How desperate Putin has just three moves left against Ukraine… and is running out of time: War expert JUSTIN BRONK says Russian ruler is in a ‘dangerous position’ but his BIGGEST difficulty is ‘selling his disastrous war as a victory to his own people’
By Justin Bronk For Mailonline
Published: 07:04 EDT, 17 March 2022 | Updated: 08:33 EDT, 17 March 2022
Ukraine has to sustain the ability of its forces to continue fighting effectively and counterattacking to regain lost territory if it is to hold out against the Russians, military expert JUSTIN BRONK writes on MailOnline today.
President Volodymyr Zelensky’s troops are mobilising new Ukrainian forces in the west with modern weapons provided by Western countries and these could be sent to reinforce Odessa or Kyiv rapidly if needed.
Mr Bronk, a leading military expert in airpower and technology, added that Ukraine must sustain morale of its troops and citizens and ensure Western military and other assistance continues to flow into the country.
He added that Russian forces are in a ‘dangerous position’ which is likely to deteriorate in the coming weeks without a major pause in fighting – meaning that it is vital that the Ukrainians continue to battle hard.
In contrast, Mr Bronk said the Russians are likely to attempt three options – one of them being driving northwards from Melitopol towards Dnipro to meet with a thrust southward from Kharkiv at the same time.
The second is that the Russians will continue bombardments of Mariupol, Kharkiv and other smaller cities – while the third is that they will carry on attempting to encircle and bypass Mkyolaiv in the south.
He also said parts of Ukraine are ‘now beyond Russia’s capacity to influence or “regain” forever’, adding: ‘Putin now needs his forces to achieve something he can sell to his own people as a victory worth these huge costs.’
Here is the full analysis by Mr Bronk, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London:
Rather than publish excerpts I decided to print the entire articled because, “Ilya Kaminsky (@ilya_poet) is the author of “Dancing in Odessa” and “Deaf Republic.” Born in the Soviet Union, he lives in Atlanta, where he teaches at Georgia Tech.
Poems in a Time of Crisis
March 13, 2022
By Ilya Kaminsky
Mr. Kaminsky is a Ukrainian American poet and the author of “Dancing in Odessa” and “Deaf Republic.”
Two weeks into the war, the Russians are still menacing my birth city, Odessa, in southwestern Ukraine. It sits on high bluffs above the Black Sea, its famous steps leading from the water to a square.
I don’t want to imagine soldiers chasing civilians through my city. Some part of my brain turns it into a farce, based on something I remember from my own childhood: In 1984, in a village just outside Odessa, I’m a 7-year-old deaf boy running in the government’s corn field. Behind me, waving his arms, runs a policeman. My grandmother, in her 60s, sprints in front of me.
We are stealing corn from the government, my grandmother and I. We get away, and we don’t stop at corn. A different day, Grandmother hauls me up onto the roof of the state farm so my long arms can reach into the branches of the plum trees. Her lips say, “Pick only the ripest.” She makes jam. Years later, I read the Russian poet Inna Kabysh: “Whoever is making a jam in Russia / knows there is no way out.”
Now I spend most of every day online, in America, trying to find ways out for Ukrainian poets and translators. Many literary organizations are willing to open their doors, bring in refugees, but unlike my grandmother and me, lots of Ukrainians writers don’t want to leave. They want their freedoms. They want their own languages — Ukrainian and Russian — in their own streets. I understand. My Jewish family keeps running from Odessa — and then returning.
Since the war began, I have received emails from journalists asking me to explain my poem “We Lived Happily During the War,” which went viral on the day Vladimir Putin’s troops began bombing my birth country. The poem was published on Poetry International in 2013, the same year the Maidan protests began in Ukraine. Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s president at the time, was trying to lean closer to Putin and crush protests. Ukrainians rejected him; Putin stole Crimea; and the war in Donbas began.
“We lived happily during the war,” the poem begins, “and when they bombed other people’s houses, we / protested / but not enough, we opposed them but not / enough.” As I was writing the poem, my adopted country, the United States, was in the middle of its own “freedom” campaigns.
How are Putin’s bombardments of Kyiv different from George W. Bush’s bombardments of Baghdad? Both invasions used false premises: imaginary weapons of mass destruction in Bush’s case, and imaginary protection of the Russian language, among other justifications, in Putin’s. Odessa is a largely Russian-speaking city and Putin is sending troops to bombard Russian speakers — that is how he “protects” the Russian language.
“I woke up because of explosions,” my cousin Petya emailed me recently. “They were bombing the beach. Who do they think they’ll hit? This isn’t vacation season!” His jokes are typical of Odessa, a city of good humor, where April 1 is one of the most important holidays.
