Sitrep: Operation Z

Above: a burning Ukrainian APC in Mariupol

By Nightvision for the Saker Blog – April 9, 2022

We start with the biggest scoop today. We finally have high level confirmation from Russian officials that NATO instructors and foreign fighters are in fact trapped in Mariupol.

Firstly Russian State Duma member Adam Delimkhanov in an interview with RT has openly stated he estimates around 100 such foreigners there, and that they are in communication with them and the rumors are true that they are trying to negotiate a release and escape corridor. It seems to imply all those Macron rumors were accurate.


Igor Konashenkov on the other hand, also confirms that significant numbers of foreign fighters are known to be there because Russia can hear them crying in over 6 different languages in intercepted radio calls.

Not to mention there’s now a report that they tried to break through the blockade with a ship to rescue them (ran out of helicopters I guess?)

So this is no longer the realm of speculation and fantasy.

Now about yesterday’s Kramatorsk strike – it had multiple objectives all of which we foresaw in the previous SitReps when I specifically said that Ukraine was now shifting to a psychological and terror war exclusively, because it cannot win a conventional one.

The goals were: to terrorize civilians into not fleeing so they can be used as human shields in the upcoming showdown in Kramatorsk, to blame the falseflag on Russia for the same reasons as in the ‘Bucha massacre’ to continue extorting NATO sympathy and funds.

They cleverly did it right after Russia had announced the new measure of strikes against railyards, because they knew it would appear ostensibly as just the latest Russian strike targeting that category of infrastructure. But of course they messed up when Arestovych and their own side first reported it as a Russian Iskander, not knowing that a Tochka shell would be discovered.

Once again, this is proof of something else we wrote two sitreps ago when we said that Ukraine was forced to do the Bucha massacre to try and stem the momentum behind the soon-to-be liberation of Mariupol, and that the falseflag was in fact evidence that Mariupol was ready to fall since they must have known that the large 501st marine battalion was getting ready to surrender any moment.

Similarly here, rumors continue to mount that Phase 2 is very close to kicking off, or has already kicked off in part (as reported by those like Gonzalo Lira, etc) and so again Ukraine badly needed something to stem the coming momentum, and to make sure civilians don’t flee as they are the UAF’s only hope, as human shields. We also wrote a couple sitreps ago that the frequency and intensity/seriousness of the falseflags will only increase from here on out, and this appears to already be happening. Clearly the civilian population has been deemed completely expendable by the UAF.

There are reports that Russia is still keeping a decent-sized force (1/3 of what was previously there) north of Kiev (on Belarus side). If true, this would effectively continue to pin UAF forces around Kiev, not allowing them to fully redeploy to Donbass or elsewhere (perhaps why Zelensky only requested 15,000 to be sent, and not the whole force in the area, which some have estimated anywhere in the 50k – 70k range or more). The reason being of course that if they were to leave Kiev undefended, the much faster Russian maneuver force could rapidly blitz in under their noses and capture Kiev.

Now the Pentagon is stating that Russia has positioned 40 BTGs around the Donbass, adding a new 10,000 troop infusion, and Phase 2 is ready to kick off any moment. This by the way is a confirmation of the new reality where they have backtracked on the original “180 BTGs” just as I’ve written previously, and are now using more realistic numbers. This is further evidence that Russia is not utilizing the amount of troops in theater as they wanted us to believe.

Now on this topic, as Phase 2 is set to begin, let’s talk tactics or ‘Why the UAF Is About To Get Smashed’.

One of the most important takeaways from the first phase of this conflict has been that the UAF stands no chance whatsoever against Russian forces in a straight up head-on, full frontal fight. To understand the reasons for why that is, you must understand the basic structure and functions of the Russian units, including the infamous BTG (battalion tactical group). Without going into too much detail, just know that unlike U.S. forces which have some of the larger force coefficients like artillery, rockets etc more on the Corps level, the Russian units have them down to the battalion level, allowing faster maneuvering forces to have their own massive firepower capabilities and direct decision making.

But besides this ability to outmaneuver an equivalent Ukrainian force with far more firepower, just understand that the Russian BTG comes equipped with large precision artillery capabilities, in the form of 2S19 Msta for the more elite groupings. Ukraine’s artillery has been surprisingly well implemented, but it is still no match for a full Russian artillery unit equipped with its own detachment of spotters, counter-battery systems, scouts and the like. In general, the Russian units will have more fires(artillery) density per engagement, and at greater ranges with better accuracy differentials.

