Yellow school buses full of conscripted AFU soldiers pass by me almost daily on the streets of a Ukrainian city. They are heading east, to the war zone facing the Russian military. Some soldiers are transported in open trucks where all that is visible are their hands clasping the side of the truck as it bounces over potholes and bumps. Occasionally, the frightened eyes of military conscripts headed to slaughter are visible.
Passersby either turn away, as though the soldiers in view are already considered dead, or they speak with regret of the young lives being ruined. In contrast to previous months, fewer numbers of mobile military weapons such as tanks and anti-aircraft systems are seen on the roads of central Ukraine. Occasionally, the military convoys consist of little more than pickup trucks with machine guns mounted on them.
Coffins travel in the opposite direction. In every Ukrainian city, there are daily services for soldiers that have died, and not just in ones or twos. Services may be for four or five Ukrainian servicemen who have died.
Suicidal frontal attacks against Russian defenses by Ukraine
In the month of June, NATO finally managed to press the Ukrainian military into launching suicidal ‘counteroffensives’ running directly into the heavily fortified Russian defense lines in the Donbass region. Ukrainian authorities had been putting this off since last year. Surely, NATO officials were aware of the futility and the possibility of high casualties of these latest efforts. But a country such as Ukraine which has allowed itself to become completely dependent on Western loans and military supplies is in no position to determine its own military strategy and tactics.
Officials in Washington warned the authorities in Kyiv, who operate according to U.S. and NATO directives, that they needed to make major advances on the battlefield in the near future. Politico Europe reported this in mid-June. It wrote,
The worry here [in Ukraine] is that falling short of expectations might lead to a reduction in international military assistance and renewed, often oblique, pressure to engage with Moscow in negotiations.
The publication reported that Ukraine officials are concerned about greatly inflated expectations by Western governments of Ukraine’s ‘counteroffensive’. It cites Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov saying that Western expectations of Ukrainian military advances in Donbass are “definitely overheated”.
Russian military correspondent Alexander Sladkov writes how the West is literally pushing Kiev into offensive operations.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine are in a hopeless position. Biden wants results. He has drained Europe of its finances and its weapons. He has given the command ‘Forward!’, and the Ukrainian military is marching.
The chosen main route was southward and eastward from Zaporozhye, towards the small cities of Tokmak and Rabotino. These lie on the shortest route to the large city of Melitopol, directly south of Zaporozhye. The goal was to split Russia’s east-west defensive front, which stretches inland and parallel to the coast of the Sea of Azov. In so doing, the Ukrainian military went up against the exact locations where the Russian military has been building three lines of fortifications day and night for the past half year. And they didn’t even reach the first line of line of defense properly.
Melitopol lies app. 60 km south of the Russian-controlled south bank of the Dnieper River and 40 km north of the Sea of Azov coastline.
According to Sladkov, at the very beginning of the AFU counterattack heading south and east of the Dnieper, Russian minefields prevented the AFU mobile forces from maneuvering. Ukrainian armored columns followed narrow routes carved out of the earth by huge, lumbering de-mining vehicles. But these columns were highly visible targets. Videos of graveyards of destroyed Western equipment soon appeared on social media.
As tanks and other armored vehicles became bogged down, Ukrainian soldiers were driven to attack on foot. These quickly became suicide attacks, writes Sladkov, who observed the military clashes from the positions of Russian troops and from drones. Heavy bombers destroyed the AFU’s rear lines, while frontline Russian aviation directed ‘smart bombs’ at targets. The Russian army’s attack helicopters struck tanks and armored vehicles while drones struck AFU artillery and air defense systems. The fields alongside the chosen directions of the main AFU strikes are now littered with dead Ukrainian servicemen and burnt-out, armored vehicles such as the U.S.-supplied ‘Bradleys’ and German-manufactured Leopard tanks.
A Ukrainian prisoner of war captured by Russian forces during one of the failed counterattacks explains on the Telegram channel that the AFU has management problems and a lack of cohesion between its units. Its soldiers are suffering low morale and refusing to go on the attack having seen the destruction of so many Leopard tanks.
Captured Ukrainian soldiers also complain about poor intelligence. Rank-and-file soldiers are simply not given a real picture of the situation they are being sent into. Their officers give false information underestimating Russian capabilities in order to deflect their soldiers’ fears.
Another Ukrainian captive named Yaroslav Andriyash says that out of 500 men in his battalion, only some 150 remain alive. The battalion’s much-lauded American ‘M113’ armored personnel carriers supplied by the U.S. are largely broken or malfunctioning.
Not all Ukrainians voluntarily agree to go to the front. Every day, border guards detain dozens of Ukrainian men trying to break through the border and flee the country. Some respond to the written summons to military service by throwing stones at those trying to hand them out.
