Battleground: Ukraine

A history podcast that explores the narratives, turning points and characters that shape conflicts, encompassing a blend of social and military history. Following on from the series on the Falklands War, best-selling military historians Patrick Bishop, and Saul David turn their attention to the war in Ukraine.

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25. Leopards are coming

25. Leopards are coming

Fri, 27 Jan 2023 01:00

This week Saul and Patrick react to the huge development that Germany is finally releasing its Leopard II Tank's, and that the US is following suit by sending their M1 Abrams Tanks as well. Patrick also speaks to old friend and experienced war reporter Julius Strauss, who gives an excellent report from in and around the front lines

near Bakhmut.

If you have any questions you'd like to ask Patrick and Saul, please send them to -

Producer: James Hodgson

Twitter: @PodBattleground

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Hi, I'm Lindsay Graham, the host of Wonder Woman's American History Tellers. In our latest series, the discovery of gold in 1848 sends people flocking to California, hoping to strike it rich. But for many, the minds also have a dark side. Listen to American History Tellers on Amazon Music or wherever you get your podcasts. Hello and welcome back to another episode of Battleground You Crane with me, Saul David and Patrick Bishop. Well, the mood and gear must be very upbeat this morning with the news that both the US and Germany have finally turned on the kit taps and have agreed to send both Abrams and leopard 2 main battle tanks to give a mighty boost to their armament buildup as they get ready for a Titanic spring battle that could decide of course whether this war ends quickly or carries on slowly. Yep, that sounds like a real game changer, doesn't it, Saul? But the front, meanwhile, seems to be pretty much stalemated. The news has been rather sparse from there, so we're very lucky to have this week a report from the front lines around Backmute. And it's given to us by Julius Strauss, who's just been there with another friend of the podcast, Matt McKinnon, who we heard from a few weeks back. What he has to say is fascinating and revealing, and it has to be said not for the faint hearted. Yeah, maybe not one to listen to in the car if you have children with you. But first, all that new kit really is something, isn't it? Yes, it's certain years. We've been expecting, indeed, hoping for this news for some time, Patrick, and it didn't look like it was going to come as late as last week, the meeting at Ramstein, the NATO defense ministers meeting at Ramstein. A lot of pressure put on Germany, particularly by Poland, to give the go ahead. Not only to send their own tanks, but certainly to let Poland donate its tanks to Ukraine. And the indications there were that the Germans weren't going to buckle, but a lot of pressure obviously has been put on since then. And we're now getting some strong figures. It seems that the final push, yes, that they came from Poland and are asking for permission to send its tanks and really forcing Germany's hand. That was followed up by indications from US defense officials that they were going to send tanks. And then finally, it seems Germany's folded too. So the details just briefly, the Americans, it looks like they're going to send up to 30 M1 Abraham's main battle tanks. And the Germans, 14 Leopard, 2A6 tanks. But of course, this will open the taps, as we say, to other NATO countries sending their tanks already. We're hearing that not only Poland, but Spain and possibly Greece are going to do that. So this is going to make a big difference, Patrick. Yeah, by Mike Arifovich, which of Italy is not very good, we're up to 72 ultra-modern main battle tanks, Abraham's Leopard's and challengers, not forgetting this avalanche of other excellent, you know, Bradley Armored fighting vehicles, huge number of the old Warsaw Pact T-72s been thrown in as well. So it looks like, you know, certainly on the arm of front, the Ukrainians will have everything that they could have hoped for. Now, I'm very interested in the process by which Germany finally buckled. And I think it could be a hinge moment in German modern history, don't you think so? Because, you know, up until now, they still have been living, as we've said before, under the shadow of the Second World War. This really is about just not wanting to go back to the bad old Germany, the memories of what the Nazis did, what the Germans did, what the German nation did, in places like Ukraine, in Russia. They're still there, you know, it's not that long ago. This may be a moment when they finally shaken off of that past. I've got to say that the pressure on them was absolutely enormous, wasn't it? More or less, it seemed to me it looked very shabby, that their line of defense was, oh well, you know, what does that mean for us? I mean, it was very unclear what their reasoning was. That was one of the problems. It was tremendously difficult to kind of get into their thinking. I mean, the last word on it was the German government spokesman Stefan Heberstreicher saying on Monday that it would be reckless to take this step. It might be regretted afterwards and so forth. Well, you know, that looked pretty lame then. And I think in the end, they had no choice but to do what they've done. Yeah, they were under enormous pressure internationally, as we've discussed, but also internally, there were demonstrations in Berlin last week, a large demonstrations, and also pressure from the partners within government. So, of course, the main party is the socialist from which the chancellor comes from, but they are teamed up with other groups who aren't particularly right of center to say the least. And yet, they've been putting a lot of pressure on the socialist. There seems to be this age-old connection between the