— Eliot Higgins (@EliotHiggins) December 22, 2016
Why We Believe Bellingcat THIS Time, Despite Their History of OSINT Fraud and Laundering 'Beadcrumbs' Left on the Internet by the CIA-Backed Security Service of Ukraine (SBU)
— Eliot Higgins (@EIiotHiggins) April 13, 2016
To be fair, some (post)Western journalists such as RFE/RL contributor Christopher Miller have acknowledged that the U.S.-propped up government of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko refuses to admit the scale of Ukraine's irretrievable losses in dead and seriously wounded, especially in recent battles. In the aftermath of Kiev's military debacles at Ilovaisk, Donetsk Airport and Debaltsevo, journalists would freely discuss on Twitter Poroshenko's detachment from reality in describing hundreds of KIA as a few dozen deaths. Yet for all the hype surrounding open source and data driven journalism, there never seemed to be any substantive follow up on this subject. You can say like RFE/RL contributor Christopher Miller that Poroshenko's corrupt, but if you work at the 'Prague Palace' or with Ukrainian and Eastern European nationalist colleagues, you can't say straight up Porky's lying about thousands of combat deaths above the admitted figures -- at least not without job repercussions. Aside from one limited hangout story from Vice News, it seems post-Western media have adopted an attitude of don't ask, and Kiev's Defense Ministry hasn't told regarding how many of Ukraine's 'missing in action' are actually dead since 2015.
Lies & deception
— Malinka (@Malinka1102) December 21, 2016
The Russia Analyst finds it ironic then, that a new report by an amateur working for the Atlantic Council in the guise of British hack Eliot Higgins, as well as the pending inauguration of an American president promising detente with Moscow that Higgins hates, could help refocus post-Western journalists' attention on the true scale of Ukraine's losses. We understand some may misunderstand our intent in agreeing with Eliot Higgins -- the legacy media's go to boy for open source ponzi scamming, in that he's always overstating what OSINT alone can actually prove without actually going to the battlefields of Syria and Ukraine -- on this occasion. But during this holiday season, it's only right to admit when someone whose falsehoods and arrogance we despise is actually correct, like a broken clock being right twice a day.
Despite Eliot Higgins' constantly shifting goal posts during the aftermath of the East Ghouta false flag sarin gas attack, documented by MIT arms control expert Ted Postol with the aid of Rogue Money guest Mimi al-Laham aka Syria Girl; despite his team at Bellingcat's baby faced Syrian globo-jihadi and anti-Russian fanaticism from undergraduate 'contributors' such as @JettGoldsmith, combined with their obvious incompetence in the subjects they claim to 'crowd source' such as physics, photo forensics, rocketry, former Soviet air defense systems/fighter jets and military science -- in this instance, Bellingcat is right. But for the wrong reasons:
— Malinka (@Malinka1102) December 21, 2016
A Few Words on Bellingcat and the Cult of Exagerrated OSINT as a Cheap Substitute for the CIA Ever Releasing Anything of Substance on MH17, East Ghouta Etc.
Not only does Bellingcat ask that the media and laymen alike accept on faith that Google Earth imagery from a conflict zone would never be manipulated by the CIA or National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), they also assume low quality Google Earth imagery is sufficient for crater analysis to roughly calculate the trajectories of Russian rocket and artillery fire across the pre-war RF-Ukrainian border. It isn't. If it were, why would the Pentagon allow it be declassified without their express written approval?
After all DARPA not only invented the Internet, but the CIA through its In-Q-Tel arm also famously funded Google, and it is the Mountain View, California based giant which has turned the EU founding Bilderberg group meetings into 'Google-berg' while Eliot Higgins proudly boasts of receiving their grants. A little OSINT capability, in the wrong hands and used to debunk Washington's narratives, could be a dangerous thing. Especially if Russian 'open source sleuths' start using Yandex satellite maps to reveal that Google Earth imagery has been, in certain instances and on key days in sensitive spots such as eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014 tampered with or faked (for example, making the skies partly cloudy when overcast or clear, which bears directly on the credibility of eyewitnesses purporting to have seen Ukrainian fighter jets or a BUK rocket trail in the sky that day).
If we take Bellingcat at their word that Russian artillery and rocket fire can be deduced from Google Earth imagery, than they'd also have to admit their counterpart 'OSINT sleuths' of the Russian or Iranian sort could identify traces of not so covert Israeli or Turkish artillery strikes against the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) along the Golan Heights or the northern Latakia hills. Rather than the (G)NGO Atlantic Council funding such efforts, perhaps the Kremlin-connected Russian Institute for International Studies (RISS) could fund a Belling-koshka and turn the tables on Eliot Higgin's sponsors?
