The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of this site. This site does not give financial, investment or medical advice.
There are many mysteries about the Russian-Ukrainian war, mysteries that are being exploited by both sides to cast aspersions… or to tell real stories that are simply mind-boggling. We present a few of these here. Following in our Chief Editor, Alexander Mercouris’ footsteps, I must admit and state, for the record, that corroboration of some of these stories is not possible.
That being said, they come to me from very direct sources here in Russia – personal friends’ experience relayed by a mutual friend to me in most cases – and I have no reason not to believe that what I learned about is in fact, true. Of course, where there is the opportunity for independent corrorboration, I am providing it.
Claim: Ukraine is selling weapons sent to it – to OTHER countries.
Lots and lots of weapons have been getting sent to Ukraine by the United States and European powers, as the West seems determined to press the war against Russia down to the life of the very last Ukrainian man, woman and child. This is, of course, brutal rhetoric, but it seems to be manifest in light of the situations reported about the war itself – that even where it is in the clear best interest for Ukrainian soldiers to surrender (so they do not get themselves killed!) the authorities in Kiev are not allowing this. Stories about this are prevalent from the Azovstal complex in Mariupol, where a number of fighters and, presumably, their families, are holed up in underground facilities with less than two weeks of food at the time of this writing.
But a report I received today noted that Ukrainian soldiers who have surrendered to Russian forces report that they are in the battlefield under-equipped and unable to make any real stand against the far-better-armed Russians. Yet, we hear story after story of weapons being sent by Western powers into the country. The report I got further went on to say that the weapons being sent to Ukraine are turning up in Africa. The Atlantic Council seems to be trying to call this fake news:
Forged document claims Ukraine is selling surplus weapons to African countries
On April 19, the Kremlin-tied Telegram channel Rezident published a forged document claiming that Ukraine was selling surplus weapons to African countries. The letter, dated March 29, was purported to be written by the Ministry of Defense in response to a request from a member of Ukrainian parliament. The letter cites Amendment Number 1919 from the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, introduced in 2001, which allows the ministry to sell surplus weapons to other nations. The Telegram post alleged that Ukraine planned to sell armored cars, tanks, submachine guns, rifles, grenades, and bulletproof vests to African countries – “Everything that is so lacking on the front line,” the channel stated…
…The document was posted as part of a composite image alongside two other pictures – one of an Angolan soldier in 1988 and the other of members of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA). The Telegram channel Rezident posted the composite image with a caption that said, “While Ukrainian soldiers are dying due to the absence of weaponry, clerks from the Ministry of Defense are selling it under the premise of redundancy.” The channel called the alleged sale a “cunning scheme of enrichment.”
This piece was published April 22, 2022, but it was not the only word on this. CNN, the very Clinton News Network itself, seems to cast aspersion on this supposed “forgery” of news. In an April 19th report, CNN had a bit of a less sensational take on this issue, with fewer forged or “lifted” materials like photos:
The US has few ways to track the substantial supply of anti-tank, anti-aircraft and other weaponry it has sent across the border into Ukraine, sources tell CNN, a blind spot that’s due in large part to the lack of US boots on the ground in the country — and the easy portability of many of the smaller systems now pouring across the border.
It’s a conscious risk the Biden administration is willing to take.
In the short term, the US sees the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of equipment to be vital to the Ukrainians’ ability to hold off Moscow’s invasion. A senior defense official said Tuesday that it is “certainly the largest recent supply to a partner country in a conflict.” But the risk, both current US officials and defense analysts say, is that in the long term, some of those weapons may wind up in the hands of other militaries and militias that the US did not intend to arm.
“We have fidelity for a short time, but when it enters the fog of war, we have almost zero,” said one source briefed on US intelligence. “It drops into a big black hole, and you have almost no sense of it at all after a short period of time.”
In making the decision to send billions of dollars of weapons and equipment into Ukraine, the Biden administration factored in the risk that some of the shipments may ultimately end up in unexpected places, a defense official said…
These two conflicting reports may indeed be more “fog of war” type claims – as usual, Russia has not really adopted an “open media” approach in reporting on the war, which seems to be a wise decision, even though it offers no defense or rebuttal to the enormous torrent of anti-Russia propaganda in circulation for the pro-Ukrainian side.
People who are familiar with real numbers for use of equipment and ammunition may have something to say about this. In the course of the war that began on February 24, 2022, the following weapons and weapon systems have been sent to Ukraine by the US alone, ostensibly to aid its efforts at “defeating the evil Russians…” (details on what these weapons do may be found by following the linked text just above.
