Kherson, Mykolaiv and Odessa: Ports, Trade, Bridges and Brigades
Ports, Trade, Bridges and Brigades
[Image: an annotation of a map of southern Ukraine. The thick mauve lines are international borders, with Moldova on the west, and international waters to the south. Regional borders in Ukraine are represented with a thin mauve line. The rail bridge and dam of the lower Dnieper is labelled to the east, with the three key cities labelled, and the distance between Mykolaiv and Odessa also provided.]
Publication date: 2022-07-25
Update 2022-07-26: An article by M. K. BHADRAKUMAR is included as a source and worked into the article for the Russia attack on military infrastructure in Odessa. The latest “The Duran” video is also added as it directly discusses the attacks on the bridges and the theoretical counter-offensive against Kherson by Ukraine. An Afterword was added which overviews a discussion between the author and a reader via Twitter.
Update 2022-07-27: Culture section added.
Update 2022-08-07: A new “Update” section was added noting some relevant changes in the conflict over the past fortnight which relate to the core theses of the article. A video from Alex Christoforou is provided as a source.
The oft quoted Clausewitz doctrine that war is a "continuation of politics by other means" is shining its insight on Kherson as Ukraine prepares for another "counter offensive". When future military historians examine the current conflict in Ukraine they will likely look at the capture of Kherson, thus securing water resources for Crimea, and the coastal push through Zaporizhzhia to encircle Mariupol and its Azovstal plant as a key event during the conflict. This did secure for Russia and her LPR+DPR allies the entirety of the Azov Sea coast.
Two other phases of the conflict are under way. One is fairly banal, if armed conflict can be described as such, in western Donetsk. There are two, key defense lines for Ukraine, from Siversk to Bakhmut, and then behind this from Slavansk to Kramatorsk. The first is under heavy artillery fire from Russia to "prepare the battlespace". Russia and DPR’s militia forces will not stop until the entirety of the Donetsk oblast is returned to being governed by the rebel/separatist government in Donetsk City.
At this moment, there is a pause in conflict around Kharkov in the north east, despite the cultural importance of this city to Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church.
A more interesting situation is developing in Kherson which may later involve Mykolaiv and even Odessa.
[Image: A map with a highlight showing the regions of southern Ukraine which are the focus of this article.]
Ports and Trade
A recently brokered agreement between the governments of Russia and Ukraine provide for security of maritime trade of agricultural products from Ukraine via the Black Sea and the Bosporus to foreign ports. The primary impediment to this trade is the mining of its own ports by Ukraine as a defensive measure to prevent Russia landing marines and sea transported military equipment onto Ukraine's southern coast, particularly in the regions of Kherson, Mykolaiv and Odessa. This defensive measure is entirely understandable as Ukraine has no effective Navy against Russia's in the Black Sea. The sinking of the Moskva, Russia's premier ship of its Black Sea fleet, was a horrible black eye. Ukraine has very little navy to challenge Russia's dominance.
Ukraine's contribution to world grain exports is significant, but far from dominant. The lead players in grain exports are the USA, Russia, the EU (collectively), with Australia, Ukraine and Canada serving as lesser though important exporters. For places where food security does not exist and trade with Ukraine for essential grain has been established, this lack of grain export caused by Ukraine's defensive measures is a serious problem. Some regions of northern Africa may be heavily effected.
Any effectiveness of this agreement depends entirely on whether Ukraine will actually de-mine its ports. Within the agreement, Russia commits to not attack the three named port facilities for a period of 120 days. This does not prevent Russia from attacking other non-port facilities in these cities or regions. Interestingly, a missile attack on the port in Odessa was confirmed by Russia within a day of the signing of the agreement. Russia claims to have targeted Ukrainian naval vessels and a store of western supplied anti-ship missiles known as "Harpoons". The agreement is a political victory for Turkiye and the UN who brokered it, and perhaps for Russia. The likelihood of Ukraine de-mining its ports is next to non-existent. Nothing will change.
Former Indian diplomat M. K. BHADRAKUMAR informs us that Russian Foreign minister Lavrov and UN representatives do not believe that the attack contravenes any element of the agreement:
The grain deal contains nothing “to bar us from continuing the special military operation and hit military infrastructure and other military targets. And the United Nations secretariat representatives… confirmed this interpretation of the documents yesterday.”
