Grim business

It looks like the Ukrainians are currently winning, although who knows what will happen when the Russians throw 300,000 conscripts into the meat grinder. What I’m getting out of the news, though, is how bloody and brutal the war is in reality. It’s not shifting lines on a map, it’s dead people. Every gain costs lives.

The Ukrainian soldiers waved, hooted and raised their fists in triumph as they drove out of the strategic eastern city of Lyman on Monday, riding M113 armored personnel vehicles provided by Western countries. They passed eight corpses of enemy Russian soldiers who died trying to run from a Ukrainian counteroffensive that swept through the area and is still going, putting the lie to President Vladimir Putin’s annexation claims.

What I find shocking in that Washington Post story is that it goes on to describe the bloated corpses. I did not expect that. I guess there’s a fine line to be drawn here — you don’t want to sanitize a violent war.

Along the same lines, here’s a blog that consists of transcribed text messages from a volunteer fighting in Ukraine. The volunteer is an American veteran who went off to war (my thought: what the heck is wrong with him? Going to fight, just because fighting is what he does.) It’s all about making people dead.

This has got to end sometime, but I don’t see an end in sight.


  1. gijoel says

    I don’t know how Putin can think he can win this. If he deploys all of the newly mobilized soldiers without training them, then they’re going to get ground into hamburger mince. If he spends the time training them, then his army is probably going to be driven back into Crimea if he’s lucky, but more likely Russia itself.

    He’ll probably take plan A, as other people’s lives don’t mean anything to him. Even if he can get an army up to spec in time, the troops in Ukraine seem woefully under equipped. He’s fucked, and he’s desperate. Hopefully, someone will stop him from doing anything stupid.

  2. says

    This has got to end sometime

    With the Ukrainians’ full liberation of their people and sovereign territory from an invading, fascist, criminal, imperialistic, genocidal Russian regime, I expect and hope.

    but I don’t see an end in sight.

    The Ukrainian forces continue to gain ground in the east and they’re rolling through Kherson liberating town after town this morning, FWIW.

  3. raven says

    It looks like the Ukrainians are currently winning, although who knows what will happen when the Russians throw 300,000 conscripts into the meat grinder.

    Yeah, who knows?

    It might be nothing or close to it though.

    Russia doesn’t have the equipment for an additional 300,000 soldiers. They also aren’t even being trained, some being sent to the front in a few days. They are just literal cannon fodder.

    The Russians have “misplaced” 1.5 million winter uniforms that were about to be send to the Russian soldiers in Ukraine.

    Their 1.5 million winter uniforms are just gone.
    They either didn’t exist in the first place except as bookkeeping and a check or they were diverted to Ebay by someone.
    This is the norm for the Russian army which is a product of endemic Russian corruption.

    It is not obvious that they even have the ability to feed this number of additional soldiers. They have the food supply but Russian logistics aren’t very good.

  4. raven says

    This has got to end sometime, but I don’t see an end in sight.

    This is the Russians attempting to genocide the Ukrainians and steal their land, stuff, and children.

    If the Russians lay down their arms, they go home, open a bottle of vodka, and see what is on TV.
    If the Ukrainians lay down their arms, they disappear forever as a nation and a people.

    The Ukrainians are fighting for their lives and they don’t have any choice about this.

  5. raven says

    Dmitri @wartranslated

    Wonders of Russian mobilisation: a bunch of guys were abandoned in an empty field with no command, no accommodation. Given the snow on the ground, they’ll have to get through the night somehow.

    This sums up the Russian callup of conscripts.

    These guys were left in an empty field with nothing, no food, no equipment.
    This is in Siberia and there is light snow on the ground already.

    Siberia and Siberians, they are lighting fires and they will be fine for a few days.
    Followup, a few days later, they were still in the field and still nothing has been done for them.

    I’m sure they will make highly motivated soldiers when they get sent to the front.

  6. says

    Cross-posted with the Infinite Thread – from today’s Guardian liveblog:

    The Guardian’s diplomatic editor Patrick Wintour reports:

    Russia is at risk of losing control of the strategic towns critical to retaining the city of Kherson and eventually Crimea, western officials said, but they warned the fighting along the Dnipro River “will not be an easy rush into constrained territory”.

