Putin's War, Week 108. Moscow Under Attack and Congress's Struggles Continue



Welcome to my coverage of the 108th week of Vladimir Putin’s triumphal 72-hour march on Kiev.

The frontlines remain deadlocked, but there is a fragility in the statemate. This is not the Western Front in 1916. This has more of the quality of the Sitzkreig of 1939-40.

US support for Ukraine continues to be a hot topic. 

Support for a discharge petition to force a vote on the foreign aid bill for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan continues to grow. The petition is now approximately 29 signatures shy of the 218 it needs to bring the bill to the floor. The only thing holding it back is the pro-terrorist faction of the Democrat party objecting to aid for Israel.

The 2024 continuing resolution bill funding Defense and State, among other departments, passed the House. I’m not sure anyone has read the bill, but it would be a shock if funding for Ukraine support contracts signed last year didn’t receive funding.


RELATEDBREAKING: House Passes $1.2 Trillion Spending Package to Avert Shutdown


National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan visited Kiev Wednesday and announced that $300 million in arms and ammunition were on the way “as we speak.” This is a direct consequence of Sullivan and the midwits and lackwits around him trying to ratchet up pressure on Speaker Johnson to put a Ukraine aid bill up for a vote. I don’t think they’ve thought through the process. If your political opponents either don’t care about Ukraine or are actively working to further Putin’s goals there, how does starving Ukraine of equipment and munitions force them to do something? 

Finally, war is unpredictable. Just hours ago, four or five men walked into the Crocus Concert Hall in central Moscow and opened fire. Then, they sped away in a pair of Renault sedans. The Russians had initially made noises like Ukraine was to blame, but ISIS has claimed responsibility. Even though the vatniks are fighting hard to keep their narrative alive, the fact remains that Russia is engaged in fighting radical Muslim insurgencies inside the Russian Federation, and Moscow has the largest Muslim population of any European capital.


BACKGROUND: (UPDATED): Terror Attack in Moscow Concert Hall – Multiple Fatalities Reported


Should Ukraine be linked to these attacks, their support from NATO and the EU will be in jeopardy. 

Here are some of my past updates. 

Putin’s War, Week 107. Macron Goes for the Jugular, Johnson Goes for Broke, and Scholz Goes for a Drink

Putin’s War, Week 106. Putin Faces Reelection, Nuland is Out, and the Czechs Find Artillery Ammunition 

Putin’s War, Week 105. Sweden Prepares to Be Heard

Putin’s War, Week 104. Second Anniversary of the 72-Hour Special Military Operation

Putin’s War, Week 103. Avdiivka Abandoned

Putin’s War, Week 102. Zaluzhny Is Out, Syrsky Is In, and the Ukraine Aid Bill Advances

Putin’s War, Week 101. How to Not Fire Your Commanding General and the EU Approves Massive Aid Package

Putin’s War, Week 100. Missing Prisoners, Hungary on the Hotspot, and Shell Hunger Returns

Putin’s War, Week 99. Not All Battlefields Are in Ukraine

For all my Ukraine War coverage, click here.

Politico-Strategic Level

Russia Ups the Ante

In what appears to be a direct response to Ukrainian attacks on Russian oil refineries and the incursion by the Russian Volunteer Corps into Belgorod Oblast, And by “appears” I mean doing what Putin said they were going to do.

Russia has attacked Ukraine’s largest hydroelectric power plant and launched a large missile attack on Kiev and some other Ukrainian cities.

For the big picture on Russian missile attacks, this is a great graphic.

Crimea Is Russian

Voting for president in Occupied Crimea took place this weekend. I believe this is one of those scenes, like the guy in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square, that will become legendary. The young woman pours paint into a ballot box under the eye of a policeman, spoiling the ballots. The policeman lets her finish and calmly escorts her from the scene.

Crimea is now as Russian as Alaska.

Who’s Blockading Whom?

Last summer, Russia claimed it was executing a close blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports and announced it reserved the right to intercept, detain, and inspect any ships heading there.


BACKGROUND:

Putin’s War, Week 73. Putin Eludes Arrest, Black Sea Grain Initiative Dies, and Ukraine’s Offense Continues to Grind Away 

Russia Kills the Black Sea Grain Initiative but Can It Make It Stick?


Now that the “Ukrainian Navy” has nearly driven the Russian Navy from Crimea, it is ships bound for Russia that are giving wide berth to the combat zone.

A Gleiwitz Incident, But Designed By Morons

Russia has been trying to open an ersatz “second front” in its war on Ukraine by upping the tensions between Moldova and the astroturfed “breakaway” region of Transnistria. Russian stooges rule the area and has about 2,000 Russian troops assigned who can’t leave or be resupplied. Modova is slowly crushing Transnistria with an assist from Romania. Probably the only thing keeping it alive is the financial responsibility for pensions that Moldova would inherit by rolling Transnistria up. 