Kherson Comes into Focus
An earlier article in this newsletter lamented the reaffirmation of "talking points" of the western narrative during Russia’s initial active phase in this conflict by authors attempting to offer criticism of western foreign policy. The case in point was the "failed attempt to capture Kiev". Russia may have been attempting to "bully" Kiev, but she was certainly not attempting to capture the city. The most plausible analysis available, by Scott Ritter, is that the action was to fix Ukrainian forces in place near the capital and thus deny them to the south and east of Ukraine from Kherson, via Zaporizhzhia to the Donbas.
During this latest change in focus of the ongoing conflict, Kherson again comes into focus. There are many reasons, though the foremost amongst them seems to be the upcoming, announced September 15 referendum to be held in this "former" oblast of Ukraine. The question to be put to the residents is whether they wish to join the Russian Federation?
The key precedent for this is the 2014 referendum in Crimea. Following the bloodless ejection of Ukrainian security forces from Crimea, a referendum was held and figures of 95% declared a near universal desire to re-join Russia. This followed the 1954 seemingly irrelevant internal transfer of Crimea from Russia to Ukraine during the period of the USSR. The whole transfer reeks of Soviet politics, with Ukrainian representatives being placated with the transfer of land, but the military maintaining control of the essential Sevastopol naval base by way of a lease.
Russia's people know their history. Indeed, it is a source of pride for them. A little known, in the west, moment in WWII will highlight the connection between Sevastopol, Crimea and Odessa, Odessa. As the third Reich's armies advanced on Odessa and towards Crimea, Russia withdrew its forces from Odessa. They dropped tens of thousands of leaflets promising to return as they left the citizens of Odessa to suffer under occupation. The forces were withdrawn to defend Sevastopol, though eventually this city and port fell to the advancing Nazi’s. The Red Army did eventually return to both. However, this abandonment of Odessa is a memory of sorrow and regret for Russia; a debt that is perhaps as yet, unpaid.
The Odessa Brigade
Following the 2014 USA managed coup in Ukraine the coup installed government essentially outlawed the Russian language and thought best to not prosecute the known persons who are guilty of burning alive 50 odd people in the Trades Union building in Odessa. Seeing the writing on the wall, the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, and Crimea, resisted the new coup regime. This new Ukraine government launched their military, including Nazi allied paramilitary regiments against the Donbas oblasts to instigate a civil war.
Covertly assisted by Russia, the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts formed independent governments and declared their independence. Their declarations were met with silence in the "freedom" western media. Due to the war imposed upon them, they needed to form, train and arm militias to resist Ukraine's national army and paramilitary units. Interestingly, early in the conflict many Ukrainian units changed sides and joined their relatives in the resistance. The DRP and LPR militias have been heavily supported by Russia since she overtly entered the 8 year long civil war on February 24th 2022.
An echo of these events is re-occurring. A new military force of persons from Kherson and surrounding regions has been formed in Kherson; the Odessa Brigade. It is apparently named after a brigade of the same name, from Odessa, whose leader moved to LPR early in the conflict. The new brigade’s aim is to resist Kiev forces in attacking Kherson, and likely on counter-offensive, to capture Mykolaiv, and perhaps push onwards to Odessa.
Evidence for the “brigade”’s existence is thin. A video published by TASS (Russian state media) shows a platoon level group and claims that they have completed combat training. However, Military Summary (see sources) adds to this claim from various Russian sources channels. His analysis of sources on the Ukrainian conflict has been of high quality, and it is his claims on which this article rests its re-issue of his assertion. That the group exists seems likely. Its size is unverifiable.
[Image: Patrick Lancaster stands on the main road bridge which connects the two banks of the Dnieper in Kherson, with the city in the background. Damage to the bridge by recent rocket attacks, apparently HIMARS munitions, is visible. See Sources for the full video.]
The impeding referendum in Kherson is a massive political threat to Ukraine. If carried, it provides Russia with local political legitimacy for their invasion. Needless to say, should this result be announced it will be universally condemned as illegitimate by western media sources, irrespective of the manner in which the vote is held and counted. There is an interesting paradox. Some regions, like Kosovo, are allowed to hold referenda to gain political independence. Others, like Catalonia and Crimea are not. We can expect Kherson to be added to the “not allowed” list by claims that the referendum was illegitimate.
Recent reports by independent commentators have mentioned attacks by Ukraine on a few key bridge crossings. Kherson is located on the northern (or "western" or "right") bank of the reaches of the Dnieper River. Supply to Kherson of military or any other aid, requires the use of these bridges. Attacks on them serve two key purposes, to limit military support and to limit humanitarian aid and thus legitimacy to the local government.
[Image: a frame from a Patrick Lancaster report on the main road bridge connecting the two banks of the Dnieper at Kherson. Two holes are visible. The topmost is through the road surface. Below that is another, a structural sub-surface. Through the second we glimpse the waters of the Dnieper.]
