Russia Delivers Major Blow to Ukraine by Destroying Kiev’s Biggest Power Plant

Ukraine’s government is facing a juncture described in Marguerite Yourcenar’s The Memoirs of Hadrian: “I begin to discern the profile of my death.” Russia is demonstrating that it can turn the lights out all over Ukraine. That time has now passed. Russia has destroyed the largest generating plant in the Kiev oblast, Tripilska Power Plant.

As we’ll explain below, this further reduction of Ukraine’s generating capacity has knock-on effects, most importantly forcing further big cuts via soon necessitating the shutdown of nuclear reactors. The Ukraine power system is approaching a tipping point if it has not already reached it.

Commentators early in the war, particularly the hyper-nationalist sorts in Russia, were perplexed that Russia didn’t engage in the typical practice of a belligerent, of knocking out power and communications networks at the outset. The most common view provided was that Putin in particular really did regard the Special Military Operation as not exactly a war and hoped to bring Ukraine to the negotiating table, which indeed happened. So not stoking further Ukraine hostilities by harming civilians, or even unduly discomfiting them, was part of the initial “Let’s bring Kiev to its senses” plan. In addition, many Russians have relatives in Ukraine, so avoiding civilian casualties and even costs were important for domestic reasons.

Again, the more martial-minded weren’t happy with the Ministry of Defense, in fall-winter 2022, toying with Ukraine’s grid by selectively targeting transmission, inflicting damage that that Ukraine could repair in at worst a few days. John Helmer, who has given far and away the best analysis of the electrical war, depicted Russia as figuring out how the system worked so as to more efficiently drop the hammer when the time came. Others soon added that a major point of this campaign was to speed up the process of draining Ukraine of air defense missiles. Note that Russia intensified its grid strikes and began targeting generation capacity very close to when the Pentagon had said Ukraine would run out of air defense missiles, at the end of March. And on top of that, Russia has been taking out the weapons platforms too. One YouTuber (was it Brian Berletic?) recently said Ukraine might now has as few as three Patriot launch systems. Update: Per Helmer via e-mail, ” It was Boris Rozhin, Colonel Cassad, who reported that first, but perhaps he picked it up from another milblogger or was told by DefMin.” Helmer also amplified the report:

But there’s another reason for waiting until Ukraine’s military was on the rope and its air defenses were badly depleted. If Russia had tried prostrating Ukraine via widespread power outages much earlier (even assuming it wasn’t unduly costly against a Ukraine with intact air defenses) it would have been the dog that caught the car. Russia had dithered about developing a Plan B until the embarrassing Kharkiv and Kherson pull-backs forced Russia to act.

Amazingly. Russia was able to start and implement its partial mobilization, with 6 to 7 months of training for new enlistees, with the West doing nothing to force Russia’s timetable. They were so high on the Russian retreats and their own PR that Russia any day now, yessiree, was going to run out of missiles that they gave Russia extremely valuable time to build up its capabilities and its weapons supplies. Weirdly, they even saw Russia demonstrate its organizational/operational skill by constructing the Surovikin Line, yet still refused to get the memo.

As Helmer described in his last post, the destruction of generating capacity will start to beget more destruction, as limited supply will lead to load-balancing problems and surges, which will do yet more damage to the grid itself and user equipment. As a tweet by Sergej Sumlenny, LL.Mexplains:

Let me say it clear: Ukraine’s power production is close to collapse.
1) Coal and gas power stations are vital for balancing the demand-and-supply problem in a large network, as they can increase and decrease production.
2) Ukraine’s Nuclear Power Plants cannot work without this balancing.
3) And Ukraine’s hydro power plants are too few (and also targeted by the Russians, several damaged).
4) So effectively, Russia provokes not only a blackout in a 40-million-people country, amid a war, but also a nuclear disaster (or Ukraine’s nuclear power plants must be shut down, without a perspective to be launched soon again).
5) Coal and gas plants also supply heat for larger cities, this will be another huge problem in just 6 months.
6) All because someone in the White House and in the Chancellory decided to play “escalation management”.

Helmer also described how the loss of power will triggers a mass exodus from cities, as has happened with Kharkiv, and will also cripple the military, since many activities rely on electrical power and it seems vanishingly unlikely that there are all that many backup generators. The refugee flood will trigger an internal and potentially an external crisis.

Helmer pointed out that one check on the otherwise predictable movement of citizens to the western Ukraine would be that men would be subject to being captured and sent to the front lines. But as he explained last week:

Moscow sources believe the operational plan of the General Staff, agreed by the Kremlin since last month’s election, is to depopulate Kharkov and the surrounding region north to Sumy, and press equally hard  in the centre (Dniepropetrovsk) and the south (Odessa). For maps of the campaign so far, click.

According to a Moscow source, debate over operational priorities in the political and military strategy is muted. “This time round,” the source believes, “the General Staff aims not to suspend the attacks, not to relieve the pace, so that the Ukrainian utilities cannot repair or restore power supplies — no repeat of the first phase of the electric war which stopped at the end of 2022.”

