by Michael Hammerschlag
FULL UKR COVERAGE: HAMMERBLOG THIS PAGE: http://bit.ly/1q8y9f9
AUG 27 UPDATE below Russian Convoy Rolls In + RETURNS EuroMaidanPress Kiev: AUG 15-31 Rebel Cmdr. STRELKOV retired-wounded?- Girkin may have been pickled- after disappearing for several days, former DPR self-appointed Speaker Pushilin (Russian)+ Donetsk “peoples Governor” Gubarov (interview) first said rebel commander + FSB/GRU Colonel Igor Girkin (Strelkov) may have been seriously wounded; now the story is he has quit, says the Donetsk Peoples Republic press service, another report has his finger shot off in a battle with Zakharchenko! I may have been first in warning that new Dep. PM Moscow appointee, 20 year Transdniester KGB head Vladimir Antyufeyev may have been sent to dispatch Igor for threatening the Little Big Man (aka VVP)- he had said Putin better support the rebels or he would end up like Serb strongman Milosovic (on trial in the Hague) or the deposed Czar; Guberov said Putin “betrayed NovaRoosyia’. Worse, once liberal Echo Moscow radio reported Strelkov was outpolling Putin, a virtual death sentence, since interfering in politics (once uber-oligarch Khodorkovsky’s true “crime”) includes being popular. “Shooter” (Strelkov in English) is not the type to retire- either he was badly hurt or has been arrested and jailed by Russia, never to be seen again. Meanwhile Lugansk “PR” leader Valery Bolotov has also been wounded and “quit” and Gubarov just went to Russia, meaning almost all leading Russian Separatists have been removed (inc. “Prime Minister” Borodai, “Demon” Bezler, Pushilin)- they had already purged the Ukrainian leaders. 4 possible scenario reasons:
1. Putin is pulling the plug on the whole foul adventure- coupled with his strangely conciliatory speech in Crimea- “We must calmly.. build up our country with dignity, not fence it off from the outside world,…(Ukraine) has plunged into a bloody chaos, a fratricidal conflict, a humanitarian catastrophe. We will do all we can to stop this conflict as soon as possible and end bloodshed in Ukraine.” (not carried on Russian TV or Internet). He has done the math again, and realized it adds up to zero long term future for him (what I predicted in April- that he’s unleashed titanic forces that will sweep him away in 4-5 years)- Russian bans on food + sanctions have started to bite, capital flight could be $200 billion this year; so the Russian Separatists must be crushed- they are real radicals who would accuse the Kremlin of cowardice when he stands down, which would fly in the newly ferociously Rusky imperialistic public- if this scenario is true, look for other passionate NovaRoosiya voices in Russia to be suddenly silenced. Without “inspirational” Strelkov, much of the true believer and mercenary brigades should vaporize (though the latter is easier- just don’t pay them). Then the aid convoy is a genuine offering- the fact that the trucks are almost empty could mean they are there to withdraw the Rebels and armaments!, though done in a standard bullying style to terrorize Ukr. Even when publicity is vital to their plans, Russians keep things secret- until 36 years later America didn’t know they already had 162 nukes on Cuba in the Cuban Missile Crisis (McNamara Aud – “If you don’t tell people you have them, there’s NO DETERRENCE!”). Though logically, since Russia has been claiming there were no Russians or vehicles in Ukraine, they can’t overtly go in to remove them- their idiotic fictions must be maintained.
