Welcome to Awful Avalanche, I hope you will read and enjoy my posts!
Welcome to Awful Avalanche, I hope you will read and enjoy my posts!
Pushkin wrote so many terrific works, it would be hard to name a favorite. But — gun to head — I would have to admit that mine is the epic poem Poltava. Of which here is one of my favorite passages. A very powerful scene. The context: Cossack Hetman Mazepa, treasonously conspiring against his ruler, Tsar Peter I (sometimes with Sweden, sometimes with Poland), has plotted to frame his subordinate, Ataman Kochubei. The latter happens to be Mazepa’s (involuntary) father-in-law, since the elderly Mazepa has seduced and then eloped with Kochubei’s young daughter. Kochubei has always been loyal to Russia and to the Tsar, but has been tortured into making a false confession. On the night before his execution, Kochubei has an interesting conversation with Mazepa’s henchperson:
|Орлик: Мы знаем,||Orlik: We know|
|Что ты несчетно был богат;||That you were rich;|
|Мы знаем: не единый клад||We know you buried treasure|
|Тобой в Диканьке укрываем.||Somewhere in Dikanka.|
|Свершиться казнь твоя должна;||Your execution will take place;|
|Твое имение сполна||Your estate, in full|
|В казну поступит войсковую.||Will be confiscated by the army.|
|Таков закон. Я указую||Such is the law. I order you|
|Тебе последний долг: открой,||As your final duty: divulge|
|Где клады, скрытые тобой?||Where you hid the treasure?|
|Так, не ошиблись вы: три клада||You’re not wrong: 3 treasures|
|В сей жизни были мне отрада.||In this life brought me joy.|
|И первый клад мой честь была,||And the first of these, my honor,|
|Клад этот пытка отняла;||Torture wrenched it from me;|
|Другой был клад невозвратимый||The second treasure can never be returned:|
|Честь дочери моей любимой.||The honor of my beloved daughter.|
|Я день и ночь над ним дрожал:||I fretted over it day and night;|
|Мазепа этот клад украл.||Mazepa stole it from me.|
|Но сохранил я клад последний,||But I have kept my last treasure,|
|Мой третий клад: святую месть.||My third treasure: holy vengeance.|
|Ее готовлюсь богу снесть.||I offer this up to God.|
And so I have this piece which evokes images of Mazepa and the fateful battle of Poltava. In which the loyal Kochubei was finally avenged postumously. But who is Mazepa here, and who is Kochubei?
Was it Marx or Engels who once wrote that history always repeats itself — but the second time as farce? For Act I we have the tragic hero, then in Act II they bring in the clowns.
The Russian blogosphere is having a field day with this story. In which the Swedes, virtue signalling so madly their arms almost fell off, gifting Zelensky with some historical document from their archives. Allegedly a letter (actually a xerox copy) from the 18th century signed by Swedish King Karl XII. In the letter Karl orders his Ambassador to Constantinople to “recognize” the Zaporozhian Sich. Whatever “recognize” means in this context. Because the chronology is such, according to historians:
A copy of the letter was handed to Zelensky by the visiting Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson. Zelensky was tickled pink and used this dubious gift to spew his usual bloviations about Cossacks and Ukrainian freedom. Analysts don’t see much point in Zelensky’s PR over this letter, except to repeat usual Ukrainian B.S. over their ancient claims as a sovereign nation. Claims that are usually based, as in the Mazepa example, on a series of betrayals and military defeats.
To add some humor to this rather dry piece, I quote a comment I saw on one of the pro-Russian blogs: “Looks like Ukraine is getting skinnier, as Russia gets fatter.” Well, that’s one way to put it!
So I have this piece, by reporter Alexei Degtyarev. The portion of Kherson Oblast which has been “occupied” by Russian forces has been, up to now, run pretty much single-handedly by Vladimir Saldo, head of the Military-Civil Administration. The Big Kahuna, in other words. But now things are changing very quickly, Kherson is preparing itself to become a new Oblast of the Russian Federation, and it’s time to get serious. Saldo tweeted the following on his Telegram-channel: “I, as the Head of the Military-Civil Administration, having absorbed the experience of how governmental organs are formed, in the regions of the Russian Federation, have decided to put together a government of the Kherson Oblast, and to select the best cadres that we can find, both from among the residents of the Kherson region, and also from among Russian professionals and managers.”
Readers are all abuzz: Who are these new people? Who gets which juicy post? Dish it out!
And the Oscar for New Kahuna is… Sergei Eliseev! He gets to be the new head of the Oblast government – yay! Who is this guy, you might ask? This is the juicy part, my contacts in the celebrity gossip circle aver that Sergei is a former Deputy Head of the Kaliningrad Oblast! He was plucked from the casting couch and dispatched to the famous “Governor’s School” hidden deep in the Russian heartland. Which should not be confused with the “Governess School”, which is where Jane Eyre learned her trade. Wagging tongues claim that Sergei had to pass several tests, including the talent and swimsuit portions, in order to learn how to be a Russian Governor. Insiders dish that graduates from this school now head the majority of the regions of the Russian Federation. Which is a good thing, if you are believer, as I am, in standardized work and product.
But Eliseev brings more to the table than just his academic chops: Coming from Kaliningrad, he has this valuable experience in managing a Russian enclave surrounded by hostile neighbors. Although, to be fair, the Poles and Lithuanians never tried to plant car bombs in his Mercedes. Which is one of the current hazards of serving in former Ukrainian regions.
Next in the line-up we have Alexei Kovalev, who will assume the post of Deputy Administrator for Agriculture. Alexei brings his valuable experience of freestyle Parliamentary floor-fighting straight from the Ukrainian Rada, where he served as a Deputy from the “Servant of the People” Party. After the liberation of Kherson by Russian forces, Kovalev decided to remain in his native region and help the new government. For which the Ukrainians accused him of being a collaborator and probably placed a target on his back.
