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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26. Russian Advances

26. Russian Advances

Fri, 03 Feb 2023 01:00

Returning to the podcast this week is friend of the podcast Julius Strauss. He discusses the recent Russian advances and the impact this is having on Ukrainian morale, plus he gives his eyewitness account of a Russian jet being shot down by a Ukrainian Missile. Saul and Patrick also delve into the latest news, including the latest US military aid package and answer some listeners questions.

If you are interested in supporting Julius in his project to help injured and traumatised Ukrainian soldiers, then you can contact him at julius@wildbearlodge.ca

Producer: James Hodgson

Twitter: @PodBattleground



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Hi, I'm Dory Shefrier and along with Kate Spencer, I host Forever 35, a podcast about the things we do to take care of ourselves. Join us every Wednesday with guests like author Phoebe Robinson, Chef Simeone-Nostrat, actress Busy Phillips, and even former Secretary of State Madeline Albright. On Mondays and Fridays, we have many episodes where we answer listeners questions on everyday problems like how useful a but mask really is, how to deal with a petty friend, or how to relax after a long day. So join us Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on Forever 35 where we're not experts, but we are two friends who like to talk a lot about serums. Hello and welcome to the Battleground Ukraine podcast with me Saul David and Patrick Bishop. After the excitement of the past two weeks, particularly the announcement that the West is sending main battle tanks to Ukraine, the news this week is lower key but still significant. It comes both from the battlefield where Russia is making small but potentially important gains in multiple locations along the front line, and also from Kiev and Western capitals, where officials are hinting at the possibility of NATO countries sending fighter jets and long range missiles to Ukraine. Well the question of Russian advances and the impact this is having on Ukrainian morale is addressed by our guest and friend of the podcast, Julia Strauss this week. The response to Julia's appearance on the podcast last week was so enthusiastic that we've invited him back again for a second week running to give us another dramatic account of life on the front line. This time near Orykiv in the Zapolizia Oblast. So Julia has been down there. He also assesses the mood in Kiev where he is now and he offers some fascinating insights on Putin and what might lie ahead. But first let's talk about those Russian advances, Patrick. Now according to the respected Washington DC think tank, the Institute for the Study of War, the Russians have recently made small gains in a number of places around back moot as we've been talking for many weeks, and they've also occupied the settlement of Vodyyan near Donetsk, Mikhailski in the Zapolizia Oblast, and are also putting pressure on Rulidar and Orykiv where Julius was reporting from also both of those are in the Zapolizia Oblast. So what Patrick do you think is going on? Is this a cunning Russian plan? Are they trying to keep the Ukrainians off balance before launching them much anticipated spring offensive? Or is this just a question of throwing men at the problem in a scatter gun approach in the hope they'll get a morale boosting victory somewhere? Well, there seems to have been a little shift in the military situation. Doesn't there around back moot? We were hearing that before the charge was being led by Vagna personnel, but it seems that they're being replaced by conventional troops from the regular army, the idea being that they're looking forward to taking back moot fairly soon. And of course, the state wants to take the credit for that rather than a private military contractor. You have Gennie Prigotian, who's also got political ambitions. And so obviously, that is not something that Putin wants to see him getting the credit for. That could change things a bit, couldn't it? I think before we heard from, indeed from Julius last week, that Vagna were complaining that they weren't getting the support that they wanted from the regular army, particularly artillery support. So that may be about to change. If they're now putting in regular troops, they will be getting at a higher level of artillery support. But on the other hand, Vagna tactics were very costly, but did actually bring some results. And we heard last week about how profligate they were with men's lives. You know, many of them will also are convicts from Russian jails. So now the Russian conventional commanders have taken over. OK, they'll have the improved support, but they can't really afford to throw away lies with the same abandon as the Vagna people did. You know, it looks like the Russians have lost 100,000 dead minimum. We spoke about this before, Saul. But OK, you know, there is a sort of Russian tradition of doing this, but there are political consequences. As again, we've mentioned in Afghanistan, this was a big contributory factor to the failure of the war there. So they've got to be a bit more cautious. Plus, they're gearing up this big offensive. So they've got to husband their resources. But just so I am, they're being well along with it here. But to answer your question, I think what they're trying to do there, the Russians, is to pull Ukrainians in, try and bleed out the best Ukrainian units in the defense of Vagna, prior to their big push. But the Russian, sorry, the Ukrainians seem to have understood