Nothing new on the Western Front. And on the Eastern one?

(To Nicola Cristadoro)

On 10 January 2023, nearly a year after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Colonel General Alexander Lapin was appointed Chief of the Ground Forces Staff of the Russian Armed Forces. Of the "ground forces", therefore of the Army.

Why is it necessary to emphasize this aspect? Because the majority of media communicators rushed within a few tens of minutes to proclaim that this officer replaced the mythical figure (at least for the "insiders") of General Valerij Gerasimov. Too bad these hasty journalists ignore the difference between a Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces and a Chief of Staff of the Army, which is one of the Armed Forces. Gerasimov rhymed instead of him.

Who then is General Lapin, a controversial character at the center of violent controversies raised within the Russian military structure?

By decision of Gerasimov himself, his immediate hierarchical superior who on several occasions would have expressed his total confidence in the ability to leadership by Lapin,1 until October 2022 he was the commander of the group of "forces of the Center" deployed in the Ukrainian theater. In October, he was removed from his post. Shortly before this happened, he had been subjected to merciless criticism by the "hard wing" of the fighters on the Russian side in Ukraine: the founder of the PMC "Wagner" Yevgeny Prigozhin and, above all, the leader Chechen Ramzan Kadyrov. Both attributed to Lapin the responsibility for the loss of Lyman (October 2022), an important logistics center, and for the breakthrough of the Ukrainian armed forces in the areas of Terny, Torskoy and Yampolovka, in theoblast' of Donetsk. Furthermore, according to Kadyrov, the senior officer awarded the Hero of Russia Star for the conquest of Lysyčans'k (July 2022), was not even present near the town during the fighting. Kadyrov's words referring to General Lapin are quite unequivocal: “It's not a pity that Lapin is mediocre. And the fact that he is covered by the top management of the General Staff. If I had my way, I would demote Lapin to a private, deprive him of his awards and, with a machine gun in my hand, send him to the front lines to wash away his shame with blood. ”2

The portrait becomes more infamous if it were true that General Lapin did not hesitate to point a pistol at the temples of Russian soldiers among the newly mobilized who, following an intense bombardment by the Ukrainian forces, were seeking refuge in the town of Svatove, accusing them of cowardice, insulting them and threatening to kill them if they did not return to the fight.3 The interesting aspect is that these soldiers would be part of that wave of helpless sent to the front poorly equipped and without any training following the partial mobilization ordered by Putin in the autumn of 2022.4 This horde of unfortunate, in fact, represents the "fresh forces" fielded by Moscow to reinforce the regular units subject to heavy wear and tear in the fighting over the months. As such and given the inability to withstand the rhythms and horrors of war, the "Wagner" units constantly emerge, committed to supporting field combat. Not without a hint of acrimony towards Gerasimov: “To the Chief of the General Staff: you are a fucking fag and a fucking asshole. We have nothing to fight with, we have no bullets. There are kids out there dying for us and we're sitting here not giving any fucking help. We need bullets, we want to fuck everyone. We are fighting the entire Ukrainian army here in Bakhmut. Where are you? Help us, damn it. There's no fucking other way to call you than with one word 'faggot'. When kids die, where are you all?”5

Even the mercenaries, who certainly don't have the training shortcomings of conscripts, apparently suffer from a not exactly efficient logistics chain. Ultimately, the air among the Russian ranks is quite heavy.

Twenty-four hours after Lapin's appointment to the new post, the evanescent Gerasimov - so far always, inexplicably, against the background of the conflict - Putin decides to attribute to him, in latere of his main role, that of "Commander of the Joint Russian Forces in Ukraine" as the conflict has become decidedly complicated in its evolution and requires a radical change on the Russian side.

Reporting directly to Gerasimov "in the field", as well as his "deputies" in the specific attribution, have been placed for the aerospace forces, the army general Sergej Surovikin, so far commander of operations in Ukraine and commander of the land forces engaged in the invasion , Army General Oleg Salyukov, who will replace Surovikin in the latter position and Colonel-General Alexey Kim, deputy chief of staff of the Russian Armed Forces.

