Monday 25 August 2014

Ukraine civil war update - 08/24/2014

Novorossiya Military Briefing – by August 21, 2014

Map of Operations, August 10-22, 2014 – Created by Kot IvanovEnglish Version Created by Anthony Hartin


Novorossiya Military Briefing – 06:29 (MSK) – August 21, 2014.

Original: Cassad.Net
Translated by Ilja
TankThe map of the hostilities continues to change in favour of the Army of the South-East, as the Militia continues to win local and positional battles. The battles in Novorossiya, especially in Lugansk and Donetsk, are becoming more and more violent. The Ukrainian army initiated military operations on all the battlefronts on August 20th. The cities of Novorossiya have been exposed to massive artillery strikes. Ukrainian units reported part of Lugansk taken over; however, a successful Militia counterattack proved these reports to be premature. A similar situation took place in the suburb of Donetsk – Yasinovataya, where the enemy was thrown back, incurring serious losses. Unsuccessful attempts to take over Ilovaisk led to the same consequences. Meanwhile, intensive artillery and aviation bombardments of Donetsk and Lugansk have continued.
Target: to demolish the cities’ infrastructure (including water supply, gas pipelines, substations taken out of commission), which would lead to panic and demoralization among the people, thus reducing their ability actively to resist.
Methods: multiple rocket launcher (MRL): “Grad”, “Smerch”, “Uragan”, artillery, aviation bombardments and high activity by a few raiding parties in suburbs, conducting subversive operations and mortar firing, while constantly changing their sites.
Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 5.57.55 PMDonetsk as well as Makeyevka, Mospino were massively bombarded. School #151 burnt down, multiple instances of destruction are present in uptown Donetsk. There are up to ten casualties among Makeevka civilians, number of injured has not been reported. Railway station building damaged. Water filtering station in Olkhovka disabled on purpose, thereby part of Khartsyzsk and Zugres were cut of water supply.
Khanjenkovo was attacked. Strikes were reported at the railway station, the water reservoir, and the court building. Trudovskaya mining village in Petrovsky district of Donetsk was subjected to gunfire. The Army of Novorossiya conducted shelling of Saur-Mogila and organized the firing encirclement of the enemy near Amvrosievka. Artillery and mortar strikes were inflicted on the enemy positions in the area of Luzhki-Petrovskoye-Kuteinikovo. Exchange of weapons fire took place near the Blagodatnoe village.
Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 5.53.43 PMMain events unfolded at the south-east from Donetsk, in the settlement of Ilovaisk. As a result of these battles, the Ukrainian forces here constituted out of a composite group and the units of Battalions Donbass and Dnepr-1 unit was surrounded and exposed to massive shelling by the Army of Novorossiya. Spare Ukrainian army units were rushed through there, in particular – Battalions Azov and Shakhtersk, as well as ZSU units (17th Tank and  93rd Mechanized Brigades). As a result of fierce fighting, a tank company of the 17th Tank Brigade, the aim of which was to break the Ukrainian troops in the suburbs of Ilovaisk out of encirclement, was mostly destroyed, and the composite company of the 93rd brigade was encircled in the town with the rest of Battalion Donbass. Three BMP companies of the 51st Brigade – were mostly destroyed and scattered. Nothing is known about the fate of the 5th company of Battalion Dnepr-1  and the 2nd platoon of Battalion Azov.
By the end of the day, Ilovaisk was almost entirely liberated from the Ukrainian forces and controlled by the Militia. Motorola’s unit captured many battle trophies. Ilovaisk is an important center of resistance for the DRP.
Ukrainian army target: to “hack through” the eastern line of defence from Donetsk and siege the city by encircling as much of the surrounding area as possible. Cut the supply lines and transporting connections among the neighboring cities.
Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 5.54.53 PMDuring the day the Ukrainian military continued shelling the suburbs of Lugansk. Over a period of 18 days people have been forced to live without electricity, water supply, mobile and landline phone network. According to citizens’ reports, apartment buildings at Lenin and Gradusov streets suffered damage caused by artillery shelling. The enemy concentrated major forces on holding its positions in the area of Cheluskinets, Khryashchevatoye, and Novosvetlovka settlements. The airport remains encircled. Positional battles are taking place. LPR forces began assaulting Slavyanoserbsk, Lutugino, Veselaya gora and Krasniy Yar settlements. The Novosvetlovka battle is going on. Militia is also holding the defense of Stanitsa Luganskaya and Vergunki.
Ukrainian military target: to take the control over the supply line, traffic artery connecting Lugansk and Izvarino check-point, which is to be used for humanitarian supplies transportation.
The Militia had the most intense fights in the Georgievka area. Su-25 strike aircraft and Ukraine air force Mi-24 helicopter were shot down using MANPADS. Another Mi-24 helicopter was disabled.
 Other issues:
  • Humanitarian supplies for Donbass were confirmed by the Red Cross and by Kiev.
  • In 40 days Ukrainian thermal power stations will run out of coal, according to RIA News, quoting American CNBC channel. The reason is railways malfunction, disabling coal supply to Ukrainian power stations.
  • “Odessa authorities will not provide help for Donbass combat zone refugees” – stated region governor Igor Palitsa. “There are no funds in the local budget to help refugees, unfortunately. Even if they become available, I will suggest that the region’s legislative body spend it on our army, our guys who are fighting, not on the refugees. ”