that. And you think so? I think they seem to me to be playing quite an intelligent defense here in and around Vagna. Yeah, exactly right. And possibly elsewhere. I mean, it's possible. We don't know for sure, but it's possible that they're deliberately conceding some ground in the hope that it'll convince Western governments to supply ever more powerful weapons, including, as I mentioned at the top, fighter jets and long range missiles. If they are playing that clever game, it's working to a certain extent. Are they actually trying to frighten the West into conceding more kit? Well, President Bryden has just ruled out sending F-16s to Ukraine. But President Macron of France may still commit French fighter jets. Poland's also expressed the willingness to give modern jets as of other countries. And meanwhile, John Feiner, the US deputy national security advisor, has said, we have not ruled that in or out any specific military systems. But Macron is fascinating as Nick Patrick. I mean, you've got a bit more of a sense of the French side than I have. You've spent a bit of time living in that country. He seems to be playing a bit of a double game here, doesn't he? One minute he's cozying up to put in the next, he's backing Zelensky with military kit. What do you think he's up to? Well, he's all over the place, really, isn't he? I mean, just before Christmas, he was saying that Russia needed security guarantees in an EP settlement. And this was much condemned. There was one woman, rather kind of brilliant tweet by Tumen Hendrick, who is the former president of Estonia. And he very succinctly tweeted at just three letters, F-F-S, which I think is something to do. And I think what's going on here is that when I've seen Macron at fairly close quarters, living in Paris for several years, just after he took over as president, I remember very clearly the very carefully choreographed ceremony when he won the presidential election in 2016. And it consisted of him walking alone across the courtyard of the Louvre with his sort of, you know, doomy music playing this long, lone walk as if he's got the weight, not just of France, but of the whole world. Only shoulders. So from the beginning, he saw himself as a man of destiny. And when the war began, you would call him, how we tried to intervene to save the day with this sort of personal diplomacy to Putin, calling up Putin, but the Kremlin switchboard was keeping it going on the old. And it turned out that Vlad wasn't in a listening mood. He still, I think Hank is after the role of a diplomatic superman, a swooke in, save the day, under the illusion that this is a situation that can be resolved by conventional power-brokering. I just didn't think it can. But it does sort of play to an old French theme, doesn't it? I mean, we've seen this before. You'll recall Degors' behavior in the Second World War, so... Yeah, absolutely. I mean, Degor got on notoriously badly with Roosevelt. I mean, and felt that Roosevelt really didn't respect him, didn't have much time for him. Of course, we're talking about the very complicated period where you had effectively two governments of France, perhaps like this is, of course, after the German invasion in 1940, where you have the Bichy regime, which everyone sort of has to keep on the side to a certain extent, because Bichy is technically neutral, but of course, it's dominated by Germany, which at the same time is occupying a big chunk of France. And at the same time, Degor, of course, is claiming to speak for France effectively in exile. So it was very complicated, and Degor felt that he really didn't get my respect from Roosevelt. And I wonder if this is playing into a fascinating bit of news we've just heard that Degor's grandson has recently come out with what I consider to be an outrageous statement, Patrick. And that's it, that the US was responsible for the Ukraine war and that Russia was a victim. The French, he said, are paying a heavy price for a war, provoked by the US to turn Europe into a battle. Yeah, this isn't really an uncommon view in France. I've been reading some of the comments in the figure row. And there seems to be a school of thought that says that we really did sort of bring this on by some NATO expansion, et cetera. But again, it's part of this historical sense that France is separate. It can never really throw its weight behind, particularly America. And so it's always got to be seen to have its own sort of independent policy. But I think that's all falling apart. One of the things that I wanted to bring up, Saul, and I've interested to hear what you think about this, is the way that, you know, once again, the Franco-German partnership, which is meant to really drive all aspects of Europe and particularly, you know, sort of foreign policy. They've been faced with two big crises in recent times. The first one, of course, was the Yugoslav war in their backyard. They failed to do anything about that. The US had to step in and save the day. Now, the same things happened here on a much bigger scale. With Ukraine, once again, they failed a test. But, and here's the interesting point. Others have risen to the challenge, particularly in the East. So we've seen Poland and the Baltics in particular, taking the initiative, showing the resolve, giving the Ukrainians the weapons they need. And also putting a very courageous stance, vis-a-vis Russia, which is so right across their frontiers. So it seems to me we might here be looking at a kind of shift in power inside the EU with the kind of central gravity moving eastwards. Do you think there's anything in that? Yeah, I do think