Russia/Ukraine INTSUM 03APR22–1; 1910 Eastern/0110 Kyiv
**Trigger Warning: Discussion of Possible War Crimes**
The issue of war crimes in Ukraine may well dominate discussions about this war in the future.
1.) Over the past 24 hours, we’ve seen growing reports concerning mass executions and graves in the suburbs of Kyiv. The news and images are horrific. In one location, every military aged male was reportedly killed and left near his home’s door. In Bucha (just south of Hostomel, and northwest of Kyiv), video shows streets littered with the dead bodies of civilians, some with their hands tied. One image from Bucha shows a man stuffed down a manhole. Another video discusses reported torture, interrogations, and subsequent executions of prisoners in a Russian headquarters in Bucha. Some of the victims were teenagers. In the same city, it was initially reported that 300 people were found in mass graves, but it now may be that Ukrainians dug the graves in order to bury all the dead civilians killed by Russian forces in the streets and various buildings. To be frank, it still isn’t clear what transpired, in terms of mass graves. Recently, some sources have shown satellite imagery of a 45-foot-long mass grave having been prepared near the Church of Saint Andrew in Bucha on 12 March, ostensibly by Russian forces, and other graves having been prepared in Kherson at some point in March. It is possible, therefore, that these graves were prepared well prior to the Russian departure.
1.a.) Some 300 dogs starved to death in a dog shelter during Russia’s occupation of Borodyanka, Kyiv Oblast. Perhaps I’ve just become jaded over the years but seeing scores of emaciated and dead dogs in a shelter is harder for me. I’m in no way saying that seeing dead bodies is easy. These dogs were as trapped, and maybe more so, than the human victims of these war crimes perpetrated by Russia.
1.b.) Predictably, for its part Russia has claimed that these actions were perpetrated by Ukrainian forces. Ignoring the Russian instinct to lie about seemingly everything, there’s an issue with this claim, as The Economist journalist Oliver Carroll points out: Decomposition and associated odor. I’m sure that forensics from an independent third party might reveal more details in terms of the timeline, but Ukrainian forces haven’t even been in these areas until very recently. I suspect that there’s simply going to be far, far too much evidence for Russia to introduce even a reasonable doubt about the accusations of war crimes in the Kyiv Oblast into the conversation. That isn’t to say that some people won’t still believe their claims. Because, sadly, pro-Russian Telegram feeds are filled with those people.
1.c.) President Zelenskyy himself has stated that, as a result of the events discovered in Bucha, negotiations with Russia must include a total ceasefire and complete withdrawal of Russian forces to boundaries as they existed on 23 February.
1.d.) The official Twitter account for the US Embassy Kyiv released a statement saying, “The images coming out of Bucha and other areas abandoned by Putin’s forces are horrific. The US government is committed to pursuing accountability using every tool available. We cannot stand quiet, the world needs to know what happened, and we all must act.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, in part, “…No denial or disinformation from the Kremlin can hide what we all know to be truth — Putin is desperate, his invasion is failing, and Ukraine’s resolve has never been stronger…I will do everything in my power to starve Putin’s war machine…The UK has been at the forefront of supporting the International Criminal Court’s investigations into atrocities committed in Ukraine…” Johnson’s government is supposedly sending more financial support and “specialist investigators.”
1.e.) Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki stated that an emergency EU summit be called to discuss the Bucha massacres. Additionally, he suggested that trade relations with Russia be completely severed.
1.f.) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic posted the following on Twitter: “Appeal to Russian colleagues, diplomats, men and women of the Russian diplomatic service. Colleagues, we implore those of you who have a conscience and who maintain the capacity to recognize evil: take yourself out of this circle of accomplices.” At least three Russian embassies — in Latvia, Oman, and Slovenia — shared the post.
Analyst’s Comment: While it seems quite clear that Russian forces have committed various war crimes (mass deportations, the murder and/or torture of civilians, targeting civilian infrastructure), the precise details and timeline of this activity isn’t clear as of yet. The specifics will be clearer in the coming days and weeks. Regardless, the news coming out of Ukraine regarding this type of activity will almost undoubtedly increase as Ukrainian forces move into areas formerly occupied by Russians. It is highly likely that similar activities are happening in areas Russia still occupies. What, for example, is happening in Mariupol? Or Kherson? These are war crimes. We are witnessing what may be a tidal shift in the Western view of this war. It is likely that, as video and pictures become available and seen throughout the world, Western leaders will be induced to become bolder in their material support to Ukraine’s war effort. In fact, we’re already starting to see this (discussed below). Even a week ago, the idea of sending main battle tanks, much like the issues with the Polish MiGs, was a subject few wanted to discuss let alone actually implement for fear of being accused by Russia as being co-combatants. This seems to be changing, though I do not see any increase in appetite from Western leaders to become directly involved in combat operations. It’s also likely that there will be further sanctions against Russia issued. These events also make questionable calls for Zelenskyy to concede Ukrainian territory to Russia in exchange for peace. These suggestions will undoubtedly die down for the time being. It is impossible not to wonder what might happen to civilians in those areas.