In view of the aforementioned "radical shift" that the Kremlin has implemented due to theimpasse of the maneuver in the area of ​​operations, Gerasimov's appointment lends itself to different interpretations. The Chief of Defense Staff, as well as theoretician of contemporary Russian war doctrine, was therefore called by the Supreme Commander of the Military Forces (Putin) to deal personally with the coordination and distribution of orders to the fighting forces. Among these, let us not forget, are the "irregulars" of Kadyrov and PMC "Wagner", decidedly hostile, as we have seen, to Gerasimov's political-strategic choices.

It remains my belief that, until taking up his new position and the responsibilities associated with it, he has always been a figure in the shadow of an overflowing and inopportune Putin in his choice to conduct operations personally. Obviously, at this point, the prestige of General Gerasimov is at stake who, unlike many other high-ranking Russian officers,6 can boast a crystalline career, apparently devoid of "skeletons in the closet".7 Or if he has them, he's been able to hide them well.

It also seems clear that Putin's decision sends the "hawks" a strong message that the merits of any victory in this war, regardless of who is fighting it, must go to the "regular" forces, to the Russian units which with their flags fight for the honor of the country. The discourse of the conflict phase from 2014 to February 2022 in Donbass or of the Syrian campaign no longer applies, in which it mattered little who was called to protect the image of a competitive Russia on an international military level with weapons. These are medals and ceremonies for national heroes and fallen soldiers wearing the uniform of the Army, Navy and Aerospace Forces. If then to die in battle are the nobody's children instead of i children of Mother Russia, so much the better.

Staying with the image of maternal figures, I am reminded of the utterances and epithets addressed by Kremlin spokesperson Maria Zakharova to President Zelensky, following his December trip to Washington and the meeting he had with President Joe Biden.8 Meanwhile, at the beginning of December, in a speech to Presidential Council for Civil Society Development and Human Rights, announced his intention to continue the "special military operation" in Ukraine and stressed that the annexation of each new territory is an important result of this operation. The Russian president then referred to Tsar Peter the Great gaining control over the Sea of ​​Azov, the same way he has now.

Putin openly places his goals in the historical imperial context and, therefore, does not fail to underline that his strategic goals have not changed and that he intends to conquer as much territory as possible. Considering the current situation, he would appear to be pursuing a strategy aimed at convincing the Russian population of the need for a protracted conflict.

Moscow, to date, still has regular units with a good level of cohesion and training, but in the light of the turn the conflict has taken, the will to proceed with the logic of "cannon fodder" seems to prevail, killing thousands of soldiers considered of little importance, probably waiting to drop the ace of the forces ofelite when he deems that the conflict is heading towards a victorious resolution and, therefore, that the losses among the "worthy" combatants can be contained and acceptable.

In fact, Russian and pro-Russian irregular forces continue to form the forward echelons in all battle alignments engaging the Russians. The battle waged north of Donetsk, along the Soledar-Bakhmut-Horlivka-Donetsk route, was no exception.

Struggle for control of Soledar and Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine is bloodiest battle for Russian and Ukrainian forces since invasion began. One wonders: “but why shed so much blood for an apparently insignificant place?” From a tactical point of view, the town is located in an intermediate position between the capitals of Donetsk and Luhansk, near a road network suitable for guaranteeing both logistical movements and the maneuvering of troops in combat right in the heart of Donbass . Already in August 2022 the Russians tried to surround Bakhmut by attacking the villages of Soledar, located north of the city and Zaitseve south of it, to prevent the Ukrainians from exploiting the T0513 rolling stock, used to support their former positions line in the northeast ofregion' of Donetsk. At that time, a soldier of the Ukrainian 46th Airborne Brigade told CNN that the situation was already very critical and that the death toll was so high that no one kept count of the dead: “No one will tell you how many dead and wounded there are. Because no one knows for sure. Not a single person. Positions are taken and resumed constantly. What was our home today becomes the Wagner home the next day. In Soledar no one counts the dead”.