socialist and, you know, the old Soviet Union, the old East Germany, but also to a certain extent, just a kind of a desire to keep a friendship with Russia. I mean, this goes all the way back to Bismarck, actually. We've had some criticism from our listeners, saying we never make a connection that's not second world war. Well, actually, I'm going back to Bismarck in times where this whole need to sort of keep friends with Russia began. This kind of sense of the threat from the East. We've got to keep them on side. But you're right, Patrick. The pressure finally told. And good thing too, because the key point about Germany is that it controlled all those other leopard tanks that were in the rest of Europe, and it effectively was blocking other countries, as we say, like Poland and Spain giving their tanks. And now that's all changed. And so you're talking, you've suggested a number of about 70. I think this could rise quite rapidly. I think we're probably going to be looking at about 200 Western main battle tanks in Ukrainian hands in a very short space of time. And they can get up to speed quite quickly, according to my contacts who are tankies over here, as long as they are already experienced tank users. They're not training with them scrap. They can learn to use even these sophisticated pieces of kit in a matter of weeks. It's also, I think, an indication of what we've been seeing on the German side is a kind of broader desire, always to try and think the best of Russia. So I don't mention the second world war again. But that's exactly what happened, wasn't it? When Russia effectively changed sides after perforce, after they were invaded, the West sort of immediately went from seeing them as, you know, Bolsheviks in Imacul to our interests, to being our brothers in arms. You know, overnight, overnight sort of huge popularity, both in America and in the UK. But more recently, when Putin took over, looking, I was just looking back over a few quotes from Western statesmen in the not so distant past where they're all looking to Putin and saying, you know, finally we've got someone here who can really bring the east or Russia rather into Western sort of orbit, not in a kind of grand strategic way, but just as sort of friends, we can be friends with each other. And I was reminded of this hilarious clip you can see on YouTube of a charity event in St. Petersburg in 2010, where Putin takes to the microphone and starts singing in this sort of heavy Russia-Lex blueberry hill. And in the audience, you can see all these lovies, you know, Kevin Costner, Sharon Stone, Gerard Depardier, well, he's always been a bit of a Putin fanboy. And there they all are, we all wanted to love Putin. And I don't think there'll be much of that going on since recent events. But there we are, there's a bit of a history of that, of course, always, isn't there, with strong men being seen as sort of a welcome arrival on the world stage. We saw that with Mussolini and indeed hit that. Well, I'm trying to remember whether, whether Churchill was a bit of a Mussolini support from the early days of his new saw. Well, I mean, Churchill bounced around a little bit because he was always sort of measuring, you know, the greatest threat against the next gate, greatest threat, so to speak. And for a long time, as we know, Churchill was, you know, his main fear was Bolshevism. And it took a while in the 30s for him to get up to speed with the threat from fascism. But you're right, it was really Mussolini last in terms of who he saw as a serious danger. And of course, there were hopes almost up until the outbreak of the Second World War that they'd be able to prize Mussolini away from Hitler. So I think there's an element of pragmatism involved in some of this thinking. As we know, and he deserves credit, of course, Churchill. He was the first one to spot a real danger to Europe, which was of course from Hitler and fascism. But Patrick, we should mention another fascinating bit of news that's actually come from another of the old friends of the podcast, Philip Sobrine, who has in his, you know, his very gimmelot eye view of what's going on on social media and the various sources coming out of the United States and elsewhere. Notice that actually what seems to have also been promised the Ukrainians by the Americans, but hasn't actually been mentioned in any of the official communiques is something known as a ground launch small diameter bomb. Now, these are effectively rockets. And the reason these are significant is because all the damage high mars was doing to the command centers and the ammo depots behind the lines in Russia, prompted Russia to move back those, you know, those key locations beyond the range of high mars. Now, what these GLSDBs will do is they've got to range apparently of 150 kilometers and they'll be able to hit a lot of these new locations. And it's not a coincidence that they're being given. They've been discussions with the Americans, Ukrainians in Americans, you know, we need longer range. They don't want to give them the really long, long range, the 80 AMS rockets, but they are prepared apparently to send them these, these bombs and they could obviously in conjunction with the main battle tanks make a big difference in the battles to come. It does sound like a pretty devastating combination, doesn't it, so well, we're all waiting with baited breath to see what happens next. But in the meantime, we've got a brilliant report from the front lines as they are now. And this is coming from Julius Strauss. Julius is a close friend of mine. Our friendship goes back all the way. I think to 1995, in the last stages of the war in the former Yugoslavia, we met one night in the bar of the Esplanade Hotel, which is this wonderful 1920s brand hotel in Zagreb, what happened next, perhaps for another time, over a drink or three. Anyway, Julius was just starting out in the war reporting