There’s a whiff of mutiny in The New York Times’ report about Ukraine’s Krynki Debacle
by Andrew Korybko on 24 Dec 2023 1 Comment

It was just a little less than two months ago that Time Magazine reported that some troops on the eastern front have begun refusing Zelensky’s orders to advance because they lack arms and men, and now the New York Times is strongly implying that even elite Marines on the southern front are wondering whether it’s worth following their own orders too. A mutiny might thus be brewing along both fronts.


The New York Times (NYT) just published a piece about “Ukrainian Marines on ‘Suicide Mission’ in Crossing the Dnipro River”, which includes such harsh accounts about the Battle for Krynki by unnamed servicemen that one can’t help but get a whiff of mutiny from their words. What follows are the key excepts from their article, after which President Putin’s words about the Krynki debacle from several days prior will be republished in full. A brief analysis of this battle will then conclude the piece.


“Soldiers and marines who have taken part in the river crossings described the offensive as brutalizing and futile, as waves of Ukrainian troops have been struck down on the river banks or in the water, even before they reach the other side.


Conditions are so difficult, a half-dozen men involved in the fighting said in interviews, that in most places, there is nowhere to dig in. The first approaches tend to be marshy islands threaded with rivulets or meadows that have become a quagmire of mud and bomb craters filled with water.


The soldiers and marines gave only their first names or asked for anonymity for security reasons, and commanders declined almost all media requests to visit military units in the Kherson region. Several soldiers and marines spoke to journalists out of concern about the high casualties and what they said were overly optimistic accounts from officials about the progress of the offensive.

Fresh troops arriving on the east bank have to step on soldiers’ bodies that lie tangled in the churned mud, said Oleksiy, an experienced soldier who fought in Krynki in October and has since crossed multiple times to help evacuate the wounded. Some of the dead marines have been lying there for as long as two months, as units have been unable to retrieve the bodies because of the intense shelling, said Volodymyr, a deputy company commander who was attending the funeral of one of his men, identified only as Denys, last week.

With Ukraine’s counteroffensive bogged down and the United States and even the European Union showing signs of cutting back aid, the cross-river offensive has been keenly watched for signs that Ukraine can regain momentum against Russian forces. The hope is that they can create a breakthrough deep enough to threaten Russia’s supply routes and its hold in the south. The Marine Corps, rebuilt to full strength this year with several newly formed brigades, was assigned the task.


Since the war’s outset, Ukrainian officials have sought to maintain a positive narrative in an effort to maintain morale at home and support abroad. Casualty numbers are not published, nor are details of setbacks suffered by Ukrainian troops. In the case of the Dnipro, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and other officials have suggested recently that the marines have gained a foothold on the eastern bank.


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted a statement last month claiming they had established several strongholds. But marines and soldiers who have been there say these accounts overstate the case. ‘There are no positions. There is no such thing as an observation post or position,’ said Oleksiy. ‘It is impossible to gain a foothold there. It’s impossible to move equipment there.’ ‘It’s not even a fight for survival,’ he added. ‘It’s a suicide mission.’


Oleksiy said the Ukrainian commanders’ poor preparation and logistics had decimated his battalion. Wounded men were being left behind because of a lack of boats, he said, and the brutal conditions were degrading morale and soldiers’ support for each other. ‘People who end up there are not prepared psychologically,’ he said. ‘They don’t even understand where they are going. They are not told by the command that sends them there.’


Oleksiy agreed to let The Times publish his account out of frustration at the losses. ‘I did not see anything like this in Bakhmut or Soledar,’ he said, referring to two of the most intense battles on the eastern front. ‘It’s so wasteful.’”


To sum it up, a growing number of Ukrainian servicemen are becoming exasperated with the political leadership’s lies about supposed progress on this front in parallel with feeling similarly about some of their own military leadership for sending them on this suicide mission in the first place. The Battle of Krynki is doomed to end in Kiev’s defeat, but the regime still ordered it to be waged for maintaining morale and out of desperation to squeeze more aid from the West as the conflict winds down.


Those who spoke to the NYT did so knowing fully well that they could be accused of insubordination after revealing unsavoury details about this sensitive operation, especially after that outlet acknowledged that the military leadership declined almost all requests to visit that region. The picture that they paint is traumatic since soldiers are forced to crawl over dozens of their dead compatriots and then burrow into the mud as Russia bombs them for hours on end.


To make matters worse, those being sent to their deaths aren’t fresh recruits that were snatched off the streets, but Ukrainian Marines, which means that the regime is wasting some of their most valuable assets. These men can’t in good conscience let this needless bloodletting go on and that’s why they secretly contacted the NYT in the hopes that Western pressure might finally put an end to it. Little did they know that President Putin would beat them to the chase two days prior in his annual Q&A session.