At the beginning of June Kovalev met with Sergei Kirienko, who works in the administration of Russian President Putin. After the meeting Kovalev confirmed that the Kherson farmer class, which he represents, received broad assurances from the Russian Federation. Namely, that they will be integrated into Russia’s economic model. No more scrabbling around the dirt, trying to find customers. These private farmers of the Taurida region stand to benefit greatly by expanding their consumer base, they are guaranteed all the privileges enjoyed by Russian private farmers, such as subsidies, guaranteed contracts, etc.
After Kovalev made these announcements, there was a scare on June 22 when Kiev Nazis claimed they had liquidated this “traitor” in a terrorist act. But later had to retract their claim, and it seems that rumors of Kovalev’s death were premature.
Next on the list of new cadres is Vladimir Bespalov, who will assume the post of Deputy of Internal Politics. I don’t know what that means, but it sounds sinister. Bespalov also hales from Kaliningrad, where he occupied a similar post. His duties included policing functions and monitoring protest demonstrations, that sort of thing. So we might imagine that his duties in Kherson will include keeping his eye on the kind of people who want to murder his colleague, Alexei Kovalev.
Last but not least, as King Lear muttered while hoisting up the corpse of his favorite daughter, we have a man named Mikhail Rodikov, who gets the job of Minister of Education and Science. Rodikov is a true Varangian, who arrives in Kherson from the Moscow area. However, he has a lot of experience with ex-Ukrainians as well: For three years he headed the Department of Education in Sebastopol. Which bullet point on his resume is probably the main reason he got his current job: Because he gained valuable experience switching the Sebastopol educational system over from Ukrainian to Russian standards. Which is a huge project in and of itself, when you consider the number of textbooks and curricula involved. And this will be his main focus in Kherson as well: He has very little time between now and the start of the new school season, so we’ll leave him alone, and let him get to work.
Saldo is proud of his new team and expects great things from them: “Today the Kherson Oblast and the Russian Federation are gazing in the same direction, we are taking joint decisions regarding our mutual development. A very close integration is taking place, of the Kherson region into the Russian space, and into the Russian paradigm of government. The formation of the new Kherson government has a key significance for understanding the future of this region. We are not talking about cadre reshuffles, nor of rotations, nor even of the renovation of the team. What is forming here is, in principle, a new organ of government, the first government of an independent, non-Ukrainian Kherson Oblast. This is not a temporary government, nor a war-time government, nor some kind of provisional administration, this is a fully-fledged organ of power. And the fact that this government includes not only Kherson residents, but also Russian managers, speaks clearly about the direction of our future Kherson Oblast. Our direction is — into Russia.”
Over the weekend we watched the astounding finish to the liberation of Lisichansk and, with it, the entirety of the Lugansk Oblast. In this piece from KP, war reporter Dmitry Steshin explains one of the reasons why it happened so quickly. Namely, because Russians are the kind of people who learn from past experiences: They watched what happened in Mariupol (AzovSteel) and in Severo-Donetsk (with the Azot Nitrogen plant); this was enough data points to figure out the Ukrainian “tactic”. Which consists of herding civilians as hostages and holing them up in some underground fortress. Which tactic never actually changes the pre-destined course of events, but just adds unnecessary days and weeks of human misery, to the timeline. And the Russians decided they wouldn’t let it happen this time around. Russian military took measures to pre-empt such outcome by seizing all of the industrial plants first. And the civilian population took their cue by refusing to play their assigned role as hostages.
Watch this youtube video made by a French TV company. The most astonishing thing is that this is a Westie outlet, we are expecting to hear only propaganda soundbites of the type, “Damn Russians blew up my house,…” And yet for some reason (Did hell finally freeze over? Are pigs flying overhead?) the editors did not bleep out the part where the residents refuse to go along with these very nice “volunteers” (I am guessing from some wonderful Westie NGO) who are helping the kindly Nazis to round up civilians and put them in, say, the basement of the Glass Factory. For their own safety, of course.
To be sure, as we see in the vid, some go along like sheep. But most of these civilians are too smart to fall for that old trick: “We’re staying here. The Russians are our friends.” These people actually risked quite a lot speaking such heresy right into the faces of the Westie reporters. Who they know are nothing but sheepherders for the Nazis. But the bravery of ordinary people paid off: They only had to wait a few more hours, and then they were free. But they didn’t know that at the time. For all they knew, the Ukrainian soldiers might gun them down for their impertinence.
Fortunately the soldiers were too busy trying to save their own skins. Because this was another Ukrainian tried-and-worn trick: Sending raw cannon-fodder into the cauldron to act as rear-guard (i.e., dead men) sacrificing themselves so that a few more of the experienced soldiers could escape. I am told (by military people) that it is supposed to be the other way around, but that’s another cute trick that the Ukrainians do. They do everything opposite. My previous respect for General Zaluzhny has been dropping recently. No Commander would sacrifice raw troops so callously. Especially when they are so very raw that they don’t even know how to hold off a decent rear-guard. It should have been the crack troops saving them!
In this piece by reporter Mikhail Moshkin, we get some idea of the immense scale of rebuilding that lies ahead. And the main mood among the LPR leadership and people is one of doubt and suspicion. coupled with grim determination. Steshin mentions this in his piece, as well. The biggest worry of the Lugansk people is that Russia will sell them out. Not moving hard enough or far enough to provide them with a decent buffer zone. LPR Ambassador to Russia Rodion Miroshnik: “The presence of Ukrainian units along the borders of our Republics does not allow us to feel assured in the safety of our people and the security of our territories. Therefore the troops must move even further inland.”
Security is the Number #1 priority now. Securing the perimeter and securing the people. “Our security was one of the main goals of this Special Military Operation. And this issue has not been solved yet.”
Miroshnik, who arrived in Lisichansk yesterday to survey the scene, goes on to lay out the project plan for the immediate future of this battered city: A management/government team has to be put together very quickly. Their first task is to restore essential services as quickly as possible: Electricity, water, food, internet and phone services.
Next task is a triage-type audit of all the standing structures: What can be repaired, and what has to be demolished. Construction of new homes and other buildings must begin as soon as possible, but this is not going to be a quick, or easy, task. “Let there be no illusions,” Miroshnik says, “This is going to take years. And let’s be frank: The complete restoration of our cities, their economies and infrastructure, we can do this only with the help and support of the Russian Federation. This process has already started in a whole series of towns and regions through the LPR, and will also occur in the newly liberated Lisichansk, Severodonetsk, Rubezhnoe — the places which suffered the most during these military actions.”
