Ukraine War Day #461: Guns For Territorial Defense? Part I

Dear Readers:

Since the early beginnings of the Russian Empire, in medieval times, the Russian government has been forced to allocate a vast amount of resources defending its equally vast borders. In his book “The History of Russia”, published in 1643, English diplomat and historian Giles Fletcher the Elder described the system that had been created under Ivan IV (the “Formidable”) as a type of early Territorial Defense. Fletcher wrote that the Godunov clan (Boris Godunov, who served as Regent during the rule of Fyodor Ivanovich) managed many of the border towns personally.  The four major border towns at the time being:  Smolensk, Pskov, Novgorod, and Kazan.  The first three needing to be protected against Poland and Sweden; and the latter against the Crimean Tatar Khan.

Regent and then Tsar Boris Godunov

To govern these border towns, the Tsar appointed four Dukes of high-ranking nobility who also served in his privy council.  These Dukes were rotated out every four years and were paid 700 rubles a year for their service. This amount included a bonus for hazardous duty, even though the Dukes themselves lived in Moscow, while the Dyaks (the “Deacons”) lived out in the field and did the actual work. And everybody also knows about the Cossack units which defended Russian territory in the various borderlands including “Ukraina“, the name itself being “borderlands”.

Despite this history of vigilance, necessary for a vast land power controlling such a big chunk of the Eurasian continent, Russia really slacked off in the post-Soviet era, thus leading to the current horrendous situation. In which this land power is hemmed on all sides by hostile nations intent on destroying it; and NATO nukes positioned within 7-minute range of hitting Moscow. Something obviously went terribly wrong at some point.

And then things got even worse in the past year. Now Ukrainian/NATO battalions feel comfortable launching cross-border raids on Russian soil, completely confident in their own impunity. This is nothing Russia has not seen before — Fletcher, for example, describes how the Russians got used to seasonal Tatar raids and could almost set their clocks by them. But now the time has come to finally do something about this dire situation. The issue is the beefing up (and not exactly proactively) of the Russian Territorial Defense units.

To discuss this issue, I have this piece by reporter Andrei Rezchikov. His headline reads:

Russian Territorial Defense Is Ready to Arm Itself

Alluding to the surprising fact that the Territorial Defense units guarding the Russian border, are not allowed to carry guns. The lead paragraph:

The Governor of the Belgorod Oblast has proposed to arm the Territorial Defense detachments, in order to provide a more “professional and not amateur” pushback to the enemy. However, within expert society, there are those who do not share this idea and foresee certain complexities in trying to implement it. What are the pros and cons of this initiative, and what changes in the existing legal system would be necessary?

All of this, of course, has to do with the recent “invasion” of Belgorod Oblast by the Ukrainian army. Even though the “invasion” was quickly repulsed, some lessons were learned from the initial confusion that ensued. A few hours were wasted initially, while the authorities tried to figure out who was in charge and how to coordinate the various entities, such as the Border Guard service, the police, the Territorial Defence, the Emergency Responders, and the Russian army. Such confusion would never have existed during the reign of Boris Godunov. Every man there would have known exactly what he had to do, and to whom he reported, had, say, a group of armed Poles or Swedes barged into the Russian province swinging their pikes and muskets.

Defending the border isn’t always a glamorous job.

Meanwhile, according to Rezchikov, the regional Belgorod government has created on the border with Ukraine seven Battalions of Territorial Defense, comprising a total of 3,000 men. Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov avers that the units are already fully capable, they have been in training since November 2022. Training with what, I don’t know, because Gladkov goes on to say that the men are not armed. The Oblast government would like to change this situation and give the men some automatic rifles. “It’s time to go professional and not amateur.” However, such changes must be implemented fully in accordance with the law. Certain laws might need to be amended, Gladkov adds. According to Article 22 of the Russian Legal Codex, Territorial Defense is implemented only during wartime. The job of these men is to defend important objects which secure the well-being of the population; for example, guarding bridges and patrolling certain areas; protecting the transportation system, communications, the energy system, etc. They also assist the Internal Organs (such as police) with keeping public order in times of crisis.

In addition, however, Territorial Defense has to deal with diversionary groups and illegally armed formations which invade Russia from time to time. Headquarters of the Territorial Defense are being created in the various regions and in territories subject to wartime conditions. Regional heads of government are in charge of these assets.

The issue of arming these units arose after the major raid into the Belgorod Oblast. For almost an entire day, a state of emergency reigned in this area, as the counter-terrorist operation (CTO) proceeded to liquidate 70 Ukrainian terrorists. Governor Gladkov clarified that the Territorial Defense units themselves were not involved in this CTO. As I would imagine not, since they don’t have guns. What were they supposed to do, throw cream pies at the Ukrainian terrorists?

Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov

Last April a man named Andrei Turchak met with President Putin. Turchak is an important member of the ruling party, United Russia, and heads a working group on issues related to the Special Military Operation. One of Turchak’s proposals was that members of the Territorial Defense Units start packing.

The Gladkov/Turchak initiative was supported in the Russian Parliament (Duma). Alexander Borodai, who represents the Rostov district, is very much in favor of this idea: “I am very much in favor of the government, in a completely legal fashion, arming those who are prepared to defend our Motherland. This would be an absolutely correct decision,” he states.

Borodai said that he recently traveled to Belgorod and met with the leader of the local Territorial Defense. “In my view it is disturbing that these people, to this day, are not allowed to carry guns. This is a kind of relic from the Soviet epoch.”

Now we have heard the “pros”. But in the continuation to this post we will hear the other side of the story, the “cons”. The people who think this would be a bad idea, and why they think that.

[to be continued]

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Ukraine War Day #460: The Human Face Of Belgorod Victims

“And the Russians are dyin’, it’s the best money we ever spent!” (American Senator Lindsey Graham)

Dear Readers:

Recall that just a week ago, last Monday, Ukrainian terrorists (I call them terrorists instead of soldiers, because they mainly attacked civilians) invaded the Russian Oblast of Belgorod. Although they were quickly defeated and expelled, they left some civilian casualties behind. This piece by reporter Olga Ivanova delves into that story.

Regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov visited the victims of the incursion in the Grayvoron and Shebekino areas. The person who suffered the most is a woman whose name is not given, I am guessing this is probably due to medical privacy reasons; on the other hand, they show a photograph of her lying in her hospital bed.

Victim of Belgorod attack, must get strong again for the sake of her children.

This woman was apparently put through the ringer by the Ukrainian terrorists. Not only did they capture her (and her husband) and hold them hostage, they even killed her husband right in front of her. She was wounded as well, and they didn’t even give her any medical attention, or even offer her a glass of water while she was bleeding and dehydrating.

According to Gladkov, the woman was practically held hostage by the diversionaries, in the basement of her own house. She is okay and will physically survive, but Gladkov says she is experiencing a very substantial psychological trauma, especially knowing that her husband is never going to return. At the same time, according to Gladkov, she realizes that she needs to buck up and get strong again, for the sake of her children. “From our side,” he wrote in his Telegram feed, “we will do everything we can to help and support her.” From what she was able to tell him about her ordeal, she was held hostage by a small group of men. Two of them were Ukrainians, and the others were either Poles or Americans, from what she could tell.

Gladkov also reported on the children of Shebekino who suffered. One little boy received a concussion, and one little girl also received a serious wound, as a result of a falling shell.

Then I just saw this piece, this morning, it is very short but to the point, the reporter is Olga Nikitina. I translate in full:


The Governor of Belgorod Oblast, Vyacheslav Gladkov, declared that there is only one solution to the problem of Ukrainian shelling of the territory of his region: Kharkov must be reunited with Russia.

While giving an on-air interview to the Rossiya 24 channel, Gladkov underscored that, shoud Kharkov be annexed to the Belgorod Oblast, then this would be the best solution to the problem.

On Sunday [yesterday] Gladkov communicated that, in just the past 24 hours, the Belgorod Oblast registered 241 hits of Ukrainian shells. While the city of Shebekino was being shelled, one person died.


[yalensis, my analysis]: Most of the pundits I respect agree that the persistent Ukrainian attacks on Belgorod have no real military value, from a tactical or strategic point of view. They are not even that much of a distraction for the Russian military, from a big-picture point of view. In fact, from a very, very cynical POV they are actually beneficial, because the Ukrainians are using up valuable shells and bombs on non-military targets (i.e., civilians). This is obviously part of some stupid psy-ops campaign, and somebody out there thought this campaign would be effective, but it’s not. It’s just an irritant to the Russians.

On the other hand, it’s something that has to be dealt with. The Russian government has a duty to defend its citizens. Tomorrow I will have a post about efforts to beef up the Russian Territorial Defense units, as a response to these attacks.

Posted in Military and War | Tagged | 20 Comments

Ukraine War Day #459: The Rime Of The Ancient Khurs

It was the vessel Ivan Khurs
That sailed the summer seas;
And the skipper had taken to his bunk
To catch some needed Z's.

The radioman stood near the helm,
His pipe was in his mouth,
And he watched how the veering fogs did blow
His smoke now West, now South.

Then up and spake the Midshipman
While pulling out his phone,
"I pray thee, look upon that wave,
Methinks I spot a drone!"

Up came the drone and smote amain
The vessel in its strength;
She shuddered and paused, like a frighted steed,
Then leaped her cable's length.

"Fear not!" the Signals guy averred,
And whipping out his gun,
He shot the drone, and several more,
Until they all were done.

And then they sailed themselves back home,
In friendly port to dock,
With cheers, and medals and awards,
And rum from the finest stock!

Dear Readers,

Now sit right down and hear a little chantey, this is the Rime of the Crew of the Ivan Khurs, a radio-reconnaissance vessel of the Russian Black Sea fleet. Never was a crew so daring and so brave! The ship is named after Soviet Vice-Admiral Ivan Kuzmich Khurs (1922-2002). Who served in the Soviet Black Sea fleet and participated in the war against Japan as part of WWII. He later went on to serve and command in Naval Reconnaissance. The ship that bears his name patrols the Black Sea and keeps a sharp eye out for intruders, especially Americans!

Soviet Vice-Admiral Ivan Khurs
This photo of the Ivan Khurs was taken in 2019.

Recall that, this past Wednesday, the Ivan Khurs came under attack while sailing in the exclusive economic zone of Türkiye, not far from the Bosphorus. The Ukrainians used unmanned (drone) cutters against this boat, whose job duties include surveillance/Intel and protecting the [underwater?] gas pipelines leading from Russia to Türkiye. The Ukrainians claim that their drones seriously damaged the ship. The Russians deny that. The ship was able to return to Sebastopol on its own steam, and the Russians posted photos of the ship looking just fine.

Anyhow, here is what the sailors themselves had to say about this incident:

The Attack

On the day of the attack, the sailors on watch consisted of: Midshipman Evgeny Shcherba, the senior of the Artillery Team; Sergeant Maxim Panezhin, a chemist; Corporal Daniil Nesterov, the radiometer guy; and Senior Sailor Valentin Neiman, the Signals specialist.

Panezhin: The Ukrainians took advantage of the poor visibility that day, because a deep fog lay over the ocean. Nonetheless, our watch crew noticed the first drone-cutter approaching us. The moment it emerged from the fog, it was destroyed. After which the other drone-boats starting hopping around in a zigzag pattern, trying for evasive maneuvers after we opened fire on them.

Shcherba: After the explosion of the first cutter, the fog lifted somewhat, which helped us greatly detect the remaining cutters. I myself personally destroyed the second drone by blasting it with my machine-gun. It was a tough job, because I needed to react quickly and multitask: I was shooting up the drone while still controlling both sides of the ship.

Under the command of Captain Third Rank Igor Taran, the sailors continued to shoot all over the place, and they managed to destroy all the cutters while the latter were still at a safe distance from the ship. This is why the ship suffered no damage. All three sailors of the watch have received medals and awards for their heroic feats.

