Putin's War, Week 31. Mobilization, Annexation, and Russian Forces Routed From New 'Russian' City

Wreckage along the route of the Russian retreat from Lyman to Kreminna.

Week 31 of Putin’s War, that projected 3-day romp through Ukraine is not starting off well. Just one day after annexing the Ukrainian oblasts of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson, Ukrainian forces routed Russian troops from a critical defensive position and overran the newly “Russian” city of Lyman. This may be the first time in history that a city has been annexed on Friday and conquered on Saturday.


My last update was two weeks ago, Ukraine Update. The Tempo Slows and Ukraine and Russia Plot What Happens Next. Read it along with Putin’s War, Week 28. The Sitzkrieg Goes Blitzkrieg as Ukraine’s Army Moves 50 Kilometers in Two Days for the context and background of this update.

Politico-Strategic Level


Vladimir Putin announced “partial mobilization” on September 21. The mobilization covered “reservists” with specific military skills in high demand in the meatgrinders in Donbas and Kherson theaters of operations; Vladimir Putin’s Speech About Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Was a Wild Ride but Where Does It Go? Keep in mind that Russia does not have an organized reserve like the US and most of Western Europe. Its reserve is anyone who has served in the military, and they are vulnerable to mobilization until they are 50 years old.

The order was not well received; Putin’s Mobilization Order Isn’t Getting the Reaction He’d Hoped in Russia. The military was not prepared to house, equip or train the reservists reporting for duty (read the whole thread).

The demand on the front lines for fresh meat resulted in a significant number of recently mobilized men becoming casualties or prisoners of war within just a few hours of reporting for duty; First Mobilized Russians Are Captured in Ukraine and Other Stories From Putin’s Magnificent ‘Partial Mobilization.’


Putin seems to have recognized that his mobilization order has been so poorly executed that it has become dangerous to him instead of unifying the country.

Belarus to mobilize?

Putin’s butt-remora in Minsk, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko, is under increasing pressure by the Kremlin to enter the war in Ukraine and open a second front. Lukashenko has allowed Russian troops to stage in Belarus. Russian troops invaded Ukraine from Belarus in February. Russian air and missile forces strike targets in Ukraine from safe harbors in Belarus. But, thus far, Lukashenko has stayed out of direct involvement, perhaps in memory of the dishonor Italy attained for attacking France while France was trying to stop von Rundstedt’s blitz. Last week, the rumor circulated that mobilization was imminent. It was met in much the same way Muscovites dealt with Putin’s mobilization order.

Wagner Group

The Wagner Group private military contractor (PMC) has emerged as the most reliable component of the Russian military in Ukraine. It has a couple of items in the news. First, Evgeny Prigozhin, aka “Putin’s chef,” has finally admitted that he owns the Wagner Group. You may remember Prigozhin for the vigorous buggering he gave Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s lackwit minions on one of the occasions where they ventured into court against an opponent who could afford legal counsel; see Russian Oligarch Tells Mueller to Put Up or Shut Up, and Mueller’s Team Continues Their Humiliation at the Hands of a Russian Oligarch, and Government Tries to Cancel Trial in Key Mueller Case Because the Defendant Isn’t Playing Fair.


Prigozhin achieved some minor notoriety two weeks ago when he was filmed recruiting “talent” inside a maximum security prison; Vladimir Putin to Address Russia; Annexation of Ukraine Provinces and Mobilization Seem to Be on the Table.

Wagner’s long-time field commander, Alexei Nagin, was confirmed killed in action in Ukraine.

Enjoy the movie trailer.


Prisoner swap

Russia and Ukraine agreed to a prisoner swap brokered by Turkish President Erdogan and Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Sultan. See Vladimir Putin Agrees to Swap 215 Ukrainian PWs Including Foreign Volunteers, for 55 Russians. What’s up With That? As my friend and long-time commenter, Laocoon (we were both banned from Lucianne.com about the same time) said,

If you’re Putin and preparing a global thermonuclear apocolypse…do you even do prisoner releases? That’s retail and the apocolypse is wholesale. And with THESE prisoners specifically?

Especially as most of those 215 Ukrainian PWs released, which included the commanders of the Azov regiment at the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during its 82-day siege (Mariupol Surrenders to the Russian Army After Epic 82-Day Siege), had been reviled as nazis. In terms of an existential conflict, this doesn’t make sense. It didn’t make sense to the Russian power structure either.


Ukraine buys its own reconnaissance satellite.

I don’t think it is much of a secret that Ukraine has benefitted from intelligence sharing, particularly satellite reconnaissance, on the part of the Five Eyes (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States). Ukraine has crowdfunded a moderately sophisticated satellite with synthetic aperture radar that can reveal vehicles and equipment invisible to traditional overhead imagery. It seems to be cost-effective.

