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, 12 Aug 2022 01:00
In this new series, Saul and Patrick explore the current conflict in Ukraine. They begin by looking back to the first days of hostilities in Kyiv with BBC journalist Paul Kenyon, followed by Ukrainian-American journalist Irena Chalupa giving an overview of the historic enmity between the two countries.
Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
On the 24th of February 2022, the world learned a new, a golden rule of history. Never, say never. Early that morning, Russian airborne troops launched an assault at a key airport outside the Ukrainian capital Kiev in an effort to decapitate the regime. At the same time, columns of tanks rolled across the border from Belarus and into Ukraine. The warning signs of Vladimir Putin was planning an invasion with air for all to see, but no one could believe that nearly 80 years after the end of the Second World War, Europe would ever see another full scale conventional conflict. The fighting is more intense and bloody than anything since 1945. It's already had huge consequences not only for Russia and Ukraine, but also for the rest of the world. The unthinkable has happened, and there is no way of knowing where the story will end. Hello and welcome back to Battleground. I'm Saul David, and I'm Patrick Bishop. Those of you who followed our last series on the Falklands will know who we are for the newcomers, we're both best selling military historians with a deep interest in conflict. Not just the bang bang, but the political and social factors that underpin all war. The Falklands, of course, was history. Ukraine is very much in the here and now. It's six months old and shows no sign of ending anytime soon. So we believe that after the huge surge in media interest at the outset, coverage has started to fall away, actually for some months, this has been the case. And if you really want to find out what's going on, you've got to look quite hard for it now. I think that's very regrettable given the enormous significance of the war. So we intend to plug the knowledge gap using the same methods as we did in our last series. Each week we're going to bring you real, in depth updates and analysis of what's been happening, diving deeper and staying down longer than anyone else to provide some real understanding of what's been happening on the battlefield and on the political front. And we'll be basing our reports on real expertise with interviews with a range of insiders with direct experience of events, including reports from the front line. In this episode, though, we're going to start off by going back to the beginning. It's easy to forget the shock we all felt at the news that after all that saber rattling, the Russians finally were going in. Now, we're very lucky to have the testimony of BBC Panorama report, a Paul Kenyon, to remind us of how that felt. He was in key of that morning and witnessed firsthand the dramatic battle when Russian paratroops tried to storm hostile airport, which is just outside the capital, an encounter which, as it turned out, profoundly affected the court of the war. Let's hear now what he had to say. When we got there, it happened to be three days before the invasion, of course, we didn't know at that point. And I remember arriving here where I've been many times before and there was an atmosphere of a fear of concern of lots of stories which were spooking journalists. And the night before the invasion, I remember going down into the lobby of the hotel to have a quick beer before we went out. And there was a guy from the Washington Post there with a little sort of gaggle of journalists around him. And he said, I said, what's happening? And he said, we've just heard a rumor from a former intelligence officer that he's going to happen. It's going to happen tonight. And I said, it's going to happen tonight. How do you know? And he said, this guy is really, really reliable. And I said, you know, come on, how would he know? And he said, well, we're taking it seriously. This is the most serious rumour that we've heard so far. And we're thinking we're probably going to evacuate some of our staff tonight. And I said, well, overnight. And he said, yeah, because you don't know, it could be a carpet bombing. We do not know what's going to happen. But there's something serious going to happen tonight. So I texted my producer, who's upstairs doing some technical stuff with cameras and things. I wrote something like, it's all going to kick off tonight. And he ignored me. And I said, it's all going to kick off tonight. Is anybody listening or something like that? And he said, he eventually came down after I had sent what appeared at the end to be about 30 or 40, very desperate text messages. And he ran downstairs and he came over looking a bit cross. And he said, Paul, what is going on? And I said, listen, the Washington Post guy is really serious. Some of their staff are evacuating. Other journalists who don't want to stay here evacuating. They say it's going to happen tonight. And he said, Paul, it is not going to happen tonight. And the thing is that my producer has a PhD in Russian and it spent most of his life reporting on the collapse of the former Soviet Union. I mean, this is his specialism. So we went out to a Georgian restaurant. And on the way there, I remember stopping and saying, Nick, look me in the eye. What are the chances of the Russians invading tonight? And he said, the honest truth is 99% against. And I said, 99% and he said, it's almost impossible. Let's give it 99% against and go and have a lovely Georgian meal. And we went to the best Georgian restaurant in Kiev. And we sat down and had a monster meal with lashing of Red Wine. And really enjoyed ourselves. And at the end, I remember there's one waitress who looks slightly concerned about the fact it had got to about midnight or just after. And I said, something along the lines of, do you have any bomb shelters here? And she said in Ukraine, in bomb shelters. And we said, yeah, just in case anything happens. And she looked around a bit startle and said, no, no, why would anybody need a bomb shelter? So it was a bit mischievous, really. And we set off back to the hotel. And I remember, as we walked into the hotel, which is one of the big main hotels next to Sensifier's Cathedral, I said, there's a sign here that says, bomb shelter this way in the hotel. Let's be sensible and mature here. Let's just follow the sign and make sure we know the directions. In case, in the middle of the night, all lights down and there is a massive bombing. So I remember my producer and fixer were kind of rolling their eyes and saying, oh, God, go on, let's go have a look then. We'll indulge you to type of thing. So we set off and walked through the hotel corridors and then down into this basement. And I said, okay, this is it. This is the bomb shelter. Two stories down. Feels reasonably safe. We can all go to bed in peace. And then that night, when the early hours of the morning, four or five AM, something you're like that. I remember being woken by the first boom, boom. And you could hear it, you know, and it's that deep resonant boom. It's like nothing you've experienced unless you've heard it for real. It's not like in the movies, you feel it sort of pulsating if you like, or you feel it trembling through your body. And we were probably, how far away, 15 kilometers away because it was in the north of the city, but still this deep resonant boom, which slightly shakes you and which is so discomforting that it can't be explained in the middle of the night. And seconds later, there was an announcement in the hotel and it said, everybody go down to the bomb shelter. Everybody go down to the bomb shelter. And I remember opening my hotel bedroom door and there were people running by with equipment and blankets and pillows and all rushing towards the lifts, which we'd been told not to use, realising we've been told not to use them. Everybody was running down the stairs. Now I remember running past the manager of the hotel who by this stage, I'd got to know reason to be well. And as I ran by, I said, Paul, it's happening. It's going to be big. And I remember it sent a real chill through me