1. Over 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles
2. Over 5,500 Javelin anti-tank missiles
3. Over 14,000 other anti-armor systems
4. Over 700 Switchblade drones
5. 90 155mm Howitzers and 183,000 155mm artillery rounds
6. 72 Tactical Vehicles to tow 155mm Howitzers
7. 16 Mi-17 helicopters
8. Hundreds of Armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles
9. 200 M113 Armored Personnel Carriers
10. Over 7,000 small arms
11. Over 50 million rounds of ammunition
12. 121 Phoenix Ghost tactical drones
13. Laser-guided rocket systems
14. Puma Unmanned Aerial Systems
15. Unmanned Coastal Defense Vessels
16. M18A1 Claymore anti-personnel munitions
17. C-4 explosives and demolition equipment for obstacle clearing
From an uneducated perspective on the efficacy of such weapons, but based on the numbers reported in the battlefields, this amount of weaponry seems actually very low, aside from the Howitzer rounds. But if the reports that these present-day shipments are actually finding their way to Africa are true, this certainly looks like a betrayal of the Ukrainian people by their own government.
Now, admittedly, this may be incorrect. Ukraine has sold weapons to Africa in the past, but the reports of this action may be getting conflated with now for propaganda purposes. Nevertheless, the amount of armaments in this list seems designed to impress American observers and to somehow lure the Ukrainians into continuing a fight against a force that has virtually limitless ammunition and supplies and a good supply chain.
Claim: Ukrainian intelligence personnel are guilty of atrocities against people in the Donbass
This report came to me from a source who I will not name. It is a precisely secondhand report (the person who experienced this told it to my source, who told it to me). While no details were said, the report is essentially this:
The Ukrainian analogue to the FSB / GRU / (KGB) is known as the Служба безпеки України (SBU). The report detailed that in 2015 an officer of the SBU was sent to the Donbass region for purposes unknown. When he came back after 45 days or so, his remark to my source was chilling: “If Russian forces should come into the Donbass and see what we have been doing, we will all surely be executed.”
Is there corroboration? Yes, from Amnesty International, in a document here published by the organization last summer before war had ever started. In that document, we find this:
It is impossible to estimate with precision the number of prisoners currently held by the two sides. Amnesty International has received different estimates from different actors in the conflict, none of which have been consistent with the others.13 The detention situation in eastern Ukraine is complicated by the fact that myriad groups are holding prisoners: from official Ukrainian detention authorities, such as the SBU, to the de facto authorities in control of eastern Ukraine, to the numerous irregular armed groups participating in the conflict on both sides, such as Right Sector, the Sparta battalion, and the Prizrak battalion. None of these groups, including the SBU, have made public the number of detainees that they are holding, or provided much if any information about who is being held, where they are being held, and in what conditions. The lack of clear chains of command, particularly on the separatist side, complicates matters further.
Because of this lack of transparency, many families have had to search for weeks or months before ascertaining whether their relatives are in custody. Some families still do not know whether their loved ones were killed or are being held prisoner somewhere.
The detainees held by separatist militia can be divided into three basic categories: members of Ukrainian government forces, many of whom were captured during armed clashes, pro-Kyiv volunteer militia, and pro-Kyiv civilians (or civilians perceived as siding with Kyiv). On the pro-Kyiv side, detainees include separatist fighters and people believed to be aiding or supporting the separatist cause. Notably, Amnesty International has found that both sides are arbitrarily holding civilians who have not committed any crime, but who instead have a political or ideological commitment to the opposing side. In some instances, the motive for holding these people may be to use them as currency for prisoner exchanges; it may also be simply to punish them for their views.
While the Amnesty International report appears to be thorough, noting atrocities committed by both sides in the conflict, one particular story is about the behavior of the pro-Kyiv (Kiev) side as directed against the separatists:
Several prisoners held by pro-Kyiv forces described how they were subjected to mock executions. In three instances (described in detail below), the men were thrown in a deep hole and made to believe they were going to be shot and killed, or buried alive.
Footage posted on YouTube showed how a detained member of Ukrainian forces who was taken captive at the Donetsk Airport was forced to point a hand pistol at another captive and pull the trigger (in the event, the pistol was not loaded).39 This practice of mock executions was further confirmed to Amnesty International by people who witnessed them…
PRISONERS HELD BY PRO-KYIV FORCES VOLNOVAKHA CASE
“You can’t be a Ukrainian citizen,” they said.
Alexander Pinchuk, a 45-year-old building contractor, recalling what his captors at SBU headquarters in Volnovakha told him as they beat him severely, in an interview with Amnesty International on 15 March 2015.
