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.
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.
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.
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.
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]