I didn’t expect this.
But I suppose some realities are so plain that even Russia won’t bother to dispute them. As the photos of burned-out tanks and dead Russian troops pile up on social media, claiming that losses are minimal would make the Kremlin seem ridiculous while failing to convince anyone.
The most Dmitri Peskov can do here to spin the state of the war is to say that the country’s troops withdrew from northern parts of Ukraine like Kiev and Chernihiv as a goodwill gesture towards negotiation, not because the Ukrainians were about to run them off. The truth is that if Russia had left those troops in place and they had been routed, the army might have been too undermanned to mount an effective offensive in the Donbas, raising the specter of total defeat. Putin and his advisors likely came to the difficult conclusion that the only way they’d stand a chance of a face-saving win in the east was accepting a difficult defeat in the north and evacuating those troops to fight another day.
"We have significant losses of troops".
Vladimir Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov says it's a "huge tragedy to us" to have lost Russian troops during the war in Ukraine.https://t.co/X3flQUBL0r
📺 Sky 501, Virgin 602, Freeview 233 and YouTube pic.twitter.com/PGHoFvdewb
— Sky News (@SkyNews) April 7, 2022
Another reason Peskov may be willing to concede major losses is because Russian citizens are getting glimpses of the truth:
The brother, Aleksandr Kononov, last saw him at the military hospital morgue in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don in March. Lieutenant Kononov had died in a firefight for a steel plant in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol. He was 34. Walking to the morgue, Mr. Kononov recalled, he passed the open gate of a warehouse and glimpsed dozens of black body bags lined up on the floor…
Six weeks after President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, many Russians remain in the dark about the depth of their country’s losses — and about the carnage and brutal atrocities that their military is inflicting as it retreats in the North. But increasingly, the reality of war is intruding in the lives of regular families when death notices and black body bags arrive, causing some, like Mr. Kononov, to question the war…
With war deaths growing, word of the dangers of fighting in Ukraine is filtering down through the public, and there have even been cases of service members trying to avoid combat.
One lawyer in southern Russia says he’s received more than 100 inquiries from Russian troops and national guardsmen about their legal rights to refuse to deploy to Ukraine if ordered. But not everyone who’s lost a loved one to the war blames Moscow. One man whose son died recently in combat blamed the “Ukrainian Nazis” and their American patrons: “My personal opinion is we should just whack America with a nuclear bomb and that’s it, so that they stop getting involved in other countries’ business.”
Whacking America with a nuclear bomb wouldn’t stop us from getting involved in Russia’s business — rather the opposite — but we shouldn’t expect a grieving father to think clearly.
Speaking of grief and revenge, the Ukrainians have been hard at work lately trying to figure out which Russian units specifically were responsible for the horrors in Bucha. They’d identified some culprits:
On April 3, Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, published a list of Russian units, both military and National Guard, that he said had been deployed to Bucha and two other towns in the Kyiv region, Irpin and Hostomel.
Among those he named were the 104th and 234th Airborne Assault Regiments of the 76th Airborne Assault Division.
Based in the northwestern Russian city of Pskov, the division is renowned in Soviet and Russian military history, for both battlefield prowess and brutality. During the Second Chechen War in the early 2000s, paratroopers from the 76th Airborne Division were credibly accused of killing Chechen civilians indiscriminately.
Other circumstantial evidence found in the town like a discarded ammo box also points to the 76th Airborne. Reportedly a Russian soldier’s cell phone was also recovered and his social media accounts examined; photos on his Instagram account show him pictured with members of the 64th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade. After hearing that, the Ukrainian government published two lists, one identifying the officers in that brigade and the other supposedly identifying every last soldier in it. A separate hacked list identifying more than 120,000 Russian soldiers by name, date of birth, passport number, and unit was published weeks earlier.
I can’t tell if these are meant to be hit lists or target lists for cancellation campaigns, so that Russia’s participants in the war can be named and shamed long after it’s over. The war will eventually end but the hostility will not.
By the way, British intelligence is telling reporters that the Ukrainians are increasingly confident that Russia’s army is exhausted and can be broken *if* Kiev gets the weapons it needs, starting with tanks. “My agenda is very simple. It has only three items on it. Its weapons, weapons, and weapons,” said Ukraine’s foreign minister. Yesterday the Czech Republic became the first country to agree to send tanks to Ukraine. The Brits seem very likely to follow.
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