'Digging With Bayonets': Russian Mobilization Is Too Little, Too Late To Save Kherson
An update on some themes
Russian men mobilized since the end of September are already being killed, wounded, and captured in Kherson, a herald of defeat.
According to the BBC, which obtained a recording of a mobilized man from Chelyabinsk calling home after being wounded, conscripted Russians have been forced to dig their trenches with bayonets.
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“The drones are throwing grenade launchers one by one,” the unidentified draftee says. A new batch of viral videos depicting such small-drone attacks in Kherson corroborates his impression.
He describes an abortive attempt to counterattack Ukrainian advances without even a trip to the rifle range for training.
“No cover, the armored personnel carrier that covered us was burned, the tank was burned. During a respite, I ran, corpses were all around. I hear a mine whistle. I don’t know how I got out,” the man says.
As predicted by many oberservers, including this writer, Russian mobilization came far too late and has been much too disorganized to succeed in generating the level of combat power necessary to stop Ukraine.
Various sources indicate that Russian troops may be preparing to withdraw from the northern part of the Oblast in the next week. Pontoons have reportedly been assembled on the right bank of the Dnipro.
As the Russain position collapses, collaborators have begun to flee and fresh reports of looting abound. The (Russian) governor of Kherson requested Kremlin assistance with evacuations yesterday. Emphasis mine:
“I am addressing the leadership of [Russia]. I’d like to ask you for help in organising this,” he said, saying his government was recommending evacuation primarily to people living on the western side of the Dnipro river, where Ukraine is gaining ground. But the offer was open to all residents, he said.
“We know that Russia doesn’t abandon its own,” he added, appearing to pass responsibility to Moscow. The phrase has been used widely by Russia, including on state TV, to back up one of the pretexts for its invasion of Ukraine — the “protection” of Russian speakers there.
Vladimir Putin sent the best remaining units in his army to Kherson in a futile effort to hold an untenable position. They are now attrited, exhausted, and demoralized, whereas their enemies are stronger than ever.
Amazing if true: according to Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of the Ukrainian National Security Council, the nation’s air defenses are now shooting down “at least 85 percent” of the Shahed-136 kamikaze drones provided to Russia by Iran.
Whereas Russian arms are in decline, it took Ukraine just about a month of bombardent with Shahid drones to effectively neutralize the strategic threat.
As I explained last week, this success is primarily an electromagnetic warfare (EW) victory. With the help of foreign partners who are unwilling or unable to provide comabt weaponry, Ukraine has developed a vital technological edge over Russia that explains much of their success on land, in the air, and at sea.
Reports yesterday that at least four Russian attack helicopters were shot down in a single engagement over Kherson underscore the point.
Whereas Ukrainian pilots fly dozens of sorties a day with few losses, Russian air regiments have lost over 500 aircraft since February, and EW goes a long way to explain why.
“Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin is likely continuing efforts to distinguish himself and Wagner Group forces from more conventional Russian and proxy troops,” says the Institute for the Study of War in last night’s update.
Prigozhin emphasized in a comment to Russian outlet RIA FAN that Wagner Group forces singlehandedly took control of Ivanhrad, a settlement just south of Bakhmut, on October 13. However, the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Territorial Defense Force claimed that Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) and DNR joint forces took control of Ivanhrad and the nearby settlement of Opytne, apparently contradicting Prigozhin’s statement that “not a single person from other units, except for employees of the Wagner Private Military Company” was in Ivanhrad at the time of its capture. Prigozhin additionally rebutted the claim that Russian forces have taken Opytne and stated that fierce fighting is ongoing on its outskirts. The disconnect between Prigozhin’s and the DNR Territorial Defense’s claims, as well as Prigozhin’s apparent desire to have Wagner Group fighters receive sole credit for the capture of Ivanhrad, is consistent with ISW’s previous observations that Prigozhin is jockeying for more prominence against the backdrop of his recent harsh critiques of the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) establishment.
Ukrainian reports indicate that Russians did not stay on top of Ivanhrad for very long, withdrawing in the face of a counterattack. Clearly, Prigozhin is creating his own legend here by putting Wagner boots in Bakhmut, the Donbass city which has become a talisman to Russian nationalits.
With Ukraine advancing on Svatove in the north and the debacle unfolding in Kherson, the timing of this meaningless assault — as well as Prigozhin’s self-glorifying claim — suggest that he may have seen the writing on the wall, and made this move now, before Wagner is forced to join in a general withdrawal.
Only time will tell.
Russian bombing of civilian targets in response to battlefield defeats has not softened resistance in Kyiv — or anywhere else, for that matter.
Washington has doubled-down on getting air defense help for Ukraine. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin described a mutli-layered system as the top priority for the US and NATO partners.
Meeting this week in Brussels, the group of NATO countries supporting Ukraine also pledged much more besides, such as winter clothing.
Today, another meeting including representatives of various government ministries from 30 nations aims to further reduce Russian mobilization potential with even more sanctions.
The West has already had success curtailing Russia’s access to semiconductor technology and parts for tanks and helicopters. Now the focus is on identifying and targeting areas where Russia already has a critical shortage.
Sanctions by the global coalition have caused Russian factories to close, depleted the military’s arsenal and forced the Kremlin leader to increasingly rely on North Korea and Iran as arms suppliers, per the Treasury Department — signs that the collective action is working.
Machiavelli wrote that it is best to be loved and feared, but that given a choice between the two, it is better to be feared than loved. Putin’s Russia was never loved, and fear of Russia diminishes before our eyes every day.
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