Here’s the latest updates I’ve seen regarding the situation in Mariupol:
⚡️ Azov: 'bombs falling every 10 minutes' in Mariupol.
Azov regiment Captain Svyatoslav Palamar told CNN that the besieged port city continues to suffer heavy bombardment.
On March 21, Ukraine rejected the Russian deadline for Mariupol authorities to surrender.
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) March 21, 2022
⚡️Mariupol city council said that two families evacuating by cars from the besieged city were shot at by the Russian forces.
At least two children have been wounded and are in serious condition. Besides the cars, 20 buses with people left the city on March 21.
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) March 21, 2022
I’ve been checking pretty constantly all day and that’s about all that’s being reported.
Earlier today President Zelenskyy did an interview with Suspilne, which is a Ukrainian public broadcaster. Here is a partial English transcript of the interview:
Quote: “I explained to all negotiating groups: when you talk about all these changes – and they could be historic – we will eventually come to a referendum. The people will have to speak and respond to certain formats of compromises.
The shape of these compromises will be determined by our conversation, and the understanding reached between Ukraine and Russia. In any case, I am ready to go wherever the negotiations take me, as long as I am going there with our people”
Details: Zelenskyy noted that Ukraine has not been accepted into NATO “because they are afraid of Russia.”
“And we need to calm down and say – ‘Okay, what about other security guarantees?’ There are NATO countries that wish to be security guarantors, those who, unfortunately, cannot provide us with 100% membership to the Alliance, but are ready to do everything that the Alliance would have to do if we were members of the Alliance. And I think this is a fair compromise,” he added.
According to Zelenskyy, the issue of security guarantees will include constitutional and legislative changes to Ukraine.
Once again, I don’t think this is Zelenskyy dangling an off ramp to Putin to allow him to exit the war and save face. I think this is a reflection of Zelenskyy’s view of NATO and its utility in regard to Ukraine.
- “Realists” still fail to understand that for Putin, this war is not about Nato per se but about the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. A successful democratic Ukraine that is connected with the West is unacceptable for him, he wages this war to force Ukraine into submission
- Putin’s problem with Nato is that Nato membership puts countries he thinks Russia has the right to control out of his reach — not that Nato is threatening Russia. That’s a propaganda narrative which never fails to fall on fertile ground in the West.
- That’s why this war will not end if Ukraine declares neutrality and the West tells Russia that Ukraine won’t enter Nato. That’s not the point of Putin’s war.
- The point is Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence.
- Any peace agreement, if it’s there to last, will have to find a way to protect Ukraine against Russia in the future — make Russia respect Ukraine’s borders.
- This can be done either by Ukraine itself or by others, or by a mix of both.
- The problem is that those who could protect Ukraine against Russia don’t want to take the risk to enter into conflict with Russia over Ukraine.
- In the ongoing negotiations, Ukraine calls for security guarantees namely by the permanent members of the UN security council plus Germany and Turkey.
- Given their unwillingness in the past, it seems unlikely that they will agree.
- But maybe there can be a temporary arrangement: a window of opportunity during which the West can help Ukraine to build an effective capability to deter Russia in the future.
Much more after the jump.
There’s been some discussion over whether the reason that Russia is stalled out in central Ukraine and has resorted to stepped up long range bombardment everywhere is because it has culminated this phase of the war. Culmination is a military doctrinal term that describes reaching a point in a war where one can no longer advance. As a result one has to pause operationally to resupply and, if necessary, revise the theater strategy before beginning the next part of the war. I think this is possible, but it presumes that Russia’s campaign plan and theater strategy for the war are the basis for what we’ve observed in Russia’s operations over the past three plus weeks. And here’s where I disagree.
I think it is pretty clear that Russia’s theater strategy and the campaign plan was to make a speed run with specialized forces – spetznatz and the paratroopers – dropped way forward into Ukraine and then moved rapidly over land to Kyiv and other key cities; scarf up the national, regional, and local Ukrainian leaders; replace them with quislings, and have those quislings publicly capitulate to Putin. The units and troops that got bogged down were not intended to seize these Ukrainian officials, decapitate Ukrainian leadership at all levels, and then capitulate to Putin. Rather, they were their to consolidate the aftermath by being an occupation force. All because Putin was convinced that the Ukrainians not only wouldn’t fight, they couldn’t credibly defend themselves.
When the speed runs and attempt to land the specialized forces failed, the follow on elements – the vast majority of the forces that Putin had assembled for the invasion and its aftermath – were sent in to try to accomplish with brute force what could not be accomplished with precision. At that point they got bogged down by the Ukrainian defenses combined with the utter lack of quality of the Russian military and its equipment. If this was really the theater strategy and the broad outlines of the campaign plan, which I think is borne out by everything we’ve seen for the better part of the last month, then the Russian’s actually culminated somewhere between day 2 and 4 of the reinvasion.
