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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Fri, 30 Sep 2022 01:00
This week legendary war reporter Anthony Lloyd, discusses the media coverage that has surrounded the War in Ukraine and how this conflict has differed to others when reporting from the ground. Plus the latest developments this past week are discussed, including the Nord stream gas pipeline "sabotage' and Russians fleeing the draft.
Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Hello and welcome back to the Battleground Ukraine podcast with me, Saul David and Patrick Bishop. The news is still fast moving as a section of the Nord Stream gas pipelines is blown up, with many blaming Russia, and Vladimir Putin's much-faunted partial mobilization, sending into chaos. As always, the picture is quite confused and it's difficult to get to the bottom of what is really going on. And that's at least in part a result of the way in which we are being told about the war. So the media's obviously been a vital front in the struggle for both sides, and the messaging could hardly be more contrasted on the Ukrainian side, they've brilliantly presented themselves as freedom fighters, shedding their blood not just for their liberty, but for that of the whole world. Meanwhile, the Russians have made very little attempts at all to win over international opinion, and they seem to promote a narrative that they don't really expect anyone to believe. So this week we're talking as promised to Anthony Lloyd, the legendary Times War correspondent who has reported for many years from virtually every battlefield in the world. He's superbly placed to put us in the picture about the media aspect of the war. He's just returned to Ukraine, but before he went, this is what he told Patrick. So Anthony, you've covered many of war going all the way back to Bosnia. How does this one differ from the ones you've been engaged in before? Counter-intuitive, you know, it's a really serious war, obviously quite a mixture of modernized western weapon systems, digitalized artillery and such like, and also some Cold War weapons systems. When you're dealing with Russia, in many ways, as a correspondent, it's more, I wouldn't use the word benign, but it's easier to cover than many of the smaller wars I've covered. And here's why you've by and large got the consent of the population in a huge country, and the war focused more or less in the far east of that country. So unlike with smaller wars that I so often cover in Ukraine, you're driving in from Poland and covering the best part of 800 miles before you really get into the war zone. And that 800 miles is populated by people who extremely friendly towards you. You've got consent. It's a really important and under-considered element when you're assessing how to work as a journalist in war. And also, you can live and eat, you know, pretty securely, just running water, there's electricity. If you want to eat lobster and key, you can do it and drink sovian your blanc. OK, conditions get a little bit more rudimentary out in the east, but so many small wars I cover, you go over the border, you're not sure whether the local population and necessarily can be friendly, they might turn on you. Depending on the war, something like Syria, I mean, you never knew whether barrel bombers about to drop on the village you're in, or whether they're making be a chemical attack, or what was going to happen. And that was as soon as you crossed the border into Syria. That wasn't this great sense of hospitable, friendly depth before you could make a calibrated approach to the area of fighting. So that's one really big element. People, I think often confuse it, oh my god, it must be a terrible water cover. Well, elements have been a difficult, but you can just look at Ukraine and see by the variety and number of foreign journalists there. And I would hesitate, rightly, to call a war response. Most are just journalists going there to report on a big story, thousands and thousands. You know, you've got a football correspondent from the time, Saturday, going to Kiev. You've got Pears Morgan going there. I mean, there's all these people that shows that in many respects, air is this war of very benign to cover. Yeah. You've also, the number of journalists who are there, the way that's become something that you've got to do if you regard yourself as being a serious communicator, does raise the question of, to what extent one can actually be objective in all this? You know, we are very, everyone is very much on the side of Ukraine. To what extent is that translated to the way you look at the war and the way you report it? I think it translates hugely. I mean, I think it's totally wrong. The journalists who, for example, put the Ukrainian professional journalists who put the Ukrainian flag on their Twitter handle. I think that's wrong. I think it's wrong. The journalists who, for example, when the Mosbo was sunk, journalists who tweeted to use Twitter as a platform example, you know, kind of memes joking about the sinking of the ship and such like, laughing at the slight, sneering slightly