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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48. Smoke Rises From The Kremlin

48. Smoke Rises From The Kremlin

Fri, 05 May 2023 00:00

This week Saul and Patrick gave their immediate reaction to the drone attack on the Kremlin, as news broke during the recording of this episode. They also analyse the huge losses that the Russians have suffered since the turn of the year, a peace proposal brought forward by Pope Francis, and answer some of the many listeners questions.

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Producer: James Hodgson

Twitter: @PodBattleground

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Hello and welcome to the Battleground Ukraine podcast with me Patrick Bishop and Saul David. Well the big news this week according to the US National Security Council is that Russia has suffered more than 100,000 casualties since the turn of the year and that it's offensive in the Donvass chiefly in and around back Mutt has failed. We'll discuss the ramifications of this for the much anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive which might begin any day now. We'll also look at the renewal of Russia's large scale missile attacks, presumably in an attempt to disrupt the aforementioned counter-offensive and the various peace initiatives that have been touted by among others China and the Vatican. Okay, well let's start off with this news about the casualties. It comes from John Kirby who's the spokesman for the US National Security Council. Now they're saying that the estimate of 100,000 casualties, that includes 20,000 dead. Remember this is just for this year, this is not for the conflict dating back to last February. Was based on recently declassified intelligence. He added that nearly half the Russian dead were from the Wagner group and that the majority of them all casualties had died in the battle for back Mutt. He added Russia's attempt, this is quoting, at an offensive in the Donvass largely through back Mutt has failed. Russia has been unable to seize any real strategically significant territory and instead it has only made incremental gains. So what saw do you think this tells us about the upcoming Ukrainian counter-offensive? Well, the Ukrainians are going to be pretty pleased with the Assant Day and it's obviously good news. Kirby was quite explicit, interesting enough about this when he noticed that Russia's failed offensive had come at a, and I quote, terribly, terribly high cost and that he did exhausted its military stockpiles and its armed forces. So if the figures are accurate, they not only justify the Ukrainian strategy of continuing to fight in back Mutt when many Western common tasers were urging a tactical withdrawal, but they also auger well for the counter-offensive. Kirby said as much when he noted that the US and its allies continue to assist material and military training ahead of the counter-offensive adding that the Ukrainians will be ready. Yes, and the Russians are obviously rattled because our old friend, Yevgeny Prigogin, the boss of Vardner, is now threatening to withdraw his forces from backward if the Russian military fails to provide more ammunition. Now this has been going on for a long time, hasn't it, this sort of back and forth with a claim and counter-claim, but I mean the consistent feature has been Prigogin saying that he's been let down by his own side because they're not giving him the supplies he needs to do the job. All this, of course, in the context of the power struggle between the regular army and Prigogin's outfit. According to Prigogin, he's saying it's men are getting 800 of the 4000 shells per day that they need. And if this doesn't improve, he told one of his allies in the middle-blogger community that the Vardner troops will need to quote, withdraw in an organized manner or stay and die. He also gave a bit of an insight into the Russian strategy at Backwood, which he said that the plan was developed by Sergei Surovikin, or General Armageddon, as we often refer to him as, and the plan was to grind the Russian forces there and deprive Ukraine of its initiative on the battlefield. Now this is straight, this is what you would expect Surovikin to do. That's what the Russianers did both in the Chechnya Wars and in Syria. But you know, this is a very, very different situation and applying the same strategy to a completely different circumstance. It seems to be an example of military stupidity, doesn't it? I mean, the Ukrainian army is much more sophisticated than the Chechnya and the Syrian rebels. And we also know from our interview with Philobrion earlier this week that if they were aiming to take out Ukraine's best troops, then they were mistaken in thinking they were fighting anywhere in the theatre. Because as far as we know, the combined arms forces, the brigades that are being trained up for the counteroffensive weren't actually used in the Battle of Backwood at all. That's right. And Pregoshen is obviously concerned that Ukrainians might make real gains with the counteroffensive. Had we know this, because in the same interview he suggested that the counteroffensive might take place before the 15th of May was actually specific about the date, but that the Russian military is failing to prepare for this. Now, according to the Washington D.C. think tank, the Institute for the Study of