because it's the unexpected and it's the unknown. It's the fact you don't know how deadly the scale is going to be. And you think at the back of your mind, this is going to be something approaching a carpet bombing. They're going to take out, Keith, whereas just a few hours early, you know, we've been sitting in a children restaurant and enjoying ourselves. You think my goodness, I mean, it's a big city, but with, you know, concentrated air attacks, this could be really problematic. And we got down into the basement and the Washington Post journalists were sitting there sagely in the corner nodding his head and not quite smiling, but a little smug, I would say. And we all sat there and there was this really chilling announcement by the manager of the hotel. He stood in front of everybody in this very, in this sort of white washed bunker. And I remember it was really emotional because of the tone in his voice and his voice was shaking. And he said, ladies and gentlemen, it's begun. The Russians have started bombing our beloved city or something like that. And then he said, there are some practical things you need to know. And he told us about various practical things about stay in the shelter. We will have somebody on watch upstairs. He said, we will not let Russian soldiers into this hotel. We have padlocked the doors. Nobody can come in. But if they insist on coming in and if there's gunfire, we may have no choice at some stage. And then he told the rest of this, he gave the rest of his sort of thoughts about what might happen overnight. And then at the end, he said, there was this pause and we're all sitting there in absolute silence. And he said, may God bless us all. Now remember, it sounds ridiculous that he can still make me slightly emotional, but it was the time when you thought this is the all going to happen. And it was funny really because we all turn around to each other. And I remember there was some very experienced war journalists and I've been to several war zones before, but it was the tone in which he said it and the appeal to God and the unity was felt in that room at that time. And the fear of the Russians coming into the hotel, it all came. It all came to something which was a quite a sort of an emotional rush and a lot of people who were kind of mentally knocked out and exhausted by it and who sat there looking very worried indeed. So the next morning, by the time light came down, a few of us had trickled back upstairs. I did go back upstairs. I got some stuff and obviously your first mind then turns to the journalism. What are we going to do? Where can we go? And it's difficult. It's difficult because of the unknown, but it's difficult because a lot of us didn't have vehicles. We went outside to try and get a vehicle. The one of vehicles, obviously all the drivers have left. We thought the first thing that we can do is that we can go to the station. And of course, the first thing going to the station, you think there's going to be some kind of exodus. People are going to be leaving. And we can hear explosions still in key that morning. There were no cars around. So we went down into the tube station and miraculously they were still running. We got onto one of the trains. And our original intention was to go to the airport, but it was so crowded. It was so chaotic. We just thought, let's get to the train station. Main train station, central kid, see what happens. So we got to the main train station. And I mean, it was scenes like World War II. There were people with bags, belongings, with everything that they had. There were lots of pets. I remember pets everywhere. There were dogs and cats and cages. And elderly people, which is always the most disturbing, with bags of their shoulders full of things that you think you probably won't need, sort of, you know, vegetables and bags of rice. But people are taking everything they found that morning. And they're putting it all into their personal belongings. And they're all there. And the crush outside, the train station was like I've never seen before. And we stood back from it and we watched it. And you knew that history was being made. And I thought I will never see anything like this again. I hope there were people fighting. It was good nature on the whole. But there were people who obviously were getting restless and scared. And in the middle of all this, there was quite a loud explosion that sounded quite nearby. And suddenly you realized just how vulnerable you were. It's quite an open space in the middle of Kiev. And it's sad that nobody could mistake the sound of that explosion. It was a big resonant thump. And more and more people were rushing towards the door at the train station. And we watched this happen for a while. And it was interesting also that there were a number of young people who were turning up with young men, late teens, early 20s, turning up with Rucksacks. And we stopped a couple. And my producer who is fluent in Russian stopped them and was saying, tell us what you're doing, where you're going. And these guys were people who'd been in Donbass and Crimea in 2014. And we're saying it's time to go and serve again. We served on the front. We know what to expect. We're off. We're going to get the Russians. We're going to prevent them taking over our country. And there was this emotional outpouring from these guys. And they were collecting in groups just outside various sort of coffee shops and things, which were incidentally, of course, all closed because people were fleeing at that stage. But these young lads, and you couldn't help but be impressed by their courage and their determination. And their eagerness to serve, first thing in the morning, just a few hours after the first thud and explosions in Kiev. And they were there and ready to go. And I've kept in touch with one of them since. And he did get to the front line and he's fought all over Ukraine now in Donbass in the north, northern suburbs of Kiev. And he's been down to the southern city of Mikolayev. He's been everywhere. These guys live by their instincts, not by their training and they're remarkable. Anyway. I'll tell you the next bit was when we were in the train station, we were looking obviously for the next place to go, the next story to tell. You know, none of the phones were working because everybody was trying to use them. So everything was down effectively and you have to make a decision about where you go. Now our problem was that we didn't have flat jackets and we didn't have flat jackets which are obviously a requirement of all media organizations in that kind of situation. And we didn't happen because it all seems so unreal. You know, you get into the car that morning and even though there are explosions, you think this is from some considerable distance. I haven't seen a plane in the sky. This is coming in from the north, possibly from Belarus. It cannot be coming in from anywhere near Kiev and there certainly can't be any troops on the ground. So we decided to take the rest. They're also, as you know, extremely heavy and cumbersome to take. So we didn't, we managed to get a vehicle which had quite an experienced driver who served a lot on the front lines in eastern Ukraine and who our fixer managed to summon. We all piled into this car. A local journalist hitched a lift with us and said, yeah, let's go where you're going. We tore the city for about half an hour and then we said we're going to go to the airport. We've just heard there's been some kind of explosion there. And the local journalist said, it's not for me. I don't fancy it. So we dropped him off and we continued. And the roads were absolutely jam packed. And I remember there was a sort of a dual carriageway type of thing going north out of the city. And I remember that we our driver, because of his experience in war zones and because he knew the urgency of this errand, he drove on the wrong side of the carriageway. And I remember going up there was completely empty on one side obviously because it's normally coming into Kiev. And he did that thing where, I mean, I was in the back and I was just hunched down and you think the guy looks pretty experienced to me, but he's going past two lanes of solid traffic. And then we saw in the distance