game and he went on to cover many conflicts. He was a daily telegross correspondent in Moscow in the early days of the Putin era. And he was also around for the beginning of the Ukrainian independence saga. Well, eventually he felt the need to change his life. And he and his wonderful wife, Kristian, who's also a journalist, did an amazing thing. They turned their back on all of it and retreated to the beautiful wilderness of British Columbia. And they set up a retreat, which is now called a Wild Bear Lodge. Kristian tragically died, but the lodge carries on. And it offers a brilliant setting in which to see grizzlies and black bears in really fabulous surroundings. I've been there twice and absolutely recommend it. But when he's not at the ranch, Julius teaches, he does all sorts of fascinating things, which he writes about in two online newsletters called Barely Surviving and the other second one is called Back to the Front. Well, he went back to the front near Bakhmut in Donetsk last week, where the fighting has been at its fiercest. And I asked him where he'd been and what he'd seen. I haven't been to... I see why I haven't been first. I haven't been to Bakhmut, which is surrounded on a couple of sides by the Russians. I've been just behind in the village behind Bakhmut, in a place called Chassiv Yar, which is about three or four miles from the nearest front line, about 10 miles from Bakhmut. And its significance is that it's right on a road that runs from place called Constantinivka to Bakhmut, which is the main supply road. In fact, probably the only realistic supply road for Bakhmut. As well as Chassiv Yar, I was also in Constantinivka and Kremlin, Torsk and Slomiansk and various other settlements in that part of the Donbas. And what was the situation? Are there other people still living there? Civilian still inhabiting these places? Incredibly, there are. And it's one of the reasons I went to Chassiv Yar. Bakhmut itself, the power is off and the water is off and the heating is off. And there's a few people still there. But Chassiv Yar remarkably of the 12,000 pre-war population, it still has a population of 5,000, which is absolutely incredible when you think that last summer, the Russians hit one of the apartment blocks with what I seem to be rockets and killed 46 or 48 people in one strike alone. And three days ago, again, they showed the center of the town quite seriously. And when you're there, there's just the continuous sort of low rumble of background shelling. When I was in the town for about three hours and there wasn't anything that came into the center, thankfully, but it's really every few seconds you can hear the rumble of Shalfire up further towards the front lines. The other thing that was remarkable for me is there are still children in the town. And you must have, this must have happened to you, Patrick. I'm showing your long career where you turn up in a town feeling a little bit like Rambo in your flat jacket and your helmet and you screech into the town center. Get out. And one of the first things you see is a sort of an eight-year-old sucking on a lollipop. And it makes you feel rather small, but that's the reality of it. And the local administration, both the military, well, it's really the military administration there. I mean, they're angry about it and they want the children out. They keep telling the parents to take them out. And there's this one very sort of sad, pathetic scene where I was talking to a mother of a little boy and the little boy was right there. And he just got a chocolate barn some biscuits from an eight truck. And so he was very happy about the chocolate and biscuits. But every time a shell landed and these shells were a long way away, his whole body sort of would, he had a sort of nervous reaction where his body would reverberate to the Shalfire. And he just looked and he thought, you know, why are these kids still here? And I talk to the mom and I mean, it's a combination of different reasons, but what it basically comes down to is this is their home and they don't want to leave. They just can't imagine going somewhere else. This is very sort of strong regional Donbass identity. You know, it's something different from the rest of Ukraine. It's certainly something different from Russia. They've lived there. Their parents have lived there. You know, one lady said to me, my grandparents are in the graveyard here. How can I possibly go? Even if I have got a child, how can I possibly leave? So yeah, your question about civilians, it was one of the most remarkable things for me is the amount of civilians left in some of these places. Do they have any strong political views about what's going on? What's their attitude towards all the fighting around them? Are they basically on one side or the other where they kind of just try to survive? Well, I think it's mixed. And of course, it depends how many people are left. If you're in a town where there's sort of 10% of the population left, then you'll probably find that they disproportionately pro-Russian because that would be one of the motivations for staying. Where I was in Chasiv Yar where you've got about 40% of the population left. I didn't hear any pro-Russian opinions. That said, you know, it's full of Ukrainian military. They might not want to express their opinions freely. I mean, one thing you can understand going to these places is that the nostalgia for the Soviet Union is not only strong amongst certain people, but it's reasonable amongst certain people. You know, these places were not great under the Soviet Union, but I think they were probably doing a hell of a lot better than they were in the 1990s and 2000s. So sometimes we have this thing of sort of picturing people as being stupid if they want the Soviet Union back. It's not for places like these, this sort of industrial forgotten lands. It's not an unreasonable thing to want the Soviet Union