In the final part of the interview Miroshnik returns to the theme of security, which is the foundation of everything else, including economic restoration: “We have liberated our Republic, but we have still not resolved the issue of security for our citizens and our territories. We have already lived through that period when only a thin line of demarcation divided us from the Ukrainian regime. And this resulted in the outbreak of aggression when Kiev attacked our Republic on February 17. This toxic Ukrainian regime, existing right next door to us and fulfilling the orders of the West, it will not allow us to live our lives in peace. They are not capable of [leaving us alone]. This regime feeds on its own Russophobia, its urge to poke its nose into our business and it generates constant threats to our security. We are not inclined to endure such a luxury any more.”
Here is how the great writer Victor Hugo described (in his novel 1793), in the most unflattering terms, the characteristics of the typical Bretagne peasant, he who fought with unparalleled cruelty and determination against the Enlightenment brought to mankind by the French Revolution:
[…] ce sauvage grave et singulier, cet homme à l’œil clair et aux longs cheveux, vivant de lait et de châtaignes, borné à son toit de chaume, à sa haie et à son fossé, distinguant chaque hameau du voisinage au son de la cloche, ne se servant de l’eau que pour boire, ayant sur le dos une veste de cuir avec des arabesques de soie, inculte et brodé, tatouant ses habits comme ses ancêtres les Celtes avaient tatoué leurs visages, respectant son maître dans son bourreau, parlant une langue morte, ce qui est faire habiter une tombe à sa pensée, piquant ses bœufs, aiguisant sa faulx, sarclant son blé noir, pétrissant sa galette de sarrasin, vénérant sa charrue d’abord, sa grand’mère ensuite, croyant à la sainte Vierge et à la Dame blanche, dévot à l’autel et aussi à la haute pierre mystérieuse debout au milieu de la lande, laboureur dans la plaine, pêcheur sur la côte, braconnier dans le hallier, aimant ses rois, ses seigneurs, ses prêtres, ses poux; pensif, immobile souvent des heures entières sur la grande grève déserte, sombre écouteur de la mer. Et qu’on se demande si cet aveugle pouvait accepter cette clarté.
This grave and singular savage, this man with a clear eye and long hair, living on milk and chestnuts, his life limited to his thatched roof, his hedge and his ditch, distinguishing each hamlet of the neighborhood by the sound of its church bell, using water only for drinking, having on his back a leather jacket with silk arabesques, uneducated and embroidered, tattooing his clothes as his ancestors the Celts had tattooed their faces, respecting his master in his executioner, speaking a dead language, which is to inhabit a tomb at the level of thought, pricking his oxen, sharpening his faulx, weeding his black wheat, kneading his buckwheat cake, venerating his plough first, his grandmother second, believing in the Blessed Virgin and the Pure White Lady, devotee at the altar and also in the presence of that mysterious high stone standing in the middle of the moor, ploughman in the plain, fisherman on the coast, poacher in the hallier, loving his kings, his lords, his priests, his own lice; pensive, motionless often for hours on the great deserted beach, dark earpiece of the sea. And we wonder why this blind man cannot accept our Enlightenment.
Reading this passage, I recall, a long time ago, perusing a book on the history of the medieval French peasantry, forgive me I can’t remember the author. It seems that Hugo was not kidding about the lice. It’s hard to imagine nowadays, when French people have the reputation of being so elegant and suave; but back in the day it was true that peasants in the French countryside never bathed, and were swarming with all kinds of vermin, not just lice, but also fleas and genital crabs. Ugh!
I also recall reading somewhere, this time a book on Russian history, the author made the claim that lice never even existed in Russia, until they were brought there by the French soldiers of Napoleon’s army. I find that hard to believe, though, since the Russian word for “louse” dates back to Proto-Slavic times, it is a proper Slavic root (reconstructed as Proto-Slavic *vъšь, modern Russian вошь pronounced “vosh”), and not borrowed from French; I mean, if the French had introduced previously-unknown critters, then the Russians would have probably borrowed the word from them, but they already had their own word. The French word for lice, as we see in the Hugo quote, is poux, which is a different word altogether, and not related to the Slavic one. The etymology is uncertain, but most linguists seem to feel that it comes from Indo-European pēdis which is a derivative from the word for “foot”. Not sure what the semantic shift is here, maybe the ancient Aryans noticed that these bugs which were torturing them, have many tiny feet. The English word “louse” by the way, comes from still another root, Proto-Indo-European *lewH- which gave Proto-Germanic *lūs and also has cognates in Celtic languages.
Anyhow, even if the French didn’t introduce lice into Russia, it is certainly true that their soldiers brought quite a few of these things with them in Napoleonic times, leading to major infestations. One only has to read Jakob Walter’s “Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier” to learn how, in addition to all the other miseries these French soldiers had to endure, they were literally being eaten alive during every day of their campaign. For me, one of the most horrific passages in Jakob’s book is when he finally reaches some type of safety, in an inn in Germany; and starts removing his clothes; only to find that half of his neck, around the collar, has been eaten away and is just a bloody gory mess. Gross! Thank goodness that Jakob survived this ordeal. From what I understand, he wrote his memoirs so that his German grandchildren might learn a valuable lesson: Never invade Russia!
At this point, my loyal readers are probably wondering where exactly I am going with this “lice” theme. Don’t worry, it’s not what you think (or fear), I am not going to be comparing any human beings, of any nationality, with lice. The metaphor that I am building here, relates to the spread of harmful ideas, in this case Banderism. The “Galician” infection, which spread Eastward, engulfed Kiev, and then most of the rest of the Ukraine, with the exception of the Donbass (and Crimea).
