Buzzer Beater – Russian General Staff Aims at Ending the Ukraine by Electric War

Yves here. It is odd how little attention Russia’s campaign against Ukraine’s electric grid is getting, given that it is the sort of blow that the West and Ukraine can’t stop or  even blunt. The kinetic war is getting vastly more attention, presumably because it is much more familiar and also consuming lots of funds, weapons, and men. Helmer points out below that the Washington Post has quoted Ukraine sources saying at least 86% of Ukraine’s generating capacity has been destroyed.

It is beneficial to Russia that far more attention is going to the traditional battlefield. This means that the officials who have been focusing on the line of contact, still in their minds, will be at a very embarrassing loss when Ukraine starts collapsing. Russia is controlling when that happens, but the 86% figure and the limited alternatives (discussed below) says that things are pretty close to becoming catastrophic. It will be interesting to see if US and NATO leaders try outrage or mumble shuffle, since they do not appear to have prepared the media at all for this outcome.

We have pointed out that Russia controls Ukraine’s future by virtue of Ukraine’s entire system running on old Soviet standards, and Russia, not the US or NATO states, makes that grade of gear. Please do not suggest the West could step in and supply Ukraine’s needs. Private companies will not build factories for what for them would be a big run of special purpose equipment. We are having enough difficulty scaling up to produce more of not terribly high tech items where we have an ongoing need, like 155 mm shells.

By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears

As the Ukraine’s peak summer electricity season approaches, the list of the Russian General Staff’s Electric War targets is shrinking. This is because almost all the Ukrainian electricity generating plants have been stopped. What remains for destruction are the connecting lines and distribution grids for the Ukraine’s imported electricity from Poland and other European Union neighbours. The microwave and cell telephone towers, and the diesel fuel stocks which are powering the back-up generating sets are next.

“There’s no keeping the Ukrainian cell network up any more than there is keeping up the electrical grid,” comments a close military observer.  “The General Staff have set the flow of Ukrainian refugees west  as inversely proportional to the flow of data and electrons over Ukrainian airwaves and transmission lines. We can expect that relationship to be set to highly inverse before the summer is out. What calculations have been made regarding things further west are just beginning to become evident.”

The Electric War is now accelerating faster to the Polish border than the Russian army advance along the line east of the Dnieper River.

In the very long history of siege warfare, there has never been a case of letting the enemy’s civilian population run safely away from his castles and cities until the fortifications and army which remain must choose between surrender and destruction.

Read the story file on the Electric War since October 2022 here.

The geographic spread, the explosive yield, and the cost of each of the raids are accelerating. On June 1, the Russian military bloggers, which continue to be the semi-official source of battlefield news each day, reported that energy facilities had been attacked in five regions of the Ukraine – in the east in Zaporozhye and  Dniepropetrovsk; in the west in Kirovograd and Ivano-Frankovsk regions. Two thermal power plants were seriously damaged, following a salvo which the Ukrainians counted at 53 missiles and 47 drones.

The next day, June 2, the Russian sources, quoting Ukrainian electricity company bulletins to consumers, reported emergency blackouts and restricted power supply schedules were in effect in Kiev and its surrounding region.  On June 5, the situation in Kiev was worse, according to DTEK, the dominant privately owned utility, and Ukrenergo, the state operator of the country’s high-voltage transmission lines.

On June 6-7, The Washington Post – editorial motto, “Democracy Dies in Darkness” – reported Ukrainian utility managers and state officials as confirming that at least 86% of the country’s electricity generating capacity has now been destroyed. “We are catastrophically short of electricity for our needs,” the newspaper quoted  Sergei Kovalenko, chief executive of the Ukrainian private electricity distributor YASNO, ….The power cuts have divided Kiev into the haves and the have-nots — with even residents at some privileged, high-end addresses suddenly finding themselves in the latter category.”   “DTEK has lost some 86 percent of its generating capacity, [DTEK chief executive Maxim] Timchenko said. What makes the situation worse is that many of the electrical facilities have been targeted repeatedly — a cycle of destruction, recovery, destruction, he said.” “Next week will be better,” Ukrenergo spokesperson Mariia Tsaturian said. “The week after that could be worse.” “The scheduled outages will continue — the only question is how severe they will be, Ukrenergo CEO Volodymyr Kudrytskyi said.” “We are talking about a huge loss of generation,” said Yury Kubrushko, founder of Imepower, a Ukrainian energy consultancy. “I can hardly see from where Ukraine can get new extra capacity just this winter.”

Source:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/
To advertise its desperation for more foreign money and equipment replacements, DTEK has republished the Washington Post story.

Boris Rozhin, editor-in-chief of the Colonel Cassad military blog in Moscow, has reported that in the east, the Krivoy Rog power station is still working, despite several earlier hits. He said  “additional strikes are called for.”


Source: https://t.me/s/boris_rozhin 

On June 7, a video recorded stroll down one of Odessa’s shopping streets revealed an emergency generating set providing electricity for almost all of the commercial establishments.

“This is in no way sustainable,” comments a NATO military engineer. “Note how each shop has its own genset. The generators in the video are not designed for the duty cycle they’re being run at. They’ll wear out soon enough. The military, including deployed NATO personnel, use the shops and the gensets,  too. The idea of pooling their resources, sharing load among gensets, thus reducing wear and tear on the whole network,  while collectivizing fuel and maintenance costs, doesn’t seem to have occurred to them. To be sure, what follows will be no lack of electrocutions, carbon monoxide poisonings, and fires. We can bet the manifestations of the social pathology we’re seeing here have been factored in by the General Staff. Their attack point will now be to stop fuel, engine oil, spares, and replacements from getting through. ”

Independently of one another, Russian and Ukrainian reporters are confirming the impact of the power losses on the operation of water and sewerage systems in the majority of Ukrainian cities. According to Oleg Popenko, a Ukrainian expert on energy for communal services, “Armageddon has already arrived. We just don’t feel it yet.  But the residents of Poltava, for example,  feel it, because since May 5 of this year, 120,000 residents of the city receive water by the hour and use sewerage by the hour. You can imagine what happened in Zhitomir when the central sewerage collector didn’t work there for a week, but now in Poltava [it’s been] a month. And this is the problem with water utilities in 70% of Ukrainian cities. Water utilities are probably more important than rest of the infrastructure in the city. Heat and electricity can be replaced somehow, and you can go somewhere. But if the sewer system breaks down in a city, the city is no longer viable in principle.”

The NATO military engineer has compiled his forecast list of Russian targets in the coming days. “We should expect the commercial fuel storage and distribution network to be hit. These are legitimate military targets as the Ukrainian military relies on them to support its war effort. The railways should be hit as well. There’s no good military reason to allow them to keep functioning. Given the NATO country endorsements for striking Russian territory targets, I don’t see the rationale on the Moscow side for leaving unscathed the rail network connecting Lvov and Kiev to Rzeszów [Poland].”

“The target list should include the border switchyards and substations connecting the Ukraine to the European transmission lines. Destroying those and targeting the stations transmitting power from nuclear sources will finish the job.   There will be no more load balancing after that. The collapse of Ukrainian logistics, not to mention the society,  will follow soon after. If the switchyards connecting the nuclear power plants to the grid are smashed, it’s the end for the Ukrainians.”

NOTE: Lead images -- left, blackout warning on June 4 from DTEK.  Centre: pedestrian walking dog in central Kiev, June 6.    Shops on Odessa city street powered by emergency generating sets, June 8.   

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