By Vlad Shlepchenko, introduced & translated by John Helmer, Moscow
The more western politicians announce pledges of fresh weapons for the Ukraine, the more Russian military analysts explain what options their official sources are considering to destroy the arms before they reach the eastern front, and to neutralize Poland’s role as the NATO hub for resupply and reinforcement of the last-ditch holdout of western Ukraine.
“I would like to note,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, repeated yesterday, “that any transport of the North Atlantic Alliance that arrived on the territory of the country with weapons or material means for the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces is considered by us as a legitimate target for destruction”. He means the Ukraine border is the red line.
“We have to understand that western propaganda is reaching Russians in full measure,” comments an observer close to the Donetsk and Lugansk leaders. “Russian propaganda has been focused on the political front. But on the military front there has been very little or no explanation given to the public on the scope of operations. Naturally, Russians are wondering if the goal of the special military operation is limited to liberating only the Donbass.”
MAP OF POLAND, UKRAINE, RUSSIA ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE SPECIAL MILITARY OPERATION
As the scope of their losses accelerates in the east, the Ukrainians lack time and also men to create strong defensive positions in the west between the two capitals, Kiev and Lvov. Accordingly, the Russians expect NATO will – because the Ukrainians must — form defensive lines to protect the supply lines from the road, rail and airport hubs in Poland – Lublin, Przemysl, Rzeszow – to Kiev; with the option to fall back from Kiev to a line from Zhitomyr to Vynytsya to Chernivtsi, and then a second fallback line from Lutsk to Lvov. That second line is within range of NATO artillery and missile batteries on the Polish side of the border.
“In any case the Russians must plan to attack these lines from Belarus,” says the Donbass source. “It’s impossible to fight in the west without a full-scale attack from the north to cut the Lublin-Kiev lines.” North means Belarus.
“The US is directing all anti-aircraft operations and monitoring all major ground movements with their satellites and AWACS. Technologically speaking, they may have a better view of Ukraine and everything that moves than the Russians. If there were to be a qualitative escalation of the combined US and Ukrainian forces, such as deployment of long-range missiles along the Polish side of the western front and long-range mobile artillery moving into Ukraine to fire and then back to Poland for safety, then you can be sure the Russians would see that as a new strategic capability or differential. They will counter-attack, possibly against US satellite and aerospace reconnaissance assets.”
A NATO Boeing E-3A Airborne Warning & Control System (AWACS) takes off from the NATO Air Base at Geilenkirchen in Germany. NATO says it operates 14 of these aircraft at Geilenkirchen, which is about 1,000 kms from the Polish border. The flying range of the aircraft is about 9,000 kms; surveillance range of about 400 kms. From the Polish line, the AWACS coverage extends into the Ukraine as far as the Zhitomyr-Vynytsya defence line, but not as far as Kiev.
In the first map image from an Italian military radar monitoring website, a dual AWACS surveillance mission operated for coverage of western Ukraine from Geilenkirchen and the Konya base in Turkey; the record was made on March 1. NATO says that AWACS from Geilenkirchen are being based at Konya since January of this year. In the second map image, recorded on May 4, an Italian aerial tanker is tracked refueling the AWACS over the northern Romanian border. At that line, Lvov is within AWACS surveillance range; Kiev is not.
The new Ukrainian lines in the west are also within surveillance and firing range from Russian forces along the Belarus border. “If the Russian forces perform a deep raid into Galicia,” comments a Canadian military veteran with NATO warfighting experience, “remembering Sherman’s march to the sea, it would have a huge impact. Bringing the highway that runs within 75 kms of the Ukraine-Belarus border under artillery fire is already a possibilty. If the Russians are reluctant to hit civilian vehicles, they can literally tear the road up, smash any bridges, and induce the Ukrainian road crews to choose another career path. Striking from Belarus and bringing the war to the nest of Bandera makes great sense. It will impact the entire situation east of the Dniepr.”
A Polish political analyst in Warsaw comments: “Poles are proud now of the new ‘alliance between Ukraine and Poland’ so the hints of Polish territorial claims on Galicia are not considered seriously and they are refuted by officials.” When Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), said last week that there was intelligence indicating the US and Poland “are working on plans to establish Poland’s tight military and political control over its historical possessions in Ukraine”, he was misinterpreted outside Russia. Naryshkin was referring to the extensive US-Polish military control already in place over western Ukraine and the new defence lines; and also to the administrative facilities which the Poles are providing President Vladimir Zelensky and his officials; for details, click to read.