Regardless, things are still pretty much continuing as they’ve been going.
The Ukrainian military appears to have gotten their hands on a Russian military staff map that was in a Russian unit’s forward headquarters in southern Ukraine. Here’s the map:
Ukrainian forces have destroyed the headquarters of a Russian army unit operating in the Southern front and allowed the Staff map found on site to be leaked to the global network.
The map found is dated March 10, 2022, meaning the Ukrainian military have already used the operationally relevant data from it and subjected it to some sort of “manipulation” prior to allowing it to be published.
The map gives an insight into what capabilities the enemy had on this front as of mid-March. These capabilities consisted of ten battalion tactical groups (BTGs) formed out of units of the 49th Combined Arms Army and the 7th Air Assault Division of the Russian armed forces.
Simultaneously, units of the 22nd Army Corps of the Russian Army were operating without organized BTGs.
Chornobaivka, an airfield located outside of the city of Kherson, has been used by the enemy to deploy its command posts, airplanes and helicopters. Many of the aircraft have been destroyed by six Ukrainian artillery attacks. Based on the data on the Russian Staff map seized, the explanation of the “phenomenon” of Chornobaivka seems surprisingly simple.
More at the link!
In other Russian operational and information security failures:
Komsomolskaya Pravda, the pro-Kremlin tabloid, says that according to Russian ministry of defense numbers, 9,861 Russian soldiers died in Ukraine and 16,153 were injured. The last official Russian KIA figure, on March 2, was 498. Fascinating that someone posted the leaked number. pic.twitter.com/LHrBWIQ49z
— Yaroslav Trofimov (@yarotrof) March 21, 2022
Spiegel International published a long and interesting interview with Ivan Krastev regarding Putin, Putinism, and Russia.
DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Krastev, have you ever been to the Kremlin?
Krastev: No, but I once met Vladimir Putin in Sochi, on the sidelines of a conference shortly after the annexation of Crimea. The president was hosting a dinner. An American colleague of mine was there, but so too was the Austrian chancellor and the foreign ministers of France and Israel. It quickly became clear that Putin felt like he was completely misunderstood. He spoke about Western chauvinism and its hypocrisy. He said people didn’t understand that Crimea is Russian. They are the same arguments we are hearing today, but I wouldn’t say that Putin back then had this messianism.
DER SPIEGEL: Why is it there now?
Krastev: If you’ve been in power for 20 years in an authoritarian state, nobody dares to contradict you anymore. You have established a system, you have become the system yourself, and you can’t imagine that the entire country doesn’t reflect that. You also can’t imagine there being anybody who could be an adequate successor. So, you have to solve all problems yourself for as long as you are alive. For Putin, Russia has long since ceased being a country in the standard sense; it is a kind of historic, 1,000-year-old body.
DER SPIEGEL: What was your impression of Putin?
Krastev: Very intelligent and quick, forthright, confrontative. Sarcastic when speaking with someone from the West. But it is the small things that reveal the most about people. He held forth about the situation in the Donbas like a foreign service agent who knows how many people live in each village and what the situation is like in each of them. He considered the fact that primarily women were responsible for Russia policy in the Obama administration to be an intentional attempt to humiliate him. The hypocrisy of the West has become an obsession of his, and it is reflected in everything the Russian government does. Did you know that in parts of his declaration on the annexation of Crimea, he took passages almost verbatim from the Kosovo declaration of independence, which was supported by the West? Or that the attack on Kyiv began with the destruction of the television tower just as NATO attacked the television tower in Belgrade in 1999?
DER SPIEGEL: Why does he do such things?
Krastev: Because he wants to teach us a lesson. Because he wants to tell us: I have learned from you. Even if that means doing exactly that for which he hates us. On that evening in Sochi, he expressed outrage that the annexation of the Crimea had been compared with Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938. Putin lives in historic analogies and metaphors. Those who are enemies of eternal Russia must be Nazis. And so, he was quick to portray the conflicts in the Donbas as a genocide. Putin’s overstatements became so extreme that they no longer had any connection to reality. He has become hostage to his own rhetoric.
DER SPIEGEL: Is Putin an angry individual?
Krastev: He is constantly speaking of betrayal and deceit. From the West. From individual, former Soviet republics. In 2008, during the war against Georgia, he met with Alexei Venediktov, the editor-in-chief of the Ekho Moskvy radio station, which was one of the last critical media outlets in the country until it was shut down last week. Putin asked if Venediktov knew what he, Putin, had done in his previous job. Mr. President, Venediktov replied, we all know where you come from. Do you know, Putin said, what we did with traitors in my previous job? Yes, we know, said Venediktov. And do you know why I am speaking with you? Because you are an enemy and not a traitor! In Putin’s view, Ukraine committed the greatest crime imaginable: It betrayed Russia.
