Tag: yevgeny prigozhin
In Russia, A Fluid Situation Or 'A Big Mess' -- But We Sure Don't Need Trump

In Russia, A Fluid Situation Or 'A Big Mess' -- But We Sure Don't Need Trump

Well, they have spoken – by which I mean Vladimir Putin and Sergey Prigozhin, but I may as well throw the Third Pretender in there, too, Defendant Trump, who couldn’t resist getting his two-cents in Saturday with this bit of well masticated wisdom on his Truth Social platform: “A big mess in Russia, but be careful what you wish for. Next in may be far worse!”

Boy, am I ever glad we’ve got the Don of Bedminster to depend on when things get weird on the world stage. When he was president and met with other world leaders for his first time at the G-7 in Sicily in 2017, there was this:

Former President Donald Trump at the G-7 meeting in Sicily in May 2017

Then in 2018, another photo summed up a summit Trump ended by calling for Russia’s readmission to the G-7, four years after it had been ousted for its annexation of Crimea. The photo shows German Chancellor Angela Merkel giving him a piece of her mind while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stands by with a look of disgust. The face of French President Emmanuel Macron can be seen behind Merkel with British Prime Minister Theresa May partially obscured by the man leaning on the table in the foreground. Oh, and behind Trump is National Security Adviser John Bolton, who suddenly discovered he has a backbone lastFormre

Former Prime Minister Theresa May confronting former President Donald Trump at G-7 meeting in June 2018

I digress, but only as a reminder of what it was like when the American equivalent of the Putins and Prigozhins of the world was at the helm of the American ship of state. Can you imagine what Defendant Trump would be doing if he was in the Oval Office while the revolt in Russia was happening on Saturday? Offering to send the Proud Boys to defend Red Square wouldn’t be out of the question.

The news slowly leaking out of the world’s other nuclear superpower today was, to put it mildly, unsettling. Prigozhin is supposed to be in Belarus, but nobody knows for sure if he’s there. He was last seen on Saturday evening greeting a crowd from the back seat of what looked like a large American SUV in downtown Rostov-on-Don, which his troops had seized from Russian forces earlier that day. The Guardian called it “Prigozhin’s rockstar exit from Rostov,” and quoted one citizen of the city observing that, “There is a real interest in Prigozhin and his fighters. The nation longs for a change. To some, Prigozhin is a valuable alternative to Putin.”

Yevgeny Prigozhin leaving Rostov-on-Don on Saturday, June 24, 2023

Ooops. There it is, the deadly nightshade of a word to any dictator worth his custom-tailored suit and retinue of lickspittles: alternative. There just aren’t supposed to be alternatives to all-powerful dictators, don’t you see, because as Defendant Trump put it so eloquently for us in his first campaign for the presidency in this country, “I alone can fix it.”

Most of us bipeds wandering around the planet going about our business live with a nagging uncertainty that we matter to anyone but those closest to us. We’re reminded of this by the little things that happen, perhaps not daily, but enough that we are unsettled by our humanness: the car won’t start; a favorite pet dies; a child comes home with a “D” in math; the boss at work hesitates as he walks by your desk and shakes his head slowly before moving on.

Not dictators and wannabe dictators. For them, there is no doubt that they matter. Listen to the words of Vladimir Putin, just 48 hours after a convoy of tanks, rocket launchers, armored personnel carriers, and infantry soldiers were on the march unopposed just 125 miles away from the Russian capital, Moscow: “Civic solidarity has shown that any blackmail attempts to create internal unrest are doomed to failure,” Putin said today in a little speech filmed in a room somewhere in Russia, with mahogany paneling, a couple of Russian flags, and what looked like the back of one of the world’s most uncomfortable chairs behind him. “The consolidation of the society of executive and legislative power at all levels was shown," he continued, looking into the eye of the camera as forcefully as he could. “There was a firm unequivocal position in support of the constitutional order. In fact, the entire Russian society united and rallied everyone.”

Wow. If you were a citizen of Russia, and you were looking to be comforted after an upheaval that shook the Kremlin and forced soldiers and tanks into the streets of Moscow, that is just the thing to settle your stomach and get you ready for your next gulp of the clear stuff in the little shot glasses.

