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Ukrainian artillery losses, the DNC and Podesta leaks, and Crowdstrike

In recent weeks criticism of Crowdstrike – the IT company that has attributed the Podesta and DNC hacks to Russia – has been mounting.

One point which has been made by several critics is that Crowdstrike has misattributed Ukrainian artillery losses during the 2014 summer fighting in the Donbass to a Russian intelligence hack of a Ukrainian computer system used by the Ukrainian military.  The critics say that the fact Crowdstrike is wrong in claiming Ukrainian artillery losses were due to Russian intelligence hackers is taken by some as a sign that Crowdstrike’s analysis of the DNC and Podesta leaks is equally flawed.

This claim was first made by the renowned IT analyst Jeffrey Carr in a piece he wrote on the Medium website.  In a detailed discussion he has cast strong doubt on the whole story of the responsibility of the alleged Russian hack for the Ukrainian artillery losses during the 2014 Donbass fighting.

On the question of the hack, I have no doubt Jeffrey Carr is right.  There is no evidence Ukrainian artillery losses during the 2014 fighting were caused by a hack carried out by Russian intelligence, and Ukrainian soldiers involved in the fighting and the person responsible for the computer programme used by the Ukrainian artillery during the fighting deny this was the case.

However I am somewhat concerned that on the strength of Jeffrey Carr’s undoubtedly correct claims about the hack, denials are spreading that the Ukrainians suffered heavy artillery losses at all.  These denials have now been repeated by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence and by the International Institute of Strategic Studies, whose Ukrainian equipment tables have been used by some – notably the Russian blogger knows as Colonel Cassad – to try to quantify Ukrainian equipment losses during the 2014 fighting.  These denials have now been picked up by Jeffrey Carr himself and by others including Justin Raimondo of AntiWar.com.

However, if only to set the record straight, I feel I must point out that no less a person than Ukrainian President Poroshenko himself confirmed in September 2014 that Ukraine had lost 65% of its armoured vehicles during the fighting in the Donbass in the summer of 2014.  I mentioned this admission in a Facebook post I wrote at the time, which was republished by Oriental Review, whilst Professor Lawrence Freedman of Oxford University also cited it in a pro-Ukrainian account of the conflict he wrote which is dated 25th November 2014

By now some 65% of Ukraine’s military equipment had been lost, while the armour left in storage was described by Poroshenko as being as good as ‘tins cans’.2121 Lucian Kim, ‘Ukraine’s Slow Descent into Madness’, Slate, 23 October 2014

(bold italics added)

I am sure that those minded to dig through the internet will also find other contemporaneous references to it.

The IISS equipment tables reduced the Ukrainian D30 122 mm artillery totals by 80% following the fighting.  Perhaps that figure is too high, and perhaps – as the IISS now says – the number of such artillery pieces in Ukraine’s possession was seriously overestimated before the fighting.  As Jeffrey Carr rightly says there is no reason to think such artillery losses as did occur were the result of a Russian hack.

However that the Ukrainians suffered very severe losses indeed during the 2014 fighting is not disputed by anyone who followed the fighting closely, and was admitted at the time by the Ukrainians themselves.  It is a mistake to think that because Crowdstrike is definitely wrong in attributing those losses to a Russian hack that these losses never happened.

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