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Why Putin can’t capture Kherson Six months on, the resistance remains defiant

Ukrainian soldiers take a break on the front line (BULENT KILIC/AFP via Getty Images)

Ukrainian soldiers take a break on the front line (BULENT KILIC/AFP via Getty Images)


August 24, 2022   4 mins

When I lived on Kyiv’s main boulevard, Khreschatyk, in 2014, I often wondered what it would be like to see Russian tanks rolling down its centre. Last week, I found out, after residents sent me photos of the Ukrainians parading captured Russian tanks down that very street to celebrate their impending Independence Day.

The message was clear. The Russians thought that Ukraine would fold within three days. They thought they would be parading down Khreschatyk in triumph. So Kyiv gave them their parade — albeit with a twist. One thing I’ve always liked about Ukrainians (and to be fair, many Russians, too) is their sense of humour.

This year, Independence Day also falls on the six-month anniversary of the war. If the people here needed a reminder about the importance — and indeed price — of freedom, they couldn’t have asked for a better or more visceral one. For this, and many other reasons, today’s celebrations have a more intense meaning for Ukrainians.

“We got our official independence in 1991 — more than 90% of people voted for it,” Hanna Shelest, Director of Security Programmes at the Foreign Policy Council’s Ukrainian Prism, tells me. “But without any struggle, there was little appreciation of what it really meant. Since February, there is almost no one who does not understand.”

Independence has become for Ukrainians about more than just protecting their land. It is about self-identification. It is no longer just a political act. It is a historical return to their roots, which were repressed for so long. As Shelest says: “Independence is also now psychological — a feeling that we are different from modern-day Russians who consider themselves post-Soviet, whereas we consider ourselves Western and concerned with the future not the past. We are ready to die to escape from a despot rather than worship him.”

If the truth of her words is plain to see six months on, then it is in the country’s southeast that we can best try to determine how many more Ukrainians might have to die for their freedom. Things haven’t changed all that much since I last reported from here this year. Air raid sirens still howl. Russian artillery still pounds army positions and cities. The targets are still overwhelmingly civilian. The Russians half-heartedly lob rockets at Odesan houses and malls. In Mykolaiv, 100km northeast, their barrage is relentless: their goal here is to create a second Mariupol. In Zaporizhzhya, Russian forces turned Europe’s largest nuclear power plant into a battlefield.

Yet Kherson remains the most important city on the most important front of the war right now. The Russians have occupied it since the first days of the war — with difficulty. Resistance activity is never-ending and, occasionally, deadly. As long as the Russians have to worry about Kherson, their chances of taking Mykolaiv, and with it the broader south, are greatly reduced.

The city is also a barometer of the changing war in microcosm. Inside Kherson, you can map the evolving success — and changing justification — of Russia’s war in Ukraine. When the Russians arrived in spring their message to the locals was clear: “We are one people. Let’s unite.” It didn’t fly. And as autumn approaches, the Kremlin has changed tack. “Now they have switched up the messaging to push information about benefits,” says a source on the ground. “They’re keen to let the people know that Russia is generous with its agricultural credits; that it can provide cheaper pesticides; and that the market for agricultural produce is far larger there than in Ukraine.”

As ever, the elderly are a key target audience for their propaganda. It is with them that lingering memories of the Soviet Union, many of them fond, are found. As ever, the focus is largely on pensions. Since occupying the city, the Russians have closed Ukrainian banks and banned the Hryvnia, making it impossible for locals to collect their cash. They have now opened a pension fund office and are also upscaling local administrative and social services — not least by employing more people in local government. “Indirect bribery is one of their main instruments now,” says one resident, drily.

This now extends to all areas — most of all education. Schools reopen in September and right now most Ukrainians in Kherson don’t want their kids to return. With Moscow sending in Russian teachers to teach them a Kremlin-approved syllabus, parents have been keeping their children home to learn online with the Ukrainian syllabus instead. Yet now, the local authorities are offering financial support for books and uniforms; anything to get them through the door.

“There are around 60 schools in the Kherson region,” I’m told. “Russia says it will open 10 more in September, but I’m doubtful. Not more than three I reckon. We know the Russians want to bring more teachers and doctors to Kherson, but they are being prevented from doing this because of a significant intensification of Ukrainian artillery.”

As the war for Kherson’s “hearts and minds” stalls alongside its military operations, the Russians are now ramping up their information operations. The focus now is on producing local content, albeit often of poor quality. No longer happy to merely pump Russian TV into the city, they’ve now opened a local channel and several local newspapers — and, like all good propagandists, are distributing them free of charge. Also making its way into the city is the Russian newspaper Komsmolskaya Pravda, which traditionally has local supplements in the many areas it is distributed. Today, it has a Kherson edition. The Russians are in it for the long haul.

The next key date in the war is 11 September. There will be elections in Russia, and it is widely expected that Moscow will plan a series of bogus referendums across the occupied areas. The goal, as it was with Crimea, is to give a veneer of democratic legitimacy to its project of imperialism and genocide.

For Kherson, though, doubts remain. “We assess that the Russians will have difficulty holding a referendum inside the city [if not elsewhere across the region],” says my source. “It will be hard for them to organise it given the resistance activity inside the city. We know that several weeks ago the Kherson election committee sent a few people to Russia for training but have heard nothing since.”

