Over the past 36 hours or so I’ve seen references to the Ukrainian military preparing to counterattack from Lysachank back across the river to try to retake Sievierodonetsk. The first of these was a fuzzy screengrab of a Facebook post by one of President Zelenskyy’s senior staff that had been retweeted with a snippet of translation that the Ukrainians had laid a trap for the Russians and were about to spring it. Then I started to see some of the pseudonymous “OSINT” accounts quote tweet video from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Radio Svoboda with interviews with a handful of members of the International Legion. These quote tweets claimed that the International Legion had entered Sievierodonetsk as part of the counterattack. And they were the usual hyperbolic claims. Given that there was no way to tell from the video snippet just where these guys were in Ukraine, I made note and waited until a more reliable source provided information on what was going on. Earlier today, I saw this information posted by a former member of NAVDEVGRU:
SEVERODONETSK / 1630 UTC 04 JUN/ Having determined to take the city, RU inadvisedly committed to a costly urban fight. Choosing to make a defensive stand in highly favorable urban terrain, UKR appears now to have lured RU forces into a fruitless diversion of men and materiel. pic.twitter.com/wMlbZBfyUZ
— Chuck Pfarrer (@ChuckPfarrer) June 4, 2022
Pfarrer is a known quantity – as in I know who he is, can verify his credentials with people who I know, his expertise, etc – so I’m comfortable sharing his analysis and his mapping of the situation.
About three hours later The Kyiv Independent reported the Ukrainian counterattack is, indeed, underway:
Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the region, said on June 3 that previously Russian troops had controlled 70% of the city. Gaidai added that the Ukrainian army had counterattacked, and the Russian-controlled area had shrunk to about 50%.
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) June 4, 2022
The Kyiv Independent is also reporting that four members of the International Legion have been killed in action. There is no specificity to where in Ukraine they were killed.
If Ukraine can push Russia out of Sievierodonetsk it will reverse much of the limited gains that Russia has made in the Donbas campaign. I would not expect it to cause Putin to reconsider what he’s doing, but it will be a huge morale booster to the Ukrainians and, one would expect, equally demoralizing to the Russian forces in Ukraine. At least the ones that will know about it. It also demonstrates the reality of the Donbas campaign we’ve been watching for the past several weeks: the gains on both sides are limited and often transitory. The lines are, for the most part, static as the Russians pound away at whatever they can reach in Ukraine, not just in Donbas. And as Ukraine brings the new weapons systems they’re receiving online and work to push the Russians back.
Here’s President Zelenskyy’s address from earlier this evening. Video below, English transcript after the jump. No mention of the counterattack.
All our defenders!
On this day, the 101st day of the full-scale war, the Skete of All Saints burned down in the Svyatohirsk Lavra in the Donetsk region. It caught fire as a result of Russian artillery shelling.
Not the first shelling of the Lavra. Three Lavra monks were killed by the Russian shelling on Wednesday. Worship services are forced to be held in the basement. The roar of artillery and the “arrivals” of Russian shells are constant in the Lavra.
And this is one of the three Lavras of Ukraine. This is the Lavra of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is still considered in Moscow to be connected with the Russian Orthodox Church. Even this does not stop the Russian army.
They are ready to burn everything: Orthodox churches just like anything else in Ukraine. During the full-scale war, 113 churches have already been destroyed or damaged by Russian shelling. Among them are the ancient ones – those that withstood World War II, but did not withstand the Russian occupation. There are also those that were built after 1991. Reconstruction of the Skete of All Saints of the Svyatohirsk Lavra began in 2001. June 10 would be another anniversary of the beginning of construction.
I was interested in what Russian propagandists would say about the destruction of the skete. But, in fact, nothing interesting. They are very predictable. Ukrainians are accused of arson. Although the monks and laity in Svyatohirya saw perfectly that it was Russian artillery.
I believe that this lie of the propagandists, this shelling, and the support of the Orthodox hierarchs in Russia for the aggression against Ukraine – all this should motivate the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to draw conclusions. More decisive conclusions and a clear condemnation of each of those who condone aggression.
Ukrainian diplomats will do everything to make everyone in the world aware of this another crime of the occupiers. Russia is deliberately and systematically destroying Ukraine’s cultural and historical heritage, as well as social infrastructure, housing, and everything necessary for normal life.