Without further ado, getting to my article du jour, the reporter is Elizaveta Bulkina, and the headline reads:
The Ukrainian Ambassador is the odious Andrei Melnik. During an interview with a German journalist, Melnik started yammering on about how great Stepan Bandera was. He claimed that Bandera had no ties whatsoever with Nazi Germany. He compared him with the English anti-hero Robin Hood. When pressed by the incredulous journalist about the mass genocide of peaceful Polish civilians in Galicia/Volhynia during WWII, Melnik waved them off with the assertion that “there were many atrocities and murders committed by the other side”. And further doubling down by claiming “the Poles would love to politicize this history.”
If you scroll down a bit in the VZGLIAD piece that I linked, you can watch the clip of this interview between the German reporter and the Ukrainian Bandera/Nazi apologist. They speak in German, with Russian subtitles. Here is my translation of subtitles for those who don’t speak German or read Russian:
Reporter: You visited the grave of Stepan Bandera, in your official capacity as [Ukrainian] Ambassador [to Germany]. You said that you idolized him [Bandera]. Let’s start with this. When did you start to admire Stepan Bandera, and why?
Melnik: I never said that I idolized him.
Reporter: Yes you did. You have said it on more than occasion.
Melnik: I visited his grave because… Stepan Bandera… you know, it’s not just for me personally, but for many, many Ukrainians, he embodies the [image of the] freedom-fighter. He who stands for the independence of the Ukraine. And thus, a warrior for freedom, of course. Those who fight for freedom, they are above the law. Robin Hood, for example, is the kind of man who is respected by everyone, but he also broke some laws. The laws which existed at that time.
Reporter: You cannot deny that Bandera was an anti-Semite? And would you concede that he and his people were participants in the murder of 800,000 Jews?
Melnik: No, no, no. He had nothing to do with that.
Reporter: But these were his soldiers. There can be no doubt.
Melnik: You say, “there can be no doubt”, but you have no proof. He [Bandera] was not convicted.
Reporter: To be sure, there is no proof that he killed any Jews with his own hands, but it was his men who killed them. He also ordered them to murder 100,000 peaceful civilians.
Melnik: He did not give the order to kill Jews. I insist on that.
Reporter: But I have read his political platform. He regarded Jews as the biggest enemies of all, even more so than Russians, Poles and Germans. Do you seriously doubt this?
Melnik: I doubt that he gave the order to kill Jews.
Reporter: They handed out leaflets when the Germans entered Lvov. I am reading from the text: “People, you must know this! Muscovites, Poles, Hungarians and Jews — these are your enemies. Exterminate them!” [signed] Your Führer Stepan Bandera.
Melnik: Where did you get that leaflet? What is it?
Reporter: When the Germans seized the city [Lvov] in 1941, [the Banderites] distributed these leaflets among that part of the population which was not already under occupation. They [the Banderites] fraternized with the Germans. This is just so obvious! And I just don’t understand how..
Melnik: I am not going to say to you today, that I distance myself from [Bandera]. And that’s all that I have to say about that.
And so, Dear Readers, it only remains to tie these various metaphorical threads together, into the theme that I am trying to present. As we know from listening to Melnik and people of his ilk, the absolute core of the Ukrainian Nationalist ideology (which is a kind of religion) is their absolute worship of the figure of Stepan Bandera. Just as the Bretagne peasant described by Victor Hugo, adored the Holy Immaculate Virgin, so too the Ukrainian Nationalists adore their beloved Führer.
Banderism was born as a mass fascist movement embraced by the Ukrainian peasantry of Galicia/Volhynia. In time, over the past 30 years, this ideology has spread, like lice, engulfing other social classes and urban areas, and eventually becoming the official ideology of the Ukrainian government. Just like lice, this ideology has many legs and infects many healthy organisms. Just like lice, it is repulsive and harmful, and yet there are many people, like the Vendee “freedom fighter” described by Hugo, and like Andrei Melnik, who love their own lice.
So, the Russophile blogosphere continues to digest the latest twists and turns (and slithery-ditheries) of the Snake Island saga. Within this subculture I believe a kind of consensus is being reached , according to which (a) yes, the Island WAS of strategic importance, so don’t pretend otherwise; (b) however, was also physically indefensible for the time being, so garrison needed to leave pronto; and (c) Russian Ministry of Defense (MOD) engaged in rather poor “messaging” of this necessary withdrawal. To the point where, as Alex Christoforou pointed out in his podcast, the Russian spokespersons almost made it sound like, yeah, the presence of the Russian garrison was the cause of world starvation. And now they have kindly removed that impediment. Face-palm! That particular twist had never actually occurred to me, because I took that whole “grain” thing as just a bit of sarcastic trolling on the part of the Russians. But not everybody has such a subtle mind. So yeah, it may have sounded like a confession, to those of smaller brains. Smart people know, of course, that it is the Ukrainians who are blocking the export of grain, with their damned floating mines that make of the entire Black Sea, a horrible safety risk. The tiny Russian garrison at Snake Island never had anything to do with the grain situation, period.
Anyhow, I saw in the blogosphere yesterday that the MOD has taken the notes. Stung somewhat by the constructive criticism, it started to change its story a bit. Reassuring the enraged plebs that Russia is still in control of the tiny island. So Ukies can stop pretending this was some big huge peremoha for their team. Here is iEarlGrey for example, suavely and sarcastically reporting on the latest narrative:
Meanwhile, I shall return to my original source material. From June 30. Whose headline asserts that the evacuation of the Russian garrison was just a big old mousetrap set for the Ukrainians. (Which could be, literally, if they left behind mines and stuff….) This story now seems so old… I think I shall skip over the comments of Russian Senator Sergei Tsekov and pundit Alexander Bartosh. Who are still playing the “grain” card, as in “The UN accused us of blocking the export of grain from the Ukraine, so this was our response… blah blah…” That is just so 2 days ago. When we were at war with Eurasia. Today we are at war with Oceania, so try to keep up please.