War, Pregoshen's threat to withdraw from Backmoot may be an indication of his concern that Russian positions in Backmoot's rear are vulnerable to counterattacks. And there are also some hints from Ukrainian military that the tide is beginning to turn in Backmoot. Colonel General Alexander Sursky, who we mentioned last week, he's the commander of Ukrainian ground forces, said earlier this week that local Ukrainian counterattacks had ousted Russian forces from some positions in the city, and that the main supply route into the city was still under Ukrainian control. The enemy he added is unable to take control of the city. Yeah. The Pregoshen completely was quite specific, wasn't it, Surya? He talks about needing 300 tons of ammunition a day, which he claims was not a lot at all, but he's obviously forgetting his history. He said he was only actually getting a third of that, a hundred tons a day. But just thinking about your name or about this to me, but the whole of the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad, the besieged force at Stalingrad, in December 42, was asking for 700 tons a day, and was only getting 200. Well, that tells us two things, doesn't it? Well, it reminds you of how important military supply chains are, but the other is that the field commander, it's not the Pregoshen, it seems to be actually anywhere near the front line himself, but they're always asking for more than the people back at HQ are either able willing to give them. Now moving on to other news, we've had another wave of Russian missile attacks. We can speculate a bit about what's behind them, it is a bit baffling, but this is 18 cruise missiles were launched from aircraft in one strike, and most of them were shot down, which is encouraging 15 of the 18, we shot down, but others did hit Ukrainian ammunition store in the eastern city of Pavlovrad in a blast that injured at least 34 people, including three children, and damaged dozens of buildings, but a separate salvo of missiles killed at least 25 civilians, this time 23 cruise missiles were fired, and 21 were shot down. But this is mostly down to the Irish T Air Defense System, this is the German system, which was only delivered a few weeks ago, and has been described as a game changer, that seems to be the case, and it does not nod, but it knocks down a big chunk of them. Now I've been talking with Ukrainians here in the US, we're talking about the moment about what is the thinking behind this, and our old friend Eskol Krushkolnitsky, who's with me at the moment, was saying, well he thinks it's probably actually designed not, it's not really specifically about trying to disrupt the country offensive, it's more of the home consumption, and the people back in Russia and even put his own people hearing they're running out of the advanced weaponry, and this is a sort of message, no, no, we've still got this kit. That seems to me to be a plausible explanation. I mean the original idea, of course, was way back in the beginning of the winter, was to starve and rather freeze the Ukrainians into submission, that's obviously failed, so that seems to be a likely explanation. Now the Ukrainians, as we know, don't have long-range missiles of their own, the Americans are still refusing to give them that capability point that we've questioned, and indeed many people are questioning, Philo-Bran does the same thing. So the Ukrainians have got to kind of improvise, and they've been doing that very effectively, it sounds like, certainly over the last week, a Russian fuel depot was blown up in Sevastopol in Crimea last Saturday, almost certainly by drone attack, and the fire, and this is according to the Russian install governor of Crimea, reached a size of 1000 square meters, so that's a massive blast, and in a separate attack, either by partisans or Ukrainian special forces, a train carrying fuel and construction material was derailed after a section of the track, was blown up in the Brianz region of Russia, and that's just 70 kilometers from Ukrainian border. These are all, I suspect, attempts to disrupt Russian supplies and make it harder to combat the coming offensive. Okay, well, while we're recording, we've just seen the news alert, so saying that there's been a drone attack on the Kremlin. Now, initial thoughts, it's too possible, as easy as I will, there are several possibilities, but the obvious one is, you know, it's the Ukrainians behind it, another possibility, I suppose, it could be actually a homegrown anti-Poutin group that have done this, they're having very asinston, since the beginning of the conflict of sabotage operations, this may be one of those, my feeling is that it's probably a Ukrainian-inspired operation, at least, and that first thought is that it may be designed to disrupt the Victory Day parade, which is a big, big event in Russia's national calendar. She's only a few days away, it's on the six days away, it's me the ninth. What do you think, sir? Well, it's extraordinary, isn't it? If it is a Ukrainian operation, and I agree with you, Patrick, it almost certainly is. Certainly, that's what the Russians are saying, and I'll come on to a quote from the press office, the Kremlin press office in a minute, but the pictures are extraordinary. I mean, smoke rising from the Kremlin, so this really is bringing the war right into the heart of Moscow. The Kremlin press office feels it was an assassination