Since the invasion began, Ukrainian-living-in-London Dmitri has translated hundreds of documents, text messages, and transcripts into English. His translations have helped to reveal disgruntled Russian soldiers who are aware that their leaders are lying to them, soldiers terrified that they are being sent into a meat grinder, and soldiers who have simply had enough and refuse to go when ordered.
Some of Dmitri’s translations have been intensely difficult to read. Not because of an issue with grammar, but because of the content. That includes not just Russian soldiers phoning home to brag about the civilians they’ve killed and the items they’ve stolen from Ukrainian homes, but a Russian wife giving her husband permission to rape Ukrainian women. (That couple has since been identified.)
Still, none of the translations has been quite this grisly. Trigger warnings are usually reserved for video or images, but one seems appropriate in this case. So … be warned.
From the beginning of the war, we’ve seen claims that Russia had been underreporting their losses. On a few occasions, a number of dead and wounded at least close to what Ukrainian officials and U.S. intelligence have been estimating have made it onto Russian TV or other media outlets, but those numbers have quickly been replaced or walked back, often with numbers an order of magnitude lower. There have also been images of Russian war widows sullenly clutching a few dollars’ worth of compensation, but that compensation has been coming from private institutions, not the government of Vladimir Putin.
Groups in Ukraine have set up “help lines” for Russian families, both with the purpose of helping locate soldiers who have gone silent after crossing into Ukraine, and driving home the point that Russian soldiers are dying in Putin’s illegal invasion in large numbers. Meanwhile, the Kremlin not only continues to report low numbers of casualties overall, but to list large numbers of troops as simply “missing in action,” sometimes with a hint of accusation that those missing are actually AWOL.
In this translation, a woman is looking for her brother, who has been among the missing in Ukraine. After a long search, his sister has found him. Though not in a way that anyone would want to find a family member.
Man: His sister, she went to Donetsk … there was a, basically a dump.
Woman: Oh, fuck.
Man: She paid money [to let them search through the bodies]. They are stacked on top of one another.
Woman: Oh, fuck.
Man: … She paid money, good money, so they moved the bodies around until they found him. … She says it’s a pile there. There’s nowhere else to put them. It’s a dump. I’m telling you in Russian — a dump.
Woman: Oh, fuck. Shit …
Man: She says thousands. Thousands. They are thrown here and there, for them it’s easier to make it look like they are missing in action. … It’s not a morgue. It’s a dump.
The phrase “I’m telling you in Russian” in this exchange means more or less “I’m being serious.”
Recently, Putin has made promises about increasing the compensation for families of those lost in Ukraine, with payments as high as $45,000. Except those new promises also come with caveats. Limitations. Special circumstances. And don’t expect any of that money to go to those who are only “missing in action” at a dump where Russian bodies are stacked like cordwood.
Not only has the Kharkiv region seen some of the most significant action over the last two weeks, it’s also some of the most visible. The work Ukrainian forces are doing to harass Russian battalion tactical groups gathered around Izyum may be doing just as much to disrupt Russia’s offensive, but because in that area Ukraine appears to be conducting more hit-and-run raids rather than systematically recapturing villages and clearing areas of Russian control, it’s much harder to follow the progress.
On the other hand, Ukrainian actions in Kharkiv have been more on the order of a classic counteroffensive, rolling back Russian-occupied territory town by town, putting in place members of territorial defense, preparing locations against any threat by Russia to retake the offensive. All of that generates chatter on Twitter and Telegram. The accompanying work from artillery, as reflected by data from satellites generally intended to track wildfires, also gives a good sense of priority targets and upcoming thrusts by infantry.
But when it comes to what’s happening in the Kharkiv area on Wednesday, the answer is a big shrug.
For the moment, there are no reports of new, big movements in the Kharkiv area. A number of villages near Staryi Saltiv were recaptured on Saturday, and Ukrainian forces made progress at the western end of the line at Tsupivka, but both Sunday and Monday appear to have been relatively quiet. That includes a big reduction in the amount of shelling. On Sunday, Ukraine directed some shells into the area northwest of Lyptsi, which Ukrainian soldiers have entered, but reportedly do not control. There was also firing on an area about a kilometer north of Vesele, which Ukrainian soldiers have entered, but reportedly do not control. And there was firing at a chain of locations near Petrivka which, so far as can be determined, is still under Russian control.
