Putin's War, Week 59. Russia Goes ISIS and Waiting for General Mud to Take a Break

AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda

Welcome to Week 59 of Putin’s War in Ukraine. This is the shortest update I’ve posted since I started because little is happening that is apparent outside of classified sources. Even the political side of the war seems to have taken a breather. The front lines are stable, though the daily grind around Bakhmut and Aviivka continues.

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Here are some of my previous updates to enjoy.

Putin’s War, Week 58. All Dressed Up and No Place to Go

Putin’s War, Week 57. Waiting for Godot.

Putin’s War, Week 56. Putin Indicted for War Crimes, Xi Visits Moscow, and Sevastopol Attacked for a Third Time

Putin’s War, Week 55. Russia Drops US Recon Drone, Ukraine Suffers From ‘Loose Lips’ as It Doubles Down on Bakhmut

Putin’s War, Week 54. More NordStream Melodrama, Russia Shows Diplomatic Weakness, and the Bakhmut Flipflop

Putin’s War, Week 53. Zelensky Blows a Big Play, Moscow Dodges a Drone Attack, and Russia’s Spring Offensive Fizzles

Putin’s War, Week 52. US and China Face off, Prigozhin Goes for the Jugular, Mystery Weapon Strikes, and Happy Anniversary

Putin’s War, Week 51. Russia’s Slow-Mo Offensive Gets Underway

Putin’s War, Week 50. The Calm Before the Storm

Putin’s War, Week 49. Waiting for the Russian Offensive

Putin’s War, Week 48. The Logjam Breaks and the Leopards Are About to Roam the Ukrainian Landscape

Putin’s War, Week 47. Gerasimov Shakes Up the Russian Army, and the Russian Spring Offensive Looms

Putin’s War, Week 46. Putin Shakes up the Army Command, Prigozhin Shows How It’s Done, and Western Tanks for Ukraine Are on the Way

Putin’s War, Week 45: Putin Declares a Cease Fire, Zelensky Gets Putin’s Terms for Peace, and if You’re Fighting a War, Leave Your Cell Phone Home

Putin’s War, Week 44. Drones Strike Russian Strategic Bomber Base…Again… Prigozhin Makes His Move

Putin’s War, Week 43. Zelensky Visits the Front Lines and Washington, Putin Tries to Push Belarus Into War

Putin’s War, Week 42. Ukraine Gets the Nod to Strike Targets in Russia and Some Tools to Do It With

Many more are available at this link.

Politico-Strategic Level

Russian Military Goes Full ISIS

One of the hallmarks of the Islamic terrorist group ISiS is its penchant for filming beheadings. Not guillotine-type beheadings, but beheadings where the victim’s head is sawed off with a knife. The Russian military is going in the same direction. Yesterday, two of what can only be described as snuff flicks appeared on Russian Telegram outlets and other places. They show Ukrainian prisoners of war beheaded by their captors using a knife. And one video released by a Russian unit hints that others are to follow.

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Bad things happen in wartime, and the most dangerous time for a prisoner is from when he lays down his weapon until he’s handed off for escort to the rear. Tempers run high, and if you’ve lost friends and comrades, you might not be in the mood to let bygones be bygones. This is not to justify the execution of prisoners but to note that it can be understood. That kind of killing in the aftermath of a firefight doesn’t resemble what occurs in these videos, where a man is held down and beheaded to the cheers of the onlookers.

It is more than a little unclear what the Russian military thinks it is accomplishing by feeding into the stereotypes of how the Russians operate.

Ukraine Funding Roundup

All kinds of numbers are thrown around on social media about US funding for Ukraine. I’m presenting these official documents without comment so we can all use the same numbers. For those not familiar with the jargon: appropriated is the amount of money Congress has allowed to be spent; uncommitted is untouched money; committed is money that the agency budgets for a particular activity; and “on contract” is the amount of awarded contracts.

Putin's War, Week 59. Russia Goes ISIS and Waiting for General Mud to Take a Break

Supplies Sent to Ukraine by streiff at redstate on Scribd

Ukraine Restarts Export of Electricity

For several months, the Russian military targeted Ukraine’s electrical generation capacity (Putin’s War, Week 39. The Battle of the Generators). This campaign had four purposes: a) hamper Ukraine’s domestic economy, b) reduce Ukraine’s income from energy sales, c) inconvenience Ukraine’s energy customers, and d) impose misery on the Ukrainian population.

There is evidence that this campaign may have failed.

Russia Isn’t Interested In the Minecraft Leaks

Last week over a hundred documents, many classified top secret, were leaked and distributed on social media (Secret Pentagon Documents Emerge on a Minecraft Players Forum, WTF?). What should’ve been a PR bonanza for the Russians hasn’t turned out that way because one thing the documents demonstrate is that Russia’s intelligence services are deeply penetrated (Leaked Pentagon Documents Reveal Extent of U.S. Penetration Into Russian Intelligence). This is how it plays out on Russian state television.

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The official Russian line is that the Pentagon created the leaks to attack Russian morale.

More Fallout From the Minecraft Document Drop

The posting of about 100 documents, some of them of the highest security classifications, to a Minecraft Discord server continues to provide fodder for the media. Monday, I posted how a Russian Su-27 fired a missile at a British surveillance aircraft in international airspace; Minecraft Document Leak Reveals a Russian ‘Near Shootdown’ of a British Spy Plane. More detail, or so it is claimed, has emerged about that story.

