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A Russian military disaster unfolding

The news from Ukraine is so remarkable, I have spent three days oscillating between exuberance and sceptical incredulity of the claims of a huge penetration of Russian lines. But now there are images of Ukrainian infantry on the edge of Kupyansk, a crucial strategic rail junction, others showing units on the banks of the Oskil river. This suggests that in three days, the Ukrainians have come close to undoing what took Russia four bloody months to achieve.

This graphic is already out of date, with video evidence showing Ukrainian mechanised forces approaching Izyum from the north.

Having drawn Russian reserves and focus towards Kherson to face a much announced offensive, Valerii Zaluzhnyi appears to have totally played his opposite number: Ukraine has struck with a fast moving combined arms offensive on a completely different section of the front, achieving near complete tactical and operational surprise. Astonishing.

Update: Ukrainian infantry in Kupyansk, and next to the town hall. Last week it was 60km behind the frontline.

Update again: claims that Ukraine has taken Lyman, which if true suggests at least possibility of Russia retreat a considerable distance away from the Ukrainian axis of advance north of Izyum. However treat as RUMINT at this stage until we see OSINT pictures & videos.

33 comments to A Russian military disaster unfolding

  • […] A Russian military disaster unfolding […]

  • Ferox

    An interesting question: if the Ukrainian forces push into Russia proper, will it be the first time that a nuclear power has been invaded by land forces?

    And if it is, what will Russia do? Could we see some tactical use of nuclear weapons?

  • bobby b

    How far is this from the Russian border? (Sorry, not familiar with the area and can’t seem to match this to maps that I have.)

  • Steven R

    If Ukraine crosses into Russia proper, I still kind of doubt we’ll see Putin use canned sunshine. You typically reserve that for use on someone else’s property. Russia is approaching pariah-status as it is and being the first to pop a nuke of any size isn’t going to help Moscow’s PR problem, especially in a war they started.

    If anything, I can see Ukraine stopping at the pre-war border and calling it a day, maybe with a road trip into Crimea depending on how badly the Russians are beaten.

  • Patrick Crozier

    This is fantastic news! If so, Kherson is neither the Somme nor Amiens. The closest analogy is probably Arras which is stretching it.

    Interesting that the Russians either weren’t aware of the build up or weren’t able to do anything about it.

    (The Captcha is asking me for tractors which seems oddly appropriate.)

  • John

    “ fast moving combined arms offensive on a completely different section of the front, achieving near complete tactical and operations surprise. “sounds very John Monash….

  • Paul Marks

    I am reminded of the early stages of the war when Russian senior officers, including Generals, had to undertake traffic-direction (and were sniped, shot dead, doing so), because the Russian Army lacks proper NCOs or private soldiers (such as the Red Cap Military Police of the British Army) to undertake this role.

    Mr Putin has been in power for over 20 years, he has utterly failed – he needs to go (either to a monastery or to the grave), but more than this is needed. The entire Russian military and civilian system needs to be reorganised from top to bottom. Individual thought and action are the basis of any effective army – the individual soldier must know what they are fighting for, and how to fight.

    Mr Putin has followed Soviet practices, as he is a product of the Soviet system, the Ukrainians have rejected Soviet practices – and allowed freedom of military thought and action by the soldiers. This is the difference.

    Russia is not China – it does not have an endless supply of people, and an endless supply of manufactured goods.

    Russia has to learn to fight as a Western country – and that means a total transformation of the military and civilian system from top down – to bottom up.

    The individual soldier must be trusted and must understand the profession of war.

    “But Putin will never accept that” – I know, and that is why Mr Putin must go.

  • Paul Marks

    Anyone who knows Russian history knows an “advance” can be fatal – the Brusilov Offensive (named after the traitor General, the oath breaker, General Brusilov) is wildly described in the history books as a “success” because it took a lot of land – in reality it was a disaster that cost between a half a million and a million Russian casualties.

    Taking land is no good if it costs you your army – if “bloody months” of fighting cost you your best men and leave you vulnerable to enemy counterattack.

    Mr Putin launched this unnecessary and unjust war – and has fed in vast numbers of Russians to their deaths. It is time for Mr Putin to face the judgement of God for his misdeeds.

    I would remind everyone that no Russian soldier has taken an oath to Mr Putin – the modern oath is to Russia, not to Mr Putin. Therefore, to slay Mr Putin does not violate any oath – as no oath of loyalty has been sworn to him, and to slay him is for the good of Russia, the slaying of a person (Mr Putin) who spent most of his life serving the Marxist bandits.

  • Patrick Crozier

    John, I would have thought that the “completely different section of the front” stuff would have been more of a Foch thing than a Monash but please elaborate.

  • “Ukrainian Soldiers have been geolocated just north of Izyum.”

    says the second of Perry’s linked tweets. My knowledge of history means I also know a lot of geography. It would not be the first time a Russian army in the area of Izyum encountered

    a fast-moving combined arms offensive … achieving near complete tactical and operations surprise.

    though back then it was not led by Sir John Monash (John, September 10, 2022 at 7:35 am) – indeed, was led by generals who would have hated the Jewish Sir John (who alas did not live long enough to see WWII, where he would have been useful).