There has not been a single recorded Ukrainian victory in a full head-on fight, with the arguable exception of some of the engagements in the Bucha/Kiev area where we saw a column or two of Russian light cavalry forces take decent losses and retreat, but these were light VDV detachments with their own special objectives, not much protection, etc., and they took risky chances which led to ambushes.

But the majority of large scale engagements in these modern peer-to-peer conflicts mostly consist of medium to long range artillery duels. The only time tank/mechanized forces typically come into play is during transport or repositioning/redeployment, or once the artillery has softened the defense enough—or more commonly has ‘routed’ them—the other forces will begin moving in to finish them off.

The ONLY way the UAF has scored any recorded successes at all so far is via asymmetric and mostly ambush operations on MOVING columns. The reasons for this are many, such as the fact that U.S. feeds satellite intel to UAF forces to alert them of exactly where larger RF columns are moving and where they’re likely headed. This allows UAF forces to setup ambushes in depth at forward areas. The secret to how they do this is via RTP (Registered Target Point). The concept is very simple: a UAF artillery unit will shoot at a road with spotters watching and feeding them corrections until the artillery ‘solution’ is perfectly honed onto the center of the road. That artillery will then be covered with camo. Then as the Russian convoy passes that RTP mark, a hidden spotter will give the signal by radio and the UAF artillery will score instant perfect accuracy kills.

This is all fine and good. But when two, let’s just say equally-sized, forces do a classic position battle where they have taken their positions, dug in, both are aware of each other’s dispositions more or less with an accuracy dependent on the effectiveness of their ISR scouts and drone surveillance teams, etc. In this type of direct face off akin to a classic confrontation between two forces like in the days of Napoleon, the Russian force will always handily destroy the Ukrainian force 10 times out of 10 with minimal losses to itself, as all the advantage in this setup goes to the Russian side. As mentioned before, the reasons for this are simple:

  • Russia can bring a higher density of artillery firepower to bear – more units, higher quantity across the contact line, period.
  • Though Ukrainian units are no slouches (particularly the elite in Donbass) and should be commended for their skill, they are still inferior in training and capability compared to RF artillery troops. It may not even be a huge edge, but it’s an edge nonetheless. Sure they have the experience edge, but the RF artillerymen are highly trained, and are already gaining tons of valuable experience on the fly – they learn fast.
  • The RF equipment is far superior. We’re talking highly modern Msta 2S19s (superior to ANY artillery unit even in the U.S. arsenal, a fire rate 4-5 times higher than U.S.’s M109 equivalent, with greater range, etc.) with pinpoint accuracy, longer ranges, higher RPM (~10rpm to Ukraine’s maybe 3-4), better sights and optics, better surveillance capabilities as Ukraine mostly uses prosumer DJI drones which can be good for shortrange tactical stuff, but have limited range, duration, and optics compared to Russian Orlan-10s and the like. And don’t get me started on the legendary Krasnopol ammunition which the 2S19s can and HAVE been firing in Ukraine, which is a laser guided artillery munition that flies exactly to its pinpointed, laser-designated (by Orlan-10, etc) target, even if the target is moving. And keep in mind, in most cases the UAF won’t even have any 2S3 Akatsiyas or Gvozdikas or 2S7 Peonies anymore, but rather will use either BM-21 Grad or legacy Soviet towed artillery like D-30 howitzers or equivalent (the latter being far inferior for variety of reasons).

So in short, Russia can bring to bear firepower that is more accurate, longer range, faster shooting, and in greater number, all while having more ammo/fuel for it, etc. So what is the big point I’m making with all this. It is the following:

The ‘maneuver war’ which gave Ukraine certain ambush opportunities seems to be coming to an end. Russia is concentrating troops for the ‘final battle’ of Donbass, which will be a conventional, frontal war fought in the manner described above, with massive artillery fires opening the salvos and mechanized forces moving in to attrition off the routers. The major problem for Ukraine this presents is, this may be survivable when you have space to retreat and can continue falling back, away from the massive artillery advantage. But when the noose continues to close on the cauldron, the UAF forces will find themselves in a situation of continual concentration. They will have a smaller and smaller area for the troops to consolidate into, with no room for maneuver. And this area will have an increasing number of massive artillery firepower bearing down on it that will outgun and outrange them exponentially. There will be no more asymmetric cheap shots and ambush strikes because Russian forces will not be roaming in rapid, exposed columns on highways, but rather defensively postured with protected flanks, etc, dug in and inching forward one protected-in-depth section at a time. In short, this will be an absolute killzone onto the UAF troops.