at the death of young men in the sea and taking such an un-escued approach to reporting that particular story. But here's the thing. None of us as journalists are truly objective. What's objective? You know, a rock subject, if I'm not a rock, where things of flesh, blood, electro, impulses and prejudice. You can recognize that, but I think it's very important still to be commensensical about it. Now, if you're commensical about it and you're approached as a journalist to the war in Ukraine, you can recognize your own revulsion at and at the injustice of the Russian invasion and the barbarity and barbarity is an appropriate word with which the Russians have conducted themselves in what really seems to be a colonialist style invasion of Ukraine. You can reflect that in your reporting, but at the same time, you should not indulge in the kind of enthusiastic throth often of unquestioning regurgitation of lines from Kiev. I mean, looking at the reporting at the moment, it's really interesting to see how effectively Kiev is utilizing its own messaging, by and large, with a willing and often unquestioning Western media. I'm not saying always unquestioning. There are some great journalists there and there are some good journalists in there. But by and large, really big issues like, for example, at the moment, a very successful Ukrainian counteroffensive in Northeastern Ukraine. What level of casualties are the Ukrainian forces taken there? Well, it seems probably not that high. The Russians have partially withdrawn, partially been routed. But what level of casualties have the Ukrainians taken around Kurson, where it's a very different picture? It seems extremely high casualties for not much gain. How is the Western media managed to assess that or analyze it or even report on it? Well, hardly at all. They've been very, very tightly controlled in their access to the operational zone. Most information coming out is tweets from Ukrainian soldiers, which are fairly carefully assessed by the Ukrainian commanders before they're released, a messaging from Kiev. I'm not putting both sides on an equal footing here. There is no justification for Russia's invasion. Russia is the one who is responsible for this war, and Russia is the one that has conducted itself with such brutality in the war. But we have nevertheless to analyze and assess Kiev's own conduct. And I think often that is compromised by Western journalists rush to sell Kiev's message, rather than to assess fairly and responsibly and with common sense exactly how Kiev is fighting its war. Yeah, I mean, we were discussing with the Geneva and the other day this question of Ukrainian atrocities in any war, both sides commit atrocities. That's inevitable. I think the balance without having any specific knowledge, it seems to me that though the Ukrainians may have done so there, again, there's no equivalence. There will be much smaller scale than on the Russian side. Have you got any feel for the way that the Ukrainian soldiers are conducting themselves? Do you regard them as being better behaved, but it's very simply than their Russian counterparts by a huge margin? I don't think there's no equivalence there. And I do not think that in areas recaptures and liberate it is a fair word by Ukrainian forces. There has been anything like the atrocities on the scale that we saw in Buccher. And there's a number of reasons for that. And that's slightly comparable to Bosnia. You get a sense of, a lot of it's due to propaganda. In Russia, Ukraine has been to know so long that when you get quite illegicated troops often from Eastern Russia working in Ukraine, they think that Ukrainians are kind of animals. So, you know, they're dehumanized. And so that's responsible for a lot of the atrocities in Ukraine, although there's no shortage of sentiment. You've got to westernize more educated population. And it's harder to get them to conduct just atrocities on that scale. I would suggest. I would suggest. My overall impression is that undoubtedly atrocities have happened on both sides. We've seen video footage of Ukrainian soldiers shooting Russian prisoners. But it's nothing like on the scale that the Russians have done war crimes upon the Ukrainians on Ukrainian soil may I add. However, one thing's really interesting to me, whenever a journalist cites instances of war crimes conducted by the Ukrainians, they get roundly denounced on social media, just by Ukrainians, but often by journalists too, foreign correspondents often by westerners as well. In some ways, it seems easier to criticize one's own government as a western journalist than it is to criticize Ukrainian forces or the Ukrainian government. The response of doing so is huge. I mean, that sort of seems to suggest that we are part of a broader civilizational war that we see ourselves almost in the kind of World War II situation where if you arrive where war correspondents in the second world, well, I think we'd find it very hard to actually report on misbehavior by British or American troops. That is true to an extent. I would totally agree with that. And I think the psychology and sentiment of western publics