back. And that idea gets sort of merged and contorted and distorted. And sometimes that turns into a pro-Moscow sentiment. Sometimes it doesn't. One thing I have noticed, I was in Kremlin Torsk, which was in the same area the last time, five years ago. And just about everybody was speaking Russian all the time. Now it's a small minority of people who are speaking Russian and most people are speaking Ukrainians. There's been a very, very strong push of Ukrainian identity in that area. And I think some of that is probably to essentially, you know, comes from the center, but a lot of it comes from local people who are just really pissed off with anything to do with Moscow and Russians. But there is a bit of a mix. Well, that was quite unexpected, wasn't it? Join us after the break when Julius will have some really fascinating details of what is going on in the battle for back moves. Hi, I'm Lindsey Graham, the host of Wonder Woman's American History Tellers. In our latest series, the discovery of gold in 1848 sends people flocking to California, hoping to strike it rich. But for many, the minds also have a dark side. Listen to American History Tellers on Amazon Music or wherever you get your podcasts. Hello, everyone. Alistair Campbell here from the restless politics. And I'm here to tell you about our exciting new podcast, Leading. Alongside former Tory Minister, Rory Stewart, I'll be interviewing the biggest and best names Leading in their field. Our first guest is true political heavyweight, Michael Hazeltyne. The real question for me is do you leave the party or do stay and fight? I'm not prepared to be silenced. If the party wants to move its policies, that's up to it. But they're not going to make me change my fundamental views. I did a really interesting interview with Marina Lipvinyenko, widow of Alexander, the former Russians by murdered by the Putin regime. You have to remember, is it still the system who created Putin, who'd never been destroyed with Soviet Union collapsing in 1991. And coming up on Monday, the 30th of January, we've got the former Labour Hell Secretary, Alan Milburner, who will be talking to him about how to solve the crisis, gripping the National Hell Service. I've been around health policy for 30 odd years. This is of a different order. It's a million times worse, probably arguably the worst it is ever been. So, to hear all these interviews and fall, just search leading wherever you get your podcasts. Welcome back. Given its importance, we've only really got a sketchy idea of the military situation in Backmud, where the fighting has been raging for months. I asked Julius what he learned and how he thought the battle would play out. This is what he said. Starting with the end, the outcome is difficult to predict. That said, yes, I did form opinions. And I spoke to a lot of people who, I made it my business to speak to a lot of people, who either had some idea of what was happening there or who were in there and very recently come out. I met a soldier who had come out that day, and you'd been in for a month, and we met by car lights. It was quite spooky, it was after dark, it was in the suburb of Kramatoss when we talked by the headlights of the car. Because the Ukrainians are very funny about talking about anything that's military. They have quite strong government orders not to talk about anything in military significance. And they take it quite seriously, and they will often say to you straight up, they say, look, I talked to you about anything, but not about anything that has any military implications. But what he described was a month of very serious fighting against the Wagner group. And some very specific things. One was that the Russians, especially at the beginning of that month, had a serious amount of artillery ammunition. And he talked, the specific thing he said was that they turned up with one railway car full of all kinds of different ammunition for them. various mortars, not artillery and whatnot. And he said, we had 20 mortarounds, and that was it. So we had almost no artillery, and we couldn't suppress their fire at all. Which meant the Ukrainians basically sat in the trenches and waited until the Russians were close enough to shoot them, whether with machine guns or sniper rifles or whatever. So that was one sort of particular thing. The second thing that I picked up on was that the Russian army don't seem to be supporting Wagner very well. And that goes to the rivalry between the two. So there was much talk, I don't know how much of this is rumored, how much of it's based in fact, of Wagner sort of as time went by of Wagner having less and less artillery, and using more and more sort of traditional infantry tactics. And the infantry tactics themselves are very specific. The infantry tactics, you know, sort of go back to almost as sort of, you know, the second world war of Stalin type punishment, but I was basically what Wagner seemed to have been doing is taking the convicts from the prisons and pushing them forward in waves. And these waves of convicts are taking huge amounts of losses. And I spoke to one Ukrainian soldier and he said, you know, in a way it's brilliant because nobody cares. Obviously, the Ukrainians don't care if Russian convicts are killed, but in order the Russians can. There's no sympathy for them whatsoever. So it's almost sort of politically free, even if hundreds or thousands of these people get killed. It doesn't cost the Kremlin anything politically. And it doesn't really cost Wagner anything politically, although it may cost them something in manpower. And you know, the Ukrainian I spoke to, it's very sort of switched on politically. He said, he said, you know, it's kind of ingenious in a way what pre-Grojian the head of Wagner is doing because he's got free men to lose. He just doesn't care and nobody else cares. So they can do things with these men that would just be