Yves here. Helmer gives an important and sobering sitrep, on the accelerating damage to the Ukraine’s war effort and society from Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s electrical and rail systems. One major issue is field hospitals able to handle mass casualty events are in Kiev and further west, meaning survival rates among seriously injured soldiers will be low compared to other modern conflicts (I am still sticking with my view that the oft-applied rule of thumb of one death to three or four wounded will be low for Ukraine; the death toll will be simply horrific and the survival level much worse than now believed).
Helmer points out that refugee flight is almost certainly higher than what is being reported, and if mass evacuations of towns and cities with impaired water systems don’t start soon, disease outbreaks will follow. And that will further complicate departures. Ukrainian refugees may wind up being put up in camp, not just due to lack of housing but potentially also to quarantine them (of course, segregating refugees to contain one set of pathogens runs the risk of creating Covid and RSV superspreader sites).
Men are not being allowed to leave Ukraine, save via liberal application of bribes. The dearth of jobs for departing Ukraine women is leading to a big increase in sex trafficking and prostitution.
Finally, Helmer points out that much of Ukraine will not have reached all day freezing temperatures as of January 1. That means, if Russia wants to wait until the ground is frozen before launching an offensive, the timing may be mid or late January.
However, Andrei Martyanov mentioned in passing (see at 17:40) that even though many believe Russia will launch a major campaign this winter, he thinks that may not be necessary. Russia may be able to achieve its goal of the “physical annihilation” of Ukraine’s combat forces and weapons by continuing as it is.
By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears
When the US economy was in collapse in 1929, the advertising copywriters for Coca Cola were told to come up with a new slogan. The chief executive of the beverage company thought that for Coke to beat its rivals, it was necessary to persuade Americans who were desperate financially to pay five cents for a bottle of something to calm themselves down and cheer up. This is how the slogan “The Pause that Refreshes” was born (lead image, top).
General Patience, in league with the Russian Stavka (lead image, bottom), have a bottle of something similar. Calming down and cheering up are not what it’s meant to do, particularly if you have been drinking the Kool-Aid bottled in Kiev, Berlin and Washington, DC.
This is what it tastes like. Take a pause to refresh your understanding. In the conditions of this war, understand also that refresh is not the word for it.
The weather in Kiev and along the eastern front is staying relatively warm, with rain instead of snow, at least until the first week of January:
The Russian missile and drone raids of December 5 and 6 have been announced by the Defense Ministry in Moscow to be targeted at the Ukrainian logistics required to sustain Kiev’s military operations. As Monday’s bulletin said, “the production and repair of Ukrainian weapons at the enterprises of the military-industrial complex were stopped, rail transportation of military equipment for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, including foreign production, was disrupted. The transfer of reserves to combat areas is difficult.”
Unstated is the reverse logistic: this is medical evacuation to the west for Ukrainian casualties. The blast and shrapnel intensity of artillery, missile, and drone weapons has been acknowledged by Ukrainian sources to have triggered the intensive hospitalisation requirements of NATO care levels 3 and 4. The hospitals working at these standards have all been located from Kiev westwards to Lvov, including over the border in Poland.
Polish Radio and the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki reportedfrom Lvov on April 29 that Polish personnel and hospitals were prepared for treating up to 10,000 Ukrainian military casualties.
Reporting by the western press agencies have also confirmed that train evacuation to the west was increasing through May; this reporting appears to have stopped since then.
The Moscow daily bulletins have been reporting between 200 and 300 men killed; reading these bulletins is censored in many NATO areas. The Russian evidence suggests that the Ukrainian wounded number between 600 and 900; altogether, a toll of almost a thousand per day, the magnitude of which was confirmed last week by the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen. When road and rail lines are cut, and military medevac operations stopped, this means that Ukrainian unit surrender rates will rise. The first Moscow sign from the General Staff that this is beginning to happen was published on December 2.
