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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Wed, 19 Apr 2023 01:00
Julius Strauss returns to the podcast in this week's interview, he's back in Ukraine and has been traveling across the country from Lviv in the the west, to close to the frontline in the East. He discusses some of the realities and tensions inside Ukraine - from the rift in the Orthodox Church to the use of Russian language by sections of the population.
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8KAS powers the world's best podcast. Here's a show that we recommend. Hey friends, it's Mark Bitman, host of Food with Mark Bitman. If you haven't listened yet, please check us out. We talk about recipes, a lot about cooking, but also about injustices in the food system, and how America's food policy is moving both forward and backward. We had climate expert, general genius, and all around great guy Bill McKibbin, Senator Cory Booker who's passion for food and politics is totally inspiring, and the hilarious, wisdom rich, New Orleans-based chef Toya Bodhi. We've got much more in store for you, including some interviews tied to Earth Day that really couldn't be more appropriate. So have a listen and if you'd like share your thoughts with us or on Apple with a review. Look forward to seeing you soon. 8KAS helps creators launch, grow, and monetize their podcasts everywhere. 8KAS.com Hello and welcome to the Battleground Ukraine Big Interview with me Patrick Bishop and Saul David. Our guest this week is Julius Strauss. He's an old favourite of the podcast. He's been on several times. Julius of course is a former journalist. He's also the proprietor of a wonderful Wild Bear Watching Lodge in British Columbia, Wild Bear Lodge, it's called. And he's the author of two fantastic blogs, one's called Back to the Front about his travels when he's not at the lodge, and the other is about his time there, barely surviving, both highly recommended. Julius has just been in Ukraine, visiting all parts of the country from Le Viv in the West to Copiensk and the East right up against the front lines there. He spoke to a lot of people, he's made a lot of interesting observations. We started off by asking him how he felt the character of Ukraine had changed as a result of the war from what he gleaned on his journey. Julius, welcome back to the podcast, thank you very much indeed for talking to us. You've been on your travels again in and around Ukraine. Can you start off just by telling us where you've been and what you saw? Yeah, so I haven't been back to Ukraine for two months. I came back and I was very curious to know how things had changed and also to go to some places that I hadn't been before, I had only been briefly before. So I started off in Le Viv. I wanted to get a little bit of a sense of history in Ukraine because we kind of come out with these trusses if you like, that you know, Le Viv is the center of Ukrainian identity and that sort of thing. We tend to take these things as given and to a certain extent it's true. But Le Viv is also a very complicated city. I mean it was pretty much Polish until 1920. The vast majority of people who lived in Le Viv until 1920 were Polish speaking. Some of them were Jewish, some of them were Poles. And the Ukrainians were really a very small minority there. And I mean I won't go through the whole history of it and then I probably can't remember the whole history of it because it's very complicated. There were various, you know, between 1980 and 1920 there was a big fight between the Poles and the Ukrainians which the Poles won. Obviously there was the first World War before that and then we had the Second World War. And you know, Le Viv joined the Soviet Union after the Second World War which is something we forget sometimes. It's not, it doesn't have that long Soviet history as I'm much shorter Soviet history. So I started off, you know, one of the best places is always to go is to graveyards and there's a beautiful, beautiful graveyard in Le Viv up on the hillside. So I started off going there and looking at, you know, some of the different conflicts that had gone on through the 20th century. And inevitably, you know, what happens is you get drawn towards the newer stuff and eventually I ended up in the corner of this cemetery where the brand new graves are. And you know, it's almost sort of, you feel this sort of feeling on your skin because suddenly you realize that we can, we can't, we talk about death and battlefields and tactics and so on and so on. And then you see the mothers weeping over their, over their sons who have just died. And most of these are kids in their 20s, some of them in their 30s. You see the messages from little girls whose fathers have just died and so on and so on and it brings it, it really brings it home to you that even that small number of graves in that, you know, one graveyard in one corner of Ukraine is full of young bodies and you think, well, gosh, actually 100,000 is it or whatever the number is, maybe it's 100,000 dead amwarded. And massive amount of people that's really difficult to get our head around. But going back to Levyv itself, I mean, it is sort of a crucible of Ukrainianness. You know, we saw people playing these traditional Ukrainian instruments that you wouldn't see in other places. I'm a Russian speaker. My Russian is not 100%. But it's pretty good. It's pretty fluent. And it was the one place in Ukraine where speaking Russian really was not welcome at all. And people did not want to reply in Russian, speak Russian, even