Let’s just get to the part where Snake Island still remains under the fire control of the Russian armed forces. Ukrainian paratroopers will not be allowed to land there; and the island will remain in the grey zone, for the time being. Final word goes to Russo-Ukrainian pundit Vladimir Kornilov, who raises some conspiratorial issues from the higher plane of geo-politics; like maybe there were some back-room deals taking place at the UN, for example. Kornilov: “One may assume that the Russian forces were removed from Snake Island in return for the de-blockading of Kaliningrad… but that’s just a theory…” Various other geopolitical theories involve not just Kaliningrad but also quid pro quos involving Norwegian islands, Baltic shipping, and world lithium supplies; for example, this comment by Syd Marsh on Military Summary and Analysis:
They simply exchanged snake island for norway allowing shipping to Russian islands in Norway territory and kalingrad part of agreement with European Union that lithium is was stopping. Give and take and both sides. Islands in Norway were a far greater priority than snake islands significance to Russia Side note: it means more to Romania since it’s technically part of Romanian territory. Which can’t make ukraine feel exactly warm inside.
But now back to Kornilov for the final soundbite, as he concludes with his fake Austrian accent and best imitation of the Terminator’s famous I’ll be back meme: “In time we may return to the island as needed — around the same time as when we liberate Odessa. Russia will be cruising around all of these Suvorov places, and then we shall secure this entire region.”
Suvorov nods from his coffin, while the ghost of Achilles clutches his mystical spear and waits for the shell-shocked snakes to crawl back to their posts, at the entrance to his hidden tomb…
Well, what can I say? Snake Island was back in the news yesterday, and the news is not good for the pro-Russian crowd. While Team Ukraine danced and hooted like chimpanzees, Team Russia erupted in disbelief and anger. Here is a typical comment:
Denis Zhevak on iEarlGrey:
Because of this island. In Russia, unrest on the Internet has literally begun. Everyone is swearing at the authorities and the command about the “gesture of goodwill”. There was talk of a treacherous government that had agreed on something behind the scenes with Europe and was betraying the Russian people. The same thing happened when the Russian command decided to leave the Kiev region.
We Russians, from love for their government to complete hatred is one step.
Everyone is swearing “Why did our soldiers die there? And you just gave away the island, you pathetic corrupt officials. Probably agreed on something with Europe.” Something like that.
Putin had to take full responsibility for himself in order to extinguish the unrest in the media. He took responsibility for the exchange of “Azov”, said that it was his decision. Because then people also started swearing about why they exchanged Nazis.
In short, everything was smooth, but several events undermined the Russian public and the people began to insult the authorities again. But as soon as Putin takes responsibility, people calm down (Trust in him is bottomless). When the Russian soldiers left the Kiev region, the same thing happened, then people cooled down. Although then I remember the people called to put Medinsky in prison, who was negotiating at the time and looked pathetic. Then even Putin was reproached for not following who is negotiating on behalf of Russia. In such situations, people demand explanations from Putin, they always demand that he explain any actions.
People hate it when the state conducts agreements behind its back in such matters and then does not explain anything to the people, and the situation is explained as a “Gesture of goodwill”.
Alex Shu on Military Summary channel retorts:
If cannon artillery began to reach the island, then it no longer makes sense to stay on it.
Which will be my main point later on, as you shall see. (SPOILER ALERT!)
One recalls the classic joke about the Ukrainians with their two interlinked words peremoha (“victory”) and zrada (“betrayal”). And how the one keeps transforming into the other. Snake Island is an exact illustration of that point, but now from the Russian POV.
I saw the news early yesterday morning about the Russian garrison retreating from Snake Island (apparently they all just leaped into speedboats and sped away). Somewhat later I clicked on this headline article in VZGLIAD, thinking, “Hm, let’s see how Russian mainstream media spin this defeat…” The headline gives us a hint at the new talking point:
Yeah, right. But wait till you hear the “real” reason for this zrada: It’s to send a signal of “good will” to the United Nations and Western countries. Uh huh. Readers and commenters of the Russian blogosphere are not necessarily buying this kool-aid. As we saw in the sample comment above, words like “traitor” and “treason” are being bandied about. And that commenter was fairly mild in his disgruntlement, comparatively, his point being, Don’t treat us like children. If there is a bitter pill to be swallowed, then just give it to us straight. And no more of these behind-the-curtain maneuvers.
Another blogo-commenter points out how just a week ago (and I covered that in one of my earlier posts), the VZGLIAD editors were earnestly trying to convince us that Snake Island is the most strategically important object in the war for reasons a) b) and c) — in the current article the VZGLIAD reporters, to their credit, reiterate and review these earlier talking points, instead of trying to drop them down a memory hole, as Westie media would do. Another commenter chafes that, just a few days ago, Putin was awarding a posthumous medal to the hero officer who perished while bringing anti-air defenses to the tiny island. Was his sacrifice all in vain?
Well, war is war. Shit happens. If the brass say they need to retreat because things got too hot, just do it, but don’t try to feed us pablum about humanitarian gestures. I shall take the red pill, if you please. Meanwhile, what I will do here is work through this piece, which consists of a) editorial contortionism that would make a Chinese circus acrobat blush, b) some honest analysis, c) some promise not to allow Ukies to turn the island into their own playground, d) a MacArthur-ite vow to return (once Odessa is taken) and e) a goodly portion of B.S., in my view, especially the bit about trying to help feed the world with Ukrainian grain.
I shall give you my own opinion right off the bat, then I’ll translate/summarize the piece so my readers can make up their own minds. My opinion: it seems to me (and this is very fluid, so don’t assume I am married to this talking point) is that the Russian soldiers were forced off the island by too-heavy Ukrainian artillery, and just taking too many losses to make it worth it. The turning point was Ukies acquiring Westie cannon with a longer range. Long enough to reach Snake from Odessa. Then, forced to abandon this rock, which they previously convinced us was the most important thing in the world, the Russian military tries to sweeten the pill by painting it as a beau geste of unparalled virtue. Meanwhile, we shall meet various analysts who offer other plausible theories, for example: Maybe this was a quid pro quo to Westie enemies, in return for de-blockading Kaliningrad? [paint me dubious]
Well, without further ado, let us dive into this multiple-dimension chess puzzle and see if we can figure it out. The reporters/analysts here are Alena Zadorozhnaya and Darya Volkova. They begin by laying out the new party line about Russia withdrawing its garrison voluntarily, as a “good-will gesture”. To prove to the world that tis not we who are blocking grain-filled vessels from leaving the Black Sea! And allegedly as a direct response to a request from the United Nations. Well, since the UN asked us nicely, who are we to say no?