Now admittedly hitting the big power generating plant in Kiev seems at odds with this idea of which cities to knock out when. But Russia is also dealing with the structure of the power supplies. One assumes the strike on Kiev’s plant was an efficient way to go about the de-electrification, given its size and importance, even if cutting Kiev’s power was otherwise later on the list. From the current lead story in the Financial Times:

Russia has destroyed Kyiv’s largest power plant as president Volodymyr Zelenskyy chided Ukraine’s western partners for “turning a blind eye” to his country’s need for more air defences..

The Trypilska thermal power plant 50km south of Kyiv, which so far was protected by air defences, was completely destroyed in the attack, officials said. The plant provided electricity to millions of people in Kyiv, Cherkasy and Zhytomyr regions….

Oleh Syniehubov, governor of Kharkiv, said 10 missiles had struck the north-eastern region, knocking out power to more than 200,000 residents. Kharkiv, which borders Russia’s Belgorod region, has been pummelled by missiles, rockets and drones in recent weeks.

Ukrenergo, Ukraine’s national transmission system operator, said power substations and generation facilities were damaged and that emergency shutdown schedules were imposed in the Kharkiv region.

It called on Ukrainians to limit the use of electrical appliances from 7pm to 10pm, when it predicted a shortage of electricity might occur because solar power plants, carrying much of the load after Thursday’s attack, would decrease.

Some additional visuals and detail:

The Financial Times article includes much rending of hair and garments over the failure of the US to approve additional Ukraine, which is depicted as contributing to Ukraine’s inability to defend itself. But as many commentators have pointed out, money won’t magic weapons or trained men into existence. It would take well over a year to produce the needed armaments, even before getting to the wee problem of competing demand (Israel and Europe restocking).

Helmer included later in his early April post:

An unofficial Moscow source comments: “For the time being, the campaign is likely to leave enough lights on in Lvov to lure the displaced easterners there, and generate all sorts of communal friction. The westward process will repeat itself until Lvov and other border areas are huge refugee camps facing a bunch of nervous Poles, Romanians, Moldovans, etc. We’ll see what happens to Euro solidarity then.”

In a related sighting, a mercenary with two years in service in Ukraine (!!!) talks out of school about US and Ukraine performance. Do click through to read the full text:

It does not surprise me to learn that Azovites are (often? always?) posturing cowards. But those that run away sadly to live to see another day. Except here, the Russians will make diligent efforts to round them up. And Banderite love for Nazi insignia as tattoos will make them easy to identify.

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  1. Pavel

    Ukraine is on its last legs. Why the EU, NATO, and especially the USA want to throw more good money (and munitions etc) after bad is an enigma. I suspect UKR has blackmail material on Biden but the EU has destroyed its defenses and economies for nothing. (They should prosecute Biden for Nord Stream BTW.)

    On a separate note it is worth comparing photos of, say, Kiev after two years of war with the supremacy evil Putin with those of all of Gaza after six months of war with Israel.

      1. Jamie

        So true. The more destroyed, the merrier for Blackrock et. al.

        From this article in the NY Times:
        Feb. 16, 2023
        The World’s Largest Construction Site’: The Race Is On to Rebuild Ukraine

        “President Zelensky sealed a deal late last year with Laurence D. Fink, the chief executive of BlackRock, to “coordinate investment efforts to rebuild the war-torn nation.”

        Some estimates put the cost of rebuilding Ukraine’s physical infrastructure as high as $750 billion (and counting).

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          *Sigh* This whole BlackRock notion is a headfake to pretend Project Ukraine, which we set in motion, can have a happy ending. No one wants to invest in a war zone. That sort of rebuilding is ever and always done by governments. The risks, scale, and scope are vastly in excess of what the private sector can or wants to handle. There wasn’t even any interest in buying undamaged assets in merely very depressed Greece in 2015.

          Even Secretary of Commerce Raimundo admitted that in an IIRC late 2023 visit to Ukraine when she sold officials to imagine what they could do w/o US assistance.

          1. Jamie

            I see your point. It does make sense. I don’t know enough about macro economics to even be commenting.

            BlackRock is revolving door government.
            If it’s true that BlackRock, State Street and Vanguard share-hold almost 90 percent of S&P’s 500 firms, seems like size and scope would not be an issue.

            I guess the NY Times article sent me on a wild goose chase but to me, Burisma (oil exploration) is/was a Big Tell. Corporate coup d’état does not seem far-fetched. Feels like there is more to Ukraine, than meets the eye.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              No, the only area of policy that interests BlackRock is securities market and investment manager regulation. Their interests are narrow.

              And this claimt about BlackRock and Vanguard funds is infuriatingly misleading. I know you did not originate this talking point but the people who propagate it make clear they have not bothered to understand the basics of the fund management industry.

              These fund management companies do not own these shares. The many funds they manage do, as in their investors, who are EXTREMELY large and diverse in number.

