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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

As Russian parliament votes to annex regions of Ukraine, Putin’s spokesman admits new borders are still in flux

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As Ed noted this morning, Russia had another bad weekend as front line forces in the city of Lyman had to retreat to avoid being encircled by the Ukrainian army. That loss has even shaken up some of the hardliners on the Kremlin’s propaganda TV. This clip is about five minutes long. You don’t need to watch all of it to get the tone. The gist is that even Russian politicians are acknowledging that Russia is isolated and is experiencing shortages of equipment while Ukraine has no comparable shortages thanks to international support. In the middle of this clip, on a Kremlin controlled show, he also complains that there needs to be more censorship of journalists. Apparently this nightly dumpster fire of a program isn’t enough.

That was Sunday night after a weekend of losses. Monday was supposed to be a better day for Putin as parliament voted to approve the annexation of parts of Ukraine. Only it isn’t really working out as a triumph since Putin’s spokesman had to admit the exact borders were still being determined.

The lower house of the Russian Parliament, the State Duma, on Monday ratified President Vladimir V. Putin’s attempted annexation of four regions in eastern and southern Ukraine — part of an official choreography meant to add a sheen of legitimacy to a move that no other nation has recognized as legal.

But frontline reality has intruded on the festivities. Since Mr. Putin delivered a major speech on Friday outlining his claims to the four Ukrainian regions, he has suffered military setbacks in at least three of them. Russian forces withdrew from the key railroad hub of Lyman in the Donetsk region on Saturday, while Russian proxy officials in the Luhansk and Kherson regions said on Monday that Ukrainian forces had made advances there.

The annexation claims were so muddled that Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, found himself forced to acknowledge on Monday that Russia’s borders — as the Russian government newly defines them — remained in flux…

“Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, in terms of the borders, we’re going to continue to consult with the population of these regions,” Mr. Peskov said in his regular conference call with reporters. “We’re going to continue to consult with the people who live in these regions.”

They may want to “consult” with the Ukrainian army which continues to push Russian forces back in the south as well as the east.

Ukrainian forces achieved their biggest breakthrough in the country’s south since the war began, bursting through Russian defences and advancing rapidly along the Dnipro River on Monday, threatening supply lines for thousands of Russian troops…

“The information is tense, let’s put it that way, because yes, there were indeed breakthroughs,” Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-installed leader in occupied parts of Ukraine’s Kherson province, told Russian state television.

“There’s a settlement called Dudchany, right along the Dnipro River, and right there, in that region, there was a breakthrough. There are settlements that are occupied by Ukrainian forces,” he said.

According to some close observers of the front lines, Russian forces retreated to Dudchany Saturday and then had to retreat from there today.

Russia apparently blew up a bridge to cover their own retreat, though this isn’t being seen as any kind of a win for Russia since going around this obstacle won’t delay the Ukrainian army for long.

Success has a way of raising morale and that’s what is happening in the east as well in the wake of the victory in Lyman. An American volunteer there told the NY Times some of the Russians they’ve encountered have been in poor shape.

Piled into the back of an army truck, heading down the road to new positions toward the town of Lyman, a company of Ukrainian and foreign soldiers were in an ebullient mood.

“The Russians have been retreating,” said the unit’s commander, Rob Roy, a 26-year-old American volunteer who uses the code name Borys. “We broke their lines and have been pursuing them since.”…

…many of the Russian conscripts were in poor shape, he said.

“Lots of times they were wearing flip-flops, malnourished,” he said. Two Russian soldiers his unit found had only one gun between them, and were carrying a pack of food and two drums of water, he said.

The more Russian soldiers are on the run, the more likely they are to be out of supplies, out of control and unable to fight back. This continues to be a debacle for Putin and an expensive one at that. How long can he keep this up with untrained and ill-equipped replacements?

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