“On arms transfer to Ukraine”, the Warsaw source adds, “ there is indeed a certain worry that Russia may attack Poland, which is counterweighted firstly, by the importance of the new ‘alliance’ I’ve mentioned; secondly, by the presence of US troops on Polish soil; and thirdly, by the NATO treaty Article 5 guarantees”.
Read now the report by Vlad Slapchenko, published by Tsargrad on April 30, here. A verbatim translation follows between opening and closing quotes; illustrations, captions, links, and sources have been added to amplify the original text.
THE MYSTERY OF THE ARMS SURGE – THE STRIKE AT LVOV WILL COMPLETE THE SPECIAL OPERATION
“The Aerospace Forces and Rocket Forces have very limited ability to track targets in Western Ukraine, and the destruction of railway lines will not give the same effect as in the Great Patriotic War. But not everything is so bad: our army also has the opportunity to ‘turn the chessboard around.’ Tsargrad will talk about how we are cutting off the endless flow of weapons from the West.
The West continues to flood Ukraine with arms flows. Following the deliveries of thousands of anti-tank grenade launchers, man-portable anti-aircraft and anti-tank systems (MANPADS and ATGMs), machine guns, and other relatively light weapons, rows of Soviet-era tanks and infantry fighting vehicles flowed into the country from storage warehouses in eastern European countries. Kiev was given Slovak S-300 systems, and, apparently, Polish MiG-29 fighters.
According to the latest statements by the British leadership, London is considering sending Alvis Stormer self-propelled anti-aircraft guns to Ukraine, firing Starstreak missiles; these were created [in the 1970s] to destroy Soviet attack aircraft and helicopters protected by armour. The Pentagon has arranged for the delivery of 155 mm M777 towed howitzers. Also, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Canadian accomplice Justin Trudeau have promised heavy artillery to the Ukrainians.
In addition, according to unconfirmed information, the Americans are trying to persuade South Korea to give Kiev the T-80U and BMP-3, bought from Russia back in the nineties.
Against this background, the question is getting louder: why doesn’t our army bomb all the bridges, roads and railway stations which supply the Ukrainian army? Well: if there is a question, it is necessary to understand the answer.
Anatomy of the logistics
To understand how to interrupt supply flows, you must first understand how they are organized. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby has said that the United States and its allies are sending 8-10 aircraft a day to Ukraine, stuffed with weapons: “We are talking about eight to ten flights to the region per day and almost constant ground convoys which move into the country. We would like to keep to that.”
What he meant by the word ‘region’ is not difficult to understand. This is Poland, the main transport hub for the transfer of weapons and mercenaries to Ukraine. It follows from Kirby’s words that the deliveries do not cross the Ukrainian border, but terminate their flights in Polish airspace. The bulk of the weapons then travel across the border by road.
Naturally, the railway is also used: not so long ago, the social networks of Poles and Slovaks were full of videos with images of trains carrying dozens of tanks and infantry fighting vehicles towards Ukraine. But this is not the main supply channel. A bunch of C-130 Hercules, plus trucks, are a more flexible and therefore invulnerable combination used by the Americans.
The New Zealand government announced on April 11 that it is sending a Hercules aircraft and a 50-man team to support the US and NATO operation in Poland. https://www.beehive.govt.nz/ and https://www.1news.co.nz/
Even if Russia is able to destroy the railways and sidings east of the Polish border, then the supply of armoured vehicles will not be stopped. Simply because there is such a thing as a semi-trailer that allows you to transport equipment weighing up to 100 tonnes (the weight of Soviet tanks barely exceeds 40 tonnes). In extreme cases, the armoured vehicles can be driven on their own. This, of course, will reduce the requirement for trucks but damage the roads, but in case of urgent need, no one will be deterred by such costs.
In other words, the tactics chosen by the Americans mean that the only way to cut off the Ukraine without these weapons is to stop the road traffic going through the Polish border.
Bombing is easy to order
Now let’s look at the means of destruction at the disposal of our military, and the conditions in which they are supposed to be used. The means are available in two classes: long-range missiles and combat aircraft. The problem with the former is that the Kalibr is designed to destroy previously reconnoitered stationary objects; they can easily destroy a railway station, but hunting for a moving train, and even more so for a truck loaded with weapons, is impossible with their help. Iskanders are a more flexible tool, but they cannot be used to destroy individual vehicles either. Moreover, these missiles are required for eliminating headquarters, air defense systems and other high-priority targets.