2. He replaced all the Russians to put a Ukrainian face on the whole occupation- the dominance of Russians was noted by all and a continuing PR disaster re. the supposed “peoples revolt” against the “Nazi junta” in Kyiv. Also every leader has been off the reservation, telling the truth about the Russian Separatists shooting down MH17, and various other crimes- the Kremlin likes strict obedience to the official BS line- just their presence in Ukraine has made them unreliably honest; it must be something in the water. Novaya Gazeta‘s Dima Muratov says Borodai called Moscow papers and admitted they shot down an airliner! [Now pay me for my opus AGW article, Dima!] This argues for long-term occupation, though the tactical domination of Ukrainian forces doesn’t! Alex Borodai greets new DPR “PM” Alex (3rd) Zakharchenko-
So this includes a complete invasion by Russian forces to “stabilize” the situation (amputate another part of Ukraine to become a festering frozen zone). The 90% empty Potemkin aid trucks and fat military escort are then really triggers for the invasion, when they are “attacked” by evil Kyiv (actually Russian artillery or rockets)- Gubarov’s interview hints of that as well as the SBU claim that MH17 missile was actually supposed to shoot down an Aeroflot plane as a trigger for invasion, but the Buk operators went to the wrong Pervomaisk (see Aug 10 Blog)! Meanwhile huge Russian military convoys are on the move through Belgorod, Rostov, Krasnodar (100 including Grads) and a 142 vehicle Russian military convoy crossed into Ukraine through Dibrovka (300 km of border open!). Strelkov’s replacement Defense Min., Vlad Kononov, is a local, and his deputy is another Strelkov. 3 bad developments the 22nd- the Lithuanian honorary council Mykola Zelenek was kidnapped and killed by rampaging Separatists (Demjin was on the turned back last plane with him from Kiev to Crimea in March), NATA Sec. General Rasmussen said regular Russian troops are now shelling Ukraine from inside Ukraine– that they’ve crossed the border with artillery, and Russian vehicles are still streaming to and through the border. This may be to maximize pressure on Kyiv before the Minsk summit.
3. Putin has snapped (Article), and under grinding pressure from all sides and extreme isolation, isn’t functioning completely rationally- he is playing all sides, despite some partially canceling each other out. In his Aug 27 Minsk press conference (see 5:40m, 9:10, they removed the video that showed only him), he bobs and rocks, looks really stressed, extremely sad- almost about to cry, takes huge breaths to steady himself 3 or 4 times, shudders 2-3 times. looks down. The president now demands briefs to be three pages or less in 18 point or bigger type (so really 2 pages- Bush could handle only 1).
OR having multiple options and exits is standard KGB training and the diminutive Master of the Universe hasn’t decided yet, thinks he is very clever in keeping all his options open, and is still in charge. Sadly, he is…. in charge. The first part of this is by far the most dangerous, because there’s no way to predict what he will do.
4. Putin isn’t going to fully invade,
but just send enough troops to bleed and damage Ukraine until they cry Uncle, or maybe form a Novaroosia out of whatever he can get, though taking much more territory will take alot more forces. But the stretched and abused Ukr. National Guard may be close to cracking… and quitting.. (Ilovaisk slaughter helped) in which case Ukr positions could collapse fast, since they’ve been doing the heavy fighting in the cities.
5. Both leaders were really wounded, the Ukrainians are kicking asc and are really close to winning, leading to Scen. 1, 2, 3, or 3b: Putin starts a nuclear war. The Ukrainians are close to winning, though the costs to the big Russian Separatist urban strongholds would be extreme. Though bad news on Aug 24: New DPR leader Zakharchenko says 1200 Russian reinforcements arrived in Lugansk, trained for 4 months in Rostov, with 30 tanks, and 120 APCs (military blogger Tymchuk confirms that 40 “heavy armor” have entered)- Ukr MUST close the border to ever really win.
remnants of rebel tank blasted by Ukrainians-
I really don’t know- I’d now say 19% probability of scenario #1, 22% #2, 24% #3, 28% #4, 4% #5, 2% #3b (revised Aug 31). Every day that goes by without an serious invasion tilts probability to 1 or 4, but since the overt reg. Army incursions have started in Azov, and Putin’s relief/looting convoys have now established their “right” to roll in, that count may be suspended.
The low number for #5 is only because probability of both these leaders being wounded or removed at once is very low. Nothing could be better news than Strelkov removed or killed- he is the heart of the Russian Separatist effort- couldn’t understand why Ukrainians weren’t targeting the leaders- a legitimate tactic in every war. Even considering the fate of the poor hostages, blasting the Donetsk Regional Admin building or the Lugansk SBU, could be a decisive game-changing blow; ~620 Ukrainian soldiers are dead, 2400 wounded, 2300 civilians, 3000? rebels, 5 people I know, no 9 from the latest photos of the casualties- 4 more guys from Maidan. I’ve longed for some astute precise commando actions. Strelkov is a stone killer (“Get that body out of the basement- it’s stinking up the place!”– re. the tortured/murdered Horlivka councilman, who dared try hoist a Ukrainian flag on the city council), and should be hunted down. The courageous local artist who specialized in mocking Separatists (Just Do It!), Sergei Zakharov, also has been disappeared by Russian Separatists in Donetsk.
