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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44. Prigozhin Back in Favour?

44. Prigozhin Back in Favour?

Fri, 21 Apr 2023 01:00

This week Saul and Patrick discuss the latest twist in the extraordinary story of Wagner group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin. Only a few weeks ago it seemed that his star was waning – instead it seems he’s back in favour with the man who matters – Vladimir Putin. They also discuss the ongoing fallout from the US intelligence leak, and answer a wide variety of listeners questions.

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Producer: James Hodgson

Twitter: @PodBattleground

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A cast powers the world's best podcast. Here's a show that we recommend. The program is neither good nor bad. It's like a hammer. You can use it to build a house or break a skull. Welcome to the program, a sci-fi anthology set in a world in which money, state and God became fused into a single entity called the program. Perhaps AI overtook us just like global warming did. If people bickering is it real or not right up until the water finally rose above their mouths. Visit or find it wherever you get your podcasts. A cast helps creators launch, grow and monetize their podcasts everywhere. Hello and welcome to the Battleground Ukraine podcast with me Patrick Bishop and Saul David. It's been an extraordinary week and the extraordinary story of the Wagner Group Chief Yevgeny Prigotin. Only a few weeks ago it seemed that his star was weaning and he was a strong candidate for the chop both literally and figuratively. Instead it seems he's back in favor with a man who matters Vladimir Putin who's just made a visit to the Kerstana Lukensk areas. We'll be discussing what this says about the state of Russia and what it means for events on the battlefield. We'll also be looking at the ongoing ramifications of the big leaked US Pentagon intelligence dump. As we predicted last week it didn't take long to find the culprit and we'll also be looking at the way the war is changing the diplomatic landscape as China moves to gain maximum advantage from the new realities that have been created. So let's start off with Prigotin. All the evidence is that Putin's intervened to not hedge together and then the long running route between the Ministry of Defense and Wagner. He's also just visited commanders in the occupied Kerstana and Lukensk oblasts, thereby identifying himself as a war leader, which I would have thought ties his reputation and his fortunes very tightly to the outcome of the fighting of the next few months. Now it seems that he's relying quite heavily on Wagner to perform for him. Their forces appear to be receiving reinforcements ammunition and political credit, all a big change from the recent days when Prigotin was complaining bitterly that his men were being starved of resources and used as cannon fodder in the very costly assault on Bakmut. Instead it seems there being built up as a sort of parallel army with the same status as the regular army being legitimized, you might say. Yes, that's right. It's interesting that the Russian state Duma is going to consider amendments to the Russian law to grant the same rights to mercenaries, i.e. Wagner personnel, as to regular army veterans, which would seem to suggest that Prigotin's position in the Kremlin is in a circle that has been, as you suggest, Patrick, considerably strengthened. Now the New York Times has just reported citing those league-dependicend documents that Putin personally attempted to resolve the feud between Wagner and the Russian M.O.D. by holding a meeting between Shogu and Pagosian way back in February. So he obviously wants to end the feud, but now he seems to have gone a stage further and seems to be privileging what is a private army over his own troops and encouraging their expansion. That's right, Wagner affiliated sources announced earlier this week that the groups training up to three motorized rifle brigades to reinforce their flanks in Beck Mut. It may be that Putin sees Wagner who seem to be able to retract recruits, despite the appalling record of the organisation, which something we'll talk about later, has, as a way of boosting troop numbers without having to resort to a big mobilization effort, which carries obvious political risks. Now Putin's clearly got it taking an even more hands on approach to the war than previously, and this was signaled by his highly publicised trip to Eastern Ukraine. And I think he sees Pagosian is very much part of his plans for the defence. But despite all this, things are going pretty well for Pagosian, but he doesn't seem to be able to shut up, does he, so even when things are going his way, he can't resist offering some free advice to the boss about how he should conduct the war. Exactly right, Patrick. I mean, there's been this most extraordinary statement he's given to the press or made public this week, in which he's called on Putin to stop the war and consolidate. I'm just going to read out a couple of the quotes because they're pretty bizarre. He said in the article, theoretically, Russia has already made a point or made its point by destroying a large part of the active male population of Ukraine and by intimidating another part of it, which fled to Europe. He went on to say, Russia cut off the sea of Azov and a large piece of the Black Sea seized a fat piece of Ukrainian territory and created a land corridor to the