On the Soledar front, the 46th and 8th Ukrainian airborne brigades were especially engaged in the fighting, called to face the units of the "Wagner" and the "Kadyrovtsy". Mercenaries and paramilitaries. But there is no shortage of pro-Ukrainian paramilitary formations fighting for Soledar. The men of the "Russian Freedom Legion" and the "Sheikh Mansur Battalion" are among the most active. With them, the soldiers of the "Territorial Defense Forces".

In that area the clashes took on the characteristics of "positional warfare" with attacks and counter-attacks from both sides continuing throughout the autumn and winter. On the Russian side, Ramzan Kadyrov released footage of Chechen "Akhmat" special forces and elements of the 2nd Army Corps of the Luhansk People's Republic firing at Ukrainian positions in Soledar. The 6th Cossack regiment operates in that sector, framed in the 2nd Army Corps made up of pro-Russian paramilitary units.

A mid-December the Kiev General Staff reported that Ukrainian troops had repulsed Russian assaults near Zelenopillya (4 km north-east of Bakhmut), at Opytne (3 km south of Bakhmut) and at Andriivka (10 km south-west of Bakhmut). In particular, the 17 December 2022 Ukrainian forces launched a successful attack against the concentration of enemy troops and equipment in the Horlivka area. As a result of the clashes, the number of injured is increasing and precisely in the city of Horlivka, due to the lack of blood donors, all employees of local medical institutions have been forced to donate blood, according to a program established by the Russians. Horlivka, among other things, represents a perfect example of the forced integration of the occupied territories implemented by Russia, also from a legal point of view. In that city the deadline for issuing Russian passports was reduced from 30 to 10 days and throughout theoblast' of Donetsk license plates and driving licenses of the Russian Federation are issued.

We arrive at the 28th December, when the Russians persist with offensive operations on the Bakhmut and Avdiivka axes and make further attempts to improve the tactical situation on the Lyman axis. The latter locality represents a k-terrain as it is an important railway junction and, therefore, an important logistic site. We recall that Russian logistics makes great use of rail transport.

Respecting the chronology of the salient war events of the period close to the expiry of one year from the beginning of the war, I cannot overlook the massive missile attack launched by the Ukrainian forces in the night between December 31st and January 1st against a building housing Russian soldiers in Makiivka, a city not far from Donetsk. The attack was confirmed by both Russian and Ukrainian sources who, however, immediately engaged in a further battle on the propaganda front, providing highly conflicting data on the number of dead. On the one hand, the Russian Ministry of Defense initially declared the killing of 63 soldiers among its troops, and then corrected the figure to 89 fallen; for the Ukrainians the dead caused to the Russians would have been 400 and the injured 300. According to the Kremlin, the blame for the attack should be attributed to the extensive use of telephones - moreover prohibited precisely for security reasons - by the Russian soldiers housed in the barracks. This practice would have allowed the Ukrainian army to identify the coordinates of the place and bomb it. Not always “a phone call saves life”.

Il 6st January, on the occasion of the Orthodox Christmas holiday (January 7), Putin unilaterally asked for a 36-hour truce. Zelensky's answer was “There will be no truce, there will be only Himars on your heads”. From a military point of view, it doesn't make sense. You don't give breath to an enemy who, evidently, is implementing a bluff, or try to have time, even minimal - 36 hours is not a lot - for some form of reorganisation. The Tet Offensive, of course on a much larger scale, sets the standard.

The battle continued to rage. The 9st January Ukrainian authorities said the army had repulsed continued attacks on Bakhmut and other cities by the "Wagner" group, and the commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, General Alexander Syrsky, branded the Russian statements "propaganda". about the alleged capture of Soledar. The next day, Russian mercenaries claimed to have captured Soledar and surrounded its centre. After the heated controversies that saw the leadership of the regular and irregular forces oppose each other, on the evening of 13st January the Russian defense ministry has acknowledged that the final assault on the city was carried out by Prigozhin's men, paying homage to their "courage". An attempt to heal the fractures within the military structure of the Kremlin, with the aim of not making more complicated a situation that is already quite compromised in itself.

Let us return, however, to Horlivka, where on January 14 the operational capacity of the 3rd separate motorized rifle brigade of the 1st combined Russian army was estimated at 40%, despite the reinforcements received with the influx of personnel from the mobilization and new soldiers "under contract". It also appears that strict control of these personnel is being carried out to prevent attempts at desertion. Meanwhile, the battle continues.