We have already had a taste of this in what I’d call the first engagement of Phase 2, even if it hasn’t officially kicked off yet. But the battles in the south of Izyum, around Kam’yanka were in the spirit of what I described above. Not fast maneuvering and ambush/asymmetric warfare, but rather stand-off artillery duels in the spirit of what one commenter recently brought up as the famous Russian ‘Reconnaisance-Strike-Complex.’ And the results were brutal for UAF – I attached the video in the last SitRep showing the fields literally littered with UAF corpses after the battle of Kam’yanka while Russia had very little losses.

Read this military analyst’s twitter essay on Russian BTGs and how they can, in his opinion, be characterized as basically mobile artillery groups due to the sheer fires disparity

Excerpts: “This is a 1:1 ratio of maneuver to fires(artillery) elements. Western doctrine is 3:1. What this means is that a Russian BTG has an area of influence (where it can reach out and touch you) equal to or greater than a NATO-style brigade. (representative BTG organization pictured)”

If you read his post to the end, you’ll see he comes to the same conclusion as I do, in that Ukraine is about to get badly wrecked by RF artillery in the cauldron killzone. To think of it another way: picture the UAF forces very dispersed and not as susceptible to mass artillery as they have room to disperse/maneuver. Then as the RF forces press in on them from one side, and DPR/LPR from the other, the UAF forces continually are concentrated into a smaller and smaller region where the massive artillery bombardments will now be hitting a dense zone of troops with increasingly greater casualty rates.

Anyone doubting some of these assertions need only to hear it from the horse’s mouth itself. We all know the MIC bigwigs have to tote a certain line in public for policy and marketing’s sake, where they say Russia is inferior or weak, etc. But behind closed doors in their own secret analyses they are saying much different things.

From an interior army report at Fort Benning, here’s what the U.S. Army expert says about Russian BTGs as compared to the equivalent American BCTs (Brigade Combat Teams). Some salient excerpts:

‘Although some BTG systems are technologically superior to the corresponding U.S. equipment, the BTG doesn’t
have the capacity to observe, target and attack the BCT simultaneously across a broad front.’

‘BTG capabilities are extremely lethal when concentrated against individual units.’

BTGs field a brigade complement of artillery that outrange and outgun U.S. BCTs, but the BTGs only have a reinforced battalion of maneuver detectors. Local fires superiority gives BTG artillery the confidence to remain in place, and it provides the BTG with constantly available indirect-fire support.’

BTGs assume that fires and air-defense superiority gives them the freedom to employ long-range strikes whenever visual or electronic contact is made, regardless of infrastructure and civilian damage. Local fires superiority gives BTG artillery the confidence to remain in place, and it provides the BTG with constantly available indirect-fire support.

‘Finally, the king of all Russian protection assets is their integrated air-defense system. Although Russian ADA was not employed against warplanes or bombers, the Ukrainian Army lost six helicopters and a transport plane early in the conflict to well-coordinated Russian ADA systems. Also, shoulder-fired missiles are ubiquitous at all levels of regular units.’

‘American BCTs, or at least American-led brigade-sized task forces of coalition units, may be deployed in the future to deter10 or defeat11 a BTG…If a conflict occurs in the near future, technology to overcome Russian ADA is unlikely to be available therefore it is unlikely that the conflict will start with a high-intensity CAM attack.

The BTG will presume fires, EW and ADA superiority in the anticipated fight, but numerically the BCT fields many more combat systems and has a much better sustainment reach.

Assume that the BTG strike will disrupt the U.S. C2 needed to coordinate a brigade-level attack. The attack may also neutralize the brigade reserve and fires batteries. Therefore, every U.S. battalion and company should have a ready-to-execute attack planned and rehearsed, including authority to initiate if communications are lost in an attack. The BCT must plan to counterattack on a broad front to assure that the threat is dangerous, because if the BCT counterattacks on a narrow front, the BTG will be able to mass to defend effectively.

Although several of the BTG’s high-end systems are technologically superior to the corresponding U.S. equipment, the BTG doesn’t have the capacity to observe, target and attack the BCT simultaneously across a broad front.