              Moreover, there are also lots of individuals who have brokerage accounts in street name who vote their own shares. My mother’s shares at Vanguard would be mistakenly included in this factoid.

              On top of that BlackRock and State Street have nearly all of the stocks they manage in index funds. That means they cannot exercise any leverage over companies if they wanted to. They have to hold certain stocks to replicate the index, and buy and sell as needed ONLY to assure the best index replication at the lowest cost. They can’t threaten to sell shares to punish uncooperative management, which is the only recourse for unhappy investors.

              As important, please see Amar Bhide’s classic Efficient Markets, Deficient Governance, which more generally explains that shareholders (save ones that assemble a control position) do not have power over investee companies.

              If anything, the big fund managers are hostage to Corporate America, not the other way round. They compete hard for the 401(k) business of big companies. The last thing they want to do is jeopardize that by being perceived to try to push management around. BlackRock, for instance, jumped on the ESG bandwagon ONLY after it had been around for more than a decade and it risked losing investor mandates if it did not put on a good face there.

              1. Jamie

                Doing my homework on Index funds, Investor mandates, and reading Amar Bhide. So much interesting information.

                Thank-you for your time, and cut-above expertise.

          2. MFB

            No, nobody wants to invest in a war zone, but what you can do is pretend to invest, and make pledges, and thus persuade governments to cough up money, and create the illusion that more is coming, and it’s not hard to see that this could generate a good deal of money for someone in the financial sector — perhaps even in the financialised part of the construction sector.

            Granted it has nothing to do with Ukraine, but then, when has this war been about helping Ukraine?

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              No, that is explicitly not the intent here. Private sector money is presented as doing the reconstruction.

              I have never heard of a historical example of private sector pledges bringing forth large-scale fundamental investment. It is always the reverse, from basic research to infrastructure building.

              And fund managers make money only if the money is put to work, not if they raise money and have to return it because the project went kaput.

    1. Feral Finster

      I can tell you why the West continues to escalate – because western leaders already have invested so much material and reputational capital into Ukraine that they cannot be seen to pull out now without major damage. This abuse of The Sunk Cost Fallacy is entirely intentional.

      On the other hand, they face no personal consequences as a result of continued escalation, so they keep escalating.

        1. Feral Finster

          The difference is that leaving Afghanistan didn’t result in nearly the reputational damage. I don’t see Ghani’s mug gracing every news and entertainment publication in the land, for instance.

          And it makes little difference to the West who is in charge in Afghanistan. It does make a difference with regard to Ukraine.

      1. Pavel

        Excellent point, Mr Finster (thinking of The Usual Suspects at that name :-).

        You are quite right — Biden (esp) and the Eurocrats and NATO can’t lose face with a Russian victory after spending so much to date… with nothing to show for it. Just an entire generation of Ukrainian men dead or crippled or otherwise wounded. Just imagine their poor mothers, wives, sisters, and especially kids… all for nought — or rather, for the egos and neocon dreams and corrupt pockets of the elite.

        And as you also point out, there is no moral hazard, so they go on and on. Endless war and endless suffering. Jesus wept.

        1. John

          Perhaps political consequences could be arranged. Perhaps those lucrative “failing upward” berths might be left vacant or be awarded to a competent person. Perhaps their actions could be scrutinized by the ICJ or the international criminal court or even thawar crimes tribunal the Russians say they are putting together. Or shunning, public shaming … Any one have other and better suggestions?

      2. Librarian Guy

        All that you say is true of course. Additionally, the Western Elites are fighting hard not to leave the Denial stage of grieving. They’re also high on their own propaganda supply & believe that “we’re exceptional and always win,” despite a long record of losing going back to Iraq, Afghanistan and every war & intervention (except Libya, maybe Haiti a couple of times, I can’t keep track of every single regime change effort). Imperialism can’t fail & it can’t be failed (as they did it) in their minds– it’s like Gollum’s “Precious” or the junkies last dose of their favorite drug.

    2. Valerie in Australia

      I’m not as upset about the money as the tragic loss of life on the part of the conscripted troops. A population who voted Zelinski because he promised peace. What a horrific betrayal!

      1. MFB

        To be fair, he promised to resolve the conflict with the Russians. He is on track to deliver on his promise.

        As the Berliners said in 1945, “The Leader did say that if we gave him ten years, he would change the country beyond recognition!”

        1. yep

          It’s the ol’ oracle switcheroo. If King Croesus crosses the Halys River, a great empire will be destroyed.

  2. The Rev Kev

    I thought that the Russians were simply dropping the hammer on the Ukrainian power grid but it seems to be more. By selectively doing it, it seems that they are trying to herd people to regions that still have power. And Kiev is not getting away with anything either. The Ukraine use to earn money by shipping excess power to the EU but now they have to actually import power from the EU. It may work now as it is not yet even summer in Europe but what happens when winter approaches? Will the EU still be interested in giving power to the Ukraine when they may need it in their own countries? It also gives the Russians with a major card to play as there is only one nation that has the gear to replace all that destroyed electrical gear – Russia. But are the Ukrainians making sure that people who work in the power grid are immune from being called up or even kidnapped to be sent to the front? Recently Zelensky sent out a decree making this true of circus performers as they are vital for the nation so you would hope that the same was done for electrical grid workers.

