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Ukraine War: Wagner’s fading thrust


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25 minutes ago, mormont said:

I may have heard dumber things than someone pissing off Vladimir Putin and then nipping off to St Petersburg to collect personal belongings. But I can't think of them right now.

If Prigozhin is in St Petersburg, I have to imagine it's in an unlit room with good soundproofing.

I've seen (unverified) claims that the FSB has returned over the past week everything they seized from Prigozhin back at the start of the mutiny/coup. 

Everything is so murky right now. But I'd say there's non-zero chance that Putin is, if not a figurehead, aware that there are large chunks of the state apparatus not loyal to him currently. And that any immediate, direct action against Priogzhin could trigger some bloody, internal fighting that Putin may or may not win.

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19 minutes ago, Fez said:

I've seen (unverified) claims that the FSB has returned over the past week everything they seized from Prigozhin back at the start of the mutiny/coup. 

Everything is so murky right now. But I'd say there's non-zero chance that Putin is, if not a figurehead, aware that there are large chunks of the state apparatus not loyal to him currently. And that any immediate, direct action against Priogzhin could trigger some bloody, internal fighting that Putin may or may not win.

But St Petersburg is Putin's home turf. It's where he allegedly fled to during the Wagner advance. It's a place he used to run and where he should still have his most loyal allies. For Prigozhin to go there voluntarily would suggest a level of trust in Putin that seems fantastical under the circumstances, or that St Petersburg is no longer safe for Putin, which is also hard to credit.

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14 minutes ago, mormont said:

But St Petersburg is Putin's home turf. It's where he allegedly fled to during the Wagner advance. It's a place he used to run and where he should still have his most loyal allies. For Prigozhin to go there voluntarily would suggest a level of trust in Putin that seems fantastical under the circumstances, or that St Petersburg is no longer safe for Putin, which is also hard to credit.

Once again in this war, if I was reading a book that laid out scenarios like what we are seeing in real life, I would stop reading said book because it was just unbelievable, illogical, and terrible world-building.

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Well, St. Petersburg is also Prigozhin's hood, if I am not mistaken.

FWIW, my working assumption is, that Prigozhin was allowed back for a (few) day(s) to collect some stuff, before he has to get back to Belarus. If Putin wanted him dead now, he would've been buried in some garbage dump in Belarus. 

I mean, why create some sorta martyr, when you can have some repentant sinner, who preaches the gospel from abroad. 

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42 minutes ago, Fez said:

I've seen (unverified) claims that the FSB has returned over the past week everything they seized from Prigozhin back at the start of the mutiny/coup

I posted that here too, yesterday.  And not everything, but a very great deal, particularly that which allows him to pay his Wagner troops.

Of course Russia has run on deliberate disinformation for over a century now ... for all we know Prigozhin's been whisked to an undisclosed location, killed, or undergoing torture somewhere.  That's presumably the point: we don't know.

Edited by Zorral
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Prigozhin seen.

UPDATED

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/07/06/yevgeny-prigozhin-russia-wagner-rebellion/

Quote

 

.... Prigozhin’s continued presence in Russia was confirmed by a St. Petersburg businessman, who said the Wagner boss had returned home to reclaim money and weapons seized by the Russian security services.

“It’s not the end of Prigozhin,” the businessman said, speaking Wednesday on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “They returned all his money to him. More than this, today they even gave back to him his honorary pistol, the Glock, and another weapon. He came to take it himself.”

Prigozhin, however, could still be vulnerable to new criminal cases if Putin fears he looks weak amid a barrage of criticism in Russia for dropping the insurgency charges. Putin, while refusing to say Prigozhin’s name, has publicly raised a question of financial crimes in connection with numerous contracts that Prigozhin’s businesses had with the government. 

But Prigozhin still appears to have sufficient leverage in Russia, after Wagner earned a reputation as arguably Russia’s most effective assault force in Ukraine. That stature, and his many connections in high places, seemed to at least partly explain why he was allowed to walk around St. Petersburg and potentially Moscow, apparently with no fear of arrest, even after he was called a traitor and supposedly exiled.

Officials in Moscow appear to be wrestling with the difficult question of how Wagner can be replaced, both in Ukraine and in its operations in Africa, where it has extended Russia’s reach through its security contracts with several governments.

Even top Russian officials were in the dark about the deal, what it means for Russia, for Putin’s authority, Prigozhin’s fate, and Wagner’s future. 