this sort of plume of black smoke and he said that's hostile mill. That's hostile mill. And we thought that's got to have been some kind of missile attack from outside the country. And we came off the road, basically we went across a track in a field pretty much to get there quickly. And then we went down some back roads. And by the time we got to Hodstermal Airport, there was a sort of eerie quiet on the roads around there. And we came around a corner and there were sort of large metal fences all around it. And we could see this smoke coming from the centre of the airport, what looked like the centre of it. And we could hear the crackling of fire. And as we came around the corner, we went down this sort of side road that led to the gates of the airport. There were five or six soldiers coming towards us in the middle of the road. And I remember that as we approached them, the lead one and the one just behind him got down on one knee, lifted their weapons and pointing them to us. And I thought they are definitely going to shoot. I mean, everybody knows that as the universal signature behaviour before we are about to shoot. And I was sitting in the back of the car. And I remember shouting, no, no, no, no, like that. And they didn't shoot. And they, but they remained in position. So the threat remained. And our driver, now the fact that he'd been to Eastern Ukraine, wasn't necessarily a good thing because he was used to extremely violent situations. And might have thought it was a risk that he wanted to take. And I said, no, no, no, turn, turn the car, just turn it. So just halfway. So he turned the car so that our window was facing the lead soldier. We thought they were Ukrainians. Why would there be any Russian on the ground anywhere in the capital of Ukraine? It seemed absolutely absurd the prospect. So we thought they were Ukrainians and we thought because they'd been under attack overnight, they were very sensitive to any unknown vehicle and that they might shoot by mistake. And so I said, just slightly turn the car around and my producer, who speaks to Russian, opened the window and said, in Russian, hey, we're from the BBC. It's okay, we're from the BBC. Do you want to speak to us? And the lead soldier, I remember he was standing right next to the window with his gun pointing in the car and he just, he flicked his wrist and went, yet, very firmly. I said, do not back away. Do not back away with any hurry or any sudden movements, very, very slowly turn the car. And we did in a sort of half moon shape turn the car around on this track, very, very slowly with all our hands in the air as if to say, don't worry, don't worry. You know, we're from the UK. It's okay, we're all friends. And just as we're doing that, my producer said, oh my god, they're Russians. They're Russians. And I said, they can't be Russians. He said, they're Russians, they had the black and orange tape down their arms. I've just realized they're Russians. And I thought, he's got to be mistaken. How do they get here? How could the Russians suddenly be, you know, 15, 20 kilometres from the centre of Kiev? And we turned the car away and he just kept saying, they're Russians, they're Russians. And I was saying, okay, okay. And he said, say something to camera now. So I said, so that I did what we call a piece to camera. And I said, we just come across these guys, they pointed their weapons, la da da da da. And they are, we think they're going to be Russians. In the back of our mind, I was thinking later, we'll discover they weren't. They were twitchy Ukrainian soldiers. And people say, my god, you were on sort of over super alert there. But we turned the car around. And there's some guys standing next to a sort of semi derelict petrol station. And we wound the window down and said, what's going on? One of them said, the Russians have taken the airport. And I said, from where? How did they get here? And he said, they came in on a helicopter, lots of helicopters. They were flying over, dozens of helicopters. And I said, where? And he said literally about half an hour, an hour ago, they've taken the airport. So he said, where are the helicopters? And he said, they've landed in a field just over there. And his colleague said, do you want me to show you where they were? So I said, yeah, yeah, let's go. So he led us in a car down this country track. We came around the corner. And I remember that as we were driving, you could see the side of the airport. There were lots of fires that had taken hold. And then at this point, there was a lot of gunfire. And you heard that noise. Really, really intense. And as we drove around this sort of this road close to the airport, I remember saying to my producer, that is really loud intense gunfire. And he could be going in any direction. And he got louder and louder. And then we got out the car because the guy was pointing to a burnt out helicopter in a field. And I thought, we'll get out, take some shots at the helicopter. And it's interesting isn't the psychology this the time. Your brain almost closes down till you can only take one decision at a time. And everything else just goes. And so things about whether you've got a flat jacket or not or how sensible it might be to pretty much get into, well, the very close confines of an airport, which has just been taken over by the Russian army. One of that really occurs, you think we've got to see the helicopter. We've got to get out. We've got to get some amazing shots. I'll do some pieces to camera. I remember getting out and we were, my producer was filming with a small camera. And I remember that, I mean, he kept it on. He said later, never tell anybody this. It was probably a mistake. I would normally have had that switched off. But he had it on. So you could see our feet and you could hear that, tt, tt, tt, tt, tt, tt, tt, tt, tt, in the background. And then he hear me saying something like, it's really loud. We should, let's just think about this. I'm not sure this is sensible. Let's just think about it. But the appeal of going in, seeing this helicopter in the field. And then as we were standing there debating on what we should do, there was this sort of roar over our heads, very, very close. And you could hear it. It's, and as it came in, my producer was going helicopter, helicopter, helicopter. And I didn't even have time to turn around and look at the sky, because it fired a missile directly above our heads. And the sound was so deafening and the ripples from the sound were, you could feel my whole body was thrown to the ground and you just went, boom, and it fired a missile directly over our heads. And I remember that I jumped in the back of the car while I threw myself in the back of the car, lay across the back seat and shouted, get in the car, get in the car. And fortunately for us, well, fortunately we were all okay. And fortunately as well, we managed to record it. So as we were driving away, all shaken and all just thankful that we were getting into a place where there was less noise, where the gunfire was dying down, and where there was at least some element of safety in comparison with where we'd just been. Yeah, as we were driving away from that hurriedly to get to somewhere safer, we realized what we'd just seen, and we'd seen the first soldiers, Russian soldiers on the ground in the invasion of Ukraine. And as far as I know, we were the first there, and we just witnessed an extraordinary piece of history. This was obviously a really significant moment in that it was an attempt to buy Putin to decapitate Kiev, to take Kiev and bring down the entire country with this audacious hit right in the northern suburbs of the capital. While the majority of military analysts would have expected, and journalists of course, would have expected the attack to occur from Belarus and all around Donbass, and would have thought that Kiev would have been relatively safe until later in any war. That isn't what happened. It was an unexpected hit on the capital. The idea being to take Hostelmelae Port, fill it with Russian soldiers, and we know that there were many, many dozens, if not hundreds there, and that they would then begin to surround Kiev through the northern suburbs of Butcher and Hostelmela and Irpin, and