    As for that Polish mercenary, the Russians captured a Ukrainian special ops commando. He told them that he was trained at Bulford Camp, England and that ‘of direct SBS involvement in developing actions directed against Russian security and training perpetrators of those actions on British soil’ the SBS being the UK’s elite Special Boat Squadron-

    1. renard

      Re that SBS affair – I guess the Russians had information like that long before that incident. But now they are releasing it. Crocus was a really bad idea.

    2. jan

      The Ukraine use to earn money by shipping excess power to the EU but now they have to actually import power from the EU.

      Until Russia targets the distribution lines and centers that are involved?

    3. Alan Roxdale

      but now they have to actually import power from the EU.

      So, if the Germans shut down a few more production plants then maybe Europe could keep Ukraine supplied for another year or so. Expect this to asked/ordered.

      1. Mark A

        Germany finally shut down 7 coal fired power stations last week, they’d kept them open in case they run out of gas. You can’t make this up really.

    4. Dessa

      But are the Ukrainians making sure that people who work in the power grid are immune from being called up or even kidnapped to be sent to the front?

      These are good times to be a female electrician

    5. digi_owl

      Summer can be a problem all its own. I seem to recall France had to shut down a reactor because the combination of coolant water and record summer temps risked killing the nearby river.

  3. Feral Finster

    “John Helmer, who has given far and away the best analysis of the electrical war, depicted Russia as figuring out how the system worked so as to more efficiently drop the hammer when the time came.”

    Russia should know how it worked before 2022. All significant parts of the Ukrainian electrical grid were built by the Soviets, and it’s not as if Russia wasn’t or shouldn’t have been on notice from 2014-2022 that this information might come in handy.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      1991 to 2014 is a long time so I would not assume things were static. For starters, the changes in generation and transmission to allow for sales to Europe were clearly post 1991.

      1. Feral Finster

        No, Soviet Ukraine also sold power to Poland and other Soviet Bloc countries.

        Post-Soviet Ukraine never built a single power plant, although some “green energy” facilities were built, which in turn was the result of a very favorable energy tariff.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Russia was originally hitting transmission.

          Are you seriously suggesting there were no changes in transmission?

          And why are you so confident Russia had the schematics when the USSR fell apart suddenly? Literally every Warsaw Pact nation government employee overnight had no job.

          And your assertion is incorrect. The second reactor at Khmelnytskyi Nuclear Power Plant was not completed until 2004.

          1. Feral Finster

            1. Under the USSR, there wasn’t really a “Ukrainian” power grid, but a Soviet one. This and similar divisions gave rise to no small amount of confusion after the Soviet Union broke up. Everything electrical and Ukrainian was de facto subject to the Ministry of Energy and Electrification (aka “MinEnergo”) in Moscow.

            2. The Khelminitskii reactor was a Soviet design, planned and in fact construction was started and mostly finished when there still was a Soviet Union.


            Transmission is a subject that I remember less about, but I doubt Ukraine had much need for new transmission capacity, considering how Ukraine de-industrialized after 1991.

      2. upstater

        It is relatively straightforward for transmission planning engineers to run contingency studies of the Ukrainian grid. System models and software tools are readily available and virtually nothing new was built after 1991. Recall prior to the SMO the grid was taken down with cyber attacks. Transformers have large heat signatures that could be easily detected from satellites and it wouldn’t surprise me if the 330kv and 750kv lines in operation could be similarly identified.

        IMO, the 2022 attacks on the electrical system were to both remove the huge redundancies leftover from the Soviet era and assess Ukraine’s ability to restore the system under wartime conditions including response time, availability of spares, adequate trades and engineering, etc.

        Now is the time for lights out… the remaining NPPs cannot safely be operated without reliable, independent external power sources (this is why the repeated destruction of lines serving Zaporizhzhia remains a big deal).

        I’m not a EE but did reliability analysis for transmission and have general knowledge.

          1. vao

            As a concrete example, Azerbaijan sent a significant amount of equipment for electrical networks, including transformers.

            The deliveries started in March 2022 and continued with some regularity through 2023, with the most recent batch arriving in Ukraine in January 2024.

  4. Feral Finster

    “It does not surprise me to learn that Azovites are (often? always?) posturing cowards. But those that run away sadly to live to see another day.”

    The old Ukrainian man I talked to who told me of executing captured SS told me that that, as a rule, his victims did not go out like men.

    They begged for their lives on their knees, they wept, they showed photos of their wives and children, they offered bribes or obscene sexual favors, but they did not face their fates bravely.

