UKRAINE — THE FOG OF WAR
By Vincent Lyn
One has to be very careful wading through the many news stories daily about the Russia/Ukraine war and its effects because it doesn't really tell us anything. Many sources are biased or simply reporting rumors. Many are wishful thinking like reports, unconfirmed or detailed events in Russia that can't be confirmed. It's the fog of war and much of it is pure propaganda.
I needed to take a break from writing about the war as it became increasingly obvious that there are not very many 'reliable sources'. Is Ukraine winning? Do they really have the Russian soldiers on the ropes and are they abandoning their weapons and running for the hills? Is it true that local Russian politicians are calling for Putin's resignation?
Many of these stories are pure speculation, like those questioning whether Putin is actually getting truthful information on the war on the ground. It’s a legitimate question, as are most of them, but Russia is a big country ruled by a dictator with an iron hand, who openly murders his adversaries and arrests anyone who challenges his authority. Any and all information is tightly controlled.
Unless one is on the ground and even then to document and strategically assess minute to minute changes are nearly impossible. The two times I’ve been there especially the most recent trip in July I video-recorded every high-level meeting, interview and even when I was allowed to, the meetings with military commanders. But, again trying to decipher anything in Ukraine is pure speculation, including any day-to-day assessment of who is winning at any given point in time. The days of white flags are long gone, if they ever existed.
Putin can’t get out and Ukraine can’t give up an inch. The West and NATO have to keep the flow of weapons to Ukraine going. The big question on everyone minds, now that Putin seems to have his back to the wall is how will he respond? Possibly, blowing up a nuclear power plant or resorting to using tactical nuclear weapons? I know you might think it defies any logic and it will never happen, but don’t be so naive.
It’s going to take some definitive event to change things. A nuclear disaster or the death or resignation of Putin, for example. Even these events are unlikely to bring a sudden end to conflict. The Russians are being humiliated on the world stage and the Ukrainians are mad as hell.
There are stories which can be parsed a little more accurately. Chief among these are the effects of the sanctions, because economists and bankers can gauge them by common global economic indicators. Putin’s glossing over of their effects is one of his weakest and least convincing arguments for everything being just fine. But, we simply don’t know.
My personal experiences in Bucha and Irpen interviewing local residents and documenting the atrocities together with meeting with the Mayors of both Buch and Irpen is something that will haunt me forever. But, just like those towns there are now new reports of war crimes starting to trickle out of the Kharkiv Oblast. I wish I could say this comes as no surprise because the Russian way of War is that terror is used as a tool of war.
Liberated Bohorodychne (Ukrainian: Богородичне; Russian: Богородичное) is a village in Kramatorsk Raion (district) in Donetsk Oblast of south-eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian soldiers decapitated and killed local residents.
“The Russians fled so much that they even left behind uncooked pasta on the stove. And a lot of weapons and ammunition. And shit. Mountains of shit. They messed up everywhere — in the school where they lived, in the houses and even in the church of the local monastery. Here they arranged a farm just behind the altar. In the village itself, for which fierce battles were fought, the boys found the bodies of our soldiers — without heads and without shoes. And half a dozen bodies of killed civilians,” said journalist Oleksiy Kashporovskyi, who is fighting in the Armed Forces.
“We had photos of the heads of Ukrainian soldiers on a fence a couple of months ago. This town is not where those photos came from. They came from the Donbas. This points to a pattern of practice. This will be used as evidence for war crimes by investigators. We also know that Ukraine already has investigators in the field.”
A story from a civilian.
“Mother of God The son of this old woman was shot by the Russians. Together with his wife. Brother Mykola buried both of them on the mountain behind the house.”
“I’m a slob, but he was smart, he had two higher educations!” — tells about his brother Mykola. And immediately he calls somewhere in the direction of the ruins: “Go, I’ll give you grenades, I’ve removed them!”. “What, you remove the stretch marks yourself?” — I am surprised by the man’s carelessness. “That’s how I put them, on these bastards! They killed my brother!”, Mykola says angrily. “I’m a patriot, you understand? This is my land, here! And these bastards came and shot my brother… If it wasn’t for my mother lying…
In the school yard, the boys feed the local cats with canned food from Russian dry food. Pussies happily purr and rub against legs. They are also glad that people have appeared again in Bogorodychny. Real people. On the way back, Mykola met us again. And he simply forced the soldiers to take a three-liter jar of honey.
Tonight will probably be the first night in a long time when Bohorodychne will be truly quiet.
In the very village for which fierce battles were sharpened, the boys found the bodies of our fighters — without heads and without shoes. And fifty bodies of killed civilians. The last here are only two — sixteen-Year-old Nicholas and his mother, 93-Year-old Nina Illíníčna. Only the two of them survived the occupation. They live in a tiny house, probably 8 squares maximum.
Think about this. The town is gone. When you have an elder and an older teen surviving, they will need care. The trauma will live with them for the rest of their days.
It will live with all of us for the rest of our days…
CEO/Founder at We Can Save Children
Deputy Ambassador of International Human Rights Commission (IHRC)
Director of Creative Development at African Views Organization
Economic & Social Council at United Nations
Editor in Chief at Wall Street News Agency
Rescue & Recovery Specialist at International Confederation of Police & Security Experts