As I have indicated en passant in prior articles devoted to the unfolding crisis in and around Ukraine, a substantial part of the added value I seek to bring to reporting and analysis is derived from my following the Russian-language electronic and print media closely, whereas the vast majority of commentators who populate Western television news and op-ed pages only offer up synthetic, rearranged factoids and unsubstantiated claims from the reports and analysis of their peers. Investigative reporting does not exist among mainstream. Reprinting handouts from anonymous sources in high places of the Pentagon and State Department is the closest they come to daily fresh “news.”
Last evening’s Vladimir Solovyov talk show on Russian state Channel One provided yet another justification for paying close attention to what they are saying in Moscow. The program was dedicated to the Donbas and included several politicians and political scientists from both Kiev and the Donetsk-Lugansk republics. The most interesting remarks were made by a Russian speaking former Rada member, Spiridon Kilinkarov, who noted that Western mainstream is every day publishing maps showing the positioning of Russian forces at the several common borders of Russia/Belarus and Ukraine. They also carry maps showing the likely routes to be used by the Russian invaders. But Western media are never showing the positions of Ukrainian troops, which one might expect are there to counter Russian threats. The speaker went on to say that now two-thirds of the Ukrainian military or about 150,000 troops are all concentrated on the line of demarcation with Donbas. That is to say, there are almost no Ukrainian forces in the northeast around Kharkiv facing Russian military or to the north of Kiev to face the combined Russian-Belarus military. If this is true, then Mr. Zelensky’s insistence that he does not expect a Russian invasion is justified by Ukrainian boots on the ground. If Russia is holding a pistol to the head of Ukraine, as Boris Johnson stated earlier this week, then Kiev is holding a pistol to the head of the rebel provinces.
Solovyov’s guests further explained that after eight years of facing down one another across about 200 meters of no-man’s land at the line of demarcation, the situation between Ukrainian armed forces and Donbas forces is very tense and volatile, so that it would be very easy for a provocation staged by British or American special forces, who are known to be in the area, to touch off a major conflagration. This is surely the accident threatening to upset the ongoing negotiations between the United States and NATO on one side and Russia on the other side.
The guests further assert that in effect the Ukrainian forces at the line of demarcation are not under the control of President Zelensky, whose power is very circumscribed by other political actors, oligarchs and militia chiefs in Kiev, not to mention by U.S. and U.K. forces on the ground in his country.
Many of these general observations cannot be verified from here. But the map of Ukrainian military positions can be verified against images from U.S. spy satellites. I challenge The New York Times, the Financial Times and others to post such maps on their pages now.
As for the host, Vladimir Solovyov, he continues pressing a hard line Russian response of action, not words to U.S. provocations such as yesterday’s announcement by White House Press Secretary Psaki of the fake video Russia is supposedly preparing to justify an invasion. He used the show to urge imposition by Russia of a ‘total economic blockade’ of Ukraine, putting an end to the dozens of daily flights from the West carrying many tons of armaments. Given that Russia views the present security crisis around Ukraine as a replay of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, such a blockade would be entirely in keeping with historical precedent. It would mean, of course, establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which Russia has the military capability to declare and enforce.
©Gilbert Doctorow, 2022