Novorossiya Military Briefing – 10:00 (UKR) – August 21, 2014

Original: Yurasumy LiveJournal
Translated from Russian by Olga Luzanova
First let us consider the situation from the “bird’s eye view”. The Junta’s attack has completely lost all sense. The last attacks on Ilovaysk resembled random convulsions rather than a part of a sensible plan. Taking control of Ilovaisk would have made sense if it had been coordinated with a blow to the north of Donetsk. But the blow in the north had already been parried three days before that, so the frontal attack on Ilovaysk made no sense. We can say the same about the Junta’s other operation to the south of Lugansk. It would have made sense “to surround” Lugansk before the Southern Cauldron was defeated (at the beginning of August). And all the forces used in this operation were available at that time as well. However … we can only shrug quizzically. As Strelkov said, “the decisions of the Ukrainian command can nonplus anyone” (there almost no other explanation for their actions other than obvious sabotage).
Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 5.53.43 PMIt seems that there is a decisive battle being played out now to the south of Donetsk (Ilovaysk-Saur-Amvrosiyevka-Uspenka). The winner gets the initiative and operational freedom. The Junta has sent to the fight its last reserves in this area (the 28th brigade), as well as the reserves received during a realignment of the forces (parts of the 51st and the 93rd brigades). Dispatching to the battlefront divisions poorly composed of mishmash platoons and different companies gathered from all around the front line (Ilovaysk) rather than sending entire brigades (with the exception of the 28th Brigade that was entered into battle a little earlier) indicates the lack of operational reserves. In other words, there are no reserves in the south (not including the territorial battalions, because they only serve to instil chaos and panic, rather than benefit the operations). If, as a result of this fighting, the Junta’s southern group is broken (and that is where it seems to be going), they will have nothing to cover the gap in the defence after being defeated until the reserve units are made available by the third wave of mobilization (not earlier than in 2-3 weeks), and then fortifying Mariupol becomes a good alternative.
Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 5.54.53 PMNear Lugansk, the situation for the Junta is also quickly coming to a catastrophe. The plan for the close envelopment of Lugansk failed. As a result of multiple days of fighting, the grouping of the 80th brigade, having circumvented the city along the border, and after crossing the Severskiy Donets river, was cut off (just as it was done with the Southern Cauldron). The Militia immediately took advantage of the weakening of the enemy forces to the north of Lugansk. The aim of the counteroffensive is to push the Junta’s troops over the line of the Seversky Donets river, and then to defeat a set of cauldrons around Lugansk, using the freed-up reserves for the purpose. Yesterday’s combat for Slavyanoserbsk and Vesyolaya Gora has shown that this operation is going well. An enemy armored group made a breakthrough in the direction of Krasniy Luch (Malonikolaevka) this morning. This may also be an attempt to get out of the encirclement by breaking through to the Debaltsevo area, getting the last battalion of the 30th Division out of the pocket along the way. However, it can be a separate operation as well, but, in this case, it is even more idiotic than the previous breakthrough of a few  battalions into this very area, which lead to their complete defeat.
Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 5.54.19 PMIn the area of Gorlovka-Debaltsevo there is an operational pause. The Militia is trying to deal a final blow to the units of the 30th Brigade encircled near Fashchevka and to liquidate the consequences of the last breakthrough of the 95th Brigade to the area of Zhdanovka-Yasinovatay-Nizhnyaya Krynka. The Junta’s forces are simply trying to hold their positions because of lack of reserves.
The prospects. The suicidal attacks of the Ukrainian military intended to achieve a victory by August 24th foreseeably have resulted in enormous losses in manpower and military hardware. Having chosen the tactics of strategic defence, the Militia have almost exsanguinated the enemy units and therefore now have fairly good chance to take over the initiative. In the south there might be an offensive aimed at liberating Amvrosievka and Starobeshevo. Further operations will be planned in accordance with the evolving operational environment (it is too early to plan yet). In the north of Lugansk the line of the Seversky Donets river should be reached and all the cauldrons will then be purged. Then …We will see.
The Junta’s available forces. I believe that after my overview we have reasons to consider the 25th and the 51st Brigades almost completely defeated. The 28th Brigade was engaged in the fight near Saur and has already sustained large losses, while the 80th Brigade is carrying on heavy fighting in the south of Lugansk. The 95th Brigade sustained further losses near Gorlovka. The 128th Brigade (without the mountain rifle battalion that was swiftly sent to the Transcapathia) and the 92th Brigade (one of its battalions is surely near Kharkov; there is no information about the others) are relatively new. Why do I consider only regular units of the Ukrainian military forces? Because all the rest (other than maybe Battalion Aidar) are second-rate units which have no capacity either for attack or for persistent defence (only punitive sweep operations are within their depth). Therefore, I do not assess the manpower of the Militia and the Junta as others do. When calculating the Junta’s “forces” I do not take into account the units of the Ministry of the Interior (all the investigation officers, patrol units, traffic police inspectors – they are not proper military units) together with all the territorial defence battalions. As we can see, in practice, they can do absolutely nothing. What we should take into account are the units of the Ukrainian military and the “volunteer” battalions, and this calculation shows that the Junta has hardly any manpower advantage anymore, let alone advantage in troop morale …
The communication lines. I would like to highlight the fighting over the lines of communication, which both parties have been actively carrying on. Recently a radical turn has also become obvious in this regard. As a result of the various cauldrons and breakthrough being “cleansed”, the Militia has almost won back its lines of communications (other than near Lugansk). As a result, they have been able to manoeuvre their forces more efficiently by taking the advantages of the interior operational lines. Since last week there has been a real breakdown at the Junta’s rear. An obvious case was the recent capture of the chief officer of the 8th Army Corps reconnaissance party. Another example showing their rear to have gaps is the defeat of an artillery fortified area by one of Bezler’s saboteur-reconnaisance groups (“SRG”), as a result of which the Militia secured MLRS “Uragan” and 240-mm mortars “Tulpan” trophies (and even managed to take them out). In other words, the Junta’s front line is collapsing in front of our eyes. I do not even take into account the southern SRG raids to Uspenka, Amvrosievka, Kuteynikovo and many other areas. Storming garrisons deep in the rear twice per week with perfect impunity (to wit, the “Uspenka” border-crossing checkpoint) is already significant.

All is Quiet on the Western Front?