Next, the authors masochistically take us through the history of the island, its strategic importance, even quoting from earlier op-eds from the same newspaper, on why it was impossible to abandon it. Again, this shows a certain integrity, although the authors know very well they are dealing with readers who have a memory longer than that of a mayfly, and can very well recall words they read, oh, say, a week ago. In the course of several lengthy paragraphs (which I don’t have time to summarize), they take us through the tortured series of events post-February 24, the numerous Ukrainian attempts to seize the island, the heroic Russian defense, etc.
And then they finally arrive at the current turn of events: “Experts are convinced that Russia did not take this decision lightly, to withdraw this garrison from this island.” We meet a military expert named Konstantin Sivkov, who explains how the Ukrainians, after suffering numerous defeats and losing many planes, helicopters, soldiers, drones, etc., finally managed to acquire the kind of cannons that could do the job:
“We can assume from intelligence that was acquired, that the Ukrainian Armed Forces were preparing a massive attack against this island, an attack which would have been very difficult to repel, given the current state of forces. We do not exclude the possibility that they intended to employ French CAESAR self-propelled artillery systems.” Sivkov reminds us that similar systems have been employed by the Ukies on the island of Kubansky, which is located in the Odessa Oblast, near the mouth of the Beautiful Blue Danube River, just 36 kilometers (as the crow flies) from Snake Island. “Such [artillery] attacks against the island would have threatened with personnel losses, this is why the decision was taken,” Sivkov concludes.
A similar opinion is expressed by Rybar, one of the prominent pro-Russian bloggers of this war: After the Ukrainians had brought the CAESARs into Odessa, they, along with their Tochka-U complexes, formed an accelerating density of artillery fire that could not be evaded, therefore it was decided to evacuate the personnel from this death trap. Snake Island cannot be retaken until Odessa itself has been dealt with.
And that is my main theme here. And yet there is much, much more to this story, many other opinions to consider, and a few more twists to round things out…
[to be continued]
Today concluding my review of this piece. Where we left off, things were looking fairly bleak for Russia, on the Central Asia front. Seems like Western NGO’s and Gauleiters have the region eating out of their hands, with corruption and greed being the main motivators. Regional and national elites must toe the Westie line by snubbing Russia, going along with the sanctions, and saying nice things about the Ukraine.
On the other hand, Russia does have a nice card in the deck: the so-called Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), aka the “Tashkent Pact”. In Russian it’s called Организация Договора о коллективной безопасности (ОДКБ). This treaty joins Russia with Kazakhstan, Kirgizia and Armenia; and, realistically might become the hub whereby Russia evades sanctions.
Here is the racket: all of these countries (except for Russia) enjoy all the wonderful privileges of trading with the West. They are allowed to purchase marvelous goods which appear, a little bit later, on the shelves of Russian stores. As the Russian news agency “Sputnik” reports, hardly had Coca-Cola disappeared from Russia when — boom! — it’s suddenly back again. Along with other delicious beverages such as Fanta and Sprite. The only difference is, the labels are now written in the Kirgiz language. It’s a win-win situation: the Central Asian countries turn a nice profit by re-selling Westie goods to hungry Russian consumers; and said Russian consumers are not forced to make that fatal choice between patriotism and a refreshing cola. And, oh so typical, of that Asian “bazaar” mentality of which everyone speaks: Political rhetoric is one thing, economic reality and hard cash are something else entirely.
Next we meet another pundit named Semen (pronounced “Semyon”, and obviously a variant of the Biblical name Simon) Uralov. His specialty is studying the post-Soviet political and economic space.
Uralov explains how Russia’s post-Soviet allies find themselves trapped between Scylla and Charybdis. Navigating this dangerous strait requires very clear rules about what is expected/required of each partner, in a tight inter-relationship based on the notion of parity. His interpretation of the declarations made by Kazakhstan and Kirgizia regarding the Ukraine situation: This is simply an attempt to preserve the appearance of a neutral status, based on the need to avoid economic repercussions. “We also need to distinguish between the position of society and the position of the governments. Russia should respect the need of Kirgizia and Kazakhstan to distance themselves, as this stance is also beneficial to Russia as well. But, in return, it is expected of them to help Russia out with this type of parallel import, it’s a way of getting past the restrictions. Plus, it is also necessary for the local societies, which the West has nothing to offer to, to take a more active position and openly support Russia’s Special Operation in the Ukraine. Russia in turn needs to put in a lot of effort and explain to these societies what its actions are, and the actions of the opponent [and justify its actions].
“All the more so since, as far as I can tell, the majority of the population in Central Asia supports Russia. And therefore we need to interact with these populations as well as with their governments. We need to explain to them how our Special Operation will lead to a new world order, both in the global as well as local sense, in other words in the post-Soviet space. And Russia will inevitably seek to renovate its relationships with all of its allies. Therefore, he who performs better in this crisis, is the one who will receive more of the economic bonuses.”
In conclusion: I have to say that, in reading this piece, I didn’t see a whole lot of evidence that these Central Asian nations are helping Russia against Ukraine, all that much. Unless there is more going on behind the scenes than we know about. But looking on the bright side: Their professed neutrality is way better for Russia than the worst-case scenario as envisioned by the U.S. State Department. When one recalls that all of these nations were on the chopping block for color revolutions and the installation of pro-American governments around Russia’s periphery.
Continuing with this analysis regarding Russia’s relationships with its Central Asian neighbors. Well, relationships with neighbors are often complicated, especially when there is a lot of history there; even more so in times of war; and especially in current conditions, where said neighbors are under enormous pressure from the West, to join the anti-Russia Crusade.
The basic theme of this piece is that said neighbors are secretly rooting for Team Russia against Team Ukraine. But they can’t show their true colors on their sleeves, because … have to publicly suck up to West. Hence the demonstrative displays such as banning the letter Z and forbidding pro-Russian demonstrations, and so on.
