This is a crosspost from my Patreon. Original article found here.
This is the follow on analysis on the supposed "Irpin Foreign Legion" internal AAR document. I covered the first page of this two page document in a previous post. As I stated in that post, I cannot comment as to the authenticity of this paper, and this analysis is being done off of the assumption that the document is legitimate. As always, be critical of everything you come across, however I feel that there is much to glean from this document. The second page is posted below:
The second page continues right where the first left off, in the middle of the "FOREIGN LEGION" section. Only two points remained on this page, #7 and #8. Point #7 continues the trend of complaining on unreliable or aberrant volunteers, but in this case it seems a bit more sinister. After two weeks of a volunteer being embedded within the unit, their ID was taken away and they were detained by SBU (the Ukrainian analogue to a federal law enforcement and counter-espionage agency). The person in question was expedited to the rear (Lviv in this case) and the assumption is that they will not be serving in any capacity. This is a sincere issue with any ad hoc volunteer brigade; the necessity to push bodies towards the front means that there is a delayed or otherwise lacking interview and vetting process. I am sure this is what happened here, where information on this person may not have been fully refined until a few days after they were already sent. This is a significant intelligence issue, however I cannot fault the Ukrainian forces for falling into this. The Ukrainians clearly need as many men on the front as possible. Who knows what all may have been passed along over those two weeks, and mitigating an alleged infiltrator's damage is no small feat. In my opinion, yet another concern with the unclear leadership structure complained about in the first page; a strong leadership culture/chain of command could have segregated or otherwise removed the access to vital information this individual may have been privvy to. Point #8 is succinct: "No contracts were signed". I am under the impression that they removed the formality of this, and that volunteers were expected to stick around until the conflict was over. I don't blame them for not pushing the contract, it gives a final "out" for any volunteer on the fence, although I wouldn't be surprised if most would have signed it regardless. There is a revisit to Russian military tactics employed on the front, another section devoted to it. This is more of a step by step on the Russian advance strategy, to many familiar with Russian doctrine this seems par for the course. The Russian forces prep the area to assault with artillery or indirect fires, and once satisfied with the salvo's effect they push thru with a mechanized or infantry assault. This is by and large accepted as adhering to doctrine, the Russian military is very artillery heavy. The Ukrainians are able to counter the post-artillery assaults with anti-tank teams and repelling the infantry is allegedly done once a casualty is dealt to the Russian infantry. For the former statement, I am sure this is true: the front line is saturated with modern anti-tank weapons and the Ukrainians seem keen on using them (refer to Pt. 1 for more info on this). Especially considering the proliferation of modern anti-tank weapons specifically designed to counter Russian vehicles and armor, such as the British NLAW. Where I begin to have some doubts is confronting the idea that the Russian infantry are quick to break contact once engaged. I am sure the conscript units may do this, but there is a problem in touting ideas such as this. If you push the idea that Russians retreat at every step, you may set up a false sense of security within the Ukrainian volunteer lines. While conscripts very well may cut and run, that is not to say that Russia's "elite" units like the VDV or GRU units will retreat once under fire. Regardless, this could be a propaganda statement or analysis embedded within the document, at best it is a true statement based off of the AARs coming from the front, at worst it is a shallow attempt to remove any doubts among those the paper circulates through not based entirely in truth. Ultimately, I am of the opinion that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The next point within that section states that the Russian failed assaults are followed by more artillery barrages, as many as three a day. It does make me wonder whether the assaults are feints meant to expose active Ukrainian fighting positions and trenches. Pragmatically, why send men to die when they can get a gauge on where the defenders are set, break contact, and call for fire on those confirmed enemy positions? It is something I would do, however there are not many reports of a second "true" follow on assault. The feint hypothesis could be dead in the water if the Russian forces never undertake an immediate follow on assault. Artillery is said to be heavier at night, I suspect this is due to a mixture of poor light discipline from the Night Vision Device deficient volunteer units and Russian employment of their own night vision and image intensification equipment. A forward observer needs only to observe the glow of a cigarette from a foxhole through his night vision to know that there is an occupied position there. The following point is pretty interesting, #5 touts that the Russians have effective sniper positions within tall structures. I am not surprised by sniper employment, and would not be surprised if those sniper units were pulling double duty as forward observers to call for artillery fire. It is what I would do, and it highlights the adage that "a sniper's best weapon is his radio". Precision high magnification optics, small footprint, and relative low cost makes these sniper positions valuable to fix and potentially eliminate defensive positions. The Ukrainian volunteer units would be wise to figure out a counter to those snipers, be it a change in tactics to use direct fire explosive weapons against suspected sniper positions or planning assaults by helicopter or infantry forces. This may be a pipe dream for them, however, considering the status of some of the front lines. The section goes on to reiterate the threat of Russian AFVs using radio jammers to impede Ukrainian communications. However the last point is regarding Russian helicopters, the accepted SOP upon encountering one is to hide. Earlier in the document, Stinger missiles are mentioned as being inadequate against drones. Why are they not mentioned as a counter to helicopter assaults? I am making massive assumptions here, but I suspect one of two things:
Stingers (along with other MANPADS) are in short supply and too valuable to use on anything except a sure-fire kill.