Note: today I am happy to share with you a report written by a friend and reader, 'Y', who asked that I convey to you his words that "I am not presenting myself as an expert on the involved history and politics of Transcarpathia. My intention is just to point out the importance of this under-reported region and that not all Ukrainians are fascist supporters".  I am immensely grateful to "Y" for his contribution which is far more interesting than much of what the so-called "experts" write.  I also fully agree that it is important to keep an eye on the western Ukraine.  I hope that with the help of "Y" we will be able to keep an eye on this important region.

The Saker

Reports from Ukraine naturally focus on the horrendous murderous onslaught against the Russian-speaking people in south east Ukraine. Does this mean that all is quiet throughout the rest of the country?

It turns out there is a great deal of sporadic low-level activity against the Ukraine regime. This takes many forms, from peaceful protest to targeted acts of sabotage.

In Odessa, all seems quiet. Many photographs of groups of people displaying the Ukraine flag in oppressions have appeared, with some people wearing the Ukrainian embroidered shirt (Vyshyvka). These include shots of photogenic young women with flowers in their hair. However, the Right Sector symbolism no longer overtly appears. On the other hand, a candle-lit display was held outside the Trades Union building in remembrance of the killed during the false flag operation earlier in May 2014. There are undercurrents of propaganda warfare in which public monuments are painted in a cycle of Ukraine colors followed by Novorossia colors. Interestingly, the Novorossia colors are staying for longer periods of time, suggesting the other side has a reduced capacity to monitor and restore the Ukraine colors. At a more extreme level, branches of Privat Bank have suffered damage from small bombs exploded late at night. This represents an attack on the interests of Kolomoisky, the local oligarch.

In Mariupol, the scene of another attack by Ukraine forces against civilians and police in May, things also seem quiet, but checkpoints still exist on the major roads. Unconfirmed reports suggest the area may be quiet as a result of intimidation from the local right wing groups. Lyashko is reported to have commandeered the house and extensive grounds of a property belonging to Yanukovich. This is located at Uzuf, 20 miles west of Mariupol overlooking the Sea of Azov. This may have been used as the base for training of members of the Azov battalion. Interestingly, a ex-Azov member grew disenchanted with Lyashko, claiming the battalion was used primarily as a vehicle for Lyashko's political ambitions rather than fighting in the south east. There are numerous YouTube videos supporting this, typically showing members rough handling someone or other, described as a separatist supporter, with Lyashko shouting at and intimidating the poor victim. There are more recent reports of guerilla activity against the checkpoints and other targets around Mariupol. 
Recent reports suggest more concerted attacks are underway. Is this the start of a second front?Unconfirmed reports suggest that there is a base nearby where US military specialists train Ukrainians in preparation for being sent to Donbass. There have been claims made that a number of these US individuals have been killed by snipers, one whilst bathing on the beach at Mariupol on 30 July and another on 22 August. A video of this last incident was uploaded to YouTube late in the evening of the 22nd, but was quickly removed, possibly within 12 hours and certainly within 24 hours.

Elsewhere, there have been numerous protests by women throughout Ukraine opposing the mobilisation, now in its third phase. The number reported certainly underestimates the actual number of protests, as one only came to notice because a group from OSCE just happened to be in the place the protests was held at the right time. This event was noted on their website. Until recently most evidence for propaganda took the form of the usual pro-Ukraine march, with large banners, people draping themselves in the flag, the Vyshyvka shirt and the photogenic young women with flowers in their hair. This weekend, a 
large march was held in Kharkiv, with pro-Novorossia supporters doing the same. They had a large 30 m banner with St George stripes, people were draping themselves in St George flags and women wearing St George ribbons in their hair. The demonstration passed of peacefully, with no sign of the Right Sector opposition.

At the other extreme, there have been attempts at tactical sabotage of infrastructure, typically roads and railways. In the most recent case, 
a convoy of Ukrainian military fuel tankers was destroyed at a place where the road crossed a railway line. This served to sever both communications routes. The attack made use of mines, RPGs an armor piercing bullets, which in turn suggests effective prior surveillance and planning capabilities for the attackers. The attack took place in central Zaporozhye, the oblast immediately west of Donetsk oblast.