attempt on Putin. He wasn't at home at the time, so there was a little chance of him really being killed, but of course, it's the image, really, isn't it? Of the Kremlin under attack, that means this is such a coup for the Ukrainians. So what does the Kremlin press office say? Well, they describe it as a plan terrorist attack and an assassination attempt, and they pledge to retaliate. Exactly. How they're going to do that when they're trying to bomb the hell out of Ukraine already. As another matter, the comment goes on to say, Russia reserves the right to retaliate where and when it deems necessary. Now, this really does bring the war home to the Russian people, doesn't it? I mean, they've been pretty much insulated from it directly, of course, they hear stuff coming back from the battlefield, but this is an extraordinary symbolic event. I'm trying to think of it in the second world war, to one extent, was Moscow actually damaged by the German offense? Yeah, well, good question, Patrick. I certainly think it was sheld, but in terms of symbolism, this is akin to the Buckingham Palace being bombed, which if I recall rightly was done deliberately, wasn't it? There was even a suggestion that the dreaded Edward VII, of course, who was Duke of Windsor by this point, had given certain intelligence to the Germans to allow them to make an assassination attempt on George VI, but that strikes me as a similarity. Yeah, but I think in terms of Putin's mindset and the psychology of the people around him, this is an appalling affront, isn't it? I mean, this is this will drive him mad with rage, I would have thought. So, you know, in all respects, this is an extraordinary event. The other thing it tells you is that you would imagine that the air defenses around the Kremlin would be the best kit that the Russians can have got, and here we are in a situation where a drug we don't know the exact details of the specifications of the drone, but it's managed to get through it. Whatever way you look at it, this is an incredible story. Okay, well, just as the war is taking this new turn, there's another peace initiative, and the latest global figure to try and broker a deal is none of the thermoproncists. He revealed that he discussed a peace mission when he met the Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, and the Orthodox Bishop of Budapest during his recent visit to Hungary. There is a mission in course now, he told reporters, but it's not yet public. When it is public, I will reveal it. He added, I think that peace is always made by opening channels. You can never achieve peace through closure. This is not easy. Well, you can say that again, Pope Francis. I kind of think, if he's actually doing it with the assistance of Victor Orban, who is no friend of Ukraine, and the an orthodox cleric from the Moscow Patriarchate is very much on the side of Putin, this doesn't sound like it's going to fly, but what do you think, Saul? Yeah, by the way, I loved his comment. It's not yet public, but when it is public, I will reveal it. I think I think by that point it's too late, but yeah, no, I'd rather agree with you, Patrick, but normally I would have said this is not going anywhere, but there is some interesting context to this. Pope Francis has been talking about the need for peace and the staff of the full scale invasion, as we know, but the context is interesting. Prior to his Hungarian visit, the Pope actually met Dennis Schmeil, the Ukrainian Prime Minister at the Vatican, where, according to the latter, that is Schmeil, they discussed a peace formula put forward by Zelensky. So you could say that the whole papal mission has actually been prompted by this initial contact with Schmeil with Zelensky's proposal. What the terms of that formula are, we don't know, but Schmeil also said that he had asked for help in repatriating Ukrainian children who've been taken to Russia and Russian occupied Ukraine, mainly Crimea, of course, and the Pope has confirmed it. He'll do everything he can to help. Now again, is this initiative likely to have any success? Well, possibly, because the forced deportation, as our listeners will know, is the charge that has caused the international criminal court to issue a warrant for Putin's arrest. And it may be that Putin is keen to less than the fallout from this by repatriating some more Ukrainian children with the purpose in intermediary, whether we're going to get any further down the track with the peace proposal, there's another matter, but there may be some movement on that. Yeah, it says that some good may come out of it, even though we're both a bit skeptical about the chances of the peace deal emerging. Okay, well, that's all we've got time for in part one. Join us after the break, where we'll be answering listeners' questions. Welcome back to the Friday episode of Battleground Ukraine. And I'd like to start this section, we normally go on to listen to this questions, but we've had a fascinating email from the Pogcasts resident cyber security expert, David Alexander. Referring to the recent Pentagon leaks by intelligence analyst Jack Texera, David makes a number of interesting points. I don't have time to read out the whole thing, but I'll just give you a kind of flavor of some of the things he says. He recognizes that Texera has probably identified, that is identified as the leaker by a process known as protective