Having laid out that thesis, I must express a bit of my own skepticism. From my own superficial knowledge of this region, I am somewhat aware that anti-Russian sentiment does exist in these countries, among a certain portion of the population, and that the governments from time to time have grappled with issues of trying to distance themselves more from the Russian world. For example, by trying to move from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet, that sort of thing. I wrote about some of these issues in past blogposts, for example, this series from 2020 called “Alphabet Soup”.
In truth, it is a complicated history and a complicated process. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find pro-Ukrainian (because anti-Russian) elements among both population and ruling elites. Nonetheless, let us return to the reporter’s take on what is happening there, based on his interviews with respected experts who have studied this region for many years.
Kirgiz President Sadyr Japarov has stated the following: “We are a small country. We don’t have the kind of influence that could stop this conflict [between Russia and Ukraine], therefore we must adopt a neutral position.” Kazakhstan leaders have stated on more than one occasion that they have no intention of helping Russia get around Western sanctions, fearing that they themselves may fall under the same sanctions. Kazakh President Tokaev: “Sanctions are sanctions, we cannot bypass them, all the more so as we have been informed, that should we try to bypass these sanctions, then we ourselves will be subject to so-called secondary sanctions against our own economy.” Admittedly, this sounds quite different from a ringing endorsement of Western values, it sounds more like: “The bully told me if I tried to help the other guy, then he would punch ME in the nose as well!”
For much the same reasons, Tokaev has demonstratively also refused to recognize DPR/LPR. As did Uzbek leader Kamilov. Who has insisted that he will remain friends with both sets of warring cousins, Russia and Ukraine.
Neighboring Tajikistan has adopted a slightly different tactic in dealing with the Russia-Ukraine war: They just pretend it isn’t happening, and their media never report on it. This way they don’t have to worry about saying something that will tick off either side.
All of this is taking place against the background of an unprecedented informational war, waged on the part of the West. For example, Western influence caused Kirgiz officials to ban the showing of several pro-Russian films which depicted the war in the Donbass in a way that was sympathetic to the people of the region. Political pundit Igor Shestakov, whom we met previously, connects this banning of Russian films to the influence of Western NGO’s [yalensis: which we know, realistically, are all funded by the American CIA]. These NGO’s operate freely and roam the steppes of Central Asia as if the land belonged to them. Shestakov: The position of the pro-American NGO’s, which demanded that these films be removed from the theaters, turned out to be more effective than the actions of those who supported this particular film festival. The result was that the Kirgiz government caved to them and banned the films. The good news is that the publicity turned out to be a good advertisement for the movies.”
In addition to the NGO’s, the Central Asian Republics are also routinely visited by American officials who make sure that everybody stays in line. For example, there is an American General named Michael Kurilla who recently completed a whirlwind tour of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kirgizia. Kurilla commands CENTCOM and is the point-person for organizing American military operations in Ukraine. Given this level of attention on the part of the Americans, it is clear that the latter want, with all their hearts, to split Central Asia away from Russia. And the weak economies of the Central Asian nations make them vulnerable to Western blackmail. Not to mention the economic impact of 30 years worth of grants, and the growth of an entire economy and social layer based on feeding at the trough of these grants. Plus the endless propaganda and manufacturing of a “public opinion” that is favorable to the U.S.
Given all of this, it sounds rather dubious that Russia could find any chance of friendship or even alliance coming out of this toxic neighborhood. But you would be surprised…
[to be continued]
I remember back in those distant days, when the war had just begun and it looked like the Russians were about to storm Kiev, I happened to catch one of those sock-puppets on CNN mouth the platitude du jour: “Even if the Russians win, they will find that the whole world is against them.”
People still repeat that meme, but is it true? There is an arrogant assumption that the “whole world” consists of the U.S., Britain, Europe, Australia, and Japan. But last time I checked, most of the “rest” of the world (Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East) is rooting for Russia. Why? Well, maybe these people got sick and tired of the NATO schoolyard bully, strutting around and beating up the other kids. Always accompanied by his giggling subservient sidekick. In this regard one needs to recall that the Ukrainian army provided over 5,000 soldiers to help the American army loot and destroy the Arab nation of Iraq. And maybe some people just got sick of the neo-colonialists targeting their countries with their subversive NGO’s, just like the original colonists flooded them with Christian missionaries. All with the same goal of destroying their cultures and subverting them from within. And maybe they feel just a little bit of righteous Schadenfreude at the sight of the bully’s sidekick receiving a welll-deserved punch in the nose. In this regard it is interesting to see how the leaders of the African nations basically snubbed Zelensky when he tried to sell them his usual kool-aid. Africans are smarter than people give them credit for; they know darned well who is blocking the grain they need to feed their people; and they are certainly much wiser and more principed than the current crop of G-7 leaders. Who resemble nothing so much as Caligula’s inner circle, mouthing silly platitudes and showing off their 60 IQs.
Given that context, it is time to talk about real issues of international relations; and of Russia’s complicated but real-life relationships with its own neighbors. So I have this piece by reporter Evgeny Pogrebnyak. The headline reads:
“The Information War in regard to the Ukraine rages in Central Asia at an unprecedented rate.” Says pundit Igor Shestakov who specializes in Russian-Kirgiz relations. Meanwhile a paradoxical situation is emerging: Central Asian nations which are factually allies of Russia, refrain from making public statements in support of Moscow’s actions. And yet act behind the scenes to support Russia.
One could look at certain phenomena and come to the (incorrect) conclusion that these nations support the Ukraine unconditionally. For example, in Kirgizia and Kazakhstan the much-publicized banning of the letters Z and V. Which was done to please the American State Department and Western NGO’s. Which are hyper-active in this region and have organized large and well-planned demonstrations against Russia. On the other hand, the civil societies of these nations back Russia more often than not. Even more importantly, the leadership of these nations is slyly helping Russia to fare the storm of Western sanctions. The governments were also wary of the pro-West and anti-Russia demonstrations organized by the usual suspects. Worried about the unrest, the Kirgiz government, for example, banned all political demonstrations in the capital having to do with Ukraine, starting April 1. This was partially motivated by the danger of violence breaking out between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian activists.
