Welcome to this week’s edition of The Intelligence Brief… with nearly a month of conflict in Ukraine now behind us, many are hoping that the tides may soon turn… and it now seems that a growing number in Russia share this view. This week we’ll be looking at 1) the official statement by the United States on Russia’s war crimes, 2) why things have gone so badly for Russia in recent days, 3) the mystery surrounding “disappearing” Russian officials, and 4) what Russian soldiers are now saying about the war.
Quote of the Week
“Only the dead have seen the end of war.”
– George Santayana
Before we get into our analysis this week, a few of the stories we’re covering at The Debrief include the latest on the developing situation in Ukraine with Tim McMillan’s reporting on the conflict, who recently asked whether there could still be a path to victory for Russia, who it increasingly appears may have been thwarted by the country they attempted to capture.
Meanwhile, The Debrief recently learned that a classified version of last summer’s long-awaited UAP Task Force “Preliminary Assessment” has been obtained and made available online by John Greenewald of The Black Vault. I recently provided an analysis of what this once-classified version of the UAP report reveals, and how it differs from the public version the rest of us have seen up until now.
Also in video news, Chrissy Newton recently caught up with former New York Times editor and ongoing contributor Ralph Blumenthal on the enduring UAP topic, which you can watch over on The Debrief’s YouTube Channel. As always, we’ll have a complete listing of stories we’ve been covering in recent days.
And with that, it’s time to turn our attention once again toward Ukraine, and the latest signs that Ukraine may yet prevail in the nearly month-long conflict.
It’s Official: The U.S. Says War Crimes Were Committed by Russia’s Forces in Ukraine
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken officially announced that the United States has declared several of the Russian military’s actions in Ukraine constitute war crimes.
“Today, I can announce that, based on information currently available, the U.S. government assesses that members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine,” Blinken said in an official press statement. The announcement followed several weeks of developments followed by western leaders, amidst what Blinken characterized as “credible reports of indiscriminate attacks and attacks deliberately targeting civilians, as well as other atrocities” by the Russian military.
“Our assessment is based on a careful review of available information from public and intelligence sources,” Blinken said in the statement, adding that “As with any alleged crime, a court of law with jurisdiction over the crime is ultimately responsible for determining criminal guilt in specific cases.”
“The U.S. government will continue to track reports of war crimes and will share information we gather with allies, partners, and international institutions and organizations, as appropriate,” Blinken said. “We are committed to pursuing accountability using every tool available, including criminal prosecutions.”
Russia: A Botched Invasion Attempt
The official acknowledgement of war crimes by the United States came amidst reports that as many as 40,000 Russian soldiers have either died in the conflict, or been injured, captured, or are deemed currently missing in action. This, according to recent NATO estimates cited by CNBC news earlier this week, and officials familiar with the matter.
According to the report, “between 7,000 and 15,000 Russian troops have died,” based on background sources cited by CNBC who remained anonymous “to share NATO’s latest intelligence assessment of the ongoing war.”
Until this week, there hadn’t been official counts of Russian losses supplied by the country, and following the anonymous leak of NATO’s figures, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman who recently would not rule out Russia’s use of nuclear weapons if the country faced what it deemed an “existential threat”, said the release of the number of Russian soldiers lost should be the “exclusive prerogative” of Russia and its Ministry of Defense, not NATO.
The Mystery of the Missing Russian Officials
Russian deaths in Ukraine had not been the only kind of losses Peskov was being pressed about this week. Peskov also confirmed that Vladimir Putin’s special envoy, Anatoly Chubais, resigned this week and left Russia, purportedly in opposition to Putin’s war in Ukraine. Chubais is the first senior Russian official to have parted ways with the Kremlin since Russia invaded Ukraine under Putin’s orders… but will he be the last?
In fact, Chubais isn’t the only Russian official that has reportedly gone missing in recent days, following several days of hard questions regarding the apparent “disappearance” of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who has not appeared on camera in almost two weeks.
It was reported last week that Shoigu had met with Putin and discussed the current conflict in Ukraine with members of the Kremlin’s security council.
Yet no recent footage of Shoigu has surfaced in at least twelve days, causing many to question the 66-year-old’s health in midst of the conflict, which by many accounts has reached a stalemate.
If the ongoing disappearances of those close to Putin at the Kremlin is any indication, things aren’t going so well in Ukraine for Russia… and Russian troops on the ground are now saying as much.
A View from the Ground: Russian Soldiers Speak Out
“It’s such trash here… our own plane dropped a bomb on us,” one Russian soldier was quoted saying in an intercepted phone call reported by the Daily Beast.
While the Kremlin continues to manage the release of the number of Russians that have died in the conflict, the young soldier complained that rather than being able to dispose the bodies of their dead, they “rode with us for five days,” adding that “Even in Chechnya, there was nothing like this.”
Several reports citing Ukrainian civilians who were guaranteed escape along safe corridors in recent days—and nonetheless suffered injuries from gunfire and other attacks while fleeing—appear to have been corroborated by the Russian soldier during the call, who appeared to express regret about the destruction of non-military targets.
“This ‘special operation,’ damnit,” the soldier reportedly said, “with respect to homes not meant to be destroyed… it’s bullshit.”
According to the Daily Beast, the call was leaked amidst reports that the situation on the ground in Ukraine had grown “so bad for Russian troops that it led one soldier to attack a colonel he blamed for troop losses.” Elsewhere, reports of alleged “execution squads” following Russian troops on the battlefield with severe warnings that deserters would be shot have emerged. One Ukrainian official recently shared a story on social media about a Russian man who, after his entire tank crew fled, “could not return home because his commander told him he would shoot him dead and say he died in battle.”
Altogether, as Russia’s attempt at capturing Ukraine wears on, one thing seems obvious from the myriad reports of vanishing officials, Russian soldier deaths, and leaked conversations from those who remain on the battlefield but are too weary to fight any longer: few Russians seem to believe in the war of their irreparably disgraced leader, apart from Mr. Putin himself.
On March 16, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a fiery speech to Russian cabinet members, offering a strong message that the war in Ukraine was part of an existential fight against the Western world.