Did a drone record Russian forces killing a bicyclist in Bucha?

Did a drone record Russian forces killing a bicyclist in Bucha?

Fascinating work from Bellingcat. If this footage shows what it appears to show, there are two possibilities. One: The Russians thought they were being confronted by a lone Ukrainian soldier riding into battle on a bicycle. Two: It’s a war crime.

How do we know that those weren’t Ukrainian tanks firing on their own people? Simple. The timeline doesn’t fit:

The Times used satellite imagery yesterday to prove that the bodies found lying in the street in Bucha this past weekend had been there for weeks, before Russia withdrew and the Ukrainians advanced to retake the town. The circumstantial evidence presented by Bellingcat appears to show the same thing in the case of the cyclist.

Julia Davis, who follows Russian media for the Daily Beast, watched an ominous TV report today. A Russian network’s war correspondent insisted that Bucha was a false-flag operation — they always are, somehow — and warned that more such operations were likely. I’ll bet:

If any mass graves are uncovered in areas formerly occupied by Russia in the coming weeks, rest assured that’s just Zelensky’s “Nazis” committing atrocities against their own people to make the upstanding lads of the Russian military look bad.

I wonder what percentage of Russian viewers believe it. Many more than we’d think, probably.

Everyone’s expecting an intense war in the east but there remains a question of what sort of shape Russia’s army is in to continue the fight. Ukraine can resupply its troops on the eastern front quickly, via short, direct routes internally. Russia has to go the long way around, in some cases bringing units all the way from Belarus through Russian territory and eventually into the Donbas. That’s a major advantage for Ukraine. Morale is another major advantage: Having repelled the Russian offensive around Kiev and feeling enraged by the scenes in Bucha, the Ukrainian army is probably still spoiling to fight. That’s less true of the Russians given the casualties they’ve reportedly suffered.

Ret. Gen. Mark Hertling looked at the state of battle yesterday and reminded everyone that it’s not a simple matter for Russia of withdrawing from Ukraine to the north and then moving its forces east for a new fight in the Donbas. Many of those units from northern Ukraine will have taken heavy losses and will need to be reconstituted, i.e. integrated with other units. That’s a tricky logistical challenge. And nothing has happened yet during this war to make the pros believe the Russians are up for a tricky logistical challenge:

Russia’s still attacking on three axes — Kharkiv, the Donbas, and Crimea. Their supply lines are long and many of their units are spent. Where does Putin get the troops he needs to sustain a bruising, potentially long battle in the east?

There’s an option that’s open to him but it would change the complexion of the war: Mass mobilization.

“At this stage, the Russian force is tapped out. … Without national mobilization, there are very hard limits on what is available in terms of fighting power,” said Michael Kofman, a Russian military expert with CNA, a think tank based in Washington. The only way out for Putin, Kofman said, is to make a massive policy shift, by admitting to the Russian people that the Ukrainian offensive is not a “special operation,” as he has claimed, but a full-fledged “war,” allowing him to call up additional forces from across the country…

It is unknown, however, whether the Russian leader is ready or willing to make that shift. “We’re not sure what the long-range goal is here for Mr. Putin,” a senior U.S. defense official said Monday, speaking on the condition of anonymity under terms set by the Pentagon. Donbas is clearly the Russians’ priority, the official added, but it is “completely unclear” to U.S. officials where things could go from there…

“I just don’t see how, given the materiel constraints, they could hope to prosecute a long war with these large objectives,” Kofman said of the Russian side. “It’s just not sustainable. … They’ll run out of troops.”

Is Putin preparing to send conscripts — whom he promised wouldn’t enter the war — into the fight in Ukraine? To do that without fear of a public backlash, I would think he’d need a major provocation on Russian territory which he could blame on Ukraine. Something like the apartment bombings in 1999 that would cause massive outrage in Russia and give him carte blanche to do whatever he needs to win the war. Coming soon to Moscow, perhaps.

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