Ukraine SitRep: Leaked Briefings, Holding Roads, Split Training

ER Editor: It’s quoted from below, but we highly recommend this WaPo piece from yesterday, titled

As spring offensive nears, Ukraine is drafting reinforcements.

We recall retired Colonel Douglas MacGregor noting that Ukraine had gone through the equivalent of almost 3 full armies, and he said that a few weeks ago. Moon of Alabama below singles out those parts of the WaPo report indicating, worryingly, that the neo-Nazi Azov battalion is still active, having recently recruited 5,000 men for training. The piece further reveals that around a quarter of a million Ukrainian males have just turned 18, making them eligible for military service (not necessarily with Azov). To be sent into a meat grinder. Their lack of training overall is appalling. Older men anticipating call up are even paying for their own private training.


The neo-Nazi presence in Ukraine – in the culture, government and military – is something we’ve already covered, but we bumped into this interesting short video made by Deutsche Welle yesterday on Twitter. 5 minutes, it’s worth checking out:

Below, Moon of Alabama also considers what to make of those leaked Pentagon documents so far.

A question has been asked repeatedly: why is Bakhmut so important for such loss of life?


Ukraine SitRep: Leaked Briefings, Holding Roads, Split Training


Apparently some briefing documents about the war in Ukraine for the Joint Chief of Staff of the U.S. military were leaked on the internet. I have so far only seen five pages of those. The total number is supposed to be 53 or 56 pages. If anyone knows where I can find decent copies please let me know in the comments.

I was cautious after the first release was discussed in major U.S. media. The first batch was used to demonstrate that the U.S. is allegedly successfully spying on Russia. I therefore thought that the whole release might be a disinformation campaign. However, a second round of files discussed in the media over the last days paints a different picture.

Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism has a decent roundup about them:

Again, recall the New York Times was the first MSM outlet to discuss that what turned out to be the first of (so far) two groups of Pentagon slides, focused on Ukraine preparedness, had made their way to a Russian Telegram account. Some had argued that the first set was a US or Russian psyop, but the authenticity of jargon and the amount of unflattering information argued against it. The second batch extends beyond Ukraine and is perceived to be damaging to US interests. Mind you, as many war-watchers have pointed out, these revelations don’t appear likely to have much impact on the too-widely-anticipated Ukraine offensive. While the level of detail is tantalizing, the broad findings, like Ukraine’s air defenses have been depleted and are only going to get worse, were evident via open sources. Yet some of the claims are bizarre, like 97% of Russia’s forces being committed to Ukraine. Recall UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that in February, and appeared to be retailing Ukraine propaganda then. Did Wallace get that factoid from these documents?

Nevertheless, this breach will make the US clamp down on distribution of sensitive information, which won’t be helpful so close to the launch of the expected counter-offensive.

At least one slide in this second group bore the label “Secret/NoForn,” which means distribution is limited to US citizens. That would seem to rule out our notion, based on the first batch (widely distributed among US allies, including Ukraine) that a Ukrainian unhappy with how the war is being conducted could have been behind the leak. This marking suggests these documents came from a Pentagon source, which could include contractors.

The page below shows the timetable for training and equipping nine new brigades.

(Other pages I plugged from twitter are herehere, here and here.)

Those brigades will have too few state-of-the art-tanks and too few artillery to be really effective. There is also a shortage of 122mm ammunition for the artillery howitzers.

If or when that Ukrainian counterattack comes, it will hardly be the punch that some seem to expect. Ukraine had also put other units into reserve to prepare for that attack. But some of those have already been used. In a piece about Bakhmut the New York Times writes:

But in farm fields and villages on Bakhmut’s outskirts, Ukrainian military officials say Kyiv’s forces have fought the Russian Army essentially to a standstill in the battle for two key roads, the T504 highway and a route known as the 506. Six weeks after the start of a Ukrainian operation to reinforce supply lines outside Bakhmut and protect the roads, Ukrainian military officials say they have thwarted, at least for now, a Russian effort to sever those roads and surround the city.

The T504 highway is also known as the M-32. Over the last days the Russian military has moved from the south in Bakhmut to now physically block it. The T-506 (O0506 on the map below) is still open but under constant artillery fire.

A recently published drone video shows that it is hard to pass: @Militarylandnet – 8:34 UTC · Apr 8, 2023📷Destroyed/damaged Ukrainian vehicles, including HMMWVs, BTR-4, M113 and T-72 tank on the road connecting #Bakhmut and Chasiv Yar via Khromove settlement. #UkraineRussiaWar
Embedded video

I count 16 destroyed vehicles in that video on a 200 meter long stretch of the road.