BACKGROUND:  Putin Decides to Widen the War With Ukraine to Achieve His Objectives


On March 17, a drone hit a Russian helicopter at Tiraspol airbase. The Russians blamed Ukraine. As I see it, the motive was to create an incident that would build a narrative that Ukraine was acting recklessly to drive a wedge between Ukraine and EU supporters. This story lasted for a few hours until it was exposed as a third-rate provocation.

Medvedev Is Back at It

Last week, Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of the Russian Security Council, laid out Russia’s negotiating position to end the war. In short, Ukraine is to be erased from the map.


Putin’s War, Week 107. Macron Goes for the Jugular, Johnson Goes for Broke, and Scholz Goes for a Drink


Now he’s scheduled Latvia for annihilation. Some commenters last week said that Medvedev’s views didn’t represent those of the Russian government. I disagree. There is absolutely no public voice in Russia that isn’t spreading a narrative that the Kremlin approves.

Yes, It Is a War

Presidential Spokesman Dmitry “Pornstache” Peskov has confirmed what Dmitry Medvedev said last week (I’ll accept the contrite apology of those calling Medvedev irrelevant and saying we could safely ignore him). What started out as a “special military operation” is now a war to eliminate Urkaine.

“Russia is at war. It all started as a special operation, but the involvement of the West turned it into a war. Russia cannot allow the existence of a state on its borders that has documented its intention to use any methods to take Crimea away from it, not to mention the territory of new regions.”

Or, in the words of his boss…

Shoigu Foreshadows Increased Mobilization

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced the creation of a massive new infrastructure for the Russian Army. He ordered two new army headquarters along with 16 new brigades and 14 new divisions activated. No one is doubting that he can do this, but there is a lot of doubt that, absent universal conscription, that Russia can man these units much less arm, supply, and train them and then get them into the front lines.

EU Moves to Confiscate Russian Assets to Buy Ammo

Via Politico:

History of NATO Expansion 

This is a history of NATO expansion that doesn’t rely on Putinist bullsh** and conspiracy theories.

Operational Level

More Fortifications

Earlier this month, I posted that one of the big changes between General Syrskyi’s style and his predecessor’s is that Syrskyi is focusing on constructing fortifications.


READ: Putin’s War, Week 106. Putin Faces Reelection, Nuland is Out, and the Czechs Find Artillery Ammunition 


That effort is gathering steam.

This pro-Vatnick site adds bullsh** commentary to the images. Fortifications are being built in depth to be used under any potential scenario. They are not being built in anticipation of an attack in a particular area.

Wear and Tear

With all the focus on artillery ammunition, one part of the discussion has been widely ignored. Artillery tubes are subject to wear. As a rule, at somewhere around the 10,000 round point, the tube has suffered enough wear that it has ceased to shoot accurately, and there starts to be a danger of cracking. When that threshold is reached, the gun must be pulled out of action and sent to a rear area maintenance depot to get a new tube — assuming Ivan has kept count of the rounds through the tube. I’ve hit this topic in earlier posts.


RELATED:

Putin’s War, Week 85. The Curtain Goes Down on the Ukrainian Offensive and Russia Rolls for a Hard Six 

Putin’s War, Week 103. Avdiivka Abandoned 


The problem is now sufficiently severe that even the media are noticing.

This is a two-part problem. Rheinmetall and other Western defense contractors have facilities in Poland, Czechia, and Western Ukraine to do this. When a Ukrainian gun is pulled out, it is less than 48 hours from being in the shop. Russian guns have to be moved a hundred or more miles to a railhead, loaded on a train, and sent to depots in Russia. Once they are rebuilt, they have to make the return trip to the front. 

When you factor in combat losses, and the lag time for transportation and repair, you can see how this can have a major effect on the number of guns available for operation.

Combat Operations

There has been little change in the situation since last week. The Russians continue to attack all along the front. The main effort continues to be in the Avdiivka area. The secondary area of interest is around Bakhmut. And finally, there is offensive action in the northern sector of the front around Kupyansk. The Russians retain the initiative, but have not converted this advantage intointo tactical or operational gains. Gains are measured in the tens of meters. The villages that are sometimes claimed as captured by the Russians have disappeared under the pounding of artillery.

The entire front can be labeled as a stalemate but one in a state of entropy. 

King of Battle

I’m proud to be an infantryman but I have to admit, there is something very comforting about 155mm ammo bouncing off the other guy’s head. Here are a couple of videos showing how effective smart artillery rounds are and why more isn’t always better.

Grounded Shahed 136-131.

The drone crash landed near Vinnytsia in central Ukraine, about 380 miles from the front lines.

Action in Belgorod Oblast

This is some of the action from Belgorod Oblast, where the Russian Volunteer Corps is keeping the Russian command off balance.

Age vs. Youth

The Ukrainian military employs “mobile fire groups” to plug holes in the air defense umbrella. They are armed with gun-based air defense systems and MANPADS and deployed to intercept inbound cruise missiles. If you’ve been in the US military, you should recognize the sound of the gun firing. It is the Browning M2 heavy barrel machinegun, aka “Ma Deuce.” The M2 entered service in 1933. The target is a Kh-101 cruise missile.