there's something in that. And what's also fascinating is that those powers, you talk about the Baltics, but also we're including now the Nordics who are looking to join NATO, are spending a lot of money on their military. I mean, Poland in particular's got a really effective military. So what you're getting to sort of shift, not only a potential political shift, but also a military shift to the East. And this, of course, is a problem for Russia, because these guys, as you say, are on their border, but it's not a coincidence that that's... It's happening now, because they see an existential threat represented by Russia in a way that Germany, frankly, and France still do not. Now, I mentioned before that Biden has said no to jets going to Ukraine. But we're now hearing that from Reuters, that the US government is about to announce a really significant 2 billion military aid package, which includes something we've mentioned before, a game-changing weapon called the Ground Launch Small Diameter Bomb, or GLSDB, where we're a big favourites of acronyms on this programme, what we've got Patrick. That's not a very good one, is it? It should be a pre-correcting. It's not correct. Some handy sort of little... No, that's a pretty... That's a mouth, wasn't it? It doesn't roll off the tongue like high marks, but it could be as significant. Why? Because it has a range of 94 miles, 150 kilometres, which is significantly further than the high marks. Its GPS guided can defeat electronic jamming and is usable in all weather conditions. It also, and here's the interesting bit, has small folding wings that allow it to glide more than 100 kilometres if dropped from an aircraft and hit targets as small as three feet. That's one metre in diameter. It's key use, of course, Patrick. It's going to be against the ammunition depots, command centres, and troop concentrations that the Russians have moved back beyond the range of high marks. Well, it'd be nice if we got there sooner rather than later. This is always the problem with what's going on now, isn't it? In there, all this stuff sounds great, but if the Russians do go on the offensive in, what the Ukrainians are saying, it could be a couple of weeks, and certainly within a couple of months, you really need this stuff to be there, disrupting the build-up, disrupting the initial maneuver, if it's going to be at its most effective. Now, we were talking about what's going to happen next, as we always do. Have you had time to kind of game how you think things might go when the log awaited big pushes on both sides actually kick off? Yeah, you're always asking for trouble if you start to predict what's going to happen. I think we're bound to do that, aren't we? I have been thinking about it. Frankly, the most logical thing for the Ukrainians to do, which fits into my theory, that they are concealing a little bit of ground almost deliberately, is to draw the Russians onto them. We're almost going back a year when the initial attacks came in. I think if there is going to be a large Russian offensive, and it looks increasingly likely for lots of different reasons, and not the least of which is that Russia's got to do something it needs a victory. Then, the Ukrainians would be very sensible to allow that attack to come onto them, and then hammer it when it does. We know that a lot of the grunts that are going to make up the bulk of any attacking force. Yes, they may be in the regular Russian army, but they're going to be conscripts and they're not going to be effectively trained. So, I would bring the Russians, let the Russians attack, and then hit them when they do when their lines of communication and their supply lines are extended. And then counter attack with these new tanks. Exactly, and then you use the tanks, and then you use these position-guided weapons. I mean, of course, you know, it's a double game. Do you use them to disrupt or do you let the Russians come and then knock them out? Honestly, I think that that will be in the back of the Ukrainians' minds, but we'll see, as we're going to hear from Julius, he's not quite so optimistic that the Ukrainians have got a cunning plan. Yeah, he's good to sound those cautionary notes. I agree with you. I think that would be the sense of what we're going to do to let them come on. Of course, there are some places where you can do that in other places, but you can't do that around chaos. Son, where you've actually got, you know, population, large population in the city still, but you could do it around back Mutt. And one thing the Ukrainians have proved adept at is they've shown their ability to maneuver in a way that the Russians haven't. And the other thing that strikes me is that, you know, what's the Russians' actual objective? What do they do? They just keep pushing Westward and then think, okay, we've gone far enough, we can say that we've re-liberated what's really Russian territory and call that a victory. Yeah, maybe, but that's not going to end the war for them. And you will still be in this highly sort of disrupted state. On that point, actually, in the past, we often used to talk about sanctions how they were going to kick in at some point and undermine Putin at home. That doesn't seem to be happening. Does it in the medium term, anyway, from this IMF report that came out yesterday? It looks like the Russians are actually doing rather better than we are here in Britain on the economic front. And their prediction is that the economy is actually going to grow a bit next year. Now, this is all down basically to the fact they found new markets for their oil and gas. So in the long