DER SPIEGEL: Do you believe that the Russian people support the invasion just as they did the annexation of Crimea?
Krastev: There are many Russians who don’t like what is happening and who aren’t necessarily fans of Putin, people who are suffering under corruption and his repression, but who have thus far remained silent because the situation is what it is, and it has always been so. They lived their lives, weren’t interested in politics, and what would be the alternative to Putin anyway? But we should be honest: These Russians also haven’t always been happy with how they have been treated by the West, and they also wouldn’t be happy if Ukraine were to join NATO. Such is Russia. But this isn’t a war of the Russians, this is Putin’s war. All of these apolitical supporters of Putin – who nod along when Putin says that Russia must rise from its knees and be proud – are now, for the first time, asking themselves the most painful question one can ask of an authoritarian leader: Does he know what he is doing? Is he still in his right mind?
DER SPIEGEL: In your research, you have long focused on the relationship between politics and demography. Does that play a role here?
Krastev: Absolutely. Putin has a certain demographic fixation. Since the publication of his essay last summer, he has said on several occasions that had there been no revolution and had the Soviet Union not collapsed, Russia would today have a population of 500 million. He believes that Russia needs the men and women of Ukraine to survive in the new world. On top of that, the pandemic is thought to have caused 1 million deaths in Russia and the country’s birthrate has dropped. Russia is a vast territory that is continuing to depopulate. A large number of labor migrants, most of them from Central Asia, are arriving, to be sure, but the Slavic core of the country is shrinking, which is why Belarus and Ukraine offer the promise of a kind of demographic consolidation. It’s not about the territory of Ukraine, but about the Ukrainian people.
DER SPIEGEL: Putin thinks in ethnic terms?
Krastev: Putin believes that Russia is its own civilization. Putin began his career as a Soviet agent. He wasn’t a nationalist in the classical sense. It is said that he has been strongly influenced by the memoirs of General Anton Denikin, one of the leading officers in the White Army, which was defeated by the Bolsheviks in the civil war of the 1920s. In the speech in which he declared war on Ukraine, Putin also attacked Russia’s Soviet legacy for the first time. Lenin, he says, was the one who created Ukraine. It was the speech of a nationalist, of an anti-Bolshevik.
Much, much, much more at the link!
Dmitry Medvedev seems to have had quite the weekend!
In October, Medvedev published an essay on Ukraine: now one on Poland. If Russia isn’t stopped in Ukraine, it is not clear its ambitions will be stopped by the NATO border. #SupportUkraine https://t.co/EVIqeJWJGI
— Benjamin Haddad ?? ?? ?? (@benjaminhaddad) March 21, 2022
The rest of Fras’s translation of the key points copied and pasted from his quote tweeted thread below.
- Morawiecki, Kaczynski and Czech/Slovenian PM trip to Kyiv was ‘like Lenin’s trip in a German-funded armoured train’, promised Zelensky friendship – but ‘lied, of course’
- Poland suffers from ‘long-term, pathological Russophobia’ and does not mind its cost ‘if the shed burnt down, let the house burn down too’
- Poland (and Polish propaganda) – the most vicious, vulgar and shrill critic of Russia – ‘Community of political idiots’.
- Poland forgets Soviet Army liberated it from Nazi occupation – instead, Soviet ‘occupation’ is equated with Nazism – this is a deceitful and disgusting rhetoric
- Yet, there are no anti-Polish sentiments in Russia – quite the opposite, Russians have reacted with ‘an outburst of sympathy and compassion’ to Kaczynski’s plane crash in Smolensk, and Russia declared a day of mourning to honour the victims [LOLZ]
- Later, during my visits to Poland, I [Medvedev] became convinced that Russia and Poland face no obstacles to improving relations (…) However, Poland’s elites, led by Kaczynski (‘no.2’), controlled by the American masters, did everything to block the path to normalisation
- The interests of the citizens of Poland have been sacrificed due to Russophobia of ‘mediocre politicians’ and their ‘puppeteers from across the ocean’ with clear signs of senile insanity (sic!).
- [Poland’s] decision to abandon the purchase of Russian gas, oil and coal and the opposition to Nord Stream 2 have already caused serious damage to the economy of this country. Now it will only get worse.
- But now it is much more important for the vassal Polish elites to swear allegiance to their overlords – USA – than to help their own citizens, so they will constantly fan the fire of hatred for the enemy – Russia
- Economic cooperation with Russia is beneficial for the Poles, human ties are indispensable, and cultural and scientific exchange between the birthplaces of Pushkin and Mickiewicz, Tchaikovsky and Chopin, Lomonosov and Copernicus is vital.
- Medvedev’s grand finale: and most likely, Poles will make the *right* choice to cooperate with Russia – on their own, without prompting and pressure from overseas elites suffering from dementia.
He seems nice!
