avatarBarry Gander


Is The Russian Army Led By The Dead? Ukraine Hits Hard.

Russia has been pounded by strategic drone strikes in the past few days, without meaningful response. It makes one wonder whether Russia is being led — literally — by dead generals.

First, the Ukrainian strikes.

Inside occupied Ukraine, there have been strikes on four Russian airfields and several radar stations; it is as if Ukraine was showing what the phrase meant: “give us the weapons and we will get the job done.” The SCALP/Storm Shadow weapon is a Franco-British low-observable, long-range air-launched cruise missile carrying a warhead of some 500 kg (1,000 pounds). It’s almost as if the Ukrainians were clearing a path for the arrival of — I don’t know… — maybe some F-16 fighter aircraft. It would be a perfect match: the European missiles — and Ukraine just got that $54-billino aid package from Europe — being followed by American aircraft.

Allowing the F16s to fly across the Crimean border will allow Ukraine to send its missiles even deeper and more frequently into the Russian airspace. Putin may have an army on the ground but he will not have a roof over its head.

Then Ukraine destroyed a Russian warship in the Black Sea.

A night-vision video showed a small vessel — a sea drone — approaching the Russian ship, followed by a large explosion and the warship then appearing to start rolling over and sinking. In the drone footage you can see two white hot circles on the stern; they are exhaust ports from the engines’ turbines. They made an excellent target.

The video shows the sea drones approaching the side and stern of the Russian boat, with damage visible from the first strikes, and then the explosion.

Russian search and rescue missions were not successful.

The Ukrainian navy is using the Jeune École (“Young School”) strategic naval concept developed during the 19th century. It advocated the use of small, heavily armed vessels to combat larger battleships.

It is minimalist warfare. Ukraine is very good at it.

The Russian missile corvette that was destroyed is in itself a product of the Soviet interpretation of the Jeune Ecole thinking: a small, fast warship that is heavily enough armed to take on a capital ship. Sadly for them, it was taken out by an even smaller robo-boat.

In another strategic move, Russia’s deadliest drone may have been taken out of production by a Ukrainian strike. The use of Russia’s Lancet drones has dropped off precipitously, following a massive explosion on the site of an Optical-Mechanical Plant near Moscow. Thirty people were taken to hospital, four buildings close to the center of the explosion were severely damaged and windows were blown out over a wide area. The damage extended to part of the local university, two schools, a sports complex and a store as well as thirty-eight apartments and four cars.

The factory produced camera lenses and other optics for the KUB and Lancet drones. There may have been explosives planted on-site, to aid the work of the drones. The factory CEO Sergei Chankaev was arrested; he denies that he did anything wrong.

Putin has bigger things to think about. As suggested in an earlier article, drone attacks on Russia’s Baltic Sea ports have cut the country’s oil exports down by one-third. According to Reuters, in January, gasoline exports fell by 37%, diesel exports by 23%.

If Russian oil wells are shut down because of the drop in shipping capability, it will be hard to re-start production. The oil forms a waxy sludge inside the well. If Ukraine hits oil pipelines and pumping stations, they’ll force Russia to shut oil wells. Russia does not have much oil storage capacity, so this might start happening sooner rather than later.

Russia ships about twice the volume of oil through the Baltic sea route as it does in pipelines: 10.4 million tonnes per month travel by sea, vs. 5.7 million tonnes by pipeline.

It is hard for the Russians to defend against drone attacks in the St. Petersburg area — and Putin has just ordered a diversion of defence capability to protect his secret luxury mansion. It boasts marble floors and a private waterfall in northwestern Russia’s republic of Karelia, approximately 30 kilometers (9 miles) from the border with NATO-member Finland. You can see why he would not want the marble scratched. I am sure the Russian infantrymen in the mud of Ukraine would die happier knowing what they are protecting.

Speaking of dying happier, we are brought to the question: where are Russia’s generals?!

It has been a month since Ukraine conducted two deep fire missile strikes against Russian targets in Crimea on January 5th. British Storm Shadow and French SCALP cruise missiles were used to strike a command post near Sevastopol and a radar station in Uyutne near the coast. Ukraine reported shortly afterwards that 23 Russian troops were killed in the Ukrainian attack and five were reported to be “high-ranking commanders.”

Soon thereafter rumors began circulating that one of those high-ranking commanders was Russian General Valery Gerasimov.