Prigozhin spoke bluntly, presumably from a bunker in Belarus, or Russia, or Ukraine, or somewhere: “We did not have the goal of toppling the existing regime and legitimately-elected government,” Prigozhin began in a manner that can probably be described as just barely conciliatory, before he really got into it. “The aim of the march was to avoid destruction of Wagner and to hold to account the officials who through their unprofessional actions have committed a massive number of errors.”

Prigozhin repeated his charge that 30 of his soldiers had been killed by a missile strike from regular Russian forces. His brief audio address, released on his Telegram channel, appeared to be a rejection of a rumored plan to integrate his Wagner mercenaries into the regular Russian forces, which Prigozhin indicated would be a death sentence for his soldiers. “Experienced fighters, experienced commanders will be simply 'smeared' and will basically be used as meat," he predicted.

So, that’s where we stand, two days after the biggest threat to Putin’s rule in Russia in more than 20 years. Putin’s not giving an inch, and apparently allowed a rumor to spread yesterday that the charges against Prigozhin for instigating an insurrection could be reinstated at any time. Another rumor spread that Prigozhin plans to consolidate his Wagner group in Belarus and fight from there. The last time Russia tried attacking Kyiv from the north, it didn’t go so well for them, and at that time in the war, it was rag-tag guerrilla-style assaults by hastily-formed Ukrainian units that drove the attackers back. I think we can assume that Kyiv is much better defended today than it was in February of last year, so maybe Prigozhin should give his plans more thought.

But who knows? I love the word “fluid” when it’s used to describe situations like this, because my mind, anyway, forms an image of a river, with currents swirling and dangers lurking beneath its surface. That’s as good a description as any of Russia this evening, and we’ll be here to keep an eye on it for you.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Please consider subscribing to Lucian Truscott Newsletter, from which this is reprinted with permission.

Prigozhin's Revolt: Kremlin In Panic As 'Putin's Chief' Turns On Putin

Prigozhin's Revolt: Kremlin In Panic As 'Putin's Chief' Turns On Putin

Things are turning more and more sour between Yevgeny Prigohzin, head of the mercenary Russian outfit Wagner Group, and his one-time patron in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin. Prigohzin, who can date his economic rise in Russia to the state of oligarch to the time he served as “Putin’s chef,” has now been targeted for arrest by Russia’s Federal Security Service for “incitement to armed rebellion.”

Apparently fearing open conflict with his former friend and the victor in Russia’s nearly year long attempt to take the small Ukrainian town of Bakhmut, Putin has ordered that armed military vehicles be deployed in both Moscow and in the Russian city of Rostov on Don, just east of the border with Ukraine and not far from the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, first destroyed and then occupied by Russia early in the war.

Prigozhin announced on his Telegram channel late on Friday that he and his Wagner Group soldiers were heading for Rostov on Don. He said he believed that the Russian Minister of Defense, Sergei K. Shoigu, ordered a deadly attack on his Wagner forces from Rostov on Don. Prigozhin had earlier posted a video on Telegram accusing the Russian Ministry of Defense of corruption in the war effort and orchestrating the attack on Wagner soldiers under his command. “We are going farther [than Rostov on Don]. We will go to the end,” Prigozhin threatened, an apparent reference to Moscow itself.

In response, Kremlin spokesman Dimitri Peskov issued a rare after-midnight Saturday statement from Moscow about the brewing tensions between the Russian Defense Ministry and Prigozhin: “Special services and law enforcement agencies, namely the Defense Ministry, Federal Security Service, Interior Ministry and the Russian Guard, constantly report to the president in a round-the-clock mode on the measures taken in the context of the implementation of his earlier instructions,” Peskov said, apparently referring to his statement earlier in the day that under the orders of Putin, “all measures are being taken.”

It is of course an understatement to say that it is never a good sign when your army is going to war against itself in the middle of a war on foreign soil. This feud between Prigozhin and Russia’s Ministry of Defense has been brewing for nearly six months. Prigozhin accused the defense ministry of not supplying his Wagner Group soldiers with enough ammunition when they were attempting to take Bakhmut. After he had taken the town, Prigozhin announced he was withdrawing his soldiers and dared the Defense Ministry to hold the town, an apparent reference to his previous criticism of regular Russian forces as incompetent and ill-led.