Ukrainian naval base at Ochakov

Meanwhile, it was learned that the Ukrainian marine drones used in this attack, were produced in some [unnamed] Western country and supplied to the Ukrainian naval base at Ochakov. This shipyard is run jointly by the Ukrainian and American navies. They use the American Starlink satellite system to control their naval drones. The American goal is to disable and eventually destroy the Russian Black Sea fleet, so that they can move into Sebastopol and turn the Black Sea into an American Lake. This is a serious threat, since America is a major naval power in the world.

Posted in Military and War | Tagged | 23 Comments

Ukraine War Day #458: Saldo Poisoning Mystery

Dear Readers:

Today I have this story, which I categorize under “True Crime”. The reporter is Olga Nikitina. Readers may remember an old friend, Vladimir Saldo, whom we have mentioned many times in these posts, especially towards the start of the SMO. Saldo was (and is) the Russian Governor of the Kherson Oblast. His duties were somewhat curtailed after the Ukrainians took back Kherson city, but he still controls a chunk of the Oblast on the Left Bank of the River.

I used to think that being the Virtual Administrator of a territory actually administered by your enemy, would be a sweet gig. No real duties, nice salary, a 4-hour day, maybe. But I changed my mind when I read about Saldo’s ordeals. Not when your enemy is as vicious and determined to kill you, as are the Ukrainians.

Vladimir Saldo

Looking at his photograph in this piece, I was shocked by how much Saldo has aged in the past year. Looks like he aged 20 years in one year. But it wasn’t all just due to the stress of the war. At a certain point he was poisoned and almost died. I remember reading about the incident at the time, in the Russian press. This was back in August 2022. Saldo was giving a speech when apparently one of his colleagues walked up to him and said, “Vladimir, you need to go to the hospital right away.” And he was, like, “No, I feel fine.” And they’re, like, “No, you need to go right now!

Even though Saldo survived, the poison certainly did not do his health any good. Only now are we starting to learn more about what happened. We (readers) still don’t know who the alleged poisoner was (they know, but they are not saying!) and I am burning with curiosity. I have many unanswered questions about the whole Kherson fiasco. But let’s just work through this, because it’s all we have right now:

A Hunt For “Traitors”

Saldo told his story on TV, to Russian Channel 1.

Sklifosovsky Hospital, Moscow

After the Russians took over Kherson and a part of Zaporozhie Oblasts, the Ukrainians declared a “hunt” after these new Russian leaders. A string of assassinations and assassination attempts ensued. Saldo managed to elude several attempts on his life, including the use of explosives. There were also a couple of attempts to set traps for him, and to kidnap him. When none of these methods worked, his enemies resorted to the very ancient and time-honored method of assassination by poisoning.

Saldo insisted that, up until his poisoning, he was in the peak of good health. His mental acuity is still sharp, and he remembers everything that ever happened to him, up to that point. He believes that the poison was added to his food. It acted instantaneously upon him. Investigators believe that the poison was actually a chemical weapon. The last thing Saldo remembers is mumbling that he didn’t feel well. Then just blackness. Fifteen days later he came to and found himself in a hospital bed in Moscow. He learned that his unconscious body had been taken, first to a hospital in Crimea, and then air-lifted to the top-notch Sklifosovsky Hospital in Moscow.

Saldo says he knows who did this to him, and that the man was paid “quite a lot of money” by the Ukrainian secret services. This was a man whom he trusted. Agonizingly, he won’t tell us the name, or if this person is in custody.

Posted in Military and War, True Crime | Tagged | 15 Comments

Ukraine War Day #457: Social Benefits For SMO Families

Dear Readers:

Today I have this piece, the reporter is Rafael Fakhrutdinov. One of the key responsibilities of any government is to take care of its military veterans and their families. It is part of the core social contract between a people and its government.

Starting this June 1, filials of the Fund called “Defenders of the Fatherland” are set to open in all Russian regions. These funds will provide assistance to Special Military Operation (SMO) participants and their families. In the form of social, legal, psychological, and other types of assistance. Other, already existing, social-service agencies are to work out a close collaboration with the Fund to make sure that the veterans get every service that they are entitled to.

This initiative was declared on May 19 by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. [yalensis: Mishustin has a good reputation and a good track record. He was maybe the only person in the world who could have simplified and automated the Russian tax system the way he did.]

Last week a 3-day seminar was conducted in Moscow which brought together the leaders of the regional filials, so that they could work out all the kinks and launch the new system.

Anna Tsivileva

The Chairperson of the Fund is Anna Tsivileva, who told the reporter that all possible forms of assistance will be provided to the SMO veterans: Medical, Social, Psychological Rehab, Palliative Care, healing resorts and spas, long-term leave of absence [from work], pharmacy meds, prosthetics, household adaptations needed [for wheelchairs, for example], retraining and physical rehab, help in finding work, etc.

The key thing is to set up a single point of entry and to avoid bureaucratic red tape. [yalensis: Once again, Mishustin has proven his mettle in this arena, when he simplified and computerized the Russian tax system. The last thing that traumatized veterans need is to be wandering around through a Kafkaesque maze of bureaucracy… You desperately need something. One number: Pick up the phone and call it. Or one website: Just Logon, and bingo, you’re there. That’s how it should be. As simple as ordering a set of dishes from amazon.]

According to Sergei Kirilenko, who works for the Administration of the President, the Fund will be focused on helping veterans return to ordinary life. To this end, a system will be set up almost like a concierge assistance: “Every veteran and every family of a warrior who perished, will be provided with Social Coordinators, who will accompany them personally.”

Since the filials are to start their work on June 1, there is not much time to get everything ready. Kirilenko personally inspected the Kemerovo filial on Tuesday 16 May. “Most of the regions have the buildings in place, and the leaders of the various filials have all been trained in their functions. By the end of the year we will have a cadre of 11,000 Social Coordinators who have passed through the training.” [yalensis: You will see, in the narratives below, that this Social Coordinator training appears to be something like a very accelerated course in social work or case management.]

