At some time most of us have idled away our boredom trying to spot the 10 differences in two drawings in magazines that lie around. I have reprised a SMAC from one year ago – #31: Hollow Victory Day Parade. Apart from the naughty snails who just do their own thing, the eagle-eyed, well in fact even the myopic, will spot two major differences, namely that the tanks are now T-55s and the presence of a chef as Putin’s right-hand man. Russia celebrates the victory against the Nazis on May 9 each year. These have always been grandiose affairs, as befitting dictatorships, with serried ranks of neatly starched soldiers and endless columns of military hardware grinding over the Red Square cobbles to cow the proletariat while engendering (if I’m allowed to use that word) militaristic fervour and scaring its enemies.
Last year was quite muted contrary to expectations. Their invasion of Ukraine had not gone according to plan. In fact, it was disastrous. In the two and a half months up to the Victory Day Parade, Russia had lost over 1000 tanks and 2500 APCs (armoured personnel carriers) and their military cupboard was looking a bit bare. That was why I portrayed the parading T-72 tanks as mere stage props trundling past.
Things have just got worse. They were humiliated first in the north east when their front collapsed and a few months later when they were ignominiously forced back across the Dnieper River in the Kherson region. In the 439 days of ‘special operations’, Russia has now suffered losses of more than 3600 tanks and 7000 APCs, most spectacularly blown to smithereens. Their war chest is looking decidedly bare by now and, first T-65s and more recently, T-55 tanks have been photographed being railroaded to the west. The latter was Russia’s first post WW II design and production terminated in 1958. Talk about scraping the bottom of the barrel.
The other difference is Putin’s Chef, Yevgeny Prigozhin, restauranteur and oligarch, or is it oleaginous orc*. He wormed his way into the inner bowels of Putin’s cabal and created the Wagner Group which essentially is Putin’s private army. They operate beyond the law and are used externally to do Putin’s wet work. With his special operation going awry, Putin called on him to bolster his army. The head chef scraped the bottom of the barrel and recruited rapists and murderers from the Gulags who were promised freedom if they survived 6 months. Good odds they thought. With not enough time to train them properly and employing suicidal charges that made the Japanese banzai attacks in WW II seem quite reasonable, they were served up to the Ukrainians rare, very rare. The Ukrainians promptly returned them well done, if not crispy, with the message that they did not cut the mustard.
* The Ukrainians refer to the Russians as orcs. Orcs are humanoid monsters created by J. R. R. Tolkien.