A US military source comments: “The field hospitals, triage areas, and ad hoc facilities to handle casualties – schools, for example — will become charnel houses. Along with the trenches and dugouts, they’ll also be riddled with disease. If they don’t surrender, they’ll literally rot. And unlike Korsun, or even Stalingrad in the early days of the pocket, there will not even be a meager airlift.”
American and Canadian military medical specialists have reported on treating their combat casualties in Afghanistan a decade ago. An American source reports this week: “I provided service to a Role III NATO hospital at Kandahar Airfield. There is no way anything like that level of care will be available at Bakhmut, let alone in the Liman sector. The logistical support required to provide even a NATO forward operating base level of care is immense. Generators, fuel, refrigeration, medicines, diagnostic equipment, blood plasma — all have to be constantly replenished and maintained 24/7. I remember the panic when the generator broke down and we were told we had less than two hours to get it working, or a replacement tied in, before the blood and medicine went bad – and we weren’t under nearly the intensity of fire those on the Donbass Front are. We didn’t face nearly the logistical issues either. Those Ukrainian aid stations and hospitals will be a nightmare in short order, if they are not already. If I were a Russian, I would want to have contact with prisoners. They’ll be teeming with who-knows-what.”
By NATO medevac and hospital standards, the NATO manuals say that a “mass casualty event” amounts to about 20 casualties per day. The Ukrainian army rate is currently ten times that number. NATO veterans point out that in the present situation in the east, following the line from Sumy through Poltava to Dniepropetrovsk, Nikolaev and Odessa – this is western line of the Ukrainian demilitarized zone described here — the daily medevac rate may be more than 200, while the electric war raids are simultaneously cutting off the power and transport. “How can you stabilize the wounded in these areas? What means of transportation will they be put on, and where will they be sent to, with fuel and electricity in short supply and the transportation network smashed or under Russian fire?”
The Tuesday, December 6, raid targets have been identified as including the regions of Odessa, Nikolaev, Dniepropetrovsk, Vinnytsa, Poltava, Zhitomyr, Cherkasy, Kirovograd, and Zaporozhe. The General Staff have also announced: “We emphasize that there were no missile strikes on the city of Kiev.” Lvov, the de facto capital of the US and NATO officers directing the war, is being targeted. On the ground on the eastern front at the same time, the Russian army is moving on to the offensive in directions intended to disperse and dilute the firepower of the Ukrainian forces.
US, NATO and Russian military intelligence are following the heat, light, gas, noise, cell telephone and radio emissions from locations where there are combat units in order to pinpoint their position and mobility. Open-source civilian video clips are being published showing the impact of the electric war on urban civilians attempting to replace central system heating with home generators and other appliances.
These screenshots from a smartphone recording in Odessa illustrates what is happening as residents turn up their thermostats and heaters and overload the remaining grid infrastructure.
Over-voltage on the lines in Odessa. Cellphone camera records the result of overvoltage or overcurrent on the distribution lines hours, possibly days after an attack. Incorrectly installed, tapped or damaged transformers have created an over-voltage condition, or lines are carrying too much current as utility crews place too much of a load, or damaged/short circuited gear, on them.
A NATO infrastructure specialist explains: “utility technicians are more than likely trying, but failing, to make fast repairs in order to restore power. They’re sure to be feeling the pressure from state officials, their management, the population and of course, the Russians. They’re overworked, underpaid, exhausted, and terrified. This means the likelihood of them making very dangerous technical mistakes is quite high. What you’re seeing in photographs like these means untold numbers of appliances and sensitive electronic devices (computers and cell phones) that are plugged in downstream are being destroyed.”
A Kiev source confirms that friends are no longer able to contact each other by cellphone. “The telephone networks are breaking down unpredictably in the city [Kiev]. The only normality is in Lvov where the luxury hotel was full. The city restaurants were functioning as normal. It had more lights than Kiev.”
In these conditions the eastern Ukrainian cities in which gangsterism has long thrived are reporting marauding, mugging, looting, and thefts of fuel, food, medicines, and other necessities; click to read in Nikolaev and Odessa. Local Ukrainian media are reporting the conditions; the mainstream US, Canadian, British and German media are concealing them. As water and sewerage pumping stations fail, the diseases of siege, well-known since the English armies imposed them on the French during the Hundred Years War, begin to spread.