I’d like to point out, as well, that while the momentum of global figures seems keen on placing the blame on Putin’s leadership, these acts were perpetrated by Russian troops. Putin’s leadership may well have been the impetus for such activity. He may have ordered it. He may have implied it to be done. Or he may have not mentioned it at all. But these troops and their commanders are not without guilt. War crimes cannot happen without people willing to shoot, torture, execute, or rape other human beings. [End Comment]
2.) Ukrainian and US sources have stated that Ukraine has re-captured the entire Kyiv Oblast, which includes territory to the border of Belarus. Russian forces have seemingly completely moved out of the Oblast, though Ukrainian sources report that small groups of Russian troops are attempting to hide and flee on their own. Open-source reporting also suggests that Russian forces have almost entirely abandoned the Chernihiv region. However, video shows Russian armor on trains heading south from Gomel, Belarus. Gomel is almost directly north of Chernihiv, Ukraine, another of the areas in which Russia was going to reduce activity.
2.a.) US officials on CNN claim that Russia’s goal is now to seize control of the Donbas and other eastern Ukrainian regions by early May. Victory Day is 09 May.
3.) The US and NATO are working on a deal to transfer to Ukraine Soviet main battle tanks, reportedly T-72s. The deal is supposedly to be concluded, including the transfer, “within days, not weeks.” It is also possible that NATO/US nations will include legacy M1A1 Abrams tanks that are currently in storage, though this seems somewhat unlikely as Ukrainians have never driven M1A1s. The principles are the same, sure. But, among other differences, American tanks don’t use auto-loaders.
3.a.) On 01 April, the US announce another $300 million in military/security assistance to Ukraine. Items include more Switchblade UAVs, laser-guided rocket systems, Humvees, small arms ammunition, night vision and thermal optics, machine guns, commercial satellite services, and medical supplies.
3.b.) Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly told other ministers that he wants to send Ukraine anti-ship missiles or some form of coastal defense weapon in order to help defend Odessa. It isn’t clear what systems he’s referencing, how the Ukrainians would be trained on these systems, or, really, any details at all.
4.) Russian missiles reportedly struck fuel storage terminals in Odessa. There were at least five separate impacts, which resulted several large fires. The missiles were Kaliber cruise missiles fired from the Black Sea. This was presaged by Russian strategic bomber Morse net being active and observed. Perhaps this was in response to the attack on Belgorod we discussed recently.
5.) Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia announced on Saturday that they will halt all Russian gas shipments into their countries effective immediately. Previously in the day, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda stated that gas shipments from Russia would stop on 01 May 2022. It has been rumored that Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia will completely close their borders with both Russia and Belarus within the next 72 hours.
5.a.) Polish Deputy Prime Ministry Jaroslav Kaczynski has expressed openness to hosting US nuclear weapons in Poland.
6.) Ukrainian sources claim that Russia is preparing troops in Transnistria, a separatist region of Moldova, for possible action in Ukraine. Transnistria is along the southwestern border of Ukraine. Meanwhile, US intelligence analysts assess that Putin is preparing to name an overall commander for his invasion of Ukraine. For those not familiar with military things, most modern militaries do this well in advance of the start of operations, not a month into them.
7.) An Su-35 Flanker, one of Russia’s most modern fighters, was confirmed downed near Kharkiv. The pilot ejected and was captured by Ukrainian forces. It’s always interesting to see how planes burn. It’s basically just smoking ash in the shape of a fighter jet. The only thing that didn’t burn was a wing tip.
7.a.) Speaking of Ukrainian coastal defense, the Russian frigate Admiral Essen was possibly hit by a Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missile. At this point, this cannot be confirmed, but there’s a lot of people hoping it’s true.
7.b.) Russian tank losses are approaching 450, according to Oryx. This means that Russia has lost an average of ~12 tanks every day since the start of their invasion. Russia has lost almost 2,400 vehicles and other equipment, including more than 700 trucks.
Thanks for reading.