For example, if OSINT can determine from 'soldier selfies' that active duty Russian servicemen aka the so-called 'vacationers' participated in the Donbass fighting, then it can (with a little help from the CyberBerkut) also expose the identities of at least some NATO country advisers and mercenaries aka 'volunteers' Bellingcat's Atlantic Council bosses insist were never anywhere near the Ukrainians' front lines (starting with 'out of my face please' guy from Mariupol in January 2015)?
Eventually, despite the worshipful, ignorance-based deference that seems to prevail among English-speaking media towards Bellingcat, the CIA's habit of outsourcing its messaging through them rather than releasing credible intel straight from Langley is going to bite the U.S. intelligence community in the butt, when real intel released by Russia or even mid-rate powers like Iran contradicts and exposes the lies of 'rock solid' OSINT.
In particular, we strongly suspect the hardliners around Putin are daring the CIA soft coup plotters against Trump to launch attributed cyber attacks ahead of the January 20th inaugural in the U.S., so the Kremlin can finally stop blackmailing Poroshenko and Obama with what Moscow has on MH17 and simply release it: Russian military radar data of Ukrainian SU-25s in the air and identifiable intel of Kiev's BUKs very much in range of the MH17 flight path on July 17, 2014 and all!
— Eliot Higgins (@EIiotHiggins) April 24, 2016
Why Does Bellingcat Claim as a Scoop What Col. Cassad/Slavanygrad Published 2 Years Ago?
So, the reason we agree with Bellingcat in this instance isn't because their methodology is solid, it isn't. Sean Case, the primary author of Bellingcat's latest report, is an apparently u or underemployed British hydrologist, who may know something about land surveys by satellite but knows basically nothing about modern massed fires from tube or rocket artillery (not unlike Mr. Bellingcrap himself knew nothing about these subjects prior to the August 2013 East Ghouta sarin gas attack). Nevertheless, such obvious incompetence in the area of expertise required for their analyses never stopped Bellingcat before -- or lamestream media outlets under pressure from their editors and governments to publicize 'proof' of Russian/Assad government dastardliness to cite Eliot Higgins 'work'.
Nonetheless, we have come to the common sense conclusion that the 'Highway of Death' scale of destroyed Ukrainian military equipment and blasted conscripts evident in photos published at Colonel Cassad and other sites as early as August 2014 was beyond the capabilities of Donbass locals. Yes, even Donbass natives or Russian volunteers with some prior Ukrainian or Russian army experience as artillerymen could not have laid down these devastating massed barrages with such deadly accuracy (at least not without many days to several weeks of refresher training on live firing ranges).
Ironically, while Bellingcat claims its latest report 'confirming Russia's denied involvement!' is a big scoop, pro-Russian sources such as the Crimea-based blogger Cassad, the Canadian run Slavyangrad translation site, or The Saker blog published accounts of Ukrainian troops being slaughtered by massed Russian Army fires over two years ago. When it became obvious from the hundreds if not thousands of Ukrainian Army soldiers staggering shell-shocked into Russian territory to receive medical treatment and/or attempt to surrender that the UAF had suffered a catastrophic defeat beyond the capabilities of the Donbass 'militia' alone to create.
Here's just a sampling from Toronto-based attorney Gleb Bazov's site, published back in AUGUST 2014, about the so-called 'Southern Cauldron' south of Saur Mogila where thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers died, leaving behind scores of intact tanks and GRAD rocket launchers alongside dozens of scorched pieces:
“There is a huge number of “200s” [Note: Killed in Action / KIA] among the border guards from Belgorod-Dnestrovsk, Mogilyov-Podolsk, a pile of dead paratroopers from Nikolayev, from the 24th [Brigade]. This is the outcome of our troops’ withdrawal from the border. Over the past two days many more people were killed than over the course of the entire 42 days of the deployment at the positions. Many of the dead were left there, in the sunflower fields, on the roads…after refueling their vehicles at the Ukrainian Armed Forces field base, they intend to run all the way to Odessa.
The operation with respect to securing the border failed miserably, yielding a pile of corpses and minimal advantage. Everything was fine until Russia started shelling our troops from its territory. Ninety percent of all the hardware of our military grouping was burned down at the border; hundreds of guys perished...
