Podcast: The Kremlin File with Jessikka Aro, Finnish journalist and author of “Putin’s Trolls.”
Jessikka Aro started researching Russian trolls as far back as 2014. She was subsequently trolled, harassed and eventually had to move out of Finland.
Aro was trying in 2014 to write about the aggressive movements of Russia against Ukraine.
She discovered places where trolls were employed to influence public narratives.
These troll farms were used as information warfare. They are snipers who go after individual computer users on the behalf of the Kremlin.
They market ideas to individuals.
The trolls were already attacking Russians inside Russians. Every morning they would be given themes and have to write posts about these themes.
Recruitment ads for the troll factories, were looking for copywriters who knew English. These people were recruited to write “political news.”
These trolls were working also in Finland.
They were attacking Ukraine, sending pictures of dead people and blaming Ukraine.
They would go after a blogger and start harassing and calling names and molding their messages.
They monitor what individuals say online and go after them if they don’t like what’s being posted.
After Aro left Finland lived abroad for two years. When she published her first investigation of the troll farms, she was targeted, and the police warned her that she might be subjected to violence. Her colleagues were turned against her. People were brainwashed into believing that she was a mentally ill threat to Finnish security, or a CIA agent, or working for the British.
She ended up being essentially locked in her own home. She was told by the police to check for objects under her car.
These troll farms also worked to get people to hate Ukraine.
Prigozhin, Russian oligarch, runs the IRA based in St. Petersburg. He also leads the Wagner Group (add information).
They are working in Africa and India as well.
These trolls were active in the international information space.
They would link to Russian government information and narratives.
About Ukraine, the narrative was that the government was filled with fascists and war mongers.
The trolling was laying the groundwork internationally for the genocide in Ukraine even in 2014. They were trying to brainwash people that Russians had nothing to do with aggressively intervening in Crimea.
Russian young men have been weaponized with this information. They think Ukrainians don’t have human rights. They have been dehumanized.
“They have no problem going to Ukraine and raping and killing.”
This activity started picking up right around the time Yanukovych had to leave.
They operate around the clock.
The cites that had been spreading the anti-Ukraine narratives started distributing pro-Trump and anti-Hillary information. Hillary was a pedophile.
They are designed to lure different kinds of audiences.
(Note: Look at those western professionals who were on RT).
There is still not enough counter activity by Western intelligence services. This is a form of warfare.
They unmask people who cooperate with agencies and create conspiracy stories about them.
In an early case, they targeted veterans.
Early on there was a diplomat targeted in mid-2000s. Lithuanian foreign affairs, worked in. Russia was using Belarus as a testing ground. He was followed for helping the Belarus opposition. They intercepted his phone line. His phone conversations, edited, were posted publicly. 2013, eight years after initial targeting. He was in Hungary, helping Russian activists, and his phones were intercepted, and the conversations put on Utube. He was disgraced and his career destroyed. Later, they found that it had been a Russian security service operation.
The operations-built support for far right political groups in Finland. They put out racist narratives against immigrants and Jewish people.
They are really good at cultivating their targets for decades. They are playing long term. They are cultivating individuals and communities. They want these communities committing violence and protest. Then, they blame the Western systems.
There are just not enough resources being directed at countering this form of intellectual warfare.
In the same way the US made public what Russia intended to do right before the invasion of Ukraine, they should have made public what they were doing before the 2016 election, telling people that they were being manipulated by the Russians.
There are heavily trained officers attacking us 24 hours a day and they are not being countered.
It’s too scary and people want to protect themselves from the understanding of the importance of these troll farms. In 2014, there were even governmental officials who would not believe the existence of the troll farms or their importance. They thought it was conspiracy theory and was too “sci-fi”.
Now, the Russians seem to have taken all the masks off.
There seems to be no plan to do anything about this still-existing threat. How do you tell people they are being used as useful idiots to Russian security services.
People don’t understand that what is going on in Ukraine is a security threat. (Hell, they don’t understand that a coup is a threat to security.)
Russia shifted in 2013 to attack every European election. Brexit, U.S., French elections.