term, things aren't going to be great. They've a massive brain drain. The economy is completely dependent still on energy. So they can sort of tick along. But it seems that that particular threat is not going to be a decisive one any time soon. So I suppose, yeah, I mean, digging in for a long grim stalemate must be sort of factored into their plans, which isn't good for Ukraine and the West. But yeah, I think what the Ukrainians and the West definitely are planning for and hoping for is a massive decisive victory in a very hot spring and an early summer. Yeah. And just on the sanctions thing, I mean, your rise, of course, and the IMF are suggesting that Russia's economy is not going to contract this year. It's going to grow slightly. But in what way? I mean, you know, it can bring in a lot of money because it's selling its oil. But what it can't get, a lot of these sophisticated components that it needs to run a lot of its weapons. So it's sort of patching things together. And as its armaments get increasingly less sophisticated, they're going to have less effect, frankly. And of course, the opposite, as we've mentioned many times before, is happening as far as the Ukrainians are concerned, particularly with these new guided bombs, as I've just been talking about. Now, there was a fascinating clip from Boris Johnson this week, in which he, and this was in a BBC documentary, actually, about the lead up to war in which Boris Johnson was interviewed and claimed that he had a conversation with Putin before the invasion when he was actually threatened by Putin. Which sounds entirely credible to me. I mean, apparently what Putin said to him, and this is when they were talking about, you know, the potential consequences if Russia invaded. He said, Boris, I don't want to hurt you, but with a missile, it would only take a minute. Does that sound likely comment to have come from Putin? Do you think Patrick? Well, it's, it's, it's, it's, it's caused when it's come from Putin. But unfortunately, the story is told by Boris Johnson, who I know of, I used to be his boss when I was at the telegraph. He was in Brussels, and I often used to have to deal with him there. Also, as Paris, couple of those Paris correspondents, we both covered the, was it 2003, Maastricht Agreement referendum. And so I've seen him up close as a journalist, and I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him. So I'm afraid that, too, that if you're going to choose between great liars of the world, there's not much in it between Boris Johnson and Vladimir Putin. So great story, but not sure how true it is. Okay, that's enough from us. Now we're going to hear again, from my old friend, Julius Strauss, former Daily Telegram Bureau Chief in Moscow, who has reported on many wars across the globe. And this is what he told us about his recent trip to Orikiv in the Zapolizia of Blast. The The The The The The The The Julius, welcome back to the podcast. Thanks very much for joining us again. We understand you've been on your travels again in the East. Can you tell us what you saw there and what you've been hearing? Yeah, so the week before when we spoke, Patrick, I'd mostly been in the Donbass around the area, the general area of Bachmut. What I decided to do this week was go a little bit further south. There had been a reported, significant reported Russian attack on a place called Orikiv, which is in the Zaporozhya, Zaporozhya in the Ukrainian area. So I traveled with a colleague down to Zaporozhya and yeah, we drove down to the frontline town of Orikiv and it was quite an eventful drive down there. And it was a little bit like Chassiv, the other place I went to last week and that there's intermittent significant fire coming in, but it is intermittent, it's not continuous. I've also been in Kiev for the last two or three days trying to sort of wrap up my thoughts and figure out what's going on here. So what did you see around Zaporozhya? Well, we went to a, first of all, this little town at a Kiev, a medium-sized town, I guess, at a Kiev. They have a sort of council in exile. It was quite interesting in a way. So it's a room in a building in Zaporozhya where the entire council sits with about 12 computers and they run the town of Ariev remotely because in Ariev there's no consistent power. So they have this sort of satellite administration. So I went with my colleague there, we talked to him about the situation in Ariev and we managed to arrange to go in the next day to Ariev with an age convoy. I mean, you will have seen plenty of these things in your time, Patrick. You know, I imagine the sort of six large trucks with flashing lights and lots of logos and maybe a police escort. Well, what it actually was was a beacon up old battered British ambulance that they managed to get from somewhere. It was going but not very well and our entire cargo was about 35 planks and a wheelchair which sounds kind of vaguely, I don't know, pathetic maybe, but actually what you realize when you're running in and out of these places is that there's massive support network for these frontline towns and it's mostly done in this unglamorous way by volunteers who take these dangerous roads. So that's what we did is we piled into the British ambulance and we set off it's about an hour down the road to Ariev and as you get closer, there are less and less people, more and more military, things get more and more tense. The drivers at one point stopped to put on their flak jackets and it was at that point that we saw this most, almost a surreal thing which was a, we saw a contrail coming from the east and initially, you