and the western media is totally comparable to that of western societies in a greater war scenario. However, in the second world war, you would also get numerous occasions, fantastic access, full correspondents going in with ally troops, jumping in jeeps, going off with commanders off to the front, western correspondents landing at D-Day, western correspondents entering Belson. You've got a real sense of condition soldiers were fighting in, often of casualties, often of casualties, and of how the war was being fought. Now, there's no that's comparable in Ukraine at all. Not at all. How does that work then? Because it's very hard to form a picture of how the authorities are controlling access. Do you have mineders? Is there a very strong accreditation system? Can you tell us a bit about that? So, there's a very strong accreditation system. Really to get around, you need an official press bar, first of all, you're vetted by, I think, two or three security agencies within Ukraine before you're given it. And that really allows you to get through checkpoints. Without that, you'd be lucky to get through a checkpoint, not impossible, but you'd be lucky. That's what people want to see. And if you haven't got it, there's often a problem. As a photographer or a cameraman or camera woman, you will have a great deal of problems taking imagery near the front door. Ukrainians are very, very concerned that any imagery might be used on open intelligence platforms by the Russians to recalibrate their fire. But also, they're concerned with the messaging. They don't want images of wounded soldiers or dead Ukrainian soldiers going out either. At the beginning, the system was, if you wanted to go to an area near the front, you would apply to that brigade through their press officer. Now that may or may not be granted that permission. There are always possibilities of circumventing that system, but they're quite difficult to do and often quite dangerous to do. I mean, it's the nature of being a war correspondent, but you don't really want to turn up in a unit area without that permission having gone around the checkpoints because you're going to be in a world of trouble. Now, there has been some great work done by foreign correspondents in Ukraine. I'm not denying that for a minute. If you look at people like Carl Otto Goul, her work, and very forensic approach the aftermath of the massacre in Butcher, how she reconstructed that, she herself then went off to Severo of the Netsk when that was just before it was captured by the Russians, and extremely brave and forward reporting. And she did that in a specific way. Lindsay Adario, the American photographer, some fantastic work, some of it on the front line, but much of it behind the front line. Thinking about Lindsay's work, actually, probably her strongest photograph that I can think of from a place of action was actually done with some civil defense volunteers or an equivalent kind of paramilitary force of Ukrainians in an area where civilians were coming through the line out of European to cross over to the Ukrainian side and a mortar round dropped, Russian mortar round and killed a family. And she was just there in this searing image of this, just quite dead young family just lying there with our suitcases. So that wasn't really accompanying a regular Ukrainian unit somewhere. You can do that, but it's quite difficult to do. So what I'm describing is a very natural filtration system. Western armies have exactly the same kind of process of accreditation and permissions and all the rest of it. But in Ukraine, it does seem more stringent. You're very unlikely to get an embed with a Ukrainian unit as you might have done with Western forces with American forces. Have you formed any impression of how it's been reported on the Russian side? Yeah, actually a little bit more vocally than we would think. I mean, certainly looking at Russian TV at the moment, there's a good deal more to unfrozen discussion and recognition of the Ukrainian counteroffensive than we might think in the West. Yeah, I would say there's more debate going on now in the Russian media, even Russian state media than you might have thought. And overall though, they are very hooked, the Russians are on, you know, Zelensky's government being a fascist government and the operation is to de-naughtify Ukraine. How much Russian society really buys that? Or whether Putin doesn't really need Russian society to buy it, he just needs them to acquiesce or have a kind of numbness to the news, I think, in order to keep their sort of passive support going. I think there is more debate than we would believe within the Russian media. I think it's also important that one of the things, for example, is the Russians consistently alleg that there are right-wing extremist groups operating within the Ukrainian military. Now, let's be straight about that. That is true. However, let's put it in context. There are a very small number of right-wing extremist groups operating within the Ukrainian military. When measured up against Russia's invasion of Ukraine as colonialist style, kind of expansion of Russian war within