If the people speaking to the New York Times aren’t just making stuff up, the Russian missile malfunctioned. This doesn’t explain why the pilot didn’t follow it up with another missile if he thought he had the authorization to attack.

Another story that set pro-Russia hearts on social media a-bubbling was the revelation that 97 special forces soldiers, including 14 Americans, were in Ukraine (Kirby Confirms Special Forces in Ukraine, After Pentagon Document Leaks Raise Big Questions).

Putin's War, Week 59. Russia Goes ISIS and Waiting for General Mud to Take a Break

The relentlessly stupid, like Michael Tracey, portrayed this as “boots on the ground.” “Boots on the ground” is a phrase pro-Russian sources use to imply that US forces are engaged in combat operations. There has been open-source mention of this presence, though without a number attached, going back to at least October. The US SOF operators are in Ukraine to assist with monitoring the transfer and custody of US weapons, vehicles, and ammunition to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. It would be highly irregular for the number of SOF soldiers involved in a black operation to be thrown in on a personnel summary, and the security classification on the slide has been conveniently cropped…but this is Biden’s Pentagon, so who knows? [NOTE: I just stumbled across a complete copy of this document; it is classified SECRET/NOFORN. This indicates the SOF presence in Ukraine is not a huge secret.]

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Is Russia Engaged in Religious Persecution in Occupied Ukraine?

The Institute of the Study of War, which I treat as generally reliable in reporting current events, says it looks like the Russians are engaging in a campaign of religious persecution in Occupied Ukraine. I’m agnostic on this report, but this is pretty much out of how Russia subjugated conquered territory. For example, a substantial number of the Poles murdered in the Katyn Forest were Roman Catholic clergy. It is also of interest because of all the fake claims of the Ukrainian government persecuting the Orthodox Church when all that has happened is that the Moscow-based Ukrainian Orthodox Church has been evicted from government-owned facilities and replaced with the Kiev-based Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Here is an animation of the report and a Twitter thread giving details.

Operational Level

Though there was little significant activity, there were signs that the Russians believe a Ukrainian offensive is imminent.

The mud, though, is not ready for large-scale activity.

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Prisoner Exchange

As I’ve noted before, the only apparent diplomatic contact between Ukraine and Russia is in prisoner exchanges. This week, another 100 Ukrainian prisoners of war were repatriated.

New Weapons
Poland Delivers 200 Rosomak Armorer Personnel Carriers

Poland is immediately transferring 100 Rosomak APCs to Ukraine with a promise of 100 more later in the year. The Rosomak is a solid vehicle, and 200 of them will be a welcomed addition to Ukraine’s army.

What makes this more than just the usual weapons transfer is that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky personally announced the deal. This points to what is becoming a strong and strategic alliance between Poland and Ukraine.

Combat Operations
How Not to Attack

Last week I posted a video of a couple of exotic attack methods employed by the Ukrainians (Putin’s War, Week 58. All Dressed up and No Place to Go). This video is of a Russian tank-infantry attack that didn’t go all that well.

Neither side is showing the ability to put together infantry, armor, and artillery in a coherent package. It is nearly like each of the combatants had three armies, each doing their own thing. My impression of fixed- and rotary-winged combat operations is the same. There is no coordination, and the missions we see on video don’t seem to have a larger purpose than to inflict casualties. Don’t get me wrong, inflicting casualties is good, but the operations must have a purpose.

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The View From Inside

Ever wonder what it would be like to be inside a tank hit by an anti-tank missile? Now you can experience the excitement.

Real or Not Real

One of the challenges of sorting through social media for this update is sorting out real and fake information. Sometimes the information is both.

Over the weekend, the Russians carried out a missile strike on a Ukrainian bridge over the Sudost River.

It was promptly geolocated.

When you go to a map, you find that the bridge is just a few miles from the Russian border, the road it is on runs parallel to the border, and only 20 miles south, you find another bridge over the same river.

Putin's War, Week 59. Russia Goes ISIS and Waiting for General Mud to Take a Break

Bluntly, this was a public relations exercise disguised as a military operation.

Northern Front

No significant military operations took place. I would point out that Bakhmut, which the strategos at Gateway Pundit announced as lost two weeks ago, still holds. The video below makes the case that accepting a battle of attrition was the correct decision. I’m still not convinced.

Southern Front

No significant military operations were reported.

Rear Areas

Russia
Artillery Strike on Russian City

There have been some helicopter raids on Russian cities near the Ukrainian border, drone attacks inside of Russia (The War in Ukraine Heats up as Drones Attack Russian Airbase Only 100 Miles From Moscow and Putin’s War, Week 44. Drones Strike Russian Strategic Bomber Base…Again…and Prigozhin Makes His Move), and active Ukrainian partisan operations, but artillery attacks inside of Russia have been rare.

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I don’t know if this is a one-off or the beginning of a trend.

What’s Next?

As I’ve said for the last few updates, we wait. Most of the pieces are in place on the Ukrainian side. The Russians obviously believe that a Ukrainian offensive is at hand. I think that when the ground dries enough, we will see how the Ukrainian spring offensive compares to the Russian winter offensive.

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