The language is the same (rapists, immigrants, shit-hold countries).
UKRAINE UPDATE: UKRAINE, THE LATEST, The Telegraph
Boris Johnson was making fun of Putin in public remarks. He was filmed talking to Macron joking about taking off their tops and riding around on horseback. When asked about these comments he doubled down on them and called it a “crazy macho war.”
Another official, Defense Secretary, was talking about Putin and “small man syndrome.” Said Putin has a toxic view of the world.
Finland and Sweden are joining NATO. Turkey gave up its opposition to the two countries joining. Sweden changed its terrorism legislation in response to Turkish problems with the PKK.
There were changes in restrictions on arms to Turkey. Extradition requests procedure was changed as well. There would be no support for the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Unit. This was seen as a key concession.
There were concerns about fighter planes and U.S. approval. It is thought that perhaps in a phone call between Biden and Erdogan, there may be a deal about fighter jets.
Kaliningrad is now surrounded by NATO.
Biden is going to meet with Erdogan on Wednesday.
Francis Dearnley: This may not be quite as much a victory for Turkey as has been suggested, certainly by Turkey. The language is very bureaucratic. It has forced Turkey to make a fundamental choice, to be a thorn in the side of NATO unity or become a member of the club. We have ended up in the later space. Turkey can no longer be the broker between Russia and the West.
The mayor of Kherson has been detained and taken away. This is what is happening in the occupied regions. They had threatened to arrest him if he didn’t go along with their demands. He refused to go along. This is another example of the repression of the democratic elements in the occupied areas. They called him a “poster boy for the Nazi community.” “Finally, he has been neutralized.”
Russians are running out of precision guided missiles. One of the older missiles is evidently one of those that hit the shopping center. This means more civilians being killed. (Note: I don’t see how you could hit more civilians than they are already hitting.)
Zelensky posted a video of a missile hitting the shopping center. The Russians claim that the mall was used to store weaponry.
This weaponry is unethical because it is so out of date.
NATO territory is going to expand. This would have seemed impossible even a few months ago. If the intent was to splinter the West and create fear of challenging Russia, it has backfired. Some still want to bring Russia into the fold. But, after the G7 there is a broad agreement. This is, however, about future escalation and does little about the present conflict.
UKRAINE, THE LATEST, Notes from the PODCAST of the Telegraph
There are street battles around Lisichansk (across the river from Sieverodonetsk, which the Russians took a few days ago.)
NATO has agreed to increase the number of troops available on high alert.
G7 has agreed to explore imposing a ban on transporting Russian oil sold over a certain price.
Macron said the Russian strike on the shopping center was a war crime.
He also stated: “Russia cannot and must not win this war.” (Note: This is a welcome change from his “Putin must not be humiliated” stance of a few weeks ago).
Hacker group claims to have cut off 70% of Lithuanian internet. (Note: Check this for specifics).
As many as a 1000 people were shopping when attacked at the center in Kremenchuk, Ukraine. The death toll is now at 18, with 59 wounded. The Russians claim that the target was a depot with weapons and ammunition from the US. They claim the bombing sparked a fire at the shopping center and caused the damage.
This city is not on the front lines and the attack seems to be a symbolic statement much like the attacks on Kyiv at the beginning of the G7, that Russia can attack anywhere.
Considering the condemnation, there is debate on whether this as a tactic is worth it. It only hardens the resolve of those defending.
Head of the British Army has likened the current defense situation to the situation Britain was facing in 1937.
Saunders referred to 1937 in a speech and said that Britain must be willing to fight and win.
His comments were summarized as: We must not commit a failure to contain Russian expansion. Appeasement policy let Hitler get away with seizing parts of Austria, and Czechoslovakia. We must not allow something similar to happen here.
33,000 Russians are dead, missing or captured. 4,700 civilians are dead. We can see the destruction now. Russia is a clear threat. Our choices will influence our future.
Saunders talked about Russian military capacity. It is dangerous, he argued, to assume that Ukraine is a limited conflict. That something can be done to end it and that will be that. It is, instead, a larger threat.
