Ukraine War Day #51: Cruiser + POWs

Dear Readers:

Yesterday was a good news/bad news day for the pro-Russian side.

First the bad news: The Russian navy lost one of its flagships in the Black Sea, the ship was named Moskva (=”Moscow”). The reason why the cruiser sank, varies depending on which side telling the story… The Ukrainians brag that they hit it with cruise missiles; the Russian government surely knows what exactly happened, but they’re not talking! The most intelligent theory which I saw, is that the cruiser accidentally ran over a floating mine. After which it caught fire, a bunch of ordinance exploded, the crew were evacuated, a tugboat was trying to pull the ship back into port, and then it just couldn’t float any longer, and sank to the bottom. In the middle of a storm at sea! [Talk about a Perform Storm of misfortune!] As for the mines themselves, this is an issue with the Ukrainians. At the start of the war the Ukrainians mined the Odessa port to thwart Russian amphibious landing; but they didn’t do it right, so some of the mines floated away. The Turks were not very happy when one of these mines floated up onto a Turkish beach, still fully armed and triggered. These floating mines may be a hazard to Black Sea shipping for many years to come, unfortunately.

Ekaterina Altabaeva

The people of Sebastopol are very sad to see this cruiser sink, it had a long and glorious history. The reporter, Dmitry Zubarev, interviews historian Ekaterina Altabaeva, who also happens to be a Senator representing the free city of Sebastopol in the Russian Senate.

Altabaeva: We of course will think about a way to memorialize this ship. I have no words, my heart is breaking, that cruiser was a part of Sebastopol.

The cruiser was built in 1982 as a component of the navy of the USSR. It was named “Slava” (=”Glory”). At the start of the 1990s it was actually slated to be retired, but Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov lobbied to keep it, after which the cruiser was renamed Moskva and put at the disposal of the Russian navy in 1999. The cruiser saw action in 2015 in the Mediterranean Sea, during the Syrian operation. Its job was to provide air defense for the Russian airbase Khmeimim. On July 22, 2016 the cruiser was awarded the Order of Nakhimov as reward for its distinguished service.

Ukrainian Marines Continue To Apply For POW Jobs

On the “good news” side of the coin, there is more information about the absolute flood of Ukrainian marines applying for jobs as Russian POWs. Seems like, there are many more applicants than there are positions. As a realist might expect, none of this happened completely spontaneously, there was some careful preparatory work that went into this result. For me, that is the most fascinating part of the story because it demonstrates the principle, how a lot of seemingly thankless hard work can pay off in the end. Another important take-away is the dignity that it confers upon these Ukrainian marines: Most of them were not just runaways who got grabbed by the scruff of their necks, like errant dogs. No, they made a conscious choice, they were active participants in the process of their own salvation. They had some agency and even some control over their own destinies.

And one more take away: In reading this story you will see how these Ukrainian marines had almost constant access to social media and the internet. I can’t think of any war in the past, where fighting soldiers had so much ready access to their family and friends. In fact, just a couple of days ago I saw one of Shariy’s blogposts, he showed this interview with the wife of one of these marines, she was complaining that EIGHT WHOLE HOURS had gone by since the last time she communicated with hubby trapped in Ilyich Steel Factory — up to that point their communication was, like, constant, like these people you see walking down the street talking on their cellphones the whole time, who the heck are they talkiing to so long? — anyhow, this Ukrainian Karen was SO worried what had become of hubby, and the Russian government has not replied to her incessant demands to report on his whereabouts…

One has to chuckle wryly, thinking of, like WWII, where months would go by before family received a letter from the front.

Anyhow…

I have this piece which dishes out the backstory. This time yesterday, the number of POWs from the 36th Brigade was up to 1036, and I have seen even higher numbers throughout the day. These are the guys who were guarding the Ilyich Steel Factory. The number includes 162 officers, and even 47 women. The women will be scrutinized closely, they all say they are “nurses” of course, but Russians are suspicious that some of them might be snipers. They say it’s easy to tell by examining a person’s hand and especially trigger finger.

Ukrainian marines negotiated for their own surrender.