    1. Es s Ce Tera

      One only needs to watch some of the older vids of Ukrainian Banderite townspeople beating and murdering defenseless Jews, Roma, Russians, Poles, disabled people. The first instinct of cowards is always to go after the defenseless or the perceived lower classes, they have some kind of psychological need to exercise power without risk because they themselves are weak without that exercising of power, their self-identity and self-value depends on reinforcing it somehow. Hence why these sorts are attracted to certain professions which exercise power – such as police.

      Imagine how low you have to be that you derive pleasure, sense of power and self-worth, from the beating of, say, a helpless child or a disabled person.

      1. jobs

        “Masters of Death”, by Richard Rhodes that someone in Links recommended, discusses a bit of the psychology behind this. A grisly read, not for the faint-hearted, but worthwhile to gain an understanding of what drove these kinds of monsters.

    2. Rob Urie

      As deserving as these people might be, it is important to remember who lit this fire.

      That would be the political leaderships of the US, UK, Germany, and France.

      If you wish to see cowards weep, start with the powerful.

      1. Pavel

        Exactly. Putin warned the west about his red lines, and they ignored them. They wanted this war..

      2. Randall Flagg

        Agreed and I can understand the leaders in the US just egging this on or walking away but the Europeans? They have to still know people or have family members that had to live through the destruction of WW2, lives lost, rebuilding societies. Why would they be risking another World War? What makes them think this would remain contained in Ukraine? We know Russia has too much experience with war and all it involves so I would not think anyone would want to poke the bear further.
        I don’t think our leaders realize that even setting aside for the moment nuclear weapons, the ocean’s bordering us have long since stopped being something we can count on for a layer of defense. Honestly, a couple well placed muscles into our petrochemical complexes in Louisiana or Texas and it’s all over for our society.

    3. skippy

      Ref – Azovites.

      I have always viewed them the same as their contemporary and historical counter parts, not a functional battle field operational unit, but as a political military force for both internal national force and whacking weaker ethic groups nearby. The latter is to burnish their image for recruitment and dissuade any internal national sorts from opposing them. All of which plays into the use of these forces behind forward deployed units not wishing to reenact The Alamo.

      The dynamics of the battlefield at this time due to FABs/drones/nil Ukrainian air support means the above would be whittled down and that would have an effect on its political status within the Ukraine.

      BTW loved the X link from the Pole … been there and done that … times when ones inner Sgt Hulka [movie Stripes] says its time to bail out of the truck thingy …

      1. yep

        Yep. Azov unit was created in order to subdue and pacify Mariupol, and Azov Sea coast area around it. They should have followed CIA naming convention, and called themselves Azov Liberation Army, or maybe Azov Schutz Staffel.

  5. Louis Fyne

    At the beginning of the war, I bought into the “Putin is playing 4-D chess” assertion. That was wrong.

    Rather Russia for 2 years now consistently demonstrated the classic OODA loop (observe, orient, decide, act).

    If anything successfully following the OODA loop is a superior compliment-threat, depending on one’s point of view.

    Not holding my breath for NATO HQ in Brussels to catch on….it’s Russian OODA versus trans-Atlantic dogma.

  6. KD

    Pure Speculation:

    The Russian Duma will declare war in May on the basis of terrorist acts of war against Russia by Ukraine and begin a major offensive. Maybe they even go to the UN Security Council first with a presentation during which some other members of the UNSC will be seen squirming and expressing implausible deniability. These strikes are a prelude which will make it impossible for Ukraine to move troops or provide logistics to the front lines while the Ukrainian army is encircled and destroyed.

    1. Maxwell Johnston

      Hardly speculation. I think either a formal declaration of war, or an upgrade of the SMO to a counter-terrorist operation (a KTO in Russian), is a serious possibility. RU seems intent on using the 22 March terrorist attack as a kind of casus belli.

      One of the problems with RU’s slow-paced SMO is that it’s illegal. Whatever one’s opinion of RU’s justifications for going into UKR, the fact remains that invading a neighboring country and annexing huge chunks of its territory is a giant no-no, a gross violation of the UN Charter. The fact that the USA (and of course Israel) have blithely ignored the UN Charter on multiple occasions is neither here nor there; what matters to RU is that at present it is on the wrong side of international norms. Note that not one nation–not even RU’s very best friends–has recognized any of RU’s annexations in UKR.

      Whereas a formal declaration of war, or even an upgrade to a KTO, would provide (at a minimum) a fig leaf of legal cover for RU’s ongoing operations in UKR. It might be sufficient for many countries in the Global South to recognize RU’s annexations once the fighting dies down. A side benefit of such a war declaration (or upgrade) would be that any country providing direct aid to UKR would become a co-belligerent (e.g., the NATO drones and ISR aircraft flying over the Black Sea could be legally whacked), but I think RU would be more interested in the legal aspects rather than the ability to take its proverbial gloves off militarily.

      1. KD

        You have to assume with a war declaration they are going to take out all the Western satellites over Ukraine to knock out ISR capabilities–although I suppose its hard to communicate ISR information to units on the ground without electricity.

