Edward Slavsquat looks at the withdrawal from Kherson
Not everybody (and I do not mean the liberal Fifth Columnists in Russia) agrees with the decision to withdraw from Kherson.
The iconoclast, Edward Slavsquat gives us a view into this side of the argument.
In view of all that has been happening I have decided to have a look at the philosophy of Tolstoy in the novel, War and Peace this weekend.
I think it goes a long way to understanding something in Russian history that continues to be incomprehensible to the West.
Kherson Withdrawal — The Worst of All Worlds #6
[Expecting the Completely Expected Retreat, Better to Fall Back or Take Losses?, Who Killed Stremousov?, Putin Is Simply Too Chill, The “Institute of Reputation” in Russia, Lying: a Bold PR Strategy]
Listen to podcast HERE
Kherson withdrawal: Views from Russian media
and deep thoughts from our podcast
The Russian military has withdrawn from Kherson. The city was declared a Russian territory at the end of September.
What do patriotic, pro-Putin, pro-SMO Russian-language media outlets think about this decision?
Topwar.ru, Russia’s most popular military news portal, published a scathing op-ed about the decision to abandon the city:
So, Kherson is finished.
The city is being handed over without a single shot being fired …
We have repeated Gostomel, Bucha, and Krasny Liman—only on a somewhat larger scale. 115,000 Kherson residents (data from the Ministry of Defense) became refugees, having lost everything: housing, work, property, prospects. […]
Now for several days we will listen to a stream of completely shameless propaganda, the purpose of which is to justify what happened. […]
But our shameless propagandists will justify anything. They’ve been paid. And they’ve already started to explain that Kherson was not needed at all and stuff like that.
The world’s second-largest army continues its heroic flight … But that’s not the point. The main thing is that a subject of the Russian Federation has been abandoned. […]
The bottom line is that today Russia is losing the remnants of self-confidence of the so-called “Russian world.”
And so on. The commentary ends with an appeal to the Kremlin:
The Russian government, which conducts the special military operation so splendidly, needs to understand the main thing that it (they) stubbornly refuses to understand: what they call the SMO is an ordinary war for the rest of the world … it’s time to start [really] fighting. […]
I can go on and on about what Russia should be doing besides the stupid destruction of its citizens.
Russia’s leadership must put aside its “business interests” and conduct a “real war,” the op-ed implores.
If this is not a plan to lure enemy troops in order to beat them in advantageous positions (which I really want to believe in spite of everything) and we just left, then this is the most serious defeat of our army since 1991, which will badly damage the morale of both the fighters at the front and the entire people as a whole. […]
From the point of view of domestic policy, this is more than a serious blow to the trust in the authorities …
Moreover, the official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, announced her readiness to negotiate with Ukraine, taking into account the current realities.
“We are still open to negotiations. We have never refused them, we are ready to conduct them, of course, taking into account the realities that are developing at the moment,” she said at a briefing.
The day before, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said that Moscow does not set any preconditions for peace talks with Kiev. According to him, to start a dialogue “only the good will of Ukraine is enough.”
The article ends by expressing hope that the withdrawal is a trap set for the Ukrainian military, while acknowledging it may actually be part of a backroom deal between Moscow and Kiev (Washington).
Both Topwar and Katyusha expressed suspicions about the curious death of Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of Kherson, who reportedly died in a car accident on the same day that the withdrawal was announced.
“Two days ago, when no one still believed in the abandonment of Kherson, Stremousov said that there were still many Russian citizens left in the city who could not leave. And he was against the surrender of the city,” Topwar noted. Both outlets hinted Moscow may be responsible for Stremousov’s demise.
Will the military threat increase if the Armed Forces of Ukraine enter Kherson? The Armed Forces of Ukraine, in principle, previously had the ability to strike at fairly large distances—up to 100 km deep into our defenses. And due to the fact that now they are actively supplied with guided strike weapons like UAVs, the range of delivering these strikes is about 200 km to our rear. Therefore, the entry of the Armed Forces of Ukraine into Kherson will not change anything in terms of defense. The Armed Forces of Ukraine, as they struck with the American HIMARS, will continue to strike. As they delivered strikes from the French Caesar self-propelled guns, they will continue to deliver these strikes using precision-guided munitions.