But it wasn’t until Friday that Prigozhin went as far as he has this time, criticizing not only those close to Putin, but Putin himself in all but name. “Our holy war with those who offend the Russian people, with those who are trying to humiliate them, has turned into a racket,” Prigozhin said on his Telegram channel earlier today. “The war wasn’t needed to return Russian citizens to our bosom, nor to demilitarize or denazify Ukraine,” Prigozhin continued, making what can only be described as a specific allusion to Putin’s announced justification for the war from its outset. “The war was needed so that a bunch of animals could simply exult in glory.”

Just between you and me, you don’t lump Vladimir Putin in with “a bunch of animals” and get away with it in today’s Russia. With Prigozhin openly taking a walk from committing his troops in the fight against Ukraine, it’s anybody’s guess what will happen next, not only to the man they call “Putin’s chef,” but to Russia’s war effort itself.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Please consider subscribing to Lucian Truscott Newsletter, from which this is reprinted with permission.

From Your Site Articles

Beyond Bakhmut's Ordeal, The News From Ukraine Is Mostly Good

Beyond Bakhmut's Ordeal, The News From Ukraine Is Mostly Good

Yevgeny Prighozin announced yesterday that his Wagner Group mercenaries had “taken” Bakhmut from Ukrainian forces. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy fired right back from the meeting of the G-7 in Japan: “Bakhmut is not occupied by Russian Federation as of today. There are no two or three interpretations of those words.” But he went on to compare the damage he saw in photos at the Hiroshima memorial to what has happened to Bakhmut, where nearly every structure inside the town limits has been either destroyed or severely damaged.

“For today, Bakhmut is only in our hearts, and there is nothing on this place,” Zelensky told reporters, apparently indicating that there is virtually nothing left of the physical town of Bakhmut. He emphasized that there were “a lot of dead Russians” from the fighting in Bakhmut, according to the Washington Post, which reported that for every Ukrainian soldier killed in the battle for the eastern Ukrainian town, five Russians had been killed. Other estimates of the ratio have been as high as seven dead Russians for every Ukrainian killed.

It's hard to know what the truth is about Bakhmut, or even if there is a “truth” at this point. Maps of the fighting in Bakhmut published on May 14 by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) showed Ukrainian forces have been pushed to the western limits of the town, out near a reservoir and the Bakhmut Children’s Hospital, which the Ukrainian military has held onto despite a Russian offensive. The fighting appears to be street to street, house to house. The ISW map showed, for example, that Russian forces had moved as far west as General Chernyakhovsky Lane. Ukrainian forces took that Russian move, and counterattacked at the Berkhivka Reservoir, just a few blocks away.

There are other reports that Ukrainian forces have taken back land to the north and south of Bakhmut that Russia had held for months, and one report claimed that it was the first part of a Ukrainian pincer move that would end up with the Russian forces inside the Bakhmut city limits surrounded. It seems to be the case that the Ukrainian Army has managed to hold onto a smaller and smaller sliver of territory inside the Bakhmut city limits so Russia could not say that the town has fallen. But now that Prighozin has gone ahead and made that claim, it’s anybody’s guess what the Ukrainians will do next.

As Zelensky indicated in Japan at the G-7, what they are fighting over when it comes to Bakhmut is a town that has been completely destroyed. That Russia has been willing to spend the lives of so many of its troops – as many as 100,000 either killed or wounded since last December – is either proof of Putin’s hubris, Prigohzin’s hubris, or both. Sources inside Russia have indicated to Western reporters that the battle for Bakhmut is as much about a war going on between Putin and his erstwhile “friend” Prigohzin as it is about anything else. As with so much else in a war, only time will tell whatever truth can be discovered about what is really going on.

While the battle for Bakhmut rages, Putin has continued his campaign of trying to pound Ukraine into submission with another rocket attack on Kyiv last week. Last Tuesday, Russia launched a barrage of rockets on Ukraine’s capital city – three Iskander land-to-land missiles, nine Kalibr missiles launched from ships in the Black Sea, and six air-launched Kinzhal “hypersonic” missiles. Ukraine claimed the next day that all 18 Russian missiles aimed at Kyiv had been intercepted and destroyed by Patriot anti-missile batteries that are protecting the city.

