Raspoutitsa, When You Hold Us!

Over the least eight days at least, experts of all kinds had been speculating on the reasons why a frisky 60km-long Russian armoured column of an « elite mechanised division » had frozen to a standstill in the middle of the countryside. All were lost in conjecture in the quest for a plausible answer to the reason of this apparent logistical hiccup – was it fuel shortage or lack of food, or what? Everything comes to those who wait, they say…

By Joël-François Dumont – March 5, 2022 –

For the most daring speculators, this Russian division was « waiting for its time to better pounce on Kiev at the right moment » thereby following to the letter the plan of the Kremlin’s strategist and his very loyal minister of defence!

Others, often presented as « specialists » of Russia, explained that one had to look for the explanation in the « Maskirovka » – a word they couldn’t even pronounce properly – which designates a concept that explains everything, a classic that is still taught in our modern military schools… The Maskirovka is a Russian word that designates the « fog of war » of variable thickess – in other words the epitome of the Russian art of disinformation applied to war…

chars 2
Source: Maxar Technologies Satellite view

In an attempt tot answer a question from a stubborn journalist on BFM last night who still could not understand why this long Russian army vehicle column was still stopped after several days, Colonel Goya admitted that this still was a puzzling event, but also matter-of-factly dropped that this armoured vehicle column probably represented « the equivalent of the entire French Army resources! »

Several observers offer two hypothetical answers: fuel shortage or food shortage since these soldiers had left Russia with three-day rations. A number of testimonies have led to the belief that some of the soldiers had not had any food for three of four days, which explains – without condoning – numerous looting actions.

Fuel shortage – the most commonly expressed hypothesis – is nevertheless surprising given the fact that tanker lorries can be identified in this gigantic convoy. Running out of fuel is kind of an irony for this « world’s first army » which belongs to a country endowed with immense reserves of oil and gas.

sat maxxar 2b
Maxar Technologies satellite view shot on 28 February near Kiev

Even weirder, according to France Info, are the news that « a number of units, elite teams included, only communicate via civilian walkie-talkies that can be heard by all and sundry, something that the small Ukrainian radio ham community used to their heart’s content to collect intelligence by the truckload and even to properly jam the Russian Army’s communications on the battlefield ». A pitiful image given by of this 36th army, not to mention those that abandon their armoured vehicles in the fields!

In an interview published by Le Monde Colonel Goya suggested that « this could be « a XXXVIth Russian army reinforcement unit west of Kiev that got slowed down by Ukrainian counterattacks and affected by organisational issues. The Russians also devote some time to reorganise ».

A Russian TOS-1 “Buratino” Thermobaric MRLS stuck in the mud and abandoned

One thing that nobody noticed however is that while our lorries are shod with Michelins, theirs boast Chinese tyres. Hence the trouble.

The secret is – finally – out

colonne 1 1

Now we have the photos and above all the explanation that goes with them as emplified by this figurehead of Russian air defence – the self-contained Pantsir complete with nine ready-to-fire missiles and two radars – in a lamentable position, having thrown its Chinese tyres!

Some of our experts will undoubtedly learn a new word, « Raspoutitsa ». One can bet though that the most audacious of them will philosophise on the fact that Rasputin had already described it and that the Soviets had discovered it a bit late in life and that the Nazis – the real ones – had paid the hard price in the autumn of 1941 during « Operation Barbarossa », a few months after having invaded Russia.

Ukrainian Resistance Photo

It is true that when it came to geography, the Führer always hesitated between ignorance and contempt. Before planning his invasion, he had sought the advice of his personal expert, a predicter, who had forecast « a mild winter ». As a result, the Wehrmacht soldiers had not been equipped with fur-lined overcoats to cope with the Russian winter. What a magnificent saving for the Wehrmacht’s budget! We know what happened next… How can one ever forget that autumn 1941 Rasputitsa [1] just before the battle of Stalingrad!

schlamm1941a 1
Photo (Max Merbald) taken by his father in the autumn of 1941 during Operation Barbarossa…

Here is the origin of these « logistical problems », which are owed partly to quality (or lack thereof) of the Chinese-made tyres that appear to be somehow mud intolerant and partly to the unmatched Russian logistics.