This was not one of your usual Russian dead generals. Generals like Major General Vladimir Makarov, Federal Security Service (FSB) Major General Yevgeny Lobachev and Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Major General Lev Sotskov all died by suicide.

But Gerasimov is a mystery.

Russian generals Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov have been called ‘so bad at their jobs that they should be replaced by Steven Seagal’.

Doubts about his death have not been allayed. Gerasimov was last seen in public on December 29 when he was pictured presenting state awards to military personnel who distinguished themselves in action.

There has been no response to explain the whereabouts of the commander of all Russian armed forces in Ukraine.

Since then, he hasn’t been quoted or mentioned by state media outlets, nor has he been seen in public.

In an opinion piece titled, “Where is General Gerasimov and Why Does it Matter?” published last Sunday for the Kyiv Post, retired U.S. Army Colonel Jonathan Sweet and former economist Mark Toth wrote that while it is doubtful that Gerasimov is dead, his “continued absence from the public stage and Moscow’s ‘radio silence’ to date on his status” are interesting.

It is “odd”, the authors wrote, that the Kremlin hasn’t responded to rumors that he had been killed in Crimea, given “the lengths the Kremlin went to deny the death of its commander Admiral Viktor Sokolov immediately following the Storm Shadow missile attack on the Black Sea Fleet Headquarters” on September 22, 2023.

“The continued silence from the Kremlin is potentially telling. Is Putin worried that Kyiv is actively targeting his high command?” they asked in their opinion piece.

American military analyst Michael Kofman said that Gerasimov is “exhausting the force with an ill-timed, feckless set of offensive operations, whose gains will not change the strategic picture for Russia, but could leave Russian forces more vulnerable.”

“Rage and despair are privately noticeable” among officials in Moscow, said Tatiana Stanovaya, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank.

“Russian elites are united in their conviction that since Putin started this war, he must win it,” she continued.

But she said that as it stands on the battlefield, “no one understands how Putin could secure a victory”.

The lengths the Kremlin went to deny the death of a commander were revealed in its twists and turns regarding the possible death of its commander Admiral Viktor Sokolov.

Following the Storm Shadow missile attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet Headquarters in September, Ukraine reported that 34 Russian sailors had been killed and 105 wounded.

Russia immediately said that only one had been killed, and then — as even that number appeared too high — it revised the notice to say that no one had been killed.

The interesting part is that Admiral Sokolov was among the dead, according to Ukraine.

The in an attack on the port of Sevastopol which may or may not have killed Sokolov, who is pictured either in a conference chair, hospital bed or morgue.

The Russians then showed a video conference in which Sokolov was shown. Sokolov’s chair in the conference looked like a hospital bed. He said nothing during the meeting; his face did not move but he did appear to blink. It does seem that the left side of his face might be damaged.

Defense Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Andrii Yusov, said “What is the proven fact is that many brass hats were liquidated, including the BSF command staff. As to Sokolov, he’s definitely anything but fine. If and as soon as his death is confirmed, we’ll surely inform the public.”

Since Russia evolved from the Soviet Union almost 50 Russian generals have died, one-third of whom shot themselves, one-quarter died in transport accidents, a few hung themselves…three even died of possibly natural deaths.

One video has emerged showing him at an athletic event, but that event ended a week before the purported attack. Inquiries about the time the ceremony took place were met with the reply that “this information is not for public distribution.” In a word, it could have been old video.

It would be a simple thing to prove he was alive. Russia has not yet taken that step, four months after the attack.

The fleet’s infrastructure in the meantime has been partially relocated from Ukrainian Crimea to Novorossiysk on the mainland to the east.

Is Putin worried that Kyiv is actively targeting his high command?

It would make sense for Ukraine to take a shot at Putin’s number one commander, Gerasimov, if the opportunity presented itself. A successful strike could very well be that single keystone necessary to gain momentum and jumpstart their renewed ground counteroffensive. Putin’s commander is a legitimate military target, and both impact areas were in Crimea — a war zone.

Gerasimov’s death certainly would be a significant blow to Putin’s ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine. By all accounts, he is one of Putin’s most trusted and tenured senior military advisors. A former armor officer with combat tours in the Second Chechen War, Syria and the 2014 incursions into Crimea and the Donbas, he was appointed Chief of the General Staff by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in 2012.

