There’s a lot to cover today, so let’s not delay.
1.) According to the Ukrainian General Staff, Russia will kick off an offensive in Donbas, perhaps as early as 04 April. It appears that two main thrusts will occur, one towards Severodonetsk, west of Luhansk, and another toward Velyka Novosilka, west of Donetsk. These efforts are likely an attempt to cut off Ukrainian forces in the area around Severodonetsk. Elements from the infamous Wagner Group have been confirmed in the Donetsk.
Analyst’s Comment: It seems likely that Russia will renew its attempted push into the remainder of the Donbas, hoping to secure the entirety of the region. Whether or not this will be successful is a matter of speculation, but a significant portion of the military assets Russia had in the northern part of Ukraine may have repositioned to eastern Ukraine. Since this area has direct lines of communication to Russia, this offensive might encounter less logistical issues than the offensive around Kyiv and Chernihiv. Mass also matters, and it certainly appears that Russian forces are concentrating mass in this area now. Previously, Russian mass was diluted, with operations taking place in various areas ranging from Kyiv to Chernihiv, into the south moving northward from Crimea, and other areas. Rapid thrusts into Ukraine, without securing rear areas, allowed Ukrainian forces to vigorously assault Russian logistics. This may no longer prove to be as easy, as Russian forces are now operating from areas that are more firmly under their control.
One could easily assess, then, that Ukrainian forces will be able to shift from Kyiv and other parts north to the eastern portion of their territory in order to more effectively blunt any Russian offensive there. This, however, is complicated by what appears to be a still substantial force of Russian vehicles and equipment in Belarus, north of Chernihiv. Further consideration must be given to the status of Russia’s ally in the region: Belarus. It is certainly possible that, should Ukrainian forces move substantial numbers of units eastward, remnants of Russian assets in Belarus, which admittedly are likely far from combat effective at the moment, could once again assault Chernihiv or Kyiv, potentially with Belarusian assistance. Were I a Ukrainian intelligence analyst, I might assess this as the Most Dangerous Course of Action (MDCOA). At this point, however, I have not seen any reporting on Belarusian mobilization, and it is highly unlikely that such a mobilization would go unnoticed given the substantial amount of NATO intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets flying around. Additionally, such a mobilization would take some time, compounded of course by the issues Belarus has had with saboteurs operating against its rail network. [End Comment]
2.) Ukrainian officials claim that “Some civilian bodies had been booby-trapped to kill emergency workers.” One image shows the body of a woman who was tortured, raped, and killed. There appears to have been a swastika carved into her skin.
2.a.) President Biden said of Putin, “Well, the truth of the matter, you saw what happened in Bucha. This warrants him — he’s a war criminal. But we have to gather the information…We have to get all the detail so this can be…a war crime trial.” Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the whole affair a “stage-managed anti-Russian provocation.” In related news, the US has asked for a UN General Assembly vote to remove Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.
2.b.) Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has stated that he is willing to consult with allies regarding new sanctions on Russia as a growing list of countries begin referring to Russian actions in Ukraine, specifically in the north, as a genocide. Poland is proposing an international commission to investigate genocide in Ukraine. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez stated, “We will do everything to ensure that those who have perpetrated these war crimes do not go unpunished, and therefore appear before the courts…to deal with these alleged cases of [crimes against] humanity, war crimes and why not say it too, genocide.”
2.c.) Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has grown increasingly vocal in his frustrations, particularly with France and Germany, saying, “President Macron, how many times have you negotiated with Putin? What have you achieved? Would you negotiate with Hitler, with Stalin, with Pol Pot?” Morawiecki further called for actions “that will finally break Putin’s war machine.” Reports are that Poland views Germany as the prime obstacle to harsher sanctions against Russia.
2.d.) Eugene Finkel, Associate Professor of International Relations at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and who specializes in the study of political violence and genocide, stated on Twitter on 04 April 2022 at 0608 Eastern: “As a genocide scholar I am an empiricist, I usually dismiss rhetoric. I also take genocide claims with a truckload of salt because activists apply it almost everywhere now. Not now. There are actions, there is intent. It’s as genocide as it gets. Pure, simple and for all to see.”
3.) News outlets are reporting that Germany has expelled 40 Russian diplomats. As was with the case of the expulsions we discussed in previous INTSUMs, these Russian diplomats are alleged to have ties with spy agencies. The fact is, most Russian diplomats are used as sources for Russian intelligence services, so this can be viewed as a direct response to the news from Bucha. Russia will likely reciprocate by threatening to expel German diplomats. Maybe they will. Maybe they won’t. And thus, we go on and on.
3.a.) A short time ago, it was claimed that Germany is seizing Gazprom Germania, which is a subsidiary of the Russian Gazprom. On its face, this sounds interesting, but Gazprom may have decided to divest Gazprom Germania several days ago. I am unclear as to the implications of this at this time. The global economy and companies are so interconnected, and it’s hard for a simple man like me to make sense of some things without dedicating a lot of time to the subject. Perhaps a friendly economist can chime in one of these days.
3.b.) Lithuania has announced that it will downgrade their diplomatic status with Russia. Lithuania will expel the Russian ambassador and recall the Lithuanian ambassador from Russia. The Russian consulate in Klaipeda will be closed immediately.