But on Monday, the FIRMS data is all but clear. Whether that means Ukraine has taken some of these towns and it just hasn’t made it onto Twitter/Telegram in a recognizable way or something else is going on, I don’t know.
One reason to think something else might be going on: Ukraine seemed to be racing up the west bank of the Siverskyi Donets River in an effort to secure a bridge to the east. However, the bridge at Staryi Saltiv was blown by the Russians, then the bridge at Rubiznhe, then the bridge at Starytsya, then the bridge at Ohirtseve. And that’s it. There are no more bridges to race for.
It’s entirely possible that, without being able to claim one of those bridges intact, Ukraine is rethinking its strategy for the area west of the Donets. Ukraine may leave fewer people in the area to secure existing gains and continue to press what are reportedly three Russian BTGs in the area, while doing something like what kos suggests in shifting forces to go after critical Russian supply points to the southeast. Ukraine might even decide to fold some of those experienced winners from around Kharkiv into the push against Izyum. The Kharkiv map may become a little more stable over the next few days … or not.
Oh, and one thing that may be worth noting is that Ukraine spent three solid days firing artillery into the area around the east end of the bridge across from Staryi Saltiv. There is a reservoir at that location, making the water almost 2 kilometers wide, which would seem to make this a very unlikely point for Ukraine to create a crossing, especially when the river is just 100 meters wide near Rubiznhe and 60 meters wide upstream at Startsya. However, Ukrainian engineers may have had a chance to examine the bridge at Staryi Saltiv and determined that repairs were possible. Or ... Ukraine was just firing at Russian gun emplacements on the far side of the river and it had nothing to do with the bridge. We’ll see.
On Tuesday, Ukrainian Ministry of Defense officials included Ruski Tyshky, Bairak, and Rubizhne on the list of locations officially liberated.
Note: As I was putting this together, there were conflicting claims that Ukraine has taken Lyptsi. It seems likely that Ukraine has recaptured much of the town proper, but Russian forces remain in positions very close on the west. There were also claims that Ukraine is in control of the road between Vesele and Bairak, which would seem like a very bad thing for those Russian troops still down at Petrivka.
Russian forces are slowly walking their way toward Lyman, with reports of Russian forces in Derylove to the north and some reports of small numbers of Russian troops on the north side of Lyman itself. Within the next day or two, the town could be pressed from west, east, and north. But that’s not happening yet, no matter how many people are sweating about it.
At the extreme east of Ukrainian-held positions, the The Wall Street Journal this morning has an article on conditions in Severeodonetsk, which is now connected to the rest of Ukrainian-controlled territory by a single road—a road that is under fire from Russian artillery. It’s a good reminder of the kind of sacrifices that are being made by everyone in Ukraine, not just those in the military.
There’s also this bit from Igor Girkin. (A reminder that Girkin is a Russian who formerly headed up the DNR and expected to become the leader of a Donetsk “republic” before he found himself on the losing end of political maneuvering among pro-Russian forces.)
In the Donetsk direction, the occupiers attempted assault operations in the directions of the town of Marinka, the settlements of Kamyanka, Yasynuvata district, and Novomykhailivka, Pokrovsky district, Donetsk region. They were unsuccessful.
Whenever you see phrases like “they were unsuccessful,” read that as vehicles and soldiers were wasted. For every small advance Russia makes, it appears to make many, many more of these unsuccessful attempts.
Russian Stuff Blowing Up Theater
And now, let’s watch Russian tanks, vehicles, and artillery go boom.
This could be why Ukrainian artillery moved on past Vesele on Saturday and was hitting positions to the north: no Russian equipment left in Vesele itself to hit.
Remember the extremely rare and new T-90M tank Russia sent into Ukraine only to have it turn up dead north of Kharkiv within a week? Turns out there is another one. I mean was.
It’s possible this is the same tank as some of the landscape features look similar. On the other hand, the explosion itself looks different and if Ukraine is now putting more than one drone in the air to capture multiple angles of Russian tanks being obliterated, that would be just showing off.
In any case, what happens to both these tanks shows just how incredibly powerful a Javelin is. This is a missile that is not screwing around.
I know it was in the last update, but watching those artillery positions fall one by one was too good to skip a repeat.