Crimea. Now there is only one thing left to firmly gain a foothold, to claw in those territories that already exist. Now, so the question you might ask Patrick is why he's making this bizarre statement at this time. Now, it would imply that he's not terribly optimistic at the ability of the Russian forces more generally to hold the Ukrainian counterattack. And he actually goes into a bit of detail about that, saying that the Ukrainian counteroffensive could break Russian lines and he hints darkly that one of the reasons the Russian forces are being undermined is because there are elements at the heart of government that are pro-peace or as he puts it, they're likely to be members of Russia's deep state who would betray the interests of Russia for their own gain. So he's still playing this political battle with certain elements in the Kremlin and it's maybe also in some sense is saying if things go horribly wrong, it's not my fault there are others who should take responsibility. There's also in his plan, he actually states quite clearly that once they've actually consolidated their hold on these territories, they should start systematically murdering Ukrainian males. Now, in case anyone thinks that this might be just more bloodthirsty bluster that the sort of thing we've come to expect from pre-Grozen, there's strong evidence that this men are already doing just that. There's been a couple of interviews given by former Wagner group fighters who've actually gone back into Russia, they've done this six months on their treatment of Ukrainian children and other civilians and prisoners of war, this comes from an organization called Gulagunet, which is a human rights outfit and they released a video interview last week with two former convicts who'd finished their contracts and one says quite clearly who is ordered, specifically to kill children while taking control of solidar. Remember that town, supposedly strategic small town, and he personally buried 18 children that he killed in a few other locations, Krasnodar, Kray and Saratov, and this is backed up by another of Wagner fighters who was interviewed, a more senior guy, and he claimed his unit killed 23 civilians, 10 of whom were unarmed teenagers. He also said that pre-Grozen takes a personal interest in all this and he likes watching videos recorded of these executions. We've seen a lot of this since the war began, but what I think is really shocking, it still has the power to shock me anyway, is that this sort of depravity is institutionalized and celebrated, and no one's trying to hide this up on the Russian side. They seem to be using their degeneracy as a weapon and they hope this will terrify their enemies into submission. And all it does on the Ukrainian side, I think we've discovered, is to reinforce their belief that this is how the Russians will treat them if they win, that we plunged into this abyss, and the sort of thing we haven't seen since the Nazi occupation of Eastern Europe, and they really have no choice but to fight on. Exactly right, and if anyone's in any doubt of the consequences of even leaving a small chunk of Ukrainian territory in Russian hands, they should look at some of the details you've been talking about Patrick, it's pretty horrific, isn't it? Okay, let's move back to the Pentagon leak. Well, it seems that the guilty leaker, or Jack the Drip, as he liked to be known, is a 21-year-old gun obsessed junior member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, called Jack Texera, who's suspicious of federal government, and apparently his motivation for the leaks was trying to impress his friends by posting these top secret documents on the gaming site Discord. Now, quite how such a junior rank oddball, he is, I think, the equivalent of a Lance Corporal had access to such sensitive material is a complete mystery to me, Patrick. But the US apparently, which spends 20 times as much as the UK on intelligence, has always given quite a large number of people access to its secrets. How many, well up to two million, how security clearance, I doubt that means top secret, security clearance, and Texera was working for the intelligence branch of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, but it still doesn't excuse this extraordinary revelation. Will so many people have access in the future? I doubt it. This, I suspect, is going to change. But you called it absolutely right, didn't you, so you said last week it was probably some disaffected, where we were looking for culprits. We dismissed a Russian intelligence operation pretty much straight away, and you, quite right, you said it's probably some disgruntled junior Trumpist. This guy does seem to have been a bit of a sort of mega-Trump worldview supporter. So yeah, so you got that. No one, absolutely right. We're just going to raise a few developments on the diplomatic front here. More strengthening of the China-Russia axis, the Chinese Defence Minister, Li Shangfum, with Putin in Moscow a few days ago, and pledged to increase military exchanges and cooperation, et cetera, et cetera. And this is moving to implement the things agree between Xi Jinping and Putin in their late March meeting. And again, this claim being maybe already entered a new era of Russian-Chinese relations. Well, this seems to me to be further evidence that China is far more interested in building its rather cynical partnership with Russia than it is in placating the West. You've always taken the view, saw that when it comes down to it, it's a trade with the