As for aviation, the problem is that the Ukrainian air defense system is still alive, at least in part. This is evidenced by regular statements by the official representative of the Ministry of Defense of Russia, Igor Konashenkov, that fresh air defense systems have been destroyed in Ukraine. In addition, the problem of identifying targets and aiming our aircraft at them remains. We don’t have ground spotters there; therefore, to hunt for enemy trucks, you will have to organize air patrols. It is not difficult to guess how many hours of flights over the territory with a undestroyed enemy air defense will end: the loss of expensive aircraft and the painful death of pilots.
In addition to this, the enemy is not stupid: no one will dispatch MANPADS and ATGMs in olive-colored tarpaulin trucks with inscriptions: ‘We are bringing weapons, shoot here.’ Most of the systems which the Ukraine receives can be transported in minibuses and even in regular cars. Moreover, knowing the custom of the Ukrainian leadership, there is no doubt that as soon as strikes on the roads begin, the resupply of weapons will be carried in buses transporting children.
As for oversized cargo like tanks or self-propelled guns on semi-trailers, they can be transported at night, running at maximum speed from shelter to shelter, using ‘frog jump’ tactics, which have already been worked out by Ukrainian tankers in the frontline zone. American AWACS aircraft will warn the Ukrainians about the approach of Russian bombers. They will also give target designations to the Ukrainian S-300 and Buk missile batteries, operating in a passive mode.
It is worth noting that people who criticize our army for the fact that the Russian air force does not bomb railways in the areas around Lvov in the style of World War II lose sight of the fact that the number of combat aircraft in the Aerospace Forces (VKS) is limited; the intensity of their use is too. According to unofficial estimates, our air group makes 250-300 sorties a day. At the same time, until recently, the air force ensured the rout of troops from potential pockets, and now it is helping Russian troops break through the enemy’s defenses in the battle for Donbass that has begun. That is, the military command is always forced to prioritize and choose the targets defeat of which is the most important within the framework of the existing plan.
Hypothetically, the problem of airspace control over western Ukraine could be solved by medium-altitude attack drones. They are able to loiter over the patrol area for days;their loss does not lead to the death of pilots; moreover, exchanging them for air defense systems is cost effective. However, the Russian defense industry has not been able to bring the Sokol Altius strike UAV to perfection; the Kronshtadt Orion available to the troops were originally designed as reconnaissance vehicles and only then were converted into strike vehicles, which is why they have very limited capabilities for destroying targets. In addition, according to open sources, their number is small. Accordingly, this possibility cannot be realized within the framework of the current conflict.
The export version of the Orion on display. The first US defence industry press report of an attack by the Orion-E type against a Ukrainian target followed a Russian Defense Ministry release on March 4.
The conclusion on the means available for counter-attack against the NATO arms flow is this: Russia does not have the technical ability to reliably block traffic through the Polish-Ukrainian border.
Opinion of decorated pilot
Commenting on the current situation for Tsargrad, decorated Russian military pilot, Major- General Vladimir Alexandrovich Popov noted that western Ukraine has a very extensive road network, which is difficult to take under control from the air.
The pilot also explained that the airforce needs preliminary reconnaissance, so therefore, as a general operating rule, its targets must be fixed: fuel and lubricant depots, artillery weapons, military equipment or accumulations of enemy units and subunits, production facilities. According to Popov, “the international organizations are displaying deceit in that they allow the transport of weapons under the guise of humanitarian cargo. It is extremely difficult to single out the trucks in which weapons are being transported. This can only be done with careful aerial reconnaissance, or rather undercover reconnaissance,” – said the expert in a conversation with Tsargrad. His assessment is that the surviving air defence systems in the Ukraine remain dangerous for our aircraft. “In the Ukraine, there have always been a lot of air defense forces and means, they are quite well trained, mobile and can suddenly counteract,” the major-general explained. In general, according to him, the fight has to be very selective.
Outlook: war of attrition
Modern Ukraine is a fully-fledged terrorist state based now on total propaganda and equally total terror against all those who disagree. For this reason, the regime of Vladimir Zelensky has almost unlimited possibilities to mobilize the population and send it to the slaughter. Behind this zombie state is the combined industrial power of the West, so that the Ukraine is not at risk of either industrial collapse or starvation.
There is growing understanding in Russian society that waging war in the current format will have a ‘meat grinder effect’. “The limited contingent of Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s did everything to block the external border of that country, to stop the supply of weapons to our opponents, the mujahideen, from Pakistan. This was the only way to end the war. Everything newly learned lesson is an old lesson forgotten. As long as the transport capabilities of arms supplies to Ukraine are not reduced, the intensity of resistance will remain the same. I’m talking about the destruction of railway stations and roads, bridges, airfield runways, tunnels and part of the tracks in the Carpathians, river–sea berths, etc…. By maintaining such a situation, we create the effect of a meat grinder, into which resources are driven, and out of which we get the ‘minced meat’, of corpses, smashed equipment and destroyed houses”, wrote the well-known military correspondent Alexander Sladkov (above), in his Telegram channel.