But it wasn't just Soledar that fought. Between December '22 and January '23 war operations continued throughout the eastern part of Ukraine, also involving the capital. The 20th December along the axes of Zaporizhia and Kherson the Russian artillery has intensified shelling of Ukrainian positions and civilian infrastructure along the right bank of the Dnipro River, hitting the areas of the settlements of Temyrivka, Chervone, Mali Shcherbaki and Plavni in theoblast' of Zaporizhia and Chornobayivka, Antonivka, Kherson, Mykilske, Tokarivka and Mylove inoblast' of Kherson. In this oblast' the pressure exerted on the local population by the Russian side is particularly high, due to the widespread support given to the Ukrainian forces. For the same reason in Melitopol', in theoblast' of Zaporizhia, on 13 January the Russians carried out an intense control activity on telephone communications, aimed at identifying forms of collaboration with the Ukrainian armed forces.

The attacks continued uninterruptedly at the beginning of 2023, with dramatic results in particular the 14st January on the town of Dnipro, such as to lead President Zelensky to affirm “The world must stop evil”. The Russians, however, in turn continue to have a substantial number of losses, to the point that the 10st January it appeared that the high number of wounded exceeded the hospitalization capacity of the available structures, forcing them to build three new field hospitals in Berdyans'k, in the Zaporizhia area.

Operations also continued unabated in Crimea, with the commitment of Russian engineering units to reinforce the defensive positions organized along the Krasnoperekopsk - Dzhankoy highway and the increase in "contract" recruitment activities among the population of Sevastopol. Also in Crimea, personnel are being recruited for two new mercenary units, called "Shchit" (Shield) and "Rusich". Elements with military or law enforcement backgrounds, primarily ex-officers, are invited to join the PMCs. To entice membership in these formations, potential candidates are offered the prospect of a hefty salary and employment that does not involve being sent to fighting areas in Ukraine. He asks us what sense this last initiative would have, then.

Il 6th December Russia has launched a massive missile strike against critical and civilian infrastructure in Vinnytsia, Kiev, Mykolaiv, Odessa and others oblast'. The attack was carried out with 70 missiles of various types, including Kh-101, Kh-555, Kh-22, Kh-59, Kh-31P and Kalibr. About XNUMX of these were allegedly intercepted by Ukrainian air defense units, but rocket attacks on the national energy grid and critical infrastructure across Ukraine have been ongoing. How did the 29th December, when the Russians made 30 RAID aircraft and 7 rocket attacks, in particular against the civilian infrastructure of the towns of Kostyantynivka (oblast' of Donetsk) and Kharkiv 13 Iranian drones were also used on Kharkiv shahed-136, of which 11 would be shot down, while two hit a power plant.

We have all heard from the media how power plants are among the privileged infrastructures among the high value targets targeted by Russians and how much this causes enormous inconvenience to the civilian and military population, preventing, (in primis), heating and lighting of environments, but not only: the lack of electricity paralyzes production activities, forces the consumption of large quantities of fuel for the functioning of the generators necessary for critical infrastructures such as hospitals. No wonder the choice of targeting Russian. It is the essence of war. It is useless to engage in bloody engagements and risk many casualties, when victory can be achieved by sapping the opponent's morale. The destruction of cities bends the will to resist. The problem will then be to rebuild them. someone in theelite executive of the Kremlin, however, is rubbing his hands thinking about how he will be able to get rich, in case of victory. Like Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov. In his position he oversees all procurement and management of military infrastructure: training areas, academies, hospitals, kindergartens, military airfields, submarine bases and even the Vostochny Cosmodrome. Now his thoughts are turned to the reconstruction of Mariupol ', a city destroyed last March by the Russian army, boasting that the Ministry of Defense will build a swimming pool and an ice rink for the residents of Mariupol', Russians of course in his future perspective .9

But I want to go back, for a moment, to the Shahed 136 employed on Kharkiv. Russian forces are increasingly relying on Iranian-made drones in their campaign against critical Ukrainian infrastructure and are likely to have significantly dented their stock of these weapon systems. It is estimated that, if the pace of drone consumption were to remain the same as those used between September and December 2022, by May 2023 the Russians could deplete the entire supply of 1.750 drones that Moscow is gradually receiving from Iran.