        1. Maxwell Johnston

          I doubt that RU will go that far. I think they’re more interested in the legal/diplomatic aspects. Just imagine the ungodly mess that will unfold once the fighting stops (as it inevitably will), with some countries recognizing only the Crimea annexation, other countries recognizing all of the annexations, some countries recognizing the “new and improved” UKR govt, others recognizing only the UKR “govt in exile” (London, anyone?), and so on and so forth. Diplomats will need a spreadsheet (updated frequently) to keep track of who recognizes what. It will make the China/Taiwan competition look like child’s play. And then we’ll still have the sanctions; some countries dutifully following all, others adhering to some, various others pretending to follow but actually flouting….. RU will revel in the chaos that will ensue in the so-called rules-based int’l order.

        2. Captain Obvious

          Nope. You have to assume that declaration of war against Ukraine is not going to include taking out satellites not owned by Ukraine.

          Also, there is no such thing as “satellites over Ukraine”, because of orbital mechanics. Numerous satellites fly over Ukraine, but spend most of ther time not being over Ukraine.

          Also, units on the ground have generators because there are no power plugs in forests and treches.

      2. hemeantwell

        a gross violation of the UN Charter. The fact that the USA (and of course Israel) have blithely ignored the UN Charter on multiple occasions

        I realize this has been gone over many times here, but the problem is that if the UN charter cannot address situations like the one leading to the SMO then one is drawn to conclude that it was written to favor dominant states that can impose conditions on competitors that force violations. Aren’t there provisions in common law that would justify a preemptive response if one has reason to believe they are threatened? Not a lawyer, but I believe that in Florida if you “stand your ground” that triggers a judicial evaluation of your actions, not an immediate judgment that you have violated the law.

      3. nippersdad

        IIRC, that was the argument that Russia was making about the UN attack on Yugoslavia that ended up with Kosovo essentially becoming a NATO base, and why international law was specifically changed to make their actions legal post hoc.

        Seems to me that Russia dotted all of Its I’s and crossed its T’s on that one when it entered the war on behalf of the Donbass. Also, too, there was no history of Kosovo actively wanting to be annexed to NATO, whereas the Donbass voted in 2014 to join Russia. Sounds to me like the laws of self determination would take precedence, here, in the UN charter.

        No international lawyer here, but it is not illegal to go into a war to protect the inhabitants (R2P), and it is also not illegal for countries to annex themselves to others if the popular will shows that to be the case.

        They didn’t “invade” the joint, they were invited in. They didn’t ingest huge chunks of territory for their own gain, the population itself voted to join them. Seems to me that they don’t need any fig leaves to cover what has been happening there, they just need someone to acknowledge that the law is not just whatever one feels like it is. In that sense, that the USA and Israel have decided to create their own realities is very relevant, and at this point it should come as no surprise that they no longer have any credibility.

        1. Maxwell Johnston

          Agree totally re the Yugoslavia/Serbia/Kosovo precedent.

          Disagree re R2P, which is a legal abomination and the slipperiest of slopes. Either we respect national sovereignty, or we don’t. USA has firmly established that national sovereignty doesn’t matter…..except when it does. Or something like that. Alles klar? Me neither.

          “They didn’t “invade” the joint, they were invited in.” — Ummm, not quite. If RU troops had simply entered Donbass, that would be one thing. But in fact, they invaded across the entire UKR frontier; not quite the same thing. Which everyone understands is a no-no (even Belarus, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, et al, even though their sympathies lie with RU). Therefore a legal fig leaf is needed. The terrorist attack of 22 March might provide the fig leaf.

          If USA and Israel can create their own realities, then so will RU. And eventually so will China and India, but I expect that we’ll see those realities in the more distant future.

          1. nippersdad

            Whether R2P is an abomination or not, that is controlling law now. That is just a fact. That it suddenly gives the US and its’ political cronies a sad is irrelevant. Everyone else noticed the care that was taken to make their SMO legal under international law, and there are more of them than there are of us.

            Also, the Russians were invited into Ukraine after the Maidan coup caused a civil war in the Donbass which essentially rendered the Lugansk and Donetsk Oblasts republics in their own right. I don’t think the US is in a position to say that sovereign countries cannot have allies, though it may need to come up with a rationale for adding Ukraine to a NATO alliance in abrogation of their own rules of entry.

            We have seen this play before: Ukraine starts squealing and suddenly the law doesn’t matter. It was the battle of Debaltsevo that engendered the Normandy Process that ended with Minsk Iⅈ conveniently memory holed for a legalistic argument that has no basis in reality. We, unlike Russia, were signatories, and under international law it was our responsibility to see to it that they were honored.

            The Russians were perfectly prepared back in ’15 to give over the Donbass to Ukraine. They were prepared to pull out in ’22 with the Istanbul Accords; it is not they who have not been listening. There would have been no war had the US listened back when Russia proposed a new European security architecture prior to the war, or even back in ’07 when Putin declared he had problems with NATO encroachment at the Munich Security Conference.