monitoring or proctmon as it's known for short in the cyber security world. David writes, a good proctmon system allows incident investigators to identify every single document, spreadsheet file, email, etc. that the accused has ever read written, edited, deleted, printed, received, or sent by email, or other means. Every website they've ever accessed, which PC and which office they have used and the times and dates they did so, and much, much more than that. As for the wide range of material, Mr. Texera is said to have compromised. He does actually give the first credible explanation as to why someone as juniors Texera was able to get hold of all this material. He writes, Mr. Texera was an analyst. His role would have included doing research, finding patterns and correlations, then writing reports. This requires more of a need to share, rather than a need to know principle with access to a very wide range of classified materials so that he can do his job. Striking a balance between the two principles of need to know and need to share is never easy. It brings challenges and risks that need to be managed. This is especially true of the younger generation like Texera, just 21, who have grown up in a connected world with social media. They are by nature, people who share because of it, and that is exactly what Mr. Texera appears to have done. Fascinating stuff. You can say that again. I can't really share it with the entire world. Okay, under the questions, so we got one first off from Agnieszka from Poland. I've noticed still that this week we've got lots of questions from women, which is nice to feel that we're actually kind of, you know, not just confined to an audience of males. So, yeah, that's rather encouraging. Well, Agnieszka asks, as we know, Russians were and still are preparing defensive lines for many months. I've been thinking about the length of fortifications, and in my amateur opinion, it's a major weakness of these defenses. Correct me if I'm wrong, but in its current state, Russia hasn't got enough military personnel to man them properly at full length. She's saying that Ukraine also will be able to find the weak spots with their access to US spy satellite information. She's asking, should the Ukrainian exploit that? Well, I'd be honest with you, yes. But what do you think about that? So, do you think that because of the extraordinary length of the battle line, that the Russians will have a hard job even with their man-pile superiority to actually man it effectively for its entire length? Yes, I do think that's the case, and she's absolutely right about the intelligence, although we're discovering, of course, that we've already spoken about drones being used in an offensive capability. But the Ukrainians are brilliant at using drones just to find out what's going on over the hills it were, and they'll be using them before the attack. I mean, this is being discussed literally as we speak. Do they have enough men to man these defenses effectively, almost certainly not? They've just lost 100,000 since the turn of the years, we've already pointed out. So, you know, I've got a lot of optimism for the counter-offensive. I think that they launched it in the right place at the right time and keep the Russians guessing. They've got a real chance of making some headway, but we're going to see in the next week or two. Okay, we've got a question here from the Netherlands. This is Peter Snartezer, I hope I pronounced that right, and I almost certainly haven't. Enjoying your podcast, love the interview with Phil Littner last week, and I hope his optimism will prove to be justified. So, we, of course, Peter. Phil mentioned seeing 113s all over the place, and as an ex-Dutch military man, I actually know it must have been our former Dutch army YPRs. We have donated about 200 so far, and are still sending them from our stockpiles. In the clip you'll see, he sent a clip to us, and in the clip you'll see we are preparing the old YPRs that have sometimes been in stockpiles for more than 20 years. So, they're not exactly getting brand new stuff. Removal of bird's nest is among the TASR engineers face. Good luck with the podcast. And pieces absolutely right. The Dutch military donated the first YPR 765s armoured infantry vehicles in May last year. So, they almost certainly are the YPRs, although there's other kit then too, now as we know. Yeah, I think there are the Dutch version of that, the American kind of small APC that Phil was mentioning, the 113. They're made by Daff, and they carry, they can carry eight infantrymen, and they've got a crew of three, and they're very versatile. They're tracked vehicles, they're quite tough little vehicles, and they're also quite effectively armed with carrying a 25 millimeter gun. Yeah, and they're going to be absolutely crucial as we've mentioned before. I think the APCs are really the key to the counteroffensive, because of course they can move infantry forward, protected from machine gun fire, shell fire, and it'll allow them, probably in conjunction with armour. We've got a question about tanks actually, so I'll wait to get to that before I talk about armour too much, but probably in conjunction with armour in these combined arms brigades that we know have been preparing, all 12 of them. Now, a question here from Patrick Wittem, and he says, Patrick and Saul, I'm loving the podcast, I'm wondering how the