Russia’s Top Cannoneer Killed in Ukraine

Corporal Bato Basanov, a tank gunner in a T-72 was reportedly killed in Ukraine recently. He was 25.

Bato Basanov was Russia’s top gunner on the Russian tank crew that won the annual Tank Biathlon event in Alabino tank proving grounds outside Moscow in 2021.  The Tank Biathlon is part of the International Military Games hosted by Russia each year. As many as 41 countries send military teams to various events.

Since 2014, a Russian tank team has won the gold champion award every year.  Service members in those 41 countries the Russians beat every year, have to be looking at the dismal performance of the Russian army in Ukraine and wondering, “How good are we, if the Gold Champion Russia is taking a shelacking like this?”

Basanov was from Buryatia, a sparsely populated republic in Eastern Russia on the border of Mongolia. Buryatia is a federal subject of Russia. Basanov was a gunner in the first company of a tank battalion in the 37th Separate Guards Motorised Rifle Brigade. This unit is stationed in the Eastern Military District which is in Siberia.  This confirms to us that the Russians are having to strip fresh units from places as far away as the border with Mongolia to replace their losses in men and equipment in the Ukraine war

It took seven weeks for his remains to be returned to his family. If his death was at all similar to the deaths of the average Russian tank gunner in this war, there wasn’t much to send home.

In case you don’t know by now, Russian tank designers since the 1950s have placed ready ammunition for the main gun inside the tank turret.  For those tanks with autoloading cannons,(which eliminated the Loader position in the crew) the remaining three crewmen are sitting on top or in front of a carrousel-type magazine with 22 rounds of tank ammunition in it.  When hit, by an anti-tank guided missile or another tank round, they tend to “cook-off” the 22 rounds in storage.  The result is an incinerated crew blasted to bits and the tank’s turret being blown off the chassis and landing as far as 100 feet away.


Did Ukraine Turn the May 9th Victory Parade in Moscow into a No-Fly Zone?

Russia had planned a flyover of various military jets during its annual May 9th Victory parade over Moscow.  It’s “Doomsday” plane, an Illushin IL-80 transport converted into an airborne nuclear command ship was slated to make a rare appearance.

Then all flights were cancelled abruptly citing bad weather over Moscow. Pictures of the even show cloudy skies but certainly not the low cloud soup that should cancel a flight demo like this one.

Media speculation on the reasons for the cancellation ran the gammut of the the planes of the Russian air force all being away fighting in Ukraine to mechancal breakdowns.  All the planes breaking down at once is implausible even for the Russian air force and if all their planes are over in Ukraine fighting, please show us where they could be?  They sure aren’t showing up in any numbers in the daily reports of ari activity and strikes that we are seeing.

Here’s another curious thing about the cancellation.  Russia knows what the weather over Moscow is like. For decades, the Russians have engaged in extensive and expensive cloud-seeding operations to assure good clear skies for these events.  Dozens of aircraft flying around Moscow in rings 30 to 60 miles in the days and hourse before the parade dumping chemicals like Silver Iodide to disperse the clouds.

Maybe this year, the Russians couldn’t afford it?

There is another plausible explanation for why the Kremlin cancelled the low flight of all these aircraft so suddenly.

If Ukraine let it slip out that had smuggled several Stinger missiles into the hands of Ukrainains living in Moscow and were planning to bring down one of these planes during the parade, that would get the flight cancelled.  It’s just too big a propaganda event to take any chances with.

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Snake Island before the war. It is now just pockmarked rubble offering little in the way of cover and concealment to the Russian troops trying to hold the island

Snake Island Grind

We noted a few days ago that Ukraine seems to have launched a sea control offensive in the Black Sea kicking off with the sinking of the Cruiser Moskva last month. Since that time, Ukraine also claims to have hit the Russian Frigate Makarov(We are seeing some indications this may not be true or the damage minimal) while it also strikes at Russian fast patrol boats, landing craft and other vessels in the waters off its coast.

Snake Island was occupied by the Russians early in the conflict and was the scene of the famous refusal of its small garrison to surrender, telling the ill-fated Moskva to “Go f*** yourselves.”  Contact with the garrison was lost and Ukraine reported that they had been wiped out to the last man.  Several days later, the Russians released video of the garrison being offloaded at Sevastopol alive and apparently well.

Since that time Russia has maintained its presence on the island for two reasons. One to prevent it being used as a base for missiles fired at Russian ships and to use it as their own base to shoot missiles at Ukraine and to monitor the air and sea around with with mobile air and surface search radar.

Recently, Ukraine has been hitting the island with precision strikes.  After taking down the Moskva which represented the major anti-air defence asset in those waters, Ukrainian drones were free to begin attacking Snake island and its now Russian garrison. Ukraine knocked out the air defence missile system on the island and then sank a landing craft on the beach at the moment it tried to unload a new mobile surface to air missile system to replace it, destroying both.  A few days ago it also clobbered a Russian helicopter seconds after landing and disgorging approximately 14 troops. It has also killed at least two fast patrol boats near the island. In the last couple of days, Ukrainain air force Mig-29s bombed the island at low level in a demonstration that Russia had lost control over the airspace and sea area near the island.

We don’t think Ukraine wants Snake Island back so much as they want to use it to continue to grind down Russian forces.  If Ukraine did make a helicopter assault with troops it would certainly be a morale booster for the country, but then they would have to defend it from Russian attacks and they lack the navy and air assets to do so.  Given the stubborn reluctance of the Russians to ever give anything back once they have taken it(Like Ukraine itself?) Ukraine seems to be willing to exploit this stubbornness to by waiting for the Russians to attempt to reinforce the garrison and then destroy whatever they try to land.  In the end, Snake Island could end up being the Russian Mariupol, with its troops cut off, low on ammunition and starving.  Except Ukraine doesn’t have to have to assault it and instead could starve it into submission while inflicting even more casualties on the Russians in men, material, helicopters, ships and boats.

That may be the greatest value of the island to Ukraine right now.