Ukrainians are fighting for the survival of their country and that gives them an edge


By Russell Bruce

The Russians are fighting because Putin ordered them to and they are not happy

Russia, facing increasing difficulties in the war it launched on Ukraine has said it now plans to concentrate on securing Donbas in the East where the Russia/Ukraine war is now in its eighth year. The battle for the East and Ukraine’s refusal to concede to Russia’s annexation of Crimea slipped out of the headlines and Putin calculated he could launch a full scale invasion of Ukraine with minimal reaction from the West and it would be over before NATO could consider how to respond.

It would be dangerous to believe Putin. Just as his much repeated assertions that he had no plans to invade Ukraine before 24th February lacked credibility, then a whole Siberian salt mine pinch needs to be taken regarding his new stated aims. Angela Merkel, a Russian speaker, in one conversation some years ago asked Putin “What do you want”. She never got a answer that made any sense.

For long Germany and the West sought to work with both Russia and China building up trade and links in the belief that these increasing connections would raise the living standards of the people of Russia and China and produce demands for democracy. Fifty years ago Richard Nixon embarked on two major policies to reduce global tensions, developments that marked the beginning of a period of “détente”.

In February 1972 Nixon visited Beijing, setting in motion normalization of relations with the People’s Republic of China. In May, he travelled to the Soviet Union and signed agreements that contained the results of the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty talks (SALT I), and new negotiations were begun to extend further arms control and disarmament measures.

Placing Ukraine today in the context of this long play on improving East-West relations indicates Putin thought his Ukraine move would not meet serious US and European push back. Democracy in China is further away than ever with religious persecution and the total assimilation of Hong Kong into a one state, one system iron glove. Rather than moving closer together and reducing tensions 2022 leaves the West over dependent on Chinese goods and Russian oil and gas.

Ukrainian strike on Russian tanks heading towards Kyiv around 9th March

As we covered in previous analysis the US and NATO underestimated Ukraine’s military build-up, its strength because of action-experienced military forces due to the prolonged war since 2014. Logistics planning and intelligence services, long on the alert, were better geared for aggression than either NATO or Putin understood. Russian intelligence (FSB) were well aware that resistance would be much stronger than Putin was prepared to believe. That is what makes Putin both dangerous and vulnerable. If narratives don’t match what Putin expects to hear he lashes out as he did to Sergei Naryshkin, head of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), in that rediculous meeting of his Security Council held at 40 paces.

With the replacement of generals and others Putin has sharpened up the quality of armaments sent into Ukraine and increased missile strikes on cities and civilians but his forces are still bogged down on the ground. Bit by bit Ukraine is gaining ground around Kyiv. It is patiently targeting and constantly picking off Russian units. Russian troops are increasingly demoralised and they are tired. Ukrainian units are firing rounds in areas west of Kyiv in shifts all night so Russian forces are not able to get any sleep.

Putin is unlikely to be concerned about these troops. He does not want soldiers returning with stories of how strong, united and determined the Ukrainrains are as that would filter out to the civilian population, contradicting internal messaging. A NATO source has calculated that Putin has lost up to 40,000 troops made up of the dead, injured, taken prisoner and missing.

The battle in the North is far from over. After 3 days of heavy fighting the Russians have taken Slavutych, a city built for evacuees from Chornobyl and the Russians have hit an industrial facility storing fuel in the the west at Lviv.

Ukraine does not report military deaths apart from a few references to individuals who achieved much and lost their lives. Ukraine does provide daily estimates and details of civilian casualities and of children.

Nobody can predict the ongoing outcome on multiple fronts. Despite Putin’s intention to concentrate on the Eastern front it is likely action will continue on multiple fronts for some weeks at least. Ukraine has made progress west and east of Kyiv foiling Russian intentions to surround the city. They have also made some progress to the north helping to isolate remaining Russian forces holding on in Irpin and Bucha. It’s a long wade through blood and burnt tanks.