    They warned the situation in the south “could become increasingly messy with potentially a more desperate Russian force with their backs to the river Dnipro”, adding the Russian leadership politically will be unable to sanction a retreat from Kherson.

    Asked if Russia was preparing to act on its repeated threat to use tactical nuclear weapons, the official insisted they had seen no indicators or actions by Russia that were out of the norm. They pointed out that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had slapped down the calls from Chechen leaders to use such weapons, saying it was not right to resort to emotions.

    Giving one of its most upbeat assessments of the military balance, the western officials said Ukraine was dictating the operational tempo at the moment and doubted whether Russia any longer had any ambition or ability to return to the offensive. “Ukrainian commanders in the south and the east are creating problems for the Russian chain of command faster than the Russians can effectively respond”.

    They also doubted the capacity of the 300,000 Russian conscripts to tip the military balance, pointing to the importance of warm weather, clothing and logistics. “Currently you’ve seen videos of Russian recruits lighting fires in fields at minus five degrees at night – that is not going to be a situation where you have high morale over the winter.”

    Western officials highlighted the progress being made by Ukrainian forces in the south along the Dnipro River, with the start of a potentially fatal pocket being created containing 20,000 Russian troops trapped on the western side of river. But the officials warned as Ukrainian forces pushed south along the river they could potentially be at risk from artillery fire by Russian forces on the other side of the river. “This won’t be an easy rush through unconstrained territory. We think it unlikely the Russian leadership would sanction a full pullout from Kherson for political reasons.

    The officials said the town of Nova Kakhovka, about 50 kilometres from the most advanced Ukrainian troops, was “a critical challenge to the viability of the Russian troops in Kherson”. The town has a major road bridge, power station and dam, as well as a canal taking fresh water to Crimea, so is seen by the western military officials as central to a nexus of communications. “If you can control that it allows you a much greater military advantage, putting areas of the Kherson and Crimea area at risk”.

    The western officials said Russia’s headlong weekend retreat on the northern front in Lyman occurred despite orders to defend and remain.

    He said the Russian army “suffered high casualties from artillery fire as they attempted to leave the town to the east. As part of the supposedly newly annexed Donbas, relinquishing these areas is exactly what the Kremlin didn’t want to happen”.

    As suggested here (and elsewhere), the Russian forces in the east weren’t allowed to retreat. I saw the Ukrainians even publicly suggest that the Russians request a corridor for their forces to leave Lyman as it was encircled. The Russians also appear to have unreliable communications, so their retreats are even more desperate and chaotic. The same thing seems to be playing out in the south right now.

  7. markgisleson says


    The Russians defeated by winter?

    Glad to see you’re rediscovering your sense of humor.

  8. microraptor says

    The longer this fiasco goes on, the more it becomes clear that Putin’s going to wind up either fleeing to Argentina in disguise or falling out a basement window when someone finally realizes that actually allowing him to order a nuclear attack is going to mean the end of Russia.

  9. says

    markgisleson@9 there will be nothing funny about thousands of Russians freezing to death because they have no winter uniforms.

    There have been photos(which may be propaganda of course) of some of the stuff newer Russian recruits are apparently being issued. One was a Kalashnikov assault rifle that appeared covered in rust. Another was a very clean looking Mosin-Nagant bolt action rifle that was standard Soviet issue in WW2. So they’re either getting damaged junk or stuff that’s been in storage for decades, or perhaps lifted from a military academy someplace.

  10. whheydt says

    In the early 1980s I knew someone whose father-in-law had been a WW2 combat photographer shooting 16mm cine film. He’d gotten work prints of everything he’d shot (and it was in color). Since I had to drive to the area for a few days for work, I hauled a 16mm projector along and we ran a couple of the reels.

    One of them started out on the landing beach of Iwo Jima while it was being shelled by Japanese artillery emplaced on Mt. Suribachi. Later in the reel he filmed areas as he walked to where the actual combat front was. No one had cleaned the place up, so there were dead Japanese soldiers that had been there for several days. In the tropics.

    As for some of the reports posted above… Orders not to retreat, no winter uniforms… Putin appears to be ready to repeat Hitler’s worst mistakes.

  11. KG says

    This has got to end sometime, but I don’t see an end in sight. – PZM

    A month ago, even a week ago, I’d have said the same. Certainly no negotiated settlement is anywhere in sight. But an army can simply lose the will to fight and disintegrate (it happened to the Russian imperial army in 1917, it happened to the army of the US-backed Afghan regime last year…), and it looks increasingly plausible that could happen to the Russian forces in Ukraine.