Russian war correspondent Alexander Sladkov became a witness to the processing of these POWs. He was interviewed by another reporter, Elizabeth Koroleva, who works for RT Russia.

Elizabeth: How did the negotiations begin, which led to the marines giving themselves up?

Alexander: Already on April 4, 267 marines from the 36th Brigade, had turned themselves in. This act was preceded by long conversations conducted via their families and friends. Because, you see, the DPR forces who are fighting against the Nazis, have many people who hail from the same towns as these marines, from Kharkov, Zaporozhie. When things started getting too hot for them, these Ukrainian marines started discussing the possibility of turning themselves in. They were in discussions with Russian military intelligence and with the FSB; and also with elements of DPR security and the Internal Ministry of the DPR republic. In other words, this giant negotiations scheme was built, and in the end it all paid off.

Elizabeth: When the other marines heard the news that around 300 had surrendered [already], did this affect the decisions of their fellow soldiers?

Alexander: My team made a video showing these Ukrainian marines giving themselves up, and we published this video on my Telegram Channel. During that same time negotiations were going on with other Ukrainian units who were stuck inside the Ilyich factory. The Ukrainians were acting very jaunty, they were, like, “The Ship named Russia has sunk to the bottom of the sea, go f*** yourselves…” etc. But the moment they saw that film, showing their fellow soldiers turning themselves in, they also started to discuss that variant. I learned about this from Alexei Dikiy, who is the Minister of Internal Affairs for the DPR.

Elizabeth: But before that happened, the marines tried to break out of their encirclement?

Alexander: Yes. On the night of April 11-12, they organized an armored column more than a kilometer long, and a bunch of them piled into the vehicles. Our Intel scouts noticed them. As soon as the column got under way, we hit them with air and artillery strikes. 250 men died, around 100 turned their tanks around and went back into the factory. Still another 100 men actually broke out of our encirclement, but they were blocked further down. Most of them were killed, but we managed to grab 30 of them as prisoners. [yalensis: there is the possibility that a handful of men might have still been able to escape into the countryside, wearing civilian clothing, just like in a Hollywood movie.] After this event the ones who were left at the factory were faced with the choice: Either to die for their Nazi ideals; or to turn themselves in. And these people decided to abandon the ideals, for which they were fighting, in order to live.

Deputy Commander of the 36th Rostislav Lomtev, was one of the prisoners taken

Elizabeth: There were some wounded among the prisoners?

Alexander: The factory contained a military field hospital within itself. From there we extracted 300 wounded. Of which 90 are not ambulatory. Our soldiers provided the stretchers to carry them out. Our doctors were very cautious when examining them, they didn’t know if some desperado might be hiding a grenade or something, to blow up himself and others. Fortunately, everything went smoothly. The DPR Spetznaz are very professionally prepared for this sort of thing. They have quite a lot of experience processing POWs from soup to nuts: starting with the negotiations and ending with the transport. Currently all these POWs are awaiting their turn to be placed into penitentiaries.

Elizabeth: How did the soldiers treat the prisoners?

Alexander: Nobody was tied up or had handcuffs put on. Nobody made fun of them or asked them a lot of questions. People were just given a quick look-over, and if they didn’t need any medical attention, they were just put into cars and sent on to the next reception point.

Elizabeth: Are the [Ukrainian] marines worried about how they will be treated while in captivity?

Alexander: Yes, they [have expressed concern] that they will be mistreated or have to spend too much time in captivity. They are worried about revenge, or being tortured by DPR, and also worried that they will be charged with crimes. However, it was explained to them that nobody was going to kill them, or torture them, that eventually they will be exchanged or just sent home. Notwithstanding the criminality of the ideas, for which they fought. they are still soldiers all the same, who were just following the orders that their commanders gave them. If it should be proved that one of them committed war crimes, then of course there will be a price to pay for that. The state formation of the DPR — this is not a horde and not a criminal gang, this is a real government, which operates on the basis of the law. And operates very strictly.

[translation of interview to be continued tomorrow]

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19 Responses to Ukraine War Day #51: Cruiser + POWs

  1. Moscow Exile says:

    Tried posting this earlier. My posts won’t send.

