ER Editor: The meticulous report by Simplicius below includes an appraisal of Ukraine military losses both in terms of men and equipment, and they are devastating, with even Ukraine media reporting this. Estimates of lost men run from between 200,000 to almost 400,000. Serving men want to flee or surrender, especially given the corruption among Ukrainian commanders, who refuse to report the dead and pocket what is due to their families.
Andrew Korybko also covers some similar turf in
By way of introduction:
Not only did Russia hit closer to NATO than ever, but that bloc didn’t even try to stop it, thus suggesting that they’re reluctant to get dragged even deeper into this proxy war.
Russia carried out a surgical strike early Monday morning against targets in the town of Reni on the Ukrainian side of the Danube River near the tri-border with Moldova and Romania. This video alleges to show one of the explosions at its port while this image purports to be of a grain warehouse that was supposedly destroyed in the aftermath. It can’t be ruled out that military and/or terrorist assets were hidden there, however, since Russia insists that it doesn’t strike purely civilian infrastructure.
In any case, Monday morning’s surgical strike was very important since it sent several messages that Russia’s opponents would do well to heed. For starters, Reni is located on the other side of the Danube from NATO-member Romania, which demonstrated that Russia will hit targets anywhere in Ukraine and can do so with maximum precision. Those military and/or terrorist assets based on the literal border of that bloc but just outside of Article 5’s jurisdiction can no longer take their security for granted.
The fourth message is that Russia now knows that NATO won’t extend its air defense umbrella over any part of Ukraine after no effort was made to stop its surgical strike in Reni on the Romanian border. …
The Russian army continues to strike with Geran-2 drones🚀
in the Odessa region. The footage shows the destruction of objects in the port of Reni.#Ukraine #russia #drone #war pic.twitter.com/lPuuka3Sgm
— Ukraine Footage & News (@Kevin88_H) July 25, 2023
Russia Raises Stakes With Bold Strike On Danube Port
When Russia began its large strikes on Odessa, we all wondered how far the Russian MOD would take things.
We saw maps like the following, showing all the container ships heading up the Danube toward Ukrainian ports bordering Romania, and wondered whether Russia would strike those, being so close to the borders of a NATO state:
Those questions were answered today as Russia struck a major blow on the Ukrainian port of Reni a near-literal stone’s throw from Romania.
ER map insert:
This is a major deal because it demonstrates a new hardline posture from the Russian MOD. Not only did they strike objects literally right on a NATO border, but even seemed to damage grain ships, which may belong to NATO countries.
This was clearly done to send a strong signal meant to convey Russia’s seriousness in rejecting the grain deal.
As you can see below, what appear to be entire grain silos themselves were flattened at the port:
I can only assume that one of the reasons for doing this—which had already been predicted by other commentators—was for Russia to make it unfeasible to insure any vessel that attempts to circumvent the previous corridors with the new Danube passage. It’s meant to show that this is truly the middle of a warzone, and no one should be passing without the express approval of the warzone’s chief administrator.
Recall that this was the official Russian list of requirements which would need to be fulfilled for Russia to reinstate the grain deal:
List of official requirements of Russia, the fulfillment of which will make it possible to resume the grain deal.
1. A real, not a speculative conclusion from the sanctions on the supply of Russian grain and fertilizers to world markets.
2. All obstacles for Russian banks and financial institutions that serve the supply of food and fertilizers must be removed.
3. Deliveries to Russia of spare parts and components for agricultural machinery and the fertilizer industry should be resumed.
4. All issues with the charter of ships and insurance of Russian export food supplies must be resolved, all logistics of food supplies must be provided.
5. Unhindered conditions must be provided for expanding the supply of Russian fertilizers and raw materials for their production, including the restoration of the operation of the Togliatti-Odessa ammonia pipeline.
6. Russian assets related to the agricultural industry should be unlocked.
7. There must be a restoration of the original humanitarian nature of the grain deal. It should work for countries in need, not make rich countries richer.”
In recent weeks, the list of demands has expanded from 5 to 7. The West looks extremely unlikely to fulfill them. Erdogan does not have the resources to influence the West on these issues. Therefore, the probability of extending the grain deal on the same terms is vanishingly small.
Ukraine is desperately trying to keep the deal alive by making up all sorts of byzantine technicality-riddled proposals like the following:
💥💥💥Ukraine has circulated a letter through the International Maritime Organization with information on the creation of alternative sea corridors (green – shallow water, red – deep water) within the Ukrainian territorial sea and exclusive economic zone for use by vessels to export agricultural products from Ukrainian ports or to exit vessels that have been stuck in ports since last February.