West, well actually from whatever kind of diplomatic powerplay maneuvers that might emerge to the benefit of China from their support of Russia. Well, I'm afraid I don't agree with that. And everything is China is seeing lots of encouraging sides, often from the West. So I'm thinking of Macron's visits recently when he suggested that Europe had no wish to be drawn into the Taiwan crisis and the potential crisis. And once again made the case for European strategic autonomy, Europe was not going to dance to America's tune when it came to ground strategy. All this must be music to Xi's ears, I would have thought. Yeah, it absolutely will be music to Xi's ears. And it is very concerning, Patrick. I still haven't entirely lost my conviction that economics will trump strategic influence as far as the Chinese are concerned. But we can have to wait and see. And certainly there's been increasing tension ramping up over Taiwan in recent days. And the US responding doubly actually one with sort of physical assistance by sending Harpoon anti-ship missiles to the island. And they would of course be used in the event of an amphibious attack. And this is infuriated to the Chinese needless to say. But also the US general in charge of the Pacific warning about the rise of China more generally. And the massive expansion of its military forces, both conventional and slightly more alarmingly nuclear, the assumption or at least the anticipation that by about 2030, I think it is, they will have 1,500 nuclear missiles of various types available to them only a couple of years ago. They had about two or three hundred. So that is all incredibly alarming. It's true, Patrick. Coming back to Macron, he does have this, I think, as a domestic leader. He's quite impressive. But on the international stage, he's got this amazing arrogance mixed with naivety, it seems to me. I mean, we all remember his rather pathetic attempts to become a big player at the outset of the conflict, the current conflict, making this sort of personal appeals to Putin which got rebuffed. But he doesn't seem to have learned that China does exactly what it wants. Something that I'd forgotten but I was reminded of the other day is that China and Ukraine actually signed a treaty of friendship back in 2013 in which China underwrote Ukraine's territorial integrity and pledged not to take any action that would damage its sovereignty which by backing Russia, of course, it's doing exactly that. It's doing it all the time. So the lesson is that China will do exactly what China wants and it cannot be trusted to actually abide by any agreement it might make with the West, something that seems to pass macro on by. Yeah, now there's an interesting other bit of news actually, Patrick that came in I think yesterday and it's a report that Russian ghost ships are charting the vulnerabilities of Europe generally but Britain's underwater data cables offshore wind turbines. So excuse me, can you just explain what a ghost ship is? This is not a term I'm familiar with. Yeah, a ghost ship that kind of traveling with their signals turned off, they're not on any obvious merchant course. So they're coming in and out of the intelligence radar status ships with no good reason for being there basically. Fascinating. No, I just sort of you see these images of the Soviet era T-55s which there's been pictures of them loaded onto flatbed railway trucks trundling towards the battlefield but that really does suggest this scraping the barrel, doesn't it? Apparently none of these tanks have been upgraded significantly and they're basically the same kit that was rolled out 65 years ago nowadays when they actually went into service in 1958. So there actually is someone pointed out three times older than the men who will be inside them. So it's a really obsolete technology. They haven't got proper range finders, ballistic computers, the sites are very primitive, there's no adequate gun stabilization, etc. and it made me think of what sort of cars were around in Britain in 1958 and apparently the best selling cars of the time were the Ford Anglia and the Morris Minor. So basically these are the kind of armored equivalent of an old Anglia or a Morris Minor which kind of puts it in some sort of perspective, doesn't it? Yeah, and it might be additional reasons as to why pregozion and others, surely in the Russian military are properly concerned about what might happen next. Again, no firm word on the Ukrainian counteroffensive for the very good reason. I think the Deputy Defense Minister said this week, well we're not going to tell you when we're going to start, are we? And we're not going to tell you where we go. There's some interesting questions we have from listeners about the counteroffensive. So we'll come onto them in a minute, but just going back to the go ships for a second Patrick because there's an interesting connection between these go ships and they're blowing up the cables and I'll explain why. Well, apparently the spy ships disguised as research vessels and fishing trawlers are part of a Russian mass reconnaissance program in the North Sea and this has all come from an investigation done by Scandinavian broadcasters. And here's the connection. European security services have been on higher alert since the bombing of the Nord Stream one and two pipelines and active sabotage which even some of our listeners have attributed to anyone and everyone including British Special Forces and the American government. And here's the clue, the significant clues to the true