British public can help. Is there a sponsor, a drone type of GoFundMe arrangement, or similar? He's, as he's been given, giving money to Ukrainian humanitarian appeals, but was wondering if there is a route for the man in the street to support in a more directly useful way, the Ukrainian military providing fuel or ration packs or whatever. Well, I don't know about any specifically British organisations, which are organising military aid to Ukraine, but there are lots of Ukrainian and international ones, and I'll just mention a few. We were talking to Melania, a few weeks back, remember that a few months back now, who worked for the Pratula Foundation organisation, which is, provides both humanitarian aid and military aid to civilians and Ukrainian soldiers. I'll just give you their website is, and they're very reputable in a very well-administered outfit, and they will get your donation and put it to some good use. There's another one which I should mention, the Ukrainian Free University Foundation war fund, which does the same thing, and their address is, that's the Ukrainian Free University Foundation war fund. Yeah, and a couple of two add to that. There's something called, not quite sure how reputable that is, but it might be worth a little look. You can donate more generally to the humanitarian appeal as it seems Patrick's already done, and if you look on the website forward slash Ukraine-humanitarian-apeal, bit of a long one there. And lastly, if you just want to give more generally, particularly to people affected by the war in Ukraine, I should flag up our guest next week. That's British Art System photographer Mark Neville, who recently set up a charity called PostcodeUcraine, a wonderful initiative, and its web address is Now Richard Billhorn in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a regular listener, and he was asking for our thoughts on the updated Google images, of Ukraine. If you get onto Google Images, now you can actually see the terrain as it is post-war. And he gives the example of the Antonov International Airport. That's the one at just outside Kiev, isn't it, I believe. And he's asking, have we actually noticed this? Are you been looking at this? Or have you, what do you make of it? It's extraordinary. I mean, he sent a link to the Antonov Airport, which as you say, Patrick, we're, we're, we're, you discussed in episode one of the Battleground Ukraine podcast, because that's where Paul Kenyon went to, as the attack by Russian airborne forces was actually happening. I mean, that's at Hostelmel. And if you look at the images on Google Earth, now, and anyone can go there and see them, it's absolutely extraordinary, because you can see the craters. I mean, there was a big battle for Hostelmel that went on for a number of days. And even after the Russians finally took possession of the airport, the initial airborne force was repulsed. But they eventually took possession of it when their main armoured column came through. It was heavily shelled by the Ukrainians and was really a bit of a channelhouse for the Russians until they finally withdrew, I think, towards the end of March, if I'm remembering right, Patrick. So if you want to get a, you know, kind of live view of the war, as it's unfolding, you can, you can see these pictures absolutely extraordinary. And no doubt, you can look all across Ukraine to get a flavor of what's going on. A question here from Bruce Moll, who says that earlier in the war, Russia accused the West of waging a proxy war in Ukraine. And he's speculating that once the counteroffensive begins, we'll probably hear much more of this accusation. And he's asking, what's the difference between a proxy war versus the support of the US and others are giving to Ukraine? Is there any foundation for this accusation? Well, it's a bit of a sort of vague term as an proxy war. So I mean, it's some, technically, it's sort of when a major power instigates a conflict without getting directly involved. But there haven't been very many instances of that actually happening where you've had, you know, superpowers having proxy armies fighting out a war on their behalf. They've, they've almost always sort of got involved when we were, were the other themselves. I mean, Vietnam is often cited as a case of a proxy war. But in that case, the Americans were initially anyway, all for a large chunk of the most sort of act to appear to the war, they're themselves. I suppose something like the Sandanista conflict where the contras were backed by the CIA against the Marxist, Sandanistas might qualify. But I think coming back to Ukraine, the idea that America actually sort of instigated this and wanted the Ukrainians to sort of fight their war for them. I don't think that there's any close examination at all. I don't think it's really advanced as America's agenda in any way that as far as I can see. And for, for you to see it as a proxy war, you have to believe that Washington's intentions were malign from the beginning, which I, and I'm sure you don't. No, exactly right. Okay, moving on rude from the Pacific Northwest, is ask a question about tanks. I mentioned before we had a question. He talks about the T62s have been brought to the Russian frontline forces over the winter and now the T55s being brought out of storage. We've commented on that before. Since the Russian should know that back moot is not the fulcrum