Everyone who survived took off from the border: paratroopers, artilleryists, mechanized infantrymen, border guards. They did not take off voluntarily, and when they did they simply ran “home” without any sensible plan for a retreat. By and large, no one commanded the withdrawal; they fled in all directions…
They drove out on vehicles that were a hundred times broken: BTRs with dead transmissions systems, Gazels, UAZ jeeps, Shishigas. Those who were riding in Ural trucks, functional BTRs and Kamaz trucks were lucky. Any time a vehicle broke down, right away there were corpses and “300s” [Note: Wounded in Action / WIA].
Our guys cried on the phone. They cried from shame, the cried about those who were left lying in the fields… because to pick them up, to stop, would have meant death. They resented the fact that they were being shot at [did they think war would be a lark, like throwing Molotov cocktails at cops who didn’t have firearms on the Maidan? - JWS], that their equipment was being burned down, but they could not respond across the border with everything they had.
Petya says: “I will never forget how we drove at full speed, while from across the border Grads and howitzers pummeled us. We are fleeing on a broken-down Shishiga and see a waving hand stick out from a field of sunflowers. The body has no legs; a Gazel is burning next to it. The column turned to chaos … whoever had a stronger engine got ahead and tried to pick up our guys while still in motion. If a BTR broke down, it was immediately abandoned; the crew would pick up their light arms and wait for the next vehicle, then jump on it…I have only ever seen this in movies. And it was no column at all; it was simply a line of vehicles moving cross the field. I do not know who these colonels are who sent us to retreat along the border, knowing ahead of time that Russia was shooting at us.”
The AP, Reuters, and BBC All Knew in Late 2014 That Thousands of Ukrainian Soldiers Were Dead Above the Number Kiev's Defense Ministry Would Admit -- So Why Won't Bellingcat Launch an Open Source Investigation Using Evidence Provided Here -- Better Yet GO TO Ukraine and Investigate THAT?
As we type this we can envision swarms of Ukrainian trollls and Atlantic Council allied shills attacking this article and its author. We can picture them furiously tweeting that there's no evidence the Ukrainians have been hiding such a death toll, and it would be impossible to keep figures 3 to 5 times above the admitted figure quiet in any case. To this argument we respond with several points, but the first is: unlike Bellingcat, which often insists old school journalism of the type Eliot Higgins' critic and Consortium News reporter Robert Parry practices is obsolete, we have sources. Some of those media sources both in Moscow and the U.S. have informed us that the Moscow and Kiev bureau chiefs of one leading global wire service knew damn well as early as late 2014, that the Ukrainians suffered thousands of combat deaths above the number admitted, but the news execs refused to seriously pursue the story.
Take this tweet, for example, from journalist Daniel Sandford which Russia Insider reported in October 2014, and which there's no evidence whatsoever the BBC bothered to follow up on:
Both pro-Ukrainians AND pro-Russians are now citing this video to support their views of the conflict https://t.co/rmlRMH4HeZ
— Daniel Sandford (@BBCDanielS) August 20, 2014
“According to the Junta’s reports, about 1,000 men were able to break out from the [late July/early August 2014 - JWS] cauldron. It bears mentioning that, at the time of the encirclement, the grouping numbered between 5,500 and 6,000 men. Taking into account the units that retreated into Russia and those that returned to Ukraine, in the course of the encirclement in the Southern Cauldron the Junta lost 2/3 of the surrounded troops. The losses of military hardware are also significant – a part was destroyed in fighting, a part was captured by or transferred to the Militia, and a part was destroyed during the retreat due to lack of fuel and breakdowns.”
If there was any investigation done by a leading global wire service, one source tells us, it was of a half-hearted or half-assed sort. Whether out of fear of expat reporters or local stringers being intimidated by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), or as a favor to the Ukrainian government if not the U.S. State Department and Embassy in Kiev, the [media org's name redacted to protect the source/s] 'investigation' went nowhere.
There was no evidence in late 2014 or early 2015, according to one source, that (post)Western reporters or Ukrainian stringers were sent to the hometowns of units, like the Ukrainian Army's 30th brigade, that acknowledged in open source local media reports picked up by the BBC's Sandford and Slavyangrad's [English subtitled] video suffering catastrophic losses from the very Russian cross border artillery and rocket fire that Bellingcat is alleging today. One source turned to RogueMoney in anguish only after appeals to potentially sympathetic sites like The Nation to investigate Kiev's cover up went nowhere, the source explained, for lack of investigatory resources and reporters on the ground in Ukraine.