In 2013, he published a 2,000-word article entitled “The Value of Science Is in the Foresight” in the weekly Russian trade paper Military-Industrial Kurier. It would go on to become known as the Gerasimov Doctrine — a modern day version of Carl von Clausewitz’s total war theory, and one in which the current Russian military is built around.

It is based upon creating chaos across all domains simultaneously. Specifically, Gerasimov specifies that “the objective is to achieve an environment of permanent unrest and conflict within an enemy state.”

But Gerasimov’s efforts thus far have failed to deliver the knockout blow Putin demanded. Worse yet, Russian forces were turned back in Bakhmut and Avdiivka at an abysmal cost, while the Black Sea Fleet was forced to abandon their headquarters in Sevastopol.

To date, the Ukraine Ministry of Defense reports that almost 400,000 Russian soldiers have been ‘eliminated.” Notably, the majority of those casualties have taken place on Gerasimov’s watch.

Now, the bulk of Russia’s forces in Ukraine, consisting of mobilized Reservists, conscripts, criminals, mercenaries, and foreign fighters, have gone to ground for the winter.

Gerasimov has been unable to achieve one of Putin’s major war goals: creating Ukraine war fatigue in the West.

Russian ground forces are taking a beating. A number equivalent to Putin’s entire invasion force several years ago have become casualties. Now the falling numbers of infantry are having to be bolstered by “invalid” regiments consisting of wounded soldiers returning “to the front to assault units without passing a military medical commission and qualified medical care.”

Russia is losing 2,000 men for every 100 metres of ground they take — eight men for a distance equivalent to the length of one AK-47 cartridge (7.62 mm).

20,000 for each kilometre.

Two-thirds of its tanks have been lost. It has been reduced to getting artillery ammunition from North Korea.

Russian nationals have started to join the Ukrainian army. Ukraine’s military has formed a battalion of soldiers made up entirely of Russian citizens.

Russian mothers are demanding that their sons be brought home. They are calling for the right to social protest and public assembly, as well as “social justice and equality in rights and duties for everyone, including the mobilized.”

Anywhere else that would sound pretty tame, but in Russia that’s always been the step before revolution.

Putin survived an internal mutiny by one of his mercenary generals, Prigozhin, but only barely. He learns so slowly that he as started another “Wagner Group” in Africa. Nice focus.

Speaking of focus, Russia’s air defenses in the city of St. Petersburg and the surrounding Leningrad region have been stretched thin as Putin has pulled the majority of his resources to defend his prized residence at Lake Valdai. Priorities matter.

The Ukrainian military has become quite efficient in killing and wounding Russians and destroying their equipment, thanks in part to the weapons, ammunition, training and intelligence provided by the US, NATO and European Union countries — Switchblade drones, Javelin anti-tank missiles, High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munition (DPICM), Leopard tanks, Storm Shadow and SCALP cruise missiles, and more.

By every measurable metric, Ukraine is winning the war.

The EU just recently passed a $54-billion military and financial aid package for Ukraine, coming on top of a separate $20-billion package.

NATO has grown as new states line up to join.

Ukraine has already been provisionally accepted into the European Union.

The more Putin pushes, the more his forces crumble and fall apart, and the greater the union against him grows.

In the last three months, the Russians have lost more ground than they have acquired.

NATO’s expansion into formerly reluctant Nordic countries has pushed the border that Putin needs to defend a thousand kilometers longer than when he started the war.

Ukrainian drones are now targeting the oil depots on the Baltic Sea, as part of a strategy to put Russia off from its export earnings. Russia relies on oil exports; it is basically a gas station with assorted knick-knacks.

And now its army of the untrained is being led by the potentially dead.

This would make a horror film of an entirely new genre: attack of the Killer RussBots.

In time we will know Gerasimov’s fate — or Ukraine may yet decide it for him.

With him or without him, the war continues, as does Putin’s war on civilians, most recently with missile and drone attacks.

In this field, Ukraine is the master.

Innovative new drones appear from the workshops in the Ukrainian cities. A new battlefield drone that looks like a children’s toy with an Attitude are starting to be tested in the field.

Ukraine’s sea drones are getting better and better.

And Russia’s oil taps are beginning to be turned off.

But at least the marble palaces are safe.

For now…

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