Ukraine update: Atrocity

CHERNIVTSI, UKRAINE - JUNE 26: Maryna Hrynchuk, 27, Oleksandr's Hrynchuk's wife, and Hanna Bespalko, 55, Oleksandr's mother, react after seeing his body in the local morgue on June 26, 2022 in Chernivtsi, Ukraine. Oleksandr Hrynchuk, 33, was killed on June 21 in the Luhansk region. The Hrynchuk family had earlier lost their younger son, Denys, who was killed while serving in the army in the Donetsk region, shortly after the start of the Russian invasion. (Photo by Alexey Furman/Getty Images)

The Russian invasion of Ukraine was both illegal and unprovoked. Every life lost in this conflict, both Ukrainian and Russian, is a murder that belongs to Russia alone, and specifically to dictator Vladimir Putin, who personally made the decision to begin this needless slaughter. This doesn’t just apply to the tens of thousands who have died in the invasion that began on Feb. 24, 2022, but to the victims of the Russian invasion in 2014, and to all those who have lost their lives in the Russian-supported violence that happened over the last eight years.

But aside from the day to day toll of war, the dozens or hundreds of soldiers lost on the front line, Russia has darkened this already dark affair with repeated events for which “atrocity” is the only applicable word. 

In the past two days, Russia has—apparently quite deliberately—slaughtered at least 50 Ukrainian POWs by blowing up a prison in Russian-occupied Olenivka where they were being held. That event came on the same day a video was widely circulated showing a Russian soldier torturing and castrating a bound Ukrainian prisoner. Follow-up reports claim that the Ukrainian prisoner was later shot and his body dragged along the streets behind a vehicle.

The same impulse that drove that man who wielded the knife was far too evident in the streets of Bucha, where dozens of Ukrainian civilians were left to rot in the rubble-choked streets while thousands more were tossed into mass graves. That impulse guided the trigger finger of the pilot at Mariupol, who sent a massive bomb into a theater being used as a shelter, in spite of a sign visible from the air which told that pilot there were children inside. It was there in the bombing of a maternity hospital that struck women dead in the midst of giving birth—and in over 200 deliberate attacks on hospitals and medical facilities that have come later. It was there in Vinnytsia, where Russian missiles killed a special-needs child on her way to the doctor, along with dozens of others. It was there at Kramatorsk, where Russia targeted civilians trying to escape the area. And at Kremenchuk, where Russia waited until a shopping mall was at its busiest, before turning it into an inferno.

Every day of this war, Russia fires missiles and artillery into civilian areas, with the absolute intent of destroying homes, ending lives, creating grief, and spreading fear. And every one is an unforgivable act of terrorism.

All of these things must be documented and investigated, but there seems absolutely no reason why Russia should not be on the list of state-sponsors of terrorism. And no reason why the Russian mercenaries known as “Wagner Group” should not be on the list of terrorist organizations, right beside ISIS. So far, the U.S. State Department has resisted calls to place these labels on Russia, in spite of a unanimous vote of the Senate and overwhelming support in the House. Sec. of State Anthony Blinken is reported to be concerned that placing this label on Russia would require the U.S. to extend sanctions to those who do business with Russia and place limits on diplomatic contact with Putin’s personal empire.

But, honestly, there should only be one thing to say to Russia.


North of Kherson, Ukrainian forces have reportedly taken another village in the area south of Vysokopillya, further isolating the town and what are reported to be roughly 1,000 Russian forces still located there. The latest moves also help complete the encirclement of Arkhanhelske. On Friday, there were some reports that Ukrainian forces had taken Vysokopillya, but this does not seem to be the case. However, Ukrainian troops do seem to be in control of some part of the town.

Ukraine continues to apply force at a number of points along the line.

Further south, Ukraine has maintained and expanded the bridgehead across the Inhulets River, reportedly retaking the village of Bilohirka, just south of Davydiv Brid. This location has apparently changed hands several times over the last month. Ukrainian forces are now attacking in three directions from this bridgehead, in spite of heavy artillery fire directed at a temporary bridge.

At the south end of the line, Russia has been pushing back. They’ve once again flipped control of Olexsandrivka and some reports indicate they’ve pushed back the line to Kyselivka.

At Kherson, Ukraine made additional attacks on the railroad bridge clearly making it difficult for Russia to repair — or trust — for the movement of heavy equipment. Additional rockets or artillery were also reportedly sent into the Antonivsky Bridge with the regional administrator in Odesa calling the bridge “destroyed.”

However, the bridge west of Nova Kakhovka has been patched enough to open to vehicular traffic on Saturday. 

In general, Ukraine seems to be keeping the pressure up, even as it concentrates on keeping the bridges under threat. More than one pundit has suggested that Ukraine is engaged in a high risk / high reward strategy to goad Russia into sending more and more forces into Kherson oblast, weakening Russia’s ability to react elsewhere. Ukraine can then slam the door on those Russian forces and face Russian troops in Kherson who are saddled with dwindling supplies while blocking those troops from moving to reinforce any other area.

All of this is speculation, but this thread explaining a interview with Ukrainian general Serhiy Kryvonos may provide some genuine insights into why it seems Ukraine was caught flat-footed at the war’s outset, and the what the Ukrainian military is actually doing now.

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