Monday, March 10, 2014

Ukraine SITREP March 10, 10:19 EST (and some replies to comments)

  • In the city of Lugansk a crowd of demonstrators stormed to local administration building and forced the Kiev-appointed governor to resign.
  • Donetsk: 10'000 people have prevented a pro-nationalist rally featuring Vitalii Klitchko from taking place and have demanded the release of the popularly elected governor (still held in Kiev).
  • The chief of the neo-Fascist organization Right Sector, Dmitri Iarosh, has announced that he will run for President in the upcoming elections.
  • The Crimean authorities have announced that if the "yes" vote wins in the  upcoming referendum (surveys indicate a 80%+ for the "yes") Crimea will have both Russian and Crimean-Tatar as official languages.
  • The Crimean authorities have also announced that Tatars will be offered a Vice-premiership, 2 positions of Minister, and several key positions in the "power ministries" (police, internal affairs, military, security, emergency) and that the budget to re-located Tatars deported by Stalin will be doubled.
  • A Ukrainian survey 22'000 Ukrainians (on a social media website) has shown that 84.5% support the idea of Ukrainian forces conducting an "anti-terrorist" operation in Crimea against the "men in green", possibly with the help of NATO.
 My SITREP of Mach 8th has triggered two good criticisms from "parviziyi" who said that I had characterized two recent demonstrations in Kharkov and Donetsk as "big" whereas in reality, considering the sizes of these cities, they were rather small and most Russian-speakers in these cities had remained silent.  Parvizivi is correct, and I should stick to figures and not qualify them with subjective (and possibly incorrect) characterizations.  He second criticism what that I had implicitly accusing Putin of lying when I said that I believed that the "polite armed men in green" were from Russia and not from the Crimea as claimed by the Kremlin.  This point deserves more detailed answer.

The "polite armed men in green"

Why am I claiming that the "polite armed men in green" are Russian Spetsnaz and not local self-defense militias?  There are many reasons:

These men are carrying weapons which only the Russian military uses (such as the Pecheneg machine gun).  They are using a type of vehicle (Tigr) only used by Russian forces.  They also carry modified special weapons which only Spetsnaz forces do.  Some of their vehicles have military license plates which belong to the Russian Caucasus military region.  But no less relevant is that some of them have basically admitted that they were from Russia and that others have published photos of themselves in the Russian social media which have linked them to Spetsnaz GRU forces.  Russian speakers can check out the following links:

As to the issue of which Spetsnaz units these are, there have been some information leaked about the 3rd Guards Spetsnaz Brigade from Toliatti and the 31st Independent Air-Assault Brigade from Ulianovsk being moved to the Crimea, these leaks were eventually denied by official sources.  Again, Russian speakers can check out these:

I think that to identify the actual units involved in interesting but not crucial.  For whatever this is worth, my personal guess is that Spetsnaz teams were first used in recon missions to prepare for the landing of a larger mixed force of Spetsnaz, Air-Assault and Airborne forces and that a rotation is probably currently taking place replacing some of the original Spetsnaz units with dedicated peacekeeping forces.

I would also add that there are real Crimean self-defense forces being organized to defend the peninsula and the contrast between the "polite armed men in green" and the Crimean self-defense forces could not be greater:

The Crimean Volunteer Self Defense Forces (CVSDF) are composed of various age groups.  The "polite armed men in green" (PAMG) are all young men of the same age group.  The weapons of the CVSDF are a mix of weapons while the units used to create the first "official" Crimean military forces have been issued the standard AKM-74.  The PAMG have mostly modified, very expensive advanced weaponry including night-vision gear, sniper weapons and scopes, individual radios and, according to some sources, even individual IFF transponders.  Neither hte CVSDF or the newly formed official Crimean military seem to have more than cars and trucks as transportation.  The PAMG all have exactly the same advanced all-terrain armored assault vehicles and trucks.  I could go on listing more and more signs which all point to the very same conclusion: these are Russian special operation forces.

Now, am I implying that Putin is lying about that?

Not at all!  I am not implying anything - I am explicitly stating that he is lying about it!  Look, we are all adults here, and we all understand that not only do most politicians lie, some a lot some less, but that any head of state, ANY, simply HAS to lie sometimes for reasons of raison d'état.  Covert operations are, by definition, operations which are not recognized by the state and Russia, like any other state, has that kind of operations.  In this case, for purely legal reasons, the Russians have chosen to deny that they have sent in a protective force from Russia proper.  I personally would have admitted from day 1 that these were Russians forces, but Putin and Lavrov have decided otherwise and I am sure that they have good reasons for that.  Does that fact show that Putin is "a liar" or does that put a smear on his character?  That question is really naive.

First, Putin as an officer of the Soviet external intelligence service (PGU KGB SSSR) had to conceal his real mission while he was in Germany.  For him the fact of lying in defense of the Russian state interest is as natural as dealing with water for a fisherman.  Second, any head of state has to accept that the obligation to sometimes deny the truth comes with the office.  Putin cumulates not one, but THREE functions which all make it impossible for him not to lie: he is a (former) intelligence officer, he is a politician and he is a head of state in charge of a superpower.

Is there really anybody out there so naive as to think that everything Putin says is the truth, all the truth and nothing but the truth?!

Even Hassan Nasrallah, probably the most honest political leader on the planet has, at times, been force to maybe not lie, but be less than totally forthcoming about some facts, at least temporarily, for reasons of security and strategic interest.

So if somebody really believes that every word Putin says is always 100% true - please contact me, I have a bridge to sell you :-)

Stay tuned, kind regards,

The Saker