culprit was in a report that a Danish patrol vessel had taken 112 images of Russian vessels loitering near the site of the explosion just four days before they took place. So I'll leave you to join the dots there Patrick. Well, well, it's come back full circle hasn't it to where we were at the beginning. Okay, that's all for now. Thank you, join us after the break. Welcome back. Well, once again we've got another large and varied selection of questions from you. Thanks so much for sending them in. We'd urge you to continue doing so and apologize if your question isn't always answered. We have so many. Okay, here's the first question from Adrian Tarska. It's on the counteroffensive and his question is is this delay, this endless delay, a factor in alert fatigue as he puts it for the Russian army. In other words, it's keeping them on a higher alert. The idea in a way it's going to come is this actually reducing their capacity to deal with it when it does actually come. Probably yes, I don't think that's the reason why they are delaying actually. I think they're making sure they get all their ducks in a row. They're probably adapting their plans as they see what's happening on the ground as any good military should be. I mean, one of the great arguments and another question we've got later on is, could they counterattack in back moot? Yes, they absolutely could. Now, I'm not saying that's going to be the main effort. I think the reality of this counterattack is it's going to happen in multiple different directions. And like any good commander, brings me back to Alexander during the Battle of Guaga Meila. We're going all the way back to, is that 332 BC? Anyway, off the top of my head, I can't remember exactly when that was. But the point about that battle is he felt where the resistance was weakest and when there was a crucial movement of troops, they were a different part of the battlefield. You see this in many campaigns. He struck where he thought they were weakest. And I think that's exactly what the Ukrainians will probably do. Yes, they will have an ultimate objective, which no doubt is to split Crimea off from the land bridge. But how exactly how they do that, I think, will be quite flexible. Alexander and Guaga Meila, I haven't heard that one since I did my ancient history. It is a level. Wow, that's real deep knowledge. That's very impressive. Okay, I don't know if you can answer this one. So this is from Max, who is asking about the yellow ribbon movement in southern Ukraine. And he's asking, do you know what that is? It doesn't ring any buzz with me. But it seems to be some kind of partisan organization. Now this pops up from time to time. It doesn't help you hear reports of kind of mysterious actions well behind the Russian lines, which suggests there is some kind of a seriously organized and capable partisan operations being carried out. He's asking, how significant are there? And his referencing Second World War, partisan operations, etc. But you know anything about this? Yeah, exactly. He talks specifically about the French partisan in World War II, the Machia by 1944. There were a lot more of them than they had been in 1940, of course. And there would be even more of them, fact like this is really your territory. And at the end of the war, when a lot of people claimed they worked in the resistance. But in any case, they actually did some really good stuff behind enemy lines to coincide with the D-Day landings. And I suppose Max's question is, is this likely to happen in Ukraine? Absolutely, it is Max. I don't know about the specifics of the yellow ribbon movement. I suspect it's connected to the fact that the Ukrainians were using yellow flashes to mark themselves out, although of course they use other symbols too, I think, like blue two. The point is they will undoubtedly be in communication with these guys who will be carrying out sabotage operations as the counteroffensive begins. Absolutely no question about that. Special forces will be involved too. And the combination of all these different efforts could really make a difference. I mean, there isn't nothing better as the Russians discovered in the Second World War to having people behind enemy lines that are sympathetic to your military cause. It kind of doubles the effort and makes the enemy, of course, reduce the ability to have all their troops on the front line. Yeah, it's a very complicated picture, isn't it, with Partisan Warfare anywhere. Actually, this is something, as you say, it's what I'm engaged at the moment. I book on the liberation of Paris in 1944 or 1944. One statistic I came across, which really surprised me, was that in terms of the volume of weapons dropped to Partisan movements, the French were pretty much at the bottom of the list, because the fear was they'd fallen into the hands of communists who made up a large part of the actual active resistance, armed resistance. And that would have negative consequences for the goal, but also for America and Britain after the war. So in Yugoslavia, which Churchill famously said, we don't care about Yugoslavia because we're planning to live there, whether war is over, he said that to Fitzroy McLean famously when McLean said, aren't you worried that these communists will actually get the upper hand as a result of the aid we give to them anyway. It was the Yugoslavia Partisan who got the bulk of the stuff that was dropped via SOE operations, et cetera. So it's a complicated picture. I don't think Zelensky will have that problem when it comes to