“Now about Krynki. The enemy announced a big counteroffensive but nothing came of it anywhere. The last attempt – at any rate it looks like the last attempt for now – was to break through to the left bank of the Dnieper and ensure the movement towards Crimea. Everyone is talking about this, it is common knowledge, and it is nothing new. What happened in this section?


The Armed Forces of Ukraine focused its artillery shelling on a very narrow section of the left bank. To keep our men alive and not to subject them to excessive risk, not to sustain losses, the military command decided to retreat for several metres (I will tell you and as a war correspondent you understand what I am talking about). They are hiding their personnel in the forest to save it from unnecessary losses.


The Armed Forces of Ukraine walked into this section. It is small – about 1,200 metres long and some 300 metres wide. I do not even understand why they are doing this – they are simply pushing their people into death. The Ukrainian military say themselves that this is a one-way trip. To get the personnel there – about 80 people were there the whole time, but now the number is somewhat smaller – they are using only boats, and the boats are under fire from artillery, drones and other weapons.


The sanitary losses among our personnel are two or three people, and there were six wounded three days ago. The enemy has dozens of dead. They were simply caught in a ‘fire bag.’ They are throwing their men into it only for political reasons – I believe it’s just for political reasons.


Where does this come from? One can only guess and speculate. Apparently, it has something to do with foreign travel by Ukrainian leaders to beg for more money to keep the country running, to pay for the military component, equipment, and munitions. It appears that their approach is based on the assumption that as long as they travel and beg for arms, everyone will believe that the ‘counteroffensive’ by Ukraine’s armed forces has at least some chances of achieving success, regardless of losses.


They are just being driven out of there; that is all there is to it. They can build bridges and pontoons, but they don’t do this because they know these structures will be destroyed instantly, since they are within our reach. That is what is happening.


Here is what I would like to draw your attention to. These are not just servicemen of the Ukrainian armed forces; they are the elite, the assault squads. There are not many of them, actually. If you tally the losses sustained by the Armed Forces of Ukraine over the past 45 days, you will know how tangible it is. I believe this represents foolish and irresponsible behaviour on the part of the country’s political leaders. But it is up to them.


This is no longer a secret. Some time ago, I told the Chief of the General Staff, ‘Do not rush to push them out of there.’ I will be open about it: it is good for us if they mindlessly continue to send more troops there. This is unfortunate, but that is the logic of hostilities.


But they continue to do so, and it is their tragedy, I think. Nevertheless, the Minister and the Chief of the General Staff said, ‘No, we will continue to gradually narrow down their latitude of movement.’ This is what is happening. I think that everything will be over soon.”


President Putin’s account aligns with those unnamed Ukrainian servicemens’ and places their plight into perspective. The Russian leader shared his conclusion that Kiev ordered this predictable debacle purely for political reasons related to Zelensky’s desperation to squeeze more aid from the West. Instead of swiftly putting an end to it, however, President Putin cleverly ordered the armed forces to play along with his counterpart’s game in order to kill as many of their Marines as possible.


He seemingly assessed that this symbolic toehold won’t suffice for reviving Western hopes about Zelensky’s promised maximum victory over Russia, hence why he didn’t consider it an urgent task to cut off his foes’ river crossings entirely. For his part, the Ukrainian leader continued wasting so many valuable lives up until now since he remains under the influence of messianic delusions exactly as an unnamed senior aide unforgettably told Time Magazine in their article about him from late October. 


They also mentioned something else that’s very relevant to remind the reader about in this context:

“Some front-line commanders, [one of Zelensky’s closest aides] continues, have begun refusing orders to advance, even when they came directly from the office of the President. ‘They just want to sit in the trenches and hold the line,’ he says. ‘But we can’t win a war that way.’ When I raised these claims with a senior military officer, he said that some commanders have little choice in second-guessing orders from the top.


At one point in early October, he said, the political leadership in Kyiv demanded an operation to ‘retake’ the city of Horlivka, a strategic outpost in eastern Ukraine that the Russians have held and fiercely defended for nearly a decade. The answer came back in the form of a question: With what? ‘They don’t have the men or the weapons,’ says the officer. ‘Where are the weapons? Where is the artillery? Where are the new recruits?’”


This suggests that a mutiny might be brewing along both the Eastern and Southern fronts. It was just a little less than two months ago that Time Magazine reported that some troops on the eastern front have begun refusing Zelensky’s orders to advance because they lack arms and men, and now the NYT is strongly implying that even elite Marines on the southern front are wondering whether it’s worth following their own orders too. It’s always a bad sign whenever servicemen from any country get so fed up with fighting senseless battles that they complain to foreign media about it.


The SBU still has a stranglehold on Ukraine, but they’re clearly struggling to contain dissent within the armed forces, which Commander-in-Chief Zaluzhny could channel as part of a speculatively impending power play aimed at freezing the conflict after Zelensky refused reported Western pressure to do so. In that scenario, he’d foreseeably enjoy the support of the armed forces and a sizeable share of civil society, not to mention certain policymaking factions within the West that also want this conflict to end.



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