            Ultimately reality always wins, as exemplified by Biden not going down to talk to the president of Venezuela (Juan Guaido) at his Miami condo when he needed to beg someone for Venezuelan oil. Russia has not put the countries you cite under any pressure to do anything, and I am sure they appreciate the gesture even as they sign up to the BRICS.

            1. Kalen

              Russia did not have to use R2P rule based order US imposed. They could have used violation of international law as Zelensky in 2021 ordered taking Donbas and Crimea by force of arms and by that rejected Minsk Agreements codified by UNSC binding resolution endorsing those agreements as the only legal way to solve Ukrainian conflict.

              Instead they used humanitarian law of Convention of Prevention of Genocide that compels states to act to prevent ongoing genocide.

              Moreover they used UN charter right of self determination of nations with use of arms and specifically Article 51 of UN charter giving every nation a right to collective self defense that overrides UN general prohibition of war. NATO is based on Article 51.

          2. nippersdad

            Just to add:

            “If RU troops had simply entered Donbass, that would be one thing. But in fact, they invaded across the entire UKR frontier; not quite the same thing.”

            If you are talking about the initial pinning operation then you would need to take into account that they were trying to get Ukraine and its’ backers to a table to talk through the issues. But, looking at a map, you can see that the entire Donbass region has yet to be retaken. To say that they should have stayed in the Donbass is to ignore that they have yet to fully retake it. During the civil war that was considered to be an abrogation of Lugansk and Donetsk’s borders, so they did not so much “invade Ukraine” as try to push back the incursion into Donbass territory that Ukraine took in its’ own invasion.

          3. Es s Ce Tera

            That something is illegal is not really meaningful, laws can be immoral, and sometimes the right thing to do, or the moral thing, is to break the law.

            That was the case here. It has proven in retrospect to not have been the case with Kosovo. And lest we forget, the UN is the very same body which took Palestine and gave half of it, without asking the natives, to settlers with no traceable lineage to the place. Was that legal or illegal?

            1. yep

              Yep. This whole legal-illegal talk is nothing more than mental masturbation. All human made laws are arbitrary, and made in someone’s interest, and applied selectively. UN is a tool of USA. People waxing lyrical about UN charters probably think that constitution writen by slaveowners is a pinnacle of freedom and democracy.

      4. Irina

        Oh, no – not true. That was the whole point of Russia recognizing the independence of the Lugansk and Donetsk Republics on February 21, 2022 under the principle established by the West in the case of Kosovo. Then the two Republics requested assistance from Russia against an imminent invasion (recall that the Ukrainian army, camped right in Donbass had significantly stepped up its shelling in the days immediately preceeding the start of the SMO, as reported by the OECD), which came in under Section 51 of the UN charter on the basis of R2P, another wonderful principle successfully used by the West in the case of Libya. Russia is nothing other than meticulous in establishing legal bona fides. This history is just not something that the West is particularly keen to draw attenton to, but it is quit pe clearly stated in Jacques Baud’s books and in person interviews.

        1. MFB

          Apropos international law, one interesting thing which is rarely mentioned is that under current international law, the British and French declarations of war against Germany in 1939 were completely illegal. They had not been attacked, nor had they exhausted all diplomatic options, they just started a war which killed a whole lot more people, in the end, than would have been killed if the war had been restricted to Poland. So, basically, World War II was all the fault of the baddies in London and Paris.

          If this doesn’t show how absurd current international law is, then nothing does!

      5. Yves Smith Post author

        It is simply false to say the SMO is illegal. See Irina above. Russia used the exact same procedure we used with Kosovo, mutual defense pact, then “defense”.

        1. Maxwell Johnston

          I don’t want to beat the horse until it’s dead, but: “…..Russia used the exact same procedure we used…..” is not correct. Kosovo did not even declare its independence from Serbia until 2008 (and USA granted it diplomatic recognition the following day), so there could not have been any mutual defense pact in 1999. The entire NATO operation in Yugoslavia/Serbia/Kosovo was legally dubious (to put it mildly); by comparison, at least RU recognized the two Donbass republics shortly before it started its SMO. But I cannot agree that it’s legally OK to invade your neighbor and annex its territory, and the fact that no other countries have recognized RU’s annexations indicate that I’m not alone in my viewpoint. Which goes back to my original comment that if RU wants other countries to recognize its annexations, it needs to provide some weightier legal justification for its actions in UKR. The Crocus City attack might just be the impetus for such a step.

          BTW, the status of Kosovo is still very much in dispute; none of the original five BRICS recognize it, and even many NATO members (e.g., Greece and Spain) don’t recognize its existence.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            The breakaway republics begged for YEARS to join Russia and Putin kept saying no, so your annexation point is pretty debatable.

            You are presenting this as something Russia initiated and wanted, as opposed to the citizens on the receiving end of a civil war desperately sought.

            Putin absolutely did not want this hot potato. That was what the Minsk Accords was designed to solve. And even the Istanbul negotiations did not have the Donbass joining Russia. Instead, the initial outline was more like Minsk 3 with their status (in Ukraine with a more federated position) or part of Russia was to be fully resolved down the road, as in years later.