    The words that were on the tip of your tongue, meaning “incapable of reaching an agreement”:

    noun: недоговороспособность

    adjective: недоговороспособный

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      Hi, Exile,
      I’m very sorry that your comments ended up in spam filter, I don’t know why that happened. I just noticed them and rescued them.

      Anyhow, Yes! that was the word I was trying to find.

      Like

  2. colliemum says:

    Interesting interview – I look forward to the 2nd part, and thanks for translating it, yalensis.
    As regards ‘Moskva’: this piece of news saddened me very much. She’s been a proud ship, old and proud, and has been through trials and tribulations before, according to comment posts speculating elsewhere. It saddens me because in her long years, nay: decades of service there must have been so many seamen and officers who spend a great par of their lives on board, with all the memories that entails. somehow a ship is far more like a living thing than a fortress or a command post. That’s why her sinking is so sad.
    As for the military effect: well, remember WWII and the sinking of so many ships, merchant navy and RN. Didn’t deter the effort to fight Nazi Germany and din’t make people prophecy that Britain would now surely lose …

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      Yes, I was reading about this ship, it was huge and had so many compartments and rooms. For many sailors and officers, this was their home.
      Saw on Westie media and Ukrainian media how people were jumping up and down and making so much of this, I think it was 24/7 news on some American channels, I watched a little bit of it on CNN. And everybody so excited and saying this is proof that Russia is losing and cannot win this war.
      To me that just says that they are trying to grasp for something. For sure, the loss of this ship is a blow to the Russian navy. But, like you say, it’s not the end of the world.

      Frankly, I am more worried about all the military weaponry that Ukraine is about to get from the U.S. That’s a more serious threat, and Russia needs to do something about that. To make sure all those weapons never make it to the front lines.

      Like

      • FatMax says:

        I was actually quite disturbed when I heard about her sinking. For several years, there was a poster of “Moskva” on my workshop wall (along with “Kirov”, because why not). I always admired that sheer elegance of her hull, compared to brutish efficiency of her deck-mounted missile canisters, sensors and other weapons.
        But, again, militarily it means nothing: S-400 batteries will take over air defense over Black Sea, while other ships (most probably “mosquito fleet”) will take over the blockade of Ukie ports.
        But it was all so, SO sad and unnecessary. I certainly hope that the pics of her sinking never reach Western press. The amount of gloating would be off the charts.

        Also, those weapons mean nothing if those who handle them are dead. Day after day, there are more and more pics of dead Ukronazis on Telegram and other media.
        Russians are putting the Ukraine into a meat-grinder.
        Another thing: those weapons will sooner or later either end up in Europe (where it will be used against its former owners) or in the Third World. Look forward to seeing French vehicles blown up by a NLAW in Mali. Or a civilian airliner shot down by a “Stinger” over Frankfurt.
        Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

        Like

        • yalensis says:

          Max, hopefully you can find a way to mourn the “Moskva” that works for you and brings you some peace. I would advise definitely do NOT look at Westie press, they are gloating like chimpanzees who just uncovered a mother lode of bananas.

          Like

  3. FatMax says:

    At times like these, I am actually glad that Volodya is in charge. If it were left to “Russian public opinion”, Russia would turn Europe into a glass parking lot and damn the consequences.
    The amount of fury on the Russian Internet is rather shocking and this is only the second time I see such extreme reactions from Russians. First time it was when those videos of Russian POW torture came out. And now this.

    First set of videos made Russians violently angry at Ukronazis and all but cemented Russian support for “Spetsoperatsyja”. Now they are also violently angry at their own political and military “elite” that allowed RKR Moskva, an obsolescent, but highly symbolically important White Elephant (no thorough modernization for her, after all, those monies were spent on her sister-ship Marshal Ustinov) to sail without an escort, in waters near Ukie and Romanian coastlines. And she was a flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, to boot.

    Militarily, her sinking will not change SO one bit. She was a carrier-killer and wasn’t armed with “Kalibr” missiles so her duties consisted of air defense. But symbolically, it’s a disaster.
    Volodya should produce some high-ranking heads to roll. And pronto.