3.c.) The border closures (Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) that we discussed in INTSUM 03APR22–1 appear to have gone into effect, though they have not been officially announced by any of the aforementioned governments at this time. The Russian territory of Kaliningrad is now essentially isolated except from the sea.
4.) RIA Novosti, a Russian state-owned news agency, published a piece called “What Russia Should Do with Ukraine.” Because I’m a masochist, I copied and pasted it into Google Translate, which took forever due to the incredible number of in-text advertisements. It is very revealing. It’s also very long, weighing in at over 2,400 words, or a little over four pages in Word. The word “Nazi,” or some variation (denazification, Nazism, etc), was used 89 times. In fact, I count ONE paragraph that doesn’t have some use of this word. The work, which is meant for internal, Russian consumption, seems to make a case for “liquidation” of Ukrainian “Nazis,” which further seems to be virtually every Ukrainian. Liquidation is the polite word for killing people. The opening paragraph actually says, “Denazification is necessary when a significant part of the people — most likely the majority — has been mastered and drawn into the Nazi regime in its politics…That is, when the hypothesis “the people are good — the government is bad” does not work.” I could write up an entire piece discussing just this article, but I think it’s sufficient to say that this is a document’s purpose is to provide justification for whatever horrors the Russian military inflicts on the people of Ukraine. Reading it as an outsider is an exercise in frustration. It is even more frustrating when you know that the leader of the Wagner Group, Dmitry Utkin, is a literal Nazi, complete with Nazi-themed tattoos. The Wagner Group is named after Utkin’s “call sign” Wagner, itself taken from the composer Richard Wagner, a favorite among Nazis such as Adolf Hitler. The absurdity is obvious.
4.a.) Speaking of Nazis, Denis Pushilin, the head of the Donetsk People’s Republic, was seen awarding some medals to a smiling Lieutenant Colonel Timur Kurilkin of the “legendary Donbass battalion “Somalia,”” for action in Mariupol. I’m not familiar with the Donetsk People’s Republic’s medal structure because it isn’t a real country, but the medals/awards are reportedly a “Star of the Hero of the DPR,” along with the “Order of Courage” from Putin. Kurilkin allegedly “destroyed 250 Nazis.” Kurilkin’s uniform also sports a Totenkopf (Death’s Head) and a Valknot, both neo-Nazi symbols. Ukraine’s eastern regions are evidently being “de-Nazified” by Nazis.
5.) Information coming from Mariupol has largely dried up. The fall of the city is likely inevitable but has not yet occurred. We know this because as soon as it does, Russian propaganda will be gleefully touting it as some sort of strategic victory, and that hasn’t happened yet.
6.) When I heard a few weeks ago about efforts to get President Zelenskyy to appear — remotely, of course — at the Oscars, I thought the idea was ludicrous, and was glad that he didn’t. I felt the same when I heard of efforts to get him to speak to the audience at the Grammy Awards, and I assumed that he would defer this invite as well. He didn’t defer this invitation, however. My objections were two-fold. One, he’s in the middle of a destructive war against an enemy that does not hesitate to reduce cities to rubble; he’s in the middle of the fight of his life. Two, it smacked of the hero worshiping zeitgeist with which our culture is all too familiar; making a celebrity out of a man and demanding that he perform for us like a trained monkey. In fact, a great many of the news outlets reporting on this speech bill it as “Zelenskyy Introduces John Legend.” Which entirely misses the point; if that’s the takeaway here, we’ve misunderstood entirely. His speech might have immediately preceded a John Legend performance (that also had to do with Ukraine, featuring Ukrainian musicians playing Ukrainian instruments that the Soviets tried to ban decades ago), but to view his words as an “introduction” of John Legend is absurd. In any case, learning this morning that he did appear, I watched his speech, and I changed my mind. It was not ludicrous. It was on-topic, on message, and important. The Ukrainians understand the information war better than, perhaps, anyone. They know that, in America, we love our celebrities and musicians. We often follow their lead, for good or bad. This gave the Ukrainians an opportunity to use one of their most valuable assets — Zelenskyy himself — to reach people in the West in a way they haven’t been reached. A short speech at the Grammy’s is a lot different from an address to Congress. A lot of people do not care one iota about the latter.
6.a.) Though it was recorded some 48 hours before it aired, and thus before Zelenskyy and the world was aware of the happenings in Bucha, this was a powerful speech. The man is an incredibly gifted orator, with impeccable meter even in English. I encourage you to watch it HERE. Because YouTube is often blocked for some readers, I will include a full transcript via the New York Times below:
“The war. What is more opposite to music? The silence of ruined cities and killed people. Our children draw swooping rockets, not shooting stars. Over 400 children have been injured and 153 children died. And we’ll never see them drawing. Our parents are happy to wake up in the morning in bomb shelters. But alive. Our loved ones don’t know if we will be together again. The war doesn’t let us choose who survives and who stays in eternal silence. Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedos. They sing to the wounded in hospitals, even to those who can’t hear them. But the music will break through anyway. We defend our freedom to live, to love, to sound. On our land we are fighting Russia, which brings horrible silence with its bombs. The dead silence. Fill the silence with your music. Fill it today to tell our story. Tell the truth about the war on your social networks, on TV. Support us in any way you can. Any — but not silence. And then peace will come. To all our cities the war is destroying — Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Volnovakha, Mariupol and others — they are legends already. But I have a dream of them living and free. Free like you on the Grammy stage.”
More to follow. Thank you for reading.