The mysterious half-empty slow-motion white convoy has all crossed the Ukrainian border near Luganskv from 11:10am Aug 22 through the rebel controlled crossing at Izvarinye, with some Russian Separatists, according to sources, without Red Cross, OSCE or Ukrainian accompaniment or express permission from Ukraine. By noon Saturday- all returned to the border and 1/3 had already crossed back into Russia- impossibly fast to get to a war torn area without people to unload, disperse, unload, and return back through the shelling area, precision that almost screams military operation. Reportedly they looted military production equipment from the Topaz plant which makes Kolchuga radar, an Lugansk ammo magazine factory, and others, trying to secure needed parts for their military machine before withdrawing the invaders- arguing for #1. SBU head Nalyvaichenko called it a “direct incursion” and claimed the trucks contained military gear for the Russian Separatists, while the Russian Foreign Ministry threatened Ukraine to not interfere with it (We are warning against any attempts to thwart this purely humanitarian mission…those who are ready to continue sacrificing human lives… will assume complete responsibility for the possible consequences of provocations) . Another highly suspicious event- there were a counted 270 trucks in the convoy, but only 227 crossed into + out of the border, claimed OSCE pbservers, so 43 trucks were peeled off for some reason. Only 34 of the 270 trucks had been inspected, Russians supposedly stopped Ukraine from more, but they had 1 week to do this, finding what these consisted of was a vital national security issue– so the Russian charges of foot-dragging seem justified. As of Aug 31, a 2nd convoy that slipped down under the radar is sitting at the border about to continue the humanitarian looting.
All parties (Seps) had not given security guarantees in negotiations between Ukr, Seps, and Red Cross, and in fact Russian Separatists started to shell it, so they stopped., backtracked and diverted north along the border to enter from Stanitsya-Lugansk to the NE… an area fully controlled by Kyiv, yet spokesman Lysenko claimed to not know where they were. They expect the convoy to proceed to specified locations in Lugansk, but at the crux of the battle is really lousy timing- my suspicions it went 80-90% to the Russian Separatists, who controlled its distribution, and because it wasn’t inspected, it may have all types of military gear, say 100 Buk missiles or 1000 Igla Stingers- easy to have 20 Trojan trucks embedded in such a huge number at the 180th truck- reporters invited to inspect random trucks, wouldn’t hop in a car and drive 2 km down to check those. The 80-90% empty trucks then make sense as a shell game- just try to find the one with the nut. Russia also promised more aid convoys- once you invade a country humanitarianly, it’s easy to do it again.
-Russian Convoy Inside Ukraine Aug 22 humanitarian 9k22 Tunguska AA missile-cannon-
In the bizzaro-world of DPR, the relief had not crossed because it would be considered an invasion, meanwhile another 23 Russian military vehicles- including APCs- just DID (more recently 30 more), crossing under the eyes of journalists (after perhaps 900-1300 already have), to add to the 142 that did Aug 13 on the way to Snezhnye on the crucial Donetsk-Lugansk route, where the MH17 killer Buk was stationed. The ATO said it attacked and partially destroyed the smaller of these convoys. The relief convoy had a military wing of APCs, trucks and helicopters, inc a new toy- a 9k22 Tunguska AA missile-cannon- very strange PR for a purported relief mission. Forcing them to go through rebel-held territory revealed to the world the scale of Russia’s continuous incursions- which media are laughably reacting to as if it is a new phenomenon.
-Potemkin Russian aid @CourtneyMoscow
Several reporters were allowed to inspect random trucks by the relaxed ex-military khaki t-shirt, shorts, +cap wearing drivers- all reported it was only food + supplies, but still only 10-20% full, as I said on Aug 14th: One thing strange: why are these “aid” trucks so light– 2000mt/270 (avg of 5#’s of trucks)= 7.4MT a semi- these things can hold 28-35 tons! Whats in em- cheese puffs, marshmallows? No… humanitarian air, apparently. An official car from Red Cross with diplomatic plates finally arrived to consult with the Russian deliverymen and Ukrainian officials. Note my 270 truck guesstimate was verified by Oliphant from convoy leaders- numbers had ranged from 200-297; often, operating from a torrent of conflicting information, my assessments are excruciatingly accurate.