The minister noted that in fact, in just these two days, the enemy lost armored vehicles worth more than the cost of the entire ‘satellite project.’

Whodunit? The Nord Stream pipeline explosions

On the same day that Norway and Poland celebrated the opening of the Baltic Pipe carrying natural gas from the North Sea to Poland, explosions created four breaks in the Nord Stream pipelines running from Russia to Germany. Blame was hurled about like confetti. Some morons went so far as to blame Fin-f***ing-land and the Baltic states for the attack (somehow, creating a major environmental disaster in their own fisheries makes sense). I made my prediction, and I’m confident that Putin looking for the culprit is like OJ searching for the real killer. See Putin’s PR Machine Throws up Smoke as the Nord Stream Pipeline Explosion Investigation Begins.


The major news, of course, was Putin’s announcement on Friday that four Ukrainian oblasts were now Russian territory. I don’t think this has much practical significance as no one, including the Russians, really believes this. However, its strategic importance is difficult to understate. Putin took a page from Cortez and metaphorically burned his ships. As I wrote yesterday (Putin’s Illegal Annexation of Ukrainian Territory Marks the Beginning of a War Without a Perceivable End), the annexation has created a situation where return to the status quo ante of February 24 is no longer possible via negotiations because Putin would have to repudiate his annexation or Zelensky would have to acknowledge the loss of about 20% of his country.

Operational Level

To forestall claims that Russia is prevailing on the battlefield, let’s start the operational analysis by looking at an animation of the front lines since February 24.


New Weapons


Germany has agreed to provide Ukraine with three additional IRIS-T (“InfraRed Imaging System Tail/Thrust Vector-Controlled“) batteries.

Ukraine had been promised one battery in August with a delivery date of sometime later in the year. However, that system’s delivery has been accelerated to October.

The IRIS-T is a short-range air defense system built around the AIM-9 Sidewinder. It will complement the NASAMS batteries arriving in Ukraine (Putin’s War, Week 19. Political Uncertainty, Lots of New Weapons, and a Replay of the Western Front). NASAMS is a medium-range system built around the AIM-120 AMRAAM.

The Russian Air Force has nearly been shut down due to the omnipresence of MANPADS; these new systems will dramatically increase the amount of airspace off limits to Russian planes and missiles.

M30A1 HIMARS rocket

Our Eurotrash allies have beshat themselves for years over Improved Conventional Munitions (ICM). The idea behind ICM is that rather than a bomb, rocket, or artillery shell carrying a unitary explosive device, it would carry dozens or hundreds of independent bomblets. I suspect the Euros objected because it was so damned effective, but the excuse they used was the dud rate among the bomblets leading to lots of unexploded ordnance or UXO. The M30AI fixes that problem. by using 182,000 pre-formed spheroid steel/tungsten fragments.

Iranian Shahed-136 suicide drone

You’d expect any nation that uses suicide bombers to be pretty good at designing a suicide drone. For a few days, these drove the Ukrainians nuts, but the mention has abated, indicating that either the supply ran out, much like the human variety, or the Ukrainians developed countermeasures. The below thread gives details on the device.


Combat Operations


Reupping our moment of silence for a Putin fluffer who is way out of his depth.


The Ukrainian Army continues to make small, opportunistic gains in the Kherson area of operations. However, the bulk of the Russian force is on the left or north bank of the Dnieper River and dependent on resupply by pontoon rafts after the destruction of all bridges across the river. In my view, the Ukrainians are carrying out low-risk, low-cost operations that force the Russians to consume fuel and ammunition that is in short supply.


Early last month, the Ukrainians launched a surprise offensive that drove the Russians out of most of Kharkiv Oblast that they had occupied. Since that offensive wound down, the area has been mostly quiet.

Combat has been limited to three Ukrainian bridgeheads across the Oskil River in the vicinity of Horobivka, Kupiansk, and Kivsharivka. Nothing appears to be going on there now, but the jostling around the bridgeheads is a clue we should keep an eye out for.


When the Ukrainian Kharkiv offensive ended, the southern end of the reconstituted Russian line was anchored by the strong point of Lyman.

CREDIT: Critical Threats

About five days ago, the Ukrainians launched an attack against the Russian salient west of Lyman. It quickly developed into something much bigger. This video was produced by the pro-Russian milblogger known on Telegram as “@rybar.”

An estimated 5,000 Russian soldiers, mostly Luhansk People’s Republic troops and Russian reserve formations, were caught in the pocket and mauled during their attempt to break out east to Kreminna.


The loss of Lyman unhinges the Russian line, and if reserves, ammunition, and fuel are available to exploit the breakthrough, a substantial part of Luhansk will be lost. But as I noted above, keep an eye on those bridgeheads across the Oskil River.

This breakthrough by Ukraine into the Russian rear areas in Luhansk will be a real test of how Russian Putin thinks that stolen oblast really is.


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