On the ninth day of the war, the military superiority of the Russian Armed Forces over the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which was considered to be absolute, failed to lead to the success of the so-called «special military operation.» However, it is still a mystery to us what constitutes a «victory.» Vladimir Putin stated that the goal of the operation was the denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine, that is, the goal of the operation was to change the current regime. To do this militarily, it is necessary to take the capital and depose the current powers that be. From a military point of view, without this, the operation cannot be considered complete.
Yes, the Russian army is advancing through Ukraine, albeit slowly. But even if the troops pass through Ukraine, it will not mean a change of the regime. Hostilities in an urban environment are the worst nightmare for any commander. The Ukrainian nuclear power plants pose a separate threat; if the power units are damaged, the catastrophe could become worldwide. It is no coincidence that the fire at the Zaporizhzhia NPP attracted so much attention. Thus, having found itself in a situation where the regime did not fall at the mere sight of the Russian army and Zelensky did not flee, the Russian operation seems to have reached a dead end. Some commanders are waiting for something to happen «by itself,» while others are waiting for the order to storm the city.
But the propaganda keeps telling Russians that what is happening is not war, and those who doubt this are already being threatened with the Criminal Code. It's a bureaucratic trick to report casualties whenever the authorities want, not as required by law. If there is no war, all peacetime military activity data is classified.
Anyway, the casualties have been officially announced, the Defense Ministry reported a figure of half a thousand people. Losses could have been a deterrent to the continuation of the offensive, and hostilities could have been suspended, but apparently, this taboo does not work. Everything suggests we are on the eve of a new phase of the operation. Troops are regrouping in some areas. Offensives are being stepped up in the south, and there is hardly any respite to speak of.
There is a huge shortage of reliable information, especially from the Russian side. The country's top leader is forced to work as a military journalist. It is from his words that we learned about the «remarkable» exploits that the Russian military performed. We are limited to statements by Major General Konashenkov, which are very vague, and I would very much like to see an official map of Russian military combat operations. We also see Ukrainian maps which, instead of territories, highlight routes leading to the cities that are under the control of Russian forces. Apparently, the Ukrainian side is referring to the fact that the classic occupation is not yet taking place.
I would very much like to see an official map of combat operations from the Russian Ministry of Defense
We must be very careful about the missiles and bombs used. So far, we can see that Iskander and Kalibr missiles are being used, and sometimes multiple rocket launchers. Based on the videos and observers' reports, I would not be so sure that so-called vacuum ammunition, designed to destroy bunkers and well-protected targets, is being used. It is a munition that, when detonated, spreads a mixture that instantly ignites and, due to the difference in pressure, the building simply implodes.
But back to the country's top leader, who has taken on the role of military propagandist. It is not the president's job to talk about the deeds of the military. Obviously, with the information system that now exists in the country and in the armed forces, information can only be disseminated after it has received the highest approval. The second thing I would like to mention is large payments to families of those killed in action and wounded. Frankly speaking, for the first time the Russian leadership began to evaluate the loss of the breadwinner more or less adequately. I am not sure that this is evidence of a sudden rise in humanism. Rather, it is a desire to avoid criticism for losses.
And, of course, there are accusations of perfidy and «war crimes» against Ukrainians. Here the president's thought is more or less clear: he blames the enemy for deploying means of destruction, including snipers, inside city blocks. In order to destroy them with artillery, civilian targets need to be hit, which is how missile attacks on residential buildings, universities, and hospitals are being justified.
Another point that Putin has made is that «everything goes according to plan». This is a big mystery to me. It is strange to think that the Russian General Staff has developed such a plan that after a week of fighting not a single specific task set by the president has been solved. We have yet to see any «denazification» or «demilitarization». In order to solve the political problems, it is necessary to take the cities, and the cities have not been taken. It would be strange to think that the Russian General Staff, having created such a serious superiority, failed to set the task of achieving victory within the first week. As a result, it is not at all clear what «plan» the president has in mind.
It would be strange to think that the general staff, having created such a superiority, failed to set the task of achieving victory within the first weeks
Kyiv is still in the hands of the Ukrainian authorities, and the military operation is being directed from there. Russian troops are concentrated somewhere on the outskirts. The Russian army has a very sad experience with the storming of Grozny. Generally speaking, the modern army is not designed for storming cities, because it has military, not political objectives, such as «regime change». The army is supposed to go around cities and destroy the enemy troops, but no one knows how to take a city. In 2003, when they were preparing to storm Damascus, the Americans were carefully studying Russia's military experience in storming Grozny. We know that taking cities by storm is not always easy, even when a well-organized army confronts a much weaker opponent – the Mosul experience comes to mind. Apparently, the Russian leadership and army hope that Kiev defenders will somehow waver, flee, surrender and ask the enemy for mercy.
Meanwhile, negotiations are underway without a cease-fire (there are precedents in history for negotiations without a cessation of hostilities, such as the U.S.-Vietnam negotiations in 1971-1973). The current Russian-Ukrainian negotiations involve third-ranking leaders, especially in the Russian delegation. This means that they exchange proposals brought from the capital without being able to formulate a response immediately. After a round, they have to contact the leadership in the capital, get some decision after the discussion, and then go back to the negotiation table with this decision – this is the model that, for example, existed in the Soviet-American negotiations in the 1970s, but there was no war then. The prospects for these negotiations should be treated with skepticism.
And it is not even quite clear what practical issues are on the table. If these are symbolic talks, it is not clear what the symbol is. If it is a readiness for peace, the Russian side has made it clear that it will not drag out the negotiations and will continue military action.
Ukraine speaks of a demand to restore full territorial integrity, including Crimea and Donbas. The Russian side demands Ukraine's disarmament. In the language of diplomacy, this is called a starting position. In the event of normal negotiations under normal conditions, if either side «rolled out» a position knowingly unacceptable for the counterparty, a compromise could be reached through lengthy discussions. This model works in peacetime when negotiators have months and years to negotiate. I'm not sure that such a model can work in the current situation - there is no time.
As far as domestic policy is concerned, there is a kind of hasty improvisation. There is no martial law, but major independent media outlets have been closed; laws against so-called «fakes» and discrediting Russian troops have been unanimously approved by the Duma and will come into force on March 5. How is this not a substitute for military censorship? But then everything will depend on law enforcement. The pessimists think that from now on, it will be possible to go to jail for displaying a sign that reads: «No to War!»
In general, the legal situation is such that, in accordance with the specifics of Russian justice - which is virtually non-existent, - anyone can be charged with any crime, and anyone can be convicted. And we are not talking about legislation and the imposition of martial law; we are talking about improvisation by the authorities. Martial law imposes duties not only on the citizens, but also on the authorities, and these duties the authorities would like to avoid.
It concerns the governability of all structures under martial law, and it concerns the conversion of industry to military use, which will finally kill what is left of Russian industry after the sanctions. The introduction of martial law is a huge burden on the economy, which is already suffering from sanctions.
As for conscripts and reservists, we still have the official position that only contract servicemen and officers can take part in the so-called «special operation». It is officially forbidden to call the «special operation» a war, so no reinforcement of the conscription rules should be expected.