of this war. Don't these three facts rarely attacking with armour, bringing in these aged tanks and focusing on infantry artillery attacks point to a lack of heavy kit. Infantry attacks will not break open a front, especially not when attacking fortified lines. Yes, possibly, but I think what's going on in fact, moot as we've already discussed is that they're trying to grind down the Ukrainians, actually the opposite, of course, is happening there with artillery, their old favourite. And in fact, it's long been a favourite of the Russians, but particularly in recent times. So what about the Western tanks coming in, rude suggests that since there are so few of them, wouldn't they be best used as a mobile reserve and decoy force? Keep some the whole ground one and use others to make a faint look more serious. Western tanks on the defensive would prepare positions with their great targeting ability, very effective cannons and heavy armour are very formidable. Well, it's an interesting point, isn't it? I'm kind of imagining in my mind's eye, Patrick, that these armour personnel carriers are going to be used in conjunction with tanks, but maybe rude's got a point. I mean, we know that all armour is very vulnerable now. We don't know how vulnerable the Western battle tanks will be, because frankly, they haven't been in this sort of conflict before and very few have been lost on the battlefield, but haven't really come up against a serious enemy and sophisticated anti-tank weapons, whether the Russians possess them is another matter. But it is an interesting point, and it may be that actually they're not going to be risking these very precious main battle tanks right at the front of the counteroffensive. Yeah, I think that's right. I mean, they are a precious resource, and I think they will be husbanding that resource very, very carefully. They also have a psychological effect in both directions. One is, no clearly, they will be feared by the Russians, but the propaganda effect of a loss of several losses of these Western tanks will be quite considerable as well. So I think they'll be using them very sparingly and thinking long and hard about what they want to achieve with them. Yeah, okay, moving on, we've got an interesting question from Adrian Tarskert. He says, Jens, enjoying the pod, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about this year's parade, and presumably he means the Mayday parade in Moscow, is hardware being taken from the front line to support the parade? Will it be scaled back compared to previous years? Will there be crowds allowed to attend a potential assassination threat? And would this be a time to launch a counteroffensive with all the top brass looking elsewhere? Well, it's a series of really good questions, and you know, I'm beginning to suspect that it may be cancelled this year, and the attack on the Kremlin may just take the balance in that sense. And there is also a suggestion, Patrick, that the Kandra offensive might coincide with the Mayday parade as a, you know, as one in the eye to the Kremlin, what do you think? Yeah, these dates do loom large in the kind of national identities of both Russia and Ukraine. So that is a definite possibility, but you know, given the success of this drone getting through to the Kremlin, I would have thought that the security risks are very, very high now for the parade, and that it may indeed be scaled down in order to take a counter that, which again is hardly a sort of demonstration of being in control by the Kremlin, and as it has, it will send a very, very powerful negative signal, which cannot be disguised to the Russian people. Okay, we got a question from Martin Wittingham, he's from Belper United Kingdom. I read that the League of U.S. documents revealed that Serbia was secretly supporting Ukraine, that he's right, that's exactly what those documents said. And he answered a recent report from the BBC, covered the pro-Russian, or perhaps more correctly, anti-Western stance of many served, principally a legacy, as he puts it, from NATO's 1999 bombing campaign. So if the leaks are true, what is Serbia's motivation for helping Ukraine? Patrick, what do you think? Well, Serbia and Russia, despite the fact that they're not that close geographically, have much in common otherwise. They're both Orthodox, they're both Slav nations, and they have a similar mindset, I would say, based on a conviction that everyone's out to get them, that it's a slightly sort of paranoid way of looking at the world. And if you look back at history, Serbia has always been a loyal ally of Russia and vice versa. I remember back in my reporting days being in the former Yugoslavia, I think I was in Bosnia when the Russian peacekeepers arrived, and being very surprised to see these crowds of very enthusiastic villages out on the street holding out bread in one hand and salt, in the other, is traditional greeting bread and salt, it's saying we are your friends. And they were there, actually, of course, as peacekeepers during the all-conflict under the UN flag. So Serbia has always supported Russia and vice versa. I mean, think back to the First World War, when Russia went to the aid of Serbia against Austria-Hungary after the assassination of Archstuk, France, Ferdinand and Sarajevo. And that, you know, essentially was the trigger for the First World War because the Germany and Austria then declared