It is said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. If that’s the case… Russia qualifies.
We saw it in the first days of the war at Hostomel airport northwest of kyiv. Russia made an unsupported airborne landing at the base. It was wiped out. Try again. Same result. There may have been a third attempt, but the airport was not captured until the spearhead of the Russian attack, on the floorit arrived a few days later.
We’re currently seeing it on Snake Island, of “Russian warship, fuck you” fame. Over the past week, Russian forces have been annihilated multiple times (here, here, hereY here), and yet last night we saw Russian troops landing there one more time. (Russian state media tried to claim what was it Ukrainians that were defeated on the island… using the video of the Ukrainian armed forces (with their logo in the upper right corner) showing the interface of the Bayraktar TB-2 drone, of which Russia has none. The destruction of the ship, when the Ukraine has no navy, was a nice bit of hilarity.)
But nothing is as dramatic as the river crossing saga in Bilohorivka, where Russia not only suffered a disastrous attempt to cross the river, but Three of them in the last days.
Rubizhne, above right, was captured by Russia this week. Severodonetsk, right, is currently hell on earth, Russia’s current number one target, being hit from three sides and under relentless bombardment for months. As I noted earlier, Severodonetsk is on the north side of the riverso its Ukrainian defenders can, if necessary, withdraw across the river to Lysychansk, where the river provides natural protection.
Since Russia will eventually need to cross the river, they clearly thought, why not now, allowing them to completely encircle Severodonetsk, cut off its defenders, and short-circuit any fallback positions at Lysychansk. Bilohorivka was such an obvious place to try that this Ukrainian army engineer he claimed to have guessed it ahead of time (the account is not confirmed, but much of it is verified).
Russia made its first effort on May 8 and was completely decimated, destroying several dozen vehicles. The bridge was half sunk.
The Russian command and control structure is highly centralized, giving local commanders zero ability to deviate from established orders. So if the high command said “let’s Bilohorivka”, well, who was going to say something like: “Guys, Ukraine has our number, maybe we should find a new place to cross?” Nah, giving local commanders, or none Commanders, for that matter, the gift of “free thought and initiative” could lead to a military coup. It’s best to keep them stupid. So… try number 2:
You can see the remains of that first bridge right above it, either completely submerged or towed away during the second try. Added more charred vehicles to the list.
Then someone from Moscow or Belgorod called and shouted: “Do we have Bilohorivka yet? And how was the answer notso yes, look, there they went again.
The open source intelligence crowd (OSINT) got to tally up the damage, or at least, what could be determined from the drone footage. Just photo after photo tagged like this:
The vehicle count continues to rise as the OSINT folks find more vehicles in the wreckage. The last? 82
Those 82 vehicles include eight in the river. The account includes 14 tanks and 62 infantry fighting vehicles. A Russian battalion tactical group (BTG) has 10 tanks and 40 IFVs, but a full BTG does not exist in Ukraine. Probably never what. So Russia just lost two BTG’s of troops trying to make the same compromised river crossing. Three times. Can you imagine the drone operator calling him?
Drone operator: “Another crossing!”
Artillery fire direction: “Shit! What are the coordinates?
Drone operator: “Uh, the same ones!”
Artillery fire direction: “Ha! Well, I really thought you were kidding me the second time! That was crazy. But seriously, what are the new coordinates?
That engineer I linked to earlier claims 1,500 dead, citing “hearsay.” That would suggest two nearly full BTGs, so it’s almost certainly overkill. InformNapalm, which has been covering the war since 2014 and has sources within Ukrainian intelligence, claim (it is that only 65 of the 550 Russians who tried to cross survived. While ~490 killed seems plausible, just 550 Russians trying to cross seems low. AN a single BTG would have between 600 and 1,000 troops, so 550 would only be counted by an understaffed BTG.
Russia has 22BTG in this axis, so in this unfortunate river of multiple efforts-crossing debacle, it has lost nearly 10% of its entire fighting force. But hey, why stop when they’re so close to success? Here’s hoping they’re silly Enough to give him a fourth chance.
And if you think I’m kidding, from that InformNapalm report:
later [the third attempt]other soldiers from the brigade began to write “negative”, but the zampolitas [political commissar] he tried to intimidate them with prison sentences and exert psychological pressure.
In addition, InformNapalm sources report that today they saw a car in this direction, which visually is very similar to the mobile point of psychological work of the Russian Armed Forces. Probably due to the psychological treatment of the soldiers of the brigade, who suffered great losses.
If that report is correct, it means that Russia is literally trying to force its soldiers to give him another chance. Hopefully, those soldiers choose wisely: prison seems so much better than the fate the poor souls met in those three bridging attempts.