in a knowledge Russian. They would rather struggle in English, even if they could barely speak English than listen to me talking Russian. So I started off there, came to Kiev. Kiev is a bit more of a mix, of course. But there's also an identity, sort of a fight for identity going on in Kiev. But it's between the different branches of the effectively, I'm not going to get the terminology right here, but it's extremely complicated and everything sounds exactly the same. But effectively, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is now in two parts. And one is under the Moscow Patriarchate, and one is under the Kiev Patriarchate. And there's been a struggle since the fighting, the big fighting began a year ago as to what happens to that Patriarchate that is loyal to Moscow. Do you sort of follow the sort of free thinking thing of saying, hey, we can all worship whoever we want to? Or do you look at the Moscow Patriarchate with suspicion? And of course, it depends on who you talk to. But slowly, steadily, the Moscow Patriarchate is being edged out of Ukraine. Some of the accusations are that the monks have been blessing Russian tanks, and that sort of thing in areas that are occupied by the Russians. There have been accusations that they're keeping Russian passports. Certainly, as often in this part of the world, some of the sort of senior religious leaders seem to be incredibly rich, given that they're living off a very, very small state salary. And the leader of the Moscow Patriarchate in Kiev is known as Pasha Mercedes, because of his pension driving around in extremely fancy New German limousines. I don't know what his official salary is, but I very much doubt it would cover a New German limousine. So there's been a sort of a struggling Kiev over this as well. Zelensky seems to have decided to more or less keep out of that fight. I don't think he can see too much mileage in it. And it also brought home to me something that we forget sometimes too, which is that, you know, Zelensky was elected on a platform of seeking peace with Russia. He was the moderate Ukrainian politician. He was the one who spoke Russian and Ukrainian and so on and so on. And Pada Shanko, his predecessor, was seen as the much more nationalist Ukrainian leader. And of course, we've forgotten that as well, because the war has overtaken, you know, have overtaken that. So there's a struggling Kiev over the religious aspects and it's happening elsewhere in the country, but sharply in Kiev. There's this incredible, for those of the listeners who never been to Kiev, there's an incredible place called on a hillside. They call it the monastery in the caves. And it's this enormous, beautiful, 30 hectare piece of land in Kiev that is covered in churches and monasteries and little sort of chapels and crypts and so on and so on. And that has traditionally been run by the Moscow Patriarchate and it looks now as if they're going to be evicted from then. Ukrainian Orthodox Church is going to take over. Do you get the sense, then, Julius, that Ukrainian is becoming a sort of monocultural state as a consequence of the war? I don't think it is. I think it's far more complicated than that. There's certainly a movement in that direction away from the Russian language, away from the Moscow branch of Orthodoxy and away from Russian history, but it is more subtle. So you know, the third place I went to, which I had been to before, just on the eve of the war was a deser. And a deser was fascinating because there's a sort of a self-appointed group of language, vigilantes. And there is a law in Ukraine, which says something along the lines that when you go into a shop or into a cafe, the person working at cafe has to greet you in Ukrainian. If you then decide to switch to Russian, then they are welcome to continue that conversation of Russian, and that's perfectly legal. But if you say I want to continue in Ukrainian, they have to continue in Ukrainian with you. Now, of course, in some places, it's easier than others. And a deser is traditionally a very Russian-speaking city. So there's a group of, a small group of Ukrainian patriotic vigilantes running around checking up on this. And they're going with these secret cameras and they're going to shops. And they say, you know, in Ukrainian, they say, good day. And if they get answered in Russian, the camera comes on. And then it goes from there. And in the most egregious cases, they report these cafes and shops and whatnot to an ombudsman, and they are then fine. The shops and the cafes are then fine. So my immediate sort of emotional reaction to this was, God, what a bunch of horrible busy bodies. Haven't they got anything better to do with their day than go and sort of create trouble for these portable cafe owners who are stumbling along in broken Ukrainian? But then you look into it a little bit more and you realize a couple of things. First of all, the lady who started this, her grandfather was killed by the Russians at the beginning of the war in a Missile Strike on a deser. And secondly, the reaction from some of the cafe staff is far from sort of, you know, oh dear, my Ukraine is not perfect. Can I please speak Russian? It's more like, what do you mean? You know, how you go, we're closed. You know, there's the door. And that's when you realize that, well, hang on a minute, it is a slightly more complicated thing. There are two sides of this argument. Nevertheless, a deser is still largely a Russian-speaking city, but it's also a place where if you go into cafes now, they tend to address you in Ukrainian. Now, on the