The explanation – basically of a simplicity which without being biblical is actually quite disarming – is provided by an American analyst, Trent Telenko, whose « posts » on the imminence of a Russian intervention in Ukraine have proliferated in recent months. Those many warnings have been ignored by all our experts (good ones we do have, especially among the military, but priority is too often given to others one deemed « more available »).

They can be forgiven. Since Napoleon in France, geographers have been ignored by politicians. Suffice to watch today’s TV show commentator babbling between two trivialities before attempting to decypher the unspoken words of a Macron declaration or the tweets produced by the Mélenchon – Zemmour – Le Pen trio to understand where the priorities often lie in the Gallic debate. All too pathetic at times!

That’s all we needed, the strategist Putin ignored this Raspoutitsa. And no one saw that one coming.

Turning back to the affore mentioned Trent Telenko (an expert I warmly recommend) this US Air Force analyst working yesterday on Tweeter a disarmingly simple explanation, based on the all too often pure rejection of reliable French experts in favour of other so-called experts coming straight out of the blue. A general officer in particular springs to mind – a character who got rapidly exfiltered from the United Nations where he operated in fear of being arrested by the FBI. Yet he has been boringly cutting into all manner of subjects over the past five years or so. One day he went as far as talking of covid-contaminated sailors on the Charles de Gaulle carrier in such a way that the sailor community actually wondered if the bloke had ever set foot on a warship!  

As for this Raspoutitsa, let’s see what Trent Telenko wrote yesterday.

Ukraine Thread Part 3 – Day Eight of the Russian Column Held Hostage (by the usual Russian incompetence)

March 5, 2022 by Trent Telenko

Welcome to the third installment of the Russian invasion of Ukraine series.  Since Napoleon stated that the moral is to the physical what ten is to one.  After the situation map (below) we are going to start the post with a look at the moral dimensions of the current fighting. Follow it with my impressions of the current fighting.  Then close with a counterfactual of the Ukraine-Russian fighting based on the works of Trevor Dupuy.

I have posted on twitter about the Russian Army columns North of Kyiv decaying into immobile blobs due to the Rasputitsa, poorly maintained Chinese truck tires and shear “follow the plan” Russian incompetence.

The head and first dozen or so kilometers of the southernmost column north of Kiev have been stuck there for EIGHT DAYS. The Russians have since rammed more and more vehicles into this monster traffic jam (idiotically “following the plan” Soviet-style) so the whole thing is now 65-70 kilometers long (almost 40 miles).

And, because the trucks can’t go off-road due to the Rasputitsa mud and tire problems, they’re stuck on the roads and the roads’ shoulders three vehicles wide for the whole @40 miles. That means fuel and resupply trucks can’t move on or off road to deliver anything to anybody.

So all the columns’ heads are now out of fuel and battery power. They can’t move north, south or sideways, and everything behind them is stuck because of the mud, and rapidly running out of fuel and vehicle battery charge too (assuming they haven’t already). Nor can any of those columns defend themselves because they’re too densely packed. They’re just targets waiting for the Ukrainians to destroy them.

Only the Ukrainians had something better to do.  They opened the floodgates of reservoirs around those columns to flood them and turn the surrounding areas into impassable quagmires for months – probably until July or August.  (See photo below) Probably several thousand Russian vehicles in those columns will be irrecoverable losses.  Hundreds of Russian soldiers might have drowned.

MilitaryLand.net@Militarylandnet As correctly pointed out by some of you, Ukrainian troops seems to flooded the area north of Kyiv. That’s the reason why the Russian advance is stagnating there. #Ukraine #UkraineRussiaWar

This was not just a debacle, but an EPIC one. About 1/5th of the Russian force in Ukraine is now flooded or trapped, and are definitely out of the war for good.

Now to the moral dimension.  The 1242 Battle of the Neva, where the Teutonic Knights fought Alexander Nevsky, is one of the founding myths of Russia.

[1] Rasputitsa (Russian: распу́тица), word for word « season of bad roads ») refers in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus to the period of the year when the melting snow (in spring) or autumn rains turn a large part of the flat lands into a sea of mud. This phenomenon particularly affects unpaved roads.

See: The Battle on the Ice, 1242 – Teutonic Knights vs. Alexander Nevsky 

See also :

Day Five of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

Raspoutitsa, quand tu nous tiens !