        2. Captain Obvous

          Not Kosova, but Kosovo (literally meaning Blackbird’s in Serbian). -ovo is a relatively common ending in Slavic toponyms.

  7. David in Friday Harbor

    Erm, could it be that the Russian General Staff limited 2022-23 attacks on electrical infrastructure to rail transport because destroying civilian infrastructure is potentially a war crime, which despite Western propaganda to the contrary, the Russians appear to have studiously avoided?

    Did the gloves come off after the reckless “swarm” attacks on April 7 against the Russian-occupied Zaporozhye NPP that could have triggered a Chernobyl-grade disaster across Europe?

    1. Polar Socialist

      I think it has more to do with the reckless shelling of the Belgorod area. And also Ukraine running out of reserves, weapons and Western support, no more stuff is coming to the killing fields – so why not finally flick off the switch and make maneuver ever harder for the AFU?

      It also keeps everyone guessing.

      1. Polar Socialist

        Well, Russian Permanent Representative to UN, Vasily Nebenzya, just told that the strikes are a response to the Ukrainian strikes against Russian energy sector. Naturally.

        Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

  8. flora

    Does AirBnB know something we don’t?

    AirBnB issues update to customers with dates all bookings affected this summer

    “AirBnB said in a statement: “We’re updating our Extenuating Circumstances Policy and changing its name to make it easier to understand.

    “The revised Major Disruptive Events Policy will apply to all trips and Experiences taking place on or after 6 June 2024, regardless of when they were booked.”


    I guess there’s weather and then there’s “weather”.

    1. flora

      also this para:

      “What’s changing in the policy? Foreseeable weather events at the reservation’s location are explicitly eligible for coverage if they result in another covered event, such as a government travel restriction or large-scale power cut.”

  9. Lefty Godot

    Azov reportedly is refusing orders from Syrsky to go into Chasiv Yar to brace their defense for the looming big battle. It sounds like they are out of control from the standpoint of Zelesnsky and company. Maybe they are keeping their strength up for a Zaluzhny putsch in May, when Zelensky’s legal mandate to govern expires?

    Although progress on the ground is still slow, I imagine that May expiration date for Z may be when we see Russia push the front lines forward more noticeably, as the leadership on the Ukrainian side may be in more turmoil and less able to coordinate a continuing defense in Donbass. As it is, Chasiv Yar and Ugledar may go down in weeks. The Russians apparently took a brief pause to emphasize the air war and resupply their lines.

  10. JohnA

    As most of the western politicians and Hollywood celebs that head to Kiev for a selfie with Zelensky arrive by train, and this is presumably an electrified line, I wonder if that will be the end of such self-serving photo ops for publication in western media. Yet another blessing.

    1. yep

      They still have lots of diesel-electric locomotives, and a few steam ones too. Wikipedia says that all of their steam locomotives are used for “tourist excursion services”, which is what those visits to Kiev are. :)

    2. Benny Profane

      I would think that no western leader or celebrity would dare to be within five miles of Zelensky and his ilk after the massacre in Moscow and Zelensky’s snarling insults toward Putin the day after. And I think Biden still has not made the customary phone call to the Russians with condolences.

      Except Sean Penn. He’s crazy enough to try.

  11. Benny Profane

    The most important date is Nov. 3, or whatever election day is. Sullivan and the neocons are praying to their heathen gods that we don’t have to have Ukrainian Nazis hanging on to departing planes on national TV before then. Well, no planes, so overcrowded trains. After that, I’m guessing they don’t give an F.

  12. Not moses

    Oh no! Vicky Nuland-Kagan scheme is not working!! On the positive side, it gives Larry Fink a more pressing need to “privatize” the Ukrainian grid when he gets his sticky hands on Ukraine as chief rebuilding in chief.

  13. Michael Fiorillo

    “… Azovites are… posturing cowards.”

    Scratch a bully, find a punk, as an old labor lawyer I once knew said.

  14. SocalJimObjects

    Sounds like the Russians will have a buffer zone after all with a huge swath of de electrified Ukrainian territories.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This is what we suggested quite a while ago. Russia could create the Eastern European version of the Unorganized Territory of Maine. It is populated by (pretty few) hardly survivalists that nearby residents call “beardos”.

  15. JW

    Russia is fighting a text book war with new battlefield weapons – it is a cross between Verdun and Star Wars. Ukraine isn’t beaten yet and the US has backed itself into a corner because of the actions of the stupid Neo-Cons. This is precisely why Obama refused to escalate after 2014 because ‘Russia had escalatory dominance’. I suspect that rather than face defeat ‘the west’ (ie the USA) will go for broke. China will HAVE NO OPTION but to then intervene – either directly or (more probably) escalating things in the South China Sea to divert the US from Ukraine.

  16. Tiresias

    Some say that the Russian attack is simply a response to Ukraine’s recent attack on Russian refineries.

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