Tuesday, 1st March, 2022

[Day 715]

Today we had to get up fairly early and get ourselves going because it was the day scheduled for our house alarm system to receive its annual maintenance. We always make sure that this is done more or less on schedule because on our house insurance policy document, we have to tick a box to say that our alarm system had been subject to an annual service. If we ever had to make a claim, we would not wish for it to be denied on the basis that we had made a false statement in our house insurance documentation. This whole procedure only took about 30 minutes or so and after it was all done, Meg and I set off for the park as it was quite a fine day. The sky was fairly clear when we started out and there was a coolish wind which was not sufficient to deter us from making a journey on foot. On our way down, we chatted with our Italian friend along the Kidderminster Road and then picked up our newspaper and made for the park. There was quite a gaggle of people and their dogs as we were approaching our favourite bench- to be honest, I suspect that the dogs are inclined to engage in greeting each other, after which the owners have little choice but to join in. We had our coffee and comestibles but did not linger too long because we knew that we needed to get back in time for me to assemble my Pilates kit and leave the house in plenty of time for a leisurely type walk down into town. At the same time, I relieved an ATM of some of its spare cash and proceed to my class, after which it was home and then a somewhat belated lunch. Today, as we often do on a Tuesday, we had some haddock fishcakes which I have to say were delicious and we serve them, as time is limited, with one of those special packs of microwavable veg that cook in about a couple of minutes.

The news from the Ukraine is as grim as you might expect. What is dominating the visuals is the sight of a Russian convey some 40 miles in length. The column is made up of armoured vehicles, tanks, towed artillery and other logistical vehicles and is believed to be around 17 miles from Kyiv. Of course, if the Ukrainians had an airforce or ballistic missiles of any real clout then it could have tried to ‘take out’ some of these convoy of vehicles. It looks as though the Russians intend to completely encircle Kyiv and then proceed with tactics that combine both elements of a mediaeval siege but which also might attempt to tighten the noose. But some military analysts on Sky News are reporting that Putin might be planning two absolute massive strikes on both Kyiv and the second city of Kharkiv. The web is full of contributions sufficient to make us all ‘armchair generals’. There are two interesting things I have read though, just today. The first is from an an urban warfare expert has said Ukrainians ‘have all the power’ and a ‘real possibility to win’ as he described how untrained civilians could beat back Russian forces. Retired Major John Spencer, chair of urban warfare studies at West Point’s Modern War Institute, urged civilians to ‘keep resisting’ as the battle to control Kyiv intensifies. He told Sky News ‘the challenges are only going to increase’ now that Ukrainians have ‘successfully hurt the Russian army’. The second amazing bit of web advice is how to engage the local population in modern urban warfare. For example, there is advice how to set up road blocks in such a way that your own vehicles can quickly navigate them but invading forces have to circumnavigate a route full pf ‘S’-bends between tall buildings in such a way that individual vehicles can be attacked with molotive cocktails and/or small arms fire. Whether all of this is useful advice or not, I cannot say but it does seem to be true that an army of invasion is one thing but an army of occupation needs to be some 5-10 times larger. The Ukrainians are already arguing that the Russian casualties are already at the level of 5½ thousand. In time, the body bags will start to come back to Russia but, of course, they will probably be brought back with the minimum of publicity. It is said by some informed insiders that Putin’s greatest fear is the publicity which may (or may not) surround the repatriated body bags as a visible reminder of the price that Russia is paying. The Americans realised that the sight of body bags coming home helped swing public opinion against the war in Vietnam. The Presidents Bush (father and son) ‘solved’ this problem by not allowing the filming of dead American soldiers in their body bags in 1991 and again in 2003.