This is apparently a reaction to the imminent increase in insurance or insurers’ refusals to provide services to ships travelling to Ukrainian ports.
It is stated that compensation is provided for “damage caused while vessels are in Ukrainian territorial waters when such vessels are travelling to/from Ukrainian open seaports to transport cargo”.
In context, this phrase most likely means that the condition for receiving compensation is damage to the vessel caused within the territorial waters of Ukraine.
However, the red (deep-water) corridor passes almost entirely outside its territorial waters.
To further complicate matters, one plan is to ship the grain by rail to Izmail, but that takes the grain over the oft-targeted Zatoka bridge:
“Ukrainian grain will be delivered by rail through Izmail, where a large commercial seaport is located. As part of the US USAID program, specialized railcars have already been purchased.
At the same time, the city is connected with the rest of Ukraine, including the strategic bridge across the Dniester Estuary, located in Zatoka. It has been regularly attacked in recent days, there is no reliable information about its condition, now traffic on the bridge is closed.”
In the Odessa strikes last week, some reports claimed Russia struck the bridge and damaged the railway portion. There was no confirmation but Russia has targeted this bridge numerous times before, including with naval drones. And days after last week’s strikes, there were more reports that Russia will soon strike it with naval drones again to demonstrate its own new naval drones in the wake of Ukraine’s naval drone strikes on the Kerch.
Either way, Russia has the ability to destroy this bridge or continuously take it ‘off-line’ such that consistent and timely grain shipments via rail would be disastrously complicated if not completely nullified.
Moreover, there was one report that European countries do not want Ukraine to ship its grain directly to them via rail and are set to disallow this. Admittedly, I don’t yet understand the exact reason for why that is—maybe my intrepid readers know and can inform us in the comments. I can only speculate that it could have something to do with Europe not having the required infrastructure to handle that much grain by rail or perhaps further insurance issues, like with the shipping routes. One must remember that trains would theoretically carry far less than a cargo ship and would therefore require a disproportionate amount of trains to carry the same load as a ship, making logistics far more inefficient—or so I assume.
Also, here’s another perspective on the various strikes:
According to the night strike in Odessa and Nikolaev, you need to understand the following. Boris Rozhin:
1. The Armed Forces of Ukraine have long stationed and stored weapons and ammunition in ports and, most likely, were confident that these stocks were safe because of the grain deal.
2. Night detonations in Odessa allow us to conclude that everything brought to the ports, probably, for the group “South” of the Armed Forces of Ukraine was stored as tightly as possible. Some warehouses in the port area are still on fire.
3. The volume of destroyed ammunition and equipment is still difficult to understand, however, if weapons and BC were critical for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Kiev will urgently request more in the near future.
4. To compensate for the supply of destroyed weapons, you will have to spend a significant amount of time. Given that a significant part of the 152-and 155-mm shells, as well as other weapons, go to the area of the Ukrainian offensive literally from the wheels, the APU will have to change the scheme and method of delivery, and this is an additional time that is not available.
Meanwhile, Zelensky begged NATO to convene a Ukraine-NATO council on the grain situation to salvage it:
Now that we’re all grained out, let’s comment some more on the developing Polish situation. Earlier, Putin met with Lukashenko for a tour of the St. Petersburg area. Lukashenko had some interesting things to say. Here is the must-watch full subtitled video of their informal public talk:
The most significant take away is the fact that he appears to imply that Belarus would be forced to react militarily to any Polish annexation of western Ukraine. The stated reason is that Belarus is already surrounded by the Balts and Poles on east and west, and he cannot allow the state to be strategically compromised from the south as well.
This is not just lip service, we can see from a map that Poland on Belarus’s southern border puts all of western Belarus, most critically the city of Brest and surrounding regions, in a potential pincer should Poland choose to attack in the future:
They can easily cut off Brest entirely in one fell stroke.
The other biggest point was that Lukashenko formally requested for Putin to review this plan with Russia’s military, implying that there will be a coordination on this account between the militaries of the union state.
As I said, much of this is expressly done to send a message to Poland and NATO as a deterrence. However, as I mentioned in recent reports, the simple fact that these plans are now being so openly and candidly discussed at the highest level, by the state leadership of Belarus and Russia means that the Polish/NATO plan must be both real and fairly progressed into its actualization.
We’ve discussed these things for months, yet they were often seen as speculative or dubious rumors. Now, times have changed because Ukraine is left with no options and is failing catastrophically on the battlefield.
Just today, another Polish unit of 200 armored vehicles and equipment reportedly arrived near the Belarusian border:
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