Apparently, Dmitry Rogozin was exposed to a double dose of whatever Medvedev was exposed to over the weekend:
Long story short: the Russian state is now led by men who embrace conspiracy theories built on comic-book-level pseudoscience. Moscow sought to embolden the nutsos in the West with disinformation but infected itself. And there’s the real “bioweapon.” https://t.co/PXQeNuepwF
— Kevin Rothrock (@KevinRothrock) March 21, 2022
He seems nice too!
You see a video how Russian military kicking a civilian in Kherson. And you understand that even when the law does not work, you still need to look for other ways to protect people who are left alone with the occupiers#RussianWarCrimes pic.twitter.com/P282uXgrxJ
— Oleksandra Matviichuk (@avalaina) March 21, 2022
Look how the "second strongest army" shoots peaceful demonstrators in Kherson. And let me remind you that we ask for international presence in the occupied cities. @UN @OSCE @coe where are you? We need you on the ground.#StandWithUkraine pic.twitter.com/PftzC5J2F6
— Oleksandra Matviichuk (@avalaina) March 21, 2022
Most civilians still unable to flee Mariupol. Those who own a car can try to use 'a green corridor', but even there civilians are under constant Russian shelling. At 15 Russian checkpoints before they reach Ukraine, people get stripped, deprived of mobile phones, humiliated https://t.co/7ostghhOKm
— Olga Tokariuk (@olgatokariuk) March 21, 2022
Mariupol today. We publish the full text by Nadia Sukhorukova.
I go outside in between the bombings. I need to walk the dog. She's whining, shivering, and hiding behind my legs. I want to sleep all the time. My yard, surrounded by high-rise buildings, is silent and dead. 1/13
— Hromadske Int. (@Hromadske) March 20, 2022
- I’m not afraid to look around anymore. In front of me, the entrance to building #105 is burning down. The flames already devoured five floors and are slowly chewing the sixth. The fire in the room burns as delicately as in a fireplace. 2/13
- Black charred windows are windowless. Curtains torn by the fire fall out of them like tongues. Calm and doomed I look at it. I am sure I will die soon. It is a matter of a few days. In this city, everyone is constantly waiting for death. I just want it not to be too scary. 3/13
- Three days ago, a friend of my older nephew came to us and told us that there was a direct hit in the fire department. Rescuers died. One woman got her arm, leg, and head torn off. I dream that my body parts will remain in place, even after the aerial bomb explosion. 4/13
- I don’t know why, but I think it’s important.Although, they won’t bury during hostilities. That’s what the police told us when we asked what to do with our friend’s dead grandmother. They advised to put her on the balcony. I wonder how many balconies have dead bodies on them?5/13
- Our home on Mira Avenue is the only one without direct hits. It was hit twice by a shell, in some apartments windows were blown out, but it did not suffer much compared to other homes. The whole yard is covered with layers of ash, glass, plastic, and metal fragments. 6/13
- I try not to look at the iron thing that flew into the playground. I think it’s a rocket, or maybe a land mine. I don’t care, it’s just unpleasant. I see someone’s face in the third-floor window, and I shudder. It turns out that I am afraid of living people. 7/13
- My dog starts howling, and I realize that they’re going to shoot again. I am standing outside in the daytime and a cemetery silence all around me. There are no cars, no voices, no children, no grandmothers on the benches. Even the wind is dead. 8/13
- A few people are here, though. They lie on the side of the house and in the parking lot, covered with their outer clothing. I don’t want to look at them. I’m afraid I’ll see someone I know. 9/13
- All life in my town is smoldering in basements right now. It’s like a candle in our shelter. Putting it out is so easy. Any vibration or breeze and the darkness will fall. I try to cry, but I can not. I feel sorry for myself, my family, my husband, my neighbors, my friends. 10/13
- I go back to the basement and listen to the ugly scraping of iron. It’s been two weeks, and I don’t believe that there was ever another life. 11/13
- There are still people in the basement in Mariupol. It’s getting harder for them to survive by the day. No water, no food, no light, they can’t go outside. The people of Mariupol must live. Help them. Spread the word. Let everyone know that civilians continue to be killed. 12/13
- Original text on Facebook
I do not know if Ms. Sukhorukova is still in Mariupol, if she’s made it out to safety, or if she is even alive. So if one of our Ukrainian or Russian speakers who has access to Facebook and is willing to go poking around please do and let us know in the comments.
Here’s a video appeal by a police officer in Mariupol that was published a few days ago. It has subtitles.
Ukrainian forces have liberated Makariv. Which is good news!
Your daily bayraktar!
This dude's name is Bayraktar ? pic.twitter.com/9tDGBYZvRd
— Illia Ponomarenko ?? (@IAPonomarenko) March 21, 2022
Who’s a good Bayraktar! You are!!!!
That’s enough for tonight.