A state that does this cannot be a member of UNESCO and cannot remain at the UN as if nothing had happened. The UN Charter does not provide any rights for terrorists, and UNESCO is not a place for barbarians.
Russian troops again fired at the border areas of the Sumy region, Mykolaiv, cities and communities of the Zaporizhzhia region, Kharkiv region.
The situation in Severodonetsk, where street fighting continues, remains extremely difficult. It is also difficult in Lysychansk, Marinka, Kurakhove, other cities and communities of Donbas. Constant air strikes, artillery and missile fire. As of this morning, the total number of various Russian missiles used against Ukraine is already 2,503.
Our heroes hold their positions and do everything to inflict maximum losses on the enemy. I am grateful to each of our defenders who are approaching the day when Russia will have to leave Donbas alone.
Today in our country the memory of children who died from Russian aggression was honored. Over the past day, the worst figure – the number of children killed – has not changed. 261 children. That’s how many Ukrainian children lost their lives because of Russia. But this is the official number. The more we learn about those who were buried in the occupied territories, the greater, unfortunately, may be the number of names on this list.
It’s scary to read. Year of birth, place of residence, circumstances of death… All of them would be alive now if only one person in Moscow had not caused this catastrophe.
This can no longer be fixed. Because this war is already going on. But the terrible consequences of this war can be stopped at any moment.
The Russian army can stop burning churches. The Russian army can stop destroying cities. The Russian army can stop killing children. If the same person in Moscow just gives such an order. And the fact that there is still no such order is an obvious humiliation for the whole world.
Eternal memory to all who died from the Russian invasion!
Eternal glory to everyone who defends Ukraine!
Glory to Ukraine!
This thread by Politico’s Christopher Miller has both pictures of the All Saints Cathedral that was attacked and video of it after the attack.
Here’s today’s operational update from Ukraine’s MOD (emphasis mine). You’ll notice there is an exceedingly discreet reference to the reported counterattack in Sievierodonetsk.
The operational update regarding the russian invasion on 18.00 on June 4, 2022
The one hundred and first (101) day of the heroic resistance of the Ukrainian people to a russian military invasion continues.
russian occupiers continue to launch missile and air strikes on military and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.
The situation in the Volyn and Polissya areas remained unchanged.
In the northern direction, the enemy did not take active action, no signs of the formation of strike groups were found. Enemy artillery shelling was recorded in the settlements of Starikove and Katerynivka, Sumy Oblast, and Kamyanska Sloboda, Chernihiv Oblast.
In the Slobozhansky direction, the enemy continues to concentrate reserves for attempts to continue offensive operations in the directions of the settlements of Izyum, Barvinkove and Slovyansk.
In the Kharkiv direction, the enemy is trying to keep the occupied borders and prevent the advance of units of the Defense Forces. Systematic fire continues on the positions of our troops.
In the Donetsk direction, the occupiers are trying to restrain the defenders of Ukraine by violating the logistics system. Fighting continues for the establishment of full control over the city of Siverodonetsk.
The enemy fired four missiles from the Tochka-U tactical missile system in the areas of Bakhmut, Kramatorsk, Kostiantynivka and Lysychansk. In addition, russian invaders launched airstrikes on the cities of Slavyansk and Soledar.
In the Lyman direction, the enemy used artillery near Svyatogorsk, Starodubivka and Mykolayivka.
In the Siverodonetsk direction, the enemy fired from artillery and rocket-propelled grenade launchers at the settlements of Siverodonetsk, Lysychansk, Ustynivka, and Toshkivka. It struck airstrikes with Ka-52 helicopters near Girske, Yakovlivka and Myrna Dolyna, and Su-25 planes near the town of Ustynivka.
In the Bakhmut direction, the enemy used mortars, artillery and rocket-propelled grenade launchers in the areas of Toretsk, New York, Vrubivka, and Pokrovske. It struck airstrikes with Ka-52 helicopters near Berestov and Klinov.
In the area of the city of Donetsk the enemy fired at the settlements of Mykilske, Krasnohorivka, Vesele and Novoselivka. He used weapons of Su-25 planes in the areas of Novomykhailivka and Marinka. Rocket and air strikes were inflicted on the village of Kurakhove.