Elsewhere in the lead up to today’s celebrations, there has been chatter, both in the Ukrainian resistance and the West more broadly, of an imminent counter-offensive, and even the recapture of Kherson within weeks. Those I’ve spoken to on the ground are hesitant because, over the last few days, the Russians have also started counter-attacking. Instead of seven battalions they now have 22 battalions in the region.

For the resistance, every day that the city doesn’t fall into the hands of Russia is a victory. That is their focus. If the results of the war remain in doubt, the resolve of the Ukrainians is not. Putin wanted to destroy the Ukrainian state in a matter of days. Instead, six months on, he has succeeded only in helping to build the Ukrainian nation.


David Patrikarakos is UnHerd‘s foreign correspondent. His latest book is War in 140 characters: how social media is reshaping conflict in the 21st century. (Hachette)

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J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

Perhaps my comment is, to some extent, off topic, but I was struck by the image of the young man at the beginning of this article.
I have seen almost identical images before–the lean body, the hard stare, the eff-you attitude: they appear in almost every article about what the West now calls toxic masculinity. They are the type of male the West no longer has any use for: young, aggressive, and, worst of all, not progressive. They are the very essence of the “deplorables”.
Yet, in connection with Ukraine, we are encouraged to laud them as heroes (and I believe they are heroes). They are fighting for Western values, or so we’re told. But the values they’re fighting for are passĂ© values; the new Western values have no place for men like these except to explicitly exclude them from any kind of societal advantage.
In Ukraine, though, they’re sanitized; they’re doing holy work. Most of all they’re far away. They will never disturb the comfortable bubble of the new elite and their enforcers in the West.
The article quotes a Ukrainian, Hannah Shelest, who says Ukraine views itself as Western, not Russian. Perhaps Ukrainians shouldn’t be too quick to adopt Western values because the West is in the process of destroying itself. Instead of being Western or Russian, perhaps Ukrainians should simply be themselves. Neither of the alternative societies seem to offer much of a future.

Last edited 1 year ago by J Bryant
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

“In times of war and not before, God and the soldier we adore. But in times of peace and all things righted, God is forgotten and the soldier slighted.” -Rudyard Kipling.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago

I was going to quote a different Kipling poem which ends with these words:
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s ” Saviour of ‘is country ” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An ‘Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool – you bet that Tommy sees!
-Tommy
Rudyard Kipling

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Ukraine does very badly in the “Corruption Perceptions Index”, coming in below both Albania and Zambia. Russia even worse.
So perhaps Ukraine should attempt to become ‘Western’, imperfect as that maybe?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago

I think its place in the corruptions index reflects the situation Zelensky was voted in to deal with.Which he was trying to do before the Russians invaded – probably one reason why they did. Hence his employment of sometimes inexperienced people. He needs colleagues who are not tainted by the old regime. In this he is getting support from the EU who have made a cleanout of corruption a condition of Ukraine’s EU membership application.
At least if Ukraine looks to the West, it has a chance to clean out its Augean stables. The younger generation had already begun to favour this approach, it appears, as seen in the election results and demonstrated by the way they have rallied to the battle in extraordinary ways

Last edited 1 year ago by UnHerd Reader
Jacques Rossat
Jacques Rossat
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Recently leaked informations (I think it was in the LuxLeak) have shown that Zelensky had bought two expensive flats in London. I don’t think the money came entirely from his theatrical activities.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago
Reply to  Jacques Rossat

Um, quite old news. Recall Zelensky was already a highly compensated actor pre President.

Brian String
Brian String
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Yeah Zelensky is like a modern day Elliot Ness, sorting out all that corruption malarky, except…

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his partners in comedy production owned a network of offshore companies related to their business based in the British Virgin Islands, Cyprus, and Belize.
  • Zelensky’s current chief aide, Serhiy Shefir, as well as the head of the country’s Security Service, were part of the offshore network.
  • Offshore companies were used by Shefir and another business partner to buy pricey London real estate.
  • Around the time of his 2019 election, Zelensky handed his shares in a key offshore company over to Shefir, but the two appear to have made an arrangement for Zelensky’s family to continue receiving money from the offshore.

Good old Panama papers. This is just a flavour of the revelations. But then to his fans, imprisoning his main political rival, banning rival political parties (except the ultra right Svoboda party) and closing down media channels and newspapers that the regime doesn’t have control over, is just a mere blip, a necessary precaution, and when it comes to squirrelling away a ton of money it seems that resting millions in his offshore accounts will also be a totally understandable and forgivable move – after all, there are some dodgy characters in Ukraine, and he should know, he owes his career to one of them. Even Wiki makes Kolomoisky look bent as a nine hyrvnia note (he even fleeced Abramovic for an alleged billion dollars) and he has a fearsome reputation even amongst his gangster peers.
Can I just add, Patrikarikos is either double thick or on someone’s payroll. His coverage of this entire conflict has been nothing but pure fantasy. I can’t knock him for his support for an embattled nation, but as a journalist I wouldn’t even trust him to get the results of the Boat Race the right way round.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brian String
martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian String

Er, we ARE talking about someone fighting the army of the biggest criminal on the planet?
Zelensky’s main support actually comes from Russophones.
Which probably explains why neither Chernihiv or Kharkiv surrendered.
Funny thing that.

Brian String
Brian String
1 year ago
Reply to  martin logan

Biggest criminal on the planet? Quick, to the Batphone!