If the BTG construct continues to prove its utility in Ukraine, Syria and future conflicts, and American and Russian ground forces find themselves on opposing sides in a conflict, it is likely that BCTs will have to defeat Russian Army units organized as BTGs in the near future (before 2025)

So what are our takeaways from the above? The most important being that the U.S. army admits to the following:

  • Russian air-defense is not only superior, but shockingly the army admits that by the time of a confrontation between Russia/U.S., “technology to overcome Russian ADA will unlikely to be available”. So they are counting on the fact that even in the distant future, they will not be able to innovate anything that can pierce Russian ADA.
  • Russian EW (electronic warfare) is superior and will likely disrupt American C2 (command & control).
  • Several other Russian systems are superior to anything U.S. has, in particular here they are referring to what I already mentioned earlier: Russia’s artillery systems are superior in every way to that of the U.S. This goes for both self-propelled units like the 2S19 Msta which is far superior to the M109, to the tube rocket and MLRS systems like BM-27 Uragon, etc. Also in my opinion Russian light IFVs are superior (though this is a more controversial view, while the others are widely accepted) due to the fact that BMP-2s and BTR-82s have much stronger 30mm cannons than American Bradley / Strykers which have 12.7’s and 25mm’s, and with higher RPMs as well. But that’s for another time.
  • Russian artillery outranges and outguns U.S. equivalent (see above)
  • In any upcoming conflict, U.S. army is to presume as a given that its C2 will be disrupted AND its fires (artillery) batteries will be neutralized (i.e. blown up by superior Russian counter-battery fire etc)

Now, of course they prescribe all sorts of antidotes on how they may still tactically overcome Russian units. But who can for a moment imagine that Ukrainian forces stand a chance in full frontal, non-asymmetric confrontation given these admissions by the U.S. Army itself about its own forces?

Also to add, this report was from 2017 and many of the weaknesses it attributes to Russian units have long been corrected or improved upon. And it’s quite ominously prophetic that they foresaw a confrontation between the super powers happening by 2025. Seems we’re ahead of schedule.

But with that said, here’s why I think a confrontation between Russia / NATO may be very unlikely. The simple reason is that, particularly in today’s global economic depression (which is really what it is if you look past the fudged figures), the U.S. economy is nearly kept afloat entirely by its MIC, which has emerged as probably the most significant remaining U.S. export and manufacturing potential – its military arms. The retain this final vestige of economic authority, the U.S. has to keep up the ‘mythos’ and image of invincibility of its arms and military products.

Given what you saw above in the report, it is an absolutely undeniable fact that at the minimum, in any Russia vs. Nato engagement, the opposing side would suffer some humiliating defeats to their vaunted systems like the F-35s, Patriots, U.S. Carrier Groups, advanced drones, missiles & PGMs, etc, etc. The scale of the shock and disruption this would create for the U.S. MIC is too heavy to bear. They would never risk their cashcows being ‘exposed’ on the world stage, and having all the mythical mystique stripped away.

Any even small incursion by the U.S. risks a massive image blowback that would destroy the credibility of American arms world wide. They cannot risk showing the world the superiority of Russian systems. Imagine the gungho U.S. sending in F-35s to help Ukraine only to see them get shot down by Russian S-400s? Do you realize the symbolic shockwaves the shootdown of American F117s over Serbia sent around the world? And do you realize that the entire F117 line was literally retired due to that ONE highly humiliating and symbolic event? What would happen when several of U.S.’s key systems are shown in high-definition youtube videos to be completely overrated when Russian systems expose them? It is too great a risk to bear. They cannot allow the last dying profitable sector of their economic engine to be taken offline.

Just a few small on the ground updates today to keep the report from being overlong:

Mass Russian armor continues moving into the Donbass areas from every direction. Z’s are pouring north, V’s and O’s are pouring South and West from Lugansk.

As reported last time, the artillery hammering on Mariupol industrial districts is heating up, even more units are now firing full time on the Azov positions:

Allied forces have finally reached the Mariupol port and taken most of it over. This is a big achievement, but if you look at the maps, there is still a large city district in that western section that will likely take long to clear. But these are still very good advances.

You can see Wargonzo reporting from the area already:

Click to enlarge

The map is now something like this. The left-most section is where forces have captured the port and advanced. The middle blue is the big Azovstal factory complex which is besieged on all sides now. And the top blue is the last Kalmiuski district with the Illych Factory grounds as well.

The combat is heavier than ever because not only are the last most fanatical groups remaining (3000 or less of the 14,000 – 17,000 they started with), but they are now being compacted into an ever-tightening concentration of areas which means the density of urban warfare is increasing as the following videos attest:

That’s all for now, as we get closer to the big action of Phase 2 I will provide more in depth on the ground SitReps, but for now I felt the need to include the rubric above to contextualize what we are soon going to witness in the battle for the ‘Great Cauldron’.

I’ll leave you with this look at how proud Russian citizens give a farewell to their beloved reinforcement troops as they leave to the frontlines.

And this quick story of Mariupol:

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