It’s worth remembering that Russia often starts wars badly. It can suffer and regenerate and ultimately prevail. We need to think about this in the long term.
There was no reference to the nuclear question in Saunders’ statement. The reporter noted that there is the assumption that there would be a controlled nuclear war if there was a further invasion.
The reporter maintained that were it not from the nuclear question, we would probably have gone to war over Ukraine. The nuclear question completely changed that. But, Saunders’ statement does not mention this.
Saunders argued that war could have been deterred in 1937 if it weren’t for appeasement. We must not do the same thing here.
The reporter had a conversation with a Western intelligence advisor who argued that history teaches us we cannot “humiliate” the aggressor. Reporter would challenge this notion. Even after WWI, the economic implosion was much more important than any “humiliation” of Germany. The reporter thinks this is a flawed notion.
NATO: What’s on the agenda.
This will be the most historic overhaul since the war. Baltic states fear that Russia could invade.
The plan is to increase to 300,000 troops on high-alert in the area. They will not be on the front lines. And, they will not be in place until next year.
These troops will, in 24 hours – 30 days, be able to react to a strike in Europe.
NATO in general has developed a more hawkish attitude. There is much tougher language even about China in NATO statements. There is increased concern about the dependence of Britain and the US on China for technology.
There will be pledges of new weapons systems, training missions.
There are discussions about whether Russia run out of munitions this summer, troops? There are reports that they are using retired military leaders because they have lost so many.
There is disagreement about who this attritional war benefits. Some argue that the Ukrainians have to change to an aggressive war from a defensive war. It seems that even though a few weeks ago, there were question about whether the West would have sufficient morale to go through with this, these doubts have eased. We have seen a shift to make predictions that NATO moral will hold up.
There were dialogues between Macron and Putin released recently. Putin batted away an idea proposed by Macron of a summit with Biden. It would appear that for the moment, G7 has repudiated this “Putin can’t be humiliated” perspective.
Others argue that the slow trickle of weapons is creating the stale-mate. It was proposed that Biden should tell Putin to start pulling out or they would give Ukraine the weapons to attack Russia.
30 leaders talking about what more they can do to help Ukraine.
They could bring Ukrainian army up to NATO standards.
Turkey’s objections to Sweden and Finland. Relationship with the PKK.
Britain to announce commitment to Estonia’s defenses.
Saunders (British military leader): “If you want to avert conflict, you have to be prepared to fight.” It is likely that Russia will be more of a threat after Ukraine whatever the outcome. We will never be in the Europe before this war started. Russia has taken a part that we cannot extract it from. The likelihood is that, even if Putin is deposed, it will be another similar style leader.
There has been a catalogue of foreign policy errors that have gotten us in this mess. We must think about those mistakes and also about the “emergent autocratic threats” around the world. There is, unfortunately, still a mentality of this being a short term war, that if we just stop the tanks and keep Russia contained, things can go back to normal. We can not go back to where things were before the war. This war against Ukraine has changed the world in ways we cannot even imagine.
“Nobody is going to break us. We are strong. We are Ukrainians.”
Ukraine is planning to pull out of Sieverodonetsk city. It appears there is no other option. To the south, Russia has made some advance and could have cut off Ukrainian troops.
The costs of these small Russian gains have been at great cost to both sides.
When Russia was pushed out of the North, he said the liberation of the Donbas was the real goal.
Had the Russians kept moving westward in the south, they might have done better rather than changing focus onto the Donbas. We think this is about Putin’s ego.
This fight in the Donbas has given the Ukrainians time to wait for Western weapons.
Article about hollow victory for Russia (Telegraph)
There has been a lot of resistance in the South. There was a car bomb today that killed the head of a department, known as pro-Russian, installed as part of the occupying regime.
Sunday Telegraph article about Russians trying to establish educational curriculum.
Zelensky is thinking of sacking a government official. They were underprepared in the South and that area fell early. He is close friends with this appointment. People thought that closeness was the reason he was appointed. This is perhaps in reaction to the EU candidacy, the cronyism of the appointment.