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

So, amongst the long list of reasons why Russia invaded Ukraine (en route to Poland and Finland apparently), stopping noble Zelensky from changing Ukraine to a pious, honest nation is added. Every reason is permissible, except the couple that Russians have been stating since 2014 – NATO, Russian minorities in East Ukraine.

As to what happens when Ukraine “looks West”, it’s interesting to note how much of their rich farmland has been bought out by Western interests. Cleaning stables, no doubt.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

NATO will always be on Russia’s borders.
Taking more of Ukraine only brings Russia closer.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

Any country near Russia is going to have corruption.
The Donbas is basically run by criminal gangs.
As is the Kremlin.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago
Reply to  martin logan

Russia is corrupt, no doubt.
But Ukraine by all accounts was much worse, there is a good reason why so many refugees. It wasn’t the war they were fleeing, not all of them.

Sadly, in both countries there is a horrible layer of people who are ripping off the rest and stealing the country’s wealth. And that’s not going to stop even if the war miraculously ends tomorrow.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Right.
The many who owns $70 billion in ill-gotten cash, and lives (somtimes) in $1.3 billion mansion isn’t more corrupt than Zelsnky.
Who doesn’t seem to have poisoned anyone lately.

Andrzej Wasniewski
Andrzej Wasniewski
1 year ago

Like Western means free of corruption? yep.
Elites are corrupt everywhere, the war for Ukraine survival is fought by the people.
And the West is not “imperfect”, it is positively suicidal.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrzej Wasniewski
Kevin Dee
Kevin Dee
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Yea its amazing how pro guns and nationalism the left gets around Ukraine.

Johan Grönwall
Johan Grönwall
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Lol, nice one, trollsky. ”Men like that” are what men become when scum try to take over their country, rape their daughters and destroy their cities.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

Why the rudeness? You essentially agree with him.

zee upītis
zee upītis
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

The notion that Ukrainians view themselves as Western, is nonsense. They view themselves as European, true — as Eastern European, as Slavic, as aligned with the Western world to an extent but even more with the former Warsaw Pact and USSR countries, who are part of the EU such as Poland, Slovakia, Latvia etc, and even free Belarus. Definitely not with Russia though.

Last edited 1 year ago by zee upītis
Michael Askew
Michael Askew
1 year ago
Reply to  zee upÄ«tis

perhaps Wstern in the sense of the western liberal tradition, rather than in a geopolitical sense.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Off-topic, but so true.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

“We are ready to die to escape from a despot rather than worship him.”
She is channeling Sir Winston. But I, too, wonder if the West still has this dormant spirit lying in wait. But as one commenter below mentioned, when the enemy moves in and rapes your wife and daughters, that toxic masculinity will be welcomed with open arms. There will be no use for metrosexual, latte-sipping wimps in flip flops.

Last edited 1 year ago by Warren Trees
Jim Denham
Jim Denham
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I have seen almost identical images before–the lean body, the hard stare, the eff-you attitude: they appear in almost every article about what the West now calls toxic masculinity. They are the type of male the West no longer has any use for: young, aggressive, and, worst of all, not progressive. They are the very essence of the “deplorables”.”: are you able to read minds from a photograph? How is it that you know so much about this yoiung man’s views. One thing, of course, that we do know about the majority of Ukranians is that they’re desperate to join the EU.

Adam McDermont
Adam McDermont
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

You make some good points about masculinity here.
The further Ukraine drifts into the clutches of the major Western powers and the EU, the further they may degenerate. Victory might be as bad as defeat for Ukraine. If they win then the Western values that triumph will be encapsulated by the d***o, the rainbow flag, gender dysphoria, cancel culture, diversity, inclusion, and all the rest of it. No doubt mass immigration will be pushed too. Given the last point. What the hell is the point in independence anyway?

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam McDermont

Not being under the control of a fully Stalinist country, perhaps?

Jimmy Snooks
Jimmy Snooks
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Indeed. The historian Victor David Hansen has a lot to say about this aspect of the West. He alludes to the classic hero of the mid-20th century Western movies. These are the unlikely heroes who come into town to deal with the robbers, exploiters, rapists and murderers at the gates, and in doing so, are prepared to employ the same brute force, animal cunning, and ruthlessness that their rivals freely use. The ‘good townspeople’ can’t summon up the resolve to do it for themselves. When the threat is summarily dealt with, the townspeople will, after a short burst of gratitude, effectively shun those who did the dirty clean-up work. No place for them in polite society. The Ukrainians are the West’s gunslingers, ‘toxic masculinity’ et al.

Andy E
Andy E
1 year ago

The Russians thought that Ukraine would fold within three days”
I am still wondering where this stupid line is originating. I need three days to get ready for a fishing trip. But yes, I saw my son conquering a country (in less than three days!) in a computer game. Also, did not know we can read thoughts already. Good.

tom j
tom j
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy E

Yes it’s an interesting article but has some weak points. He also accuses Russia of Genocide, which is the worst of all crimes, but is not at all close to what is happening in Ukraine. Yes they want to diminish Ukrainian identity, no that is not the same as killing a million Tutsis.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  tom j

I also thought it was odd that on one hand the author claims Russia is practicing genocide, yet on the other they are bringing in teachers, doctors, building schools and publishing newspapers. For whom?