subject of morale generally, Ely, you'd expect by this stage in the war, it's been a very high-tempo war. Everyone has suffered. Did you detect any signs of war weariness? People have fed up with the war. People want the war to end. There's nobody I've spoken to in the last week or so who said we're enjoying this war, we want it to continue. There's not even really a punitive sense, as in, you know, the Russians have hurt us a lot, we are now going to hurt them back. It's more a sense that we've seen what the Russians will do if they take over our cities. We've seen it in Kersan, we've seen it in Donetsk or whatever it is. We cannot allow that to happen. We are fighting for our very existence and we have to fight. So it's a combination of resignation and determination with a little bit of patriotism here and there to sort of spice it up, but that's not the dominant thing. It's more like, oh God, we wish we weren't in this situation, but we are and we just have to keep fighting. On the subjects of the sort of religious battle that's going on in Kiev that you were talking about, Julius, there's a fascinating report in the Institute for Study of War this week in which it talks about Russia's religious repressions throughout occupied Ukraine since the start of the invasion last year. And that Russia continues to weaponize religion in an effort to discredit Ukraine in the international arena and is using information operations about religion to advance military objections despite itself committing gross violations of religious freedom in occupied Ukraine. And of course, it's bringing up the issue of these monks and the fact that they're big. So Russia is using the religious issue as a chance to, you know, as Patrick puts it, to make Ukraine look to discredit Ukraine. And yet clearly if this report is accurate, there's all kinds of discrimination, not just against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in occupied territories, but also against Catholicism, my own religion, not that I'm a great practiser, Protestantism and pretty much everything else you can think of. And something tells me something similar must be happening in Russia too. Are people aware of that? Do you think in any sense, then, that what's going on in Kiev is a reaction to this? I don't think it's a reaction to that. But what that does do, I think it illustrates something that I thought a lot about the last week, which is this, that whether it's on the front of the church or the language or the behavior of the soldiers, we try, we hold Ukraine to a very, very high standard, Ukraine as Russia is behaving absolutely egregiously on a lot of these issues. So we don't bat an eyelid when we hear about Ukrainian soldiers being executed by Russians, because it's kind of what we expect. But if Ukrainian soldiers badly treat Russian prisoners, there's a lot of fuss about it. Now, I think there should be a lot of fuss about prisoners being abused. Don't get me wrong on this one. I don't think that Russia's terrible behavior gives Ukraine a license to behave badly too. There's a little bit of me when I go to Odessa, or even worse, actually, when I hear Westerners say, oh, those terrible Ukrainians, they're taking down the statue of Catherine the Great, oh, they're not allowing people to speak their own language whenever they want to. And then you go to somewhere like Khartikiv, and you see that the Russians are just not the stuffing out of the entire city. You think, well, hang on a minute. There's no, you can't really draw an equivalence between these two things. Yes, Ukraine is trying to reassert its identity. On a positive front, what they would say they are doing is that after a long time under the Russian Empire, in the case of Eastern Ukraine, and then the Soviet Empire, they need to take steps like this in order to solidify what it means to be a Ukrainian. I have some sympathy with that. I mean, I suppose the reason I spent so much time looking into this over the last week is because it's such an interesting, complicated issue. It's not something you come down fully on one side or the other. But so I see a question directly, so I haven't come across anybody who said, you know, the Russians are doing terrible things to our church, and therefore we're going to respond in kind. That's not something I've had. Can you say something about the standing of President Zelensky, his stature in the West is as high as it has been since the start of the conflict. Oh, his own people still are solidly behind him as it appears. I think they are. And part of that is because I think they think he's a very talented communicator and he's doing a very, very good job of selling Ukraine to the West at a time when Ukraine needs the West. That doesn't necessarily mean that everybody always supported him. Nor does it necessarily mean that they think he hasn't made mistakes, particularly in the pre-war period. I mean, one opinion that I heard from somebody in Kiev was, look, he should have known that war was coming and he should have prepared much better than he did. I understand the counter-arguments because I was here just before the war started, where basically the Ukrainian government was saying, if we go into a war footing, A, we're going to provoke the Russians, and B, we're going to cause panic and the whole country is going to collapse. I understand where they didn't do that. But history will judge him on that, I suppose. It is true that with a bit more military preparation, a lot of lives could probably have been saved, but, you know, hindsight is always clever. And I think