    Like

    • James lake says:

      The internet is not real life – most sane people will be more reflective.

      All the crew were okay as I understand it – that is the most important thing.
      That no sailors died or were seriously injured.

      Say farewell to the cruiser and move on.

      Like

      • yalensis says:

        Nicely put, sane sentiment. I did see one comment to the effect that “Unless it was a mine, then the Captain of the ship will be sacked.”
        That’s probably true, the Captain will be held to account. Actually, since this was a flagship, doesn’t that mean there might also have been an Admiral on board?

        Any people who have been in the navy, might be able to answer this question: Is it literally true that the Captain is supposed to go down with his ship?

        Like

        • yalensis says:

          P.S. – and here is another question for those of the navally inclined: I read somewhere that the Black Sea is quite shallow. The Moskva sank to the bottom while it was being towed towards Sebastopol port (not sure how close it got to the port). Will this sunken ship pose a danger to navigation? I mean, like, another ship scraping up against it?

          (probably a dumb question, but I get obsessed by things like this)

          Like

          • FatMax says:

            Depth at the place of sinking is generally between 50 and 200 meters. So no.

            Like

            • yalensis says:

              That’s a relief. So… It will just lie there, like the Titanic?
              how sad…
              😦

              Like

              • FatMax says:

                Well, Russia did not leave “Kursk” to lie on the bottom of the sea after her bows exploded, so I guess “Moskva” will be pulled up by nook or by crook. Let’s not forget that there are clues onboard which would help to piece together this puzzle.
                Also, there’s a shit-ton of missiles and fuel. Not to mention possible nuclear weapons.
                You generally don’t want to leave that on the bottom of a busy waterway.

                Like

        • FatMax says:

          Unless there’s a need for an admiral (for instance, if there’s a fleet action expected) then no, there wouldn’t be an Admiral on board.
          I wasn’t in the Navy (I spent my military career as nothing but a poor artilleryman, bwana), but I know people who were. Answer is no and that’s a dumb myth.
          The Captain can be held legally responsible if, for instance, he got off the ship too soon (i.e. if he left behind crew or passengers) but no, he is not supposed to go down with his ship.

          Like

      • FatMax says:

        Sane people would know that Russia is in life-or-death struggle with The West, which is insane and genocidal and that proven that times and times again. Indochina, Algiers, Belarus, Congo, you name it. Nukes should be kept as an option.
        Also, I sincerely doubt that an explosion that can cripple a 13000 ton ship didn’t hurt or kill anyone. I wish to God I was wrong, but I’m not buying that story.

        Like

        • yalensis says:

          Yeah, you’re right…. sadly… But we know that Russian MOD is not going to announce how many losses. Over at Defense Politics Asia, our friend Wyatt made a good point once: Wyatt is fairly neutral and studies both Russian and Ukrainian official announcements. He made the point that the Ukrainians ALWAYS lie. He says the Russians (in official pronouncements) always tell the truth, but don’t always say something. Sometimes you have to seek the truth in the Russian silence, not in their utterances.

          Like

          • FatMax says:

            It’s not the problem that Ukronazis lie, but that they lie BADLY. I mean, anyone with more than two brain cells to rub together can find out that they’re full of shit.
            While RF MOD usually “wraps up” their losses in a package with other losses. It’s not lying per se, but it takes a bit of sleuthing to find out how they muddied the waters.

            I still trust Konashenkov, ofc. He just looks like a typical, earnest Stavka nerd, a living embodiment of a “staff-level Soviet officer” stereotype.

            Like

            • yalensis says:

              I trust Konashenkov as well. He seems earnest and I don’t think anyone has ever caught him in a deliberate lie. He is not always at liberty to divulge every little thing, but if he says, “Our troops captured Town X,” then you can rely on that. Whereas the Ukrainian side has professional liars like Lusya Arestovich. In one interview Lusya even admitted that he lies, but he thinks it’s great, because he is able to hypnotize a portion of the public. When you watch him, and watch his body language, you can tell that he is a sociopath who does not experience ordinary human emotions.

              Konashenkov, on the other hand, is clearly a “normie”, a normal person, in other words.

              Like

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