A surge of Ukrainian refugees across the Polish border must start soon, Polish, German and European Union officials openly acknowledge. The Polish Border Guard daily reports of Ukrainians entering Poland and also returning to the Ukraine are not yet confirming this. Follow these official bulletins from Warsaw here, and for earlier analysis of the September-October refugee movements click to read here.
The improbability of some of these numbers is obvious. There is unofficial evidence in Poland that the Border Guard bulletins are being manipulated, and that far fewer Ukrainians are crossing the border to return home than the Border Guard tweets are reporting. According to this Ukrainian source in Poland, “the number of forced Ukrainian migrants in Poland continues to grow significantly from week to week, confirming the forecasts and expectations of experts regarding a new wave of refugees from Ukraine with the onset of cold weather. According to Polish portal tvp.info, the largest number of refugees has recently been recorded in the Lublin Voivodeship. For example, in just one day, November 26, for the first time in many months, more than a thousand newly arrived Ukrainian refugees were registered in the Lublin Voivodeship.”
Polish sources, as well as social media evidence in Lvov, indicate there is a significant process of civilian relocation from east to west, and that for as long as the roads and trains are open westwards, this is accelerating. As the numbers of refugees mount in and around Lvov, spillover into Poland is inevitable. To anticipate and prevent this has been Polish government policy since April, when the first refugee camp in Lvov was built by the Poles and opened by Prime Minister Morawiecki. In recent days, as the weather has deteriorated, the Polish government has been paying for heating centres on the Ukrainian side of the frontier.
Unreported in the Ukrainian media, or the western press, is the desexualization of the Ukraine, except for Lvov. To resupply the army, the Zelensky government has imposed a prohibition on men leaving the country. Those who have escaped managed to do so by paying bribes of up to $25,000. The stream of Ukrainian refugees reported in Poland are predominantly women and children. The flow-on effect reported in Germany, Sweden and Norway is similar – and the result is widespread sex trafficking.
A source in Oslo: “Of 30,000 refugees in Norway, I’ve been told that 95% are women. For the first time in their lives they have decent living, education, training, welfare stipend and prospects of jobs. In return, they will solve the demographic crisis of northern Europe. I see many Arab migrants [to Norway] with Ukrainian women. In Germany, Britain and Sweden, men are having a great choice of feminine and not feminist women. The Swedish police also say that nearly 100% of the prostitutes they arrest are now Ukrainian. Some of this is what I read in our mass media. I’m not sure what is the truth.”
A source in Kiev: “Broken-family girls move abroad, those in stable relationships, with their men mobilized, do not. Undereducated or working class women, or men, eventually will leave because they know there is zero economic future. Their Ukraine is wrecked and people will leave. Just when, we can only guess. The Ukrainians who profit from the US and EU cash and from the arms trade – the westerners – they will stay until or unless the Americans evacuate Zelensky.”
Russian and NATO military sources suspect but are not yet sure that the Russian General Staff have “baited a trap” for the Ukrainian military along their eastern front. But the sources concede that the evidence of this week’s raids indicate that no one will be crossing the Dnieper River in either direction very soon.
“This is the calculus of General Patience,” a Moscow source claims. “There’s a clock on the wall of the Defense Ministry situation room, and its hands aren’t reacting to whatever the Ukrainians or Americans think of doing next for their PR. The timing of what General Patience has decided is helping the Ukronazis destroy themselves. That’s the denazification war aim. As for the demilitarization objective, remember that Russia is not at risk as it was in the ancient Swedish and Polish invasions; in Napoleon’s war or Hitler’s. Nor is there any chance of the Brits and Czechs sending their units to march on Yekaterinburg and put the tsar back in the Kremlin. No, this Russian defence is a war that will be fought with great patience, leveraging our strengths, minimising our losses, and ending the enemy’s capacity to threaten us for the future.”