impossible for a regular army to do. He said, you know, one example is that they were sent forward half a dozen of these Wagner convicts just on a sort of a sacrificial reconnaissance mission. And Wagner was set at the back with binoculars and watched where the fire comes from, you know, in order to wreck those those Ukrainian positions. And they're quite happy for none of those six to come back again. So there's a very sort of specific dynamic in and around Bafmut. Now there's also been some movement. And this is something that could turn out to be important or not. We'll have to wait and see. But about a week ago, a solid R, which is just, you know, it's a small town just to the north of Bafmut, fell to Wagner. And since then, Wagner seems to have taken a little bit of land just to the south of Bafmut. So the significance of the place that I was yesterday, Chasiv Yar, is that if the Russians and their rumours are going to try and do this, if they try and encircle surround or cut off supplies to Bafmut, then Chasiv Yar is the logical place to go for. It's, and as I say, it's only three or four miles from the front line. Do we expect to see a sort of massive wave of thousands of Russians coming over the horizon towards Chasiv Yar? No, I think everything moves much more slowly than that. But the Ukrainians have certainly taken that that possibility seriously. And they seem to have drafted in some pretty experienced troops to try and hold that line. Now, when we were talking earlier, Julius, you mentioned this rather grim experience you had going out with Ukrainian troops to collect dead Russian bodies. Can you tell us more about that? Yeah. So they're actually, they weren't technically troops. They have been scondid or, I suppose, tasked with collecting Russian bodies. And initially, there was a little bit of confusion because I didn't really understand. I thought they were collecting Ukrainian bodies. And they are also collecting Ukrainian bodies, which would make sense. They collect their dead and they take them and they give them a proper burial. But they're also collecting Russian bodies. And they've actually collected the ratios about two to one. So they've collected about two Russian bodies for one Ukrainian. When I was with them, I have to say it was a bit of a sort of, say, unprofessional, but a bit of a sketchy experience. First of all, we walked all the way through a field, a long field. We walked about 45 minutes and there were significant amounts of mines in the field. And obviously, the ones we saw, we stayed away from. They were both anti-tank mines, but there were also butterfly mines that hadn't exploded. So we made this sort of, you know, fairly careful atmosphere of the field. But not, I mean, it certainly wasn't, you know, slowly, slowly. They walked through the field and we followed them, basically. And then on the way back, we walked back on our own, which was an even more, I wouldn't say dangerous experience, but definitely something that got your heart rate up a bit. So we walked through this field full of mines and, or not, full of mines, but with mines strewn around. And then we got to the end of the field. And clearly they'd had some kind of information. There may be a Russian here or a Russian there. And we found a blown up tea. I think it was a tea 72. I didn't go right up to it again because of the mine issue, but I think it was a tea 72, definitely a Russian tank. And we walked past that. And eventually we found a Russian body on the side of the road. And the Ukrainians said he was a russka, but from russka, the Russian guard, I guess he would translate into English, they're not quite soldiers. They're more like... Well, these are the internal repression forces on there, who there's a very interesting point because they apparently, their job is basically to maintain the Kremlin in power by putting down protests. And they didn't sign up for this, but large numbers of them are being used in a combat role, as you can see, their wishes. So this is actually quite a significant little detail. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, these guys, more or less, are signed up as riot cops. I mean, I'm not saying they were great guys, but they're more or less signed up as riot cops. And the next thing, you know, the bloke sitting in a field, you know, half an hour's drive from Slovenia. Now, I must say that the bodies we were collecting, and we collected two bodies, the first one, the first one, and there's a particular way it happens. It sounds morbid than recover, but this is the way it has to happen, is that, you know, you approach the body and the Ukrainians sort of check it in a cursory way. And the next thing they do is they tire a rope to part of the body and they get, you also have got back 100 yards or 60 yards or whatever it was, and they pull the rope because some of these bodies are booby traps. Well, that's very sensible, but of course, the bodies often fall apart, and so the job becomes that much more grizzly and macabre. But this is what they do all day. And so the next thing that happened was, you know, they pull the body, the head came off and so on and so on. And then they kind of collect all the different bits of the body, they lay down, they take a photograph, and they catalog it. So the first body that we found was there, 299th Russian body. And this is only four or five guys doing this work. So that's quite a lot of bodies in, you know, in a period of time. This body had probably come from September during the counteroffensive, the era that we were in that seemed very, very heavy fighting. I mean, every building had been not just damaged, but sort of smashed bits. And that was during the, you know, after, when the Russian was lost, it was, and there was this counteroffensive. So that was the first body. And then the second body, the soldier had actually been incinerated inside what the Russians called