When I think of Russian troops arriving at the bay, I imagine them in their heavy gear, trying to huff and puff up the stairs, while Ukrainians throw Molotov cocktails and stones. My grandfathers fought the German tanks on tractors. This war feels like something out of a movie or a poem — but it is real. The city trembles.
“And when they bombed other people’s houses,” the poem goes. Who remembers the blitz of Grozny, Chechnya’s capital city, now? American politicians shouted for a bit. Then they forgot. It is lucrative to forget. The oil companies like doing business with Putin. “In the street of money in the city of money in the country of money,” the poem says, “our great country of money.”
And yet on the first day of March, over 800 people gathered for a Zoom poetry reading bringing together Ukrainian and American poets. It was one of the largest poetry readings I have witnessed. Why did so many turn to poetry in this time of crisis?
While we read poems, the 40-mile Russian military convoy threatened north of Kyiv. The West watched as young civilians took up guns, sand bags, Molotov cocktails. It’s not an especially large country, only 44 million people. There’s no one to fight for us but us.
“The West is watching us,” a friend writes. “This is their reality TV war, they are curious to see whether we will go on living, or die.”
Another friend emails: “We saw fighter aircraft, helicopters and Russian paratroopers from our window. But we walked for miles.” He tells me that they’re safe now: His wife is in Poland and he’s in Ukraine. He sends photos of the city where they lived.
A different day, a friend from Kyiv writes: “Am in Bukovina, took 2 dogs and 1 cat with me, Sophie’s choice, left 3 cats behind, being cared for by a neighbor.” It’s unbearable, she tells me. She is 12 miles from the Romanian border. Eventually, she crosses with only one dog.
An Odessa friend contacts me to say: “I’ve seen today 10-km queue in Palanca and approx 500-600 people that were walking by feet. Mamas with kids and it’s snowing and some kids crying, others have serious men’s eyes.”
Another friend, who remains in Odessa, tell me he just got back from the store: “People are grabbing any food they can find. I’m trying to do art. Read out loud. To distract myself. Try to read between the lines.”
I ask how I can help. Finally, an older friend, a lifelong journalist, writes back: “Putins come and go. If you want to help, send us some poems and essays. We are putting together a literary magazine.”
appeared in the mailbox. Yakov Vilner: First Ukrainian Chess Champion and First USSR Chess Composition Champion,
is the follow up to the aforementioned book.
Tkrachenko writes in the introduction to the latter book, “I found clear evidence that the versions that Alekhine was saved by important Soviet functionaries were incorrect. Historical facts and memoirs pointed to the undoubted fact that his salvation was down to the modest Jewish lad Yakov Vilner, who at the time the grandmaster was arrested was working as a clerk in the Odessa revolutionary tribunal.
Naturally, I wanted to find out more about this figure. However, it transpired that there was little ready information about Vilner. Even his date of birth was unknown. Well, I then spent eight years researching him until the curtain of mysteriousness finally fell! I now saw a vivid and gifted personality who had the “luck” to live in such turbulent times.
Moreover, I collected so much material that on the advice of historians among my friends I decided to split it into two books, with the material on Alexander Alekhine’s three trips to Odessa compiled as a separate book (subsequently published later in 2016 in Russian and in 2018 in English, as Alekhine’s Odessa Secrets: Chess, War and Revolution, which was short-listed for the 2018 English Chess Federation Book of the Year).
The book you are now reading was originally intended as a prelude to the book on Alekhine and is devoted to the first Ukrainian Chess Champion, first USSR Chess Composition Champion and first Odessa Master Yakov Semionovich Vilner, who in 1919 managed to save Alekhine from death and thereby cange the courst of chess history.”
Before reading the two books by Sergei Tkachenko what I knew about Ukraine could be summed up in the sentence, “Ukraine was the breadbasket of the USSR.” Because of the attempt of the Commander in Thief of the DisUnited States of America, Donald John (has any POTUS ever had a better fitting middle name?) Trumpster to gain another term as POTUS by strong arming the young President of Ukraine that country has been in the news often this year. In an attempt to learn more about Ukraine I recently watched two documentaries, Ukraine on Fire, and Revealing Ukraine. Oliver Stone
is the Executive Producer, which was all I needed to know to watch. My knowledge of Ukraine was increased exponentially by watching the films, which were viewed between reading the two aforementioned books.