  • John

    Amiens was a total surprise, somehow they moved a lot of gear and the Canadian army core to what was a quiet sector without the Germans noticing . In the weeks prior to the eighth of August sections of the infantry were pulled out of the front line and trained in how to closely work with tanks and they even built replicas of some German strong points to practice on. They also silently (meticulously )plotted -range finded -the positions of all but a few of German artillery positions. On the night before Aircraft buzzed the German lines, drowned out the sound of about five hundred tanks advancing. At six am a massive concentrated barrage silenced the bulk of German artillery etc. And as the infantry and tanks overran the German frontline aircraft dropped fresh supplies , in front of them. Senior Germans were captured at their breakfast tables.
    It was a meticulously planed combined arms operation.

  • Bulldog Drummond

    Seen lots of pix/vids of captured Russians and intact gear and ammo depots with grinning Ukrainians taking selfies. Looks like Ukrainians blasted their way into Izyum itself, some claiming they actually took the town already by striking from the direction that wasn’t fortified (north-east). Rumours of literally thousands of prisoners. Even claims units that were facing Krematorsk have bugged out. The speed at which this is happening is mind boggling. Holy fuck.

  • Yes, also seen claims Izyum has already fallen, but lets wait to see evidence. If so, as you remarked: holy fuck.

  • Paul Marks

    John – yes, but Monash was not in tactical command of the Canadian forces. Monash was a logistics man and organisation man – although these roles are very important indeed.

    The Generals in command of the Canadian forces were General Byng (known for Vimy Ridge) and General Currie – General Currie was an excellent tactical Commander, but the affair of his “borrowing” money from the regimental mess before the war (although the money was quickly repaid) hung over him.

    Partick is quite correct; the French General Foch was in overall strategic command in 1918 – he was greatly aided by French military intelligence breaking some German codes in (I believe) the summer of that year.

    However, even at Vimy Ridge it was said that Allied officers, such as General Byng, had studies the German positions so intensively that they knew them better than the German commanders – although that did not mean that reserves (even soldiers who had been organising food supply) having to be committed to the battle at a key moment.

  • Paul Marks

    I have just looked up the figures – French and British Empire (British, Canadian and Australian) casualties were about equal at the Battle of Amiens, but German casualties were much higher, including 50 thousand prisoners taken.

    This is indeed due to surprise being achieved, and by the all-arms method (including tanks), but the poor state of morale of the German forces must also be noted. By August 1918 the German Army contained many men who believed the war was lost, there was also much socialist propaganda among the men (a disease that hit the Russian Army very badly the year before – especially reserve, rather than front line, Russian units).

    The Americans also played a role in the final stages of the Battle of Amiens.

    According to Solzhenitsyn, then an officer in the Red Army, many Russian and Ukrainian soldiers still believed in socialism in the 1940s – this is not so today.

    The Ukrainians soldiers believe in defending their country – as they should.

    Russians are not cowards (not even their worst enemies have ever accused Russians of that) – but the Russian soldiers have no idea why they are in Ukraine, what they are supposed to be risking their lives for.

    They should go home – and shoot Mr Putin.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way – I suspect a smaller proportion of the population of Russia believe in socialism (have real faith in the state) than is true in the United Kingdom or the United States.

    “Get this injection – it is vital for your health” is just one of many things that Russians are less trusting that British or Americans about.

    Americans are only just starting to understand that the FBI, and so on, are a bunch of corrupt thugs – many Russians have known that about “the organs” in Russia for years.

    Shoot Putin, shoot the Organs (the Organs of state security) – get rid of them all.

  • Steven R

    Just starting to understand the FBI is corrupt? We’ve known since the days of J. Edgar Hoover that the FBI isn’t our friend. They’re the Sword and Shield of the Uniparty. Always have been, always will be.

  • Paul Marks

    I apologise Steven R. – I should have pointed out that some Americans have always distrusted the organs of state security.

  • Stay on topic.

    More reports of collapse spreading down the Russian front, with RUMINT of Ukrainian army threatening Donetsk Airport. Holy. Fucking. Shit. Some sort of Lanchester Square collapse?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    A brilliant move by Ukrainian forces. They fooled the Russians into thinking the attack would be in one main direction.

    Question : what can Putin realistically do at this point? Hunker down and try for a deal? Would he go nuts and use tactical nukes or is he going to cut and run?

    I’m watching the energy market. If Ukraine keeps this up then watch prices move.

    President Xi in Beijing must be thinking hard about a few issues this weekend.

  • John

    Seems that the Russians are big but nearly blind and the Ukrainians are hard to see ,small quick and very well armed.

  • Chester Draws

    Seems that the Russians are big but nearly blind and the Ukrainians are hard to see ,small quick and very well armed.

    It is starting to look like the HIMARS is the big difference. Combined with good intel, both provided by allies and by the many informants on the ground, the Ukrainians have started hitting ammo dumps and control posts. Without ammunition and with no command from above, almost any army’s soldiers will run when they sense enemy in their rear.