Lost Armor and Past Conflict Extrapolation of UAF KIA -- 13,500 to 17,500 Dead
It seems if you work for George Soros and the Atlantic Council, you're free to talk about the dastardliness of the Russian Army firing on Ukrainian Army units and Putin denying it (even though there's evidence the Ukrainians shelled Russian territory as well, killing at least one civilian in an RF border town). What you're not supposed to do however if you're Eliot Higgins, is ever draw any inference that if the think tanks like the Potomac Foundation are correct when they say that the Russians wiped out entire Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) mechanized battalions, that Kiev's casualty figures are therefore ridiculously low.
Like Bellingcat's recent refusal to geo-locate and analyze the heavy civilian death toll from Saudi Air Force bombing in Yemen, the common thread from Ukraine to the Mideast is not upsetting the major foreign and military industrial complex donors to the Atlantic Council that make Bellingcat's work possible. And yet...other 'open source sleuths', who do not have the pro-NATO and anti-Russian slant of Bellingcat, have done quality estimates based on defensible assumptions regarding Ukrainian Army losses in men and tanks being roughly comparable to the Russians' in the first Chechen War. That conflict pitted another demoralized post-Soviet army feeding off the USSR's equipment and tactical legacy against irregulars armed with similar RPGs and small arms as the Novorossiya Armed Forces (NAF) -- though the Chechens did not receive massed fire support from a great power, and had far fewer tanks, artillery and GRAD rocket launchers of their own than the Donbass forces. In other words, extrapolating from the Chechen war figures and ratio of armor lost to KIA should if anything, tilt higher for the UAF's losses from 2014-15 vs. the Russian Army's from 1994-95:
“As of March 3rd, 2015, a total of 627 destroyed UAF armored vehicles were caught on camera, and 76 destroyed militia vehicles. Also, 376 UAF vehicles were captured, while 27 rebel vehicles were captured back.
———— UAF / Donbass militias
Destroyed 627 / 76
Captured 376 / 27
Based on these numbers and data from previous conflicts with more reliable reporting, we can extrapolate a rough estimate of the real number of casualties in the conflict.
To get relevant data from previous conflicts, we need to find similar armies – armed with outdated Soviet equipment and Cold War-era Soviet tactics, poorly led and trained.
Article on Ukrainian army shortcomings:
Obviously, the prime example would be Russian army itself, circa 1993 – first Chechen war; then countries like Iraq and Syria.
First, let’s determine the absolute minimum ratio of personnel losses to armored vehicle losses in a military campaign under these conditions.
Russian losses in Chechnya in 1993 and Iraqis in 1990 are ideal for that: both armies had a lot more armor than Ukrainian forces (where there is a constant lack of running armored vehicles – e.g. complaint by Poroshenko’s advisor http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=baa_1422989162 ), and a lot better conditions for losing armor – one, by running unprepared into an insurgent army that spent 3 years training and arming to destroy tanks, the other, by facing overwhelming enemy air power in a desert.
Iraqi KIA losses in Desert Storm are variously estimated between 25.000 and 100.000 KIA, with 5-6 thousand armored vehicles lost. This gives us (using middle estimates for casualties) roughly 10 Killed In Action per destroyed Armored Vehicle (termed “KIA/AV”).
Russian losses in Chechnya are not well reported, since both sides tended to conceal their losses and Russians would usually evacuate their destroyed armor from the battlefield; a variety of sources lead me to believe a 15KIA/AV estimate is reasonable, although it could be much higher (though the siege of Grozny involved mass armor losses, the subsequent counterinsurgency campaign did not). The absolute lowest possible KIA/AV in any war is probably the Russian armored/mechanized troops that entered Grozny and were ambushed from all sides; for example, the hardest-hit Maikop brigade reportedly lost 800 men and 100+ armored vehicles, giving us a ratio of 8 KIA/AV.
On the other hand, Syria is a disorganized civil war, much like Ukraine, where both sides often rely on lightly-armed paramilitaries but the government has many armored vehicles, also like Ukraine. Although obtaining good estimates from the disorganized fighting is impossible, it is clear that the KIA/AV ratios are higher: for example, government losses are estimated at 40-80.000, whereas the estimates of destroyed government armor are at around 1800, giving us KIA/AV of about 30.
Based on this, we can now make an estimate of Kiev regime losses.
It is obvious that KIA/AV in Ukraine is higher than the absolute minimum of 8-10, as the government forces are not using as much armor as Iraq-1990 and Russia-1993, nor are the rebels as adept and well-equipped for destroying tanks as US Air Force or prepared tank ambushers in Grozny.