From a historical perspective I enjoyed the book, yet wondered how many others would be interested in what was happening in Chess a century ago. The first book was about a former World Chess Champion with a backdrop of radical political change containing firing squads for those with a different political thought. Firing squads feature in the Vilner book but the drama is lacking. Yakov Vilner was obviously a fine Chess player, but unfortunately, his health was sometimes bad because he had asthma. Thus, his Chess results were rather erratic. The same can be said about the Chess games. For example, the second game, versus Boris Koyalovich, features 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 f6? I kid you not. This is the kind of move Chess teachers of children often encounter. The author writes, “One of the weakest ways to defend the Spanish. Koyalovich clearly chooses it to avoid the well-known variations.” I’ll say! This game was played during the Tournament of Kislovodsk in 1917.
When healthy Yakov Vilner was the best player in Odessa, and Ukraine. He was good enough to finish in a three way tie for sixth place in the eighteen player 3rd tournament Championship of the USSR in 1924 played in Moscow in August/September.
Some of the games are interesting and the annotations are excellent. For example, consider this game from the 4th USSR Championship played in Leningrad 1925:
The author writes, “A game of fireworks! Interestingly, almost all of white’s moves were consistent with Rybka’s first line. In our days that might have led to allegations of cheating!” This is a sad indictment of modern Chess. Spurious allegations by Chess.com, for example, have forced former online players to go elsewhere. An example can be found at GM Kevin’s Spraggett’s wonderful blog with the post, Blogger’s Reputation Intentionally Smeared? (https://www.spraggettonchess.com/chesscom-caught-cheating/) Reading the article caused me to do some checking around and one of the things learned was that one local youngster was given the boot from chess.com for allegedly “boosting.” The youngster was accused of creating false accounts to play in order to beat them and “boost” his rating. The youngster did no such thing, yet had no recourse other than to leave chess.com and play at one of the other, more reputable, websites. How many players have been falsely accused by chess.com ?
Another game from the same tournament attests to the strength of Vilner.
The annotations to both games were provided by Yakov Vilner. The author writes, “Naturally, I wanted to find out more about this figure. However, it transpired that there was little ready information about Vilner. Even his date of birth was unknown. Well, I then spent eight years researching him until the curtain of mysteriousness finally fell! I now saw a vivid and gifted personality who had the “luck” to live in such turbulent times.”
Vilner was very ill for a time and the title of one chapter is, How To Combine Treatment With Playing. Then came the Odessa Championship tournament of 1927.
“At first, everything went to plan. On 12 April the 12 best players of Odessa began their battle for the city championship. After round 4 Vilner headed the field with a perfect score. But then his illness returned. The tournament committee managed to postpone several of Vilner’s games so that he could complete the tournament. His short rest brought dividends. After round 8 Yakov Semionovich was still a point ahead of Sergei Ballodit and 1.5 ahead of Dmitry Russo. Vilner then had to play each of them in the final rounds. Such intrigue would have been hard to make up! A reporter hiding behind the initials AMO shared his observations in the newspaper Odessa Izvestia. The column was entitled Before the end and stated:
“Final games. Vilner-Ballodit. Two stubborn “wolf-dogs”. They will battle to the end, to the final pawn. They both possess deep theoretical preparation and have mastered the complex meandering of combinational play. Who will come out on top? So they begin. We see agile bishops slipping out. Knights crawling over the heads of pawns. Carefully feeling out the paths, the queen emerges.
A schematic position has already appeared. Vilner “presses”. With an apparently strong front, Vilner strides towards a difficult but possible victory. Vilner analyzes dozens of variations. He thinks ahrd. But the clock isn’t sleeping. Maestro, time is running out. The maestro makes his move. Then another and another. Time is running out. He needs to catch up.
Well, his opponent is “time-rich”, and coldly calculating. time-trouble disrupts the accuracy of the plan. “Enemy” pieces ahve already broken through. One blunder and it’s death. A crush is close… The game cannot be saved. Destruction…”
This reminded me of the battles between IM Boris Kogan and LM Klaus Pohl, the German Shepard, ‘back in the day’. Boris usually took the measure of Klaus, but occasionally the Krazy Kraut would do the measuring. Ballodit played second fiddle to Vilner, but took over first position in this particular tournament.
Also found is this:
“In order to popularize chess, two rounds were played at factories in the city: at the jute factory and the leather goods factory. “Chess to the masses”, as the slogan went! But of course sharp games are the best adverts for chess.” (The USSR was as full of slogans as it was full of excrement)
Vilner finished near the bottom of the Fifth championship of the USSR in 1927, but did inflict a defeat upon future World champion Botvinnik in the tournament.