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  tom j

I agree it’s not genocide, this term is bandied about far too often, but it is a kind of cultural annihilation. This happened when Russia controlled Poland and tried to destroy its language, and I suspect it will do so in Ukraine when? if? it is absorbed into a greater Russian empire.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  tom j

The Kremlin wants to ERADICATE Ukrainian identity in all but the most western parts of Ukraine.
And when Russians say that Russia cannot exist if Ukraine exists, that sounds very much like the psychotic dichotomy in Nazi rhetoric about Jews before the war. In 1939 they saw it as an all-out war.
It certainly is PREPARATION for a Genocide.

William Adams
William Adams
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy E

Three days, five days, what’s the difference? Putin thought it would be a pushover.

Brian String
Brian String
1 year ago
Reply to  William Adams

Another Putin mind-reader! So many talented people out there.

Alex Belcastro
Alex Belcastro
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy E

Thank you, Andy E. Everyone says they don’t know what passes in Putin’s mind but at the same time they hastily throw at us the aforementioned line… I don’t think they can hear themselves :/

Brian String
Brian String
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy E

If anyone can find me one quote where any official from the Russian government issued this ‘3 day warning’, I’d be very grateful, because I can’t find anything. I see plenty of armchair punditry and statements from Western military spokesmen, but as far as I am aware there was no such claim made by any Russian official.
This whole claim was simply an exercise in setting them up to fail. Those military types with access to the media made this laughable and impossible claim and they did so with the full knowledge that this was never going to happen, just so that people the world over would be able to say ‘Ha,Russia said they would take Ukraine in 3 days!’ Well no, they didn’t say that, unless someone can prove me wrong?

Last edited 1 year ago by Brian String
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian String

CIA Director William Burns: https://www.npr.org/2022/03/08/1085155440/cia-director-putin-is-angry-and-frustrated-likely-to-double-down?t=1661356757697

The same CIA intelligence that accurately forecast the Russian invasion when the Russians stated they wouldn’t invade at all, many many times. But if you’re so gullible to look for Russian statements and believe them, in the face of accurate intelligence from the CIA, I can only assume you’re trolling for Vlad.

I expect you’ll also believe the Russian statement about the assassination by a woman with her 12 year old daughter alongside her – the Russians clearly think Killing Eve is a documentary, but it takes some people in clearly.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian String

Well, since they took dress uniforms for a parade, and almost no food, that seems what Putin had prepared them for.
The lynch-pin was taking Hostomel airport with Spetsnaz, then killing Zelensky.
Everything failed spectacularly, and now Putin’s army is outnumbered, with few if any new recruits. Moreover, they won’t be trained until teh end of the year.
Indeed, Defence Chief Shoigu just said that the offensive operations will be suspended “to prevent civilian casualties.”
A little late now…

koxlc
koxlc
1 year ago
Reply to  Andy E

It is known fact, that Ruscist officers have made reservations in Kyiv restaurants for a date that was set three days after attack on Ukraine actually begun.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

Russia’s real problem with Kherson is that it is on the wrong side of the Dnipro.
With all bridges blown out by HIMARs, it is going to be difficult to supply the military forces there. To supply the much larger civilian population is going to be impossible. So, the question becomes: do they ethnically cleanse them to Russia?
They’ve already done that with the million or so they’ve captured around Mariupol. But that was before much of the captured Ukrainian rail and road links were degraded by the HIMARs. Very unlikely that a “Stalinist Solution” is viable now.
The HIMARs seem to be destroying yet another Russian fantasy.

D Glover
D Glover
1 year ago
Reply to  martin logan

If it’s impossible to provision the civilian population because the bridges are all down, what happens? Do they all just starve this coming winter?
I’m not making a rhetorical point here. I’m genuinely curious.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  D Glover

I would think starvation is the more likely outcome.
Already engineered in the 1930s–and that was before Ukrainians became Nazis.
When they die–“well, they were Nazis, so they deserved it.”

D Walsh
D Walsh
1 year ago
Reply to  martin logan

All the bridges blown up by HIMARs, when did this happen ?

We stopped hearing about the HIMARs about a week ago, I think its like the Bayraktar and the manpads, effective for a while, but in the end the Russians dealt with the threat
This article reads to me like neocon propaganda

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago
Reply to  D Walsh

No, I think they are still in operation and more are on the way, it seems that the reporting on the war has been scaled back, not the weapons.

Samantha Sharp
Samantha Sharp
1 year ago
Reply to  D Walsh

The bridges (Antonovsky and Nova Khakovka) were damaged by Ukrainian rockets to prevent Russians crossing over the the north side of the Dniper/Dnipro, but I believe they have now been sufficiently repaired to allow some level of Russian military crossing only. No civilian use. There is the Russian gained mixed use, civilian/military ferry (to avoid Ukrainian shelling) also going across – runs by Antonovsky bridge. And still a couple of rail bridges. The two that were destroyed were road bridges, but satellite imagery recently has shown there may be Russian vehicles crossing over them, which would indicate they have been repaired to some extent. I follow Rochan Consulting’s Ukraine Conflict Monitor for daily updates on the war which are very detailed.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago
Reply to  Samantha Sharp

The bridges can’t carry heavy traffic anymore but are somewhat useful. One rail bridge was badly damaged when a munitions resupply train got hit on the bridge.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Samantha Sharp

That doesn’t help the civilians in Kherson.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  D Walsh

Sorry, two days ago, Strelkov, of all people, acknowledged another HIMAR strike on the bridge, killing several workers trying to repair it.

As of the latest report, the only means is now two ferries.