However, as our army captured this bridgehead at the beginning of the SMO, and it will not work the second time, because back then the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not have the necessary resources, there was not enough personnel, there was no modern Western weapons, and in fact our army entered there as a her home, there was nothing to stop her.
Next time this will not work, because now the Armed Forces of Ukraine on the right bank will deploy their echeloned defense, which will be backed up by high-precision Western weapons, and storming the right bank along the already destroyed bridges, without having normal crossings—this is a conversation about the experience of the Great Patriotic War. Those who are interested can read how it happened at that time and what difficulties it caused. And if the Armed Forces of Ukraine blow up the dam, they will flood all our positions to which we retreated, and nothing will be flooded on the right bank.
But personally, I believe that there was no military need to leave the Kherson bridgehead. During various wars, the armies were in much more difficult circumstances, and as we know, in such circumstances, military operations were carried out that were not much different from how military operations are now conducted on the territory of Ukraine, if we recall the experience of the 20th century. And, in my opinion, there is very little military solution in the very leaving of this springboard, there is more politics involved.
Unfortunately, we all depend on the political decisions that are made by our political leadership. And until our political leadership tells our army to move from defense to offensive, nothing will change. Wars are not won on the defensive.
It is difficult to say how the departure will affect the political sense. We do not know what behind-the-scenes negotiations were conducted by our leadership with the American representatives, with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who was talking about something with our political representatives. We do not know what decisions were made and on what basis they were motivated. Perhaps there were political reasons for this, perhaps not.
However, this withdrawal does not look very nice against the background of the fact that this region was recently annexed to the Russian Federation. Concerts and celebrations were held even on Red Square.
I think that our political leadership should stop looking to the West, stop wondering what the US Democratic Party has to say. It must live by its own policy, make those political decisions that determine the national interests of Russia, and not live with an eye to the West …
If you pay attention to the statements made by various officials, including American ones, for them this was an expected decision. They expected that our politicians would decide to leave Kherson, because if it were a surprise and news for them, we would see completely different rhetoric.
Your correspondent joined Blog Friends Marko & Rolo for a podcast about the situation. Our weekly talks will henceforth be hosted on a dedicated Substack, The Worst of All Worlds. Subscribe?
You can read Rolo’s take on the withdrawal here. Marko published an excellent analysis looking into military realities that may have prompted the abandonment of the city.
Right now, patriotic Russian civil society is having a full-on meltdown. Channels are being deleted, people demanding the overthrow of the government, etc etc. Some of them may even get swooped on by the FSB for their momentary emotional lapse. Can’t be making mistakes like that when the stakes are so high, folks. Oh well, better they remove themselves from the political arena rather than continue to plague us with their bad analyses and counter-productive whining.
Now, I’ve advanced the thesis that the military wanted to retreat and that the politicians didn’t and that the military ended up winning out, which was a good thing in the long run. Sources I actually respect however are saying the exact opposite. They’re saying that this was a political move and that the military wanted to stay and fight. I’ve explained the logic behind my reasoning and provided sources as best I could. Let’s see what these guys have to say though.
Starting with Katyusha:
Despite the fact that rumors about the imminent abandonment of the left bank of the Dnieper by the Russian troops and the retreat from Kherson have been circulating for many days, it is still difficult to believe in this. Our troops retreat from there, without giving battle to the Kyiv militants. They leave with a complete misunderstanding by society of the reasons for such a decision, the strange death of one of the leaders of the Russian movement of the city, statements by the [Russian] Foreign Ministry about their readiness for negotiations with Zelensky and rumors about an inter-elite agreement with the United States. If this is not a plan to lure enemy troops in order to beat them in advantageous positions (which I really want to believe in spite of everything) and we just left, then this is the most serious defeat of our army since 1991. Which will hit hard on the morale of both the fighters at the front and the entire people as a whole. And the responsibility for which lies not only and not really even so much on the military,
Only on Saturday, a fighter who returned from Kherson assured the author of “Katyusha” that all the news about the surrender of Kherson was fake, the city was actively preparing for defense, reinforcements for the fighters were coming and Ukrainian militants would receive their “Stalingrad” no worse than the Nazis in 1943. In the media, on the eve [of the retreat], no one even uttered a hint about surrender – the paratroopers heroically held the defense in Snigirevka, stopping the attacks of larger enemy forces. I could not believe in the retreat from the city even when all Russian flags were removed from there, the bridges were blown up, all officials were taken out, and a large number of the population were evacuated. It stubbornly sat in my head – we will not leave our cities to be desecrated by evil spirits, leave it to the forces of Hell, as the president himself said.