On the other hand, Ukrainian civil war is less violent than Syria – it does not have as much of the sectarian violence aspect (with the exception of a few hundred Jihadists working for Kiev http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=aab_1425325987), so the crews of disabled or surrendered vehicles are often spared, at least when it comes to the rebel’s treatment of forcibly conscripted government soldiers. Accompanying infantry are likely spared as well during mass surrenders (in video below, government soldiers surrendered 6 tanks and were reportedly allowed to leave riding 2 BMPs).
Video: Surrendered Nationalist Tanks at Starobeshevo
This makes for fewer dead soldiers per destroyed vehicle, and far fewer – per each captured one. Unfortunately, Kiev government usually orders its soldiers not to surrender armored vehicles even when they are fully surrounded (Ilovaisk encirclement, Debaltsevo encirclement, etc.), so more often than not many men die before the rest surrender the heavy weapons.
Video: Breakout Attempt at Ilovaisk (see video description on Youtube for details
Article: Report from Debaltsevo, plus strategic overview of the winter campaig
Overall, a conservative estimate would be about 20 KIA/AV per destroyed armored vehicle, and 5 KIA/AV per captured one.
Based on just the vehicles in lostarmour.info database by March 3rd, 2015, that gives us a figure of 14,420 KIA for the nationalist forces.
Interestingly enough, this figure is in the same ballpark as the above-mentioned claims of Congressmen Lyashko (at least 8000 “hidden” plus 1000 official casualties by September) and Congressman Shufrich (14000 dead by November).
As not all destroyed vehicles have been filmed and some heavy fighting has happened since the Congressmen’s estimates were given, the real figure is likely somewhat higher by now. The highest estimate that could be considered remotely feasible is probably the “24,000 nationalist KIA” figure put forth by the DPR spokesman Eduard Basurin.
Another interesting estimate was put forth based on the number of heavily wounded evacuated from the frontlines to central hospitals in Dnepropetrovsk and Kharkov, as well as Odessa and Kiev.
By compiling records on the number of heavily wounded soldiers paid for by the army, the author arrives at the figure of about 12,000 UAF medevacs by late January, and at least the same number of lightly wounded who went to local hospitals.
Due to poor medical care, the proportion of heavily wounded to killed is about 2:3, so 12,000 medevacs corresponds to about 8,000 KIA. However, this figure does not include several thousand injured paramilitary fighters, who are not on state’s payroll, nor does it account for UAF soldiers that were left in encirclements and were impossible to evacuate. We can get an idea about the number of abandoned soldiers from the fact Kiev sources routinely say that 6-8 thousand UAF soldiers are missing in action – KIA likely make up a sizeable part of that (even if the majority are deserters). Overall estimate ends up in the same 12-15 thousand KIA ballpark.
The reason this more direct estimate was not used as the focus of this article is that WIA numbers were apparently obtained confidentially and could not be independently confirmed, unlike the easily verifiable public database of lostarmour.info. The reason that this estimate was still included is that it’s rather conservative, much lower than the rebel claims, and competently written, implying that the author really knows Ukrainian hospitals.
This analysis and official data both imply that on top of ~14 thousand KIA, the human cost also includes 20+ thousand severely disabled nationalist soldiers (and if we include those with less severe disabilities and mental health issues, the number is likely several times greater).”
#Ukraine is unable to compensate their losses by own production. Also, "armor cannibalism" is wide spread, where 3 broken armor =1 repaired.
— Sergey Bobkov (@sbobkov) December 21, 2016
But again, we hear the objections from the Bellingcat (Bellingcrap) and Kiev troll army, how and why would the Ukrainians engage in such a cover up of their combat dead and wounded? And why would Kiev's masters in Washington D.C., the Pentagon and Langley also maintain their silence about Ukrainian losses, with only the occasional cryptic reference here and there to direct Russian fires effects from highly ranked individuals like Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges? Or from the pro-NATO and Kiev think tank the Potomac Foundation, based in the Washington D.C. area? Are they all in the tank for exagerrating the effectiveness of 'Putin's army' or deriding the Ukrainians combat efficiency too?
“In July 2014, Russia launched fire strikes with long-range artillery and multiple rocket launchers employing top-attack munitions and thermobaric warheads against two Ukrainian mechanized battalions in the open. This intensely concentrated fire strike lasted only a few minutes yet inflicted high casualties and destroyed most armored vehicles, rendering both battalions combat-ineffective.”