Ukraine and Russian atrocities, the presence in huge number of Ukrainian forces of some small right-wing elements is fairly negligible. However, has anyone really done a serious, as any Western journalist, really done a serious analysis and investigation of the leadership of the Az-Off battalions? I mean, no. I think it's also really interesting that the key independence were to my knowledge the first, the other day, to look at the leadership of the Ukrainian foreign legion. I mean, this foreign legion is quite expensive now. It's got hundreds and hundreds of foreign fighters to have gone to Ukraine to fight against the Russians on Ukraine's behalf. It's divided into two wings. One wing of the foreign legion is led by a Polish mafia, Ocecif, who has wanted in Poland for crimes and who has instructed and ordered his men to conduct crimes, including looting of various areas in Ukraine. Now you would think bearing in mind the number of Westerners serving him that it might be in Western journalists who broke that story, but no, it was actually key independent. Yeah, well, let's encourage him in a way. It does suggest that Ukraine claims to be a property democracy, etc. We all know they have the problems before the war began, but it seems to be holding up. That makes Western support all the easier. However, these things always have their time. They have been from your experience. Do you see media interests just to keep it to that, staying at the same sort of levels that it is, obviously, it goes up and down, but there's still been a massive investment of resources and airtime, newspaper coverage, etc. Do you see that lasting for a while longer? Yes, I do. And here's why, and I totally accept the cycles of up and down and all the rest of it, looking back on other wars I've covered, ones that have longevity of press interest, media interest, Bosnia did because, by and large, it was in Europe. And people had a natural interest and the implications in the fallout of something of that scale happening in Europe and the implications of the unfolding humanitarian crisis, the war crimes committed so close to home, held people's interest. In Ukraine, it's much more accentuated than that. Because of extensive, existential threat people have as a result of the war in Ukraine, there's a very great awareness in the West in Europe that this could escalate in a way outside our control fairly easily. There's a great awareness that the war in Ukraine is affecting our lives now in term of heating, in term of energy, in term of costs. He affects the war in Ukraine and being felt by people here now in terms of their emotion and their living standards. They are therefore interested in that war. So the media's interest in that war is going to continue. It is going to hold its interest at least at a high plateau level for a long time to come. Well, that was a fascinating interview that touches on a number of key themes. The first one I want to mention, Patrick, is his point. I think you might be able to comment on this, that in some ways it's an easier conflict to cover than others in his experience. Because most of Ukraine is pro-Western journalists and it's possible to work relatively securely. In other words, you can go from that whole stretch in Western Ukraine all the way close to the front line and not really be in any danger. Is that a contrast, frankly, Patrick, to your own experience? Well, it sort of depends where you are really. I mean, there are wars like that or conflicts like that when you can go to the front, do a day trip to the front, come back to a hotel, have a shower, go down to the bar to see your mates and discuss the events of the day. So there have been plenty of wars like that. I think what's really interesting here is the way that access really is very, very difficult to get to the front line. I think this, as Anthony says, this is in his experience a new kind of war where you are very, very heavily controlled and that really does raise questions about how accurate what we're hearing is. I think what the situation really is that it's the absence of news that's troubling not what you're actually told. I think what you hear and what you see is legit. It's genuine. But it's what you don't see that we have to concern ourselves with. And of course, the one that he mentioned, the one that was to everyone's minds is Ukrainian casualties. Yeah, to be fair, I mean, we don't know for sure, of course, because as Anthony says, there hasn't been proper reporting, at least journalists haven't been able to report properly about the recent casualties. I mean, he talks about probably high casualties in Kerson that, of course, the Ukrainians have invested interest in keeping quiet, the much-paunted counteroffensive in the northeast has been spoken about where they probably did take relatively few casualties because it seems the Russian defenders broken ran. But in the south, it looks like the Russian troops have been much more stoical and we don't really know much about that. And I think this feeds into his more general point about some of the partiality of the reporting. I mean, he also, we should stress, makes