Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The bizarre non-story of the captured Russian soldiers

Did the Ukrainians really catch 10 Russian paratroopers?


For one thing, this time around the Ukies have provided names, a unit number (331st Regiment, 98th Guard Airborne Division) and even a video of their interrogation.  So this might be real.

If it is, I hope that it will at least shut up the choir of naysayers who constantly accuse Russia of doing nothing, of betraying Novorussia, of selling out the Donbass and all that kind of nonsense.  The fact is that Russia as constantly been assisting the Novorussians covertly and while bloggers such as Colonel Cassad and myself can claim that (read his excellent commantary here in Russian and here in English), Russia cannot do the same because of the legal consequences of such an admission.  But anybody who knows what is going on has known all along that Russia was helping. 

So this is war and, as they say, shit happens.  Still, there are a lot of weird things in this story.

First, we have to completely ignore anything the poor captured guys might have said.  We all know how the Ukies treat their prisoners so what they said is irrelevant.  Likewise, if the Ukies say that they captured these guys in location X, that does not mean that this is what really happened.  Having said that, there are still a of of unanswered questions:

Could these soldiers have been "lost" as Russia claims?  Hardly.  Everybody knows that the region where they were caught is not only crossed by an international border, but also that there is a real shooting war on the other side.  Russian paratroopers don't just get "lost" in a warzone, not at the age of GLONASS/GPS.  For all I know, they could have been kidnapped on the Russian side of the border (like the Israelis whom Hezbollah captured in 2006) and dragged across the border to make it look like they had crossed it.

But if they were sent in, what would have been their mission?  This is a total mystery to me.  Paratroopers are not just sent into enemy territory just like that, they would have to be in support of some kind of operation involving much bigger forces.

Then, by all accounts, these guys surrendered without firing a single shot.  If there is one thing Russian paratroopers are famous for is not surrendering, not even if that means dying.  Yet these guys did not see it fit to fight.  Weird, again.

The Ukies said that the paratroopers were caught with their documents.  That is laughable.  The Russians would never send in a recon team with their military IDs.  By the way, the Ukies *also* said that before they were sent across the border, the officers took all their documents.  Total contradiction.  Go figure.

According to the Ukies, only the officers knew that they had crossed into the Ukraine, not the privates and NCOs.  Again, this is laughable.  You don't send armed men into a combat zone without telling them - that would put everybody at huge risk and prevent them from acting appropriately.

So, honestly, this story makes absolutely NO sense to me.

But let's assume the worst.

Let's assume that these guys are Russian nationals who were somehow acting in support of the Novorussians.

So what?

It is pretty darn obvious that Russia has been covertly supported the Novorussians for months and that no Russians were ever caught.  Now they did.  Again, this is war, shit happens.  It is already remarkable that this did not happen sooner.  Sure, this is annoying for the Russian side, and the timing could hardly be worse which, by the way, is also very suspicious.

While this makes for good headlines for the BBC, this story is a non-story and it will have zero impact on the real course of the war.  It's a good PR opportunity for Poroshenko, but it's not like it will influence anybody's point of view or policies.  Hopefully in a few days or weeks we will find out what really happened.  But in the meantime, everybody should relax and focus on the real developing story: the Ukies being caught in several (up to six or seven, depending on how you count "cauldron") and on the full retreat in Mariupol.  That, and the meeting in Minsk, of course.

The Saker