A Recap of the War in Ukraine: a succinct summary of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and what lies ahead

Gonzalo Lira, “A Recap of the War in Ukraine” (Twitter, 26 April 2022)

For those people confused by the sudden invasion of Russian forces into Ukraine or suspicious of the reporting on the intervention in the Western news media, a quick recapitulation / summary was helpfully provided by Gonzalo Lira on his Twitter account on 26 April 2022. Lira is a Chilean-American citizen currently in Kharkov in north-eastern Ukraine where he has lived with his Ukrainian wife and children for some years. Lira rose to prominence as an online citizen journalist with the outbreak of hostilities in late February after Russian forces entered Ukraine for reporting what was actually happening around him in Kiev (where he happened to be at the start of hostilities) and then later in Kharkov on his YouTube channel. Western audiences aware of the disinformation being pushed on them by Western MSM outlets began following Lira and soon alternative news media websites began featuring his reports and interviewing him. His profile rose even more when he failed to turn up to a Zoom interview with British journalist George Galloway on 17 April 2022 and for several days he did not post anything to YouTube or Twitter, causing alarm among his audience who feared he had been arrested, tortured and even murdered by the feared Ukrainian SBU or neo-Nazi gangs. The Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed his disappearance after searching for him. On 22 April 2022, Gonzalo Lira announced through an interview conducted by Alex Christoforou of The Duran that he was alive and well, and had been detained by the SBU since 15 April 2022. As far as I am aware, Lira is currently under house arrest in Kharkov and has lost access to his mobile phone, computer and his social media accounts.

On 26 April 2022 Lira put out no fewer than 24 tweets summarising what has happened so far in Ukraine since 24 February 2022 when Russian forces entered Ukraine from northeast, east and south of Ukraine’s borders. The tweets have been compiled into an article by Bernhard H at his Moon of Alabama blog for easier reading. Lira noted that Russia invaded the country with 190,000 troops against 250,000 combat troops fielded by Ukraine: a figure contrary to what most military strategists would have advised governments intending to invade other countries – a ratio of 3:1 would have been advised, in other words, Russia should have fielded an invasion force of 750,000. 30,000 Russian troops were placed near Kiev: not enough to capture the city but enough to pin down 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers and stop them from joining Ukrainian troops amassing in eastern Ukraine and preparing to launch a massive blitzkrieg invasion of the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. This blitzkrieg campaign was the immediate reason for Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine, to pre-empt this invasion after eight years of harassment of the breakaway republics that resulted in the deaths of 14,000 people in their territories. By attacking from the north and south as well, the Russians cut off supply lines from western Ukraine – supply lines that would have been fed by NATO countries bordering western Ukraine – and effectively isolating Ukrainian forces in the east. Surrounding Kiev was a brilliant feint, tying up Ukrainian forces there and compelling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to flee to Poland.

The Russians had hoped to pressure Zelensky to negotiate a political settlement that would allow Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts and other oblasts in eastern and southern Ukraine to decide on their future, whether they wished to remain in a federal Ukraine, form a new country or join Russia. Under pressure from the West however, Zelensky refused to negotiate and instead (probably with help from outside) launched a massive propaganda campaign to motivate Ukrainian forces to fight to the death, demoralise Russian forces and get money and weapons from the West: this campaign included fake stories about an ace fighter pilot called the Ghost of Kyiv shooting down Russian fighter jets and deliberate staged murders of civilians in Bucha and a missile attack on people at a train station in Kramatorsk. These outrageous acts of brutal violence and others carried out by Ukrainian forces, neo-Nazi battalions and/or armed gangs were blamed on Russian forces and Western mainstream news media dutifully reported the Ukrainian version of the events.

However Kiev’s refusal to negotiate and Western economic and financial sanctions on Russia – which have hurt Russia’s economy but only temporarily, after Russia announced that everyone buying its gas had to pay in roubles (thus sending the value of the rouble back to the level it had before 24 February 2022) – have apparently led the Russians to change their lightning raids and feinting, and adopt a different strategy in which they intend to hold onto the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine. If Lira is correct, this would deprive the rump Ukraine access to the Black Sea and Russian-held territory would reach as far as Transnistria in Moldova and Odessa near Romania. The richest parts of pre-2022 Ukraine, agriculturally and industrially, would be claimed by Russia. Hungary might claim the Transcarpathian oblast in far western Ukraine where Hungarian communities live. Poland would claim Volhynia and Halychyna (Galicia) in north-western and western Ukraine, these areas having been part of the old Poland-Lithuania Commonwealth before the 1800s and then part of a reconstructed Poland between World Wars I and II. Significantly Volhynia and Halychyna are hotbeds of neo-Nazi extremism, this phenomenon having had its roots during Polish rule in the early 20th century when forced Polonisation aroused resentment among Ukrainians and encouraged them to form nationalist political movements. Good luck to Poland if it can hang onto these areas!

So far Lira has given a succinct summary of the war in Ukraine, the reasons for Russia’s invasion and the reaction of Kiev to the invasion and its obstinacy in refusing to negotiate despite losing thousands of soldiers and the total destruction of its materiel, not to mention its economy, and the Moon of Alabama blog has made the summary more accessible to readers. Initially the Russians were careful not to destroy Ukrainian civilian infrastructures but in their new strategy they may destroy those civilian structures and networks being used by Ukrainian forces and their NATO allies to maintain supply lines. The Ukrainians themselves may even destroy their own civilian infrastructures in order to use the materials for war purposes.

Lira ends his tweets musing on the senseless waste of human lives and potential, and the equally stupid destruction of a nation, however unstable it was originally when it became independent in 1991, by a government led by an incompetent President egged on by Western nations (mainly the United States) that were only interested in harvesting Ukrainian resources for their own elites. The greed, stupidity and short-sightedness of the West, in expanding NATO into eastern Europe right up to Russia’s western borders (despite having promised Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s / early 1990s that NATO would not expand any farther into central and eastern Europe after the reunification of East and West Germany) and encouraging neo-Nazi infiltration in Ukraine’s government and security agencies, at the cost of stability and even the lives of thousands in eastern Ukraine, have been on full display over the past three decades.

Before he began living in Ukraine, Gonzalo Lira had been a film-maker and writer (with three novels to his name) in the United States and Chile. He began publishing economic analyses in 2010 and contributed the same to other blogs such as Naked Capitalism. By 2017 he was active on social media under the monicker Coach Red Pill. Lira is obviously a highly restless and curious character, not always careful or conscientious as demonstrated by his dubious collaboration with Australian economist Steve Keen, and his chameleon past and mercurial ways have put him in the right spot at the right time to finally make his reputation.