know, it's a sort of westerner, you think, oh, it's a contrail, it's a plane and then you think, well, hang on a minute, it's not that simple in Ukraine, there are no passenger planes flying. It's got to be something military and the contrail came close, it was very high and it's within the distance. And then as we watched it, another contrail came from the west and the first contrail did a very, very sharp 180 degree turn which made us realize it must be an airplane, there's no way a missile is going to return to send it as it were. So the plane did a very, very sharp turn and then you slowly watched the two contrails come together and the contrail of the missile caught the plane, it caught up with the plane and you saw both contrails disappear and then it's sort of billowing, not exactly a billowing of smoke but it's sort of a billowing white contrail in its place and you realize what had happened, there's a plane that just been shot down by Ukrainian missile. And for a few seconds we just sort of stood there in disbelief that this is what it actually looks like from the ground at a distance. So that was just, it gave us a little insight, a tiny insight really into what's happening above, what's happening up in the air as well. Can you tell us what you think the Russians are actually up to at the moment? I mean from a distance it seems a bit pointless, it's constant battering away, is there any kind of military purpose to it, do you think? I think there is a military purpose and I think actually if you talk to the Ukrainians, they're a bit more worried than they sometimes let on because what seems to be happening is that everybody agrees that there's some kind of spring offensive coming from the Russians and perhaps from the Ukrainians as well and they think it's going to be in February perhaps March and so both sides are kind of positioning for that offensive but what the Russians are doing in the meantime is they're not allowing the Ukrainians to set up properly, they just keep pushing and pushing and pushing, they're still pushing around, they were pushing in this little place I just mentioned, Adi Hiv and now they're pushing hard in a place called Wuklerd√° which is sort of on a, it's sort of between the Zaporezia and the Donetsk front and what this is doing is it's forcing the Ukrainians to fight continuously and not really giving them any breathing space, not giving them time to reposition properly, not giving them time to sort of sharpen their knife for the next fight and this seems to be the tactic, it's, you know, every day it's somewhere else but it's significant and there's also a sense that, you know, now that we know that the tanks are coming, that the Russians have a sort of a window between now and when those tanks become fully deployed, although of course we don't know exactly what difference the tanks are going to make until they are deployed but there's this sense of a window to the Russians are sort of stabbing and jabbing and stabbing and jabbing at different points on the front right now so that when the push does come the Ukrainians are not going to be sharp then they're going to be off balance and they're going to be stretched and morale is not going to be what it could be, they're not allowing them to breathe basically in the run up to this expected defensive, that's the general feeling here. You've been back in Kiev and obviously had your ears the ground there, you know, the news that the tanks were going was greeted over here as being a huge event, a huge game changer which at first sight it looks like, is that how it's being regarded there? There's a whole combination of different viewpoints here, or the whole variety of different viewpoints here, I think it's definitely good news, it's definitely good news, I mean the idea that hundreds of Western tanks are going to turn up but it's a little bit like the discussion ahead of the high-mars, you know, we don't actually know how important it's going to be, now I think the high-mars turned out to be very important, we don't know if the tanks are going to have the same effect, you are more of a military expert than I am Patrick, but you know, on the offensive tanks would certainly seem to be extremely valuable, in a defensive role they obviously have some value but that is sort of less known, it's a less known capacity, the other problem is going to be that given that the Russians are attacking on so many different points along this long front line, it's difficult to know how the backup systems are going to work, how things are actually going to work in the field, so yes, people are happy, people are very happy that the tanks thing has moved, does it mean that they are optimistic of a sort of short-term victory against Russia? No, I definitely don't think so. What about the timing, I mean it seemed that the Russians really have to go sooner rather than later, along with the way the more effect these tanks are going to have crews trained up, supply lines properly in place or the rest of it, so in a way that kind of gives you the Ukrainian advantage, doesn't it? Perhaps, it's very difficult to measure how exhausted the Ukrainian military is, morale is high, but there's been a lot of fighting, a lot of soldiers are tired, a lot of soldiers have been killed and we don't really have a good sense because every time you get a bit of this, it's one small data point on a very long front line. It's also difficult to measure how effective the new Russian forces are going to be when they really start pushing. I think what we're seeing at the moment is, after that, not you for it, but that sort of idea