The 5 (English) Accounts to Follow on Russia’s Ukraine War

There are many Twitter accounts focusing a lot of their attention on the war in Ukraine, and a decent number of solid ones, but these five are the standouts of the standouts

(Russian/Русский переводBy Brian E. Frydenborg (Twitter @bfry1981, LinkedIn, Facebook), August 25, 2022

Hertling in Ukraine
Yavoriv, Ukraine (July 28, 2011) — Lt General Mark Hertling, Commander of U.S. Army Europe Tours Exercise Rapid Trident 2011. Rapid Trident is a multi-national airborne operation and field training exercise (FTX) in support of Ukraine’s Annual Program to achieve interoperability with NATO. (U.S. Army panoramic image by Staff Sgt. Brendan Stephens/Released)

SILVER SPRING—As someone who has studied and written about Ukraine and Russia on-and-off for some two decades, and with a solid and ample track record of my own work being rather prescient and highly accurate on the war and surrounding issues, I’d like to think my opinion as to who has some of the best accounts to follow would carry some weight.  Here, then, are five people’s accounts that make me often feel humble about my own accomplishments and abilities.  There may be better accounts in Ukrainian or Russian or another language, but, as I admittedly don’t speak any of those, I’m going with my top five in English.

1.) Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, U.S. Army (Ret.): Twitter @MarkHertling

I feel like I follow a lot of different accounts of military experts who offer analysis, but I have found none to offer the consistent level of superb-quality, clear, well-written, big-picture analysis of the war in Ukraine.  He is also often on CNN, with his commentary invariably among the best on the entire network when it comes to Ukraine.  His often long, yet deeply-informative while simple-to-understand threads blow away the competition and offer the most prescient analysis I have seen throughout the war in a snazzy, easily-digestible format.  The man spent 37 years in the U.S. Army, including as Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army, including seeing Ukrainian forces up close in Iraq and as they reformed over the years, and also including liaising with Soviet/Russian forces.  He knows the Ukrainian military, he knows the Russian military, he knows Europe, he knows NATO and he knows military equipment, strategy, and tactics, all this clear from his one-of-a-kind threads.  And, compared to other retired military folks, he sounds more like a normal American and is less jargon-heavy than, and not robotic like, many of his peers, making sure to introduce and explain the jargon when he does use it for the rest of us layfolk.  Filled with telling anecdotes from decades of his military career spanning Europe and Iraq that tie into the current conflict in Ukraine, if you only follow one account, follow him.

2.) Trent Telenko: Twitter @TrentTelenko

Trent is a retired U.S. Department of Defense civilian logistics expert, and man, does that expertise show.  The guy can write long-threads on tires, mud, or transport and make them interesting.  Nobody goes into as much detail as he does on the nitty-gritty of the logistics of this war in Ukraine, and if you consume Trent’s threads on these logistical topics, on everything from weapons and training capabilities to truck fleets and targeting, you will walk away with far deeper understandings of these systems and dynamics in a way that will help many other aspects of the war make that much more sense (logistics is tied to literally everything).  Gen. Hertling and some of the other accounts I mention here also go into logistics and delve into it well, but none plow into the minutiae quite as deeply and like Trent, and his is, thus, one of the most unique and must-follow accounts when it comes to this war in Ukraine.  Just learning from his threads on logistics has made me that much more confident in my understandings on a number of logistics-related topics when it comes to this war in Ukraine.  This man should have a damn blue checkmark already, Twitter!! (Full disclosure: Trent has said some nice things about my work on Twitter)

3.) Illia Ponomarenko: Twitter @IAPonomarenko

Illia is a Ukrainian journalist reporting from Ukraine who himself hails from the Donbas region in Ukraine’s east, suffering from war at the instigation of Russia since 2014.  He works for Ukraine’s flagship local English paper, The Kyiv Independent, and his reporting on the war in his Twitter feed is full of humor, but also at times great rage and sorrow over what is happening to his country and his people, yet also pride and the thrill of soundly beating a hated invader on home turf.  His articles for the Independent are well-worth reading (and are sometimes cited by Gen. Hertling), but also amazing are the photos he takes and posts to his twitter thread, demonstrating his clearly amazing access to his fellow countrymen serving on the front lines.  A man with the common touch, Illia is not afraid to personalize and share his own story, but generally keeps the focus on the heroes fighting on the front lines, the victims of Russia’s imperialist ambition, and leaders carrying Ukraine through this nightmare of a war with Russia.  Whether cataloguing quiet moments with troops on the front lines, a rescued cat, Russian war crimes, or Ukrainian victories, his English-language reporting on the ground as a Ukrainian in Ukraine stand out in his own category.  While obviously emotionally tied to the events of the war, his analysis, though often optimistic, is optimistic based on what is actually happening and is generally more sober and less hyperbolic than those of many others who are, quite understandably, not neutral as their Ukraine is ravaged by Russia.  With an excellent combination of heart, head, and humor, Illia is certainly one of the most important accounts to follow on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

4.) Dr. Phillips P. O’Brien: Twitter @PhillipsPOBrien

Taking a bit more of an academic and wonky approach than the general, logistician, and local reporter—he is, after all, a Professor of Strategic Studies at Scotland’s prestigious University of St. Andrews—Professor Phillips P. Obrien is still definitely one of the most important accounts to follow.  He posts more and more often than many other academics, often tweeting about details but then bringing them into the wider picture in a more analytical, academic sense than the other accounts.  Not as specialized on military equipment or logistics, not as on-the-ground as a reporter, Dr. O’Brien nevertheless covers many of the various dimensions of the war well, offering broad commentary on a variety of aspects and tying them together or making them more understandable for the non-professorial class and in easily understandable language.  His measured analysis is also, like the other accounts here, more prescient than that of many others, cutting through the “hot takes” and noise and keeping the big-picture in mind in a way whereby we can follow the war unfolding through him and not lose sight of that big-picture, covering the conflict with knowledge, context, and precision.  Give this man a blue checkmark already!!

5.) Rob Lee: Twitter @RALee85

Rob is PhD student at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London who is also a literal veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and a number of prestigious schools and institutions.  He may not yet have his doctorate, but he has quickly established himself as the premier cataloguer of open-source intelligence in video and photo form of vehicles and equipment in action in Ukraine and of their losses for this whole conflict.  I have yet to find a more comprehensive presentation of all the available photo/video data on this stuff for this conflict, and Rob is careful to cite sourcing and, at times, corroborate geolocation.  You can trust that if Rob posts it, it is often vetted, and he notes when info is not verified.  He is usually just posting and cataloguing this photo and video evidence, but he also does sometimes offer his own analysis and when he does, I’ve found it to be thoughtful and spot on and cutting through some of the confusion or bad takes.  He knows his stuff and you should follow him, and his career will only get more and more interesting.  But if you want to see videos and photos of equipment in action in Ukraine, Rob’s account is the account to follow.

Of course, there are some other great accounts to follow, and it must be said that Ukraine’s official accounts are incredibly well-managed/produced and engage in some grade-A trolling of Russia: so, here’s an Honorable Mention for fun:the official account of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine: Twitter @DefenceU.

Some top Ukrainian officials’ individual accounts are also grade-A trollers of Russia.  And, of course, for inspiration, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s account is also a must-follow, but when it comes to really understanding the war and its dynamics, the five accounts I have named are the five to follow in my opinion.

See all Brian’s Ukraine coverage here

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