The Stingers/MANPADS may be inadequate against some of the Russian helicopter countermeasures and tactics.
I suspect the former is more correct than the latter, there has been some footage of Mi35 and Ka52 helicopters being shot down by Ukrainian forces. Whether or not this is by dedicated ADA units or shoulder fired systems was unknown, but the footage of these helicopters being shot down has been waning as the conflict continues. I am not sure if this is due to Russian losses or the lack of AA systems.
The document continues to a section titled "FRONT", assuredly referring to the current men occupying the front line. It states that the unit spent two weeks at the front, in my opinion a good amount of time considering the situation. Constant artillery barrages and rotary/fixed wing air attacks will erode the morale and fighting aptitude of a unit, keeping rotations short ensures the men get a respite from what sounds like constant bombardment. The volunteer force sent to the front is then described, around 30-50 British/American men, realistically closer to 30 than 50 but a concise number is never given. Where a concise number is given is in the amount of deserters: nine men deserted after the first night artillery barrage. No reason to doubt this, I wonder if the "30-50" number is before or after those nine fled? The final point for this section describes the nature of the front: trench warfare. The trenches are anywhere from 1-2m deep, segmented, and located within forests and not out in the open. This is a good choice, the forests provide some occlusion from direct aerial observation and probably extend far enough to make concealed routes in and out of the trenches. As time goes on, the trenches may begun to connect and refine (so long as a Russian or Separatist assault is not successful in taking them), setting up the more typical "zig-zag" design that we have seen historically. The trench warfare is no surprise, a result of constant bombardment and lack of a defined counterattack force to retake territory from the Russian forces.
A section is devoted to describing the Ukrainian disposition. This section has some self reflection by the writer of the document: while the first point describes the bravery and steadfast nature of the Ukrainian military, the second point questions their ability to plan any sort of attack. Anything smaller than a battalion seems doable, but a larger "strategic" push seems untenable. I wonder how time may affect this; as time goes on NATO advisors may train up a better officer corps. Likewise, as time goes on the Russians may attrit more and more forces and a legitimate counterattack plan becomes difficult to form and execute. Logistics are brought up again, with ammo "usually" being available. As I mentioned in Part 1, with uniforms being scarce to issue, ammunition might be next to get strained. A note is given on a nearby Georgian unit also being reliable, my experience with Georgian military units during my time in the US Army was less than stellar, so I have no idea what "brave and reliable" means.
The final section is simply titled "RUSSIANS". Only two points here, and out of everything in the document, these two are clearly in a negative light. The first point calls out the Russians for leaving their dead and wounded on the battlefield, with no attempts to recover bodies. I can believe this, the scale of this conflict will make casualty and cadaver recovery so difficult it will be placed on the backburner. I suspect the fluid nature of the lines in the earlier weeks of the fighting also led to this; Russians were better served by pushing forward and letting the support units handle casualty recovery, with the conscript units probably more worried about survival than casevac. The last point is very suspect, it claims that Russians are chopping people's feet off and are assumed to be torturing prisoners. While I can believe this a little more if referring to the Chechen units being sent to Ukraine (a quick internet search will show you some absolutely abhorrent videos), I am not sure that the bulk of Russian forces are committing atrocities like that. The brunt of this conflict's reporting is "he said-she said" calls to demonize the other side. Between accusations of war crimes to "denazification", there are so many cognitive and information blows being dealt that accurate reporting seems almost impossible. I do believe this volunteer unit has no plans to surrender, they probably fully believe this. But whether or not the mutilations are steeped in reality is another thing. A learning point from this is to always know that a conflict to this scale with this much media attention makes for a difficult search for the truth.
In conclusion, there is a ton to learn from even short bullet points in thus document. I have, to the best of my knowledge, analyzed what I read within what I know of this conflict and my own experience as a soldier and working with Eastern European militaries as OpFor. I believe that this document is a good "lessons learned" not just for a civilian preparing for Red Dawn, but for a military/police unit concerned with what a large scale conflict may entail. As always, feel free to comment or message me if you have any comments or questions.