the point, which you have Patrick a number of times. There's no moral equivalence between what Russia has done and what the Ukrainians are trying to do in getting rid of them. He believes, as do all of us, that this war was started by Russia and they should take the vast majority of the blame for any mischief that's resulting. But that doesn't allow, in his view, for journalists to lose their objectivity. And he gives a good example of this, of course, by using the Ukrainian flag on some of the journalist's professional journalists, Twitter feeds and social media outlets, which very much shows you, which can't therein. There is, though, I think, so a difference in this war, that there are wars where there are essentially good guys and bad guys. And I think the journalists then has to reexamine their role. I saw this myself in the Falklands where the Argentinians were the aggressors, the people of the Falkland Islands were the victims of their aggression. And therefore, and the British forces were going there to liberate them. And I think we, some of us in the press corps, tried to maintain this neutrality, thinking we could just dispassionately say on the one hand, on the other hand. But Max Hastings, who was definitely the man of the match in journalistic terms in that conflict, he understood straight away that his job really was to be a propagandist, not a jingo. It's not someone who's saying that we're always right. But someone who basically was there to tell a very supportive British public the good news. And I think there's an element of that in Ukraine. I mean, there clearly is a villain and a victim in this. And I think that the journalist, inevitably he's a human being, she is a human being. They're going to feel that their heart is really with the Ukrainians. They want the Ukrainians to win. And that's going to play into their copy or their reports. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. On the other hand, I think you've got to guard very carefully about being used as a tool by the Ukrainians to promote their narrative. Yeah, I mean, he talks about the lack of reporting into some of these extreme right wing groups. I mean, let's not kid ourselves. They're in a small minority here. But of course, they have allowed the term Nazi and far right extremists to be bandied around by the Russians. And so it probably does require a little bit of looking into who are the people running the Absorbed Battalion. And it's interesting that he says, Western journalists, generally speaking, haven't done this. And investigation has been done into, for example, the Ukrainian foreign legion. It's been done by the Kiev independent, which of course are Ukrainian journalists. Another interesting point, of course, was this question of access and harking back to the Second World War, where indeed journalists were right up at the front line taking the risks. One thinks that Richard Dimbleby, the BBC radio reporter, he went to Berlin in a bomber took part in a bombing raid on Berlin, a hugely risky thing to do. But isn't there any shortage of people, particularly people like Anthony, who were very brave reporters, as well as being a brilliant writer? I don't think there would be any shortage of people who wanted to go up front with the troops. But the Ukrainians, for the reasons that he pointed out, are not allowing that to happen. So it's not really, don't really get the flavor of the front lines at all in this war. You asked a very pertinent question I thought Patrick about the reporting in Russia and Anthony's perception of that. And he came out with quite a surprising answer, which is that there is a lot more discussion and a lot more recognition about what is actually happening, even on these sort of official propagandist national news outlets than we might imagine. And they are admitting to some of the setbacks. Why? Well, his theory is because Putin doesn't actually need the population to support the war, per se. In other words, they can summon a bit of bad news. He just needs that quiescence. It's very interesting, isn't it, this idea that a brainwash population, a population that's being run by an authoritarian regime doesn't need to be actively supportive of a war. Do you think that's right? Well, I've got a slightly alternative view on that, but maybe we'll discuss that later on when we talk about what's happening inside Russia. That would be just one of the topics we're going to be digging into. So please join us after the break and we'll be discussing all the latest developments there. Welcome back. Well, we're now going to move on to the latest news over the course of the last seven days. And one of the most extraordinary stories has been this bizarre twist to the tail in the destruction of a section of the Nord Stream gas pipeline that of course comes across the Baltic from Russia to supply Western Europe with gas. Now there were at least two, possibly more underwater explosions. The assumption has been no question from most people observing this that it's got to be a state player involved. Some of course conspiracy theorists have mentioned the fact that the US might have done