Lithuania has blocked some goods being imported into Kaliningrad. Russia threatened reprisals and called it a “blockade.”
There is a train that travels from Moscow to Kaliningrad every day. This train has been stopped before being allowed to go on. The Lithuanians are searching the train. Passengers are therefore on the train for longer and the Lithuanians are offering a free wifi service in Russian, only there are graphic images of dead in Ukraine, a method of information warfare.
The Lithuanians have few English speakers. Russians keep coming back and forth across the border. They are afraid that they are going to be involved in the war.
There is a lot of exchange between Lithuania and Kaliningrad.
Lithuanians support Ukraine.
EU Candidacy Status
Some worry that this is a “fig leaf” this offer of candidacy status.
After Zelensky thanked the members for this vote, there was a statement made about this status being permanent?
Denmark raised a number of questions about a questionnaire Ukraine filled out. There are a lot of quibbles and objections.
Heavy shelling in the last few days. The eastern part of the Donbas is being destroyed. Ukraine has had to pull out of several hamlets.
More shelling in Kharkiv.
Precision artillery is now in Ukraine from the West. That’s good news, more long-range artillery. Germany is now supplying armaments.
There is a growing resistance, a leader in a self-proclaimed region near Kherson (Chernobayevka) has had his car bombed. He was not, however, killed.
Germany has an emergency gas plan. This involves reactivating the coal plants that were closed. Green politicians are having a hard time being the face of reopening coal plants. The government is requesting that people reduce their use of electricity. There is a big cut back of the gas coming through the Nordstream pipeline. Putin has made this cut back by almost 40%. He is putting pressure, conscious effort to squeeze the West. A further step would be to bring in rationing. Business lobbies are very much against this. If Putin continues to pressure the flows, this might be necessary.
Some countries have already been cut off by Russia, but they are less dependent than Germany.
German armaments are on the way.
EU candidacy status for Ukraine and Moldova. The decision is expected today. Russia is not going to be able to take the entire Donbas. Then, there will be an operational pause and come back later. If in the meantime, both countries achieve EU status, will this call an end to it? Does the EU need a defense agreement?
Damage in Mykolaiv, grain storage. It’s difficult to work, to store the grain and to distribute it.
There are talks but not much progress. There are still rocket attacks on the grain storage facilities. That doesn’t indicate progress.
UKRAINE: THE LATEST, THE TELEGRAPH Podcast, 6/22/22
On Twitter at @cjjohns1951
“Everything that can burn is on fire.”
“It’s been very violent.” The Donbas is still getting an “absolute pounding.”
Extreme pressure on Sieverodonetsk.
Forces of the DPR have lost 55% of its original strength.
Ukrainians are conducting a counter-attack on Snake Island. Extensive damage to the island. Ukrainians claim to have attacked and damaged an anti-aircraft system. The Russians are denying the severity of the attack.
Ukrainians are using western weapons in the attack.
Lithuania. EU sanctions prevent the transport of some Russian goods. Threats are that ordinary Lithuanians will be affected. The response will not just be diplomatic, say the Russians. The word that was used was “practical measures.”
Boris Johnson has made a statement about any peace that might come out. He is urging other countries not to push the Ukrainians to accept a sub-par deal.
There has been a delivery of German weapons. There have been criticisms that Germany has been very slow in supplying weapons.
A drone flew inside Russia a significant distance from the front lines. Crashed into an oil refinery. Significant damage. It could be a drone captured from Russia and returned to it. The Russian air defense may have mistaken the drone for one of theirs. Could be a false flag, unlikely.
A smaller drone crashed in northeastern Turkey. This type of drone can be up in the air for hours. The drones can go wrong.
Mariupol. What life is like in Mariupol, occupied by Russians. Article in the Daily Telegraph. Warehouses that used to house fruits and vegetables now house corpses. They are surrounded by flies. Hunger is an increasing problem.
People are concerned that the West will forget about them. They are living with the possibility of death every day. A man who worked as a hospital clown before the war is working to get people out and cheer them up. There is a lack of supplies and medical supplies. “Everyone’s doing their best.” People are dying because of a lack of trained medics.