But Ukraine has used reserves to keep it somewhat open:

In late February, Ukraine was close to losing the battle for Bakhmut, according to an assessment in a batch of what appear to be classified operational briefs prepared by the Pentagon and Joint Staff and leaked on social media this month. […]At the time, two Russian flanking maneuvers to the northwest and southwest of the city were close to encircling Bakhmut. A single access road, the 506, remained open for Ukrainian forces and the few civilians still in the city, but it was under Russian artillery fire. Ukraine’s commanding general in the east, Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, called the route the “last breathing tube.”

Ukrainian commanders decided to reinforce the defenses of the roads rather than retreat, according to the leaked documents. Ukraine’s army deployed many soldiers to the fight for Bakhmut that it had hoped to hold in reserve for a counteroffensive anticipated in the coming weeks or months, and its forces have sustained heavy casualties.

The meat grinder that Bakhmut has become continues to do its work.

That is why the Ukrainian army is drafting more and more men:

The men in uniform could show up almost anywhere, any time. They knock on civilians’ front doors and randomly stop them on street corners, handing out draft papers that can turn lives upside down.

Ukraine needs more soldiers — and fast. Kyiv is preparing for an imminent assault on Russian occupying forces, and while Ukraine does not disclose its casualty counts, commanders in the field have described large losses.

Previously, officials could only deliver draft papers to people’s homes, and some avoided the notices by staying at different addresses than where they are officially registered. But new rules have widened the scope of places where men can be stopped and questioned about their draft status.

Oleksii Kruchukov, 46, a washing machine repairman waiting in line outside a recruitment office in Kyiv, said he was ordered to report there after police broke up a fight he got into on the street. He did not have any valid military exemptions and said he expected that the incident will result in him soon being sent to training, and then the front.

Oleksandr Kostiuk, 52, a road repairman who helped set up barriers against Russian forces around Kyiv last year, recently received his notice via his human resources department at work. He is willing to go to the front if he has to — but fears for his safety. “Now we understand what’s going on, so I’m more nervous,” he said.

Poor guys. They will get abused to hold onto land that will be lost anyway.

This, though, is concerning:

Since early February, more than 5,000 people have applied to join what was formerly known as the Azov Battalion, a controversial former right-wing militia that was incorporated into Ukraine’s national guard. Last year, the battle-hardened group was hailed as heroic for withstanding a months-long siege of the southeastern city of Mariupol. Then, in February, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry announced that Azov would be expanded into an assault brigade as part of the new Offensive Guard.

Under its rules, Azov only accepts those who sign up of their own accord — not draftees — and it reserves the right to reject people whom it does not believe will be a good fit, which it says allows it to select the most motivated soldiers. Azov has launched a massive recruitment campaign for its new status as a brigade, with many of its men who were captured in Mariupol last year and eventually released now training recruits.

Does selecting its own recruits change a ‘controversial rightwing militia’ into a ‘controversial former right-wing militia’? I have my doubts. Now guess who is training those Nazis:

Meanwhile, at a training camp in the Kyiv region, new Azov recruits lined up at a shooting range, learning to use C7A1 rifles. One of their trainers, a Russian-speaking former American Marine who joined Azov and goes by the call sign Frodo, said that “the majority of these guys a month ago were civilians.” One sat against a wall, studying a translated U.S. military handbook. That they were motivated enough to sign up on their own means they act more like “warriors than soldiers,” Frodo said.

The training condenses the roughly three-month U.S. Marine Corps basic training into just four weeks, he said. During that time, the troops learn everything from marksmanship and cartography to radios and engineering. It’s possible — likely even — they could then be deployed almost immediately to the country’s hottest front lines.

The basic training the usual draftees get seems not to be of the same effectiveness:

On a recent afternoon outside Lyman in eastern Ukraine, a seasoned enlisted leader vented about the quality of initial training among newly arrived troops, describing it as largely glossing over fundamentals needed in the field that have to be taught when they get to their units. “They’re taught to sing songs and march” in basic training, the leader said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with reporters.

Once deployed, the troops need instruction even on the most ancient practice of soldiering: how to dig, the leader said. They do not know how to hold their shovels or fortify trenches and fighting positions. For practice, a group of fresh troops dug their spades into a nearby trench line.

Normal Ukraine’s men get sent to the front without proper training and equipment. This while the ideologues receive their own special training and Canadian made Colt M16A3 equivalents. The long time consequences for Ukraine from this social split will be horrendous.

There seems to be little of such concerns in the leaked briefing slides. As Yves notes in her piece about the reporting about them:

[G]ood intel becomes less useful when filtered through prior beliefs. As we can see above, the US can’t get over its idea that Russia is out to acquire territory, and not first and foremost destroy Ukraine’s (and now NATO’s) ability to wage war. The articles contain denigrating asides about how Russia has conducted the war. One senses that this isn’t mere media messaging but is well internalized among US and NATO decision-makers. That sort of under-estimation has worked out very well for Russia. And the very solidly built echo chamber in the Beltway means it’s likely to continue.



Featured images: Alice Martins, Washington Post


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