that they would spread out from there, taking the capital, or taking the northern suburbs by surprise in the first instance, and then cutting off and decapitating the capital with the plan. As we know, without leaping too far forward, as we know, they became bogged down in the battle for Butcher and Hostelmelae and couldn't go any further for all the reasons we know and we'll come on to later. One of the rumours among journalists at the time was that there was going to be an assassination squad that came from this helicopter drop in the northern suburbs, and their intention was to assassinate Zelensky. This seemed feasible. The Russians needed to take Zelensky, get him out of the way, impose their own puppet, and this was all part of the tactics of their way of taking the capital, and the only way that they could possibly think about doing it. So Zelensky knew that he was a target from very early on and began to, I think from day 1 or day 2, he's, nobody knew his exact movements, he never appeared in the same place twice, he was making announcements via his mobile phone and via zoom addresses each evening from dark rooms or from outside where you couldn't quite see where it was from. But very quickly, people realised that he was a main target. Get rid of Zelensky, put in a puppet, and you can begin to start running Kiev as you would want to, and that he was so important really for the morale, not just in terms of tactics of the Russians, but for the morale, lose your figurehead at that point so early in the war, and the war might well be lost. Well, that was an incredibly dramatic account of the first days fighting from Paul Kenyon, and what you didn't actually hear in that interview because we didn't have time to play it was the events of the night before when the Washington Post reporter in his hotel had warned that there might be a war coming, and no one really believed it. I mean, Paul was suspicious and actually went down to have a look at the bombshell to just encase, but that just underpins really what an unbelievable surprise it was for most people apart from that reporter who'd actually got information from intelligence sources that proved to be correct. But he just reminded me, listening to Paul's account, Patrick, how incredibly dangerous the job of a war reporter can be. Yes, absolutely right. My heart was in my mouth when he was describing those events. I mean, I don't want to bang on about my own experiences, but that's very much the case when something is kicking off. You have no idea where the action is, where the front line is, whose friend and whose foe. And it is. We ought to take our hats off to these guys. When you see those images, they've come with a very, very high sort of danger, price tag on them. And it is just really driving around and see what the hell is going on. And everyone's very jumpy in those opening hours of any conflict or the first days of a conflict. And you stand a very good chance of being shot up by the people who are meant to be on your side. And this happened to me in Iraq when a colleague from ITM and his cameraman and soundman were fired up by an American tank just inside the Iraqi border and killed. So you know, you're as much threat from your friends as you are from your enemies. Anyway, getting back to the actual conflict itself, you know, I remember in the run up the war thinking how familiar all these place names seemed, of course, from the Second World War. So anyone who's still alive who fought in that conflict on the east and from all these names will be very familiar all the around Ukraine, Crimea, etc. So it's a long blood soaked story and a place that's been fought over for centuries. Yeah, absolutely right. I mean, this story goes all the way back to the First World War, doesn't it? You know, the fighting and in fact, there's a piece in the papers. We'll be going on to deal with the latest updates later on in the program. But there's a piece in the paper just reminding everyone how many times atrocities have taken place in Ukraine during the First World War, that's both by the whites and the Reds during the Russian Civil War. Of course, the Nazis in the Second World War. And now the Russians in this current conflict and how, you know, it's depressing to think about it in these ways, Patrick, but how this is nothing new for Ukrainians. They are used to this level of barbarity if you ever can get used to that sort of thing. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that's something that we thought had gone from the pages of history. Didn't we have the idea that when an army moves in, they're just going to rape pillage, murder, the civilian population? Somehow, you know, the kind of idea of progress has got lodged in our heads to think that, you know, soldiers are going to rush in the soldiers are going to behave better than they did in the Second World War, which turns out not to be the case. I must admit, I think some of us thought that we still owed a sort of debt of gratitude to the Russian, the Red Army for essentially kind of tipping the balance, winning the war, if you like, for us on the Eastern Front taking huge casualties. So the brutality they showed to the Germans when they got to East Prussia and were advancing on Berlin, was, I won't say justify, but kind of understandable. I no longer feel that. I'm shocked and baffled really just how brutish the Russian soldier appears to be. But we'll talk to you talking about that with some experts in later episodes. But I think that was a sort of parallel shocking realization. Yeah, I'm absolutely with you on that Patrick. I mean, the question you always ask yourself with armies is the extent to which it's, you know, officially condoned or encouraged. And we will never know the true answer to that. But what you do get a sense of is that right across the Russian army, these sorts of things are happening. So clearly there is no sanction being put on soldiers for committing these sort of acts. And therefore you have to suspect actually this is a weapon that the Russians are prepared to use to intimidate their opponents. Yeah, I mean, it's quite a lot of us been said about this Russian idea of respect and respect is based on in their minds on fear. So the more you're feared, the more you're respected. It's a kind of weird thing to aspire to, but that does seem to be the case. Something else that's struck me is that there's been reporting coming out of Kerson, which suggests that we've got another sort of second world war power, which is the emergence of a kind of partisan, partisan groups. And that there's a operation going on there. We don't really know how organized it is, but to undermine the Russians in their own backyard, if you like, what is now their own backyard, by sniping, stabbing, you know, drunken soldiers are being waylaid and set upon by knife wielding partisan. So that's something that has, again, echoes of the East and Front in the Second World War, where the Russians had to, sorry, the Germans had to devote a huge amount of resources to try to secure the areas that already allegedly conquered against partisan attacks. So they're costly in terms of the price paid by the underground fighters, but they do have a huge effect on Russian morale, which I would say will come onto that again a bit later, is pretty low to start off with. Yeah, but we should also, you know, we can overstress the historical parallels. This is a very modern war in terms of technology, the sort of kit that's being used is really extraordinary. It's the first time we're seeing it on a modern battlefield Patrick. And, you know, the effects of drones, in particular, the long range rocket systems that the Ukrainians seem to have been supplied with now. We'll talk more about that when we get on to latest developments, the M777, how it says Javelin and Emlaur anti tank weapons, I mean, all these bits of kit are completely changing the battlefield. I mean, the tank in the Second World War was king, but the tank seems to be a bit of a death trap these days, doesn't it? Absolutely, yeah. I mean, that was really the kind of symbol of Russian might, wasn't it, and sort of cold war might be the amount of tanks you could have mass on either side. But now, you know, they