“We still don’t know exactly what happened,” one member of top Russian diplomatic circles said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. This person said the crisis appeared to have passed and Moscow was “calm,” adding: “If we see this situation as a crisis, at least the most immediate consequences have been minimized. We see there are no clear consequences noticeable so far.”

In sign of how deeply the crisis disrupted lines of military authority in Russia, he said questions about Wagner’s future relations with the Ministry of Defense “remain open.”

Lukashenko, speaking at a news conference Thursday, said Prigozhin was “a free man,” but that he did not know what might happen later. He said that the deal allowing Prigozhin and Wagner to relocate to Belarus was “being observed” but that details had not been fully resolved. ....

.... Tatyana Stanovaya, founder of Paris-based political consultancy R.Politik, said it appeared that the Kremlin was giving Prigozhin time in Russia to deal with his complex web of business operations, many of which directly served Russian state interests.


“On the one hand we see that Prigozhin continues to be criticized in the media and they have closed down his media holding," Stanovaya said. “He is being destroyed politically but physically he is being allowed to continue his business which can be seen as an attempt to give him time to finish up.” He would not be in Russia without Putin’s permission, she added. ....

 

 

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One interesting development in the last few weeks has been a serious reduction in the time it takes Ukraine to launch counter-battery strikes on identified artillery targets. There's been some reports of Ukraine using spotter drones to paint and hit moving Russian vehicles, using the GPS-directed GLMRS ability to change direction in mid-flight (although this limited based on velocity and where in the ascent/descent profile the projectile is). More common is them spotting a Russian vehicle trying to shoot and scoot before it shoots, and hitting it once it stops. They've got that reaction time down, in some cases, to seconds.

This is not only a major problem for Russia in losing the vehicle and crew, it's also causing some Russian personnel to say pull the other one, it's got bells on when they're ordered to deploy.

Meanwhile, the US is on the verge of releasing its cluster munition reserves to Ukraine. They've been decommissioning these reserves for years on end and will never use them again themselves, so there's no operational issue with releasing them to Ukraine, but there is a thorny ethical/moral issue in using them (and some other NATO members are much less keen). However, both the US and Ukraine (and, more privately, the likes of the UK) are onboard with the "we'll sort out the moral quandary later on" solution.

A single HIMARS-launched DPICM ("Steel Rain") delivery system could cover entire square kilometre grids with cluster bombs, throwing the Russian lines into turmoil. More problematically, also in areas where there is still heavy civilian traffic.

Edited by Werthead
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8 hours ago, Derfel Cadarn said:

For his sake, I hope they’re being stored in a basement or ground floor

Firearms can be dangerous, when retrieving them he might accidentally shoot himself a couple of dozen times.

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FYI for those who feel they are not getting it now via the dead fowl -- Daily Kos tends to have excellent round-ups of Ukraine War information and news, all linked; this has been the case throughout the war. This morning's:

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2023/7/6/2179504/-Ukraine-Update-Russia-doesn-t-have-a-backup-plan-when-it-runs-out-of-artillery

A long, descriptive list of what weaponry in play.

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Perun's latest episode is on Prigozhin's coup/mutiny.

He emphasizes that there is still a lot we don't know and speculation abounds.  But he makes a pretty compelling case that the reason Prigozhin folded when he did is because he had no other choice. 

 - A portion of Wagner was making a thunder run to Moscow, but it was less than 10k men, along with whatever ammunition they could bring along.  That is not a group that can fight a long battle. 

- Even if we assume that Moscow had no heavy weapons to defend itself (we don't really know this), even relatively lightly armed fighters like Rosgvardia can be a huge problem on the defensive in an urban environment.  Wagner had little artillery, and thus would be rooting these defenders out block by block, which would be almost impossible. 

 - 5-10k troops cannot possibly capture and occupy a city of ten million.  They could occupy key buildings, but what would that accomplish?  Many Russian elites had already fled to St. Petersburg. 

 - Controlling communication/propaganda outlets is essential in a successful coup, and Wagner was not even close to achieving this. 

 - This thunder run could only work if large portions of the army join up, and they did not.  Once that happened, it was hopeless.  So he backed down and hoped to live another day.  We're ten days on, and Prigozhin is still breathing thus far. 

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Russia is highly reliant on its artillery for its army to even operate. Systematically obliterating its artillery systems with little prospect for replacement in a timespan short of years is an excellent way forwards for Ukraine.

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So how are we feeling about the US giving Ukraine cluster munitions for their artillery?

