Russian Advance

Last Obstacle Before Baghdad

ACTUAL news from the fighting fronts, was decidedly meagre the earlier part of this morning, but a Petrograd message which came to hand last night supplied interesting information as to the advance of the Russian forces now so close to the Mesopotamian plain.

Mountain difficulties, the telegram stated, had been overcome, and the Russians were following up the Turks, who are now entering the valley of the Tigris. The important statement was added that military exports anticipated strenuous resistance at the strongly fortified position of Khanikin "where the Turks have been heavily reinforced."

The Khanikin Pass, which is on the mountain range lying some distance south-west of Khanikin town, is presumably the point at which a real effort to bar Russian progress will be made, and much depends upon the strength, both numerically and in regard to armament, of the advancing forces.

The forcing of the Pass is doubtless a tough proposition, but the Russians are past masters in the kind of fighting involved, and the inducement is great enough to leave no shadow of doubt that they will put their best feet foremost.

They possess the inspiring knowledge that after Khanikin Pass has been penetrated, their line of advance will be for the most part over a level of dessert and, although the Turks are not likely to permit the march to partake of the character of a military parade the Russians, after their strenuous work in the mountainous region, will feel that they are walking on velvet.

Certainly, what they have already accomplished is both an excellent preparation and augury for what, we may hope, is to follow.

Starting on the Baghdad road from Kermanshah, which is 5000ft. above sea level, the Russians, on reaching Kasr-i-Shirin, had covered just over 100 miles. This is practically the half-way stage on the difficult road to Baghdad.

From Kasr-i-Shirin (1,700ft) the road dips and then rises again to Khanikin halting station (1,000ft), which is 18 miles distant and five miles over the frontier.

Thence the route to Baghdad lies through the Khanikan Pass to Kizil Robat (17 miles), Shahrabad (18), Yakubieh (26), Beni Saad or Ortsa Khan (14), and Baghdad (15).

The hopes held out at one time that, with possible cooperation by British troops from the Syrian region, Turkish communications could have been severed in time to bring about the release of General Townshend and his fellow captives, seem, however to have been doomed by disappointment. At all events, a report has been circulated that the British officers who surrendered at Kut have now left Baghdad for Constantinople.

The Russian advance is, however, a very real thing, and in a few weeks-giving time for the necessary stores and men to be brought up-results may have been attained having an important bearing upon Turkey's continuance I'm the struggle and, thus, upon the duration of the whole war.

On the Russian main front, although we get our news in tabloid form, there appears to be a great deal of fighting going on-near Olyka, for example, considerable enemy forces made an attempt on Russian trenches, but were repulsed-and artillery is active in many sectors.