Ukraine. OK, there's another interconnected one from Conner, who's in Florida, and he's really asking, as Ukraine's material and skilled manpower shortages grow a pace with our leaders' expectations for their imminent counteroffensive and our expectations too, Patrick. Conner is seeing many parallels with the exhausted, desperate war planning and the late second Reich, that's Operation Michael, that took place in 1918, otherwise known as the Ludendorff offensive, and also the Third Reich in Germany, when of course they launched the desperate attacks with the Ardenne trying to recreate what had happened in 1940. And his question is, is this history repeating itself? Well, my take, that is Conner's take, is a militipol could well become Ukraine's and Twerp. And Twerp was the objective of the Ardenne counteroffensive in 1944, an unattainable target in a desperate bid to split enemy forces and snatch victory. Ukraine should proceed with caution, what are your thoughts? It's a very interesting historical parallel, Conner, but no, I think there are significant differences here. In no way can you say Ukraine's position on the battlefield is as hopeless as Germany's was in either 1918 or 1944, when in effect the war was lost and it was the last desperate throw of the dice. Ukraine has had the upper hand in a military sense for a considerable period of time, and the more support it gets from the West, the stronger it becomes. I believe they are waiting their time, as I've already pointed out, to launch as effective account of offensive as they can so that when negotiations eventually take place and they will, they are in the strongest position to demand a complete withdrawal from Ukrainian territory. Whether that will also include Crimea or not, we don't know. Of course it's possible it could be demilitarized, but we'll have to wait and see. But certainly this is not a situation of desperation that would encourage, that would imply the Ukrainian should proceed with caution. I don't think so. Okay. A thumb on here from Aeron in Sheffield, who draws our attention to an article on the BBC, or an item on the BBC, about the seeking helicopters which we've donated to Ukraine, one of which I didn't know this had flown in the fork, and so I probably saw it because I was in the fork, and this is from to our previous pod, we'll know. So it is astonishing that 41 years on now, that seeking is still flying operationally. I'm kind of thinking of another bit of air kit that actually has this extraordinary longevity, maybe a Dakota, you know, with that said, that's, I suppose that's in a way that's not a dissimilar kind of aircraft to the seeking, and it's a kind of jack-of-all trades. But it is amazing, isn't it? You think that an aeroplane, an aircraft, would actually be much more likely to suffer from obsolescence early on, then say, you know, we're going to retank, but it is amazing to think that it's still going. Yeah. And you know, this is may think, well, isn't this just the same as the T-54s? Well, no, not really, because tanks have become incredibly sophisticated, and as an offensive weapon, of course, their vulnerability to counterfire is, you know, makes putting T-54s absolutely suicidal. The Seakings will have all kinds of modern electronics that will help them to avoid being shot down. But there's a broader point here, I think Patrick about air power, and that's the fact that neither side are really using air assets directly over the battlefield. So these Seakings will be used for resupply a little bit further down the line, and I'm sure they're being put to good use. And it's, you know, I think it's a testament to how well they were built in the first place, frankly. Okay, a couple of people have asked the question, one of whom is Morgan, it doesn't say where he's from, whether the Pentagon leak was deliberate, a tactical credibility, game for the US, get unwanted Russian troop movements into a trap or to Ukrainian advantage, the goal sanctify the purpose, mask, a romska, you know, which is the Russian tactic of disguising, whether actually going to make their real move. Well, I think there's a kind of, you know, mixture of messages here from Morgan. Someone, another question that puts it in a slightly better way, which is that could the leaks have been deliberate to get out a lot of information that, you know, he's not really top secret. I don't entirely agree with that either. I certainly don't agree with Morgan's point that it may be a deliberate tactical game, because there was no actual specific detail in the leaks, apart from the fact that, and this bear in mind was two months old, that the Americans had assessed that the Ukrainians needed a lot of extra kit, particularly anti-air weapons. And they weren't entirely convinced that the offensive was going to be that successful. Well, if we had Philip Sobrano, and we're going to try and get him on for the big interview in the next couple of weeks, he will say there's been this kind of underestimation of the Ukrainians since the start of the war, and almost at every turn, the over assessment of Russian military capability and under assessment of the Ukrainians has been proven wrong, and he suspects it will be again in this case. So no, I don't think it was a deliberate tactical game, and they were very real consequences to these leaks, and mainly concerning America's relationship with its allies. Remember, the leaks showed that the Americans were spying on their allies, like the South Koreans and also the Israelis. But also this