just let the trundling along. And I mean, this is an amazing imagery we've all seen of a column of tanks sort of going very slowly down a road. And then suddenly this little black thing appears in the quarter of the screen and then wham. And of course, the explosion that follows is quite devastating. Of course, we learnt that one reason for the fantastically catastrophic consequences of a strike is that the Russians, again, in what seems to be a sort of perlite typical fashion, stacked all their ammunition in a very vulnerable place. So what you're seeing is the combined effects of the actual missile warhead with the ammunition going up. And seeing those pictures of turrets and the main armaments of flying through the air really was very, very spectacular. So, but having said that technology is really, really shaping the conflict. It all still comes down to a soldier with a rifle and grenades trying to take ground. You can never get away from this. People of over the 20th century air power advocates would say, look, you're going to need foot soldiers to actually take the territory and act as sort of security guards if you like. Because the enemy will be absolutely obliterated from the air. That didn't turn out to be the case. The same sort of claims are being made for high Mars long range systems, again, but, you know, ultimately, as we've seen again from some of the footage, it's sort of guys in trenches trying to take other trenches by grenade and by rifle. On that trench point, actually, I was talking to a British military army officer last night and a Ukrainian who's been on the front lines until a couple of weeks ago. And we're talking about this trench business. And the British guy said, you know, looking at those trenches, they're not very secure. You need to, they seem to be digging long trenches. Whereas if we were there, we would be digging short trenches. The very simple thing is, so you have a kind of trench line that's like a sort of dotted line, if you like. So you occupy a small three or four man one. And if that's taken, the enemy then has to emerge from the trench, expose himself in order to get to the next one. In this case, if you've got into the trench, then you've got a kind of clear line of fire to the defenders. So that was something I hope that the Ukrainians are being told by someone else because it does appear to make them quite vulnerable. I think the Russians are doing the same on their side as well, so maybe that sort of even swings up. Yeah, it's fascinating to hear that, Patrick, because you, you know, we all think back to the first war with those zigzag trenches that we designed, of course, to protect in each of those bays. In case there was an artillery strike that actually came into the trench and if you were in the next bay, of course, you were protected from the blast. But that still meant there was communication all the way along the trench. You're talking about sort of interlocking system of rifle pits effectively, which seems to be the modern way of doing things. But let's talk about some of the intangibles that still pay a huge part in the shape of war. So what is going to make the difference in this war if the technology somehow equalizes out? And one of the really obvious points, and I think we'll play in again a little bit when we go on to what's been happening in the last week, is there a, is there a real kind of, you know, change of momentum? One of the massive advantages of the Ukrainians of God, of course, is morale. They're fighting for their homeland. It's important. It really matters. We go back to the Second World War. The Russians fought tooth and nail for their motherland, you know, Stalingrad. I've just reviewed a very good book on that. And of course, it's tremendously important to ration PR, the story of Stalingrad. But what we've really got in Ukraine now is Stalingrad in reverse, as we could see at Marriolpol. So morale is clearly a big advantage for the Ukrainians. And the Russians, on the other hand, well, what exactly are they fighting for? Yeah, I think that's absolutely right. I mean, the Ukraine is fighting for Ukrainians are fighting for everything. They're fighting for their very existence. And the Russians are fighting for nothing. You know, if you ask a soldier, why are you here? What are you doing? I mean, they might spout the propaganda line that we're doing, not defying Ukraine, but even the most stupid soldier by now must realize that this is not the case. A very interesting point is, who are these soldiers? Where do they come from? And what I think the overwhelming evidence suggests is that they're, people that can run for it, they're boys from poor, backward areas of the country that are uneducated, that often from ethnic minorities. They're on the fringe of the Russian Empire. They're not from Moscow. They're not from St Petersburg. And I was talking to someone who's been on the front lines, who was telling me that he was talking to Russian captives. And they were really pathetic in their kind of, you know, helplessness and complete lack of understanding of what was going on. He gave me an example of just how primitive the towns and villages they come from were that this is back in the cold months of the year. When they took over a village, they didn't, they had no gas in their home villages. So they didn't know how to reconnect the gas that had been turned off by the owners when they fled. So instead to keep warm, they were just smashing up furniture and lighting fires for warmth and also to cook in the sort of living rooms of these houses. So in a very paradoxical that the land of Russia whose wealth is based almost entirely on gas and oil, a lot of the outlying areas don't actually have gas. Fascinating stuff, Patrick. Great little insight. Now I can see your contacts aren't entirely wasted, you're still in touch with lots of people who will be relevant to the podcast. Okay, we're just going to take a quick break and after the break we'll be talking to someone really fascinating. Irene Chalupa who was born in Ukraine moved to the US and has reported for many years on Eastern Europe and will also be summing up the key events in the war during the last week. So do join us. Welcome back. We're going to hear now from Irene Chalupa, someone I've known and admired for many years for her knowledge and understanding of the complexities of the situation over the decades in Central and Eastern Europe. So it's all an eye, spoke to the other day and asked her first of all to explain the historical underpinnings of the centuries old hostility between Ukraine and Russia. Well, there are historic in nature and since, well certainly in my lifetime I don't remember any period where there hasn't been some hostility between Ukraine and Russia and most Ukrainians were raised to believe that Russia is their enemy. Basically, when the Ukrainian medieval state arose probably in the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries, when it became a powerful state in the ninth and tenth and the eleventh century, Moscow was just a backwater and I like to say that had K even medieval princes, done what everybody else in Europe had been doing and killed their bastard children instead of giving them lands to rule, we wouldn't have the problems that we have today. So Moscow became a principality in the eleventh century whereas K had already existed for at least four or five hundred years. So the entire history of Russia comes much later but claims beginnings from what is now Ukraine, every country that we have on the map of the world today takes legacy of what happened on its territory in the ancient days, right? I mean, when we look at ancient Greece, do they have anything to do with the Hellenic Greece that we all learned in schools or the Turks, the Ottomans of your? So most countries claim the history that happened under country as their own. Russia is not in the area where Kiev is, it's not in the territory of Ukraine yet it wants to claim Ukraine's history as its own and I suppose some extent it has some connections to Ukraine because it came out of Ukraine. Russia likes to position itself as the older brother but they are in fact the younger brother because the Ukrainian state, the Kiev and Ukrainian