Yep, Iran. One cannot fail to consider the link between Moscow and Tehran one of the worst coalitions in history. Even if it has not fomented (and we hope it will not happen) a world war, it is no less ignoble than the alliance between Hitler and Mussolini of 1939. Sooner or later all dictatorial regimes must ineluctably foment a war to justify their very raison d'être. be and it seems an inescapable requirement of history that these regimes should sign pacts with each other,10 to ensure their own survival.

Next toayatollah Ali Khamenei, since the beginning of the invasion we have seen Belarusian President Aljaksandr Lukašėnka deployed, who went on 6 January 2023 to the Obuz-Lesnovsky training camp (Brest region), close to both the border with Poland and the with Ukraine. In this circumstance he received a report on the completion of the coordination of the units and formations that are part of the joint group created with the Russian forces located in the area: A spokesman for the Russian armed forces told the Belarusian head of state that there were "military exercises and exercises of command staff at the training ranges of the allied forces". In particular, according to him, motorized rifle units, armored units and special forces, including air defense units, carried out joint exercises. The Russian official thanked the president for assisting him in deploying the unit. “We are making a common cause,” Luka repliedšėnka.11

Pavel Latushko, one of the leaders of the Belarusian opposition, noted that the number of Russian military personnel and equipment is increasing in the country and expressed concern that the Belarusian authorities may soon begin mobilizing to provide military assistance to Russia in the war against Ukraine.12 Meanwhile, joint exercises between units of the Belarusian Air Force and the Russian Aerospace Forces took place on 16 January. Thus, justifying the activity as a "combined exercise", Moscow has strengthened its ability to conduct air strikes from Belarus.

In relation to the establishment of the joint Russian-Belarusian group, military experts do not exclude that Moscow could prepare a new phase of the invasion, this time with the direct participation of the Belarusian formations.

Beyond the nuclear rhetoric, the blackmail of the "dirty bomb" and terror among the civilian population, the Kremlin seems to be out of ideas. Its military commanders have tried the "blitzkrieg" and the "slices of salami" approach, i.e. the tactic that envisages the progressive occupation of a territory, giving the impression of wanting to stop, without proceeding to "cut a further slice of salami”, i.e. the invasion of a subsequent territory. But the salami is good and the risk is that "one slice leads to another". These tactics were also unsuccessful. Now, the Russian regime is trying to build an army of hundreds of thousands of poorly trained civilian conscripts. It's too early to label this attempt a "failure," but expectations seem nothing short of ambitious. And so the hypothesis of the involvement of the Belarusian forces comes into play.

Russia gave Belarus a $1 billion loan repayment hold and issued a new $1,5 billion loan. Furthermore, due to Western sanctions on Belarusian goods, 60% of the country's exports now end up on the Russian market. And Belarus receives Russian gas at a bargain price of just $128,5 per thousand cubic meters (compared to the market record price of $2.800 this summer). Indeed, Moscow has complied with all of Minsk's demands, including regarding an ongoing dispute over oil supplies, which has been a stumbling block between the sides for the past five years. But the Belarusian military lacks the ability to turn the tide of war in favor of Russia. First, it is too small, with the most combat-ready segment not exceeding 15.000 troops. The rest are as efficient as the ragtag group of newly mobilized Russians. Furthermore, the Ukrainian armed forces are now much better prepared for an attack from the north: they have mined the roads and fields on the border with Belarus, destroyed related bridges and modern Western weapons such as anti-tank missiles Himars they could prevent troops even crossing the border.

Secondly, Belarusian society is overwhelmingly against the country's participation in the war: Over 90% reject the idea of ​​joining Russia. Sending Belarusians to war could therefore cause a serious wave of discontent within the country, even more than Putin's mobilization in Russia. The Belarusian democratic forces in exile would probably use it to overthrow the Luka regimešėnka. Another one leader opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, has urged Belarusian troops to respond to orders to attack Ukraine by laying down their arms and joining Ukrainian forces.

