Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ukraine SITREP September 18, 17:30 UTC/Zulu: infighting everywhere

The situation in the Ukraine today is one of chaotic infighting in Novorussia and Banderastan.


Aleksandr Zakharchenko
The first sign of trouble became visible with Strelkov had to urgently come back to Donetsk to prevent the behind-the-scenes negotiations apparently taking place between some officials of the DNR and Ukie oligarchs including Akhmetov.  Then came the news of the sudden removal of Strelkov followed by an almost simultaneous removal of most of the Novorussian leadership.  In spite of that, the Novorussian leadership (Zakharchenko & Co.) appeared to be more than worthy successors to Strelkov and they did a stellar job implementing the counter-offensive plans apparently developed by Strelkov.  Then came the Minsk negotiations with little-covered reports of an attempted coup by Vladimir Antiufeev who, before that, had been in charge of state security under Strelkov.  Apparently, this coup was directed at Zakharchenko and it failed.  What then happened to Antiufeev is still unclear, at least to me.  Last I read he was being interrogated.

Aleksandr Khodakovskii
Then, this week, something really bizarre happened: first, a very controversial figure - Bezler - was appointed by somebody (it is still unclear by whom exactly) as the Head of the Intelligence Service of Novorussia.  Soon after, it was also announced that four top military commanders - Bezler, Khodakovskii and two *unknown figures* (?) - had agreed that all the Novorussian Armed Forces would be placed under the command of General Korsun.  Problem: nobody had ever heard of any "General Korsun" and even the Speaker of the Novorussian Parliament, Oleg Tsarev, declared that the political leadership of Novorussia had not been consulted about these plans.  As for Strelkov, he expressed his total lack of info about Korsun.  Weird, to say the least.  And most definitely not good.

It appears that a number of distinct but linked processes are simultaneously taking place:

1) a militia force composed of volunteers is being transformed into a regular army under a single military command subordinated to political authorities.  At least, that is the theory, but so far this has not been achieved.

2) various military Novorussian commanders have different views on key issues (such as the Minsk Agreement) and personal ambitions (Khodakovski?).

3) Moscow is exerting pressure on the Novorussian leaders to get them to comply with the Kremlin's policies.

4) Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs are also exerting their own influence to get an outcome favorable to their financial interests.

These are four distinct processes and not one single factor and those who present a simplistic "single explanation" model are simply missing the complexity of the situation.  That does not, however, make the situation any better.

Vladimir Antiufeev
The direct consequence of that is that Novorussia still does not have a single and uncontested leader.  My personal feeling is that there is a Strelkov-Zakharchenko alliance which is both the most legitimate and the most capable, but other big actors (Bezler, Khodakovski) are still trying hard to promote their own agenda.  Rumor now has it that Antiufeev and Bezler are under arrest.  Whatever may be the case, the political infighting and chaos in Novorussia are a most serious problem which somebody (Strelkov?  Putin?) will have to urgently fix.


Vladislav Surkov
I have seen a lot of speculations that the "éminence grise" behind a lot of that malfeasance is Vladislav Surkov, a weasely character of the entourage of Putin but whose views seem to often run directly in opposition to Putin's.  I have seen no direct proof of that, but I have no reason to doubt much better informed individuals (including Strelkov).  Surkov or no Surkov, there is definitely an interest group out there referred to as "5th column", the "party of peace", the "party of betrayal" or, my own favorite, the Atlantic Integrationists whose agenda is simple: stop the war in the Ukraine and restore the putatively "good" relationship between Russia and the West.  Their motives are a mix of ideology (pro-western russophobia, capitalist liberalism) financial (they stand to lose most from not only the western sanctions, but from a deterioration of relationship between Russia and the West) and personal (struggle for power to re-take the Kremlin from the Eurasian Sovereignists).

Vladimir Evtushenkov
In this context I have seen a lot of speculation that the recent move against multi-billionaire Vladimir Evtushenkov (often described as the new Khodorkovski) is Putin's counter-attack to smack down the oligarchs.  Could be, and Peskov's denial of anything political behind his arrest are as predictable as they are not credible.  It would be worth seeing if there is a Evtushenkov-Surkov connection, but I don't have the means to do that myself.  Still, judging by the reaction of the head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP), Alexander Shokhin, it is clear that the Russian oligarchy is upset and even frightened by this arrest.

So much for the stupid theory that Putin represents the interests of the Russian oligarchy or, even better, is the "puppet" of these oligarchs.


The junta controlled part of the Ukraine (I call Banderastan) is in full turmoil.  The Minsk Agreement as absolutely infuriated most of the Ukie political leaders.  Predictably, Iarosh and Tiagnibok are up in arms, the former even threatening to overthrow Poroshenko.  Worse, Timoshenko has made something of a comeback denouncing the Agreement as a vile surrender to the Moskals and a sellout of Ukie national interests.

Rada Deputy tossed in trashbin
Right Sector activists have attempted to storm the Parliament and the Presidency, they have literally tossed deputies into trashbins which is both funny and amply deserved, but does not change the scary fact that Poroshenko is not the worst of what Banderastan can produce.  Poroshenko is evil, of course, but at least he is not a lunatic like Timoshenko or Liashko.