the sense here is that the countries of war, he's the best we could have hoped for, and that's still standing. That opinion is still standing. Okay, that's enough for part one. Join us in part two when we'll be hearing more of Julius' fascinating take on conditions in Ukraine today. Welcome back to part two of the Battleground Podcast, Big Interview with Julius Strauss. You were also in Coupiensk down very near the front line. Can you tell us what you saw there and what assessment you made of the degree of preparation we're at in terms of the forthcoming counteroffensive? Did you see much evidence that that was in process? No, not really. There's a little bit of evidence that things are going on. There are some new, very well-built positions. Some of them are close to the front line. Some of them are further back from the front line, but there are definitely a cuts above anything I've seen in Ukraine before. And I haven't been everywhere. I've sort of dipped my finger in here, dipped my nose in here and there. I don't know a lot of what's going on, obviously. But, you know, they're properly built. They've got concrete. They've got wood. They've got sand. They've got all the things that make them a strong position. I've thought a lot about this whole counteroffensive thing. And I was talking to a Ukrainian yesterday in that area and he said, and this is just one opinion, but he said, look, if you're going to launch counteroffensive, you don't talk about it as much as they've been talking about it. So I think several things come together here. First of all, what happened last summer in the Kharkiv area is probably not repeatable by the Ukrainians. The surprise that they managed to launch on the Russians is probably not repeatable, because the Russians have been caught out once. And one thing that's sort of weak in the previous commander, the previous guy in charge of the Ukraine campaign seemed to do quite well is build up defenses in different parts of the line. So the question then becomes, if there's going to be a counteroffensive and the Russians are going to know it's coming and they're fairly well prepared and they're better manned than they were last summer, what is it going to look like and how does that work? Where do you try and smash to and how many many you prepared to lose? And having been here something over a week, I'm really no wiser on that subject at all than I was. There are so many countervailing opinions. The Ukrainian military been saying to Western journalists, please stop speculating about what we might do. Is that a bluff? Is it a maneuver? Is it a double bluff? Is it a, you know, everybody talks about Malitapol, everybody talks about breaking the land corridor in the South. Is it even realistic? I don't know. I mean, one thing I did get a sense of in Kupiansk and Kupiansk is exactly that area that the Ukrainians took back last summer or last September in that sort of lightning unexpected counteroffensive. And you know, just as everybody else, I remember saying, well, they managed to do that because Russian defenses were so thin. Well, yeah, but when you go there and you look it on the ground and you look at where the tanks were blown up, how much armor the Russian had there? It might have been a very thin line of defense. To me, it still looks like a hell of a battle. I mean, there was something like, you know, I was in a village just south east of Kupiansk, which again is pretty close to the front line. There was fairly continuous shelling in the distance, nothing very close, but in the distance. And somebody had been killed, oh no, somebody had been hurt the day before in the next village. Two people had been killed in a village up the road. And the locals were describing what the battle in September looks like. And this was one small village. It was my mind packed with Russian armor that the Ukrainians had to bust through. And they did in the end, they destroyed all the Russian armor in that particular village. So if that's a lightly defended front line, it just made me think, what is a heavily defended front line actually looked like and how easy is it going to be to break through? And this is where I come up with lots of question marks because we've been so wrong on so many things. You know, almost everybody predicted that Russia would smash Ukraine's defenses at the beginning of the war. They were predicted that Russia wouldn't attack in the first place. A lot of people said that high Mars wouldn't change the course of the war. And they kind of did it in the certainly in the Hassan area. So I feel a little bit sort of humbled by that sense of having got things wrong in the past now to protect what an earth is going to happen with is counter-offensive. The short answer is I just don't know. We've attended a couple of briefings in the UK recently, virtually, at Newden, to say Julius. And they are hinting heavily. It's interesting what you say about the Ukrainians saying, you know, please don't speculate because we've been getting a lot of very strong hints from British sources, Western officials as they love to be called. That the Ukrainians are making very serious preparations that the counter-offensive is going to take place late spring early summer. I mean, they're not saying anything specific. And you know, the general feeling among these briefings is that it's going to make a real difference. Now, maybe the real question here for you is, you know, why would they be going to that sort of detail? You know, again, is this some kind of attempt to, you know, to hoodwink the Russians to make the