Against this background, total military mobilization of all men under 60 years of age (and women possessing special training required by the AFU) are being announced in some regions of Ukraine. Since mid-June in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of western Ukraine, medical personnel has been forbidden to perform scheduled operations on potential male conscripts without first contacting and seeking approval from the military enlistment office. As a result, many males are refusing to seek medical assistance, rightly believing that the chances of surviving self-medication are higher than surviving at the front.
However, despite the huge losses in armed forces personnel, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Oleksiy Danilov, stated on June 19 that the counterattack by the AFU (the details of which are known by few outside of the two clashing militaries) is proceeding according to plan.
By the end of June, the Ukrainian counteroffensive had turned into a retreat. Russian troops launched a surprise offensive in the Luhansk direction, reports the military analyst Julian Röpke in the German newspaper Bild on June 20.
To be honest, not many people counted on [the Ukraine counterattack] because it was believed that the Russians were under pressure in the south and had moved its reserves there.
The terrorist attack by the AFU against the Kakhovka dam
Röpke expects a counterattack by the AFU south and eastward across the Dnieper River. Following the crippling by Ukraine of the dam across the river upstream from the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant during the night of June 6, the region south and east of the Dnieper was flooded for weeks. But now the floodwaters have receded, making the river much narrower. “The drying up of the Kakhovka Reservoir has led to a dramatic change in the strategic situation in southern Ukraine,” he writes.
For both the Russian Ukrainian armies there are new opportunities, but also new dangers.
The width of the reservoir now ranges from 7 to 30 km. According to Röpke’s estimates, Ukrainian soldiers and possibly tracked equipment can already pass over the dried reservoir bottom. This explains why the Ukrainian military blew up the dam in the first place, even though it caused an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe.
Ukrainian authorities and their Western allies have accused the Russian Federation of striking the dam, even if this absolutely contradicts logic. The Russian military was earlier, similarly accused of attacking the Nord Stream gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea in September 2022 and the new Crimea (Kerch) Bridge the following month. During Ukraine’s eight-year war against the people of Donbass beginning in 2014, Ukrainian authorities kept telling the media that the self-defense forces in Donetsk and Lugansk were “shelling themselves”.
Anyone in Ukraine doubting the logic and reasonableness of such accusations was, quite literally, met with racist arguments by media and government officials. ‘Russians act irrationally and undermine their own cause because they are mentally incompetent,’ This is how Ukrainian propaganda covers ups Ukraine’s attacks and are used to reinforce racist stereotypes against all things Russian.
The dominance of Western stereotypes and propaganda in the tightly restricted Ukrainian media is a consequence of how the United States government deals with its historic military defeat in Vietnam decades earlier, its failed invasion of Ira in 2003, and its recent, military defeat in Afghanistan. The aforementioned military correspondent and analyst Alexander Sladkov writes,
Today, they can perpetrate another My Lai Massacre and then declare it to be Russian propaganda. Or just cover it up.
Biden would remember well the state of American society during the Vietnam War era, specifically the shift in public sentiment against the war that was waged by the U.S. in Vietnam. This was the beginning of his fast-paced political career, and he clearly learned lessons from that period. Yes, in the end, Lieutenant William Calley [a key participant in the massacre in which U.S. soldiers killed hundreds of men, women and children in the village of My Lai] was convicted, but his followers in today’s Ukrainian are publicly praised and rewarded.
Pressure on African and Asian countries in the interests of white masters
On the foreign policy front in June, Kiev continued its attempts to attract countries of the Global South to its side in its conflict with Russia. In so doing, it is acting as a tool to bring former colonies back into the orbit of Western colonial countries. This occurs as Kiev has steadily rejected all peace initiatives voiced by China, Brazil, Indonesia, Turkiye, and African countries.
In mid-June, the head of the presidential office of Volodymyr Zelensky, Andrei Yermak, told an interview with the Wall Street Journal that he wants to swing countries like Brazil and India behind Zelensky’s peace plan, which calls for Russian troops to withdraw from Russia’s territories in Donbass and Crimea and pay financial reparations. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the U.S. on June 22 could mark a milestone in this plan.
Because of countervailing diplomatic pressures on India and Brazil to recognize Russia’s security concerns with Ukraine, Zelensky appointed new ambassadors to both these countries in June. One of those is Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Andrei Melnyk. He was ambassador to Germany from of Ukraine until October 2022 and is remembered for his many harsh statements and even outright undiplomatic rudeness towards the German government leadership for not acting aggressively enough against Russia, including with more military aid to the regime he represented. Now he is going to Brazil.
