Kremlinology On The Eve Of Ukrainian Attack
Fault lines emerge in Russia
“From a legal point of view, Bakhmut has been taken,” announced Yevgeny Prigozhin, a noted scholar in the law of war domain, as he planted a flag on what was supposed to be the central administrative building of Bakhmut. “The enemy is concentrated in the western parts” of the city, he claimed.
Posted on the Telegram account of Prigozhin’s press service on Sunday, it was a Potemkin victory, immediately spoiled by the death of his best propagandist. Vladlen Tatarsky (real name Maksim Fomin, photo above) was killed in a bomb attack at a Prigozhin restaurant in St. Petersburg.
Fomin achieved infamy among western war watchers when he attended Russian President Vladimir Putin’s event announcing the annexation of four Ukrainian regions on September 30 and vowed to win at any cost. “We will win, We will kill everyone, we will rob everyone as necessary. Just as we like it,” Fomin said.
But “we need to change the system” is what Fomin said that ended up taking his life. Saying it about Valery Gerasimov and the rest of Putin’s incompetents, rather than Putin himself, was still too much. Fomin’s mangled body was shown to the nation on video just to ensure everyone got the message. Especially Prigozhin, who claimed this dubious personal victory at Bakhmut at almost the same time.
Dubious, because Bakhmut is not falling. On the contrary, Ukraine seems to have withdrawn from the furthest end of the salient only so that Russians can fill it up with corpses.
Dozens of Russian attacks have been beaten back in the new contested zone, which is likely to be lousy with remote sensors and preregistered for every form of indirect fire. A ballistic missile destroys a concentration in one building, demolition charges destroy another, then here comes a captured mine-clearing vehicle serving as a field expedient area effect weapon. What new ways will Ukraine invent for killing Russians in Bakhmut today?
Bakhmut is not falling. Bakhmut is sucking Russians into itself for consumption and transmutation into compost like a Lovecraftian horror. As I had expected, troops are reportedly being pulled to Bakhmut from elsewhere in the line, reducing local troop density by attrition, creating potential weaknesses for Ukraine to exploit. Weather will determine their actions. A spell of relatively dry conditions will mean an offensive.
Being an Old Crow, I can tell the time is nigh because so many Russian electronic warfare assets have been destroyed recently. Creating and exploiting advantages in spectrum capability is key to the art of offensive action in a precision battlefield. Russian milbloggers complain about the reduced number of counterbattery radars; Ukraine enjoys greater artillery fire superiority along more of the front.
Whenever they do advance, Ukraine will be fighting a whole new kind of war. Retired Major General Mick Ryan is conservatively optimistic, but “there should be no doubt about the complexity of such operations.”
Indeed, there is no military endeavour that is more difficult to plan, orchestrate and execute than combined arms obstacle breaching. It requires every element of an army’s combined arms team - artillery, engineers, infantry, tanks, electronic warfare, ground and aerial reconnaissance and attack (including with drones and loitering munitions), logistics, intelligence and the list goes on. Indeed, the best combat brigades in armies focus on training in such operations because if they can master these activities, they can essentially do anything.
Observers wonder whether Ukraine can breach prepared Russian defenses. Ukraine is preparing to try, and also steadily reducing the number of Russians who can defend the trenches and strong points. Even the most elaborate fortress is useless without soldiers to man it.
Russians at the center of the metropole are not ignorant of these conditions. On the contrary, the siloviki are already fighting the next war with each other over who will take the blame for defeat. Prigozhin has said “Not me!” and soon enough, Putin will also say “Not me!” Gerasimov and his cronies will likely be left in the cold, for thier miserable winter offensive has ruined the mobilized force.
This is why Fomin had to die.
Russian authorities say that they knew about the plot to kill Fomin the whole time. About this, they are probably not lying. They likely did know because they almost certainly arranged the whole thing.
Everyone in Russia understands this. It is coded into the staging of the explosion. For example, no security was present at the event.
A local female sculptor carried the bomb into the gathering. She had it hidden in a figurine, which she gifted to Fomin, introducing herself as Nastya. The bomb exploded three to five minutes later.
A soldier and war correspondent, Fomin was telling a small audience of about 100 people about his observations at the front when the bomb detonated, wounding 30 people according to Russian authorities.
Russian police detained the artist, Daria Trepova, who was arrested for anti-war protests in St. Petersburg during February 2022. The late Cold War spy novelist John Le Carré would recognize Trepova, 26, as a patsy, and Fomin’s death as a tool with many uses.
Peskov's comments came after Russia’s Anti-Terrorist Committee (NAC) claimed that the attack was orchestrated by Ukraine’s intelligence services.
The NAC said that Kyiv had allegedly “recruited” Trepova as an “active supporter” of jailed Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny and his political network, which is banned as “extremist” in Russia.
The special operation and the special mobilization will now be succeeded by the special state of permanent emergency. Ukrainians are now hiding under every bed, working with the peace movement, and blowing up gatherings of Z-patriots.
Everyone impacted by this event is someone that Vladimir Putin wants to reduce, right now, knowing how bad things really are in Ukraine.
Prigozhin acknowledged this relationship in his immediate comments after the bombing. "Indeed, I gave the cafe to the patriotic movement KIBER FRONT Z, and they held various seminars there,” he said.
The Wagner mercenary boss further acknowledged comparisons to another mysterious terror bombing in the last year, but further obscured responsibility with a suggestion that the problem is home-grown.
“As for the death of Daria Dugina — yes, everything is similar,” he said. “But I wouldn't blame the Kyiv regime for these actions. I think a group of radicals who are unlikely to have any connections with the government are acting.”
No wonder alcohol is a leading cause of noncombat death in the Russian armed forces. What is a good Russian soldier supposed to do, knowing that nothing matters? That nothing will change, and that no real help is coming? They drink, of course. We can hardly blame them for despair.
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