unwillingness, I suspect, by some of the five eyes, that's the big five intelligence, Western groups, to share intelligence when there's the danger that the Americans are going to leak it. As far as the British are concerned, Patrick, I think there was only one area that was sensitive in terms of the leaks, and that was the acknowledgement by the Americans that British Special Forces were actually operating in Ukraine. That's an open secret we've been talking about since the beginning of the conflict, so I don't think a huge amount was lost there. Just a quick short answer to James, who's asking the name of the YouTube channel that you recommended the other days, or it is, this is the one that actually knits together visuals from the battlefield and gives explanatory comment on what's going on there, it's called Reporting Ukraine. Yeah, reporting from Ukraine, and actually I've got some on send a tweet to me asking for the actual address, it's, forward slash at RFU in capital. If you go to that, you'll see this extraordinary series of reports. I had a look at another one a couple of days ago, and it was very interesting on the fighting in back moods. It talked about how Russian airborne forces have taken over the brunt of the fighting from Wagner, and that on one particular day, and this was only a couple of days ago, they'd made initial headway before being forced to withdraw with hundreds of casualties. So it seems that they're still holding on, questions are how long can they keep holding on? We don't know, they're being forced into an ever smaller area, but is this all part of an attempt to degrade Russian forces and fix them in that position before striking elsewhere? We'll see shortly, I'm sure. Just going to mention one here from Victor Silva, now we've taken a kind of pledge, and we saw not to speculate about how the Ukrainians are going to go about their country offensive, but I think we've got to mention this one. He says, with a Russian now digging in along the front line, would it be unthinkable for the Ukrainians to simply attack north into the Belgerot area instead? That would require going into Russia, wouldn't it? By doing so, bypassing all the Russian-prepared defenses and forced the Russians to move out of their set positions, Ukraine could then swing south to roll up the Russian front from behind. So this sounds like a Ukrainian version of the Schleifen plan, doesn't it? Where they do the unexpected and basically carry out this sort of huge encirclement, which is the dream of all commanders. What do you reckon? Well, it should be on the table. Absolutely. I totally agree with Victor. Just as a quick aside, Victor also said in the beginning of his message that our interview with Simon Seabag, Mondefury, could have been the best podcast he'd ever listened to, simply an extraordinary episode. We agree with that, Victor. It was a wonderful interview. We've done many others, but thank you for that. But anyway, getting back to the point, it should be on the table, Patrick. This is war. The Ukrainians are fighting for their lives. Why not? Shouldn't they consider going into Russian territory as part of military operations? But the truth of the matter is that the West, in particular, America, are insisting that their weapons aren't used, and that will include the tanks and the high miles and everything else in an offensive way into Russian territories. Absolutely bizarre. It sort of underlines the point that the Ukrainians are expected to fight for their lives with one arm tied behind their backs, much to the frustration of many Ukrainian commentators. But that is the reality on the ground. I think that the Ukrainians so desperately need Western support that they will stick to the rules of the game and try and break through Russian lines rather than go around them. But as I say, Victor, you're absolutely right to ask the question. I don't think they're going to do it though. Just to add to that comment about Simon Seaburg Montefurri's interview, which did get re-reviewed, it seems like the word is spreading about the podcast because we've just passed the landmark, which is 2 million downloads. That's terrific. Boost to our all morale. It's great to know that we're getting this sort of reach. We have this brilliant interaction between us and the listeners. That's onwards and upwards. Got one here from Neil, an interesting subject. Several people ask about this. He's asking about the whole question of prisoners, the treatment on either side of the Ukrainian, how the Russians treat their prisoners and how the Russians treat their prisoners. He's asking about prison exchanges. In general, he's asking about numbers specifically. Well, neither side is actually giving any numbers. I think it's an opportunity here to actually talk about the way that both sides do actually go about handling prisoners. This is another aspect of the savagery of the Russian approach and the relatively civilized or indeed civilized approach that Ukrainians use once again. We come back to this question of the different standards that both sides are held to. It seems to me that the Russian treatment of prisoners doesn't get enough air time or coverage in the media because they are behaving absolutely barbarically. I was reminded of the story from way back in July. Olinivka is this prisoner of war camp in Russia where a lot of the prisoners who were captured in Marupol and the Avastal siege were taken. I think we've all forgotten what the Russians did to these prisoners. They basically blew them