  12. jenorafeuer says

    The Russians have been defeated by winter before; just ask the Finns. The early stages of the Winter War were an absolute mess for the Russians, who admittedly were still recovering from Stalin’s purges at the time.

    Honestly, there look to be a number of parallels between the Winter War and the modern Ukraine war. Both involved using a fig leaf about fascists on the other side of the border as an excuse to reconquer territory seen as Russian by history, and both involved highly autocratic and ultra-macho leaders with a badly disorganized army because loyalty to the leader was more important than military competence. (Putin didn’t perform explicit purges the way Stalin did, he just has been running things long enough that the usual slow sorting process of who gets honours and promotions has done its work.)

    I’ve seen comments elsewhere that Russia is currently losing more people to draft-dodgers leaving the country than they are to military deaths. I don’t have any sort of evidence to prove that, so take it as you will, but based on the Russians I do talk to, this war has been intensely polarizing and rather unpopular within Russia, partly because there’s no shortage of mixed Russian-Ukrainian families, but also for the same reason the Vietnam War became unpopular in the U.S.. And despite the Russian news media having a lock on control that Fox News envies, people are still hearing about what’s been happening on the other side of the border through friends and family.

  13. birgerjohansson says

    During the Kuweit war, tanks with ploughs literally ploughed over Iraki trenches, burying the soldiers alive.
    The photos of arms and hands sticking up from the sand were all censored.

    So were the photos of the thousands of dead Iraqis caught in the traffic jam from Kuweit city to the Irawi border, that were strafed by aircraft.
    The only photos presented ro the American audience were the post-cleanup photos of the line of wrecks when the dead and the body parts had been dragged off.

  14. birgerjohansson says

    A big problem is what happens after Putin’s body is hanging upside down from a bridge.

    The allies failed to handle the post WWII situation well.
    The West utterly failed to deal well with the fall of the Soviet Union.
    USA even screwed uo with dealing with the post-taliban and the post-Saddam situations when they had nearly full control.

  15. birgerjohansson says

    There are confirmed photos of trains carrying T-62 tanks to the west.
    As there are supposedly thousands of slightly more modern T-72 in storage it seemed weird.
    But stuff in storage gets looted all the time, it is possible all the T-72 tanks in some depots have been stripped for spare parts.
    The T-62 was cleared for production 60 years ago.
    The stored vehicles all lack modern electronics. They are WWII tech.

  16. ardipithecus says

    Conducting a war on a battlefield where tactical nukes are being used requires specialized equipment and training. NATO has both, Russia has neither. Given Putin’s repeated threats, I would expect that the Ukrainian troops getting trained in the UK are probably getting some of that training too.

    Putin is probably well aware that the Ukrainians will likely be better able to fight in a tactical nukes situation than his own army. Besides the fact that NATO would be drawn in as a combatant, not just a supplier, another reason why nukes would be idiocy. But, invading Ukraine was idiocy in the first place , so we will see.

  17. says

    @#16, birgerjohansson

    The West utterly failed to deal well with the fall of the Soviet Union.

    There’s a Time Magazine issue from, I think, 1994, where the cover story is about how the US undermined Gorbachev in favor of Yeltsin, with interviews of various US figures including a very proud Bill Clinton, and plenty of blather about how great it was that Yeltsin overruled and dissolved the Russian Parliament which still had Communists in it who were holding up the process of letting parasitical western financial interests strip the country bare of all resources and savings opening the country to trade, with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin being one of the great boosters of this US-backed policy. Like, at the time the US government — then under a Democratic President, remember — literally bragged out loud to the press about how they were turning Russia into a dictatorship, that was such a great thing.

    @#18, ardipithecus

    But, invading Ukraine was idiocy in the first place , so we will see.

    It is honestly unbelievable how stupid this has shown Putin to be. There was an interview on that pointed this out:

    We have to realize that this was not what Putin intended or was looking for. The irony is that right up to the point when Putin invaded Ukraine, he was winning. He had this huge force on Ukraine’s borders, but it was all on the Russian side of the border and therefore entirely acceptable under international law.