a bithere, which is a basically an armored personnel carrier. And they did, and, you know, looked at this and I thought, how on earth are you going to get a body out of that? I mean, everything was just burnt. But the, the sort of leader of the group, he was so, he was such an expert that he knew exactly what brain looked like when it had been completely cooked and what, and, you know, what different parts of the body did and what the flak jacket did and so on and so on. And he could separate it out. And we spent about an hour there. And, you know, in due course, he came out with a sort of a metal bucket of, you know, the remains of this poor Russian soldier. I mean, I'm trying to be emotional about it. But, you know, the guy had ended up as just a sort of, you know, a few ashes and a few bits of teeth and, you know, a few bits of skull. So one of the Ukrainians do this. And my initial thing was, this is a lot of work to go to to pick up dead Russians, even if it's, you know, sort of a good thing to do at a human level. But of course, it's more complicated than that. What they do is they swap them. So they take them back. They take them to a center. They take them for forensic analysis and they DNA test them. Don't ask me how they do that, because I'm not an expert in that. But they DNA test them. And once they have identified them, they contact the Russians. And if the Russians agree to swap, then they swap. Dead Ukrainians for dead Russians. And so the way they see it is they're doing a very honorable job for their own country. They have no sympathy for the Russians. I mean, I said to one of them, I said, what do you feel about this Russian, this dead Russian? And he said, I just want this stain of our country. There was no sort of human sympathy there. It was all about getting back dead Ukrainians basically. Did that give you any idea of relative casualties? The conventional view is that we're somewhere in some multiples of Russian casualties higher than Ukrainian casualties. Can you give us any rough idea of what you think the actual balance of loss is? I've only really got two bits of information. And so I'm guessing a little bit. But the two bits of information are, one is these guys picking out the bodies. They were roughly picking out two Russian bodies for one Ukrainian body. So that's a little bit of information. The other kind of more, maybe more important bit of information is that with Bafmut, my impression had been just from reading the media, listening to people and so on, that the ratio of Russian dead to Ukrainian dead was five to one or eight to one or something. And I spoke to a Ukrainian who had been in there a long time and he said, no, it's not. It's just not. It's more like 1.5 to one. And possibly two to one at the outside. So that would be 1.5 Russians to one Ukrainian or possibly two Russians to one Ukrainian. Which doesn't kind of fit with this idea of, you know, sort of hundreds of men coming across a field being mowed down by a machine gun. But I think the reason for the relative parity is probably to do with the use of artillery and the fact that the Ukrainians aren't taking high casualties rates in places like Bafmut, especially Bafmut. You know, I spoke to other people, but of course they give a very small part of the pie. I spoke to one, the guide I met, you know, in the light of the headlights said that his unit was taking 70-15 casualties a day. I talked to a medic yesterday who said he was taking out and he gave the same sort of number five to ten casualties a day. But that's not from the entire Bafmut front. That's only from their various sort of small sections of operation. You covered a lot of wars, Julius. How would you characterize this one? How does it differ from the wars you've been in before? It feels completely different. I mean, I suppose every war has its own dynamic. And you know, I think one of our failings perhaps, or one of the failings of those who have covered other wars is you approach every war as if it was the last one. And as if you know what the rules are and how it works and what the dynamic is. And it often takes you a while to sort of be forced down to that healthy position of humility where you realize you don't have to know what the hell it's going on. And then so you know, you build up from there. I mean, I think I haven't spent a lot of time covering, I've covered Ukraine a lot over the years and I've covered bits of Russian wars. I covered Chechnya somewhat. But I haven't spent a lot of time in this war. This is the first time I've been back since January last year when the war hadn't even begun. But the things that struck me at a sort of a superficial level, there are a few things. The first thing is they're just in terms of the way that we operate. You know, for example, in Afghanistan by 2012, almost every Western casualty, 7 or 8 or maybe even 9 out of 10, well from IEDs. In other wars, you know, it can be small arms fire, it can be random, it can be all kinds of different things. This war, at least the bit of it that I've seen, it's all about artillery, it's all about stuff flying through the air. You know, and when I say that, I don't mean bullets. I mean, I mean, you know, big stuff being fired. So from the position of a journalist going to these places, there's not that usual risk of taking the wrong road and being shot at or chanceing upon a front line or anything like that. It just doesn't happen like that. But what there is is this sort of continuous sporadic, when I say maybe continuous is the wrong word, the sporadic high level risk of something really big flying your way. And it's going to make a mess of the building that you're in or the car that you're in or whatever it is. It's not going to, you know, it's going to be high impact. And so it's a very strange thing mentally. You know, in a place like Chasiv, yeah, yesterday, providing the Russians don't shell it. You're