it, but I think we can dispense with that. And I think we all know who the culprit in this is. It's almost certainly Russia. We now have reports from German intelligence identifying Russia as the most likely culprit. I suspect before long we will be we will actually have evidence to show this factory. But the real question we've got to ask ourselves is why at Earth have they done this? What possible benefits can you see for Russia in this sort of destabilization? I think you have to go into the Russian mindset. Quite a difficult thing to do. So to try and work out what's in it for them. I've been talking to some people who do have contacts in Russia about this. And they're saying it's not necessarily actually the Kremlin that has done this. It may be an element of the Russian state, but it could be hardliners who are actually burning you know to go back to Caesar arriving in Britain. He burned his boat so there was no way back. This guy was speculating in a Zerlie speculation of course. But this could be a hardline element inside the security hierarchy who are saying, okay, that's it. There's there can't be any accommodation with Europe. There's no way that there's going to be a negotiated peace in which turning on the supply of gas to Europe is part of the equation. So in my mind it sort of it seems that the Russians at some level have a kind of massada complex of course referring to the suicide of about a thousand Jewish secari rebels in their fort in massada overlooking the dead sea. They killed themselves rather than surrender to the Romans. I think there is an element of this sort of messianic of the apocalyptic in a lot of the Russian rhetoric that we can't overlook. There's making the point that they don't really care what happens to them themselves. So convinced of their own rightness that they are doing something that is part of their national destiny that they're prepared to harm themselves to actually achieve their end. I mean how it achieves their end is another matter. But it seems to me a kind of nihilistic act that has huge and sinister symbolic implications. Yeah, this is a worrying trend, frankly, Patrick. I mean, I've already said I don't think the Russians are going to go down the track of using even tactical nuclear weapons. But of course, what's interesting about this speculation, the one you've just given, is that this isn't necessarily Putin. This is elements within his organization who are getting a kind of bunker complex. You made the relation to massada. I see it also as Hitler and the bunker. But it's interesting. Do we separate Putin from this action? Well, we won't know until we get more news. But one thing is for sure, it's ramping up the tension. And it's making us, of course, more nervous about the potential use of nuclear weapons. If there is this kind of idea, we're going to go down in flames. What do you think our response would be, Patrick, if I don't think it's going to happen? But let's speculate anyway, if Russia fired a nuclear tactical weapon. I don't know, is the answer. I don't think anyone knows. That's quite disturbing, that there isn't actually that we are aware of, a worked out response to the various sort of rampings up of that nuclear threshold. Say it's a tactical nuclear, oh, we're going to respond with a tactical nuclear, oh, we're going to go in conventionally as NATO and say, okay, we are now formally on the side of the Ukrainians. I'm not sure that's going to happen. What happens if they do miss out a stage and go straight to using a strategic nuclear warhead, say dropping a bomb on Karkiv? How are we going to respond to that? Are we really going to go to nuclear war, full on nuclear war with Russia over Ukraine, which isn't a member of NATO. We don't have any NATO obligation to go to the defence. So in the west of the weakest of democracies is that they rely on the assent of their population. Do you think that the people of Britain, of France, of America particularly are going to say, yeah, that's what we have to do. I'm not sure that they would. I think there'd be, you know, obviously, a catastrophic dismay in horror at all this. And leaders would find it very, very hard to follow through on what is meant to be their sort of nuclear doctrine. So I don't know no one knows, but I do remain of the view that it is a possibility that the Russians will go nuclear. Well, I don't agree with you, Patrick. I think the response would be immediate and severe. The US National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, addressed this particular issue and said if Putin did use a nuclear weapon, there would be catastrophic consequences. And that has to be the response, that has to be the determination because that is how nuclear deterrence works. You have to know if you use it, there's going to be a response. And I think Russia does know they'll be a response. Whether it's the tip for tat or whether it's some other way to massively cripple their ability to fight this war and indeed to fight any war is another matter. But there has to be an enormous response and they have to believe that that's going to be the case. I would have thought most