Russia reacted typically to the Ukrainian claim, saying that the Kyiv government had gotten wrong both the number and the types of missiles Russia launched. Film footage on CNN seemed to show that some of the debris was from the Russian Kinzhal missiles. Reuters reported, “It was the first time Ukraine had claimed to have struck an entire volley of multiple Kinzhal missiles, and if confirmed, would be a demonstration of the effectiveness of its newly deployed Western air defenses.”

Two things are going on here. One, the Russian claim that the Kinzhal is a “hypersonic” missile is almost certainly hollow, even meaningless. Any air-to-air missile by definition travels at more than the speed of sound, perhaps even double the speed of sound, and thus would not be remarkable by itself. In other words, the word “hypersonic” is an oxymoron. Even ballistic missiles with a parabolic flight path descend at more than the speed of sound.

But the Ukrainian claim of having successfully defended Kyiv with American-supplied Patriot missile batteries is an extraordinary feat. The Patriot missile system is a complicated beast consisting of a truck carrying as many as 16 Patriot anti-missile missiles, an array of radar dishes and antennas, and an “Engagement Control Station,” also truck-mounted, where the launching and tracking of incoming enemy missiles is monitored as well as the tracking of out-going Patriot missiles. (There is also a generator truck to power everything.)

A Patriot battalion consists of four-to-six line batteries, which are made up of six individual Patriot launchers and control systems. Each battery consists of a launcher platoon, fire-control platoon, and a maintenance platoon. About 80 soldiers serve in each battery, and there are about 600 soldiers assigned to each Patriot battalion. So, if Kyiv is being protected by a Patriot battalion, there are at least 24 Patriot launchers, and perhaps as many as 36 launchers, each capable of carrying up to 16 individual Patriot missiles.

The way the system works is this: the radar arrays for each Patriot battery “acquire” incoming aircraft or missiles, and through computer-controlled identification mark them as hostile. The radars track each incoming missile’s trajectory, and when the missiles come within range, the Patriot missile or missiles are fired automatically. For one of the very rapid Kinzhal missiles, as many as three Patriot missiles might be fired against it, each aimed at hitting the incoming missile at a different point in its trajectory to make sure one of the hits is a “kill.”

It gets really complicated when an enemy launches multiple missiles at once. Each missile must be “acquired” by radar separately, and a Patriot missile aimed at it individually or in pairs or threes, depending on what kind of enemy missile it is. If the Russians fired six Kinzhal missiles at Kyiv at once, there was some real computer-controlled scrambling going on to track each of them and assign three Patriot missiles to knock them down. That would be 18 Patriots being fired nearly simultaneously to take down such a swarm of Kinzhal missiles.

At the same time, the slower Iskandr and Kalibr missiles were coming in from different directions, so other Patriot batteries had to “acquire” each of them and fire their own missiles to knock them down. If it is true that Ukraine was able to shoot down all 18 Russian missiles fired on Tuesday, it is both an accomplishment of the U.S. technology involved in the Patriot system, and the Ukrainians' skill at deploying the extremely complicated weapon against the enemy missiles.

Officers and sergeants and enlisted soldiers in the U.S. will typically undergo months and months of training to become competent to serve on Patriot batteries. The Ukrainian army has had far less time to acquire the same skills because the U.S. didn’t get around to sending Patriots to Ukraine until recently. The governments of Germany and the Netherlands are known to have sent Patriot systems to Ukraine, and there are probably other nations supplying Ukraine with missiles that can be fired from the launchers.

All of this is good news, and there is even more. The Sunday Times of London reported on Tuesday that Sweden is supplying Ukraine with an entire mechanized brigade of military hardware that will soon be able to be deployed. The weapons include Leopard II tanks, CV90 Infantry Fighting Vehicles, and Archer 155 mm truck-mounted and automated howitzers that can be fired remotely by crews protected inside armored vehicles. A mechanized brigade has three to five thousand soldiers, so there will be a large number of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and automated howitzers on their way to Ukraine.

The Sunday Times story did not say how the Ukrainian military will be trained on the various systems, but some training on the Leopard II is going on in Germany and Poland already, and the Swedish armored personnel carriers are similar to ones the Ukrainians already had in their army’s inventory.