    Under the shadow of the Russian guns, who wanted to invest in Ukraine? No one. The Ukrainian economy was tanking. And because of the danger of war there was a constant stream of Western dignitaries going to Moscow. That put Putin exactly in the position he likes to be in. He was at the center of attention and had all that leverage with everyone coming to petition him, more or less begging him not to start a war.

    Because of concerns about a possible war, certain Western governments were trying to bring pressure on Zelenskyy to make concessions to the Russians. If Putin really had been this grand Machiavellian geopolitical mastermind, he would have just allowed the situation to continue. It was when Putin resorted to the crude instruments of force that he actually began to lose.

    Putin is really turning out to be approximately the intellectual equal of George W. Bush, which is just amazing to contemplate.

    @#11, timgueguen

    So they’re either getting damaged junk or stuff that’s been in storage for decades, or perhaps lifted from a military academy someplace.

    Let’s hope this turns out to be damaged junk that doesn’t work, too.

  18. birgerjohansson says

    Even if the conscripts get the slightly less obsolete T-72s from storage (without modern electronics) they will not get any training, or so rudimentary training that the vehicles at most can function as tracked artillery, incapable of tank vs tank battles.

    The infantry are cannon fodder, useful to make ukrainan forces use up ammo before meeting more experienced Russian forces.
    Or they can use them to clear minefields by marching through them, like Stalin did in WWII.

  19. says

    War is not pretty. But when confronted with a dictator like Putin, pacifism is not an option.

    And yes, the Russian army consists mostly of non-ethnic Russian soldiers from places where a job as a contract soldier is one of the few that pays well. So Putin has been carrying out two ethnic cleansings.

    But given the atrocious conduct of the Russian army, especially towards civilians and POW’s, its demise does not exactly fill me with sadness. We’ve seen the destroyed cities, the horrors of Bucha. And now we see the same on a larger scale in Kharkiv oblast. And not to forget the thousands of Ukrainian children and adults who have been “filtered” and abducted into Russia. Such evil cannot be condoned.

    The people in the know seem to agree that the Russian mobilization is too late. The soviet mobilization infrastructure is long gone. And most of the training cadre of the Russian army is either at the front or KIA. Most of the modern equipment is in service or has been used up. More and more T-62(!) tanks are popping up in Kharkiv and Kherson.

    In fact, several retired generals and academics specialized in military history pointed out from the beginning that the Russian army was nowhere near big enough to overrun and occupy the whole of Ukraine. Also the weakness of Russian logistics has been known for a long time. IIRC, in the cold war one of the NATO strategies was essentially to pound soviet logistics, converting the tanks into slightly more mobile pillboxes.

    And again according to those in the know, the armed forces of Ukraine have absolutely mastered the operational art and have fought brilliantly. It has helped that they’ve known since 2014 that this was coming and have prepared accordingly.

  20. tacitus says

    One US general who was given a tour of the training facilities in Russia a number of years back recently recounted how the tank crew he spoke to told him they were allowed to fire one live round per year as part of their ongoing training program. One.

    US tank crews fire several dozen live rounds every year and train on state of the art simulators on a regular basis.

  21. unclefrogy says

    It is a wonder that Putin seems to not know history very well. I to suspect that russia is flirting with another mutiny if they (he) keep this up. The situation seems to resemble more and more 1917 then it does the 1956 Hungry uprising which he was hoping for.
    All the ultramodern equipment that they have been touting to everyone for years has all been converted to palaces, luxury condos. and supper yachts for the well connected crooks who have all the power.

  22. John Morales says

    Russia is tanking its own economy, losing its people.
    The internal “partial” mobilisation in particular is synergistic with the external sanctions.

    War is expensive in blood and treasure.

  23. John Morales says


    My most preferred Youtube channel is Perun — proven for me because one can go back all the way to the beginning of the war yet all the videos hold up.

  24. springa73 says

    I have to admit that while I always supported Ukraine in this war, I never expected Ukraine to do so well that they could both repel the Russian attacks and throw the Russians out of most or all of the occupied territory. Sure, the Ukrainian armed forces have foreign aid, but their main advantage seems to be much better training, morale, and leadership.

  25. Kevin Dugan says

    @25 John Morales
    Likewise found Perun on youtube somehow early in the year. I’ve found his analyses very informative and balanced and recommend the channel as well.