In the Novopavlisk and Zaporizhzhia directions, the enemy used rocket-propelled grenade systems in the areas of Hulyaipole Orikhiv, and Zalizny Hai. An air strike by Su-25 aircraft was inflicted on the village of Kamyanske.
The situation in the South Buh area has not changed.
The enemy continues to block civilian shipping in the northwestern Black Sea.
Ukrainian defenders inflict losses on the russian occupiers in all areas where active hostilities continue.
In order to justify the destruction of civilian objects on the territory of Ukraine, the russian occupiers continue to spread information about the location of military units in schools, hospitals and churches.
We urge you to trust information only from verified sources and not to spread Russian fakes and misinformation.
We believe in the Armed Forces of Ukraine! Together to victory!
Glory to Ukraine!
Here is today’s assessment from Britain’s MOD:
There is no updated British map today. Nor was there a DOD backgrounder.
Last night in the comments, Medicine Man asked me:
What do you rate the odds that we (the West) buckles in the face of “hardship”, Adam?
I think Putin is counting on the GOP at least retaking the House. Which will both end any funding for Ukraine after January 2023 and completely tie up the Biden administration with frivolous “oversight” investigations that are actually political witch hunts.
He’s also counting on a refugee crisis in Europe that can be used to by his extremist catspaws in the various EU member states to weaken the EU and NATO.
After I’d racked out, Andrya then asked me the following follow up:
Adam, thanks so much for your posts but: your comments touched on something that absolutely terrifies me. It seems likely that the Republicans will take the House in the midterms: and the Republican media have been paving the way to a pivot towards pro-Russia. I don’t see how Ukraine wraps this up prior to Jan 2023. Can Ukraine keep going on EU aid alone? Will the EU even keep committed if the US bails? If Ukraine falls because the US bails it would absolutely break my heart.
I want to answer both her question and expand on my reply to Medicine Man. We’ll start with Andrya’s question.
I want to preface this a bit. I have been loathe for several months to write anything here about domestic politics in the US. Not because I don’t have something to say, but because, quite frankly, it’s simply not worth the pain that it causes you or that I receive in response. And that pain, which comes in the comments and replies, is a result of everyone here being rightfully concerned, but also because I think everyone is so fatigued from that rightful concern that a bias to normalization because of exhaustion has set in. And because if what I am writing is correct, we are most likely path dependent locked into a bad outcome and nothing that anyone could do, in terms of normal political activity and mobilization and efforts, will make a difference. Which is itself further enervating. So I’ve largely stayed silent.
To Andrya’s question, with the caveat that a lot can happen between now and November including things we may not be able to anticipate, I think things are going to go very badly. I think that just based on the extreme gerrymandering in Florida and Ohio that the Republicans will retake the House. I wouldn’t be surprised if they establish a sizeable majority. As I and others have indicated, you can’t out organize an extreme gerrymander. Democrats would have to have outperform the Republicans by a significant margin – I’ve seem estimates between at least 10 and up to 20 percent nationwide – to be able to narrowly hold the House based on the gerrymandering that has been put into place this cycle. That’s an enormously heavy lift. And because these new Republicans are going to be far more like Taylor Greene, Gosar, Boebert, Gaetz, etc, the House will be far, far, far more dysfunctional than it was between 2011 and 2018. And that dysfunction is going to come from the revanchist, reactionary, nationalist, isolationist, and xenophobic portions of the GOP House caucus. This 50 or so Republicans that voted against Ukraine aid two weeks ago will both expand in number and have incredibly power to influence if not set the GOP’s agenda in the House.
I also think that the Democrats will be lucky to hold the Senate. This is the last good Senate cycle map for the Democrats. EVER!!!!! From 2024 on there will be more Democrats up for reelection than Republicans. By 2030, 70% of US senators will represent no more than 30% of Americans. And the vast, vast, vast majority of that 70% of US senators will be Republican. As in like all of them but Jon Tester. The senatorial electoral information that has come out of New Hampshire and Nevada, indicates that the Democratic incumbents in those states are in jeopardy. As much as I like Senator Warnock, think he’s doing a great job, and want him to be reelected, the simple reality is that despite Hershel Walker being the poster person for untreated CTE and TBI, by nominating him the Republicans have provided a whole lot of white swing voters in Georgia an excuse to go back to voting for the Republican candidate. They can vote for Walker and honestly claim they voted for the Black guy and, as a result, they’re not prejudiced. I’m on the fence as to whether the demoralization that Sinema has created among Arizona Democrats will have an effect on Senator Kelly’s attempt at reelection to a full term, but I expect it will be a problem.