The Czechs Find More Ammuntion

Last week I reported on efforts by Czechia to find ammunition sources for Ukraine that unlocked 800,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition. They capped off that accomplishment by finding 700,000 additional rounds. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal reports the first tranche of this ammunition will arrive in early April.

Ukraine Starts Producing NATO Artillery Rounds

Ukraine currently produces 152mm artillery rounds for its Russian-manufactured artillery. The war has gradually replaced Russian artillery with NATO artillery in 155mm. The enormous quantities consumed are a topic of frequent discussion. Ukraine’s arms industry is opening a new facility to produce 155mm ammunition. This complements the three other Western sponsored ammunition plants under construction.

Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures

YGTBSM

The RBU-6000 is a Russian anti-submarine system. 

 Thewasussian Army also uses it as a makeshift artillery system in theduringar ine.

It i wars more than a little unclear how effective this Third World contrivance could be.

Bigger Than a Hand Grenade

This engagement takes place near Bilohorivka in the Kharkiv sector. A Ukrainian unit attempting to clear a trench complex uses time-fused Russian TM-62 anti-tank mines (17-pound explosive charge). Both Go-Pro-type videos show the same tactic used in the same attack. Note the Russians have basically gone to ground during this assault.

BTW, I can’t remember the song/group on the soundtrack for the life of me. Ping me in the comments with the answer.

Be Alert

The proliferation of FPV drones on the battlefield has raised situational awareness to the status of an essential survival skill. Here, an FPV enters a Russian BMP as it prepares to dismount troops.

The Least Preferred Technique…

Two Russian soldiers armed with shovels take on a Ukrainian FPV drone.

Northern Front

This is probably the area to keep your eye on. Technically, it is a much more difficult operational environment than the Southern Front. The network of east-west roads is limited. The railway lines run northwest-southeast and have limited usefulness in supporting military operations. The area is scoured with water obstacles and ridges that run north-south. On the other hand, If the Russians can execute an operational scale breakthrough — by this, I mean a breakthrough that will permit Russian forces to advance for at least a week — in the far north around Kremmina and another in the south near Avdiivka, they could regain a lot of the real estate they lost in the Fall of 2022.

There are indications that the Russians are attempting to mass troops in the north, and their high OPTEMPO in the Avdiivka area hint that this may be their operational concept.

Kharkiv

Kreminna

The front line remains stable. There have been incremental Russian gains and losses.

Donbas

Bahkmut-Klishchiivka-Andriivka

Russian focus here has shifted from the Ivanivske area north of Bakhmut, where they lost some ground, to Kliischiivka, south of Bakhmut, where they gained some ground. The line is essentially unchanged.

Avdiivka

Heavy combat continues in this sector, but the Ukrainian Army seems to have stabilized the lines. In my opinion, this remains the most likely area for a major Russian offensive in May-June.

Southern Front

Zaporizhzhia

Robotyne-Verbove- Novoprokopivka

The Russian counteroffensive in this area seems to have burned out, and the Ukrainians are reclaiming lost ground.

Kherson

The front remains static.

Rear Areas

Crimea

I’ve posted several times on how Russia could be driven from Crimea without fighting for every inch of real estate. The Black Sea Fleet evacuating Crimea in favor of ports in Russia is just the first step.

Russia

Belgorod Campaign Continues

Even as Putin claims the rebel attack has failed, officials of Belgorod Oblast announced they are evacuating civilians.

Russian authorities said Tuesday that 9,000 children will be evacuated from the Belgorod region near the border with Ukraine because of shelling, while President Vladimir Putin said an incursion by three militia groups of Russian defectors serving with the Ukrainian Armed Forces had “failed.”

“Today we are resettling a large number of villages, Now we are planning to remove about 9,000 children from Belgorod, Belgorod district, Shebekinsky district, Grayvoronsky district,” the regional governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said, according to the state-run news agency RIA Novosti.

Kursk Under Attack

Attacks on the Russian Oil Industry Continue

This attack is at the Slavyansk-na-Kubani oil refinery, Krasnodar Krai, across the Kerch Strait bridge from Occupied Crimea.

What’s Next?

Things remain largely unchanged from last week. Russia is keeping up continual pressure on the frontlines in hopes of making something happen. Ukraine is focusing its efforts deep behind Russian lines to strike headquarters, air defense, communications, and supply nodes. It has recently upped its game to encompass a “strategic droning campaign” directed at Russian refineries. Both sides are is a race for time. I don’t think the Russian situation is sustainable. Their artillery is wearing out and production-plus-depot-stocks of tanks and infantry fighting vehicles aren’t keeping up with the burn rate. For the part of the Ukrainians, they see the danger of political fatigue setting in on their allies. 

For that reason, I think we can expect both sides to try to make something happen. Russian needs a knock-out blow that will convince the EU and NATO that Ukraine must cut its losses. Ukraine needs to show that it can do better than it did last summer.





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