Anna Tsivileva again, who works out of the Kemerovo filial in the Kuzbass region of the Russian heartland, in Western Siberia. A vast coal-mining region. “The Kuzbass filial won’t just be a place where SMO veterans can receive help and support. For them it will become a second home. A place where they can meet and relax and chat with each other. Such socializing activities will help these Defenders of the Fatherland with their return to normal life.”

The Role Of the Coordinators

Tatiana Isaeva is the Director of a Social Services organization which assists families and children in the city of Polysaevo in the Kemerovo Oblast. This is what she told the reporter: “After the start of the partial mobilization, my husband received a draft notice, although he was never in the military. Working together, our entire family put together a kit for him and accompanied him to the mobilization point. Neither he, nor any of us, had any doubt whether he should participate in the SMO. In the end, however, he failed the physical, and so he came home. But my son is serving in the SMO, in his case as a volunteer. He told me: If everybody runs away and hides, then we will lose our Motherland. These words of my son are what inspired me to go and work as a Social Coordinator for the Fund. My son is defending our Motherland at the front, and we here, in the rear, are helping the defenders and their families.”

A team of Social Workers

Tatiana shares her apprehensions: “Of course, it took me a long time to adjust to the fact that my son took such a decision. But my husband and I, along with our daughter, working together, were able to cope. And just from this, from my own experience, I realized how hard it is for the other mothers, the families of the SMO participants. Some of them are completely unable to cope with what is happening. And this is also one reason why I decided to become a Social Coordinator. I understood that this is my duty. To help other people who are in a similar situation.

“Not long ago we completed a 4-day training course in Novosibirsk. They taught us, for example, how to work with veterans returning from the front, and how to work with their families. In essence, this was an accelerated course in learning all about government agencies, who does what. The main theme of our work is the word operationality [оперативность]. We are supposed to, ideally, know the quickest way to solve a person’s problem.”

[yalensis: I like this approach. A compassionate heart is a good thing, but efficiency and results are even better!]

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin: A technocratic hero of our time.

Tatiana continues: “We also had to undergo psychological training. Everything is important down to the last detail, such as the physical distance maintained between oneself and the client. We were told that it is not appropriate to just break down and cry with the person. We must make them understand that we are there to solve their problem. The SMO participants and their families need to know that they can count on us. Starting in June, the categories of people that we will be working with, are those warriors who are returning into the reserve; and the families of those who perished on the battlefield. Later the list of categories will expand, no doubt.

“We also had some paralegal training. We were taught about the roots and pre-history of this conflict. You know that, up until February of last year, the majority of the Russian people simply lived their own lives, with their own problems, only vaguely understanding what was going on in the world, beyond the borders of our own country. History is cyclical, and our country has never been left in peace, neither in this century, nor 3 centuries ago. This is why the current participants in the SMO are busy forging a new history of Russia.”

A Cossack’s Story

Next the reporter interviewed a man named Mikhail Myalitsin, who served in the SMO between November 2022 and April 2023: “My relatives and fellow townspeople went off to serve in the SMO of their own volition. Among them were some who had never held a weapon. Such a man needed a more experienced mentor. And I had served for 10 years as a communications specialist in a Strategic Rocket Forces Division, and then for 10 years in the Ministry of Internal Affairs [i.e., as a policeman]. How was I supposed to stand off to the side? This military specialty suited me very well.”

Myalitsin currently works as one of the Social Coordinators of the Fund, and lives in the town of Zvezdny, in the Perm region. “After I returned from the front, they approached me and asked me to become a Social Coordinator. One of the criterions for selection is the public persona of a given individual, his reputation and authority within his own town or city.

Cossack Mikhail Myalitsin

“For many years I had my courage tested, as I participated in administrative affairs, collected and transported humanitarian goods to the people in the Donbass. Coming from a line of Cossacks, we held many family gatherings out in the field, in which we tested our skills and manhood. We would play war games that were as close as possible to real conditions, we learned to shoot, we trained in tactics, mountain climbing, knife fights, saber fights, and so on. Some people learned survival tactics like spear-fishing, you never know what skills you are going to need in the SMO.

“In the end I agreed to work with the Fund. I successfully passed the test, after returning from a 4-day intensive training class in Kazan. We learned how to help SMO participants when they have questions about prostheses, and how to get the medications they need. But the biggest need, as I see it, will be applying for government entitlements. You know that people are unfamiliar with all the bureaucratic red tape. And some of them are in a depressive state where they simply cannot deal with practical issues like putting together their documents.

“When it comes to the desire to help people — there are no questions whatsoever. Even our babushkas, our industrious workers of the rear, are knitting stockings for the soldiers. But it is not so easy to satisfy all the technical needs of the SMO soldiers. Drones, collimator sights, heat sensors, light-weight armored jackets with kevlar plates — those things are not so easy to purchase. And not all of this equipment is even necessarily produced in Russia. Which creates additional complications: How do we order this equipment, how do we bring it in. But I am certain that we will resolve these issues.”

Posted in Economics, Human Dignity, Military and War | Tagged | 27 Comments

Ukraine War Day #456: General Zaluzhny’s Trepanation

Dear Readers:

Today I only have time for a quickie. Falling back on just some mindless “Celebrity Gossip”, as it were.

This is in regard to General Zaluzhny, we all love and revere that big huggable bear of a man with his swastika ring. Russian reporter Alexandra Yudina boldly goes where no man has gone before: She dares to spill some unsubstantiated gossip about Zaluzhny’s condition. According to her source, General Zaluzhny, around the beginning of May, just happened to be hanging out at Ukrainian army HQ in Kherson, when BOOM! Russian shrapnel allegedly pierced that thick Slavic skull and right into his enormous, but mostly evil, brain.