This course of action would therefore be extremely risky, especially for Lukašėnka, but also for Putin, who could lose his only European ally. For now, a reliable and secure base for the Russian military in Belarus may be more valuable than an unpredictable second front in Ukraine. However, as the war progresses and unfolds, Belarusian and Russian decision-makers' assessments of the situation may also change, rationally or otherwise. And they may decide that the costs of not sending Belarusian troops to Ukraine outweigh those of sending them. Thus, to avoid further armchair psychoanalysis, it will be necessary to closely monitor tangible changes in military activity in Belarus.

The rows of corpses of Ukrainian soldiers shown on television are impressive, and the rows of Russian soldiers found here and there on the Internet are also impressive. But it is even more impressive to think that among the Russians, precisely among the Russian oligarchs, there are individuals whose insensitivity and vulgarity go beyond any human justification: "In March of this year, at the very time when the most terrible and unimaginable crimes were taking place under the leadership of her husband - Mariupol, Bucha, bombing of peaceful cities, Svetlana (Ivanov, ed.) spent time shopping and relaxing - in comfort and safety. Far from Putin and his Russian world."13 These few lines do not convey the idea of ​​what the life oligarchs lead is siloviki (and their families) in a reality totally detached from what their "wretched fellow citizens" - in Victor Hugo's sense - live amidst the horrors of the front and the anguish of those who have remained at home waiting for them.

The suffering of those who await the return of a loved one in war has no insignia or uniform. Direct testimonies allow me to say that this parallel reality is neither propaganda nor exaggeration. It was enough to be present in one of the resort of the artificial islands of Dubai on new years eve. Given that these resort they are the only places where alcohol can be consumed in the United Arab Emirates, it is trivial that rich Russians in the mood for celebration could find refuge there. But it's effective to see dozens of these goons in such an ethyl state that they can't stand on their feet, squandering money among "ladies" and, of course, more alcohol. The point is not that they were rich and wasteful. The point is that they were Russians. In this historical moment.

On the opposite front there is no shortage of reasons for equally indignation. It is news from the end of January that Zelensky had to adopt a paradoxical "Stalinian purge" of the numerous representatives of his government, for various forms of corruption and speculation (real or presumed) aimed at profiting from the ongoing war. I want to quote an exquisitely political italics, referring to the statement of a European Union spokesman in relation to this episode:

“We have noted the ongoing resignations within the ranks of the Ukrainian government, we do not comment on the ongoing investigations but we can say that we are satisfied that the Ukrainian authorities are taking this situation seriously… Ukraine must step up the fight against corruption, especially at high levels , and this is part of the accession process: the EU and its partners have been supporting Ukraine to strengthen the rule of law for years. The EU has several layers of scrutiny to make sure its funds go where they need to go”.14

Faced with this havoc, my thoughts go to the Ukrainian military who fight and sacrifice themselves for their homeland.

Now let's talk about "partial mobilization" and the replenishment of losses on the Russian front. It is interesting to observe how the "purchase campaign" set up by the Kremlin to flesh out its ranks of fighters proceeds. After the forced hiring of prisoners, the emptying of military academies and the "partial mobilization" of citizens with previous military experience, from the second half of January Moscow invites all foreigners present on its territory capable of combat and awaiting voluntary enlistment to be recognized as a citizen of the Russian Federation. Those who accept, get it automatically.

Another initiative, this one related to the "war economy", sees Moscow's commercial enterprises being pressured into financially supporting the Russian armed forces by contributing 10 million rubles each. Furthermore, the difficulty of finding personnel capable of carrying out management-administrative tasks in the occupied territories, due to the lack of collaboration from the local workforce, has led Moscow to send Russian or Crimean personnel to the fighting areas.