There is now a very real risk that the Right Sector could literally overthrow the Poroshenko regime (Libya anybody?).  And even if the Right Sector does no such thing, of fails doing it, the upcoming elections are nothing short of really scary.  With the massive brainwashing going on throughout the Ukie media there is a real risk of a wall-to-wall "loony" Rada with Liashko in charge of the biggest party and assorted neo-Nazis filling the rest of the seats.

Nazis vs oligarchs
There is a clash taking place between oligarch and sincere/zombified Nazis on one hand, and even between oligarchs (Poroshenko vs Kolomoiski vs Akmetov) on the other.  Thus, in a paradoxical way, both Novorussia and Banderastan don't currently have a real, functioning, central power and neither side can "deliver" anything.

And if that does not scare you enough, keep in mind that the Ukie economy, propped up by the AngloZionists, has not truly collapsed yet.  But it will.  Soon.  Then things will get really, really ugly.  The examples of Iraq and Libya immediately come to mind.  In fact, Putin recently declared the following at the Seliger 2014 annual youth forum:
Do you remember the joke: "Whatever Russians make, they always end up with a Kalashnikov?" I get an impression that whatever Americans touch they always end up with Libya or Iraq.
Apparently, he is absolutely right and Banderastan is now headed down the exact same road.  Truth be told, there is only that long that the AngloZionists can keep Poroshenko in power and the remnants of economy of Banderastan afloat.  Sooner or later - probably sooner - both will come tumbling down and then all hell will truly break lose

In the meantime, "Iats" has announced the "lustration" (purge) of the estimated 1'000'000 civil servants connected with the previous regime.  Apparently, this does not including Poroshenko, Timoshenko, Turchinov or "Iats" himself (all of whom have served under previous Presidents in one capacity or another).

Crazy, crazy shit...

Military situation:

Military situation September 15-17
To my great surprise, a Ukie counter-offensive did not materialize or, if it did, it was so lame that it was hard to notice.  The Ukies did concentrate very large forces in several locations, and the JRF did execute attacks in several locations, but they were lame and rather rapidly repelled.  As for those few locations which were taken under the control of the JRF, they were mostly locations which the NAF had abandoned.  My source for this analysis is "Basketok" (whose excellent and detailed daily reports Russian speakers can get here and here).

Amazingly, the NAF have still not taken full control of the Donetsk Airport.  They have surrounded it and they control most, but not all of it.  As for the Ukies there, they are categorically refusing to surrender and they are still shelling Donetsk on a daily basis.  I can only explain this aberration as a consequence of the political infighting taking place in the Novorussian leadership.

One of the most likely explanation of the current is one given by the (excellent) Colonel Cassad:
With respect to concentration, the main forces of the junta are already deployed into Donbass. The junta cannot grow the group substantially yet. Taking the planned rotation of the detachments and the combat capable units that were pulled into the front into account, the junta can reinforce its group only by throwing restored battalion-tactical groups of previously routed detachments into action. However, their combat qualities appear quite dubious due to large losses in personnel and materiel. In essence, absent the 4-th wave of mobilization, the junta cannot substantially increase the headcount of its group, which remains approximately on the level of early July of 2014. Considering the failure of the previous 3 waves of mobilization, the possible results of the 4-th also trigger certain skepticism. The junta, of course, isn't close to the limiting values of its mobilization potential, but it is already experiencing serious difficulties. All of this is aggravated by materiel issues: by various estimates, the junta lost about 60-70% of materiel present in Donbass (and the worst thing for the junta is that more than 220 armored vehicles of varying degree of combat readiness ended up being captured by the NAF, which already put between a quarter and a third of captured trophies into action).  Of course, there are still many tanks, IFVs, SPH, and MLRS in warehouses and repair facilities, but reinforcements in August and September couldn't compensate for huge losses. The attempts of getting materiel from NATO countries and the attempts to buy back the vehicles that were shipped on international defense contracts are supposed to close the gap in materiel that was formed. Ukraine continues to reap the fruits of its horrible looting of Soviet military legacy.
This makes sense.  The JRF did through its best men and equipment in its attempt to crush Novorussia in just a "few weeks" and it lost them.  There are still numerically significant resources available to them, as shown by the large concentrations of forces they have massed but failed to effectively use so far.

As for the NAF, they have made some small progress in various locations, and they have made small retreats from others, but nothing crucial has taken place on their side either.  Does that mean that the NAF and JRF have fought each other to a standstill?  Maybe, I don't know and have no way to check.  Still, my first explanation for this apparent stagnation on the military front is that both sides are too deeply involved in the the political infighting and the chaos resulting from it.

Those whom I jokingly refer to "prophets and mind readers" will probably make confident predictions based, as always, on simplistic models, but I won't.   I know what Putin wants and Russia needs: regime change in Kiev.  I also know what Putin does not want or Russia cannot afford: a Novorussian collapse.  The two, of course, are linked.  But how the situation will evolve now is too early to call.

I often think that the (liberal, Masonic, pro-western, democratic and oligarchic) Kerensky regime came to power in February.  Just like the Ukie Junta.  Kerensky was overthrown in October of the same year.  Just saying...

Kind regards,

The Saker