Read the above quote from the Potomac Foundation again. What they're saying is that Russian Army thermobaric rockets of the Smerch or more advanced 'Tornado' model incinerated two Ukrainian battalions in minutes. Even an under strength Soviet-motor rifle battalion is at least 330 men. Do the math, and the Potomac Foundation is tacitly acknowledging 600 UAF were killed or wounded within minutes of a single massed Russian salvo in July/August 2014. But the legacy media won't challenge Ukrainian Petro Poroshenko's bullshit figure of a mere 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers and volunteer battalion members killed in the entire 2 1/2 year war!
#Ukrainian D-30 arty crews, the minute they started crunching targeting numbers on their app, their positions lit up like Christmas tree.
— Sergey Bobkov (@sbobkov) December 22, 2016
If the above linked story pushed by the Atlantic Council linked-'experts' at Crowdstrike (and denied by Ukrainian military men) were true, then the Ukrainian Army is criminally incompetent in using hackable iPads and other personal devices for artillery targeting...
'Artillery is a god of the battlefield': the NAF's (Acknowledged by U.S. Commanders) Russian-Aided Superiority in Massed Fires and Counterbattery Over the UAF
More sophisticated Bellingcat fanboys may object here that the Potomac Institute, funded by the American military industrial complex, has a financial incentive to hype Russian combat capabilities, just like the previously downsized U.S. Army in Europe needs the Russian threat to justify an expanded budget and influx of more equipment. Nonetheless, we don't have to take the Potomac Foundation's word for it, as there are pro-Russian sources like Cassad (translated by The Saker's team) that describe how being an artilleryman is probably the deadliest job in the Ukrainian army, due to the superiority of the NAF's (Russian 'vacationer' and GRU SIGINT/ELINT operative) aided counter-battery fire around Donetsk:
Translated by Seva (Owl)
One of the readers sent a comparative analysis of UA losses in the war in Donbass based on the data of the Military Balance for 2013 and 2016, with the emphasis on the lists of official personnel of the UA (Ukrainian Army) units.
The most authoritative in the world military analytical agency International Institute for Strategic Studies http://www.iiss.org/ issued a report Military Balance for 2016 http://rutracker.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5177025, which, when compared to the report for 2013 http://rutracker.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4679015, allows to estimate irrecoverable losses of military hardware in the UA during the active phase of ATO at ~50%, taking into account vehicles repaired after Petro Poroshenko had officially announced the loss of ~60%. These reports also allow one to offer an estimate of the losses in the UA personnel during ATO. In vehicles that were damaged beyond repair there were 29,700 solders that likely were at least wounded...
Shadow fighters of anti-battery units
What strikes one in Military Balance data are huge losses of light howitzers D-30 – ~80%. Partially this can be explained by the fact that many howitzers were transferred to semi-regular units of the National Guard that mostly shelled cities and townships. But this does not explain the losses of self-propelled artillery pieces Gvozdika (~60%) and 152 mm Akatsia (~50%). It certainly does not explain the losses of ~50% of MRLS Grad and Uragan. The destruction of self-propelled artillery (SPA) is hard due to its mobility and armor. The destruction of MRLS requires an incredibly short time of reaction, as they leave the positions within a minute. Thus, these losses of self-propelled artillery and MRLS and incredible losses of howitzers D-30 suggest that the UA was confronted by modern artillery, very possibly Russian.
Tymchuk (Ukrainian military commenter – translator’s note) wrote many times about the presence of Artillery Radio-location system (RLS) Zoopark-1 in Donbass (http://www.unian.net/politics/1025946-boevikiperebrosili-na-trassu-vozle-enakievo-radiolokatsionnyiy-kompleks-zoopark-1-is.html). This RLS can observe missile trajectories and calculate the location of launchers even before the missiles hit the ground. Then Zoopark, using communication channels protected against radio-electronic interference, transmits the coordinates of the launchers or artillery pieces for targeting. However, only a modern SPA or MRLS using global positioning information Glonass can act on this to immediately hit SPA, MRLS, or a howitzer. Indeed, there was a battery of “on-leave” servicemen using Msta-C, possibly modernized to Msta-CM. It is doubtful that these Msta-Cs are war trophies, as the UA lost only 5 units of heavy Msta-C. Also note that the UA has only 35 heavy Msta-C, which is too few to win artillery duels on such an extended front. Another candidate for fighting with Zoopark-1 is modern Russian MRLS Tornado-G, but it is hard to distinguish it from usual MRLS-12 Grad: the difference is in electronic systems of control, navigation, and communications
Either way, these huge losses of the UA artillery cannot be explained without supposing that its adversaries possessed more powerful and modern artillery, at least at the time of artillery duels. It is likely that reduced shelling of Donbass towns by the UA is not so much the result of Misk-2 agreement as the result of anti-artillery actions, which might have been conducted by 'on-leave' Russians.”