I'm mostly for it. For starters Ukraine already had them, AND Russia has been using them - so Ukraine is already going to suffer from unexploded munitions for quite a long time. Same goes for all the minefields that are being set up - the whole front is going to be massively dangerous. The US is providing them largely because we cannot provide enough regular artillery rounds in a timely fashion. And, apparently, this can make a very big difference in rooting out emplacements and hardened defensive areas. 

I get that they are dangerous for years later and that is horrible. I also think that that's Ukraine's call to largely make.

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It's the weakest and lamest of excuses to use the enemy's immoral choices as justification for your own immoral choice.  Almost as weak is "there's already UXBs and mines littering the territory, what's a few more added from our side?" And for the trifecta of weak justifications "we're running short of other munitions". So there are not strong rationales for using them, as it appears that Ukraine can win without them.

Then you have the counter point: All's fair in love and war. And after all, if Russia dropped a nuke on Ukraine very few people would disagree that dropping a nuke on Russia would be a reasonable and proportionate counter. Though fewer people would agree that dropping a nuke on Russian troops on occupied Ukranian land is a good idea.

It's hard for me to support Ukraine's use of cluster munitions, but I also have a grim acceptance that Ukraine needs to do what it must to push Russia back because I find it harder to stomach the idea that Russia may successfully expand its territory from this war. I just wish Ukraine could do it without resorting to weapons that most of the civilized world regards as morally reprehensible. Once this is all over Ukrainian politicians and military commanders are going to have to live with the deaths and maimings of Ukranians who stumble across an American cluster munition and unwittingly set it off. Those deaths will be on their heads, no one else's. Worth the cost? Not for me to say.

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7 hours ago, The Anti-Targ said:

It's the weakest and lamest of excuses to use the enemy's immoral choices as justification for your own immoral choice.  Almost as weak is "there's already UXBs and mines littering the territory, what's a few more added from our side?" And for the trifecta of weak justifications "we're running short of other munitions". So there are not strong rationales for using them, as it appears that Ukraine can win without them.

Then you have the counter point: All's fair in love and war. And after all, if Russia dropped a nuke on Ukraine very few people would disagree that dropping a nuke on Russia would be a reasonable and proportionate counter. Though fewer people would agree that dropping a nuke on Russian troops on occupied Ukranian land is a good idea.

It's hard for me to support Ukraine's use of cluster munitions, but I also have a grim acceptance that Ukraine needs to do what it must to push Russia back because I find it harder to stomach the idea that Russia may successfully expand its territory from this war. I just wish Ukraine could do it without resorting to weapons that most of the civilized world regards as morally reprehensible. Once this is all over Ukrainian politicians and military commanders are going to have to live with the deaths and maimings of Ukranians who stumble across an American cluster munition and unwittingly set it off. Those deaths will be on their heads, no one else's. Worth the cost? Not for me to say.

Fair points.

But I’m reminded of my Dissertation.  The French perpetrated dreadful atrocities on the Spanish populace from 1808-14 (not least, seizing so much food that 10% of Spain’s population died of starvation). And, the Spanish responded in kind.

Ideally, the Spanish would not have responded in kind, but I can hardly blame them.

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1 hour ago, The Anti-Targ said:

Brutal, cruel vengeance dressed up as justice. It has ever been thus.

Using a weapon more effective than simple artillery rounds to clear trenches when the opposing army has been using the same weapon against civilians, deliberately, is “Brutal, cruel vengeance”?  

Really?

Edited by Ser Scot A Ellison
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12 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Using a weapon more effective that simple artillery rounds to clear trenches when the opposing army has been using the same weapon against civilians, deliberately, is “Brutal, cruel vengeance”?  

Really?

I wasn't aware that starving people was a good method for clearing trenches, but perhaps it was back in the early 1800s.

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Are mine sweepers capable of clearing unexploded munitions? Or are there other kind of machinery for the job? Maybe if we have such machines, they can be given or lent to Ukraine later for the cleanup.

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I don't think in this case it is about vengeance or justice, but about kicking a genocidal force out of your country, so saying Ukraine is allowed to use cluster munition because Russia does the same is not a good argument in my opinion. Even if Russia had not used it right from the beginning of the war, Ukraine could rightfully consider to use it on their own territory. The only issue I can see is the danger it causes for civilians. On the other hand Ukrainian Minister of Defence Reznikov said they wouldn't use it in urban areas but only against Russian troop concentrations. Since Russia has heavily mined these areas after all, it's not like people could just return there after a liberation anyway. I admit it's not a choice I would like to make, but in my opinion in the end every dead Ukrainian is on Russia. Using cluster munition bears risks, not using it also does.

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