All of which is good, even very good news for Ukraine. At the G-7, Biden announced that another $375 million in military hardware would be on its way soon, including “more ammunition, artillery, armored vehicles to bolster Ukraine’s battlefield abilities.” Meanwhile, the Pentagon recently said that a “bookkeeping error” had been discovered, freeing-up more than $3 billion already appropriated for supplying U.S. weapons to Ukraine. It was not announced when those weapons will be shipped, or what the aid package will include, but any additional arms and supplies the U.S. can send to Ukraine at this point will be welcome.

Navigating the news out of Ukraine is confusing and complicated because information about an ongoing war is always out of control, sometimes unreliable, and can be confoundingly difficult to track. But for right now, as mixed as the news is about Bakhmut, the rest of what we’re learning about Ukraine is generally pretty good.

Watch this space for more updates and explanations of what is going on over there.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Please consider subscribing to Lucian Truscott Newsletter, from which this is reprinted with permission.

What's Up With The Battle For Bakhmut? We'll Know When The Fog Clears

What's Up With The Battle For Bakhmut? We'll Know When The Fog Clears

News about Bakhmut has leaked out of both Ukraine and Russia over the last few days, and while neither the news nor the situation on the ground is definitive, it’s significant enough to take a look at. In fact, the reason we’re still watching the battle for Bakhmut so closely is perhaps the most significant thing of all.

As a city, Bakhmut is not terribly important. Before the war, the place had a population of about 70,000. There is a massive salt mine near the town that contains the largest underground space in the world -- it’s so big that Wikipedia tells us that a hot air balloon was once fired up and inflated inside the space.

Strategically, Bakhmut isn’t important either. The town sits on the road from Donetsk to Kyiv, but there are other ways to get to and from both places. It does stand between the Russian border and the cities of Kramatorsk and Slovyansk, which have served as key Ukrainian military regional headquarters and resupply centers, and if Bakhmut were to fall to Russian forces, the two strongholds to the west would become more vulnerable to Russian attack.

But Bakhmut’s major importance in both Ukraine’s war against Russian aggression and Russia’s war to take over Ukraine is symbolic. What it amounts to is this: The Russian military – read: Vladimir Putin – decided about six to eight months ago that it was important to take Bakhmut, and they’ve been at it ever since. Bakhmut was one of the towns taken back from Russian forces by Ukraine when its army executed its big offensive last September that took about 3,500 square miles of the Kharkiv region in northeastern Ukraine that Russia had held since the beginning of the war in February/March of 2022.

The Ukrainians decided at the same time it was important for them to hang onto the town. There has been a bloody war going on for this small piece of the Ukrainian steppes ever since.

It has become clear to military analysts that Ukraine’s decision about Bakhmut was smarter than Russia’s, because Ukraine has managed to inflict about 100,000 casualties on Russian forces since the battle began – in fact, there are some estimates that Russia has lost that many troops since January of this year.

The battle lines in the war have been static along a 600-mile front since Ukraine took Kherson in November. There have been skirmishes and small battles all along the front for about eight months, but neither side has been able to strike forcefully enough to move the other from its defensive positions. Russia has dug defensive trenches everywhere. Satellite photos of the area to the east of Kherson show an elaborate network of Russian trenches defending its land bridge to Crimea and the cities to the east of Kherson, Melitopol and the port of Mariupol.

Russia spent the winter digging similar trench networks to defend the land it has taken in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. In fact, the Russian strategy at this point, if it can be called one, is to defend the strip of eastern Ukraine it took last year and spend the rest of its time killing Ukrainian civilians in the major cities in Ukraine’s center and west, including Kyiv, Odessa and less often Lviv, near the border with Poland.

Some invasion, huh? It’s been established that Putin was under the misinformed delusion that he could use an invading force of about 140,000 and take Kyiv within a week, establish a puppet government and essentially turn Ukraine into a piece of Russia that would be rich with mineral and agricultural wealth, not to mention the fact that if the invasion had succeeded, he would have been able to station his military forces, including his army, air force, and navy, right on Europe’s doorstep.

Didn’t work. By some estimates, Russia has lost as many as 200,000 soldiers, either wounded or killed, since the war began. The interesting thing about those figures is this: when a Russian soldier is wounded, he’s off the battlefield for good, because Russia does not have the kind of military field hospitals and medical technology to patch people up and put them back in the fight.