Russians think, crikey, we've got to do something to disrupt this before it even begins because one of the interesting arguments about the endless attacks that the Russians have been putting in and not making much headwaves, that this is very useful for the Ukrainians. They are treating the Russian ability to stop the counter-offensive. So do you get any kind of sense of what's going on there in the kind of briefings we're getting? Or would they be giving us that sort of detail as what I'm really asking? I mean, you're actually right to ask the question, but you can flip everything 180 degrees as well and say, if they're giving that sort of detail out about where they're going to attack, what they're going to use, why on earth are they doing that, if they want to cast Russians by surprise? And I suppose this is what the local guy who was talking to yesterday said, he's like, really are we really going to flag something if we're going to do it? Or is it exactly the other way around? And the short answer is I don't know. I mean, to a certain extent, we're all slaves to the past in our thinking. And we look at what happened last year with Karson and the Kharkiv area. And we say, well, that must be how it's going to happen in the future. But we don't actually know. It's very, very difficult to say. I'm also not sure about, I mean, the common wisdom is that, as I said, it's sort of you can build up many, many lines of Russian defense in lots of different areas, but how effective they will be in practice. It's so difficult to tell. Yesterday we crossed a river, which is called the river Oxiln. It's just it's on the edge of Kupiansk. And the Russians, when the Ukrainians did attack, the Russians blew the bridges. And I looked at this river, I thought, well, how the hell do you get a bunch of armor across that river in a rush? But the Ukrainian army did somehow. So it's, yeah, maybe I should be, maybe I need to be more of a military expert. It's very, very difficult to predict. It all seems a bit smoke and mirrors at the moment. Of course, when they're inevitably be proven wrong when it does happen. Yeah, and there's an element of politics involved in all of this, of course, too, isn't there? Because the sort of briefings we're getting are for national consumption, as they were, international consumption. And there probably is a feeling among the Brits in particular that they need to keep, you know, everyone's hopes up that there is going to be a happy conclusion to all of this. I mean, whether that's a problem in itself, because you're building up expectations, and therefore people are going to, you know, quickly lose the will to keep supporting this war is another matter, you know, but they're all these interesting, you know, undercurrents going on, I think. Yeah, no, no, no, totally. I mean, if I have to sort of, you know, if I have to give assessment, I think the Ukrainian military is probably weaker than we think, but the Russian military is also weaker than we think. So where is it going to crack? What is going to crack? Is it, as the New York Times were saying today, is it going to be that the Ukrainians run out of air defense systems? Or is it going to be somewhere else? Is something else going to crack first? In the case of Russia, I really don't think we will have much warning if things do crack in a big way, particularly at the top. I think it will just happen without, nobody's going to flag this up days and weeks ahead, I don't think. In the case of Ukraine, and again, talking about, you know, some of these leaks that have come out of the last few days, one thing that people keep saying again and again is that the Allies have a better sense of the Russian military than they do of the Ukrainian military. So the Ukrainians have done an extremely good job on keeping things fairly secret. And I mean, I was here two months ago and I managed to talk to a few soldiers about little things that were happening on the ground, but that really was the extent of it. As soon as it came to anything bigger than a few soldiers or one unit, they were, they just said, sorry, we do not have permission to discuss this and we're not going to discuss it. They were friendly, but they were, they were drawn the line. And I think that clamped down on information has been, has been very successful. Any vis-a-vis journalists? Last question from me, Julius. From what you were saying, you're being very measured, which is absolutely the right thing to do, but it seems like there is a real possibility that the counteroffensive will not prove decisive and that we are looking potentially at stalemate. Now my question is, do you think that the Ukrainian, you know, national solidarity that's been shown, the resolution of its leadership? And that piece is stained in a post-war situation where you still have Russians on large amounts of Ukrainian soil and you're looking at the prospect of an endless sort of frozen conflict. You know, I think that's a, it's a very good question, a difficult question to answer. My sense is that, and again, you know, sitting in a Western capital, the idea of some kind of ceasefire and then some kind of land for peace, swap of some kind, sounds of eminently sensible. But when you're here on the ground and you see the immense damage that the Russians have done and the number of casualties that people, you know, the Ukrainians have taken, I know the Russians have taken huge casualties too, but the anger, the bitterness, the hatred and just that sense that this is extremely unfair, what has happened to Ukraine from a, you know, vis-a-vis