John McKee
John McKee
1 year ago
Reply to  D Walsh

A do all of this author’s pieces.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  martin logan

“The HIMARs seem to be destroying yet another Russian fantasy”
The much vaunted Wehrmacht thought that, and look what happened to them..

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago

Since you mentioned Wehrmacht, today is the anniversary of Ribentrop – Molotov pact.
Worth remembering and teaching young people in the West (which is not happening because of lefty teachers) that Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were allies and started ww2 together by invading Poland.
Germany changed since then but Russian traditions of genocidal Imperialism are on display, daily, in Ukraine.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew F
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Also ‘Chamberlain’s secret agreement’ that we would defend Poland against Germany but NOT against Russia.
Still we nearly came unstuck later over Finland.

Brian String
Brian String
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

‘Germany changed since then’! But Russia is still stuck in 1939 and being led by Stalin, presumably is your point? Did your ‘lefty teachers’ tell you about the 25 million plus Russian deaths, utterly dwarfing UK and US deaths combined? Sort of pushes the Von-Ribentrop thing to one side don’t you think? And if you believe for one minute that ‘lefty teachers’ support Russia in any way shape or form, then you haven’t been reading the Guardian letters pages for the last decade, they utterly loathe Putin and pretty much Russia in its entirety. They would vehemently deny the latter part of the accusation to the point of fisticuffs of course, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian String

I don’t see how the number of Russian casualties ameliorates Stalin’s (and Russia’s) guilt in starting the war.
In 1939, Russia only faced Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia.
IN 1941, Stalin’s brilliance insured that Hitler had an army from all of continental Europe.
Bad mistake…
REAL bad…

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

The Wehrmacht had HIMARs????
I think the winter debacle outside Kyiv looks a lot more like the Wehrmacht in the winter of 1941.
And didn’t Russia actually invade Ukraine, like teh Wehrmact?
Or did my degree in European History not tell me what a Russian degree would?

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  martin logan

How would they ethnically cleanse Kherson civilians to Russia, given that the bridges are down as you mention?

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

More likely just let them die.

Geraldine Robgers
Geraldine Robgers
1 year ago
Reply to  martin logan

I don’t think you’ll find that the Bridges are destroyed, a few holes, which have been largely repaired.. Anyway, we’ll see either way in a few months, I guess.

Pete Rogers
Pete Rogers
1 year ago

Excuse me for saying so, but there’s something quite wrong here.
The writer is describing a Ukrainian society that is united against a Russian-instigated invasion and that is not the case according to the record.
The Maidan Rebellion was a large minority action, but a minority action nonetheless, and Ukraine is deeply split between Russian and European Sympathies in fact there was a large Russian-leaning majority in the early days, but this was altered by a heavyweight campaign funded and largely resourced by the US to persuade the population to turn West leading to the Orange Revolution.
The campaign was most successful in the western part occupied by a populace historically living under Austro-Hungarian then latterly Polish rule until 1938 so its sympathies were consequently with Germany when WWII happened and the history of that zone during that war is shameful, involving extermination of Jews and Russophone Ukrainians.
According to a Ukraine Militia officer interviewed by the BBC recently the Ukrainian population is split 30% for Russia, 30% for Ukraine and 40% who just want the war to stop.
Unherd should not allow itself to be used for propaganda purposes, so I urge it to be very careful before unleashing jingoistic Ukrainian stuff like this, quite clearly written to stimulate the emotional and glorious fancy that a brave little Ukraine is united in resisting an unprovoked invasion by an evil Russian bear!
If you check the record you should see that Vladimir – yes Vladimir – Zelensky, a Russophone Ukrainian from Krivoi Rog who speaks Ukrainian poorly to this day, was elected with a massive 73% on the promise that he would end the 5 year long invasion of the Donbas by Ukraine.
Here is the BBC report confirming his promises
Ukraine election: Comedian Zelensky wins presidency by landslide – BBC News
whereas once in office, he immediately reversed this policy – so what happened and why did a sum estimated at $1.3bn appear in his account according to the Pandora Papers and other sources?
The Donbas had declared autonomy following the coup d’etat enacted by NAZI paramilitaries, including “The Azov Battalion” and “The Right Sector”, who hijacked Maidan, burned down Parliament drove off the moderate rebels and the President and then forced Russophobic Legislation through at gunpoint – including the removal of Russian from its historical status as a joint official language of Ukraine.
Just to make matters worse they were soon to burn150 Russian canvassers to death in Odessa as recorded in EU official records.
Not wishing to be subject to such a coup Govt. the Donbas republics sensibly and legally declared autonomy; upon which the Russophobic administration went to war against them, so the war was started 8 years ago by Ukraine, not by the Russians in Feb as we have had drilled into us to such an extent that it has been turned it into a widely held truth and article of faith – but it’s a lie.
The trigger for Russian intervention was Zelensky’s order 22nd Feb for his military commanders to escalate the attacks on the Autonomous republics. So in Russia’s case this reduced things to a matter of either intervening or watching catastrophe occur just like the inactive West were prepared to do and who were just waiting in the wings to pounce politically by successfully alleging an unprovoked invasion was underway as soon as they came in.
The western press is deeply complicit in this propaganda effort.
This matter of NAZI inspiration is treated with disdain by the West, so perhaps it would be a good idea if you looked at this short clip from a renowned British journalist and writer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mi859Bbcw8E
I had harboured the fond hope that Unherd had the spine and capacity to challenge propagandism sufficient to catch it out and shame it, but it requires the commitment of a truly impartial organ to make sure that it is not turned into a puppet as is the case here.
The Royal United Services Institute, which has held its objectivity credentials high since its founding in 1814, released a paper which revealed that the Ukrainian military deployment is of 750,000 troops arranged on a full war footing against 200,000 Russians including the Donbas Militias, Wagner Group and Rosgvardia contingents deployed on an expeditionary basis.
They go on to say that the lack of a genuine industrial war machine, unlike Russia, means that Ukraine cannot cope and is paying a terrible price whilst the Russians are not and will not as things stand.
The problem is that Zelensky will not allow the Ukrainians to withdraw so they have to stand and fight in hopeless conditions.
Zelensky’s order to the Soldiers at Azovostal in Mariupol to stand and fight to the last man – an order that they disobeyed – is an example of his callous attitude towards the awful cost that is being paid by his soldiers.
The UN position in the main is that Ukraine is using the nuclear power station at Zaporozhe as a bargaining tool and must stop their attack, but there is no such reflection in this article which simply does what all propaganda does, which is to attribute all evil to the other side, truth notwithstanding. The UN is also outspoken against the Ukrainian strategy of placing its Military efforts near sensitive civilian sites like schools and hospitals and not allowing the population to leave, both of which are war crimes.
If we are to take Unherd seriously as a reputable source of real information, it has a lot of housekeeping to do in order to protect itself against having its strings pulled.
I would be pleased for anyone to check out anything and everything I have written here and if they can show any of it to be false – with evidence please, not just angry rejection (which is use to man nor beast in these circumstances) – I will review my position in the light of it.
Please take more care or you will be of no use to any serious person after all.