General Zaluzhny requires an XXX-Large trepanation halo.
“General, this is gonna pinch a little bit…”

Yudina goes on to spill, that Zaluzhny’s doctors performed a trepanation of his skull. English people generally say “craniotomy” but the Russian word is “trepanation” (трепанация). From the Latin trepanatio, which means “Trap a Nazi.” Apparently one of Zaluzhny’s doctors or nurses, allegedly violating their HIPAA laws, or the Ukrainian equivalent, communicated to the press that their famous patient is expected to live, but mostly as a vegetable. A potato, to be more precise. [That’s a shout-out to my reader, Bukko, who is fascinated by the spud-like qualities of Slavic skulls.] “People say” that Zaluzhny will not be in any condition to perform his usual job duties. Not with that thing in his brain, and a hole in his skull.

Which, by the way, reminds me of the Russian Wagner PMC logo, which consists of a Screaming Skull trapped inside some kind of medical apparatus. Seeing this prophetic insignia, one is always tempted to ask the pertinent question: “Are we the baddies?”

A different reporter, Kristina Tsytsura, is more discrete about running this story. She writes that Sergei Naryshkin, who heads the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, is too coy to actually come and say that Zaluzhny is totally tubular now. Naryshkin says that he will not comment on the situation until his info is 100% confirmed.

But according to the reporter, Zaluzhny has extra problems, even in addition to his wounds. He suffers from Diabetes type II, which obviously complicates every other possible medical condition or problem. If only he had kept his blood sugar down, like his doctors ordered him, then he would have been able to endure these painful procedures with more resiliency.

The gossip deepens: Zaluzhny is perceived as a protégé of the Americans. He might even have been in the running to replace Zelensky as the President. [yalensis: Americans like to keep a deep bench and a lot of horses in their stable. That way they have more choices. Like a hundred flavors of ice cream!] There was definitely some conflict between Zaluzhny and Zelensky. Tsytsura speculates that Zaluzhny’s medical condition will weaken Washington’s position, while at the same time strengthening London’s. The latter having their own candidate in General Alexander Syrsky. The Brits also keep Kirill Budanov and Andrei Yermak in their stable of thoroughbreds. Kristina speculates that Zaluzhny’s incapacitation may serve to prolong Zelensky’s ability to stay in his post. So, score one for Zelensky.

Posted in Breaking News, Celebrity Gossip, Military and War | Tagged , | 34 Comments

Ukraine War Day #455: Belgorod Crisis, Situation Critical But Not Serious

Dear Readers:

Some of you may have heard about the Ukrainian incursion into Russia, into the Grayvoron Region of the Belgorod Oblast. The attack happened on Monday May 22, around 14:20 in the afternoon, and may have involved up to 100 or more Ukrainian soldiers, along with armored vehicles. We will see below that many of the diversionaries are reported as killed, but some individual terrorists may still be hiding in the woods around the area. As of yesterday though (Tuesday, May 23), Russian press declared the crisis to be over. The State of Emergency was lifted, and residents were allowed back into their homes.

Military experts agree that, from a strategic point of view, the attack was meaningless and will have no effect on the course of the war. (A cynic might even figure that such cross-border raids are beneficial to the Russian cause: The more soldiers the Ukrainians throw into such divertissements, the fewer they have for their real offensives, like attacking Zaporozhie or something like that.) However, from a psychological point of view, such attacks are meant to shock and terrorize the Russian people. The Russian blogosphere came to the conclusion (with which I concur) that the whole thing was just a PR stunt meant to remove “Bakhmut falls” headlines from Westie media, and replace them with headlines about valiant “Russian” anti-Putin Resistance fighters taking over an entire province in a single day. (The talking point was picked up eagerly by pro-Ukr trolls, all over the blogosphere, who kept repeating over and over: “It took the Russians 9 months to capture a small meaningless city, but the Ukrainians captured an entire province in just a few hours – rah rah for our side!”)

By The Hammer Of Thor!

Russian bloggers reported that the invading soldiers (estimates range from 70-130) carried the blue-white flag of the WWII Vlasovites (those Russian units who fought for Hitler), and that their vehicles carried a strange insignia known as Thor’s Rune. Thor being a member of the Norse-God pantheon; and his Rune signifying his battle against the Wolf Demon, Fenris. Allegedly Thor lost one arm in the battle, but was later compensated by receiving a cool super-weapon in the shape of a hammer. The members of the so-called “Russian Liberation Army” are known for being literary scholars and adepts of the ancient mythologies.

To help explain what really happened, and what it means, I have a couple of pieces from the Russian mainstream press. First this one by reporter Darya Volkova.

Who speaks with a man named Alexei Filatov, who is the President of a soldiers organization called “Alfa”. Filatov: “The situation is complicated by the Landschaft. The forests allow the enemy to hide, so that it may take a long time to catch them all. And our task is not just to destroy the diversionaries, but to do it without taking on losses to our own side.

Alexei Filatov

“It is obvious that we can’t throw all our resources into the Belgorod Oblast, that would leave other areas on our border vulnerable to enemy incursion. Which is probably exactly what they were counting on. This diversion doesn’t have real military or political goals, but mainly morale and psychological goals.”

Filatov noted that the terrorist group appeared to be well-trained and equipped. They had mortar launchers and artillery. They shot up both administrative and residential areas and attacked critical infrastructure such as electricity. During the crisis, the lights went out for a period of time.

In addition, as reporter Alexei Degtyarev reports, the terrorists most likely enjoyed NATO satellite assistance. Two days before the attack (May 20), the American satellite GeoEye-1 snapped a bunch of photos from around the Belgorod area and posted them on the Maxar site.

A few hours after the initial attack, the Belgorod authorities put into action their Emergency Preparedness Plan. They declared a state of emergency and evacuated civilians from the following towns: Grayvoron, Novostroevka, Gorkovsky, Bezymeno, Mokraya Orlovka, Glotovo, Gora-Podol, Zamostie, and Spodariushino. Temporary shelters for the civilians were set up in Stary Oskol, and in the Yakovlevsky and Ivnyansky Okrugs.

