UKRAINE UPDATE: CONDITIONS IN RUSSIA

FRIDAY 14 JULY 2022

UKRAINE UPDATE: UKRAINECAST, Podcast from BBC (7/13/22)

  • Ukraine has announced it has killed dozens of soldiers in a bombing of a Russian ammunitions’ depot in the southern city of Nova Kakhovka (east of Kherson). This strike is reported to have been carried out by the American supplied HIMARS system. 
  • In Kherson, a Russian-installed official has accused Ukraine of bombings peaceful cities with American arms. 
  • Olga Ivshina, a reporter, notes that the number of Russian soldiers that have been buried in Russia is almost 5,000.  These are the ones reported and whose names are known.  The estimate for how many there actually are is around 10,000.  20% of those killed in Ukraine and buried in Russia were officers.  This is a very high percentage.
  • The high number of officers killed may indicate a struggle by the Russians with communications.  Higher level officers may have to go to the front to command because there is not a well-developed chain of command. 
  • At the beginning of the war, Russia was using a large number of conscripts. Most of them were brought home.  The Russian government has launched a “huge campaign” recruiting contract soldiers.  The Ministry of Defense is giving out lucrative contracts, much more than individuals can make in their territories.  The estimate is that the money is five, eight times higher than they can make. 
  • Life in Russia is so tough for many people in parts of Russia that the risk of dying seems not as serious as it might. 
  • There are stories of those refusing to fight in Ukraine.  Legally, because there is no official war, individuals can refuse to fight, and cannot be prosecuted.  But the reality is much different.  What is legal and what is done are two different things.
  • If an individual decides not to go to fight in Ukraine, all the power of the state is brought to bear on them.
  • These people who are reluctant are intimidated.  They attempt to shame the individuals by publishing their names.
  • Some people seek legal help when they are reluctant to fight.  They go to people like one lawyer who was interviewed.
  • Also, sometimes Russian operatives pose as soldiers who don’t want to go back to catch people (like this attorney) who are trying to help them.
  • People who are helping have to be very careful.  There are laws which restrict not only what the helpers do, but what they say.
  • A month before the invasion, National Guard soldiers in Krasmador were deployed in Crimea for exercises.  A day before the invasion, they were put on buses and transported to the border.  Only then were they told they were going to fight Ukrainians. Twelve of them refused. 
  • They were driven back to Crimea, and all fired.  The trials are currently going on, in a closed secret procedure.  No one is allowed inside the courtroom.
  • The lawyer who was interviewed who is helping the soldiers asks that people remember Russians who are suffering because of the war.  It is also for Russia “a real tragedy.”  Generations in Russia were brought up thinking that whatever else happens, a war should never happen.  “The machine of repression” however, is stronger than the desires for peace.  Whoever speaks out against the war is “brutally suppressed.”
  • “Please remember,” the lawyer continues “…a lot of people in Russia are intimidated.”  “Who ever dares to speak is brutally punished.” 
  • Illya Yashin, a Russian activist, has been detained.  The attorney calls this “very depressing.”  He compares the situation to 1937, the peak of Stalin’s repression.  “It’s a true tragedy that’s going on.” He concluded.
  •  
  •  Olga is asked about the situation and whether she agrees with the attorney.
  • “It’s very hard.”  She notes.  “It’s very uneasy.”  Olga’s mom suffered because of her work in journalism.  “Generations of Russians have been brought up under this repressive apparatus.”  She concludes.  Some people have only seen Putin as a leader and heard his message.
  • It’s not only the threat of being thrown into jail that Russians face, but other threats – losing a space for your child at school or university.  Olga notes: “It is really easy to make your life unbearable in Russia.” 
  • There is a denial in Russia.  At the beginning of the fall of the Soviet Union, there was some accountability.  All this disappeared.  So, now there is a nostalgia about life under the Soviet regime, a feeling that life then was perfect.
  • Olga’s mother is still in Russia.  When Olga was reporting from Crimea, her mother had huge problems at work. She changed her working place. 
  • A lot of Olga’s friends are not speaking to their parents because they are called “traitors” or “enemies of the nation.”
  • Another reporter, Frank Gardner, assesses the state of the war.  Russia is now in a pause.  But they have not stopped pulverizing cities with missiles.  They seem to be preparing for another effort.
  • Ukrainians are pushing back hard.  The long-range weapons from the West are helping.  It’s clear that Putin is not going to give up on this.  If he succeeds in the Donbas, he will push further. 
  • Russians claim they are using high-precision weapons, but they keep hitting civilian targets. 
  • Frank Gardner maintains that Russia is winning the war if you look at it solely as a strategic issue.  They have redefined their aims.  The first phase was a disaster.  There was no unified command. They sent tanks in with support of infantry.  They had a rethink and narrowed the aims. 
  • They don’t seem to care about civilian casualties.  It’s second world war stuff, but they “do it very effectively.”
  • Once they have taken Donbas, where do they go from there?  Will they attempt to seal Ukraine off from the Black Sea.  If so, that involves taking Odesa which will be very difficult.
  •  A lot of people in Russia have lost hope.  There are people whose children were relying on Western medicines.  They can no longer access these medicines.  There were scientists whose work depended on knowledge gained through internationally exchanges.  They no longer have access to this international scientific cooperation.  Many people wonder “…where Russia is going at the moment.”  
  • There is also Ukraine fatigue in the West.
  • Germany is thinking of people freezing to death this winter.  Prices are going higher. Half the middle east is facing starvation.  For the Russian people it is bad news, bad news that is being disguised.
  • On the other side, here are overly optimistic briefings from the British government. 
  • However slowly, the Russians are advancing in the east.
  • Older people in Ukraine, a lot of them, listen to Russian state television.  Russian speaking parts of Ukraine especially the older population listens to this government news.    
  • Among Ukrainians coming out of Russia, there is a marked difference between old and young.   Older people swallow the line that NATO is to blame, that Zelensky is a drug addict and a Nazi.
  • More than 70% get their news from state-controlled media.
  • “They just eat, eat what is fed to them.” Says Olga.
  • There is Ukraine fatigue.  Germany does it want to deplete its own stocks of weapons.  Russia has depleted its stock, especially precision weapons.  Vast stocks of dated equipment (1960s) is now being used.  This out of date group of weapons are no match for Nato supplied weapons. But, the question is how quickly will those new weapons be deployed.
  • Many military people say that Russia’s army is rubbish, but it’s a big rubbish.”
  • Also, in Russia, they are not in the middle of being attacked.  Their factories are working (24/7) and can produce equipment.  This gives them an edge. 
  • An odd circumstance is that the Russians have a tank, considered the most modern tank in the world.  It hasn’t appeared in Ukraine, at all.  Several of the tanks were displayed at the May parade.  There is speculation that these tanks which require high technology chips, can’t be used because the Russians don’t have access to the chips.    
  • OnTwitter at @cjjohns1951

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