Moreover, from all points of view, the surrender of the city was not profitable. From the military, yes – the army received logistics, but at the same time, the possibility of the VFU strikes at the isthmus and the north of Crimea, which complicates this logistics. Russia frees up troops, but the Kyiv militants also got the opportunity to transfer troops and try to repeat the success in Krasny Liman. And most importantly: storming the high right bank of the Dnieper will be, to put it mildly, difficult, and you can forget about the liberation of the south of Novorossia – Kherson itself, Nikolaev, Odessa in the short term.
Besides such a decision gave the [Kyiv] militants additional motivation – they are advancing, “victory is near”, Zelensky is already appointing leadership to the left-bank, that is, to our districts in the Kherson region.
From the point of view of domestic policy, this is more than a serious blow to the trust in the authorities and personally to Putin, because even the last soldier understands that the decision was not made by the military at all, and last night’s performance with Surovikin’s report to Shoigu is just a decoration.
I don’t understand this at all. We saw Surovikin mention difficult decisions a month ago. Russia is waiting for mobilized troops to arrive to the front and until they do they’re at a serious disadvantage. The Russian army was threatened with being pinned against the river.
The writer of this piece, Tsiganov most likely, a man that I respect immensely for his work fighting back against COVID tyranny in Russia and for his legal warfare against Russia’s Liberal 5th columnists, doesn’t give any proof for these claims.
A blow, the consequences of which are not yet visible, but the authorities will definitely not find it a little. After all, it turns out that the Russian authorities, against the backdrop of undercover agreements with the United States and Turkey, surrendered the city, which they recently accepted into the country. We haven’t had this since 1991. Kherson was the first and only regional center of Ukraine, which came under the control of the Russian army during the “SMO” and, from the point of view of the legislation of the Russian Federation, became the capital of one of the new subjects of the Federation.
People on Telegram were calling for the fortification of the city proper and a reverse Mariuple situation, which is insane. First of all, Russia doesn’t have the Death Korps of Krieg on their side to leave behind to fight to the last man – it’s the Ukrainians who do/did. Then, once the decision to defend the city was made, it would have to be defended and eventually relieved, putting Russia on a clock to make a breakthrough.
Overall, just stupid, stupid, stupid.
The regular mouthpieces of the presidential administration immediately received a new training manual – from [which they howled out talking points like]: “Do you want our children to die for something?” and “we have a lot of these Russian cities.” The result of this attack was the loss of faith in at least some official promises in Donetsk, where, like it or not, they began to ask questions about what their own fate will be.
Finally, from the point of view of geopolitics, the Kherson retreat is a failure. As after the Kharkov tragedy, Europe immediately announced the allocation of military assistance to Ukraine. And no one spoke out against it anymore – why protest if “Ukraine is winning.” The news was received with joy in Washington – after all, this is their “victory”, NATO is also delighted. On the other hand, leaving a large city is unlikely to add credibility in the eyes of eastern partners. Weakness has never attracted anyone.
Hopes that the abandonment of the city will lead to a truce smack of outright kindergarten stuff. What use it this to 4th Reich, if everything is going well for them anyway? Kyiv has already stated that the terms of Russia’s surrender remain unchanged and that the withdrawal from Kherson is not a reason for a truce.
It seemed that absolutely everything was against the abandonment of Kherson. However, the decision has been made. Moreover, it was carried out in such a way as to gloss over and make extreme the recent hope of the Russian army, the commander of the Joint Group of Russian Forces Sergei Surovikin: “ A comprehensive assessment of the current situation, it is proposed to take up defense along the left bank of the Dnieper River. I understand that this is a very difficult decision. At the same time, we we will save, most importantly, the lives of our servicemen and, in general, the combat capability of the group of troops, which is futile to keep on the right bank in a limited area ,” Surovikin said.