Ukraine is also getting in on the PR war- sending 75 trucks with 800 tons of relief East from various cities Aug 14th, which arrived Aug 15th in several cities- full, including Lysychansk; Gov. Kolomoisky claims he will send 10,000 tons. These trucks were full. They should make sure some of that gets to the hundreds of thousands of refugees inside Ukraine proper, who are barely scraping by, including a few friends.
The white convoy aid sat in Russian Voronezh until Aug 14 dawn, according to FT Moscow dep. bureau head Courtney Weaver, various media had them everywhere. They were first supposed to go through the Ukrainian controlled border at Kharkiv, but Ukraine’s Interior Min. Avakov, paranoid about provocations, said no crossing there, so they have moved near the rebel Izvarinye crossing- just East of Lugansk- totally uncontrolled- very risky business- if it is part of massive set-piece invasion.
This all could be psych warfare, but Putin’s got so many plates in the air, some have to smash soon.
Russian military convoy in Rostov Reg, near Donbass, heading to Ukraine-
Michael Hammerschlag’s articles (HAMMERNEWS.com) have appeared in NYT, IHT, Seattle Times, Providence Journal, Columbia Journalism Review, Yahoo, Hawaii Advertiser; Moscow News, Tribune, Times, and Guardian, Novaya Gazeta; Kyiv Post, Kyiv Weekly, Politics in Ukraine, and Business Ukraine. He’s spent 9 years over the last 23 in Russia & Ukraine, has covered this story since (FULL COVERAGE) Nov 1st, wrote 2 long articles on the EU Association Agreement and Crimean Invasion for Yahoo, and warned of Ukraine’s loss of Independence in May 2010 after Yanukovich’s election. hammerschlag AT hotmail.com
UPDATE: August 27 4pm
Latest is Putin has sent 100 vehicle (vid) column w many tanks across the border by Gukova and more across the border near Azov Sea and is fighting for control of Novoazovsk + towns running north to Donetsk to break the seige of the RusSeps. The Ukrainians continue to advance in could have been the last phase of this war, taking ground in Torez and Shaktarsk (MH17 cities on the supply lines to Donetsk), wiping out a command center near Horlivka, according to Australian photog Demjin Doroschenko: “The Russian Separatists lost alot of men and material there.” Doroschenko was next to the rebel Vostok Battalion in the Kievsky district of Donetsk, the fierce rebel group that has been the bane of Kyiv troops. “It’s been bad- bombs, bodies, deaths, explosions, mortars,” he says.
– Ukrainians load a Grad Missile w a 20kg warhead.
Ilovaysk, just SE of Donetsk is 2/3 Ukrainian controlled– the Ukrainian flag is flying over the City Council bldg, says the ATO and Demjin spokesman, but torrid fighting continues there for the last week (Donbass Bat. commander Semenchenko was seriously wounded and American Pvt. “Franko” killed), and fighting in the cities of Zhdanivka, Makiyivka, Khartsyzsk, Debaltsevo, Yasynuvata, and Starobesheve. Makiyivka borders Donetsk to the east and Yasynuvata to the north. In a sign of desperation, Russian Separatists threatened the death penalty for desertion or looting, as reporters describe drunken rebels crashing cars in the same place 3 times, the last time seriously injuring 4- the thug then got out of his car, waved a pistol around, and kicked the victims. I asked how Demjin could be traveling with the Separatists at this late date, “I want to get an interview before they are all killed.” In another report from Ilovaisk with the Donbas Battalion on Aug 22nd night, he was more downbeat, “It’s the sht- we just had 5 guys, killed 14 wounded. They’re hitting us with everything, artillery, Grads, mortars, RPGs (inc. fragmentation ones that do air burst) snipers. They have the high ground so we are exposed. You can hear the shells coming- you have 4 1/2 seconds to dive in a hole or somewhere low… so I haven’t got hit yet… The Rebels maybe have 200 Grad trucks, we’ve destroyed about half of them.” In his last report Aug 24, he couldn’t talk, “We’re under fire, they’re walking in mortars on us- gotta go!” I finally reached Demjin after 8 days of trying Sept 1, but I’m very very worried for Andre Samobarona, whom I wrote several dispatches about in 2 hours of interviews from the front, last in Ilovaisk, his phone hasn’t rang since Aug 18th. Ukraine has been wary of using air power, except in Lugansk, where there were fewer AA missiles, but that changed with the latest Russian military convoy. In Donetsk, Rebels were firing heavy artillery right from the center Tuesday, and the noose is growing tighter- “Not closed yet, but close,” says Demjin who reached 4.5 km from the center 11 days ago with the Donbas Battalion. NYT interviews the new inexperienced DPR leaders, which have included a science fiction author, the owner of a dog behavior school, a man who was a Santa Claus, a public heath inspector, the operator of a Ponzi scheme; all probable sacrifices to the advancing Ukrainians.