At least when it comes to defending the capital city of the Donetsk People's Republic, which is far more competently run than its sister republic in Lugansk, the Russian 'vacationers' appear to have been directly involved. And no Bellingcat report attributing crater analysis to Sean Case, whose LinkedIn profile lists an agro-environmental science researcher specializing in hydrology based in Denmark, was needed to demonstrate this -- only by taking an honest look at Ukrainian losses.
The Reasons Behind the Great Ukrainian Casualties Cover-Up:
Geo-Political, Psychological and Propping Up Ukrainian Military Morale
The reasons for the great Ukrainian casualties cover up are multifacted, but can be summarized in the following order of importance:
1) Protecting the increasingly unpopular Petro Poroshenko's vulnerable political hide from both Right Sector/Azov Battalion linked ultranationalists and anti-war Opposition bloc parliamentarians. If there's one thing the various factions in the Verkhovna Rada can agree on, it's that they loathe Petro Poroshenko. Parliamentarians already accuse Poroshenko and his crony generals of staggering military incompetence, war profiteering, smuggling/trading with the 'separatist' enemy if not downright treason and collusion with Putin.
While Ukrainian nationalists are notorious for shouting 'zrada' (treason) when incompetence or years of corruption in Kiev's military suffice as explanations for the UAF's humiliating defeats of 2014-15, the fact that Poroshenko still maintains major business assets in Russia lends their theories of Poroshenko surrendering to Putin some plausibility.
However, the real reason Poroshenko adopted deals as lopsidedly in favor of the Russian-backed Donbass republics as Minsk 1 and Minsk 2 remains: in early September 2014 and again in February 2015 significant portions of the Ukrainian military in the Donbass were on the brink of collapse and/or mutiny. If Poroshenko hadn't signed Minsk 1, the lines around Mariupol would've likely collapsed and the light infantry of the SS rune flag waving, foreigner recruiting Azov Battalion would've been slaughtered in heavy fighting for the Donbass' only port city. After Debaltsevo, the threat was less of a general collapse in UAF lines and more of a widescale mutiny or military putsch, with some ultranationalists vowing to execute Poroshenko in a basement.
2) Lying about the scale of Ukraine's casualties is necessary to prop up Ukrainian military morale for the now remote (since Trump's election) possibility of a serious U.S./EU taxpayer funded program of rearmament, that would in a few years time fulfill Ukrainian nationalists and Cold Warriors dream of replicating the success of Croatia's 1995 'Operation Storm' -- an ethnic cleansing offensive against the Krajina Serbs in the breakaway Donbass republics.
The facts -- that modern Russia is vastly more militarily potent than Milosevic's Serbia and direct Russian military intervention would likely crush any such offensive before it could effectively encircle Donetsk and Lugansk have not dissuaded everyone from fantasizing about easy victories won by Ukrainian proxy for the US/NATO never having to shed their own blood in the Donbass. Witness U.S. Army Afghanistan veteran A.H. Bonenberger's 2015 fantasy piece, "Ukraine Can Defeat the Separatists", or John R. Schindler's "How Ukraine Cain Win". In the latter essay written in 2015, the ex-NSA analyst famous for being forced out of the U.S. Naval War College over intimate selfies basically joins with the ultra-nationalist battalions in accusing Poroshenko of cowardice, treason, or both:
“Putting anything less than one percent of the country’s population in uniform, when Ukraine is at war, is frankly a joke and indicates Poroshenko wants to lose. In the second half of 1991, Croatia mobilized nearly 200,000 troops from a population of not much more than four million. That Ukraine is having a hard time coming up with a similar number of troops from a population that’s ten times Croatia’s speaks volumes about what’s wrong here.”