Last edited 1 year ago by Pete Rogers
D Glover
D Glover
1 year ago
Reply to  Pete Rogers

The problem is that Zelensky will not allow the Ukrainians to withdraw so they have to stand and fight in hopeless conditions.

The problem is that Zelensky did tell the defenders of the Azovstahl plant to surrender. Remind us what happened to these prisoners.

Alan Tonkyn
Alan Tonkyn
1 year ago
Reply to  Pete Rogers

I think you need to be more careful in your use of sources. In the BBC report which you cite as evidence of Zelensky’s election promises, there is no mention of a promise to end the ‘invasion of the Donbas by Ukraine’, but merely a rather vague promise of an attempt to end the fighting there by negotiation with the Russian-backed separatists. Citing the view of a single ‘Ukraine militia officer’ as evidence of the views of the population as a whole in relation to pro- or anti-Russian sentiment, is simply ridiculous, even if his views were then repeated by the BBC. Your frequent labelling of the Ukrainian side as NAZIs, ignores the fact that their leader is a Jew, and that the Russian Wagner militia are far-right extremist mercenaries truly deserving that appellation.

D Glover
D Glover
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan Tonkyn

Have you noticed the odd, stilted, formal style of ‘Pete Rogers’ writing?

Alan Tonkyn
Alan Tonkyn
1 year ago
Reply to  D Glover

Hmm. Good point. Are we thinking that ‘Pete’ is a front for another, larger entity?

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan Tonkyn

Yes, if we pretend Pete Rogers is an evil fascist Purinbot, his points will be invalid.

John McKee
John McKee
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan Tonkyn

This is a truly slimy tactic. You should be ashamed of yourself. Much of Mr. Rogers’s argument is supported by many observers, some with UN affiliations. See Alfred Zayas’s blog and website for one.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan Tonkyn

It is cute how so many like you conflate Nazis with “far right”.
What was the full form of Nazi I wonder?

And calling them “Russian backed” separatists doesn’t invalidate the cause of those separatists. Or negate the fact that Ukraine has several chances to see sense, treat it’s Russian minorities with respect and stop attacking civilians. Minsk agreements for instance.

What Ukraine did was exactly what Serbia did in the 90s. What was NATO’s response then?

Adam McDermont
Adam McDermont
1 year ago
Reply to  Pete Rogers

Thanks for this well thought out viewpoint. I think Zelensky’s decision to pose for vogue while his soldiers are being castrated with box cutters absolutely sickening.

D Glover
D Glover
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam McDermont

Are these box-cutters autonomous entities? Who is wielding them, then?
Russians like you.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam McDermont

Quite agree but entirely suited to his previous career. I imagine his regrets afterwards.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  Pete Rogers

Troll a la la

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago
Reply to  Pete Rogers

Excellent spin complete with truth, half truth and some questionable truth. It’s just a pity to see all these soldiers and citizens die because of Putin failures. He invaded to cover over declines at home, IMHO. I suspect things were not going well in taking over the Donbas, so Putin decided on the whole place. Now he is stalled in much the same place, inching along accumulating dead soldiers and now a lot of trashed gear. The mindless destruction of civilian stuff to little military purpose has been a waste of munitions serving only to harden the Ukrainian. Soon Russian society will feel the pinch making life even harder on the rulers. All tragic much like Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal, foolish bosses.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Pete Rogers

Why do Putin verstehrers always sound like a report to the XXth Party Congress on the price of eggs in Kazakstan?
Dostoevsky and Gogol are rolling in their graves.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  Pete Rogers

wow – if that is all true then we are all embroiled in such a propaganderized world that it really CAN be characterized as ‘post truth’ – and that genuine journalism is truly dead, buried and destroyed by evil forces – time to stop reading ‘news’ and concentrate on sailing and fishing for my remaining days 🙁

Rita Riiner
Rita Riiner
1 year ago
Reply to  Pete Rogers

Well, there’s something I don’t understand. As we know, Russia fights in Ukraine to denazify it and to defend their motherland, i.e. Russia. Now it appears the enemy is even more cunning and blames the Russian soldiers for their own (=UKR) horrible actions – bombing the maternity hospitals, schools and apartment blocks, plus trying to trigger nuclear calamity on their own ground. Whereas Shoigu said once again – international law is being strictly followed by RUS to protect civilians. Why don’t the Russian troops go back to Russian soil to stop these horrific accusations?