that the Russians would get tired, the Russians would run out of equipment, the Russians would eventually stall is you're getting a slightly different sense now and it's not quite as optimistic on the Ukrainian side, which is that the Russians really are in it for the long haul and they're just going to keep going. So we've talked about this for a long time, this war of attrition, but it really does seem to be coming that. The Russians are still taking land. I mean they've just taken tiny, tiny bits, but they've just taken another pocket, north of Buckmore, they've taken a tiny bit down by Arichiv, they're chipping away, it looks like they might take this sound of Buckladahl, though who knows, let's see how that works out, they're chipping away at bits of land. So you certainly don't get the sense of any kind of Ukrainian breakthrough at the moment, of some kind of imminent Ukrainian success at the moment, barring something very unexpected politically in Moscow. What will happen in the next few weeks? I think that given the two timings that we're looking at, I, on the Russian side, the expected spring offensive on the Ukrainian side, the deployment of these tanks, I think the Russians probably do have a window between the two. I mean the Russians could be ready to roll pretty soon within a couple of weeks is what I'm sensing and I think it's going to take the Ukrainians longer to get those tanks into an operational position. And certainly most of them. Well that's all very revealing isn't it? Do join us in part two when we'll hear more from Julius and answer listener's questions. Welcome back, we're now going to hear the second part of our interview with Julius Strauss. Is the relative lack of success on the battlefield on the Ukrainian side causing any kind of political problems at the moment in Kiev? You know it doesn't seem to be, I mean I've spoken to many many people and it's difficult to hear a bad word against Zelensky. I think the Ukrainians I've spoken to have all said the same thing, they said look we've very lucky to have this man at this time. And when you look back at previous Ukrainian leaders you can kind of see why. I mean they're a pretty motley bunch going back to 1990. You know all of them sort of caught up in various corruption scandals or compromised or whatever it happens to be or just ineffective. So in that sense I think there's a feeling amongst Ukrainians that we really are lucky to have this man Zelensky things are about as good as they can be. But we're up against a really serious foe who does not have a track record of backing down. So it doesn't mean we're going to win. It just means that this guy will give us our best shot. Now there has been this big corruption, it's not quite a corruption scandal but there's a big sweep a few days ago where Zelensky fired a lot of people. He fired several of the governors of the frontline provinces. He fired several deputy ministers. It's very difficult to know what's going on. It's very difficult. The message is extremely controlled. Interestingly the firings were broadly greeted as a sign that Ukraine is becoming less corrupt or at least addressing its corruption. Most of the media coverage that I saw said well you know well done Zelensky finally you're doing something about corruption. But whether there's something else going on behind that is very difficult to say. Now this is a big ask Julius but you're in a very privileged position of knowing both countries. Can you give us an idea from your own personal view of how you see this all playing out? Gosh that is a big ask. Well first of all take the Russian side. We don't know what is happening in the Kremlin. We just you know I covered Moscow for four years at a time when it was much much looser than it is now and even then we didn't know anything about what was happening behind the wars of the Kremlin. It was all just speculation. How safe is Putin's position, how fed up are the Russian hardliners with him. I don't think the liberals really come into this in Moscow. I think it's between Putin and the hardliners. How effective a war manager do they think he has been. I think those are the crucial questions. Well that's one crucial question and then the other one is of course if they decide that they're not happy with him is there any mechanism or means or ability to change him, remove him. If we assume that Putin is not going anywhere for a minute it's a fairly big assumption but let's make it right now and say for the next couple of years he's not going anywhere. Knowing what I know about Putin he is just going to double down and double down and double down. There is no sense at all that he is ready to either give in or make some kind of painful compromise. Kremlin analogy is notoriously you know it makes fools of all of us. The people who knew the most in sort of the late 1980s said the Soviet Union would never fall. It's a very difficult business. But my sense is the leopard is not going to change his spots at this point. Putin either prevails in some sense or he goes down with this war. Looking at it from the Ukrainian side, the Ukrainians approved much much tougher than anybody would have ever thought. We're coming up to the first anniversary of this war and they've much much tougher than anybody would have ever thought. They're stubborn, they're brave, they're fighting hard. How much can that be sustained? We don't know what the casualty rates are. If the casualty rates are genuinely, as I think Millie said, they're genuinely around 100,000 on each side. That's a huge toll on the Ukrainians. I mean that's hundreds of thousands of people