On a purely military level, the influx of reservists to the training area of ​​Kadamovskiy, in the Rostov-on-Don region, for a period of preparation before being sent to the front should be noted. These reservists would be primarily intended to cover losses in the ranks of units of the "National Combat Forces Reserve" (BARS) – the so-called “active reserve” –15 and the Wagner Group. With regard to the latter and the heavy losses suffered, the episode of the desertion of Andrei Medvedev, ex-commander of a unit of the "Wagner" is emblematic: “After submitting his asylum request, Medvedev was taken to Oslo, where he was interrogated. Under the circumstance, the former commander revealed a series of new details on the battalion of which he was a member until December. In addition to all the crimes carried out against the Ukrainians, in fact, Medvedev declared that he had also witnessed many executions of the same Russian mercenaries who, by refusing to fight, were found guilty of treason or desertion. The Russian, of Norwegian origin, also claimed to be in possession of a video document which would immortalize the killing of two Russian mercenaries in Alchevsk, in Lugansk, at the hands of a special Wagner unit named MED. Andrey also says he knows of one platoon in which only three out of thirty mercenaries survived.”16

The words of the mercenary who fled to Norway immediately refer to the gesture of General Lapin pointing his pistol at the soldiers guilty of "cowardice" in Svatovo, but not only. They also evoke images from the film "The Enemy at the Gates", when the Russian soldiers retreat towards their positions to avoid being annihilated by German fire and there, their fellow soldiers await them in charge of shooting them down with machine guns because, in the opinion of the "commissioners politicians” a retreat was considered a flight.

If there is nothing new on the Western front, it seems that everything is unchanged on the Eastern one too. The hunt for deserters intensified in the last ten days of January, further confirmation of the disaffection that is spreading among the Russian military for the cause of the "special operation". And with the excuse of looking for soldiers who have abandoned their units, the 17st January the Russians conducted several roundups in theoblast' of Kherson. Also in Kherson, in the same period, the Russians tried to reduce as much as possible the possibilities for the civilian population to access alternative sources of information to those imposed by them, blacking out all Ukrainian television channels.

From the hunt for deserters to that of dodgers to mobilization, the step is short. Laws have been enacted in Russia stating that in order to get a job or get a mortgage to buy a house, you must have your own military booklet, which indicates the categories and timing for recalls. Controls are increasingly widespread and, with the help of technology, decidedly "Orwellian". In big cities we use the facial recognition to identify fugitives and of the police all the license plates of the vehicles of the personnel called up are collected, in order to be able to control their movements. Although Defense Minister Šojgu has declared that the "partial mobilization" is over, no document to that effect has been signed by Putin and, in fact, even reality denies it. Again, it should be said, the motivation of the Russian fighters is low, while now the Ukrainians are also fighting out of anger. The anger of seeing one's cities destroyed and one's friends and relatives killed, for no reason, for a year now.

A few more reflections on the nature of the ongoing war. The dispute over the supply of tanks Leopard 2 by Germany, Poland or anyone willing to contribute to the cause of Ukraine has not failed to fuel Russian propaganda about theescalation inevitable with the shipment of these and other armaments to the Kiev forces.

Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov underlined that the war between Russia and the West is now "no longer hybrid", but "almost real" and ex-president Medvedev (nothing to do with the "Wagner" defector ) with the apocalyptic style that characterizes it, said: “The world approaches the risk of World War III in the face of aggressive preparations against Russia”.

I will not dwell on the risk of Third World war, which in any case has to deal with China's willingness to allow such an eventuality. It would lose too much from the point of view of international trade. Beijing needs a stable world for its trade. I am more interested in pointing out that the concept of "hybrid warfare" is not clear to Lavrov. War is not "hybrid" because it is fought on a local or planetary scale. It is “hybrid” in the way it uses regular and irregular forces and multidimensional battles fought in all domains: physical, cognitive, cybernetic, spatial. Then we are already in a full-blown world war, even if not on a physical level for everyone (fortunately) and it will still be "hybrid", even if fought at an intergalactic level.

Having said that, let's get back down to earth: Providing sophisticated and cutting-edge weapon systems to other countries must lead us to make considerations on the basis of our own national security. Not only that: once the decision has been made, a commitment in this sense must also provide for the preparation of an adequate logistical support line so as not to frustrate the effort sustained at the first difficulties connected with maintenance, spare parts, technical interventions. All of this costs. Very.