ancient loose state is something that is the patrimony of the people that live on the land where it existed. So I think that that is part of Russia's big chip on its shoulder. It also has a lot to do with some sort of an inferiority complex I think that the Russia as a state has and also Ukrainians and Russians and the way the countries have been developing particularly since the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukrainians are much more open to the West, they want to be part of the West whereas Russians and the Russian state and the Russian leadership they want to insulate the country from the rest of the world and they want to go their own special way. We've heard Putin and various other philosophers and talking heads in Russia declared this time and time again that the decadent West is not for them, that they have a special path, they see themselves as a third Rome. So it's this mythology that they created for themselves and they are trying to live up to it. So basically historically Russia has always been an enemy of Ukraine, they have tried to swallow Ukraine, they've invaded it time and time again, they've concluded massive treaties with Ukraine and never abided by any of them. And there's even a joke that when God was creating the world, he's talking to the angels and saying, oh look at this land that I've created Ukraine, I've given them such wonderful resources, such beautiful land. They have access to the sea, they have wonderful forests, the earth is so rich, everything grows and the people are so talented, they sing so beautifully. And one of the angels says to God, well God isn't that a little bit too much for one people and God says, wait till you see their neighbors. So in a nutshell that's essentially what it is. And as I said, parts of Ukraine were part of the Russian Empire, Ukrainians are always persecuted by the Russians, they were enslaved, the Serbs, the Catherine, the Great, the Kazakhstan State in the 17 and 18 centuries was destroyed by Russia. So any attempt at Ukrainian sovereignty, at Ukrainian independence, at Ukrainian liberty were always destroyed by Russia. And the best and brightest of Ukraine were always taken to Russia and imperialized. And obviously I suppose if you're an enslaved people, the way to make a career and to advance is to serve the master. Moving forward to the 21st century, can you briefly tell us where we arrived at this position from the kind of 2015 period onwards, very succinctly? Well, we all know how the 20th century began, two empires fell apart and various countries arose in the wake of those disintegrations. Ukraine declared independence in 1919 was promptly swallowed by the Bolshevik forces and remained part of the Soviet Union until the Soviet Union fell apart. And the Western Ukraine, which had been then under Poland, became part of Soviet Ukraine. And in 1991, everything fell apart and Ukraine gained independence, declared independence. And all of the other countries that were Soviet republics also became independent. And initially, Ukrainian government was made up and it still is, to some extent, of old party functionaries, people who came to the consul. The only experiences that these people had were the communist system, the communist hierarchies, communist education, communist administration and so forth and so on. So they administered Ukraine and ruled Ukraine as they knew to do so. But Ukraine began charting its own independent course very, very early on and wanted to separate itself as much as possible from Russia. And that has been a problem for Russia. One once said that the only kind of neighbors that Russia tolerates are either vassals or enemies. And Ukraine, throughout the 30 years of independence, has tried in various ways to align itself closer with Russia, whether it's launching this partnership for peace program with NATO, whether it's talking about wanting to be a part of the European Union, signing up to all sorts of European treaties and so forth and so on. Ukraine has made it clear that it sees its future as a open democratic European nation. And Russia doesn't like that. Do you think that the war in February was inevitable and that Putin always intended to have invaded or was there something that could have been done either among the belligerents or by the West to prevent it? That's difficult to say. And I'm not such a great political analyst or historian where I would actually venture to say that, oh, had we done this or had they done this, this would not have happened. I can only say that every time Ukraine has kind of lurched towards the West, every time Ukraine has had a revolution, Russia has reacted. In 2004, Ukraine had the orange revolution. This is when a pro Russian candidate tried to steal the elections. And Viktor Yuschenko ultimately won the presidential election, but the first attempts at sewing discord and trying to rest parts of Ukraine away happened then. And under Yanukovych's rule or leadership, they had the first attempt at separating certain parts of Ukraine from Ukraine proper. We saw what happened during the Maidan revolution. Then President Viktor Yuschenko, suddenly made a 180 degree turn or 360 degree turn. You made a radical turn from the course that Ukraine was on. And instead of European integration, he decided that Ukraine needed to be closer to Russia and all of these negotiations that had been taking place about European integration, about this big treaty between the EU and Ukraine were abandoned. And that's what caused the demonstrations. Ukraine didn't want that. Like I said earlier, Ukrainians keep walking towards Europe and they are determined to get there. I mean, when we say that walking towards Europe, it's a bit of a ridiculous statement because Ukraine geographically is the center of Europe. We forget that so much of Russia is Europe. It's Europe all the way up to the Euro mountains. So could it happen avoided? It's difficult to say we know that Vladimir Putin has said from the get go that this integration of the Soviet Union was the biggest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century. He has never hidden his imperialist kind of appetites. He has always questioned the validity and the sovereignty of Ukraine. We all know that he told an American president that Ukraine isn't really a real country and we shouldn't take it seriously. So I don't really think that it could have been, you know, perhaps we could look at it as one of those things like it's almost like watching a horror movie and the slasher is coming and you know he's coming and you're trying to warn somebody and nothing happens. You can't really do anything and it can't be stopped. It certainly had Ukraine been better armed, stronger militarily. Perhaps that could have been some sort of a deterrent. But Ukraine was stripped of everything it had under Yannukovych and it was stripped of its nuclear weapons in the 1990s and it was given guarantees. It was given security guarantees by a country that they'd turn around and invaded it. So I really can't say. I could despite the bombast from Putin. Were you still actually surprised on the morning of the invasion itself when he actually had gone ahead and authorized it? I was a little bit. I'll tell you, my husband is somebody who's always said it's going to happen, it's going to happen, it's going to happen. But I thought he had stabilized Ukraine so much. In 2014, Russia bit off Crimea. It took the swathes of Eastern territory. They destabilized the country considerably. We had over 2 million displaced people. The economy was suffering because of this war. I mean the war kind of accelerated in February 24th. It's been ongoing since 2014. So I thought that he had everything he needed. In effect, he had a frozen conflict, a rather large one. And Putin seems to like these kinds of uncertain situations. He likes stirring trouble up and letting it fester. He always seems to gain the upper hand in these kinds of situations. So I was surprised because by invading, Russia shows its true face. Yeah, can you sketch out for us what you see as being the key phases of the war to date and the crucial turning points as you see them? Well, obviously the shock of the beginning of the war on February 24th is the first