Irene Ve
Irene Ve
1 year ago
Reply to  Pete Rogers

“Please take more care or you will be of no use to any serious person after all.” – if I had any doubts as to the origin of this comment, this last paragraph removed them all. Is it me, or does it sounds like a (polite?) threat. If one says something which does not satisfy this commenter, they “will be of no use to any serious person” (the author of this comment? – he must be the ‘serious person’, I presume). I’ll risk it, nevertheless.
Some truths, half-truths and lies are all mixed in this official Kremlin statement, as one of the commenters has rightly noticed.
Pete, you demand evidence from the others who disagree with your “facts”, but you do not provide any evidence yourself – BBC pieces are not in high regard among free thinkers these days, your analysts should have done a better job informing you what counts as proof here.
You do understand that disproving your statement step by step is going to take years of investigations, tens of thousands of interviews with witnesses, photos and other material proof. Your country largely relies today on taking over Ukraine and destroying that evidence, of which Mariupol is a very good example. But I am sure, enough will be uncovered in due course.
I happen to have a few Ukrainian and Russian friends – all studied together in London some 20+ years ago, who volunteered to work in Poland/Russia/Ukraine helping Ukrainian and Russian refugees, who all heard hundreds and hundreds of witnesses’ accounts – I know, this does not count as evidence to you. It does to me.
I also happen to speak good Russian, so I am able to follow on YouTube regular analysis by top Russian political analysts and economists – Đ’Đ»Đ°ĐŽĐžĐŒĐžŃ€ ĐŸĐ°ŃŃ‚ŃƒŃ…ĐŸĐČ (Vladimir Pastukhov, UCL, London), ХДргДĐč Đ“ŃƒŃ€ĐžĐ”ĐČ (Sergei Guriev, who was advisor to Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, fled Russia in 2013, then Head Economist of the EBRD 2015-2019), АлДĐșсДĐč Đ’Đ”ĐœĐ”ĐŽĐžĐșŃ‚ĐŸĐČ (Aleksei Venediktov, opposition journalist, Moscow) to name a few – all branded as “foreign agents” by the Kremlin.
Their views differ in details, but are all similar on one main theme – that this war is a result of growing Russian imperial ambition combined with growing militarisation of Russian society – the slogan “We can repeat it!” whenever WWII is mentioned (happens almost daily) tells it all. This war is also instrumental in changing Russia from autocracy to totalitarianism in order to keep power and wealth in the hands of the current Kremlin factions and their families when Putin has to go due to age/illness.

Last edited 1 year ago by Irene Ve
pessimist extremus
pessimist extremus
1 year ago
Reply to  Irene Ve

True. With Russia it is ‘everybody do as we demand, or.’ We heard the demands in Dec. 2021. What about the nations quite ‘fresh’ out of the embrace of the Russki Mir? Do they have a say? Well, of course not. If a country does not welcome being in the empire, it must be NATO tricks and pressure. It is impossible to negotiate with an imperial ambition determined to get 100%, no matter how high the costs.
P.S. and btw – Putin has sent history textbooks with ‘his truth’ to occupied territories. As a textbook is not written or printed overnight, we can guess again how effective diplomacy could be with a bully.

Last edited 1 year ago by pessimist extremus
Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

Thank you. Finally a relevant and useful article on Ukraine which tell us something new. We need more of this and much less of the opinion/speculation stuff.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

Rather depressing to see the usual post-modernist gripes from both Left and Right.
The same well-worn adolescent complaints about how the other side is so bad and corrupt. How one has been victimized by (fill in the blank).
Sorry, Post-Modern discourse died on 24 Feb, 2022.
This is real life. You will see conflict, pain, cold and hunger for a very long time, the kind that many of your great-grandparents experienced. And if your nation (or the EU, or the US, or NATO) loses, it will shape the rest of your life. And not for the good.
So get used to it.
It’s not going away for the remainder of this century.

Last edited 1 year ago by martin logan
William Adams
William Adams
1 year ago

Readers beware. This thread is infested with Russian trolls.

Brian String
Brian String
1 year ago
Reply to  William Adams

And also with a shed-full of William Adamses.

me you
me you
1 year ago
Reply to  William Adams

Since when has has logic, history, curiosity and open discussion become (Russian trolls)?
Russians/Ukrainians sounds like Israelis/Palestinians, both sides pathetic monsters out for blood. None of them will back down because none of them care about their country or people. If you really care about your women/children or young men then stop, no matter the cost.
A true leader does not sacrifice his people for his prides sake.
And yes i do understand geopolitics and the why, how and who is behind and fuelling it but still, without horrible leaders we would not have a horrible war.
Zelensky vs Putin = Kill them both if that makes you happy

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago
Reply to  me you

Not quite. The religion issue is not there.