The problem of course, being that Schindler like the flag wavers in the Ukrainian Diaspora who make up much of his Twitter fan base, doesn't realize how increasingly unpopular the Donbass war is among ordinary Ukrainians or how rampant draft evasion has been. Military age Ukrainian males by the hundreds of thousands are working in Poland, Romania, and even the 'enemy' state of Russia to avoid winding up on the frontlines. Even some Ukrainian nationalists have adopted an attitude of 'let Donetsk and Lugansk rot under those drunken thieves the Russians put in charge of them', not noticing how rampant drunkenness is among the 'ATO heroes' of their Galicia (western Ukrainian) centric version of the country. In other words, even many previous true believers in the 'Banderite' version of Ukrainian nationalism are wondering if the war is still worth fighting, or at least if Poroshenko is cleverly disposing of participants in a third Maidan by sending them forward into the meatgrinder:
— Sergey Bobkov (@sbobkov) December 20, 2016
The recent battle for Svitlodarsk, in which Right Sector ultras if not neo-Nazis took heavy casualties alongside members of Ukraine's 54th Mechanized Brigade, is the latest example of this 'send the ultras who hate Poroshenko forward' practice by Kiev's Defense Ministry. Suspicions remain high over two years after the defeat of Right Sector and Donbass Battalion volunteers at Ilovaisk that the regular army abandoned the 'volunteers' to be surrounded. In reality, the more aggressive Right Sector and Donbass battalion fighters simply underestimated the enemy and their own resources, pressing ahead into a trap.
3) Ukrainians own bravado and tendency to believe their own BS about casualties, ignoring their heretofore woeful combat effectiveness in anything other than defensive operations
This is the last point we'll make in this expose, and one we believe needs the least elaboration. The fact of the matter is the Ukrainians can look at the defeat of the massively supplied and dug in jihadists in Aleppo, who had occupied a city surrounded by tens of thousands of civilians for over four years, to see glimpses of what actually fighting the Russian armed forces directly instead of Russia's Novorossiya foreign legion would be like. Of course in Syria political and logistical constraints mean that the Russian military is still only using a fraction of the combat power it can bring to bear on its own borders with Ukraine.
The Ukrainian military often claims that the Russians and not its own armed forces are the ones hiding thousands of combat deaths. If that were the case though, it would be easy to tell, because the Ukrainian Army would already be sitting victorious in Donetsk and Lugansk, if not back in a 'liberated' Sevastapol.
“[The] Ukraine side has simply suffered too many utter debacles - among which: the pointless and costly assaults against Saur Mogila and Illovaisk, the many armored pushes of the last summer that became encirclements of the attackers, the defeat in the wildly successful rebels’ summer offensive, the attempted evacuation of Illovaisk pocket, the haphazard evacuation of Debaltsevo pocket - for it to be true that its casualties have been roughly equal for the war as a whole.”
What neither Bellingcat, nor the Potomac Foundation in an official capacity or its fellows in an unofficial one speaking for themselves, have bothered to do is try and ESTIMATE how many Ukrainian KIA those cross border Russian tube and rocket fire volleys claimed. To do so might not only demonstrate that Washington's ally in Kiev's Defense Ministry is engaged in a systematic cover-up of Ukraine's true combat losses in the so-called 'ATO', but also the complicity of the State Dept., DoD and AP, Reuters, BBC and RFE/RL in refusing to investigate this subject for over two years -- despite internal grumbling from our sources about this conspiracy of omission.
As the true number of Kiev's KIA isn't the 3,000 President Poroshenko recently admitted, but likely between 12 and 17,000 total UAF dead, we say to Eliot and his Bellingcat crew that it's about bloody time to face the truth. Post-Maidan Ukraine has lost the Donbass war and is unwilling to accept the costs in terms of dead or wounded to 'win' back territory held by former Ukrainian passport holders backed by Russia that despise the regime in Kiev. With the election of Trump and the Trumpening of Europe, it's very bloody unlikely anyone (the Poles included) is going to bleed and die alongside the Ukrainian Army in sufficient numbers to put Ukraine's blue and gold flag atop Donetsk and Lugansk again.
Our unsolicited advice to Eliot Higgins, Aric Toler and his other cohorts at Bellingcat, as well as the media organizations eagerly promoting Bellingcat's 'work' without any research into Higgins' history of lies and OSINT fails? Stop sitting on the story of Ukraine's many thousands of dead soldiers and volunteer battalion members, which any well educated or militarily informed person can deduce from open source data, including pro-NATO sources like the Potomac Foundation. For that matter, maybe it's time to dig into the handful of NATO servicemen or recently discharged 'vacationers', primarily from Poland, who never came back alive from the 'ATO' zone either, who've been labeled as 'training accidents' since April 2014? These calculated lies of omission will not stand, because the truth is going to come out sooner or later.
A regime in Kiev, promoting the worst [Banderite/UPA] criminals in Ukrainian history rather than Ukraine's true [Red Army] heroes, temporarily propped up by US/EU/IMF fiat and lies, can kill and maim the people of Donbass. But it will never conquer them.