almost completely safe. You're unlikely to stand on a mine or get shot or anything else. But if they do shell it and you're exposed, you're completely exposed. It took me a little, it's taken me, you know, it's been a bit difficult to get that through my head, I think. Julius, that was very important and very powerful testimony you've just given us. Thank you so much for that. Stay safe and good luck to you. Well, that was quite the eye opener, wasn't it? Lots of fascinating detail. But the the main one interesting enough is overturning this view from various sources that he's used and pretty reliable. It sounds to me that the casualty rate is heavily in favor of the Ukrainians. I mean, he's talking about a casualty rate certainly from some of the bodies they've recovered of around two to one. And then also speaking to some of the people who have actually been fighting in the back mood battle, maybe closer to one and a half to one. The question you might ask yourself, given that he also gave details of these human waves coming across his why that was so. And of course, he gives the indication because the Russians have been firing many more artillery shells. A lot of Ukrainians have been dying as a result of that. Yeah, that body recovery story was pretty grim, wasn't it? And it did remind us that this question of what happens to your dead is a very significant part of the kind of whole battlefield drama. It's also, of course, as he said, they have value, you know, if you've got some of their dead bodies, you can trade them for corpses of your own in the same way as you would with live bodies. And of course, there's something that the Israelis are particularly dedicated to doing in their conflicts with the Palestinians. If the Palestinian fighters managed to kill an Israeli, then it's kind of a rather kind of macabre bargaining chip in their negotiations with the Israelis. The other thing that struck me, Patrick, is how brave a lot of war reporters are. I mean, you'll know this well enough yourself from the Falken's and elsewhere. But, you know, describing wondering along that field and also coming back through that field that was strewn with land mines, butterfly mines, anti-tank mines. I mean, you see, just to get a little bit closer to the front lines, so you can tell his story. So I think we all need to remember when we're reading these reports in the newspapers, the risks that are being taken by journalists who are not competent on our behalf. So, you know, all hail you and your brethren, Patrick, because it's pretty impressive stuff. Well, that's very nice for you to say. So I mean, Julius is a very cool customer, it has to be said. I've seen him in action. He's a very brave guy. But it's, you know, a disinteresting point, what he makes about, well, mines are an issue everywhere. I remember being in the first Gulf War and suddenly really saying, I driven into what was really a patch of ground completely covered with munitions from cluster bombs. And all you can do really is just put the vehicle into reverse and very gingerly edge your way out. But artillery wasn't a big kind of fear in the various conflicts I've been involved in. But he really did paint a picture there of this, you know, being in a complete, one appears to be a complete, these sort of safe landscape. And at any second, you know, the back of your mind, you know, any second, an artillery round could come whistling in. So well done, Julius. Thank you so much for that. It was a really terrific contribution. We're going to move on now to listeners questions. Once again, we've got a big, big batch of them. So we got one here from Ian Lundberg. He asks, what's happened to the Chechen Kedirovite, the Kedirovsky who we've heard quite a lot about through the conflict. And he says that is it possible that they may have actually withdrawn their support? Ramzan Kedirov might have decided that the Russians are going to lose and he may be saving his resources, his military sources for perhaps an opportunity which will open up after a Russian defeat for Chechens to finally get independence. Do we think there's any substance to this theory? Well, it's a good question, isn't it? So I mean, Kedirov was very sort of goby the early stages indeed right up until a couple of months ago. But we haven't heard a peep out of him for weeks. So what do you think that's about? He's gone very silent, hasn't he? And you're almost wondering whether he's been done away with. But no, I don't think it is that. I think Ian's on to something here, actually. I think Ramzan, he's a survivor. He's been at Close the Allied to Putin for quite a long time because that's in his self-interest. But he may be seeing an opportunity, actually, to slightly withdraw from full support and wait and see what happens because clearly the war is not going well. It's going to go even less well with all these main battle tanks and extra armaments that are being supplied to Ukraine. And Kedirov may well be thinking, let's just sit on the fence to a certain extent and see what happens. I mean, certainly the group that is still in all over the news of the Wagner-Mersonry group, they are heavily involved in the fighting as we heard from Julius. In fact, they're sending the convicts over in human waves because they're not too concerned about human life. I mean, it's a grim, grim stuff, isn't it? But it's fascinating that we haven't heard much of Kedirov. So yes, Ian, watch this space and thank you for that question. Got one here from Gary and Belfast with the advent of drones. Is this the end of manned aircraft? Well, like the tank, the death of the manned military aircraft is often predicted, but it never quite comes to pass. Does it? We're hoping actually to get a drone expert on to talk about this because it is a fascinating area. So for the moment, we'll put that one on hold Gary, but we will definitely be coming back to it. Okay, here's