right thinking people in the West would believe that any country mad enough to use a nuclear weapon has to be responded to immediately. Yeah, well, I think there's a difference between what you're saying and what would actually play out in a democratic political theatre. So let's hope we actually get to find out. We should remember, of course, that Ukraine was itself a nuclear power, but gave away its nuclear weapons in 1994. It actually had on its soil a third of all Soviet nuclear warheads. In return for giving them up, it got financial compensation and security assurances from Russia and also backed up by the US and indeed asked in what was called the Budapest Membran than it sounds a bit like a kind of lend-day thriller, doesn't it? And under this Russia agreed to it to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and that includes the Crimea and Donbass. Now, even at the time people were warning that this was actually a rash move. There was an American political and security theatre, it's called John Meersheimer, the University of Chicago. He predicted that in time this would inevitably lead to Russian aggression. So he takes a very Hobbesian view of power politics and that territorial aggrandizement is an inevitable consequences of great power status, whether it's real or pretended. Yeah, it's very interesting the point you make about Ukraine. They gave up their nuclear weapons in return for a guarantee of their security from Russia and it's not worth the paper it's written on. And the truth of the matter is that you either need nuclear weapons or you need to be allied to someone with nuclear weapons to have any chance, frankly, in a sort of modern world power, politics scenario. So I think the long term security of Ukraine will rest on its membership of NATO, which frankly is almost inevitable now. Shall we move on to other news, Patrick? And get off this rather gloomy discussion of nuclear weapons. So what's the other big news this week? Well, I mean, there's the call up ongoing call up, which has got big elements of black fascinating with dead men, people in hospital, etc. They call up papers. And of course, this is about this huge exodus. So you got the board is flooded with draft dodges. You got demonstrations here and there in Moscow, interestingly. Even some of the real saber rattles are old friend, Margarita Simonyan, the editor and chief of Russia today is depicting a bit of disquiet over this. Not at the idea of people going off to fight Ukraine, but other way it's been done in such a sort of typically candid Russian fashion. So one of the things that have been raised is should we let the minge? Would it be a smart move and indeed, you know, a humanitarian thing to do to actually allow these Russians in? And I must say if I was in Poland or the Baltics, I wouldn't be rushing to open the gates, but at least because as various people have pointed out, these guys were perfectly happy to go along with things as long as they weren't themselves going to be sent off to Ukraine. But once that became a possibility, then their attitude changed quite considerably. Another aspect of course is that among those trying to get out inevitably will be some dodgy characters, maybe FSB agents. This is exactly what happened in at the end of the Bolshevik revolution, when the Bolsheviks actually were in charge, and middle class Russians, the Bolsheviks were desperate to get out. And the Brits were smart enough to know that among them would be some secret agents, checker agents, I suppose they would have been in those days. And they British spy Robert Bruce Lockhart told this brilliant story about how they weeded out the genuine Bolsheviks refugees from the potential secret agents. And what they did was when someone sat down and said, I used to be a doctor in St Petersburg or a lawyer or whatever, the British official would throw an untied bow tie onto the table and say, do that bow tie up. And of course, if you're a Russian revolutionary, you don't know how to tie up bow tie. So a wonderful kind of cinematic moment when the spy, potentially the spy has rumbled. Yeah, great stuff. But what is non-indoubt is that the call-up is completely chaotic. We have a situation where tens of thousands of people have already crossed into Georgia, which is one of the few places Russians can go without a visa, tens of thousands of young men. And of course, the Russians are now trying to put a stop to that by making it difficult for Russians to go through the border terrain of North Ossetia, which is the province that immediately borders Georgia, stopping people going there and even getting to the Georgian border, so they're clearly concerned about the number of people they're losing to their potential armed forces. And they believe up to 100,000 people have already gone into Georgia. And it's an enormous number if you think that they were only trying to call up 300,000. And those who have been called out, well, we get tales from this interesting tweet from my old friend, Professor Peter Kadik Adams, who's got very good contacts within Russia. And he tells me that at least the attempted call-up was supposed