Shestakov: The main motive is this. The countries of Central Asia are trying, with all their strength, at least for the sake of appearances, to distance themselves from the Ukrainian conflict. They are trying to avoid reprisals (“limitations”) coming from their Western partners. Hence, Bishkek [capital of Kirgizia], Tashkent [capital of Uzbekistan], and Nur-Sultan [capital of Kazakhstan] have declared, on more than one occasion, that they take a neutral stance on the Ukrainian situation.
[to be continued]
Previously we have discussed Ukrainian drone-bombings of Snake Island; and also of certain Russian assets, like the floating gas-extraction platforms in the Black Sea. Add to that the recent droning of an oil refinery in the Rostov Oblast of mainland Russia. Such attacks are usually proceeded (purely by coincidence, of course!) by the UFO phenomenon known as American Worldview satellites hovering overhead and snapping polaroids for their collection. Given the obvious coordination between American satellites and Ukrainian drones, is there anything the Russians can actually do to prevent such attacks? Or must they just sit helplessly and wait for them to happen?
To answer such questions I have this piece by analyst Mikhail Khodarenok. Gazeta is actually nice enough to give us a bio of their contributor, so let us summarize that quickly: Khodarenok is literally a rocket scientist. He graduated from the Minsk Higher Engineering Rocket Institute in 1976, and then the Military Anti-Air Command Academy in 1986. He commanded Rocket Division C-75 from 1980-83; then was Deputy Commander of a Rocket Regiment 1986-88. Senior officer in the General Staff 1988-2000. After which he retired and started working as a military analyst for various newspapers.
All this to say that he knows what he is talking about, when it comes to rockets, drones, and anti-air defenses.
A few days ago, June 22, the Novoshakhtinsky Factory of Petroleum Products (НЗНП) was attacked by two Ukrainian bomb-carrying drones. The factory is located in Russia proper, in the Krasnosulinsky Region of the Rostov Oblast (main city = Krasny Sulin). According to the wiki, this region was actually part of the Donetsk Gubernia of the Ukrainian SSR from 1923-1931. At which time, as if to spite those pundits who claim that Communists always took territory away from Russia and gave it to Ukraine, this region was re-districted to be on the Russia side of the administrative border. A kind of economic Gerrymandering among Soviet regions, purpose being to increase efficiencies of supplies and logistics. This map shows the relative positions (I have marked with arrows) of Mariupol, Donetsk, Rostov-on-Don, and Krasny Sulin. The oil refinery Novoshakhtinsk is the town right below Krasny Sulin. The so-called “internationally recognized” Ukrainian border runs just to the West of Krasny Sulin. Somehow the Ukrainians were able to vault their drones over this border into Russia proper, but the article doesn’t say from whence they were launched, or what their range is.
According to the factory’s press release: “As a result of terrorist actions incoming from the western border of Rostov Oblast, two unpiloted drones struck at technical objects within the publicly traded company Novoshakhtinsky Petroleum Products. The attack caused an explosion. There were no human casualties. The fire was localized and put out.”
The НЗНП factory went live in 2009. It has a capacity of refining up to 7.5 million tons of oil annually, and is the sole working oil refinery in the Rostov Oblast. It specializes in the production and sale of fuel oil, furnace, marine and diesel fuel, and straight-run gasoline.
Russian Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov hastened to reassure everybody that the explosion and fire would not put a crimp on the distribution of benzine and diesel fuels to consumers living the South of Russia: “The factory actually did not supply the kind of fuels needed for motor vehicles to the internal market; and at the current time was undergoing renovation,” according to Shulginov.
[I am not actually sure how to read that; whether or not the refinery was operational at the time, and whether or not it supplied fuel to the Russian military. Because the Ukrainian side claim this was a “legitimate” military target, just like Russia targets their military fuel supplies.]
Like Johnny on the spot, before the drone strike itself, American satellites were seen hovering overhead. The Russian news agency RIA Novosti confirmed that two satellites, Worldview-1 and Worldview-2, both owned by Maxar Technologies Inc., had been snapping photos of the oil refinery, just before the drone strikes.
But the real question here is, how can Russia defend its infrastructures objects from these Ukrainian drone attacks? Khodarenok hastens to defend Russian anti-air systems, who often take the blame when this sort of thing happens. People who say that these systems, such as the Panzir-S1 and the so-called “Top” system, are helpless against drones, simply don’t know what they are talking about. These systems proved their anti-drone effectiveness in several theaters of war, including Syria, Lybia, and the Ukraine. An up-and-coming Russian system called “Derivation Anti-Air” (Деривация-ПВО) is still in the testing phase, but shows great promise. It is equipped with smart explosive shells which explode themselves right alongside the target, guaranteed to destroy even the smallest drone.
The Ukrainian drones which attacked the oil refinery are of the type “Kamikaze Drones”. Most likely, according to Khodarenok, they are either native Ukrainian PD-1 drones; or Chinese drones of the type Skyeye 4450, which are sold freely on the world market. Either type can be stuffed with explosives.
Lessons to draw: In this region bordering on the Ukraine, the anti-air defense systems must be fortified, starting with radar location systems. A radar field should be set up no shorter than 50 meters (tall). This is the height needed to intercept drones. Moreoever: units of the radio-technical troops need to react very quickly in identifying the location of the target. At a height of 50 meters, the radar can “see” an area only around 15-17 kilometers. Therefore, this is the distance at which the radar systems need to be positioned one from the other. Moreover, the anti-air rockets should be able to cover the entire sky over these important infrastructure objects, without any gaps. In other words, a layered and inter-woven defense system consisting of short-, medium-, and long-range missiles.
Khodarenok also advises the use of strike helicopters, as components of a fully integrated and multi-layered anti-air defense system.
That’s it for Khodarenko’s analysis, and it only remains to speculate why the Ukrainians are wasting their precious drones on these pinprick strikes. Not that the strikes are not destructive, and do not cause loss of property and even lives, sometimes. But nonetheless have very little importance, in the strategic sense. (I am not counting Snake Island here, which is obviously of great strategic value.) To answer my own question, why are they doing this? I think the best answer is: Because they can. Or maybe, an even better answer: Because the Americans are running a controlled experiment?