thing that we need to keep in mind. And then I think that Ukraine's reaction, the actual ability of Ukraine's to fight back are pretty relatively effectively, considering how the size or not matched. I think that those are, that is a key consideration, the withdrawal of Russian forces from Kiev in April is a turning point, I believe. It was a big moral boost and a political boost, and a military boost for Ukraine. The discovery of the atrocities in Bucha and the other cities, I think, are a key turning point because again, this shows us the true face of Russia, the true face of its military, the true nature of its campaign. I think the siege of Mariupol and the complete and utter annihilation of this city is another turning point. It's a painful moment for the Ukrainians, I suppose a victorious moment for the Russians, but what kind of a victory is it when all you get is a city of ashes? And probably the fall of Kherson also because it strengthens Russia's position in terms of gaining this land bridge to Crimea that we all know that they want. And I think to some extent we haven't seen it fully, but the arrival of the heavy artillery in Ukraine seems to be changing things ever so slowly, but the high mars are making a big difference. So it's kind of, you know, it's an incremental kind of a thing. And I think we'll see a lot of turning points before this war finally ends. Exactly. We still have a long way to go. We don't know how long it will take. Things do seem to be turning in a slightly more optimistic way for Ukraine. Are you feeling optimistic now? No, no, no, I'm not feeling optimistic. Because Ukrainians are very concerned that the story is no longer front page news. The amount of devastation and human loss is just, it's unbelievable. And every day I read on social media and hear from friends about bright, talented, wonderful people that should be building the future of Ukraine dying. The best minds of the country are in the front. And historically we've seen that in the Soviet Union in particular, almost every generation there were these waves of arrests. So talented people, promising people, people who wanted to change the country were arrested and given extremely, extremely long sentences. Now Ukraine's best artist, best writers, best thinkers, best IT people, they're at the front defending their country. So the talent that you sort of count on to build and develop is being destroyed by Russian bombs and missiles. What do you think is needed to change the game on the Ukrainian side, but also could you address the question of Russia? So what would need to happen there to bring this thing to a conclusion? Well, as a Ukrainian American, I have to tell you, I don't want to waste some of these questions or framed. Ukraine was invaded. Ukraine is being shattered, battered, devastated, burned, raped and pillaged. When Ukraine has to sort of do something to end this in an ideal world, and I know we do not live in an ideal world. Sorry, sorry, I didn't mean to put it in the test. No, I was just simply saying in terms of support that all the battlefield conditions that need to change to bring victory for Ukraine and conversely what do you think needs to happen for the Russian campaign to collapse? Well, for example, I think that if Ukraine had the high mars and all the equipment that they have today on February 24th, we might not be having this podcast conversation today. The war could have been the equivalent of a six day war or something similar to that. But the kind of aid that Ukraine is getting, I call it life support aid. The West gives them enough big guns to kind of let them stay alive and not get destroyed completely. I think just continue to support and continue to pressure on Russia. That is the only way that Ukraine can win the war. We know that the West doesn't want to be involved. They don't want to have boots on the ground. Ukrainians aren't asking for boots on the ground. But this war is a threat to all of Europe. It's a threat. I think we can honestly say that it is a threat to Western civilization, to the Western way of life that we grew up on, that we take for granted to a very large extent, a way of life that is centered on rule of law and people abiding by countries abiding by the treaties that they signed in their commitments and so on. And you can't just, it's not the 18th and 19th century where you just invade your neighbor because you feel like it. So I think the West needs to continue, American particularly continue, Britain, Britain's been a great ally and a great supporter of Ukraine. This has to continue and it has to continue proactively. The big guns have to be delivered yesterday and not tomorrow. Well that was Irene Achalupa or Erka, as she's known to her friends, giving us plenty of food for thought. It's fascinating really to hear that Ukraine was actually a political entity well before Russia, an important point to make. But also coming back to the present, she was very insistent that welcome though the kit that was coming in from the US and Britain and to a lesser extent, Europe is much, much more is needed. And as we're going to hear in a minute, there are just the first signs that new and more game changing kit is on its way. Yeah, and now more than ever because all the signs are that a big push is in the offing that will be the first major counteroffensive by Ukraine to take back Helsån, the southern city at the mouth of the Dnieper River, which fell to Russian forces early in the conflict that was about five months ago. Now on the question of kit, I think Ukrainians will be mightily encouraged by the statements coming out of Washington about their determination to keep the kit flowing. So the other day there was a very interesting briefing at the Department of Defence, which really said, you know, guys be getting it for as long as you need it essentially. And a big shopping list was revealed by a Cohen Karl, who's another secretary at the Department of Defence. And it's all the stuff that we've been hearing about, ammunition for the high mars, batteries, loads and loads of artillery shells and all sorts of stuff. There are javelins, thousand javelins. There's very effective anti tank weapons. But also write down the line to things like mobile field ambulances, etc. So I think that's a very encouraging sign for the Ukrainians that as long as they can keep their will going, then they will have the means to actually keep fighting the Russians. How did you read that? Yeah, I absolutely agree with you. Patrick, two key developments really. I mean, first of all, the announcement about the aid, as you pointed out, and one thing I should add to the list you've already spoken about, and this is really key, is munitions for the National Advanced Surface to Air missile systems. This is an air defense system with an engagement range of 120 kilometers. This is a real game changer because it means that they can create an air umbrella and, in effect, make it very difficult for Russian planes to fly. But other stuff seems to be going on, possibly not announced yet. There are little indications that the Ukrainians now have the capacity, not just to fire a high mars, which has a range, I think I'm right in saying of about 70 kilometers, but also two other developments or two other indications of news stories this week. One in fact, this morning, Patrick, that suggests that a air base in Crimea, which is 200 kilometers from the front lines, this is about 140 miles, has been struck by long distance tactical missiles. These are something, this is probably kit supplied by the US that has not been acknowledged by the Defense Department up to this point, probably for the very reason they wanted to do this strike. And there's something else linked in with this strike that's also interesting, and that is the possibility that the air defense missiles that the Russians might have used to knock out the American missiles coming in. Those air defense systems were knocked out by a strike by Ukrainian planes that might also have been using American kit in the form of missiles fired from those planes. So we've heard all along that the Americans are not going to be providing their own jets, the F16s, although even that's now in question as we heard from the briefing. Well, come on to the briefing in a second or talk about it in a bit more detail, but it seems that they may have used American missiles to knock out the Russian defense system, which allowed this strike. And it's really significant because it means that air bases, munitions depots, supply points, 200 kilometers and more from the front line can now be struck by the Ukrainians. And this could be a real game changer. Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, just going back to the NASA's, the air defense systems, of course, we tend to think, eventually, oh, well, that's the shoot down incoming fast jets. But of course, everything that flies now has some sort of battlefield use. So it's drones, helicopters, cruise missiles, as well as fast jets. So all these are vulnerable to that system. So that is a fantastic asset to have. Only on this strike in Crimea really is fascinating because clearly there's a lot going on that just doesn't get into sort of open source areas until they're actually in use. So I think the Russians be very, very worried about that. In true Russian fashion, they explained the explosions as being ammunition, which somehow mysteriously have been detonated rather as they did with the Moskva when she went down. So I think that's a kind of normally with Russian disinformation. It's kind of proactive. And they're trying to sort of shape a story, but in this case, I think it's just sort of just making something up to try and explain away something that's clear to the world. Is a great operation in the Ukrainian terms. The greater the distance that the Ukrainians can hit the Russians at, the better it is for them because it for one thing, it pushes the civilian population out of the fire ring line. For the other, it completely disrupts rear operations for the Russians. So all the mundane things you have to do to keep a battle going, moving supplies up, giving orders from your command and control, central and the rest of it, all those now have to be way behind the actual action if they're going to have any kind of security at all. So this is hugely disruptive for the Russians. Yeah. And going back to the briefing a second, have you mentioned a Dr. Kolin Karl, who's under the Secretary of Defense and effectively number three in the Pentagon? And this is significant because this effectively is information coming right from the top. Big briefing, he gave a lot of detail and we're just going to read out a few of the key points of that briefing. And we've already discussed the announcement for military aid and he referred to that. But he also talked, gave a lot of figures, which are really quite astonishing. 70 to 80,000 Russians killed and wounded and three to 4,000 armored vehicles, which of course include tanks we spoke about how vulnerable tanks were. He went on to say that Russian efforts in the east have peated out in the last month as the Ukrainians fight them to a standstill. That's really in the Donbass that he was referring to there. Why thanks to Betemaral, which we mentioned before, and improved kit, notably the Hymas, which we've already referred to the Hymas. He's worth giving its full name actually because I wasn't exactly sure what it was. The Hyma ability artillery rocket systems. This is forcing the Russians to move back as Patrick's pointed out and slowing them down. He also said that Russia is using up their precision guided material at a very high rate and because of sanctions. And there's a lot of question in the media now as to the effect sanctions are really having. Is it doing the job? Well, according to Karl, it is because it's making it very difficult for Russians to resupply with these, you know, the extra kit they need to make these weapons. And therefore it's going to have to rely more on dumb weapons. And the last important point is he wouldn't rule out the supply of F16s in the future, but says they are prioritizing aid, sorry, to get Ukrainian migplanes in the air, that spare parts and also possibly this missile system that I've already referred to, which might have enabled them to knock out that anti missile, the Russian anti missile batteries. Yeah. I think from the Ukrainian point of view, the really good news is this sort of pledge that the pipeline is open and it's going to be flowing. Now, this huge amount of money are being spent and there doesn't seem to be any kind of lack of willingness on the American part to slow things down or reduce the flow. So that's excellent news. In our discussion last night, there was some thought among some people that, you know, when it gets to the real thing, the Ukrainians really don't want to happen is for Western political will to falter. And there was some questioning of whether the pain that consumers are going to feel particularly in Europe, continental Europe, this winter as a fuel bills rocket is going to translate into political pressure on politicians to do a deal with all rather to encourage Ukraine to sit down and talk some sort of peace deal with Russia. Now, my view is that that's not terribly likely. I haven't seen any signs at all of people saying why are we having to suffer because of Ukraine's stubbornness and determination to win back all its national territory. It's imponderable. We won't know until it's happened, but I'll be interested in your thoughts. Well, I think, you know, it's one of the reasons we're doing this podcast, isn't it, Patrick? You and I, or you said at the beginning, it's very frustrating now to get an accurate depiction in the news of what's going on. And this is part of a so called war weariness. There was a very interesting piece in the Times this week by William Hague, the former foreign secretary, arguing that it suits Putin if the West interests in the Ukrainian war fades. And one of the indications that it's fading is the lack of news coverage. He argues on the other hand that it's vital that Western governments convince their populations that we're in it for the long haul. If in his view, such an existential threat to Europe, that's how, you know, he feels it's that serious. And I think you and I arguably do too is to be defeated. So it is absolutely vital that these issues are spoken about. And the population, that is the population of Britain, America and the rest of Europe understands that we do need to accept some economic pain if we're going to make a stand, frankly, in the same way that we spoke about the Falklands war, it was important to make a stand against the Argentinians. Absolutely. And I think what Irina said earlier on about, you know, this isn't just a Ukrainian's fight, it's a European fight and indeed a global fight. So I think we should be doing our bit to keep people informed and to make sure that the mistakes are fully understood. Yeah, just to mention a last couple of very interesting developments, one good, one not so good. And the not so good one is that the excellent news that the grain cargoes were going to flow again, that there's some kind of deal had allowed the first grain to move out of Ukraine, heading for Turkey. Now the unfortunate result of all of that is that the first shipment has actually been turned down by the buyer because it's not in good enough condition. So this is a sort of slightly grim development, maybe not surprising to those who know anything about foodstuffs because this stuff's been sitting in silos for up to six months. So you know, that's not good news for the rest of the world because Ukrainian grain is a massive supplier of foodstuffs around the world. So that's the bad news. Slightly more encouraging news is the news out this morning that there is a possible Ukraine counteroffensive around Isim in Lehansk. And that's significant because as we've already spoken about, there's a lot of talk about the potential move against Kerson, also Karkiv further north. But Isim is a little bit further south from Karkiv. And if the Ukrainians are opening up a front there in an area that effectively Russians think they've already secured, that is also a sign that the tide is beginning to turn. Absolutely. Well, we'll be keeping a very close eye on all that. Do join us next week and you'll hear all the latest news and views on this fascinating and incredibly important war.