From Jamie Peipon: In the picture, you are seeing defensive fortifications set up by russians. Strangely, these fortifications are actually IN russia near the city of Bilhorod (or, Belgorod, as it is known in a popular Ukrainian dialect). They went from, “we’re going to take Kyiv in 3 days” to either being genuinely worried they will be invaded, or to pretending to be the victim. Ukraine is not interested in russian land or cities. But, if russians want to spend time, energy, and money on constructing pointless defenses, I’m for it. Better they do it there than in Ukraine.
There has been one main story today and then news from two fronts. First, the main story: russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu has been “missing in action” for a while, but today he spent quite a bit of time on the phone with counterparts throughout the world. He spoke with counterparts in the US, UK, France, and Turkey. There may hae been more. His important message was a claim that Ukraine had a “dirty bomb” and was planning to use it on its own territory. US officials confirmed the call and characterized the claim as “transparently false.” The only thing that is mildly concerning about this is that russia often plans to do something and then “predicts” that their opponent will do that very thing. However, I think the US and NATO have been very clear about what they will do in the event russia does anything related to nuclear weapons. I am also not convinced that it makes sense for russia to use such weapons. First of all, it won’t actually help them accomplish any of their goals. Second of all, I think that the threat of nuclear activity (at any level) is far more useful as a tool of terror. Once they would use a nuclear weapon, they would lose all that leverage and would more than likely be sent to the stone age by NATO pretty quickly.
Now to the two fronts: Kherson and Bakhmut. In Kherson (southern Ukraine), russian officials have been telling people to evacuate and bring documents, valuable, clothes, etc. This certainly makes it sounds like they’re not expecting them to return any time soon. It also seems as if they are evacuating all their higher value resources from the area. Officers and medics have reportedly left. This means that they’ve probably only left inexperienced conscripts to defend the city. Basically, they’re doing their best to retreat and the conscripts are being treated as nothing more than human speed bumps. Surely they known that their conscripts will only be able to buy them a small amount of time before getting overrun by Ukraine’s forces.
Bakhmut (eastern Ukraine) has been the location of the fiercest fighting for weeks now. Over the past four months or so, russia has pointlessly thrown their best soldiers and mercenaries at this city. The infamous “Wagner” forces have been most active there. They’ve suffered countless losses and have only been able to reach the outskirts of Bakhmut. By all accounts, the Ukrainian forces are also paying a heavy price, but they are heroically defending this city and have in essence told russia: “no further.” In addition, only a few days after russia made it to the outskirts, Ukrainian forces have reportedly pushed them back away from the city. There will be so many stories for years and years to come about the heroic acts that have brought Ukraine to this point in the war… it will be perfect reading while vacationing on the beaches of Crimea.
“But to the wicked God says:
‘What right have you to recite my statutes
or take my covenant on your lips?
For you hate discipline,
and you cast my words behind you.
If you see a thief, you are pleased with him,
and you keep company with adulterers.’”