of it yet, other than, as Rybar points out, this is a development to watch in light of the big Air Defender exercises starting on June 12, which many are expecting to coincide with a potential Ukrainian offensive.
And as for the subsequent big NATO conference in Vilnius to take place in July, Zelensky is now blackmailing the West by threatening to not even attend if he doesn’t get what he wants:
He says it’s pointless for Ukraine to even be there if NATO can’t promise them all sorts of unrealistic things, be it NATO membership or other major guarantees.
But it did lead me to a new idea. Which is that it seems possible that all the current back and forth games surrounding the Ukrainian offensive could likewise be new, heavy-handed blackmail tactics from Zelensky. It seems he’s beginning to really sour with the Western leaders and may very well be threatening to hold off the offensive if major guarantees, like those of the F-16s, aren’t made.
He knows that retaking ‘Ukrainian’ land is actually more important to the Eurocrats and their U.S. masters than it is even to Ukraine, so he’s able to stoke their fears and sort of wag the dog by playing the delaying game.
If you pay attention, the way Ukrainian officials seem to be framing the narrative is: “if you don’t give us those F-16s, you won’t get your precious, bloody offensive!”
The reason Zelensky and his brood are able to play this game much better now than ever before, is because at this point the treasonous leaders of each European country, which have utterly bankrupted their economies, ruined their people’s livelihoods, destroyed their countries’ futures all to do the bidding of their American masters in this fraudulent war, these false “leaders” are now between a rock and hard place. You see, they sold this war to their people as one of sacrifice for a major, monumental victory against Russia. The people ponied up and gave up their freedoms, livelihoods, and comforts in exchange for massive inflation and ruined economies all so that Ukraine can win.
But now, if Ukraine were to actually lose, these traitorous frauds would be exposed to the pitchfork-bearing crowds as having thrown away their futures for nothing. Shrewd Zelensky likely knows this and is now using it against them. These so-called ‘leaders’ are now more beholden to their people than ever because they sold them this monstrous lie, and said it would all be worth it in the end. When this lie is exposed, it will end their careers and so now they’re scrambling desperately to ensure in any way they can that Ukraine’s offensive succeeds so they can complete that ‘sale’ to their citizenry.
Zelensky and co. have nothing to lose. His final trump card will be: “If I go down, you all go down with me.” After all, to some extent they sold him on a lie as well. I don’t think Zelensky is by nature cartoonishly evil. Recall that his entire political platform was one of compromise with Russia, and he spent years preaching that Ukraine should respect the Russian language and its ethnic citizens. Don’t get me wrong, he’s beyond forgiveness now. But I’m simply stating that from his perspective, these European leaders talked him into boldly confronting Russia, gaslighted him into believing he alone could do what Hitler, Napoleon, and Genghis Khan before him could not. This means Zelensky will be very angry when he becomes fully cognizant of the fact that he’s been sold out; and that anger will turn to vengeance. I believe we’re already seeing the first glimpses of that in these new threats to not attend the NATO summit.
Recall, such opportunism is not uncommon to Ukrainian politicians. Long before him, it was Arestovich who threatened Europe by saying that, if Ukraine were to lose this war, they may end up joining Russia, and a newly experienced, combined Ukrainian-Russian army would sweep through all of Europe unchallenged. It reveals that Ukrainian politicians know fully well that they have leverage to hang over Europe’s head, too.
In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if, the closer Ukraine comes to losing, Zelensky or his administration were to begin dumping secret files or other ‘inconvenient’ or outright incriminating things about some of these leaders and their conduct so as to put their asses to the fire with their own citizens.
It’s clear that rifts have been slowly forming, and that things are more tense than ever for Zelensky and his inner circle. Not only were we witness to this footage yesterday, where Luxembourg PM Xavier Bettel grew tired of Zelensky’s attempts to beg for support from Serbian president Vucic:
But Zelensky’s own ‘handlers’ have been recently spotted growing quite exasperated with him themselves. Such as head of presidential office ‘Yermak’:
Just look at their body language, who seems in charge to you?
One other sundry item. Last time I reported on the destruction of Ukraine’s last naval ship, the Yuri Olefirenko. Now there appears to be some confirmation as, not only did satellites pick up what appears to be a keeled over ship in the Odessa harbor:
But residents in the region report large amounts of oil and shiny gunk now polluting the waters as of this morning:
Lastly, as of this writing the Russian Tu-95 Bears are up in the air and awaiting signal to launch another series of devastating strikes tonight. We’ll update next time on how it goes.
I’ll leave you with this last image from Serbian protestors who now troll NATO/KFOR forces by scrawling giant Z’s on the walls in support of Russia:
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