The political leadership in Kyiv demanded an operation to "retake" the city of Horlivka. The answer came back in the form of a question: With what?
What would be the purpose of this assignment?
To end up with 100,000 women, children and pensioners on the ruins of the agglomeration, and bump into Yenakiyeve?
What political and military tasks can be solved in Horlivka that were not solved with the liberation of Kherson?
How exactly was the operation to be conducted after the fall of Bakhmut?
From the position of the enemy hovering over the "road of life in Bakhmut" near Chervone and on the bridgehead west of the canal and Kurdyumivka?
With Avdiyivka half-occupied by the enemy on its southern flank?
Leaving the positions north of Horlivka at the Svitlodarsk bulge and retreating 30 km to the west.
So just like that, in a single attack, they were to liberate a city of regional significance with 250,000 residents and an area half the size of Kyiv?
And that's why the main units, which are using Western equipment and were trained in Britain and Germany, struck at the Robotyne and the Vremivka bulge?
And what about the missile attacks on the port of Berdyansk and the bridges to Crimea?
And the Russians set up three defence lines in the south, not near Horlivka or Bakhmut, where they were continuously attacking, trying to gain a foothold behind the canal.
It looks like nonsense, not serious journalism.
The enemy's defence lines, the points of use of force, the attacks on the Black Sea Fleet and airfields in the south all point to the fact that the goal of the summer campaign was a corridor to Crimea.
Getting the ruins of Horlivka is not a strategic goal, but the corridor to Crimea, the Black Sea Fleet base and water are.
Three of the senior officials in charge of dealing with power supply told Shuster that blackouts would likely be more severe this winter, and the public reaction in Ukraine would not be as forgiving. "Last year people blamed the Russians," one of them says. "This time they'll blame us for not doing enough to prepare."
Officials who are able to comment all at once on spare parts and consumables, generation figures, and forecasts of enemy damage to steam, heat, and power production are not easy to find.
It is a great success for a journalist to name such sources if they agreed to be interviewed.
Unnamed sources can mean people who don't want to be named, or they can be the author's fantasy. This is how our world works.
What should they be afraid of talking to TIME?
People of this level, who have the latest reports about monthly generation and the remains of transformers, generators and arseholes in warehouses?
It's hard to imagine.
Other points, however, seem quite logical.
If you spent the whole summer laying tiles, speed bumps, inviting celebrities to celebrations and baking cakes for 100,000 hryvnyas while being a civil servant, you will take the flak from the media and society.
I don't see anything wrong with calling a spade a spade during a war.
If you didn't insulate, build alternative energy sources or decentralise heating, but instead were busy building bicycle paths, and then you had an accident at a thermal power plant like it happened in Cherkasy, you have a name to blame.
I would like them to take the flak.
Will it be worse than last year, when we had stocks to be able to repair the grids and generation facilities, and now everything will be repaired on the fly?
It is also possible, the war will show if there was a contingency plan.
Surrendering to have power supply is not a plan. When the Russians go further into Poland, since it was part of the Russian empire, attack the Baltic states or Finland, ATACMS will be flying in, the way they are flying to Luhansk and Storm Shadows to Crimea.
It will be no easy ride in the dark as it was in Belgrade in its time.
Zelenskyy feels betrayed by his Western allies. They have left him without the means to win the war, only the means to survive it.
The internal perception of Zelenskyy, who is understandably trying to exude confidence in victory to the whole country, can be quite different even on different days.
The society, as well as the leaders, should not buy tickets to concerts in Crimea and think about where we will evict the migrants from the Russian Federation from the peninsula before we get there.
But what's done is done.
We have received more aid than Ukraine has spent on the defence sector since 1991.
Seven years of MANPADS production, five years of ATGM production, Iris batteries that will go on combat duty in Germany in 2028, the US opened up the stockpile of shells from the Asian and Middle Eastern theatre of operations, and we received more M777 howitzers than India, the world's fifth largest economy, has ever localised. Its contract for 145 155-mm howitzers was signed in 2016 and was supposed to be implemented in 54 months, but the deadline has already been missed due to problems with the supply of Russian titanium.
NATO's total budget is $1.26 trillion. They have already allocated about 10% of it to us, but if we take into account all aspects of assistance, they have provided even more.
These are unprecedented figures.
Thousands of burned Russian tanks and the fleet which has fled to Novorossiysk offer ample proof.
Zelensky remains dead set against even a temporary truce.
It's not Zelenskyy who is against it, it's common sense that is against it.
After the ceasefire, Russia will send residents of Tokmak, Mariupol and Melitopol against Zaporizhzhya and Dnipro, having brainwashed them with TV and terror.
Just as it had sent residents of Donetsk to storm Mariupol and Melitopol before.
This is the kind of wars Russia is effective in: when it has been chewing on the enemy's leg like a crocodile for decades, sometimes reducing the degree of conflict, sometimes taking it up a notch.
As far as protracted conflicts are concerned, perhaps only Afghanistan was able to outplay the Russians in the long run. It has shown that no amount of hardship and deprivation will prevent them from killing Soviet soldiers.