Marlene Dietrich: “I miss what people are like when they are trying to be brave.”
Elderly people have nowhere else to go. Disabled people have special problems. One woman, 92, said: “I just want to die.”
Separatists are being sent into the war by the Russians without equipment, body amour. Ukrainians were having to fire on these men and then Russians knew where they were. What a cynical tactic.
What is the state of information in Poland (where one of the reporters is after leaving Ukraine)?
The Poles are worried about the proximity of the military action. When you cross the border, you are immediately away from the intense environment of Ukraine. It’s very hard to imagine what it’s like on the ground in Ukraine once you leave.
Ukraine has been so good about putting out information during the war. When Macron and Scholtz came, Ukrainians appreciated the attention. They want to stay in the headlines, to let people know that they are in this for the long run. There was concern that there would be pressure on Zelensky about a peace deal. The public mood is very much against that.
They don’t think Putin would stop there no matter what you give him.
There were jokes about Johnson being jealous about Macron kissing Zelensky on the cheek.
Yesterday there was a report that Ukraine had detected spies, one a business leader and one a senior government official. In Kyiv, they were imparting information to the Russians. They were detained. At the start of the war, there were thought to be sleeper agents looking for Zelensky. There is still this hunt on for these people who are providing information to Russia. They are using online gaming to get information to Russia. There is a big effort by the Russians to keep these people going.
Final thoughts: Snake Island effort by Ukraine. There is an uptick on violence. That island is critical.
The message on the ground is please don’t forget about us.
“Nobody is going to break us. We are strong. We are Ukrainians.”
There has been an attack on Snake Island this morning. This indicates that there was a Ukrainian counter-attack.
There was an assassination attempt on a prison boss by the Ukrainians in the Donbas.
There is an attempt to destroy Snake Island as a military base used by the Russians. Since the losing of the island it has been a problem for the Ukrainians.
Zelensky is saying that he expects the Russians to up the ante in the east. This is in part because the EU is voting whether to accept Ukraine as a candidate for admission.
Chief of NATO said that we are in for years more of conflict in Ukraine.
There are discussions of how to free the grain.
There is still a discussion of using naval vessels to escort the grain out. Rails can be adapted to facilitate the export of grain. (Note there is a difference in the rail gauges between Ukraine and the rest of Europe.)
Germany has decided to start using coal again to decrease the amount of Russian oil they are using. This will take time. Shifts in energy policy take a great deal of time.
Unrest shook Kazakhstan in January. This involved Putin sending paratroopers to quash this unrest. They were later used to try to take Kyiv.
Putin’s speech at the economic forum, leader of Kazakhstan was on the platform with him.
Became independent in 1991. They have built up their own national identity. They have walked a tightrope between Russian, China and the US.
In northern Kazakhstan, the cities are largely populated by Russians.
There is a lot of economic sharing with Russia. Russia has a lot of levers over Kazakhstan.
The Russians expected full backing from the Central Asian countries. They have proved more independent than Putin anticipated. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have said that they back the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Kazakhstan has said that it does not regard the Donbas region as independent states. This is a policy they have had for a long time. They don’t want separatist groups in their own territories.
The Central Asian states do not want to drift into the Belarus situation, as sub-states to the Russians. They back the Kremlin a bit and the West a bit.
When Putin gave this speech at the economic forum, bombastic talk about Russia as top of a new world order. Telling the EU that the sanctions would cost them more than Russia. Video message from Egyptian president and the Chinese president.
During a question and answer session afterward, the Kazak president told Putin to his face that he did not support the Kremlin position on the independence of the Donbas region. The reporter said that he had never heard anyone challenge or contradict Putin live onstage.
There was a stunned murmur in the audience. Tokayev owes Putin. Putin sat there blankly. The moderator stepped in. twenty minutes later, Putin reminded Tokayev who was boss. He said, the Soviet Union is historic Russia. He followed by saying that Russia could have had a brotherly relation with Ukraine, but Ukraine went their own way. Kremlin code for we are happy to be friends but you have to do what we tell you.