The effects of the mobilisation have had a more substantial effect on two specific areas, one (Transcarpathia) within Ukraine and one (Transnistria) adjoining Ukraine.

Transnistria is a narrow land-locked strip of territory between Moldova and Ukraine. It lies to the east of the river Dniester. It was once part of Moldova but following civil war in 1990-2 and a subsequent cease fire, it is now in an unclear legal position. The inhabitants are strongly pro-Russian and have recently asked to join the Russian Federation. Transnistria is not formally recognized by any major state, but does have a Russian troop presence. The European Court of Human Rights considers that the presence of Russian troops gives Russia effective authority over the territory. Russia states that the troops are there to keep the peace and will be withdrawn once a full settlement is reached. Ukraine is busy constructing a large trench, 5 m wide and 2.5 m deep, along the border with Transnistria. This has raised tensions within Transnistria, though in 
meetings with the US Ambassador to Moldova, they have stressed they are not proposing to attack anyone. Some speculate that Ukraine is raising tensions here in order to provoke a response from Russia. Any Russian military support would have to cross Ukraine territory allowing it to place Russia in the role of aggressor.

Moldova itself is pro-EU. The EU Association agreement will proceed to completion, though this does not imply automatic integration with the EU. Moldova is expected to go ahead with full integration in the near future. There are a number of complicating factors. The main arises from Moldova's complete reliance on gas from Russia, the supply pipelines for which just happen to pass through Transnistria. Transnistria owes about $4 billion to Gazprom for gas supplied, but Moldova is held responsible for the bill. A second complication arises from a desire of another ethnic group's desire to secede from Moldova. Gaugazia seeks to join Transnistria in an attempt to join the Russian Federation.

The second region, Transcarpathia, forms the western most oblast of Ukraine. It borders four other European countries; Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. It has a very involved political history and a very diverse ethnic composition. The majority speak Ukrainian with a significant minority speaking Hungarian. It is the home of an ethnic group, the Carpathian Rus, whose members spread into south Poland, north Romania and east Slovakia. The terrain is very hilly with steep narrow valleys, making it attractive for tourists.

This area of about 1.2 million people has seen 
protests against the mobilisation following the deaths in combat of 70 people from the area. The area is also under the control of a regional oligarch, another source of discontent. In the past, Right Sector members have stormed government buildings in the Transcarpathian towns of Berehove and Uzhhorod. The plight of the Hungarians has attracted the attention of the right wing Jobbik party in Hungary who see support for them as a means of gaining votes in Hungary. Representatives of the major Transcarpathian groups have come together announcing their opposition to the Ukrainian regime, and have signed a treaty of mutual assistance and support recently in Yalta. Recently the regional head of the Ukrainian SU has been replaced. A small contingent of Ukrainian military, about 1500 troops and some supporting armored vehicles, has been brought in and stationed near Uzhhorod, a major town close to the border with Slovakia. This seems to be an attempt to clamp down more effectively and to prevent a repeat the events that happened in the south east.

All four countries bordering Transcarpathia have been hit by Russia's reverse sanctions following the imposition of EU sanctions against it. In particular, Hungary has a major trading partner in Russia. Russia is also has a nuclear reactor deal with Hungary to provide it with an alternative energy supply. providing nuclear energy technology. It appears that Hungary would have a strong interest in co-operating with Russia, particularly over the Transcarpathian issue.

Transcarpathia gains additional significance as most of the gas pipelines carrying gas to western Europe pass through it. If Russia was to gain control of this territory, it would then control this choke point on the gas system. This would negate any attempts by the US to gain control of gas flow through Ukraine. This in turn may partly explain Yatsenyuk's haste to sell off Ukraine's pipeline infrastructure. The loss of state control through privatization may in turn have been countered as, in a surprising recent announcement, it seems that Russian interests have acquired 
ownership of a German company, RWE. This company controls most of the reverse flow pipeline bringing gas back from West Europe into Ukraine.