Austria-Hungary, then declared war on Russia and away we went. Of course, you know, the Belgrade bombing by NATO just sort of cemented that alliance. But I think that link is very hard to break. Of course, at the same time, Serbia is trying to join the EU and we're encouraging them in a way by pouring quite a lot of aid money into the place. Nonetheless, they've basically, their entire energy suppliers are owned by Gazprom. I think they've had the state energy company sold a controlling share to Gazprom some time ago and they're buying lots of Russian kits. So they're facing both ways as hungry as well. So it's a sort of thing you see in that region. Historically, it's always been the case. If you're stuck in the geographic area in the middle of Europe, you have to keep all your options open. Okay, another question from this time from Priscilla Watkins. She's the one who notes that we haven't had that many questions from women in the past, but we have a had a few more this time. And she's asking about sabotage and basically the question is really are their Russians prepared to commit sabotage themselves? And she gives the example of something we've already discussed actually on the news. And that is the overnight incidence of sabotage earlier this week within the Russian Federation in particular in Breansk. Well, my take on this, Priscilla actually is, I don't think this is Russians. I think this is probably Ukrainians heading across the border. I mean, it's relatively close to Ukraine. I might be wrong, but haven't been that many examples of sabotage. It would be nice to think that it was and that there will be more. There have been one or two actually, but I suspect this is more likely to be Ukrainian forces. Yes, Priscilla also asks whether there's a sort of parallel with the French resistance and she's speculating that perhaps we're talking about a similar kind of process beginning inside Russia. I'd be quite skeptical about that. I think when you see the size of the state repression apparatus, it would be very, very hard, I think, to organize in a significant way. We've seen a few things like attacks on recruiting offices, but they're, I think, likely to be independent initiatives. But going back to the French situation, it took years and years and years, really from the beginning of the occupation in June 1944, nothing very much happened that had any impact on the German military machine there until the summer of 1944 or so, four years before they were able to organize some sort. So I think if it is happening, it's going to be a long, long process. Okay, Oliver Hugh Jones wants to know why we haven't heard more about thermobaric weapons, and I think we're quite glad Patrick Gondweer that we haven't heard these are these horrendous weapons known as vacuum bombs. They have been used in the past, I think, in Syria, chiefly against civilians. So they're really not the sort of thing you want to see on the battlefield or anywhere else, although apparently all of us kind of suggest why we heard about them. Well, we have heard about them because as early as February the 28th, 2022, that's just a few days after the initial mass invasion of Ukraine. The Ukrainian ambassador to the United States confirmed that Russia had used a vacuum bomb at thermobaric weapon and that it did kill 70 soldiers as part of its initial invasion. So they have been used. I suppose the better question is why I have more than not been used. And I can't really answer that. I mean, it seems that there's almost nothing bar a nuclear weapon that Putin's prepared to use, although of course we haven't seen chemical weapons being used either. So do you think this is, he's a little bit cautious about using these sort of weapons because of the possible US response, Patrick? Yeah, I think that even though the rhetoric is very extreme, I think in reality, they do Russians do recognize that there are red lines and you mentioned chemical weapons. That is a very clear one. People have a horror of chemical weapons and that translates into kind of political reaction, outraged political reaction, which is perhaps disproportionate with what the weapons actually doing. It's killing people in the same way as every other weapon does. So I think there is a recognition in the Kremlin that there are certain things that you don't want to do unless you really feel you have to and that maybe one of them. Right, that's all we have time for. And thanks again for joining us on this momentous episode in the sense that news was breaking while we were actually recording it, that alleged assassination attempt of Putin. And do join us of course next Wednesday for another big interview and the following Friday when we'll be recapping the latest news and answering listeners questions. Goodbye. February the 24th 2022, a date none of us will ever forget. When Vladimir Putin unleashed his military power in Ukraine, the Russian despot thought he would storm Kiev and leave Europe cowering in his shadow. Instead, a year later, Ukraine has become a byword for heroism and Russia's military reputation is in tatters. How did this happen? How did we get here? And how might it end? I'm Arthur Snell and in the new series of My Podcasts Doomsday Watch, we're going to tell the story of the Ukraine War. That's Doomsday Watch, the Ukraine War. Out now with new episodes every Wednesday, listen wherever you get your podcasts.