People in Kazakhstan are worried about an invasion. It’s a “where next” guessing game.
In Uralsk, northwest Kazakhstan, people were even more concerned about Putin and an invasion. A lot of the Russians are listening to the Russian propaganda. Ethnic Russians are becoming increasingly pro-Russians. The ethnic Kazaks are more wary. While publicly blasé about the possibility, privately they are more worried.
The Kazak army would be no match even for a weakened Russian army.
How dependent are the Central Asian states on Russia? Kazakhstan is based on oil and gas, minerals, found in North and east Kazakhstan. There is a pipeline which pumps oil from West Kazakhstan into Russia. This is an important pipeline. It was considered an international success.
Kremlin ordered the pipeline closed down in April, March. They said there was storm damage. They shut it down for a month. Many think this was a warning to Kazakhstan.
It’s threatening not to know what Russia intends or is potentially threatening. You get used to playing the game. Statements that could mean anything, are translated in several ways. It’s exhausting. (Note: This is to the Kremlin’s advantage.)
The defiance of Kazakhstan as it compares to other states? Each state has their own relationship with the Kremlin. There are major Russian military bases in some of them. In Kyrgyzstan, there is a leader who is very pro-Kremlin (he came to power in a coup).
Georgia was invaded by Russia. The governing party is backed by a wealthy oligarch who earned his money in Russia and is pro-Russian. Ukraine has accused Georgia of helping Russia evade sanctions.
Putin has ben reinvigorated by successes in Donbas. His main project seems to be reinstatement o the USSR and the Peter the Great land grab. The invasion of Ukraine is a very old-school approach. He can also exert huge influence and pretty much regard the former Soviet states as his by pushing the right buttons. There is no need to risk another invasion. He can control the countries anyway.
But any invasion would be over very quicky in a country like Kazakhstan.
Northern Kazakhstan has many ethnic Russians and that could be used as a pretext for any invasion. Putin likes to use the pretext of defending ethnic Russians by military action. May be 3.5 million ethnic Russians. A lot of them live in North Kazakhstan.
The Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, Russian ally, issued a video update where he openly threatened Kazakhstan. This came quickly (two days) after the statement at the Economic forum.
Analyst are saying that Tokayev humiliated Putin live on TV.
Lavrov, last month, made a statement that Kazakhstan hosts US bio-labs and may be producing bio-weapons. This has also been said about Ukraine and Georgia (both of whom they have invaded).
Other Kremlin spokespeople have been critical on Kazakhstan. There has been some angry commentary on Russian media.
How do most people get their information? In North Kazakhstan they are watching Russian TV. They are seeing how Bacha was a fake plot. Donbas residents are being marginalized. Propaganda.
Kazakhstan is a neutral country. A Russian businessman was telling a reporter that Putin was obviously right. This was an educated man. Reporters can’t get into Russia to talk to people. (This guy was in Kazakhstan to buy a new car.)
Snake Island attacks, attempts to neutralize it as a Russian military base of operations.
Deportations of Ukrainians. Forcibly deported to Russia since the start of the invasion, many children. These are staggering numbers. Why? You have control of the minds of the next generation in Donbas? There are reports that they are being sent to camps where they cannot communicate or escape. Difficulty in reporting on this. There are some verified statistics from Russia itself.
Uralsk. Becoming a refuge for those fleeing Russia.
Putin gave a speech yesterday. St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
Sanctions against Russia will hurt the West more than Russia.
China’s Xi Jinping gave a telecast speech.
There was another talk of expansionism against Ukraine. Only three regions of Ukraine actually belong to Ukraine, the rest were given to Ukraine by Russia.
It was a defiant speech by Putin.
Official candidate status recommended by an executive committee of the EU.
Reforms including tackling corruption is on the table before full membership.
Moldova has also been recommended for membership.
In Georgia, waiting for EU membership, there are concerns about media independence and other factors. Georgia is afraid that Ukraine will be leapfrogged before them.