The Russians have fanned out from Crimea along the coast to the West and East. Ukraine is making significant progress in Mykolaiv and seem close to removing the remaining Russian troops still in central Kherson. Strengthening and securing this wedge in the south would isolate Russian forces remaining to the west where their elimination would provide increased security for the naval port of Odesa.

To the east, along the coast of the Sea of Azov, the destruction wrought on the people of Mariupol and the systematic obliteration of this international port city is an act of terrorism compounded with multiple war crimes. Zelensky has said Ukraine cannot retake Mariupol and shoot down Russian missiles without more weapons arriving faster.

Russian Landing ship The Orsk goes up in a ball of flames

The Ukrainians achieved a major hit at Berdyansk destroying The Orsk, a Russian landing ship, with two other vessels also damaged in the occupied Ukrainian port city of Berdyansk. Footage shows two other damaged vessel sailing away. The one further away clearly has major damage, billowing dark smoke and is not expected to take further part in the war. Those who know of such things believe the repairs could take years. The Orsk is a blackened sunken wreck, the only landing it is now capable of is to the seabed. None of the crew on board could have survived the fireball.

Two Russian naval vessels beat a retreat from the port of Berdyansk. Both have suffered damage. The one further away has sustained serious damage and appears to be on fire.

We know Putin has withdrawn troops from the occupied parts of Georgia. As we reported in the first days of the war the Russians are still occupying Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia 13 years after the supposed end of the Russo-Georgian War. Putin is moving these forces to Belarus which does not tie in with a move to concentrate on Donbas. There has long been concern Putin might attack in the West close to the Polish border. Ukraine will not be ruling out such a move and will have plans in place.

The military and people of Belarus have chosen to stand back from active engagement for Putin in Ukraine but in a positive move for Ukraine the Belarusian Volunteer Battalion has officially joined the Ukraine’s military.

26th March – Belarusian Volunteer Battalion officially become part of Ukrainian military

The battle in the North is far from over. After 3 days of heavy fighting the Russians have taken Slavutych, a city built for evacuees from Chornobyl and the Russians have hit an industrial facility storing fuel in the the west at Lviv.

This underlines Ukrainian pleas for modern missiles like the Javeline and the popular NLAWs, the next generation light anti-tank weapon supplied by Britain and more Stinger missiles with an altitude reach of 3.5km. The more supplied to Ukraine now the shorter the duration of this conflict is likely to be. Russia has failed to gain air supremacy. Ukraine is still flying and taking down Russian jets despite Russian claims to have taken out the Ukrainian air force in the first few days of the conflict.

Poland and other former Warsaw pact countries have MiG jets they want to give to Ukraine. Poland got them from Germany for 1 Euro apiece. The US has decided this is a move too far. Poland made the mistake of publically proposing they be sent via a US airbase in Germany. This needs to be looked at again urgently. Ukraine needs these planes. Analysts have calculated Ukraine is in danger of running out of planes before they run out of pilots. The FT covered this in some detail blaming poor coordination between NAT0 countries. Military opinion in the US seems divided over a direct tranfer from Poland to Ukraine. This should be Europe’s call.

Ukrainian SU-27 prepares for take off

The New York Times conducted an interview with a Ukrainian pilot only referred to as Andriy. He described identifying a Russian jet and waiting for his missile to lock on before firing. A procedure requiring incredible disipline and steel nerves. Andriy said, “I had situations when I was approaching a Russian plane to a close enough distance to target and fire,” he said. “I could already detect it but was waiting for my missile to lock on while at the same time from the ground they tell me that a missile was fired at me already.” Andriy explained that having locked on and fired his missile at the Russian jet he then had to manoeuvre his jet through extreme banks, dives and climbs until the missile aimed at his SU-27 jet had run out of fuel. Such dog fights are rare in modern combat but are happening in this war.

There can be nothing but admiration for Andriy’s skill, dedication and determination to take his target Russian jet and its payload out. The Ukrainians claim to have destroyed 117 Russian jets. Ukraine has lost jets but does not provide numbers. Ukraine needs those Polish MiG jets now as they have only a bit more than a quarter of the Russian jets currently in action over Ukraine.

From Russia with ‘love’ ??


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