Emergency measures also included shutting down any businesses or enterprises where chemicals, biologicals, radioactive materials, or explosives might be stored; and setting up checkpoints to verify people’s documents.

The Governor of the Region is a man named Vyacheslav Gladkov. During the course of the crisis he kept his residents informed of the course of events. Eventually the Ukrainian attack was repelled by units of the Russian Army, Border Guards, the National Guard, and the FSB.

On Tuesday morning the anti-terrorist operation continued, and residents were asked to not return to their homes just yet. But later that day, as mentioned above, the State of Emergency was lifted. The Russian authorities claimed they had killed about half of the terrorists in the company and chased the rest of them back across the Ukrainian border.

Numbers And Casualties

On Tuesday, some numbers started coming in. The Russian Ministry of Defense announced that 70 terrorists had been liquidated, along with 4 armored vehicles and 5 pickup trucks. [yalensis: Alas, they are still using the American word “pickup” (пикап), I thought the Academy of Sciences told the reporters to stop using so many American words!]

When the incursion first started, the Ukrainian militants opened a massive machine-gun and artillery fire through the Belgorod Oblast, including such Okrugs as Grayvoron, Shebekinsky, Valuisky, and Belgorod.

Russian soldiers hunt for the intruders.

A Ukrainian drone was shot down in Nikolsky.

Fourteen artillery shells were launched at the town of Zhuralevka. No casualties and no real damage.

A mortar shell was launched at the tiny village of Lozavaya Rudka. No casualties and no real damage.

Five mortars launched at the village of Stary Khutor. No casualties and no real damage.

[yalensis: You see what I mean? The Ukrainians were just wasting their precious ammo on these meaningless targets.]

In another, unnamed place, two bombs were tossed out of a drone. There were no casualties, but a private homeowner had to stand there and watch his roof cave in.

Grayvoron took the worse hit, and the saddest result were some civilian casualties. The Ukrainians really let loose on this unfortunate region with everything they had: Grenade launchers, artillery, rockets; and also grenades launched from drones. Twenty-nine residential homes were damaged, along with 3 automobiles. Twelve peaceful civilians were wounded.

Electricity was damaged, and the lights went off in 14 towns. The authorities had to hold back and not allow the repair work to start until the crisis had been resolved.

The Situation In Shebekino

This urban center suffered quite a lot: It was shelled 25 times.

The town of Terezovka received 8 mortar shells. There were no casualties or damage.

The Ukrainians worked their artillery against Novaya Tavolzhanka. There were no casualties, but a couple of homes saw damaged fences. Here too, a bomb was tossed out of a drone.

The village of Sereda received 10 shells; and 3 houses lost their facades.

Vyacheslav Gladkov

The most serious human casualties occurred in the town of Glotovo. According to Governor Gladkov: “A married couple were injured. The woman incurred shrapnel wounds to her legs, and went in to traumatic shock. She is in serious condition. The man received wounds around his abdomen and chest, and is in moderately serious condition. They were taken to Hospital #2. Currently they are both under observation by the doctors. All the necessary care is being given to them.”

The only known death attributed to the terrorist raid was that of an elderly woman (born in 1941) who died in the process of being evacuated from her home. She was riding in a bus at the time, along with her son and her daughter-in-law. Officials are investigating the causes of her death.

And thus ends the mini-saga of Thor’s Rune, and nobody is talking about the victory of Bakhmut any more. Well played, Mr. Zelensky!

Posted in Breaking News, Military and War | Tagged , | 34 Comments

Ukraine War Day #454: Zelensky In Hiroshima, More Crocodile Tears

Dear Readers:

This post is sort of a continuation of yesterday’s story, my source is this analytical piece by Nikolai Storozhenko. The main topic is Zelensky’s complete amateurism when it comes to performing on the world stage. Zel may be a world-class standup comedian and piano player, but when it comes to international diplomacy, eeesh…. The headline reads:

At the G-7 Summit Zelensky Offended Japan And Also Threw America Under the Bus

And the sub-headline: “Having compared Artyomovsk with Hiroshima, Zelensky admitted the crimes of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Storozhenko: Zelensky employed a rather double-edge rhetorical phrase at the G-7 Summit in Japan. He compared the destruction of Artyomovsk with the results of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. By so doing, without even realizing what he had done, he (1) offended Japan; (2) undermined his main host, the USA; and (3) tried to whitewash the crimes of the UAF.

Artyomovsk: Nothing left except the ferris wheel.

There are two levels of tactlessness. One level: To mention a rope in the home of a hanged man. At a more advanced level: Expressing your condolences with “I too had a relative who hung himself.”

One might say that Zelensky rose to the second level when he uttered, at the G-7 Summit in Hiroshima: “The photographs of the destroyed Hiroshima absolutely reminds me of Bakhmut and other such cities. There is nothing left alive there, there is no sense of what was a street, what was a building. There is just total destruction, there is nothing there, no people there.”

Observers noted that, despite his crocodile tears over the Hiroshima victims, Zelensky didn’t even bother to attend the ceremony where flowers were laid on a memorial to those people who died in the bombing.

Let us turn to the way in which Zelensky quite skillfully undermined Joe Biden. On the eve of the summit, Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, responding to the question of a reporter, declared that Biden would not apologize for the American atom bombing of Hiroshima/Nagasaki.

This has been one of those historical “guilt” issues that recur in international politics. Towards the end of 2022, Japanese politician Muneo Suzuki when he heard about the G-7 summit in Hiroshima, and heard that Biden was to attend, he called upon the latter, not so much to apologize, as to declare that the use of the A-bomb had been a mistake. In reality, nobody expected this to actually happen. Harry Truman’s grandson declared, in 2015, that the U.S. would never apologize for dropping the bomb on Hiroshima/Nagasaki. And nobody expects them to ever do, least of all the Japanese.

But given that this is such a sore spot in American-Japanese relations, it was doubly tactless of Zelensky to shoot off his mouth and opine about it. [yalensis: But that’s Zelensky for you! As the Supreme Leader of the Planet, this Great Philosopher has an opinion about everything!] By doing so, and by comparing Artyomovsk with Hiroshima, he only drew more attention to Biden’s refusal to apologize.