Assange is now being threatened with extradition to the U.S.
Previously there had been concerns that Assange would commit suicide were he extradited. The U.S. has given assurances that he would be “taken care of.”
He will be tried on espionage charges in the U.S. Supporters of Assange are concerned that once in the U.S., there might be new charges. Assange will be sent to a super max prison.
IN MOSCOW’S SHADOWS, Podcast #70, 6/18/22
This podcast is produced by Mark Galeotti, Russian specialist. He has been banned now, since June, from Russia.
He was banned for issuing biased information about the situation in Ukraine and Russia and contributing to “Russophobia.”
Putin’s speech at a conference where one of the participants is the Taliban.
Putin was, in part, trying to show that he is in good health.
Putin argued that the economic sanctions never had any chance of success. This implies that the impact of the sanctions is now able to be assessed. Galeotti says it will be months.
Is Putin trying to reassure his oligarchs? Is this his view? Are his underlings trying to sugar coat the assessment of the effects of the sanctions?
“Economic war takes time” said Galeotti.
Putin suggested he was fine with Ukraine joining the EU. But, he thinks that this is a mistake because Ukraine would become a semi-colony of the West.
There is a spat between Putin and the head of Kazakhstan. Was this a stage managed coup against the leader of Kazakhstan. Tokayev.
Lavrov, Galeotti regards with a mixture of “pity and contempt.”
Lavrov was recently coming out with the most extreme rhetoric. He claimed that Russia didn’t invade Ukraine. He claimed they “declared an operation.” Lavrov in “incapable of being shamed.”
“Russia is what it is and we are not ashamed of showing who we are.” Lavrov. This the current mood within the Kremlin. We are tired of apologizing. We are tired of being made to feel we are the naughty children. This sounds very prideful. It is the “voice of desperation.” You have not won the argument, so you say you don’t care about the argument.
In Russia there is 1) the party of peace (economic interests suffering from sanctions even though they are close to Putin), 2) the party of war (Federal Security Service, speaker of the Duma, head of the United Russia party, Medvedev who is trying to out hawk the rest), 3) the party of silence (the technocrats). The three divisions in Russia.
Where is the military in this scheme? Where is Shoigu?
Shoigu has been silent recently. We do not know why. Some say that he is in disgrace, but we don’t know. Galeotti thinks that Shoigu is keeping his head down. Putin is the final arbiter.
So much of Russia’s strategy is bluff. We are dangerous and unpredictable, don’t challenge us. In invading Ukraine, he “called his own bluff.”
Air raid sirens went off while the four European leaders were in Kyiv today. This was their first trip to Ukraine since the war began. Ukraine says that it is outmatched by 10/1 by the Russian armaments.
Ukraine, the Latest Podcast by The Telegraph
France, Germany, Italy and Romania, the leaders from these countries were in Kyiv today.
The opposition leader in Germany has been to Ukraine before Scholtz.
Zelensky has called out European leaders for weapons supply lag. France and Germany were laggers in accepting the fact that the Russians were going to invade. They have been playing catch up since then.
Germany has done an about term and promised weapons, but it has sent mostly light weapons.
Macron has faced criticism over his relationship with Putin. He has made comments about not humiliating Russia.
There are fears that they are in Ukraine to try to talk Zelensky into making concessions to calm things down so that things can get “back to normal.” Zelensky is not interested.
Today, they have been making all the right noises, but they are noises.
Macron passed a piece of graffiti that said: Make Europe, not War. Macron made some kind of statement of agreement.
The issue of membership should be important.
Germany has been very hesitant about giving weapons. They are now saying that they will supply heavy weapons.
This is watched closely in Moscow.
Macron is saying the right things, but if they are not backed up by action and continue to be backed up by picking up the phone and calling Putin, it’ useless.
Romanian prime minister is there. Talk about getting the grain out of Ukraine to the world and Romania may have a role to play. Turkey has said it’s going to host a four way meeting. Will be interesting to see if there are any comments from Romane about the blockade in the Black Sea today.
Lloyd Austin (US) has tried to bring in allies to send weapons.