So, there they are, stuck in relatively tiny Bakhmut, fighting because Putin told them to stay there and fight until they take the town. Somebody in the Ukrainian military is very, very smart, because the decision to defend Bakhmut has turned out to be brilliant. Ukrainian soldiers are fighting for a town that is theirs. They know the town and the surrounding region much, much better than the Russian soldiers sent there to fight. So, they’ve been sitting back for the last six months and picking when and where they will hit Russian units, be they squads, platoons, or companies. They have used drones they are producing themselves to target individual Russian soldiers or small groups of them, and then they have taken U.S. supplied 155 mm howitzers and HIMARS short-range missiles and hammered them to great effect.

There are estimates that the kill-ratio in the battle of Bakhmut has been 7 to 1, seven Russians killed for every Ukrainian. It could even be better than that, but even at those numbers, Russia has been spending a whole lot of soldiers in order to take a few blocks of Bakhmut here, a few blocks there, and by any realistic military measurement, they haven’t accomplished a thing.

Recently, there have been reports that Ukrainian forces have re-taken land to the north and south of Bakhmut and have pushed Russian forces out of some of the central areas of the town. This is very difficult to read from here in Milford, Pennsylvania, but any news of Ukrainian movement is good news. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has reported that Russian forces have pulled back from positions they had held both within the town of Bakhmut and to its south and north.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian billionaire who runs his own private army called the Wagner Group, recently made a video on YouTube complaining that regular Russian forces consisting of new recruits were retreating and leaving his Wagner Group units to fight for Bakhmut alone. Prigozhin stood next to a pile of bodies of Wagner Group soldiers and excoriated Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and General Valery Gerasimov, appointed a few months ago by Putin to run his war in Ukraine.

Complaining that his Wagner soldiers don’t have enough supplies of ammunition, Prigozhin, referring to Putin’s top military officials, shouted, “You animals are hanging out in expensive clubs. Your children are enjoying their lives, making videos for YouTube. Do you think that you are the masters of this life and that you have the right to control their lives?” Pointing to the bodies of dead soldiers, he ranted, “Here are the guys from PMC Wagner who died today. The blood is still fresh. We have a 70 percent ammo shortage! Shoigu! Gerasimov!"

Analysts are reading these explosions by Prigozhin in several ways. Putin may have commanded his friend Prigozhin to “take Bakhmut” for him months ago, and now that it is becoming evident that the Wagner Group has not only failed, but lost a good percentage of its fighters, Putin is abandoning him and positioning himself to blame an eventual loss of the battle of Bakhmut on Prigozhin. This may be because Putin sees Prigozhin as a political rival at this point, Prigozhin having turned his Wagner Group into what amounts to an armed political party.

Or the situation in Bakhmut could in fact be so desperate that there simply isn’t enough ammunition and regular Russian army forces to back up the Wagner Group. Prigozhin has accused regular Russian forces of “fleeing” the battle for Bakhmut, and this indeed may be the case. Russia has rushed fresh recruits into the battle in recent months, where they have been chewed up by Ukraine’s precision artillery and rocket strikes. The Wagner Group forces have been caught in the middle.

And there is the Ukrainian perspective. Ukraine has not made a secret of the fact that they are preparing for the long-anticipated spring offensive. Ukraine may have kept the battle for Bakhmut going this long by fighting for every inch of the town in order to force Russia not only to spend so many Russian bodies in the fight, but to center its defenses in advance of the Ukrainian offensive around Bakhmut, while the main Ukrainian push may end up being elsewhere. There is a report by ISW that over the last few days Ukraine hit Russian resupply and logistics targets around the city of Luhansk with British-supplied Storm Shadow cruise missiles. It’s only about 60 miles from Bakhmut to Luhansk. Ukraine may be softening up the area directly to the east of Bakhmut because they are planning a massive strike directly through Bakhmut…

Or it may be a feint, attempting to cause Russia to move in more forces to defend east of Bakhmut, while Ukraine has plans to make its big offensive push as far away as Kherson. Nobody knows…or at least, only President Zelensky and his top military commanders know.

But that’s the nature of war. The famous phrase “the fog of war” came into being for a reason. War is a fog. That some of the fog is comprised of the mist of blood and bone left by exploded bodies is as tragic as it is real in a war. We will know more when the fog clears, but as of now, we don’t know when that will be.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Please consider subscribing to Lucian Truscott Newsletter, from which this is reprinted with permission.