It seems that all is superficially quiet beyond Novorossia, but this is deceptive and there is scope for dramatic changes. Is the action at Mariupol the start of a second front? Will the events at Kharkiv occur elsewhere? Will the fighting in the south east have the positive benefit of removing fascism from Ukraine? Will a neutral, federated Ukraine arise? Would that be based on existing oblasts or larger ethnic regions? Will Transnistria merge into such a state? Will the curse of the oligarchs be tamed?

What is, and what is not, happening in Novorussia

As soon as I finished my post about why the Novorussians cannot go on the counter-offensive they did.  Right?

No, no really.  Sorry.  I don't want to rain on anybody's parade, but we have to carefully assess what is going on.  I have listened very carefully to the reports from Novorussia and here is what I think has happened:
From guerrilla to combined-arms:

The Novorussian military command has announced that from purely guerilla-type of operations it has switched to "regular" (combined-arms) military operations.  What does that mean?  Well, in this context it means that instead of the hit-and-run kind of tactics I described yesterday, the Novorussians will go on the offensive in attacks which will include tanks and artillery support.  Officially, the Novorussians have formed at least 2 tank battalions, several artillery battalions,  and they have freed 7 towns (Agronomicheskoe, Novodvorskoe, Osykovo, Novokaternikova, Leninskoe, Stroitel and Novoazovsk) and surrounded six more (Blagodatnoe, Kuteinikovo, Voisovskii, Ulianovskoe, Uspenka, Alekseevskoe).  The southern cauldron been fully reformed, and now includes 5000+ surrounded Ukies including the  Aidar, Donbass and Shakhtersk National Guard battalions).  Finally, the Ukie forces in Ilovaisk are in full retreat.  This is all very good news.  But this is not a strategic counter-offensive the Novorussian suceesfully take Novoazovsk and move towards Mariupol this will be far from over.

For one thing, while it appears that the Ukies were caught off guard, they are far from being down and out yet.  Second, if the Novorussians really make a move along the seashore towards Mariupol, they will risk being surrounded the way the Ukies have been in the "southern cauldron".  Last, but not least, a couple of tank battalions, even supported by artillery, are not the kind of forces that will liberate all of Novorussia.

Don't misunderstand me, what has happened is definitely very good news, but this is not the "counter-offensive to Kiev" some have been expecting.  Still, if the Novorussians are truly successful this time, this could mean that the junta has reached the "breaking point" I have mentioned in my recent post.

Ukie Independence Day celebrations in Kiev and Donetsk

It was a bizzare day today.  While the Nazis were celebrating their (now truly lost) "independence" in Kiev, the Novorussians were parading Ukie POW in the streets of Donetsk and, in a recreation of the German POW parade in Moscow in summer 1944, washing the street after the prisoners.  That kind of parading is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, but against the massive and systematic violation of every concievable norm of civilized behavior by the Nazi junta since the coup which brought them to power, this is a rather modest violation on the Novorussian side.  And the Ukies really deserved it.  It was also a great PR move.  Best of all, it really denied Poroshenko his much expected victory for the 24th.  Instead of taking Luganks, his forces were pushed back, surrounded and paraded as POW.  I can just about imagine his rage :-)

A good day, but not V day (yet)

Bottom line: today has been a great day and I want to congratulate you all with all the good news, but let's not assume that this is the beginning of the end and that the Ukie forces are finished.  It is *possible* that the Ukies are near or at the breaking point, but 
at this point in time we don't have the elements to conclude this.

The Saker

Via Facebook from Hansa Junchen

Mark, my wife's aunt in Starobelsk, Lugansk Oblast (under National Guard occupation from the outset) just called. The government has announced it will not pay pensions because they are out of money. She told us not to send her any more money (we have been sending 100 dollars a month to help her since prices have doubled and the pension was halved) because the electronic payment system has been disabled. No money in, no money out. Its the dark ages in Eastern Ukraine. These people have a choice: flee to Russia or DIE.

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