India, too, will now host a new Ukraine ambassador ‘out of the ordinary’, in the person of Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine Oleksandr Polishchuk. Both new ambassadors are expected to talk and act tough against the two countries where they are now stationed, including outright threats to ‘put them in their place’.
A commentary by the Ukrainian website Klymenko-Time reports on Melnyk’s appointment to Brazil.
For Ukrainian diplomacy, which Vladimir Zelensky described as ‘brazen’ long before the outbreak of the big war with Russia, Melnyk’s behavior towards Germany is recognized as exemplary. It seems he went too far in these comments and was eventually obliged to leave his ambassadorial post. But in the end, Germany has, indeed, significantly changed its stance on military support of Ukraine. It now supplies the AFU with a huge range of weapons: from air defense systems to tanks. Some of this is due to Melnyk’s past efforts.
In June, a delegation of leaders from seven African countries brought a proposed peace plan and sought a discussion on guarantees of shipments of grain and fertilizers from Ukraine’s ports. But the visit ended in failure with no positive results. Zelensky had already rejected one month earlier the African leaders’ peace plan, which envisaged a mutual cease-fire in the first stage. Ukraine’s ambassador to South Africa spoke on this at the end of May. However, the delegation was welcomed to Kiev because the West has set Zelensky the task of luring Third World countries to its side. Zelensky’s regime put on a show for the African delegation when it arrived in Kiev by sounding air-raid sirens, although there were no missile or fighter aircraft attacks by Russia during the visit.
Ukrainian political analyst Oleg Yasinsky, who lives in Chile, considers the visit of the African leaders unusual for Ukraine since Kyiv has looked exclusively to the West for support in recent years, turning its back on African and Asian countries. “The entire foreign policy of the state itself, which long ago lost the last signs of national sovereignty, is oriented to white masters in the West, precisely those who in their own economic model specialized in plundering and exploiting Africa, Latin America, and Asia as poor and dependent semi-colonial countries,” Yasinsky writes.
According to him, over the past few years, there was no other world for Ukraine’s authorities except Western Europe and North America, which they called “the entire world community”. They maintain exemplary obedience toward that area of the world; indeed, there is a real competition among Ukrainian rulers to be the most obedient.
All this takes place amidst a background of numerous racist statements by Ukraine’s officials and regular beatings on the streets of the country by neo-Nazi groups against foreign students, writes Yasinsky.
Many Ukrainian soldiers on the streets of cities and on the front lines are indeed wearing chevrons sporting the flags of the United States, Britain, and Canada. Many also wear chevrons with Nazi symbols from the time of the Third Reich. They truly believe that they are fighting on behalf of the interests of the world’s “powers that be”. This should guarantee success, they believe, regardless of what Russia’s defenses, military strength and military numbers may be.
American economist and conservative David Sachs warned the other day in a published essay that the U.S. may soon do to its supporters in Ukraine as it did earlier to its proxies in Afghanistan. He writes,
It’s worth recalling that the American public was assured for two decades that we were winning in Afghanistan. All of that reporting was revealed as a pack of lies when the Afghan army that we were supposedly helping to ‘stand up’ collapsed within a matter of weeks. At that point, the media stopped reporting on Afghanistan, just like it had earlier stopped reporting on Iraq, instead of holding anyone accountable. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re headed for a similar kind of outcome in Ukraine.
I believe the current leaders of Ukraine are well aware of all this. They are sending soldiers to die on the Russian defense lines. They are postponing their crisis and looming collapse for at least another month or two in order to receive and launder through their corrupt schemes a few billion more in assistance from the West.
The rebellion by leaders of the ‘Wagner ‘military service
In the dying days of June, Russia’s government and military faced a rebellion by the officers leading the ‘Wagner’ private military force in Russia. Perhaps as many as 8,000 soldiers were led into a very short-lived rebellion that had no clear program or objective. The rebellion stemmed from a simple dispute prompted by the Russian government’s and military’s announced intention to bring the Wagner force under closer control and direction.
The rebellion ended peacefully within 24 hours. Wagner combatants have been offered military contracts to formally join the Russian Armed Forces. Its main leader lives in exile in Belarus and has turned down such an offer.
Wagner is more than a military force; it is a business enterprise that earns a lot of its income from supplying the Russian armed forces with food and other essentials. The group was founded in 2014 by former GRU officer Dmitry Utkin and businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin. (The GRU is Russia’s military intelligence agency). Wagner is greatly respected by many Russians for the heroism of its soldiers in dislodging Ukrainian forces from their years-long occupation of the strategic city of Artymovosk (‘Bakhmut’) in May 2023 as well as its earlier work in defending the people of Donbass from the war launched against them by Ukraine in 2014.
Dmitri Kovalevich Special correspondent in Ukraine for Al Mayadeen English.