to have exceeded 300,000. So they said it was that number, actually, it was many more. But when they turned up at these recruiting areas, they had to bring their own sleeping bags, first aid kits, tournecades. None of this stuff was issued. There were no beds in the barracks. They're sleeping on bubble wrap on concrete floors. Rumors of less than two weeks training before they're sent into Ukraine. I mean, it is a recipe for disaster, frankly. And we haven't seen very much from Russian state propaganda on the other side. They would be trying to present pictures of happy troops, patriotic lads, striding into battle, their heads held high. There's been very little of that. The best they can do is come up with these images of Orthodox priests blessing troops. I wouldn't have thought that was very reassuring. It seems like a preparation for death to me. But it's visions of, first of all, wars in it, Patrick, where the Orthodox priests were blessing the icons of the regiments and the standards of the regiments before they went into battle in the First World War. I mean, we know how that turned out. Yeah. And of course, Stalin revived it, even though it's meant to be a godless state. Stalin understood the power of the Orthodox Church. And so he brought them out of cold storage. And they were blessing troops of the Red Army as they marched into battle. Stalin himself was an old seminary, and he studied for the priesthood. So he knew quite a lot about all that sort of stuff. But another example of how the Russian Orthodox Church is the ultimate irrastian, a great word, this irrastian, which means that the religion is put in totally in the service of the state. This is exemplified by the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriot Kirill, who in fact is actually an FSB agent, who has plenty of evidence to show that on the way up is a, although his day job was as a priest, he was also a serving FSB agent. Anyway, he said the other day that any Russian soldier dying in Ukraine would be cleansed of all sin. Again, not something either that would have thought would have been much of a motivating factor for these poor guys. You've got to feel a bit sorry for them. You know, passed out having drunk themselves senseless before they got on the bus or the plane to take them off to a very, very unpleasant situation. They've essentially victims of a press gang. Yeah. Well, two other major pieces of news this week, and neither of them good news for Russia. And the first of them is that the US has announced a new aid package, another 1.1 billion to add to the nearly 17 billion or 16 billion that they've already spent on Ukrainian military aid. This includes significantly 18 more high-mars advanced rocket systems. And the other thing that's in this package, well, lots of different things in this package, heavy equipment and lots of money for training. But the other thing is weapons to counter drones. And I think this is particularly aimed at the drones that are supposed to have come from Iran. They've certainly shot down a couple already. And this is an attempt to knock out that weapon system. Yeah, well, that is good news for Ukrainians because they are clearly going to be a problem, these so-called suicide drones. And it's really a question of numbers. The ideas you just overwhelmed the defenses by the sheer volume of these drones coming over. If there's any way of counteracting that, that would be a big relief to the Ukrainians. Now, there has been a bit of a dearth of actual news from the front. But we are hearing that the Ukrainians are making some significant advances around the town of Leiman, which is in the Donetsk. And there's a report saying that the Russian forces there are on the Brink of Bing and circled. That would be a big gain. And there's no way of immediately verifying this. But there are images coming out of there which seem to match what the Ukrainian authorities are reporting. This would allow the Ukrainians to push into the Lugansk region and reversing all the gains of the Russian summer offensive. So it could be very damaging, not just militarily, of course, but politically demonstrating once again that not only are they not able to hang on to the initial gains, but they're now having difficulty stabilizing the defensive front they've got in the east. Following, of course, those disastrous losses of Izum and Kopyansk earlier this month. Yeah. And the Russian forces haven't been entirely inactive. They are trying to carry out offensive operations around back moot and west of Donetsk city, leveraging apparently penal units, that's guys that they've taken out of prisons, without much success. And of course, at the same time, they're lashing out with air strikes and long-range missile strikes against civilian infrastructure in places like Karkiv. So more of that, which is pretty grim, of course, if you're in any of those Ukrainian civilian areas. Well, I think that's about all we have time for this week. Join us next week when we'll be talking to a key analyst or participant in the war and bringing the latest diplomatic, political and military news from the war. Goodbye. Bye.