BMD log of Russian Pskov Div fighting in Ukrainian –
And far Eastern Lugansk, near the Russian border, is falling- Ukrainian troops penetrated to the NE Zhovteny district by Aug 17- 7km from the center; it is under relentless air and artillery assault, including from Russian territory on the Ukrainian positions, but wasn’t entirely surrounded- some of the 1200 Russian reinforcements, trained for 4 months in Rostov, 150 vehicles, 30 tanks just got in- military blogger Tymchuk says 40 heavy armor (interview Aud@4:01 mp3). Now it is supposedly sealed, but has suffered without electricity, water, or phone for 23 days, 3 weeks without trash pickup, lines are long for food, and the streets are deserted. LA Times says a significant part of Lugansk is in Ukrainian hands with 43 deaths, including 9 Ukraine soldiers. A fleeing group of Lugansk refugees through the Ukrainian safe corridor, flying white flags, was pounded allegedly by Russian Separatist Grad rockets, killing 18. Some were burned alive in their cars, reports Kyiv Post‘s enterprising Chris Miller. Russian Seps have warned some residents that they couldn’t flee, banned and seized personal cars, and blockaded some escape routes. Like Adolph, some want the residents to also perish in their own personal Gotterdammerung. Tymchuk says desperate residents who haven’t had their cars stolen by rebels, are selling them for $75-150, maybe anticipating they’ll be destroyed. The Russians have begun to fight among themselves: a “Trifon”, who fought alongside Strelkov in Slaviansk uses Russian curses to condemn local rebels for doing “nothing at all” and says he needs a way out to return to Russia. Mercenaries don’t fight to the death and these people have no stake in the Donbas.
10-15 Russian Pskov paratroopers were killed in Ukraine, and bodies sent back o Russia- another cargo 200, “They didn’t have a chance- got hit by mortars on one side and Grads on the other”, said a commander at the funeral. Another 10 Russians were captured in the southeast corner of Ukr, 25km over the border, which Russia says they crossed by mistake, though soldiers admitted they knew they were going into Ukraine. And in another first, Russian MI-24 helicopters attacked a Ukr border post and killed 4. ,
Older 40-rocket Grad BM21
Merkel came to Kiev Aug 23, supposedly she chats with Poroshenko every day, but she has long been semi-housebroken by Putin, unable to forget her DDR youth, she thinks Putin has a valid right to interfere in the FSU, and is likely to push that view- she may push for Ukraine to recognize Russia’s theft of Crimea (fine if it really brings peace, but Putin can’t really be trusted as far as one can spit). Merkel said the key is to control the border (with the impotent OSCE)- of course, but Poroshenko was clear: “What is stopping (a peaceful settlement) are the foreign mercenaries. Take the people with guns out of our territory….and peace in Ukraine will be quickly restored.” The German Vice-Chancellor probably revealed the agenda- push Ukraine, on the verge of a bloody victory into adopting “Federalism”, not as it is practiced in Germany or America or Russia itself (not)- no, this special version would leave Donbas defacto independent to be controlled by Kremlin stooges. Yet the leadership has agreed has to talks on the 26th with Putin, EU, and bizarrely, the leaders of Khazakstan and Belarus in Minsk- what they can bring is unknown, except for Customs Union weight on the Putin side- maybe it is an object lesson to them in the risks of imperial displeasure, or give them a stake in torturing Ukraine. We’ve been down this road before, unless the EU has some HUGE sticks, there no reason Putin will agree to anything, unless of course… he does to end Russia’s estrangement. Putin has bizarrely babbled about the problem with EU goods getting into Russia, as if this is a trade meeting! Poro and Putin’s looks at each other have been classic- Putin leering like a child molester, Poro casting him looks that could kill- they had a private meeting were he could have made that so. Not auspicious beginning- and every US squawk about Putin’s incursions without any action underlines our manifest impotence. My sense is that Poroshenko is grasping at straws to avoid the nightmare of assaulting Donetsk, and has been a sucker for this before, but keeping it up can display Ukraine’s morality- that it is good PR.. but bad warcraft, however PR is a very essential part of warcraft, so maybe he is clever after all.