Recently, Kiev announced firings, later mollified to "suspensions" of Ukraine's lead government prosecutor and the head of their internal intelligence service, the SBU. The individuals were charged with treason, for collaborating with separatists. The turbidity of the reports clarify the corruption of the Kiev regime. It is completely unsurprising that friendships and alliances exist across the Ukraine/Russia not-a-language-barrier divide in Ukraine. The political divide is imposed over a more fluid cultural mix.
[Image: Jimmy Dore discusses an NPR article highlighting the corruption in the Ukraine government, and their sacking (now revised as “suspending”) high level officials.]
Over the major dam on the lower reaches of the Dnieper River runs a railway line. This has been attacked by Ukrainian forces during the last days to destroy the logistical capability, though seemingly not the dam. As Military Summary identifies there are two other key crossings of the Dnieper and a subsidiary which serve equivalent purposes of blocking transport and supply.
Mr Mercouris, citing various British media, declares that it is the UK which is pushing Ukraine to launch offensives against Kherson. This, in combination with the emergence of the "Odessa Brigade" highlight the importance of the conflict there, and the political threat of the upcoming referendum.
One may ask why it is that western countries are supplying arms and encouraging volunteers towards Ukraine, but not committing their trained military as combatants. This is, of course, not entirely true as trainers and military planers from the west are directly assisting Ukraine, but their "ground forces" are not.
The answers include the obvious. Creating World War III is not good for the financial controllers behind the political puppets, for they are not ready for it. The situation becomes far more fluid than they would wish. Abilities to control outcomes are diminished. Finally, Russia has the better military force and the better technology, and an economy far more able to sustain operations than the plutocrats'.
Thus, we are "reduced" to the west flooding arms into Ukraine for the benefit of the "blood soaked arms traders", and Russia countering that with their military forces.
However, this new development in Kherson shows another factor. The raising of the "Odessa Brigade" stands in stark contrast to Ukraine fielding "Territorial Defence" units drawn from far afield in western or central Ukraine. The new brigade is drawn from the local population. With training and equipment, they have a natural morale advantage over the "territorial" units.
Two other interesting factors are at play, which seem to evade most analysts. Firstly, Russia is rotating its forces into and out of the conflict. She is sharing the battlefield experience around among her armies such that all are better trained. Why few note this bewilders the author. A second key tactic, with a long term strategy, is at play. Why is Russia forming, training and arming a brigade which will reportedly have many battalions, meaning it will be many thousand strong? These are the future defense forces of the territory when Russia withdraws some major portion of her military. This new "Odessa Brigade" will be the core of the Kherson Peoples' Republic's militia. As noted recently, Russia is issuing mobile phone SIM cards with +7 (Russia) as the international code in Kherson. Kherson is transitioning from the Ukrainian to Russian currency. Russia has no intention whatsoever of allowing Kherson to return to Ukraine. The citizenry may well agree. Russia is now building its future defence force.
With Russia's support, and based on the history of the conflict and the current state of Ukraine's military, it is not difficult to predict that any upcoming Ukrainian offensive on Kherson will fail. In its aftermath may come an attack on Mykolaiv.
From there it is 112 Km, as the crow flies, to Odessa. The Black Sea coast, like the Azov Sea coast before it, will be sealed. This will doom whatever remains of Ukraine to a landlocked, economic backwater.
Clare Daly @ClareDalyMEP"Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective." A truly monstrous thing to say. Most Ukrainians were not consulted on whether they were *ready to die* for EU/US hubris. This trivialises the loss of lives. Radioactive levels of Euro narcissism. A new low for VDL. https://t.co/rMwTRO6jjU
Over the last two weeks, since publication, new details have emerged on now why, but how the yet to arrive “counter attack” in Kherson was to be staged. Against the advice of the head of Ukraine’s defence forces, it appears that men and most importantly artillery (including some of the recently provided HIMARS rocket systems) were taken from the western Donbas defensive lines and moved to Kherson. Hard evidence for this is hard to come by, however, the response from Russia and her DPR and LPR allies has been a major advance into heavily fortified positions held by Ukraine.
Many analysts expected these attacking forces to focus on the north to then swing south, with a parallel in the south to attack the positions on three fronts. What is happening however is a dominantly southern and directly eastern attack. With Russian support, the DPR forces have penetrated these heavily fortified lines, and town to the south of the first or two defensive lines, Bakhmut is now directly under attack.