Stephen Magee
Stephen Magee
1 year ago
Reply to  William Adams

Is it ever!

Geraldine Robgers
Geraldine Robgers
1 year ago
Reply to  William Adams

Thank you William for your thoughtful contribution…

Geraldine Robgers
Geraldine Robgers
1 year ago

An interesting observation is that the people in the Dombass say the same things about the Ukrainian National Government that you say Ukrainians are thinking about Russia. Calling the Ukrainian government imperialists and invaders amongst other sentiments…

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago

People in the Donbas are a very mixed bag. The mix worked reasonably well until the Russians decided to complete the land bridge. But there are E-W issues that Ukraine, left alone, would have resolved.

Geraldine Robgers
Geraldine Robgers
1 year ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, otherwise the Ukrainian government would have implemented the Minsk Accords, which was only giving the Dombass autonomy within Ukraine, now the dpr/lpr are fighting for independence from Ukraine.

John McKee
John McKee
1 year ago

Where did Ukraine attempt to implement the Minsk Accords?

Geraldine Robgers
Geraldine Robgers
1 year ago
Reply to  John McKee

I don’t understand this reply. It clearly didn’t, as I said in my comment

Wim de Vriend
Wim de Vriend
1 year ago

“For the resistance, every day that the city doesn’t fall into the hands of Russia is a victory.”
Isn’t it already in their hands? The article says they’ve held Kherson since the beginning of the war. Not that I’m glad of it.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

What really shapes this conflict is that Ukraine is a real nation–and Russia isn’t.
Putin is attempting to create an ersatz empire like Peter the Great’s, not a Russian nation. But then his problem is that any genuine manifestation of nationhood, even in support of the war, is a threat to his position. Russians in an empire wait to be mobilized. They don’t volunteer.
That has real consequences. Ukraine’s army is now larger than Russia’s because it introduced the draft on day one. Putin will never dare to do that, since the middle class would immediately resist, and thus put his power in jeopardy.
Defence Minister Shoigu’s suspension of offensive operations for “humanitarian” reasons strongly suggests that Russia will now go on the defensive. They’ve simply lost too many men in the second phase of the war–to take a tract the size of Andorra.
But Putin still only attracts soldiers through higher pay, while his number of weapons continues to diminish. The balance is shifting.
Ukraine hasn’t won yet.
But Russia has certainly lost.

Andy E
Andy E
1 year ago

Is the guy smoking what I do smoke recreationally from time to time? Might be not good for aiming.

M. Gatt
M. Gatt
1 year ago

Ahh. An un-tattoed young man. You’re learning not to present your friends.

Jim Allen
Jim Allen
1 year ago

I think most commentators are missing the point! the Russian wolf pack has invaded the Ukrainian Wolverines den. The Wolverine is fighting back and will always win or die. Simply put you don’t invade a sovereign Country and not expect them to fight back and keep fighting until they win or die.
The honesty of the peoples of both countries can be discussed ad infinitum but it will be an irrelevance until the war is over.

David Watts
David Watts
1 year ago

I disagree to a certain extent with J Bryant’s comments. I see in that young man a driven person. Someone with the maverick element and the courage to keep punching on until the job is done. And they are the exact ingredients Ukraine needs in it’s soldiers to win this war. And they will do. Never mind the cheap talk of pushing these types to one side, that is rubbish talk. Society needs a good balance of all types of characters, and not a herd of yes men idealistic robots, with hair shirts.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  David Watts

J.Bryant was describing the woke perpective on that young man, not his/her own perspective.

Dr Ali Akademir
Dr Ali Akademir
1 year ago

Russia will soon hold the referendum as planned

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago

….and your point is?

Dr Ali Akademir
Dr Ali Akademir
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Already captured!

Mikis Hasson
Mikis Hasson
1 year ago

This is another copy of blind western propaganda Russia BAD Ukraine GOOD, Russia LOSERS Ukrainians HEROES. Besides the fact that it repeats CNN, it encourages the death of all Ukrainians and the total destruction of Ukraine. Russia is fighting for it’s existence too, to avoid NATO expansion and contamination by woke values.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  Mikis Hasson

‘russia fighting for its existence” – that must be one of the craziest things i have read for a long time – and that is saying something !!!

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
1 year ago

This article is pure Western propaganda.Russia continues to take more and more territory. They have two more major cities to take and what is left of Ukraine will be land locked. But somehow Ukraine is winning? Lol. I hope the author is being compensated by Westrn intelligence for this garbage. Nato had 8 years to prep for this war. The Pentagon continues to throw more and more resources into it and it makes no difference. Russia still takes more and more territory.

Jeff Andrews
Jeff Andrews
1 year ago

What a degenerate your hero looks! A bit like our politicians. Anyway, these same politicians and toerags like your guy have been frantically pushing for a war with Russia since at least 2014. Well now they’ve got one why is NATO so reluctant to intervene? Please don’t tell us it’s because they don’t want a nuclear conflict when NATO is bombing Europes biggest nuclear plant daily.

D Glover
D Glover
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Andrews

NATO is bombing? The Zaporizhzhia plant is being shelled, with Ukraine and Russia blaming each other.
What NATO airforce is bombing it? More detail, please.

Last edited 1 year ago by D Glover
Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Andrews

Đ—Đ°ŃŃƒĐœŃŒ сДбД ĐČ Đ¶ĐŸĐżŃƒ, ИĐČĐ°Đœ.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Shove it up your ass, Ivan.