Grads (Hail in Eng- above) are 24-40 unguided rocket trucks with a ~20 km range, inaccurate at longer ranges, but terrifying weapons that can blanket an entire area 400M squared with death and destruction (video), esp. fired in concert with other trucks- 1 full battalion has 18 trucks, 720 rockets! “They’re being pounded from 4 sides with Grads. They said goodbye,” were the last words of a wiped out Ukrainian detachment. Both side have used Grads, the Seps far more, which are really effective only for targets in the open under 10km away.
US Ukr soldier Mark Paslovsky (Franko)-
Sadly American/Ukrainian hero, millionaire ex-investment banker Ukrainian diaspora Mark Paslowski (Vice video), 55, known as Franko in the Donbas Battalion, who’d lived 20 years in Lviv, was killed in Grad, Fagot, and artillery shelling in Ilovaisk Aug 19th. I was set to interview him but Andre hadn’t given me his number yet.
He was a scathing critic of Gov incompetence in his Twitter feed:
-pic.twitter.com/tJXU6va9f2 – Gear FRANKO (Mark Paslavsky) carries
-Leadership in ATO at every level is incompetent, way out of date, and extremely Soviet. Every soldier will confirm this. No respect 4 soldiers
-often travel 100+ kilometers to get to point 20 km away in ATO All about controlling roads. Getting lost part of the process unfortunately; Terrifying to travel in convoys at night. Mostly in buses. — Right sector guys got lost couple of days ago and ran into DNR roadblock. Bad end
-About 25k ATO troops in east. I think we need 50k but for whatever reason Ukraine/PP reluctant. No troops, no money western pressure ?
-Guys in our battalion received 1st pay for past 2 months. They got the giant sum of about 1000 hryvnias or $85 USD. Insulting
-Unfortunately many Ukrainians starting to view PP as just more of the same, a fat gluttonous oligarch –http://t.co/bjXyJVrhPd
-Cmmdr PIC http://t.co/Nk2TVEyKne
-Cmmndr PIC on tank: http://t.co/LIVTL5PA6r
–BEST PIC: Armored vehicle PIC “If this flag troubles you we’ll help gather your things” pic.twitter.com/lxsXTqIBxG
-Had to leave a extremely well fortified terrorist post yesterday due to amount of fire from post and Russian side of border.
-Ukrainian army doesn’t get anywhere near the credit it deserves. Poorly led equipped trained but still kicking ass everyday. Real heroes. AMEN… RIP Msta 152mm tankish artillery
And besides the many fearsome 122 mm Gvozdika self-propelled howitzers (a tank with less armor w a 15km range), several of which have seen seen in Russian Separatist areas; now the bigger 152mm Msta has shown up approaching Ukraine, with a 36km range (22 miles), this can accurately pummel even distant Ukrainian positions.
Another Mig29 fell to the evil Buks missiles Aug 17, the 2nd top-of-the-line Soviet fighter they’ve lost, a SU24 ground attack jet, and 2 Mi24 helicopters Aug 19-20. Ukraine has been wary of using air power, except in Lugansk, where there were fewer AA missiles, but that changed with the latest Russian military convoy, and the frenzy of fighting before “peace” meetings and Independence Day. They’ve lost 18 aircraft now with 87 crew- 10 helicopters and 8 planes: one An-30B, one An-26, one Il-76, one Su-24M, two MiG-29s(rt), and two Su-25s, worth about $250 mil total.
Ukraine held it’s 23rd Independence Day celebration to moderate crowds- with a military parade at 10am, NOT 11am, thank you KP, replete with a military convoy of Tochka SRBM, Grads, et al. Russian Separatists countered with their own parade of Ukr handcuffed morose prisoners a la Moscow w Germans in 1944, even copying the contemptible following them with street washers to wash off the stink. That should earn them some good treatment when they are captured.