Discover more from Diane Francis
June 8, 2023
On June 6, 1944, Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower gave the go-ahead for D-Day and 155,000 Americans, British, and Canadians landed on Normandy beaches, scaled cliffs, and punched a hole through German defenses. Casualties were horrific, but the amphibious invasion marked the beginning of the end of Hitler’s monstrous regime. On June 6, 2023, Ukraine did not launch a dramatic amphibious assault, but initiated a discreet, incremental, widespread counteroffensive – not a blunt force attack – against Putin’s monstrous regime. It has done so by opening multiple fronts in Ukraine and also inside Russia on the ground, in the air, and on the airwaves in order to spread thin Russia’s forces and punch through to liberate its occupied territory. However, unlike 1944, Ukraine has a few months to make dramatic gains and be admitted into NATO before three critical elections take place in the United States, Europe, and Russia in 2024.
On the anniversary of D-Day, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense uploaded a chilling video which was broadcast in Russia and Crimea after Ukrainian hackers interrupted normal programming. It “announced” that the upcoming counteroffensive against Russia would not be announced. It featured heavily armed Ukrainian soldiers putting a finger to their lips, accompanied by gunfire and a male voice saying “Shhhhh”. Its message read: “Plans love silence. There will be no announcement of a start”.
But battles now rage. Ukraine’s military is poised along Moscow’s “Maginot Line” and has already broken through in several areas, according to reports by Putin critic Evgeny Prigozhin, who added that Russian troops “are fleeing”. But on June 7, Russia stated that Ukraine was being routed, a claim denied immediately by Kyiv. Ukraine also continues to take the war inside Russia. It bombs supply lines and logistical hubs and supports sabotage teams as well as Russian insurgents who now occupy border towns in several regions.
Atop it all, Kyiv wages its campaign of psychological operations (PSYOPs) by spreading fear and panic through hacks into Russian military communications and local media. On June 5, for instance, radio and television programs in Russian border regions were interrupted for 40 minutes and carried a “deepfake” video and voice-over of Vladimir Putin announcing that a “state of emergency” had been declared in their regions, (Belgorod, Voronezh, and Rostov). Putin’s artificially-generated voice advised them to evacuate and seek shelter deeper inside Russia.
Ukrainian drones and soldiers appear to be able to cross Russia’s borders at will. Many square kilometers of Russia have been captured by anti-Putin Russians, who hope to recruit more insurgents as well as to acquire land and personnel as chess pieces to swap in negotiations. These commando activities draw Russian troops and attention away from its own warfront, creating opportunities for Ukrainians to regain lost territory, and elicit help from locals. “We understand that at least another 50 per cent of the inhabitants [in Russian occupied territories in Ukraine] will help the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” warned Prigozhin. “Therefore, as soon as they go a little deeper, it will be impossible to stop them.”
Ukrainian drones pummel military targets inside Russia, but now target residential areas occupied by oligarchs and Russian intelligence officers in Moscow. On June 6, The Wall Street Journal noted the effect of this campaign: “Fifteen months after President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, expecting a quick victory, the war has come to the heart of Russia. The country’s elites, who believed themselves safe as the invasion campaign rumbled far away, are rattled. As Moscow struggles with how to respond, each new attack is a blow to the official narrative of Russian supremacy and a challenge to Putin’s image of invincibility.”
Also on the D-Day anniversary June 6, Putin blew up a large hydroelectric dam on the Dnipro River, near Kherson, unleashing floodwaters across a vast war zone and creating a humanitarian crisis in a rural area with 80 settlements and hundreds of thousands of residents. Russia blamed Ukraine, but it was clearly a tactic to delay and limit Ukraine’s counteroffensive options in the area even though the attack has also cut off fresh water supplies to Crimea indefinitely.
In response, Ukraine’s President said “the detonation of the dam did not affect Ukraine’s ability to de-occupy its own territories” and Ukrainian energy authorities allayed concerns that the incident would cause damage to Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant nearby. Interestingly, Russia expert Anders Aslund said the dam's destruction was equivalent to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s decision to set oil wells on fire in 1991 as he was being forced out of Kuwait. He speculated that Putin’s decision to cut Crimea off from fresh water means he has given up hope he can keep the peninsula. That may be wishful thinking.
For weeks, Putin has remained silent as his military digs in to repel the world’s first networked, technologically-advanced military. Ukraine’s forces, their leaders, weapons, and devices are connected and armed with state-of-the-art situational awareness, instant communication, and an ability to fully and immediately synchronize all efforts and personnel. It is the Army of the Future versus a sluggish, top-down, obsolete, and untrained Russian force. By now, Russia’s military and political elites realize this, if not Putin himself, which may be why criticism has broken out publicly for the first time since the Soviet Union government began collapsing after its catastrophic losses and defeat in Afghanistan.
Last month, Prigozhin predicted that Ukraine’s counteroffensive would succeed and on June 5 said in a video that Russian “troops are fleeing”. He has fiercely criticized Russian generals, and their failure to train and equip troops properly or to protect the country’s borders from incursions and drones. This week, he dismissed claims by Putin spokesmen that Ukraine had lost tanks and soldiers in its first counteroffensive attack in Donbas as “simply wild and absurd science fiction”. He praises Ukraine’s army “as one of the strongest in the world” and has urged Putin to double down efforts by imposing martial law and calling up another 300,000 troops to win. If not, he said “all these divisions can end in what is a revolution, just like in 1917”.
But another Russian mobilization would be difficult because invasions, casualties, and Ukraine’s infowar has frightened and concerned the Russian public at large. Criticism now occurs regularly on its state television channels, violence has broken out between Russian regulars and mercenary soldiers, and public rifts occur between Putin insiders. Unfortunately, Russian public opinion remains irrelevant, which is why Ukraine’s infowar, and Prigozhin’s outspokenness are helpful, but won’t stop the war. Only defeat or Putin’s exit will bring that about. A few months ago, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky speculated that Putin will be removed. “Carnivores will eat the carnivore. It is very important, and they will need a reason to justify this. They will find a reason to kill the killer. Will it work? Yes. When? I don't know."