injured. It's very difficult to get a sense because of course everybody you talk to can only talk about their minute little piece of experience on the front line of Bachmur, by the heave or wherever it happens to be. It's very difficult to get a broader sense of what's going on. So what would my predictions be, big picture? It's difficult to see an early end to this war without the change in Moscow. I wouldn't really be able to go further than that, I don't think. That's a grim thought. What are you up to next? I understand you're heading for the mountains before a kind of related but very fascinating aspect of your work. Yes, I had, we spoke last week Patrick and I'd been out with the volunteers collecting Russian and Ukrainian bodies. There was a post script to that which was very sad which was one of the young men I was with a man called Dennis who was 21 years old. Ran over a mine a few days later and was killed. One of the things you realize when you spend time here is there's a lot of people being killed and there's a massive amount of people being injured and wounded. I did a program in Canada two years ago for physically and mentally wounded British and Canadian servicemen. I have a plan this year to do the same for Ukrainians and the plan is basically to take half a dozen Ukrainians to my lodging Canada to want their lodge and to give them 10 days of training in terms of wilderness skills, practical skills and that sort of thing. Then bring them back to Ukraine as wilderness guides, mountain guides in their sort of post-soldier life and possibly sort of environmental protection officers. That sort of thing in the Carpathians in Western Ukraine. For disclosure here I have one other aspiration which is that there are 400 grizzly bears or brown bears left in Ukraine and they're not very well protected. One of my big things in Canada is trying to protect bears. I'd like this to be part of protecting bears in Ukraine as well. Tomorrow I'm meeting a Ukrainian partner who has worked a lot with wounded soldiers with prosthetics and also with PTSD and recovery and vocational training and we're putting together a program. We've collected about 65% of the money we need to do the program this year. I'm still out to try and collect a bit of cash for that and also put together the operational side. But I'm optimistic it will happen this autumn. Well that's a brilliant project. Well done for doing it, Julius and if you give us the details we'll put it on the side and maybe people might feel like donating. Stay safe and we'll speak soon. Thank you, Patrick. Well once again I mean really fascinating and dramatic stuff. The description of him actually witnessing the knocking down of that jet Patrick. I mean it's really quite incredible isn't it? But he said a lot of things that surprised me a little bit and the fact that he's there on the ground, they're listening to people. You have to give it a lot of credence. In particular the point he made, we've been very optimistic about Ukraine, what it's planning and what it can do. But he's a little bit more worried I suppose or he's a little bit more aware that Ukraine might be worried by the Russian advances than they're letting on mainly because it's not giving them any breathing space to prepare their own counteroffensive. Yeah I think that's right. I mean as he mentioned last week the casualty picture is not quite as rosy as it's been presented in the West and they're obviously feeling the pain. So yeah I think we should get too carried away about what's actually happening all the battlefield now and the way it's going to go. I thought he was absolutely right to say that Putin is not at any point going to suddenly see reason and become open to some kind of half way house agreement. His technique is just to double down and not to give in really because he's got no other option. Yeah that's right and of course the other thing is that he thinks that Russia is about to launch its offensive possibly in the next couple of weeks. So we've really got to keep an eye on this. Haven't we Patrick? What about the long term? Well no early end to war without Putin's fall but it was interesting that he kind of laid out the possibility and after all he's spent a lot of time in Russia as we've already mentioned that he would not rule out the hard line as toppling Putin. If he doesn't get toppled this war is going to go on for a fair while. Yeah I mean it's interesting that he who's been in Moscow for years still doesn't feel confident that he can make any sort of predictions about what's going on inside that very tight circle around Putin they have managed to keep that very opaque and very secret. Okay it's now time for business questions and the first one is from Simon in Northumberland who says we've all been hearing a lot about tanks recently I wonder if you could give us some historic examples of tank battles or the tactical use of tanks in combined maneuvers and what to expect from them in battle. Well I think the simplest thing to start off with is what you know is sort of about them when tanks were first used on the Western front I mean that was quite a dramatic intervention and it really did change the base of warfare doesn't it? Yeah it's very interesting when they first came into use in the first world war and a lot of people believed that their first use was in 1917 in Canberra and that indeed was the first time they were used in any kind of mass sense but they were actually originally used that flare during the battle of the Somme and their arrival on the battlefield causing extraordinary effect on the Germans because they