Currently the GOP controls 26 states completely. Meaning governorship, both chambers of the legislature, and in most cases control over the state appellate courts and state supreme court. This is called a trifecta – for the governorship and both chambers of the legislature (it ignores the courts) – and the projections right now is they will expand on them. Potentially up to 30 states. We already know what the Republicans are doing in these states they have complete control over: legalizing voter suppression, going after major (and minor) private companies and business that won’t toe the GOP’s line, legalizing censorship and the creation of a factually inaccurate history, civics, and science curriculum, and legalizing new bigotry against LGBTQ citizens, especially children. This past week the GOP trifecta in OH legalized private citizen challenges to the sex/gender of student athletes including mandatory physical investigation of student athlete’s genitalia. Yesterday, DeSantis through executive action via the state Board of Health, implemented his own version of Abbott’s ban on medical services for trans youth. He took it a step farther by also ordering that Medicaid could not pay for anything having to do with trans specific healthcare.
Additionally, the GOP is organizing to create chaos during elections by creating a nationwide cadre of poll watchers and workers. It is also organizing to try to peel off a few percent of minority constituencies critical to Democratic success in elections through the creation of community outreach centers across the country. These seem very similar to the outreach that then governor and now Senator Rick Scott did with the Puerto Rican community in Florida. Especially those that had relocated because of Hurricane Maria. Just a few percent of defections in key constituencies or their suppression would have major electoral effects in November.
When you combine all of this information together – how big a nationwide majority the Democrats will need to overcome the extreme Republican gerrymanders in regard to the House and state legislatures, the inherent institutional gerrymander that is the US Senate, the legalization of voter suppression by GOP controlled states, and other GOP efforts, it indicates that it will be very hard for the Democrats to hold the House, let alone both chambers of Congress.
And I haven’t even gotten into, and I’m really not going to, the demoralization caused by how the US political news media frames their coverage and reports on what is going on. The boundaries on that reporting are set by The NY Times for the mainstream news media regardless of whether it is print or TV/Cable TV and Fox for the right.
I also haven’t gotten into what is clearly a coordinated effort by MBS to damage President Biden and the Democrats because, unlike Trump and Jared Kushner, they won’t let him do whatever he wants. President Biden’s trip to Saudi this month is now not happening, which tells me that the announced deal between the US and OPEC (read Saudi) for OPEC to pump more oil to help bring down the price of gasoline is most likely not happening. Nor have I gotten into the fact that the oil companies and the Republicans in Congress want the price of gasoline to stay high both to increase profits, but also to bring the GOP back into power at the Federal level as quickly as possible so that the industry can be further deregulated.
I also haven’t accounted for the fact that we’re now once again in extremely high COVID spread in the vast majority of the US, the GOP has blocked any further funding for any public health measures regarding COVID including prepurchasing boosters designed to deal with the Omicron subvariants. Nor have I covered that CDC Director Walensky doesn’t seem to have a plan.
Whatever it is that AG Garland is or is not doing, it is further demoralizing Democrats as evidenced by the response to the leak that the DOJ will not be indicting Mark Meadows or Dan Scavino for contempt of Congress.
Nor have I talked about the reality that the Republicans as a revolutionary movement, albeit one with reactionary and revanchist goals, not just wants, but needs the violence we’re seeing. From that which is clearly domestic terrorism to hate crimes to that which is just called mass shootings. The more violence, the more fear, anger, and anxiety. The more fear, anger, and anxiety the greater the chance that Americans will willingly support an authoritarian who will make it all stop. Remember, as I’ve written here before, Revolutionary Warfare = Guerilla Warfare + Political Action. The Republicans and the conservative movement that it services are all in on American politics as Revolutionary Warfare. The violence – domestic white, christian nationalist extremism; hate crimes; mass shootings – is the Guerilla Warfare. The blocking legislation and nominees in the Senate, the bizarre political actions by GOP members of the House and Senate, the actions taken by GOP majority and supermajority legislatures in both states where the GOP has full control and the handful of states where they have the legislature but not the governorship are the Political Action. As are the reactionary and revanchist Supreme Court opinions and those of some of the packed appellate courts like the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
I’m not trying to run down the Democrats. The Biden administration has done some amazing things over the past 17 months both with and in some cases despite their slim majority in the House and their majority that isn’t really a majority in the Senate. But the news media decided very quickly that there was and would be no honeymoon for the Biden administration, that he had no mandate to govern, and the editorial decisions about how to frame the political coverage has had a significant effect on his popularity, as well as the popularity of the Democratic Party and politicians.