Reflecting on the sending of tanks and other armaments to Ukraine, it must be said that, beyond the caution dictated by politics, which in any case dictates the rules, from a military point of view one cannot expect too much, because in war, “operational time” is crucial. The Ukrainians, as long as they could, have exploited the results of the September counter-offensive, but now the push has run out and the Russians can take advantage of it right in the vicinity of the fateful date-symbol of the 24 February, imminent. This is why we need to hasten the supply of weapons if we want the Ukrainian front to try to hold on and, perhaps, to react again.

It should also be noted that, to date, to keep the conflict within "acceptable" limits, the West has not supplied armaments that would allow the Ukrainians to systematically beat targets in Russian territory and, so far, the forces of Kiev have only timidly looked beyond the border.17 However, the drone attack on Engel's Air Base (oblast' of Saratov), ​​almost 500 km from the border between Russia and Ukraine, has had major consequences. The distance covered by drones is considerable; here then is the 21st January Russia's Defense Ministry said it conducted air defense exercises in the Moscow region to guard and protect the city from any Ukrainian incursions. One wonders if it is a question of real fear of the enemy or if, once again, it is not rather a question of inducing the population of the capital to perceive the threat as imminent and to justify the need for a war that does not seem to be over . At least shortly.

1 P. Kanaev, Генерал Лапин возглавил главный штаб Сухопутных войск (General Lapin appointed Chief of Staff of the Ground Forces), RBC, 10/01/2023.

2Александр Лапин — российский генерал, которого Раmзаn Кадыров обвиняет в отступлении в Украине и называет "бездарем" Чтон о стон What about him? (Alexander Lapin is a Russian general whom Ramzan Kadyrov accuses of having retired to Ukraine and defines as "mediocrity". What is known about him? And how did his troops act?), Meduza, 28/10/2022.

3"Сота": командующий группировкой "Центр" Александр Лапин угрожал пистолетом командиру мобилизованных, отступивших в Луганской области ("Sota": il comandante del gruppo "Centro" Alexander Lapin ha minacciato con una pistola il comandante dei coscritti in ritirata nella regione di Luhansk), Meduza, 26/10/2022.

4 N. Cristadoro, Putin mobilizes a people in demobilization, Limes “The Shadow of the Bomb”, n. 9/22.

5“You *sshole, we have nothing to fight with”: Wagner PMC mercenaries appeal to head of Russia's General Staff, Prigozhin pays them a visit, The Insider, 27/12/2022.

6 N. Cristadoro, The Code of Ethics in the Russian Armed Forces in Modern and Contemporary Warfare, New Military Anthology n. 3, 2022.

7 N. Cristadoro, Valery Vasilyevich Gerasimov. The military man and the theorist, Online Defense, 11/03/2022.

8Ukraine, Russia: "Zelensky son of put .... of the West" - Video, Adn-Kronos, 22/12/2022.

9Come and Pir. Гламурная жизнь заместителя министра обороны Тимура Иванова (War and Party. The Fascinating Life of Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov), 20/12/2022.

10 N. Cristadoro, The pacts signed "in blood" between Moscow and the allies, Limes “Intelligence is not artificial”, n. 12/22.

11 Lukashenko visits training ground where Russian units of joint troops group are deployed, Tass, 06/01/2023.

13War и Feast. Glamorous life Deputy the Minister defense Timura Ivanova (War and Party. The Fascinating Life of Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov), 20/12/2022.

14Ukraine, Zelensky's ax on the government, flurry of resignations, leaving 10, Ansa, 24/01/2023.

15 N. Cristadoro, Putin mobilizes a people in demobilization, Limes “The Shadow of the Bomb”, n. 9/22.

16Ukraine, former commander of the Wagner group has sought asylum in Norway, Sky news 24, 18/01/2023.

17 M. Ilyushina, J. Stein, DL Stern, Ukrainian Drones Hit 2 Bases Deep in Russia brazen attack, The Washington Post. 05 / 12 / 2022.

S. Korshak, Ukrainian Commandoes Raid Airfield Deep Inside Russia, Destroy Frontline Helicopters, Kyiv Post, 01/11/2022.

Photo: MoD Russian Federation