    If the Russians move armour to the flank of the new drive, which is the conventional response, then it risks being hit on the roads by the precision artillery. And they don’t have time to sneak it up.

    Whereas the Russians continue to shell cities. I really, really don’t get what that is about. It just makes your opponents to hate you more, without providing any military benefit.

  • Lee Moore

    Niall referred to the Second Battle of Kharkhov above, but before we all get too excited, its worth remembering what happened next.

    The Wehrmacht went through the Red Army like it was paper and advanced hundreds of miles all the way to the Volga, capturing huge swathes of Soviet territory. Except that what really happened was that Case Blue was a miserable failure. The Germans got nowhere near their (impossible) primary objective – Baku – and, Kharkhov excepted, failed to repeat its material triumphs of the previous summer. No huge hauls of prisoners, no mass destruction of Soviet armour etc. They simply advanced into the void extending their lines of communications until they were easy meat for counterattack by even the ponderous Red Army.

    What had happened was that the Russians had learned that retreat was a good tactic. Not at the staff level, but at the ordinary soldier level. Faced with a German attack, the Red troops just scarpered – too fast to be encircled.

    Just as one should fear the Greeks bearing gifts, one should fear the Russkies retreating.

  • John

    Paul M
    Quite agree
    Amiens was very much a team effort and the Germans were dispirited.

    Mind , how many generals have been Knighted on the battlefield? 🙂

  • Snorri Godhi

    It definitely looks like the help that “we” have been giving to Ukraine, is a good investment.

    As to what happens next, there is reason to fear the worst. But there is hope. Perhaps Paul Marks was not entirely wrong about Russian culture… not entirely.

  • Lee Moore (September 10, 2022 at 11:05 pm), your history is correct, but if today’s Russians imitate it by retreating to the far side of the Ukrainian border, then the Ukrainians – whose war aims differ greatly from Hitler’s – have the option of just letting them go. Border-reaching victories raise questions for Ukrainian strategy but they are preferable to the questions raised by defeats.

  • Paul Marks

    John – yes and well deserved.

    Monash was an excellent organiser – unlike the clowns Mr Putin has working for him.

    Putin regime propaganda has often stressed how macho looking Russian Generals are – their tough looking faces, and how they use their fists (or clubs) on soldiers who do not achieve X,Y,Z.

    But the weapon of a General is his MIND.

  • From what I’m seeing on Twitter from people monitoring Russian telegram channels and the like the entire Kharkiv Lukhansk front has collapsed. In a few hours we’ll find out if that is just Russian milblogegrs being excessively pessimistic or not. My guess is not.

    And meanwhile the Russians on the wrong side of the River in Kherson Oblast are still stuck there lacking supplies, air support or a way to retreat. I suspect the Ukrainians will be suggesting the do like their colleagues in Izium and surrender any time now

  • John

    Paul it seems that at the heart of the Russian disaster is this ;
    back in February they thought they were mounting something between a 19t century punative expedition and or a South American style coup.

    Also struggling to think of any historical analogies for a big invasion that was as poorly founded and organised as this one , can you ?

    PS the Ukrainians seem to exemplify Monash’s dictum that: individualism is the best basis to build collective discipline on.

  • Monash’s dictum that: individualism is the best basis to build collective discipline on.

    Interesting. Do you have a link for that? I am only passingly familiar with Monash.

  • john

    Perry the quote is from Monash’s book https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/615806.The_Australian_Victories_In_France_In_1918

    By 1918 the AIF had become the best most professional assault infantry , all were volunteers and few including Monash were professional soldiers, all they cared for was what what worked….

    This might also be of interest https://defence.gov.au/ADC/Publications/documents/Geddes/2003/PublcnsGeddes2003_300310_SirJohnMonash.pdf

    Community minded individualism is the heart of our country, it’s what Les Murray called “ the quality of Sprawl “ :
    Stuff image its what works that matters

    Sprawl is the quality
    of the man who cut down his Rolls-Royce
    into a farm utility truck, and sprawl
    is what the company lacked when it made repeated efforts
    to buy the vehicle back and repair its image.

    The Ukrainians know Monash I can’t say why but they know him.

  • John

    The fairly famous Monash quote:

    Not lip service, nor obsequious homage to superiors, nor servile observance of forms and customs, nor a suppression of individuality,… the Australian army is proof that individualism is the best and not the worst foundation upon which to build up collective discipline.

  • john

    Perry de Havilland
    This is the full quote from John Monash’s book:

    Very much and very stupid comment has been made upon the discipline of the Australian soldier. That was because the very conception and purpose of discipline have been misunderstood. It is, after all, only a means to an end, and that end is the power to secure co-ordinated action among a large number of individuals for the achievement of a definite purpose. It does not mean lip service, nor obsequious homage to superiors, nor servile observance of forms and customs, nor a suppression of individuality… modern war makes high demands upon the intelligence of the private soldier and upon his individual initiative. Any method of training which tends to suppress that individuality will tend to reduce his efficiency and value… In short, the Australian Army is a proof that individualism is the best and not the worst foundation upon which to build up collective discipline. The Australian is accustomed to teamwork. He learns it in the sporting field, in his industrial organisations, and in his political activities…’[17]