Ridicule of Russia’s invasion is becoming increasingly widespread and global. The latest (tongue in cheek) arguments on social media here focus on whether the Territorial Brigade of Mykolayiv should be 8th on the list of Europe’s most powerful armies (above or below the combined forces of the United Kingdom), or whether this spot should be given to the gypsies (Roma) of Kakhovka who regularly steal Russian tanks.
Personally, I am pushing for formal recognition of Ukraine’s farmers as among the best equipped armed forces in Europe. During recent days, their tractors have towed away so much stalled Russian equipment (tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems, armored vehicles…) that I’m convinced Ukraine’s rural sector is better equipped than the armies of Poland or France. I’ve attached some videos in the comments just for fun. Please feel free to add more.
Urban (or perhaps Village) legends abound. This one is from Marysia Nikitiuk:
Four Russian tanks drive into a village in Sumy oblast (pronounced Soo-mi). The locals sit quietly in their houses peeking out their windows periodically. The Russians — obviously low on fuel — strain the diesel out of two of the tanks into the other two and drive off, leaving two empty battle tanks in the center of the village. The locals run out, place two Ukrainian flags on the Russian tanks, and hide in their houses again. Some time later the Russians return with their tanks filled with fuel, and with spare diesel for the two vehicles they left behind. As they approach the village, they see two tanks with Ukrainian flags on them. They open fire. When the dust clears, the Russians realize they’ve destroyed their own tanks — oops. The locals quietly laugh. Then the two remaining Russian tanks proceed to drive through the village: probably attempting to return to their main advancing column. On the way, they reach a bridge built with a 5 ton maximum (for passenger cars). As the first tank advances, the bridge collapses and the tank heads muzzle first into the stream. The second tank then tries to go around the bridge but gets stuck in the mud of an adjacent field. Its team gets out, tries in vain to dig out the tracks, and finally abandons the machine.
And that is the story of how Ukrainian villagers stopped 4 Russian battle tanks with two Ukrainian flags…
Now the serious part of this story. The message of “pozor” (extreme shame) that Russia’s ground forces have been submitted to in Ukraine is surely getting to Putin. Despite having isolated himself from any potential coup plotters in his bunker in the Urals, stories such as the above are no doubt filtering through to the Russian President. He is angry.
As I have written before, “pozor” (humiliating digrace) is perhaps the worst thing that can be experienced by a leader in Russia’s vertically collectivist political culture. It means personal failure, betrayal of the nation, catastrophe for the state. Putin cannot afford to have such stories circulating in Russia. He needs to secure a victory.
The last few days have been quieter in Kyiv than during the previous week. Artillery barrages on civilian targets have focused primarily on Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol (the port city on the Azov Sea is a humanitarian disaster). On the northwest outskirts of Kyiv, the Russian advance has been stopped in Irpin and Bucha (two towns that were completely destroyed); battles rage on the eastern approaches to the capital — in Brovary and Boryspil. However, the intensity of attack by Russian forces has diminished significantly. They have obvious problems with morale, logistics, and strategy.
But the war is not ending yet — quite the contrary. During the next few days we expect intensified attacks on Ukraine’s capital: an attempt to surround Kyiv completely. If that fails (I have no doubt it will fail), then Putin will escalate further, and his ultimate escalation will no longer involve ground troops.
During coming days, the “Syria” scenario (scorched earth) will be intensified throughout Ukraine, and many more of our countrymen will die. We will honor our heroes — including farmers and villagers who shamed the “mighty” Russian army on a global scale. But we must realize: Putin needs a victory in Ukraine. Fast. He will escalate.
God help us!
* Thoughts from Kyiv is a series of flash essays by Mychailo Wynnyckyj from February 2022