This is a comprehensive and accurate description of what is happening on the battlefield right now. However, it should be understood that the reinforcements that are flowing into the Donbass largely consists now of the Ukrainian troops. During this battle, the most combat-ready units should be knocked out, therefore, the stamina of the Ukrainian troops will fall. It is already being noted that the mobilized reservists surrender much faster and more willingly than the professional military, with whom our army has dealt previously.
However, the decrease in the combat capability of the Armed Forces of Ukraine may not occur. This option can be achieved if the Ukrainian General Staff manages to pull the most combat-ready brigades out of the Donbass cauldron, and leave expendable ‘human cannonfodder’ to die in it. In fact then, the consequences of the battle for the Donbass will determine whether Russia will be able to continue the war in the current format or whether something will have to be radically changed.
We need a second front
In the current operational-strategic configuration, it is almost impossible to solve the problem of Western supplies of weapons available to Russia. However, this does not mean that the problem has no solution at all. Moreover, that solution is perfectly obvious — just look at the map.
Russian troops can deploy along the Brest-Kobrin line, on the territory of allied Belarus. They will have a powerful logistics hub behind them, where the E30 and M10 highways converge. The first through Baranovichi, Minsk and Smolensk goes to the transport heart of Russia – Moscow. The second runs parallel to the Belarusian-Ukrainian border and again goes through Gomel and Bryansk to the Moscow transport hub. Thanks to this configuration of roads, it is possible to arrange the supply of a huge strike force and troop rotation if necessary.
There is a whole network of highways for an offensive in a southerly direction. At the same time, the European route E373, which connects Ukraine with Poland and is therefore one of the key supply routes for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, runs less than 75 km from the Belarusian border. Taking Kovel, our troops will cut off one of the main supply lines of Ukraine, and the attack on Lvov (about 300 km from the Belarusian border, if you go along the roads through Kovel and Lutsk) cuts off all transport flows coming from Poland. The capture or blockade of Ternopil also closes supplies from Slovakia.
A strike on Western Ukraine does not solve just the problem of supplies from Romania. However, due to the fact that Hungary does not allow military cargo through its territory, the resupply of the southern end of the new defence lines is a completely different logistics problem for the United States and its allies — cargo delivered to Poland will have to be transported around half of Central Europe. Accordingly, other amounts of assistance will be required.
In general, the implementation of this scenario requires two components: a political decision by the leadership of Russia and Belarus; and a strike force of about 100,000 people, which will be able to break the resistance of about 50,000 well-trained and equipped forward line of the Ukrainian army, which is under the Zakhid or western operational command. The success of this operation will make it possible to tightly seal the Polish border with infantry and tanks and block the traffic on the cross-border roads.
At present, Russia does not have the military-technical means that allow air strikes to cut the transport arteries connecting Ukraine with the West, or at least significantly complicate the supply route. After the completion of the operation in Donbass, the air forces and missilemen can pay more attention to the railway network, bridges, road junctions and other infrastructure facilities, which, together with the fuel shortages, will complicate, though they won’t stop, the supply of weapons to the Ukrainian army and the foreign and territorial battalions.
The battlefield can be radically changed, nonetheless. For this to happen, the Ukrainian supply lines will be brought within the reach of Russian artillery and MLRS [multiple launch rocket system] systems; in addition, they can be completely blocked by our troops. The transfer of hostilities to the Zapadenschina [Russian expression for the Galician region of western Ukraine], the birthplace of Ukrainian separatism, Bandera and Russophobia, will have a great moral and psychological, one might even say educational effect.
The natives of the Lvov, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk regions quietly hide behind the women and children [of eastern Ukraine], whom they call Donbassians and “Koloradi” [derogatory Ukrainian term for the Novorussians likening them to the potato beetle whose stripes resemble colours of the St George ribbons]. They are quite satisfied with the razing of Mariupol to the ground, and the steady destruction of Kharkov. They will not grieve much for other Russian cities – Odessa, Dniepropetrovsk, Kiev.
However, if the hostilities are transferred to Galicia, the uncompromising fighters for independence may sharply change their minds, deciding it would be better for Lvov to repeat the fate of Paris in 1940 than to become the Stalingrad of 1943.”