As a result of all of this, I expect that things are going to go badly to very badly this November. If I was advising the Ukrainians, I would suggest they ask for everything they think they might even remotely need from the US – in funding, in equipment and material – immediately. And the request should be made in light of the reality that after December 2022, they won’t be able to get anything else from the US. This way if the worst does happen, then they will have insulated themselves as much as possible from the domestic American political fallout for at least the the following two years.
Now that everyone is ready to commit various acts of self harm, let’s talk a bit about the attempt by Putin to use the second order effects of his re-invasion of Ukraine to crack the European Union.
What Putin is trying to do is achieve subordinate goals that will then function as ways to achieve his primary strategic objectives and ends. If Putin can create a large enough food crisis in parts of the Middle East and Africa, then he believes he can kick off another refugee crisis just like he did between 2014 and 2016 from his actions in support of Assad in the Syrian civil war. It is important to remember that the Levant is still suffering from over a decade of drought, which has hit Iraq particularly hard. Moreover, mercenaries, commonly referred to as the Wagner Group, working for Progozhin’s subsidiary mineral extraction companies are currently operating across and through the Sahel. They are creating significant problems in the Central African Republic, parts of Sudan, and Mali. They’re also a major problem in Libya. So they have the ability to create population outflows through violence as well as famine. We already know that India isn’t going to make its stockpile of grain available for export. Modi has decided to sit on it. If Putin’s theft of Ukrainian grain or interdiction of it preventing it from being brought to market is successful, he believes he can create a food scarcity crisis that will overwhelm the EU states. At the same time, if his theft and/or interdiction of Ukrainian grain also creates a food scarcity crisis in Ukraine, then he can increase the outflow of Ukrainians into the EU as refugees as well. This refugee crisis of Ukrainians, as well as people from parts the Middle East and parts of Africa is intended to provide an opening for the extremist nationalist and fascist movements and parties he supports in the EU states to make electoral, other political, and societal gains. He also intends for the refugee crisis to create an informational and ideational space for the blame to be placed on the Ukrainians, especially the Ukrainian refugees. The Russian information warfare around the grain and refugee issues is already setting the conditions for this.
I think this strategy could be partially successful. Right now the soft to almost indifferent parts of the EU regarding Ukraine and her defense against Putin’s re-invasion are Germany, France, Italy, and Hungary. Hungary for obvious reasons resulting from who Orban is, his own history, and his alliance with Putin against the rest of the EU. Italy, especially its news media, has been particularly susceptible to Russia’s information warfare campaign against Ukraine. We’ve covered what is going on with Germany a number of times. Though this new Der Spiegel reporting is interesting. As for France, Macron seems to have completely lost the plot based on today’s reporting.
What I think could happen is not that the EU or NATO will split, but they’ll simply become irrelevant to the process. You’d see the Baltic states, Poland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and the US – provided what I’m worried about doesn’t happen in November – continue to support Ukraine while Germany, France, Italy, Hungary either wind up somewhere between ineffectually useless (Germay, France, Italy) or outright hostile (Hungary). The other EU and NATO members will chip in when and where they feel they can and it is in their interests.
This is now already far, far more than I wanted to write this evening, but I felt that Andrya and Medicine Man deserved proper answers. Even if they are unpleasant. So I’m not going to get into why I wouldn’t count on the sanctions and economic measures regime actually causing any change in Putin’s behavior. Other than to say that there are far, far, far more states in the global south that are not participating in them than are. And all of those states can be exploited by Putin to serve as third party proxy buyers for the tech and material that Putin needs to keep his economy in general and his war machine in specific chugging along. More on this concern on another night.
Let’s leave it there.
Your daily Patron. I apologize in advance, but this video is not available with subtitles. However, what it is is Patron teaching Ukrainian children how to be safe amid the reality of all the mines and other IEDs and explosive booby traps the Russians have left behind.