U.S. servicemen captured in Ukraine.
Navalny is in a prison called Russia’s “scariest prison.”
They were expecting him to be moved after another sentence. This added another decade to his sentence.
Lawyers appeared on Tuesday at his regular jail. He was no longer there.
24-hours later, his lawyer was able to see him at the different, high security prison.
The move makes communication with his family and the outside world is more difficult.
There is cause for alarm.
Still heavy fighting going on in Sieverodonetsk. They think most of the fighters have gotten out.
The Russian fighting is increasingly “ad hoc.” Units are smaller and increasingly traveling on foot. The vehicles are just not there.
Ukrainian counter attacks in Kherson. These have been unnoticed because of the focus on the Donbas.
There are important dams there. If Russians lose these dams, it could cause a problem because they supply water to Crimea.
Mercenaries used by the Russians.
Men were called up as soon as the invasion started in Donbas, by the Russians. There have been protests from the wives of some of those conscripts. They say they have no idea what is happening with their men.
They say their men are poorly trained and supplied.
There is a new report of an intercepted conversation, two intelligence officers communicating about using prisoners of war as cannon fodder.
Officers were describing ways to use Ukrainian prisoners of war, referring to them by a slur word. They were talking about using them to demine fields, “in a natural way.”
There were also discussions about using them as free labor.
It was spoken of as a completely natural thing to do.
Recently a report from Dnipro, an officer talked about separatists in Luhansk that were badly supplied. They didn’t have helmets. The Russians would throw in a group of separatist conscripts to their own deaths, helping the Russians know where the Ukrainian forces were.
Latest report from separatist authorities, admitting, high casualties. In one report they were admitting losing half of their military members.
If Putin was deposed is there any hope of a non-authoritarian rule?
It would be a long, difficult process even if Putin was no longer there.
There was previous euphoria about Russians getting bogged down. But it could be one of the most dangerous phases of the war. Ukraine is outgunned. Russia has time on its side.
Ukrainian ammunition is running out.
The war is about territory, conquest. The “Peter the Great” speech is important. Interesting to see the language of NATO and the EU in response to this speech.
WAR ON THE ROCKS, podcast 6/13/22
Earlier on the Russians had gotten very far into the city. Now, it is unclear who controls the city.
The Russian offensive overall is that they have taken ground slowly.
They are threatening lines of communication to Sieverodonetsk.
The set us is for a battle for Kramatorsk.
Both sides are reaching a state of exhaustion. Beyond the Donbas the counteroffensive of the Ukrainians have not gotten very far.
The Russian offensive has gone slower and slower but it is still going on.
Trying to do mini-envelopments of Ukrainian troops.
Russians have to keep shifting forces around depending on where they think they are going to be successful.
This is a challenge for Ukraine. They are outmatched. More air power is being used by the Russians.
In the beginning, the Ukrainians were releasing a lot of information negative for the Russians on open-source internet. This led to a kind of euphoria that Ukraine was winning. Now, even the Ukrainians are admitting that they are outmanned and out gunned and need more.
The Russians weren’t releasing any information and so it looked like Ukraine was winning.
The first was a campaign for regime change in Kyiv. Now, it’s a campaign for territorial control.
They are now fighting the way we thought they were going to fight in the beginning, the Russians.
Ukrainian casualties are higher now. The running out of ammunition is a problem for the Ukrainians.
Ukraine has lost some of its best troops.
Minor gains are possible, but they can’t adequately take advantage of that (both sides.)
Putin has decided against a mobilization. Has been trying to buy people back into the military. It’s a “shadow mobilization.” Creating reserve battalions. Offering increasing money to conscripts. They are keen not to use conscripts.
Russians think that they will grind down the Ukrainians and that the West will get disgusted and pull out.
With the US it takes time to get the material. Maintenance is also a question for this new equipment. There are issues with technical know-how. There was gross optimism about the ability of the Ukrainians to just pick up how to use this new equipment.
This is one of the most dangerous periods of the war for Ukraine. There is a likely big operational pause.