weren't expecting them of course and they were able to advance on the trench lines with impunity with the sort of bullets just bouncing off them and artillery bouncing off them and therefore they were able to make an extraordinary breakthrough but the problem is it couldn't be sustained and this is the interesting thing about tanks is that yes they can give you a breakthrough in an offensive sense but you need to support them with infantry and ideally with air power and this principle still works today I mean we can think of course of the some of the huge tank battles Patrick of the Second World War L-Alamein where they were used in conjunction with both of those things particularly air power I mean one of the big game changes in the desert in 1942 Alamein taking place in October and November 1942 was the use of tactical air power by the British the desert air force got used to operating in conjunction with armour and infantry and that's exactly I think what the Ukrainians will be intending to do and also what the Russians of course have tried to do and did do with a certain amount of success during the Second World War yes indeed now there's a Frederick here in Oslo Norway raises an interesting point he says with a delivery of challenger Levin and Abrams tank to Ukraine he often finds himself thinking about the German offensive citadel in Kursk in World War II this is one of the great tank the biggest tank battle ever is isn't that right Saul I mean a massive it's like a sort of sea battle these great fleets of German and Russian tanks slugging it out around Kursk now the Germans were had very high hopes of their new tanks there and he didn't quite work out like that it was a great Russian victory and so he asked because I'll be over estimating the impact these new tanks will have a new crane and I think there has been cautionary notes sounded haven't there about the fact that there are three tanks with three different supply chains three different maintenance regimes three different operational sort of sets of skills needed to to make them effective and I think that is a concern isn't it I mean it's not ideal by any means it's better to have the tanks and not have them but it will create sort of significant complicating factors on operating them did you think that's going to be really a big issue in the upcoming battle Saul I think the sort of supply chain could be an issue but how effective are they going to be in my view very effective and what's fascinating about this question about citadel is there's recently been a very good book in fact coming out this year on citadel which completely overturns the old myth that the German panzer force hit this panzer force was basically destroyed at curse and you know your point about they thought that the tigers and the panthers and these new tanks would be game changes and actually they were completely knocked out at curse not true apparently they lost about 50 tanks as opposed to 400 which has always been the myth and actually they were relatively impervious to enemy fire it's just that they couldn't get the infantry and the other elements of support to make a big difference in this battle and I suspect we're going to see something similar in Ukraine in that these tanks the new main battle tanks are very effective against enemy fire now the Russians are saying well if you if you apparently there's a company in Russia Patrick that's been offering cash if you knock out if any Russians knock out some of these tanks well good luck because they've got very very effective armor and you know I'm not saying they're indestructible but I think the Russians are going to be surprised of what they're up against and last point to make about tanks because we banged on about them for long enough is that they are very effective both offensively and defensively so yes it's going to take time for them to get into position yes the Russian offensive may come before that but at some stage they can be used both blunt and enemy attack but also to lead in conjunction with airpower possibly drones but also infantry and attack themselves so these tanks can and will be in my view very effective and it seems like the trading program has gone off to a very quick start we've seen Ukrainian troops arriving here in the UK already to get down to business so that part of the kind of preparation seems to be going pretty well okay well that's all we've got time for just a quick reminder to send questions as always a battleground Ukraine at gmail.com and before we go I just wanted to mention that the project that Julius referred to to give psychological and physical casualties to the war the chance to retrain as wilderness guides or at least enjoy the therapeutic benefits of visit to his ranch seems to us to be a very worthwhile project and if you'd like to help in any way perhaps you could email him at Julius at wildbear lodge.ca well we'll also put that address up on the podcast description. Great stuff so do come back next week when we'll be joined by Oli Lambert the director of the wonderful BBC documentary Ukraine the People's Fight which is currently available on iPlayer so do watch it if you get the chance. Acast powers the world's best podcast here's a show that we recommend. Hi my name is Candace King welcome to a super balloon podcast where I'm asking others who've experienced their own roadblocks grief or tough times to share in how their experiences went on to feed their souls to talk about the events and passions in their life that allowed them to grow and super bloom into their next chapter. Join me every Thursday for brand new episodes.