This all indicates what everyone knows. Russia has excellent intelligence capabilities in Ukraine. Russia has reinforced the forces to the south to counter the unarrived “counter offensive”, and supported this advance on the Donetsk defensive line at the same time, taking advantage of the changes in Ukrainina troop deployments.
The problem with the potential counter offensive is the terrain. It is a flat as a billard table, the steppe. Any offensive will be extremely costly, hence the Ukrainian military leadership’s reluctence to agree to the plan.
Immediately following the initial publication of this article, an interaction on Twitter between your author and an individual caused a reflection. The reflection is about "truth" and "credibility", both very slippery topics.
The individual was incensed at the article's description of the 2014 change of Ukrainian government from elected to imposed as a "USA managed coup".
Following this, during the exchange, allegations of lack of evidence and unsupported claims were leveled against the article and author. Notably, the accuser failed to quote any text of the article even once, and misrepresented the article on at least one occasion.
However, the comments were from the heart. They appear to have been honest. I do not believe that this individual was an element of a military intel troll farm, but someone whose beliefs had been assaulted by the background to the article. This assumption is based on the vehemence of their language softening over time. Indeed, the conversation became calm and even respectful.
The above article is speculative. I acknowledged to my interlocutor its weakest point, the "Odessa Brigade":
This topic was not engaged. This indicates the position from which the criticism comes. The attack was not on the weakest element of the article, but its premise, which contradicted their beliefs. Just as Russian citizens have had to grapple with their own history, Stalin's purges for example, USA citizens also need to come to terms with theirs. These are very challenging emotional experiences, as long held false beliefs come crashing down against verifiable evidence.
Articles in this newsletter often take positions which will be challenging for adherents of the USA empire. Your author makes no claim that a bipolar world in which Russia and China challenge USA hegemony will be "better". It will be different, and it has already arrived. In realpolitik, adjust.
Stating the obvious makes it no easier for those wedded to the status quo to wear the wounds of adjusting their mental compasses. For this, I apologize. I am asking my readership to endure what can be for some a difficult transition in their mental landscape. The geostrategic picture is changing, whether you like it or not.
I wish to thank my interlocutor for the discussion. It helped me understand that tenderness needs also be employed in prose.
Ukraine Grain Exports - Myths And Reality, b., MoonOfAlabama, 2022-07-23
Black Sea and three musketeers, M. K. BHADRAKUMAR, Indian Punchline, 2022-07-26
Eyeing a City Captured by Russia, Ukraine Prepares an Ambitious Counterattack, Michael Schwirtz, New York Times, 2022-07-25
Ukraine Fired USA supplied Ammunition On Bridge To Kherson & Nikolaiv / Odessa Front, Patrick Lancaster, News Today, 2022-07-24
Ukraine. Military Summary And Analysis 23.07.2022, Military Summary, youtube channel, 2022-07-23
Ukraine Kherson Attack Fails; EU Retreats on Russia Food Oil Exports; Ukraine Accepts Putin Demands, Alexander Mercouris, youtube (or rumble), 2022-07-23
The Truth About Ukraine SLIPS OUT On CNN, Jimmy Dore, The Jimmy Dore Show, 2022-07-24
Ukraine counteroffensive, this might be Zelensky's last stand, Alexander Mercouris and Alex Christorofou, The Duran, 2022-07-26
Roundtable #4: Christoforou, Escobar, iEarlGrey, Gonzalo Lira with guests, his youtube channel, 2022-07-24
Medvedev hits back at Elensky. Trump calls Pelosi 'crazy'. Turkey-Russia ruble trade deal. Update 1, Alex Christoforou, his Rumble channel, 2022-08-07
The song is a single from the ‘Rats 1979 album, “The Fine Art of Surfacing”. The Irish band comments on a long forgotten school shooting in the USA. The chomatic chord introduction and wonderful sound engineering reinforce the horror of the massacre of children by a child. The raw nature of Geldof’s singing and the unity of the backing singers also elevate the senselessness. The piano performance dominates the soundscape, with intermittent room to breathe. As the song builds, a full string section enters. The final chord is deafening.
“Tell my why?”
“You can see no reasons, because there are no reasons.”
“Tell my why?”
“Nobody’s gonna to go to school today. She’s going to make them stay at home.”
“Tell my why?”
The observant will detect two conflicting dynamics in the song, both in music and lyrics. There is a four part in the keyboard echoed in the title lyric “I dont like Mondays”, and a three part in “Tell my why?” This conflict in emphasis and time is the basis for echoing the horror of the event upon which the song comments. Feel this conflict in the 3 and 4 part elements attempting to assert dominance in the song.
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