Russia. It's not like both sides got into a war and both sides got a bit smashed up now, both sides are going to say, well, maybe that was a bad idea. I mean, Russia invaded Ukraine. So there's a very strong sense in Ukraine that, no, we're not going to trade at this point. Two reasons, I think. First of all, it's just not in the remote-est bit fair that we should do that, having them, them having smashed up everything and killed a bunch of us and we haven't even set a foot onto Russian territory. But the second thing, and I think this is, you know, less emotional in this sense, in a sort of a strategic sense or a longer term sense, more valid, the Ukrainians say, if you impose a ceasefire, if the West imposes a ceasefire, pushes a ceasefire, agrees a ceasefire, we have pushed into that ceasefire, how do we know that Moscow is not going to do the same thing in two years' time? And until we can answer that question in the West, then it's a very, very difficult proposition because do Ukrainians know that the support they're getting now is only going to diminish with time? So why the timing is against them if they stop the war now and they have to start it again in two or three years' time? And what realistic guarantees can we give them other than saying, join NATO, which I'm not advocating, I'm just mentioning it as a possibility. Other than that, what realistic guarantees can we give them that if Russia comes back in a couple years' time, yes, we will be there. You know, we have the history of the Budapest Memorandum, Budapest Protocol, what it was, Budapest Memorandum. You know, we have a history of not doing what we promised in the past. They know that. So I think the Ukrainians feel that they have to get as much as they possibly can now. Going back to your original question, will it be divisive if they stop short? I think my gut feeling is they could probably let Crimea go. They might get some noise from the Nationalists. If they let large chunks of the Donbass go, then I think that really could divide society here. Final question from me, Julius. You hinted at the possibility, or at least you suggested it, if things go horribly wrong, in Moscow internally, it will happen quite quickly. Are we beginning to see any signs, do you think, with the Mill bloggers assassination recently? We don't know. Who killed him? But obviously there are some strong indications from Wagner and Pragozian that this may well have been an inside job on the Russian side. I mean, are we beginning to see the cats fighting in the sack now, indications of this, of course, among the fighting at back moot? And could this be the beginning of the end for Putin? What's your reading as a Russian specialist? A year ago, if you'd have asked me that same question, and I had to make a prediction, you know, if I had to put my chip on red or black, I would have said that 2023 is the year that Putin will go. Now, I'm a lot less sure of that prediction. You know, both stories, you know that things have got up and down, and there's sort of small fluctuation in things, and trying to extrapolate those trends into something bigger, especially when it's something as impenetrable as what's happening in Moscow. It's so incredibly difficult. And I'm one of those people who really believes that only four or five or six people know what's going on in Moscow, and even they don't know everything that's going on. They know a little bit of the pie. The idea that, you know, the Westerners or experts or outsiders can somehow predict when Putin is going to go. I mean, he obviously goes at some point, no leader lasts forever, is something that I don't really accept. I mean, it was interesting to see the New York Times talking about the extent to which American intelligence has penetrated the Russian security ministries. If that's even true, and we don't know if it's true or not, would they have a sense of how strong Putin is? I don't think so. That's my gut feeling is you just can't get far enough into that upper levels of the upper echelons to have a sense of that. I don't think it's going to be a quick thing on the streets. I don't feel that the middle class is going to do anything. I don't think the businessman is going to do anything. I mean, I'm not saying anything different here. This is these are very common predictions. In terms of that little triangle at the top, who knows? That one I don't know. That's great. Thank you so much, Julius. Well that was great stuff as ever from Julius. Wasn't it fascinating Patrick to hear a little bit more detail about something we know is happening, that sort of determination among Ukrainians to chisel out a sense of national identity and in so doing, of course, trying to expand elements of rationalism or sort of Russian culture. You were right to ask the question, is this an attempt to create some kind of monoculture because that's how it might seem from the outside. But Julius wasn't really having that. He felt that if you understood what was going on there, if you saw on the ground the damage, it becomes much more understandable. Well, of course warfare is a great crucible of creating a nation's culture and blending together all those elements into one idea of nationhood. And that seems to be very much what's going on there. But I was interested in the subtleties, which he explained very well, I think, of the way that there is a kind of residual feeling of kind of, I suppose, liberalism perhaps, or inclusivity there that I think it's always because of the disparate nature of Ukrainian society. I think there is a sense that you have to make