The Rout of the Russian Army in the North

September 10, 2022

In the interest of preserving some of the sense of momentum, I will combine two of my Facebook posts, one from 18hrs ago, and one I wrote just now.

The Situation on September 9th

September 9th post, 18 hours ago

ZSU has reached Oskil River south of Kupyansk and east of Izyum. The Russians blew up some, but not all, of the bridges over the river, and the Ukrainians immediately crossed it in hot pursuit of the VSRF units falling back east. (The continued pressure on retreating Russian forces by highly mobile ZSU units is one reason the Russians have been unable to stop and organize their defenses.) ZSU has been conducting mopping up operations east of Izyum as well, with Russian Telegram channels screaming that “the defense of Izyum has begun” (still no confirmation of this).

The Ukrainians seem to have opened yet another line of attack, from Sloviansk toward Lyman, to the south-east of Izyum. If they take this city and then strike North, the situation of VSRF in Izyum will become critical as it would be extremely hard to send reinforcements.

Meanwhile, the Russians continue to throw themselves against the echeloned defenses at Bakhmut and Andriivka, where the situation remains very tense. The Ukrainians defenses are holding up despite the attackers being among the best Russian units (the mercenaries, rather than the contract soldiers).

Inside the Kremlin

Pro-Russian channels reported two remarkable incidents from yesterday and today, both during emergency meetings Putin had with the Security Council and various military commanders to discuss the developing disaster in Ukraine.

Yesterday, one of the commanders was, apparently, drunk and told Putin what he thought of his leadership and the war, complete with unprintable language.

Today, another commander, this one sober, told Putin point blank, “Vladimir Vladimirovich, you lost this war.”

The Russians, of course, lost this war months ago but it is becoming increasingly difficult to hide that, and Putin’s micromanaging of operations just provides more fodder for criticism of his decisions. He overruled Gerasimov’s original plan (not that it would have worked) in favor of the Blitzkrieg, and now he regularly interferes with the chain of command. This is going to provide ample opportunities for scapegoating after Russia is defeated, all of the “if it had not been for Putin’s inept leadership, we would have totally won this war” variety.

Putin, apparently, has been paralyzed with indecision. He just cannot make up his mind how to continue the war or get out of it. He rejected mobilization plans early in the spring (these would have been ready now), and insists on waging war as if there isn’t one. But the charade cannot continue indefinitely. Now that the US resolved to see this war to Russia’s defeat, decisions are getting even more complicated. Even if some Europeans succumb to the gas blackmail — and there is no indication that they will — the US/UK have enough resources to keep going with the support of the Eastern Europeans (who would probably enter the war before they let Ukraine lose).

So what is Putin to do? In a few months, Russia will probably have to look for any means to end the war, giving up all territorial gains, up to, and including, Crimea. I am sure Putin will try to get out with something that looks like gains (keeping Crimea would, by then, look like a victory) but I do not believe the Ukrainians will let him. To my mind, it will not be possible to end this war while Putin is in charge. So he would have to go, either into voluntary retirement or in some more traditional ways Russians dispose of leaders who have outlived their usefulness.

Unfortunately, this means that whatever successes ZSU achieve now, the prospect of peace must remain elusive. Barring unforeseen dramatic changes in the Kremlin, this war will continue into 2023.

September 10th post, 1 hour ago

The rout of the Russians in Kharkiv Oblast

The situation on September 10th

Events are happening so fast, I can hardly write these updates. The ZSU has routed the Russians in Kharkiv Oblast. There is no other way to describe it. The Ukrainians have taken Kupyansk and Izyum, and are now pressing toward Lyman and Lysychansk (Severodonetsk). They are poised to liberate the western part of Luhansk Oblast, and may press all the way to the border with Russia in the North as there are reports that VSRF have abandoned Volchansk as well (waiting for confirmation on that one). This town is merely 7km from the border.

The Russian Ministry of Defense issued a statement claiming that they have “relocated” forces from the Izyum area to Donetsk, but this fantastic explanation can’t hold up to the avalanche of videos and posts on pro-Russian channels.

It looks like the Russians simply fled from Izyum, abandoning their ORDLO allies and Rossgvardiya units, which then surrendered without a fight. The attempt to stem the Ukrainian advance by regrouping fleeing forces proved futile (it’s extraordinarily difficult to get running soldiers to stop and fight, which is why strategic retreats are so dangerous and can only be done by very disciplined forces… like the ZSU). The Russians will probably abandon Lysychansk as well, and even though they say they are going to defend Severodonetsk, I have my doubts. I saw a video from Russians speeding out of Izyum, cursing that they had just gotten there and now they have to flee. It is unclear whether VSRF managed to get most of their soldiers out in time — they seem to have abandoned a lot of equipment in the rush to leave.

The stories from the scores of captured Russian soldiers and from intercepted communications are very consistent: there is total chaos and lack of command because of the lightning speed of the Ukrainian offensive, which has resulted in Russian units being attacked from multiple sides, and disintegrating under panic and because of low morale. Commanders have fled their units, leaving them to wander around in the hopes of surrendering without being killed. The elite paratroopers that were sent to organize the defense of Kupyansk arrived to find nobody but the Ukrainians waiting for them, and promptly surrendered too. Soldiers complain about commanders leaving in helicopters without even using evacuation orders. It’s total chaos.

This reminds me of the astonishing collapse of the superior Soviet armies in the first few weeks of Operation Barbarossa in 1941. The story of chaos, lack of communication, failure to coordinate, and mass surrender is very familiar, and it was caused essentially by the same tactic: small bit very mobile units disrupting the defenses, penetrating in depth, sowing confusion, and causing mayhem in the command structure. The Russian top-heavy army is very vulnerable to the loss of central command. The difference with 1941, however, is that the Ukrainians now have superior weapons, the Russians have no mobilized reserves to fall back on, and the arsenal of democracy is providing Lend/Lease to the other side.

It is difficult to overstate just how significant this debacle is for the Russian war effort in Ukraine. Let’s now see what the political fallout will be. I’ve heard that the unofficial feelers the Russians have been sending the Americans included an offer to give up the territorial gains in Donbas (but not Crimea). The Americans told them to go to hell. It’s now official that the US has decided to support Ukraine for victory, and the German Foreign Minister just arrived in Kyiv to deliver the message that Berlin has decided so as well.

I’ve always said that if the West holds the line, the Ukrainians will win this. This is the beginning of the end for Russia in this war. I wonder if they will even be able to keep Crimea next year.

Prominent propagandist Simonyan suddenly took to Twitter to dream about the “common picture of the past… when they studied Russian and Ukrainian, and sang songs together in both languages.” Let me remind you that this is the same person who repeatedly said there was no Ukrainian nation, that Russia would take Kyiv in a couple of days, and there was no substitute for victory. Unless her account was hacked and the two recent posts — just parodies, this would be the fastest change in colors I have seen in a while. Even then these people continue to be delusional: there is no “all together, calm and proud that we are together,” as this lunatic put it, adding for good measure that “from a historical perspective another solution is impossible.” Well, I can imagine several other solutions. Some of them do not imagine the Russian Federation being around.

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