In November 2014, three building contractors who live in Donetsk were stopped by pro-Kyiv militia in Volnovakha, held without legal process for five days, and badly tortured, before being released without charge. Amnesty International interviewed two of the men, their two wives, two journalists who were involved in the case, and one of the doctors who treated the men’s injuries.
The three men—Igor Bedniy age 45, Alexander Pinchuk, age 45, and Andrei Merzlik, age 39—were driving back from a job site in the late afternoon of 12 November 2014 when they were stopped at a Ukrainian military checkpoint. The checkpoint was located in the strategic city of Volnovakha, directly on the front line of Kyiv-controlled territory. It was manned by Right Sector and Dnipro 2 Battalion fighters, as indicated by the men’s shoulder patches, the markings on their vehicles, and a black-and-red Right Sector flag on display.
Besides asking for identification documents, a fighter at the checkpoint asked to see the men’s phones. When he scanned through Merzlik’s phone, he found some separatist contacts. Then their car was searched thoroughly, but nothing was found. As the search was ending, Bedniy’s wife called, worried about her husband’s delay in returning home. The Ukrainian fighter who answered the phone lied to Bedniy’s wife, pretending to be a separatist fighter.
“He decided to play a game with us,” Bedniy told Amnesty International: “he pretended that we were at a DNR roadblock and that he was a DNR fighter; he said we were in serious trouble. He asked my wife: does your husband support the DNR? My wife said yes, he’s loyal; she was afraid for my safety.”
The fighter who answered the phone is known to be from a right-wing nationalist grouping called C14 (Sich). A Ukrainian television journalist had been filming him at the checkpoint, and he asked Bedniy a few questions as well.
Bedniy says that after the journalist left, the fighters started verbally abusing the three men, calling them “separatists” and “terrorists.” Bedniy was separated from the other two men, who were brought to a trench for questioning. While held separately, Bedniy was beaten by a group of fighters, one of whom punched him in the face and broke his nose.
The fighters also took his passport and ripped the main photo page out of it. “They said ‘you’re no longer a Ukrainian citizen,’” Bedniy told Amnesty International.
The other two men, Pinchuk and Merzlik, were being roughly questioned in the trench. “They tried to make us admit we were separatists. They tried to scare us: they told us about torture and executions, that they suggested that this could happen to us,” said Pinchuk. The fighters tore their passports as well.
After about an hour, the three men were reunited, and the fighters at the checkpoint called the local SBU contingent to pick the men up. It was night already.
“The SBU guys were drunk when they showed up,” Pinchuk told Amnesty International, “we could smell the alcohol on them. They made us kneel, taped up our eyes, and kicked us.” Then they drove the three men to the local SBU headquarters in Volnovakha.
The same television journalist who had been at the checkpoint showed up at the SBU station and asked the men some more questions. Portions of that footage were later aired on Ukrainian television, with the program suggesting that the men were pro-Russian separatist saboteurs.40 “When I later viewed the video footage online,” Pinchuk recalled, “I had the impression that we were actors in a TV show. They needed to show some Russian terrorists, and our presence satisfied that need.”
The men were separated at the SBU headquarters, and each one was subjected to questioning. Merzlik was tied to a chair and beaten with a pipe, ending up badly bruised. But it was Pinchuk who suffered the most serious abuse.
“Two men came to my cell,” Pinchuk told Amnesty International. They started to hit me in the neck. I tried to ask, ‘why are you beating me?’ No answer. ‘You can’t be a Ukrainian citizen,’ they said; ‘you’re going to Russia to provide information.’”He continued:
I said that I only went to Russia for business, but they didn’t believe me. They put a plastic bag over my head, suffocating me. They kept asking me the same questions. They didn’t like my last name, because there’s someone in the DNR with the same last name. They kept asking if I was his relative or if I was helping him. I’m not related to him at all.
Pinchuk was then taken outside, thrown into a deep hole in the ground, and subjected to a mock burial.
I thought I was being buried alive. I tried to straighten up, but one guy stood on my head to stop me from doing so, and the others threw dirt onto me. I was on my knees, and finally there was quite a thick layer of dirt on top of me. At that moment I lost consciousness because of the dirt, because I couldn’t breathe.
Pinchuk told Amnesty International that when he revived, his head and right hand were sticking out of the ground.
The guys kicked my head, and said, “oh, he’s breathing.” They checked if I was conscious: they asked me questions about construction and construction tools. Then they pulled me out of the hole. They took my coat (it was an expensive one), my watch, and my wedding ring, and then they took me back to a cell. My eyes were taped up the whole time. They returned me to the cell sometime around 3 or 4 am. My cell was close to Igor’s, and I heard them warn Igor, “be a good boy, because we just buried your friend.”