one from Michael and Konomara. My question to you both is why is Iran still allowed to manufacture and supply drones another equipment to Russia when the United States and Israel could take out the factories, etc. No problem doing something similar when it suits their own national interest, but Israel has been very quiet during the conflict. Well, my immediate response to that is yes, national interest does matter. And Israel actually, interestingly, also has long historical leads to Russia. You might be surprised to hear Michael. So they will be a little bit ambivalent about doing that on the half of Ukraine in their own national interests. Of course, they go in there like a shot. The US more complicated. It's not in the same sort of geographical position. And of course, that could cause a lot of trouble if it was seen that the United States was doing that. So nobody's happy about it, of course, but they're an independent country and they are, you know, and they've tied themselves foolishly, I suspect in most people's regard to Russia. So we'll see how that plays out, but not surprised that they're doing it and not surprised that the US and Israel aren't reacting. Quite so. Israel has played a very interesting role, non-role in all this, and it's very much kept its options open. At the early stages, its neutrality seemed to actually kind of benefit Russia. You would think historically they might be more inclined to be on the side of the underdog, but then again, the story's very complicated long history of anti-Semitism in Ukraine. I think, they're making, as you say, so their calculations very much on what's good for Israel basis. And it's a kind of a question they ask themselves every day and they rebalance it every day, but it's certainly no sign of them coming down on Ukraine's side in a meaningful way, i.e. sending in a serious kit their way, but at the moment, they don't seem to need it. Thank heavens. Okay, we've got a question from Pete D. from Canada. A lot of discussion about sending Western main battle tanks, what we've moved on from that, and the fact that we know they're coming. But Pete asked an interesting question, wouldn't it make more sense to send upgraded Soviet tanks from some of the ex-Warser pack nations instead? I just can't see how the Ukrainians have the capacity right now to learn to use, maintain, service, and set up supply logistics. Well, the first point, Pete, is that an awful lot of ex-Warser pack nations have sent their tanks. So, Ukraine has been sent something like up to 300 T-72s, and you're right, it is easier for them to use, maintain, and service them. But as I also said at the beginning of this, when we gave the news about the arrival of Western main battle tanks, which is imminent, people I think have got an idea that there are a lot, you know, it's a lot trickier to learn to use them than it actually will be. The Ukrainians have shown themselves being credibly resourceful in terms of learning and adapting new kit, and I think it'll be the same with these tanks. Yes, you've got the issue of maintenance. Apparently, the Abrams use a lot of fuel. You know, they can be quite tricky to maintain. But nevertheless, used in a single strike in a punch in one of these key battles, one of these key offensives to come. These Western battle tanks are going to be a big game-changer. So, should the Ukrainians be thinking about more Soviet tanks or Soviet type tanks absolutely not, and for the simple reason, Pete, is that they're not as good? Well, we've got an interesting one here from Kevin, who lives in Plymouth. That's Plymouth main in the States, not Plymouth down in Devon. And he asks a couple of interesting questions about Valerie Garassimov, the newly appointed theatre commander. He asks, how can he do his job of, old job of chief of staff of the entire Russian military, which he's still in post as, in addition to being the operational commander of the war in Ukraine? Good question. I can't see how he can either, he can do both of them properly. Yeah, I mean, it looks like he's set up to fail at both. But something that actually also struck me, he says, every time I see a photograph of this man, his face and his demeanor are completely dead. Is this man a sociopath? Well, a lot of candidates for that label in the Kremlin, he actually has always come across previously, has been one of the more rational and, dear ones, they've re-established people in power there. But I do take your point about the look, you know, the look that they have. I mean, he says, as Poets are the Putin, has this same distant dead gaze as he puts it. And is this a Russian trey, he wonders? Why do they? But they do seem to actually kind of like casting themselves as sort of bond villains. They're sort of like this sort of fisheye kind of stare and there's, I am capable of doing anything to you, kind of body language. So yeah, maybe there's something, maybe they go to some kind of some sort of drama classes to get that look. I think personally Patrick, I think it's a combination of attempting to project an intimidating look. But also on the other hand, the sudden realization that they're on a one way ticket, you know, out of their jobs, you get the sense that they realize they've got themselves in too deep. But who knows, it may just be the Russian demeanor as he suggests. Well, that's all we've got time for. But please do keep the questions coming in to our email address at BattlegroundYouCrane, all one word at And do tune in next week when we'll be digging into the latest news and talking to another great guest. Goodbye. Hi, I'm Lindsay Graham, the host of Wonder Woman's American History Tellers. In our latest series, the discovery of gold in 1848 sends people flocking to California, hoping to strike it rich. But for many, the minds also have a dark side. Listen to American History Tellers on Amazon Music, or wherever you get your podcasts.