some allowance for otherness. And that seems to be present at the moment, which is a kind of re-encouraging thought. He also made the very important point that Ukraine is held too much higher standards than Russia. And we must never forget this. When we're talking about issues like the ejection of the Orthodox monks from the monastery near Kiev, it looks from the outside that that's quite aggressive. It's kind of anti that particular sect of religion. It doesn't sit that easily with western traditions, does it? And yet, at the same time, you need to understand or remember, as I pointed out with the ISW report, what the Russians are doing. You know, they're generally speaking anything that smacks of kind of authoritarianism or bad behavior on the Ukrainians. We see and we judge, as Julius pointed out, we judge them to a much higher standard. And that's not really fair, is it? You need to see the full picture. Yeah. I think that's absolutely right. You put it in the context, but we've never get to make the mistake of thinking of some kind of equivalence going on here. On the question of the Russian Orthodox Church, it's got a pretty bad rep. You know, it is basically an adjunct of the state and it reflects the Putin regime in its corruption, its disregard for the truth, et cetera, et cetera. So I'm not showing too many tears for the travails of the Russian Orthodox Church in Kiev. But very sobering, I thought, his analysis of what this offensive might actually deliver. I mean, I swing back and forth, but I sense that at the moment, I'm kind of with him in thinking that it may be delivering, excuse me, not deliver or that we're hoping for. And also, as well, I completely agree with your point about the way that the briefers in Western capitals are actually doing two things. They're giving some indication of what they actually think is going on, but they've also got a political motive, which is to say all those things we're giving to Ukraine in terms of military, kid and assistant, financial assistance and support are to an end. So they've got to, for political reasons, and big up the outcome or put a very positive gloss on what all this aid might actually end up achieving. Yeah, and despite all of that, I still feel personally, Patrick, I know we slightly disagree on that on this. And you could, excuse me of wishful thinking, but I do think there is going to be some serious ground gained with this counteroffensive wherever it takes place. And Julius was also interesting about saying, although he wasn't entirely convinced that would be the case, he wasn't ruling it out either because he had been wrong so many times in the past. Indeed, all of us have been wrong as to the way we thought the war was going to turn out. So I think, you know, that's the lesson really here, isn't it? You know, don't rule anything in and don't rule anything out, but the political elements of making people believe that the Ukrainians can win this war is also important. I mean, I think Julius wasn't actually saying that he had been making his predictions about how the war will go. I always find it really cautious, which is a very good posture to take when you're looking into your crystal ball. But yeah, I mean, it is actually a bit pointless and silly even to actually try and say how this is going to go. It is, I don't think anyone knows what we can do is hope it goes the way of the Ukrainians for all the reasons being stated so many times before. But a fascinating insight, I thought Patrick also given by Julius into the kind of mindset of the Ukrainians. You know, we've already discussed the cultural element, but there's also this basic strong backing, both for Zelensky and for, you know, the broader war aims, which as Julius points out really at a minimum are ejecting the Russians from Ukrainian soil, possibly bar Crimea. And certainly those are the indications where we are also getting out of Kiev recently, where they've said, yeah, they might be prepared to discuss the future of Crimea, you know, whether that's going to be demilitarized, you know, a kind of a separate adjunct, as it were neither Russian nor Ukrainian. But it was interesting to hear that, wasn't it? Because we can talk bladly in the West about, well, eventually they're going to have to come to their senses, but frankly, the Ukrainians may decide, and with good reason that there should be no sense from Russia that it's got a victory out of this war. Yeah. I mean, I think that talk about retaking Crimea sounds a little bit triumphalistic now, doesn't it? Looking back. Okay, that's enough for us. Please join us on Friday when we'll be looking at all the latest news and answering listeners questions. Goodbye. Akast powers the world's best podcast. Here's a show that we recommend. I'm Katie Oben, producer at Tasty and a holder of extremely strong food opinions. And I'm Jasmine Pack, I'm a Tasty creator who also has extremely strong food opinions. And we're friends. We love food and we're hosting a new podcast for Tasty called Bite Club. Bite Club is a conversation show about the snacks, treats, and bites that make us who we are. Each week on Bite Club, we take a food topic and put together a totally definitive list of our rankings of that food. The list is our opinion only, but on this podcast, our opinion is the only one that matters. We'll be sharing our Tasty tips, playing food games, and having a dialogue on all things delicious. Make sure to check out Bite Club every week wherever you get your podcasts. Akast helps creators launch, grow, and monetize their podcasts everywhere. Akast.com.