“He became recognized as a top chess player in 1913 after winning the All-Russian amateurs tournament with a score of 6.5 out of 7! He edited the chess column of the newspaper Kievan Thought (Kievskaya Mysl) (1914). Graduated from the Law Faculty of the Stl Vladimir Kiev University. Fought in WWI. Served in the cavalry and was injured. A Knight of the Order of St. George. Died in the Civil War. According to one version, he served in Kiev as an investigator of the military-revolutionary tribunal and was shot by a Denikin forces’ firing squad after the latter captured the city. Another version has that Evenson actually signed up as a volunteer for Denikin’s white army and was killed in unclear circumstances. Alekhine and Capablanca considered Evenson to be one of the most talented chess players of his time.
The 6th Championship of the USSR was held in Odessa from September, 2-20, 1929. Because of the large number of participants it came to be thought of as “Odessa roulette”. There were so many players because the Communists in charge wanted to welcome “the masses.”
“A record number of players took part – 36! Of these, 14 were masters and 22 were first category players. How were such a large number of players to be paired off? Oddly enough, the tournament had no clear regulations. It was all decided on an ad hoc basis. At the opening, the organizing committee proposed two options for holding the tournament to the players: either six groups each with six players and one game per day, or four groups each with nine players and three games every two days. The majority voted for the second option, which was later subject to harsh criticism… by the very same players. That’s democracy for you!”
The infamous communist apparatchik, Nikolai Krylenko,
“The outcome of the USSR championship has given rise to a number of critical articles in our periodical publications, most of which lack sufficient objectivity.”
Objectivity being whatever Lenin or Stalin said…
“Many secrets of the championship remained backstage. The biggest one was Izmailov’s withdrawal from the final. The master’s son recalled:
This championship could well have become Izmailov’s hour in the sun. He was only 23, he was gaining ground and his game was blossoming, but alas, my father didn’t play in the final. Why? I attempted to establish this but failed to do so. In Chess List Duz-Khotimirsky wrote about “the need to take university exams”. Kan in 64 writes that Izmailov withdrew from the tournament at his own volition. Pravada and Izvestiia referred to illness, while Komsomolskaya Pravda cited exhaustion. Half a century later, recalling this episode, my mother told me that in the mid 1930’s she and my father held a conversation on this subject (they didn’t yet know each other in 1929), and he confirmed that he was healthy and ready to continue the battle, but he was forced to leave…
So who forced Izmailov to leave Odessa? Whom was this talented chess player impeding? Is fecit cui prodest (“it was done by the person for whom it was advantageous”). Seven years after the Odessa tournament ended, Piotr Izmailov was arrested by the NKVD and accused of “Trotskyist-Fascist activity”. He was eventually sentenced to the firing squad on 21 April 1937 and executed the next day.”
As for the protagonist, “At the end of October 1930, Vilner moved to live in Leningrad. Is it not surprising that a person suffering from serious asthma suddenly abandons the warm Odessa climate with its curative sea air in favor of the rainy climate of Northern Palmyra? I consulted with doctors specializing in heart and respiratory illnesses what such a change of environment could bring. They told me that it would mean serious stress on the body and was quite a suicidal step! So why did Vilner, despite his illness, prefer Leningrad? Had he planned this change of residence in advance?”
“At the end of the 1920s the political climate in Odessa worsened, as it did throughout the country. The ideological war against Trotsky and his supporters
reached an apex by the beginning of 1929. At the end of January, the former Minister for War and Naval Matters was secretly transported along with his family from exile in Almaty to Odessa. It was here that the ferry with the symbolic name Illych awaited him. On the night before 11 February the ferry set course for Constantinople accompanied by an icebreaker and government officials, and the next day Trotsky reached Turkey. With Trotsky’s expulsion, the USSR intensified its purges of his supporters and mentors. Christian Rakovsky, the protector of Alexander Alekhine and one of the leaders of Soviet power in Ukraine, was cruelly punished. He had been expelled from the party back in 1927 and then sent to internal exile in Barnaul in 1929. His party membership card was returned to him in 1935 and he was even entrusted to head the All-Union Red Cross society, but not for long. He was arrested in 1937, sentenced to 20 years in jail, and then shot at the start of the war. Vilner also suffered during the battle against Trotskyism.”
It seems Vilner chose the wrong side…
“Vilner didn’t quite live to the age of Christ – he was granted less than 32 years on this earth. Yakov Rokhlin published an obituary on the Odessite in the June edition of Chess List (1931): “Soviet chess players have endured a heavy loss. Master Yakov Semionovich Vilner died on 29 June at &pm in Leningrad after a lengthy illness…”
The book is replete with many interesting Chess games and annotations. In addition, it contains ninety five problems and studies, and if you are into that kind of thing this book is simply de rigeur.
After an email discussion with Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam,
editor of New In Chess magazine, I have decided to forgo the usual star system and grade the way teachers still grade papers, even if they are written in digits now, with A+ being the top of the line and “F” as in “failure” as the bottom. This book deserves the grade “A”.