up inside the prisoner of war camp. They were claimed that this was a missile, high-mars missile, five-medium Ukrainians. In fact, it seems to have been a systematic attempt to kill prisoners who had been so badly tortured that if they were ever shown in public, it would reveal just how garsely their treatment of prisoners is. On the Ukrainian side, I'm not saying this is a sort of really propagandist view. It's just a standard fact. They do have prisoners of war camps all over the place and they are monitored by the UN human rights organization. So they are, as far as one could tell, they are being treated very well according to Geneva conventions, etc. Whereas on the other side, you just have sort of unparalleled, well, it's not unparalleled. The savagery, I would say, is very reminiscent of the way that the Russians treated their prisoners in a second world war and indeed the Germans treated their Russian prisoners. So once again, it's signed the 21st century, well into the 21st century, we're seeing levels of barbeque that we thought had disappeared forever. Okay. Question from Caleb in the US. And he makes some good points here. I have to say, I didn't totally agree with the broader sense of what he's trying to say. He makes some good points. So what are they? Well, in the US road, systems and infrastructure is crumbling due to the lack of funding. The hosts of this program have the, that's our program, of course, have the goal to say that the US should send even more of its citizens money to Ukraine. And just to be clear, Caleb, we think all the West should send more money to Ukraine. The US happens to be providing the biggest chunk. He goes on to say a Putin is such an existential threat to Western democracies. Why European countries only now starting, however meekly, to prepare to stand up to Russia? Very good question, Caleb. He goes on to say people in the US are tired of European countries outsourcing their national securities, the United States, while European countries often boast about their social programs and free second-by-education and their health systems. It never seems to dawn on any of them that without US guaranteeing their security, their economies would be able to support exactly zero of the programs of which euros always seem to be so proud of. The broader point here from Caleb is that we should start looking after our own defense and he's not so happy about the US spending all this money because surely this is a European problem. No, Caleb, it's a world problem. Fortunately, we're all in it together as Western democracies. The US is the richest and most powerful militarily, but he's absolutely right to make the point that NATO needs to take more responsibility. It has been able to leave the US to pick up the brunt of the defence and it needs to do more for itself now, but that they need tools stick together over Ukraine. We're not in any doubt and without US support, Russia would almost certainly have had its way. So, I agree with half of what you're saying, Caleb, but the US needs to stay strong in its support of Ukraine. Absolutely, which brings us back to remember that early interview we did with Max Hastings, when he was very eloquent on the subject of the relative lack of gratitude that Europe was showing to America for the fact that once again it stepped in to actually, as you say, shoulder most of the burden of actually confronting aggression, totalitarian aggression in Europe. So, yeah, I do accept the fundamental point that you're making, Caleb. Okay, and finally, we've got a message from Enmir who seems to be living in Ukraine. He says, hello, gentlemen, interesting conversation with Julius. That of course was the Julius Strauss big interview on Wednesday. The etiquette about restaurants is correct. Now, what Julius was saying is that if you go into a restaurant in Ukraine now, if you choose to speak Ukrainian, then they're basically Russian speakers. They have to switch to Ukrainian and vice versa. So he says that what Julius was saying is correct. The waiters and waitresses match whatever language you speak. Now, he speaks a language called So Shik, which is both mixed together. So, that's obviously a hybrid Ukrainian Russian. But the story he wants to tell is more interesting, which is it's about a Russian Orthodox church, his wife, and he visited in Lutz in Northwest Ukraine. When we walked into the foyer, the first thing my wife and I noticed was a sign saying, you can't leave notes for the priest to pray for you or your relatives if you are baptized in a non-canonical church. Well, the Ukrainian Orthodox Kiev patriarchy is considered non-canonical. And he was baptized into that church in 2018. So this discrimination and a bear in mind, this is in Northwest Ukraine, even applies to him though his ancestry is the former Yugoslavia. So in his view, it's very weird and very ominous as far as he's concerned. And it does put the so-called culture wars into perspective as Julius was pointing out. M.A.N.S. off with this Moscow patriarchy is not to be trusted. And in the end, their presence must be wound down in Ukraine in his humble opinion. OK, that's enough for us. For one week, do join us for the big interview next Wednesday. And the following Friday, when we'll have another dive into the latest events with analysis and discussion. Goodbye. Perhaps AI overtook us just like global warming did, with people bickering is it real or not right up until the water finally rose above their mouths. Visit or find it wherever you get your podcasts.