There is another nuance: Nobody believes that Biden personally had anything to do with the bombing of Hiroshima. And yet he has everything to do with the destruction of Artyomovsk. This catastrophe happened under his watch! And not just Artyomovsk, but all of those Donbass cities that became front-line targets of Ukrainian/American weapons. The military aid provided by the U.S. to Ukraine only serves to prolong the agony of the Donbass people and towns. This is where the Americans will also need to issue an official apology, at some point in the future.

Pan Zelensky, Look In The Mirror!

Since the start of the Special Military Operation, the Ukrainian army have taken to using multi-storey apartment buildings as fortifications and machine-gun nests.

Hiroshima, after the bomb.

They did this against the will of the residents of those buildings. The residents would suddenly get a knock on the door in the middle of the night: They had an hour to collect their things and clear out. If they refused, they would be shot. This was the practice in Mariupol as well, there are tons of eyewitness accounts that this was the standard practice of the UAF.

And the so-called “defense” of Artyomovsk was done exactly the same way as Mariupol.

And here is one more nail in the coffin: In one of his recent interviews with Ukrainian television, Ukraine’s Chief Spy, Kirill Budanov admitted that the Ukrainian government knew about the planned Russian attack two weeks in advance, in February of 2022. And they decided to keep that knowledge a secret, instead of warning the population. They could have warned the people and given them time to evacuate the front-line [Donbass] cities. They could have organized humanitarian corridors. They could have chosen to do battle out in the open fields, against the Russian army, while leaving the cities intact. But in the end they decided it would be much more convenient for them to leave the population in place, as literal human shields, and to fight the war in the urban environment. And they stuck to this same logic throughout the course of the conflict, hiding their army behind human shields and in civilian buildings.

In other words, Artyomovsk was nothing like Hiroshima. Thus, Zelensky’s crocodile tears are nothing but a pathetic attempt to cover-up the crimes of the West, of the UAF, and of himself.

Posted in Celebrity Gossip, Friendship of Peoples, Military and War | Tagged , , | 37 Comments

Ukraine War Day #453: Hiroshima Survivor Opposes Zelensky Visit

Dear Readers:

First a quick note about Zelensky at the G-7 in Hiroshima. Russian reporter Alexander Grishin recounts how, at a press conference on Sunday, Zelensky was confronted by a couple of “jackals” of the press corps. “Mr. President, is Bakhmut still under the control of the Ukrainian army? The Russians report that they took it.”

Zelensky, who was sitting right next to American Prez Joe Biden, was forced to reply in a more or less honest fashion, to an honest question: “I think, no [obviously responding to the first question and not the follow-up]. But you have to understand, that nothing is left of the city [in other words, it’s worthless now, so who cares?] There are no buildings even left there. I am very sad about this. It’s a tragedy. As of today, Bakhmut remains only in our hearts.”

In Our Hearts, And Also Our Livers and Kidneys

Zelensky: “I feel sort of bad about Bakhmut.”

Next I have this piece from TASS. The hero of this story is a man named Kunihiko Sakuma, who is one of the living survivors of the Hiroshima A-bomb attack on August 6, 1945. The Japanese city of Hiroshima is back in the news of course, because, as we just saw, Zelensky is there, having invited himself to the G-7 Summit.

Some back story: Japan is a member of the G-7, which consists of Canada, Italy, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, and the United States. Member states rotate the Chairmanship of the Summit, and this year it is Japan’s turn, which is the reason why the Summit is being held in Hiroshima.

Only two American Presidents have ever visited Hiroshima: Obama in 2016, and now Biden. Neither President has ever apologized for dropping the A-bomb on Hiroshima in 1945.

The Survivor

Sakuma was only 9 months old when the A-bomb was dropped; which is why he doesn’t remember any of it. He was asleep in his crib, and his quick-thinking mom was doing laundry when it happened. She saw the flash, quickly dropped what she was doing, grabbed the infant, and hurried off to an evacuation center behind their house. In the explosion and aftermath, some 140,000 died. Sakuma’s family considered themselves lucky, that they survived. However, when Sakuma was ten years old, he started suffering from some liver and kidney issues that are very rare in children, and he wondered if it might not be the result of catching some radiation from the “black rain” fallout.

Kunihiko Sakuma

In additional to medical issues, Sakuma found himself an outcast in certain parts of Japanese society. Hiroshima survivors were regarded as diseased and unclean. The family of a girl he was dating in Tokyo, didn’t want her to marry him. Having to deal with these prejudices, Sakuma decided to return to Hiroshima, where people understood each other. He was able to find a job working for Mitsubishi.

In 2006 Sakuma became active in an advocacy group for Hiroshima survivors; they are called hibakusha. They obtain certificates for survivors, which entitles them to free medical care. They also offer psychological support to people who still suffer under a stigma and find it difficult to find somebody to talk to:

“I would hear the stories from hibakusha who were older than me at the time and I learnt so much that I didn’t know. I had watched the films that were used in our peace education at school, but it was a completely different experience to hear about what happened from people who had seen it with their own eyes.

“Over time, it began to dawn on me, that these were not only their experiences, but things I too had experienced. I began to truly appreciate the awful power of nuclear weapons and that they must never be used again.” Sakuma, now 75, has been the Chairperson of the advocacy group since 2015, and he even regularly travels abroad, to spread the anti-atomic message.

Speaks Out

These experiences have made Sakuma a political figure, so he decided to use his voice to speak out against Zelensky’s visit to Hiroshima; against his participation in the G-7 summit. Which Sakuma did at a press conference Friday evening. Originally, Zelensky was just supposed to address the conference via Zoom. But Zelensky being Zelensky, he insisted on showing up in person and also invited himself to a personal meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Videos show Zelensky deboarding his French plane wearing his usual filthy hoodie. This is what Sakuma had to say when asked about the arrival of this unwelcome guest: “Given the current political situation, there is a very spirited bargaining going on surrounding Zelensky’s visit to Hiroshima. I don’t agree with this visit.”

