I’ve been following Russian milblogger accounts for my Ukraine War updates, and over the last 48 hours there has been a serious change of tone.
Ukraine’s unexpected and rapid advances in the north — as documented by these Russian sources — have engendered a palpable frustration from writers usually known for their pro-Moscow drumbeating.
I’m not getting too excited about the odds of Russian forces getting routed right out of Ukraine since Russia still has some big cards to play—and because the two big points of contention (Crimea and Donbas) remain well out of Kyiv’s reach.
To give you an idea, one Ukraine soldier posted a photo of himself in the just-liberated village of Ivanovka — complete with a menacing message for any Ukrainians who collaborated with the Russians.
Russian milblogger “Ghost of Zeepo” wasn’t happy with the situation, but his anger wasn’t directed at Ukraine.
I don’t even have a clever descriptions for this, i’m speechless. This is on Z entirely pic.twitter.com/YNC4Wd1ybH
— Ghost of Zeepo (@mdfzeh) September 9, 2022
“Z” is short for Russian forces.
Russia has been busily moving reinforcements back north to Kharkiv after having spent much of August moving them south to Kherson. But with important roads now in Kyiv’s possession, Moscow is forced to move fewer troops by helicopter.
Another pro-Moscow blogger, Zoka, isn’t entirely happy about that.
This video shows how difficult situation when two Mi 26s have to transfer reinforcements, which means there are no troops nearby. Its to late now. https://t.co/RW3pe4DUO0
— ZOKA (@200_zoka) September 9, 2022
Yesterday, for example, to the west of Malaya Kamyshevakhi, the Armed Forces of Ukraine attacked with forces up to a battalion, 6 tanks and 4 armored personnel carriers. Here is what they write to me from there: “6 tanks, 4 armored personnel carriers went at us. And a battalion. Repulsed. Buba blew himself up (perhaps he caused fire on himself – ed.) and said on the radio: “Goodbye men and I was glad to serve with you. Well, they are … Ali. Moved away. Buba is a volunteer from Vologda. Sergeant. Commander of a motorized rifle company of volunteers. He was the senior at the base observation post. Saved young subordinates.
Nevertheless, Kots warns that “The situation is difficult. Judging by the map of the respected Rybar, at this moment the supply routes of the group from Kupyansk are cut off.”
The battle — which is shaping up for control of eastern Kharkiv Oblast and even parts of Donbas — might hinge on the fate of Kupyansk:
Ukrainian troops have also reached the city of Kupyansk in the Kharkiv region – a key logistics and supply hub for Russian forces – according to a photo showing Ukrainian soldiers holding a flag in front of a signpost at the southern entrance of the city, geolocated by CNN. Ukrainian forces have not yet retaken the city, which is roughly 70 miles (112 kilometers) east of Kharkiv.
Evegeny Poddubny, another Russian war correspondent, almost sounds panicked describing this scene near Kupyansk:
Translation via Google:
As a result of enemy actions, the bridge across the Oskol River in Kupyansk was seriously damaged. The city is now under attack by artillery of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Formations of the neo-Nazi regime use Western MLRS, howitzers and self-propelled guns. The defense of Kupyansk continues. Reserves keep coming up.
Those reserves have one less bridge to use.
Recommended: UKRAINE WAR: Kyiv on the Counteroffensive?
Trent Telenko is another Twitter user who often has a lot of good data, but I find his spin to be too lopsided towards Ukraine to be of much use. Nonetheless, he makes a good point when he notes that the disabling of the bridge means “Russia’s Izyum salient is now a railway logistical pocket. Russia has no way to evacuate it’s [sic] massive artillery ammunition reserves located there.”
He has more here if you’re interested.
Russia’s situation, I’d say, is serious but not dire. Salients like the one Ukraine has created in Kharkiv can become deathtraps if the other side has the resources and mobility to take advantage. We’ll see.
I came across an even-more panicked-sounding Russian milblogger writing about the bigger picture, but it was only a Telegram screencap and I couldn’t confirm if it was authentic or not. You’ve got to discard a lot of material putting these columns together.
That’s why I hesitate to include this last item from Russian exile and “opposition activist” Mikhail Khodorkovsky because I’m 99% certain it’s a fake. But maybe there’s a lesson to be drawn here in how to spot fakes.
A leaked letter from the Russian Finance Ministry says that as of 28.8., 361.4 billion rubles have been paid to the families of the deceased
For each fallen soldier,it’s 7.4 million rubles
‼️ In total,this gives 48,759 confirmed dead
Missing and DPR + LLR soldiers are not counted pic.twitter.com/QCEuXOMFrG
— Mikhail Khodorkovsky (English) (@mbk_center) September 9, 2022
Both sides in any war have a bad habit of wildly over-reporting enemy losses. If I recall correctly, there was one early naval battle in the Pacific where Japanese pilots didn’t just report sinking more American carriers than were present, but more carriers than we had in our entire Navy. It’s a human failing as old as warfare.
Kyiv has claimed a Russian KIA/MIA figure so close to Khodorkovsky’s that some will be tempted to jump on this “leaked” letter as the real McCoy.
But it’s nearly impossible for that to be so.
Russia invaded in February with an estimated 190,000 troops. If 48,759 of those are dead or missing, there are also the wounded to account for.
Typically, the wounded-to-killed ratio is about 3-to-1.
For Khodorkovsky’s letter to be true, there would have to be about 150,000 wounded, killed, or missing Russian military personnel — or nearly 80% of those originally deployed.
A better estimate is about one-fifth of that figure (courtesy The Dupuy Institute), or about 9,000 KIA/MIA and another 25,000-30,000 wounded.