The decision was clearly made a month ago.
Shoigu supported the general. Surovikin was also supported by Kadyrov and Prigogine. And then came information about the capture of the Kherson villages by the UAF.
Regarding the real authors of the decision to withdraw troops from the Presidential Administration, their PR people distanced themselves from this decision as much as possible. On the day of the announcement of the decision to withdraw Russian troops to the left bank of the Dnieper near Kherson, Vladimir Putin’s official work schedule was emphatically routine, routine and planned. He visited the Federal Center for Brain and Neurotechnologies, met with the head of the Federal Medical and Biological Agency Veronika Skvortsova and spoke by phone with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
Along the way, two more events happened that seriously added fuel to the fire. One of the best Russian activists, the father of five children, Kirill Stremousov, died. As follows from official statements and a video from the scene, he died in an accident on the way to the new “capital” of the region – Genichesk. We will not reproduce conspiracy theories here, but Kirill died too “on time”, literally on the day of “difficult decisions” [being made]. Whether fate played a cruel joke on him, preventing him from seeing Ukrainian flags in his city, or whether the British owners of the ukroregime, the DRG or traitors from among the Russians side helped it happen, we don’t know, and therefore we’ll just note – despite the award by the president and any conclusion of the commission, different ersions about the non-randomness [read: true nature] of his death will live on for a long time.
This is quite an allegation to even hint at. It was only fringe nationalists who were alleging that the FSB was knocking off militia commanders in the Donbass who didn’t agree with Minsk I and II and who resisted connected mafia dons from Moscow coming in to squabble over Donbass’ resources back in the day.
Now though, it’s kind of a big deal for a patriotic, normie-facing website involved with the government to be even hinting at the fact that the FSB may have had something to do with the death of a pro-Russian in Ukraine.
Me, I don’t know why they would want him dead. Someone needs to explain why he was worth killing.
Moreover, almost simultaneously with the news of the death of Kirill, the official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, announced her readiness to negotiate with Ukraine, taking into account the current realities. ” We are still open to negotiations. We have never refused them, we are ready to conduct them, of course, taking into account the realities that are developing at the moment , ” she said at a briefing. The day before, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said that Moscow does not set any preconditions for peace talks with Kyiv. According to him, to start a dialogue ” only the good will of Ukraine is enough“Given that the Western leading media have been dispersing the topic of “negotiations after the surrender of Kherson” since the weekend, the words were, to put it mildly, highly compromising Surovikin, who is portrayed as a clown forced to read unpopular decisions and take on all the negativity from the “agreement” .
These are the traitors that the patriot bloc in Russia are constantly pointing the finger at. There is a powerful lobby, over-represented heavily in the MFA, that wants to make concessions and make peace with the West through appeasement.
True, there will be no peace, as Ukraine has already stated, and peace could not be for the reasons described above. And if among our “elite” someone believed that the West would simply stop Ukraine like that, then he can be congratulated – the West simply deceived them 101 times and the hostilities not only will not stop, but will flare up with renewed vigor.
However, there is still hope that this whole story is a plan to lure the enemy into an uncomfortable position. It was about just this that they began to unanimously declare from Kyiv saying that there is no retreat in reality, and Surovikin decided to set a trap for them. I would very much like to believe that this is really so, and this whole rainy day was nothing more than a preface to a great Victory. Otherwise, there is a bad feeling that the enemy is trying, as best he can, to play along with our “strategists”, which only confirms the version of the deal. Whether this is so will become clear today or tomorrow.
So far, it seems that there was no 5D chess plan, yet again.
I don’t agree with Tsiganov’s thesis and he didn’t really present new evidence to prove his point one way or the other. That being said, he is more well-connected than I am and perhaps he has access to sources that are telling him stuff that I don’t know.
All I can rely on is my ability to see things coherently and without cogdis, not on rumors being leaked from people who may or may not be full of it, frankly.