Posted in Human Dignity, Military and War | Tagged | 34 Comments

Ukraine War Day #452: Bakhmut Falls +Travel Unites Families

Dear Readers:

First a quickie headline that everybody has already heard: Bakhmut fell to the Russians. Yesterday, May 20, exactly one year since the fall of Mariupol. Some coincidence, huh? Even the Russian mainstream press is allowing itself to emit a restrained “hoorah!” According to reporter Anton Antonov, whose parents apparently had no imagination:

The head of the Russian government Vladimir Putin congratulated the Wagner Storm Brigades for the liberation of Artyomovsk, as well as all those military formations which provided them with indispensable assistance in covering the flanks. All of those [soldiers and officers] who distinguished themselves will be awarded medals.

“We done it, boss! All ten of us!”

Next: From War to Peace, with Tolstoy’s blessing…

What If Marco Polo Had A Direct Flight?

The ability to travel, even long distances, in a relatively short amount of time, is one of those modern conveniences which many families appreciate. It helps them to stay in touch and visit with each other.

For this purpose, citing both economic and humanitarian reasons, Russian President Putin, this past May 10, signed a decree that ended the banning of direct air travel between Russia and Gruzia. Immediately travelers took advantage of this lifting of the ban, they took off on flights between Moscow and Tbilisi. From the Russian side: many tourists eager to visit this beautiful Caucasian nation and take advantage of the famous Gruzian hospitality. Also lots of people visiting relatives. In addition to the direct flights, visas were waived; which made the trips even more convenient; basically all people had to do was purchase a ticket and hop on the plane.

The two Russian airlines flying this route are Azimut and Red Wings. In the other direction, the Gruzian company Georgian Airways will fly people from Tbilisi to Moscow. The very first of these flights from Moscow to Tbilisi was booked up within minutes. The airline provided free champagne to the passengers. After the flight landed, some irate customers complained about the rowdiness of certain Russian passengers. Apparently there was a group of adult hooligans, mostly women, who drank too much champagne onboard and turned the flight into a party plane. We all know that type. They go “wooo!” and won’t give any peace to anyone.

The reporter of the linked piece, Dina Karpitskaya interviewed several Russian travelers arriving at the Tbilisi airport on that first party plane. But the people she happened to meet were respectable citizens. Each had a different, but good, reason for taking the flight. For example, one woman was just eager for a vacation. Another Russian woman was visiting family: “My mother is a Gruzian, as is my husband. He is meeting me here today.” On the Gruzian side, people working within the Hospitality Industry (hotels, restaurants, etc.) were eagerly looking forward to servicing Russian tourists again; because the latter bring good money into the country; and the Gruzian economy could use a little boost right now.

Gruzian Opposition not happy about the flights.

Not everybody was happy, though. It is shocking that in this carefree Caucasian land noted for its hospitality and cherishing of guests, some people actually held up signs reading “You are not welcome!” And here we see a difference in opinion between a politician who is responsible for the well-being of his people; vs a NATO plant who answers only to her masters in Washington DC and who serves only American interests.

Namely, the Gruzian Prime Minister Irakly Garibashvili is happy enough about the direct flights and the non-visa permissions. But his colleague the President, Salome Zurabishvili, is not happy at all. Nor is the pro-Saakashvili political opposition. It makes them sick to their stomachs when they see Russians and Gruzians getting along. They will keep reminding everybody who listens, that “Russia still occupies 20% of our territory.” By which they mean South Ossetia and Abkhazia. None of whose residents want to have anything to do the Kartvelian Nationalists who ran the country into the ground under Saakashvili.

Later it was revealed that the relative of a famous Russian politician was planning to visit Gruzia. The Gruzian Radical Opps went ballistic. The politician in question is none other than Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Here is what reporter Dmitry Alexandrov reported out of Tbilisi:

The chairman of the ruling Gruzian Dream party Irakly Kobakhidze called it “pure xenophobia” and “an outbreak of Liberal fascism” when the Opposition demonstrated in the Eastern city of Kvareli, once they learned that a wedding was to take place involving the brother of the son-in-law (брат зятя) of Sergei Lavrov. “They want to create chaos in our country,” Kobakhidze complained, when he heard about Opps clashing with police to try to disrupt the upcoming nuptials.

Kinship Ties

The city of Kvareli lies 150 km east of Tbilisi. The hotels in that town are abuzz with wedding preparations. The groom: He is the brother of the husband of the daughter of Lavrov. Got that?

Kinship terms are always complicated, and most languages don’t have even enough words to describe all the possible relationships within an extended family. For example, once when I was visiting a branch of my family in Texas, I was introduced to a man who was the cousin of the husband of my sister. What was I supposed to call him, my cousin-in-law?

The Russian word зять (pronounced something like z’at’ with soft palatalized consonants, almost like lisping) can mean either “son-in-law” or “brother-in-law”, depending on the context. If it’s son-in-law, it would be the husband of your daughter. If it’s brother-in-law, it would mean the husband of your sister. Like most Slavic kinship terms, these words have ancient roots going way, way back in time to the Indo-European tribes. The Indo-European root is reconstructed as *ǵenh₁ which would have been pronounced something like gyenKH, and it obviously is the root of such words as “genesis” and “genetic”. Not to mention “genteel” and “gentleman” (“gentle” in the sense of “well-bred”). The basic core/root meaning “to give birth”, also (in various children languages) “seed”, “offspring”, and by extension, some type of kinship. Although the semantics eludes me, when we are talking about people not genetically related, like in-laws. But whatever… I reckon the thinking behind it was something like, “He married into the family, so he’s one of us now, like our own offspring.”

In any case, it cannot be said that, whatever happens in Gruzia, Lavrov will become his own grandpa; because that would just be wrong.

Posted in Celebrity Gossip, Economics, Friendship of Peoples, Military and War | Tagged , , | 39 Comments