Early the next morning the three men were questioned again. Pinchuk recalled:
They asked how many tanks were in Donetsk, how many people in military units, who the commanders were. I told him that I didn’t know the answers to those questions, as I wasn’t with the DNR. The interrogator said, “you’re not cooperating; you may end up in the hole again.”
Later in the morning the three were driven somewhere about three hours away, and after a short break, driven somewhere else. Although they were kept hooded, they gathered from overheard conversations that they might be near Sloviansk. “I tried to ask where we were going,” Bedniy told Amnesty International, “and someone punched me in the chest. Question time was over.”
When the car stopped, the men were brought to what seemed to them to be an abandoned bomb shelter—some sort of underground facility with heavy steel doors. They were held there for four nights. On the first night both Bedniy and Merzlik were severely beaten. “No one touched Pinchuk,” Bedniy explained, “because he was in such bad shape already.”
The men were not questioned or beaten after the first night. “On the last day, as one of the guards was bringing me to the toilet, he said that he couldn’t understand why we were there—that they were wasting their time with us,” Bedniy said. This was on 17 November 2014, five days after the men had first been detained.
Later that day, the men were driven for about 20 minutes and released, and given back their car, their phones, and their torn documents. They found out that they were in the town of Semenovka, near Sloviansk. When they got back to Donetsk, they went straight to the hospital; Pinchuk spent nearly three weeks recovering there.
“His condition was very serious,” the doctor who treated Pinchuk told Amnesty International. “He had a brain hematoma, a dangerous brain injury. ‘They played football with my head,’ he said. Had he not gotten treatment when he did, he could have died.”
There is no reason to presume that such brutality has done anything but increase – and while the mission of the Russian military specifically calls for no such action from its soldiers, the Donetsk fighters are not under Russian jurisdiction and they have been under attack for eight solid years. It would be fantasy to expect that they have not had at least some such events since this phase of the war started.
A final story: Racism taught to Ukrainian youth (but not to Russian youth)
One peculiar and largely unreported characteristic of this war is how Russians and Ukrainians actually regarded one another before the war started. My own experience in Russia shows me that most Russians that I have spoken to about Ukraine are sad, disturbed and sometimes unwilling to speak about this; for them, the situation is grievous, but not hate-ridden. Some Russians even view the problems with Ukraine as God’s punishment against Russia itself, for not having ejected, once and for all, every aspect of the godless Communist regimes from its monuments and historical traditions.
But do Russians bear hatred for Ukrainians? I have not seen it here in six, almost seven years, in my travels across many cities and locations and in many conversations with people. “The Ukrainians are our brothers and sisters!” is the usual response. “We don’t understand why they are treating us like they are,” is another.
But a story I was told about the experience of a Russian person visiting Ukraine well before the war – back in 2000, or perhaps as late as 2008, well before even the Maidan, tells a different tale:
In this, a Russian person was in Ukraine on a visit, and was relaxing in a park sitting on a bench in a Ukrainian city. A woman and her son were nearby, and the son wanted a piece of candy, which his mother gave him. He dropped the wrapper on the ground, and his mother scolded him:
“Now, dear one, please pick that up right now. We are Ukrainians. We do not drop wrappers on the ground like those Russian swine do. Now, pick it up…”
And I have often listened as Ukrainians get so angry and vitriolic about Russians that they become almost or completely unable to speak, ending their tirade with “You just cannot understand!!!” and then refusing to talk further.
Are there any real conclusions? It is difficult to tell. The Ukrainians think that Russians are awful people. It is not clear exactly why, though it is clear that the Ukrainians who say such angry things are indeed very angry. They mean it, for whatever reason.
It is true that both the Ukrainians and the Russians in that part of the world have had rough interactions in history. Why that is carried forward to our times is unclear, except as a psyop, ostensibly brought about by people who see it as advantageous to turn brother nations into enemies.
It also appears true that the Ukrainians are slowly losing this war, and that Russia is slowly winning its objectives. In a way, this does not matter, because the scars of this conflict will take many, many years to heal, if they ever do.
Finally, it appears that prayer for both sides, for God’s will to be made manifest, is the one productive thing any of us – who honestly and truly care about what is going on – can do. It appears that this war will have to be fought to the end – to the total and complete defeat of one side by the other. This is the most desirable solution in my view because a nation defeated can be reconstructed more easily – look at Germany and Japan. But a stalemate and a “negotiated” settlement may not fix the real problems, and may in fact only serve to magnify them and let them fester, as they have done in so many other places in the world.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of this site. This site does not give financial, investment or medical advice.