The story of its collapse in the First World War can also count as an example.
The rest, up to the war with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth over Smolensk and the "eternal peace", is a classic long game.
So, we have a simple situation here: either we mobilise in the rear and inflict a serious defeat on Russia, and then receive guarantees from the West.
Or, hello, the second episode. Up to seven years almost guaranteed.
And this will be happening amid an outflow of those who were impressed by cakes, coats of arms and cleaning ponds during the war for survival, and reunification of refugee families abroad, where unemployment benefits are higher than our average salary.
If you replace Zelenskyy's name with any other, the conclusion will remain the same.
We cannot be sure that we will be integrated into the West at this stage without the occupied territories, that it will not be like Turkey's accession to the EU, and that we will not be abruptly reminded about human rights and corruption when the guns go silent.
An anonymous aide to Zelensky told Shuster that "some front-line commanders have begun refusing orders to advance, even when they came directly from the office of the President".
Right now, a heavy offensive – a landing operation – is underway on the left bank of the Dnipro, the bridgehead has been expanded from the bridge near Kherson and the dachas to Krynka and the islands at the river mouth.
One of the belt roads was cut and the bridgehead was expanded.
Russia changed the group's command in the area, trying to turn the tide of the operation.
We have been making progress on the road to the village of Verbove.
Fierce fighting is taking place behind the railway near Bakhmut and Andriyivka.
The enemy has taken the "spoil heap" position and is storming the quarry near Avdiyivka, trying to break into the coke plant and cut off the supply to the bulge.
The problem is not that anonymous commanders refuse to go on the offensive, but, as anonymous interlocutors know, that Russia has amassed ammunition, including from Iran and North Korea, and is counterattacking, waging a war for initiative.
Although the enemy withdrew its 76th Air Assault Division from Kreminna to close the gap near Robotyne, the situation in the sector did not crumble since has reserves that it uses.
If there were any problems, they were clearly not at the operational level, and no commanders who "receive orders from the office of the president" could physically disobey.
Did brigade commanders refuse to attack in the summer?
Or does the the office of the president call every company commander on a stronghold that is unable to complete the task with the available forces and means after losses and with incomplete equipment?
Again, there are anonymous sources and again there is something strange.
Officials are stealing "like there is no tomorrow". The ranks of the defence forces are badly eroded. There is rampant corruption in recruitment centres, and there are no people willing to replace those who have been dismissed.
In a difficult war that has lasted 19 months, with tens of thousands of people killed and sanitary losses, the troops are understaffed. And people are looking for 6,000 dollars to avoid going to the front, where they will have to sleep for four hours and get frostbite, risking their lives and being injured.
No way (the sign is sarcastic).
Like if tens of thousands of deserters in a great continental war have never happened before.
Like if the Germans did not form a special division of people with gastrointestinal diseases and other unclear diagnoses (the 70th White Bread Division) and did not create dozens of penal battalions.
Like if the Americans did not hang hundreds of bounty jumpers during the Civil War.
Shuster opened up America.
The dismissal of the heads of military medical commissions and recruitment centres speaks for itself without any interviews.
People want to join voluntary territorial defence units, rear units, to study, to buy armour.
And in combination with the losses, there is understaffing.
But the stories about "we won't have people to service Western weapons" are pure nonsense. You can't simultaneously collect money for mortars for the Territorial Defence Forces at OKKO filling stations and believe that we don't have people to service a howitzer or a Gepard.
There are brigades that have not been given a mortar company yet and that lack crews.
It is normal to be afraid of war and death.
This is overcome by the work of the state apparatus and equal conditions, when everyone joins the army, even one future queen serves in the auxiliary forces.
And we have no one willing to work at recruitment centres not because their reputation is tainted, but because if you do, you will have to sort out murky issues.
Leave someone in the region by assigning them to a recruitment centre, or keeping them waived, or deferring the enlistment of those whom you cannot say no in the current reality.
They will "thank you" and it will not be just a thank you. And the newcomers will take the flak from the superiors for this and for refusing to do so for "respectable people".
But this does not mean that our prisoners, being malnourished down to dystrophy and tortured with sledgehammers, will be more acceptable to us than corruption, Chinese first aid kits and quagmire in recruitment centres.
Like any normal person's, my choice between Kadyrov's soldering iron and corruption is obvious.
This does not mean that the West would prefer a military dictatorship in eastern Ukraine to corruption.
However, we need to fight corruption and pond cleaning that costs a leg and arm, reform the Ministry of Defence and realise the limits of our ability to storm major cities, taking into account what we achieved near Robotyne in the summer of 2023.
It is so.
Just as we understand that the United States has more important regions than Eastern Europe.
But this does not make these particular statements by anonymous sources look like the truth.
And what looks like a duck (manipulation) and quacks like a duck (manipulation) is a duck, even if it is published in TIME.
The timing of the publication, when isolationism is gaining strength in the United States, is quite understandable. What is not clear is the criteria for selecting journalists for such interviews and how far one can go with the words of unnamed sources.