The storm before the silence? Russian forces escalate their offensives in eastern Ukraine

8 hours before the agreed on ceasefire was thought to come in effect, not only the fighting on the ground escalates but Russian and “DNR / LC” representatives indicate, they will not feel bound to the deal anyways. This development once again proves western hopes for the Russian president Putin coming to his senses were unfounded and will be dissatisfied another time. Two hot spots of intense fighting along the line of contact in occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions extract, with the de facto closed pocket of Debaltseve in the north and an area of some 120 km east of the coastal town Mariupol in the south.

In Debaltseve, all Ukrainian efforts to reopen the M03 between Artemivsk and Debaltseve failed since the de facto closure of the pocket 5 days ago (article), trapping an unknown number of Ukrainian troops which might be between 1500 and 5000 according to different reliable sources. Instead, Russian forces were able to widen their control over the strategically important villages of Lohvynove to the north east, controlling half the way to Luhans’ke which is the last point of Ukrainian safe control by now. Fresh Russian army special forces as well as thousands of mercenaries from all over Russian and some local anti-Ukrainian fighters flow in from Horlivka and the areas to the south east with the resupply / reinforcement line reaching directly to Rostov oblast in Russia. Coming via Vuhlehirsk and Kalynivka, they reinforce the frontline with a merely never ending volume of men and heavy weapons. Hence, all Ukrainian army attempts to reopen the M03 failed (with a lot of Ukrainian armor being destroyed) and the only – extremely dangerous and probably not usable at all – road leading into and out of Debaltseve extends some 2 km to the north of the M03 and through the village of Nyzhnje Lozove, reported to be still held by Ukrainian forces.

At the same time, troops loyal to the invasion command in Moscow, intensify their attacks on Debaltseve itself, approaching it mainly along the railway line leading to Zorynsk in the north east. They have come 3 km close to Debaltseve itself yesterday but probably further advanced overnight and stand at the Ukrainian fortifications in Novohryhorivka and the northern suburbs of the city itself by now. In Chornukhyne 3 km east of Debaltseve, Ukrainian and Russian troops fight fierce battles inside the town in what can be described as urban warfare. After the fall of the entire Ukrainian south eastern front in Mius, Ridkodub and Nikishyne, Russian forces could free more troops to take part in the assault coming from the south. The below map summarizes all important territorial and fighting-related developments around the pocket of Debaltseve, showing the desperate and probably only deteriorating situation for the Ukrainian army – in – and outside the besieged area. 

Debaltseve

Over the next hours the situation is likely to further escalate with Russian commanders saying, the 14th of February (today) would be the decisive day for the battle. However, hopes that “Ukrainian troops only have to hold out until midnight” have to be given up as Russian commanders and their local puppets first said, every attempt to reopen the pocket would be regarded as a breach of the Minsk 2 agreement and met with lethal force and later made a mockery of the entire Minsk talks, saying the battle around Debaltseve was not part of the agreement reached (The “DNR’s president” Zakharchenko) and to end the fighting around the town tonight would be a “misinterpretation by western signers” (Russia’s Lavrov via Interfax). Looking at these statements and the developments on the ground, it becomes crystal clear that Putin never planned to give up conquering the city (now) and a lot of land of Ukraine later.

The second battlefield extends east of the southern city of Mariupol, where the Ukrainian National Guard Regiment Azov launched a surprise offensive several days ago, realizing the fact that most Russian invaders are active in other parts of the occupied territory. During their initial assault they managed to push weak Russian forces back around 12 km from Mariupol (article), taking a number of villages and towns along the two main roads leading to Novoazovsk and nearby Russia. However, reports of strong Russian army formations crossing the border from nearby Taganrog turned out to be true and the Russian counteroffensive took full pace this morning with virtually all cities along the front being shelled with heavy weapons leading to the death and (mostly) injury of dozens of Azov fighters as well as civilians along the line of contact. While the Ukrainian National Guard fighters yesterday stood close to the Russian stronghold of Sakhanka (another source tweet), they seemingly had to withdraw to Shyrokyne overnight where they arranged a line of defense under heavy bombardment, successfully taking out several Russian army tanks with light anti tank weapons namely ATGM. The below map gives an impression about the situation according to all reliable sources as it looked like around noon February 14.

Mariupol

It can be excluded that Russia will accept the recent loss of 120 km² in this area. It wants to remain its eyes directly on Mariupol, the largest city remaining under Ukrainian control in occupied Donbas. To achieve that goal, it will not stop the offensive until it regains the line of contact which was in place until last Monday. Doing so and possibly facing heavy resistance from well-equipped Ukrainian forces, it remains to be seen if it will stop east of Mariupol or try to go further this time.

Looking at these developments over the last 24 hours and having in mind that Russian medium range rocket artillery repeatedly bombed cities like Kramatorsk and Artemivsk, far west to the current front, are we indeed facing “the storm before the silence”, meaning a ceasefire starting after all the current fighting in less than 8 hours?

Probably not. Russia isn’t finished with its territorial aspirations in neighboring Ukraine yet. It needs to control a much wider area to secure its strongholds in the east and push Ukrainian troops back from its “Republics’ capitals” of Donetsk and Luhansk (city). Furthermore a land bridge between occupied Crimea and the currently embattled territories of Ukraine is still needed to supply the southern Ukrainian peninsula with the goods it needs for a sustainable development. While this might not happen over the next weeks or months, latest statements (from 10 days before the ceasefire should start) by its puppets in Donetsk city have already set the course for the war to continue.

The “DNR’s president” / terrorist leader Zakharchenko made clear that if not the entire Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk (of which Russia only controls 40% so far) became independent under their leadership, they would expand the war as long as necessary to reach that goal. Keeping that in mind the chance of a real truce starting tonight, not to talk of heavy weapons being withdrawn from next Tuesday, stands close to zero.

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15 thoughts on “The storm before the silence? Russian forces escalate their offensives in eastern Ukraine

  1. I as well as you have predicted the Debaltsevo cauldron.Now one desturbing thing that I have read was that the Ukrainian Army has executed several Russian separatists including a sub commander in Somalia battalion called Dwarf.Now I would not deem it wise to execute enemy prisoners while you have around several thousand soldiers under siege as if you execute POW you should not expect the enemy to be nice and keep your own soldiers alive.If this is true Ukraine should prepare several hundred or thousand body bags as these guys won’t have mercy.

    Please note that the thing about the executions are from twitter sources I’m just quoting them.

    • Let’s not be disingenuous here. After the Ilovaisk “Humanitarian Corridor” slaughter, I doubt the UAF remotely expect anything approaching mercy from the pro-Russian forces.

  2. I like your analisys and thanks for your effort. But please keep up with fact-based approach without personal assumptions on who’s the puppet/terrorist to avoid diminishing your own job.

    • I don’t think it’s they are just personal assumptions anymore. Rebels do behave more like terrorists thanks to their way of handling of POW’s, respecting treaties or how the whole MH17 affair was handled. They really seem to be puppets of Putin, they both arrived Belarus (The Minsk meeting) when Putin told them to do so. They did talk about refusal to sign the agreement… but that was for show, they did arrive there to sign it. Puppets. At least I don’t have other words left with what to call them anymore…

  3. Well… i read the last posts on facebook of Ukranian soldiers who are near near the front as Semen Semenchenko (Donbass battallion is fighting there) and Ievgen Shevchenko and the fact about the “Debalstsevo Cauldron” is far from reality. I invite you to go to hteir facebook pages and read it. These guys are there or very near of the battle front, and they do not have the habit of telling lies. We will see what is happening in the next days……. Everyone (you include) said that in the last ofensive of the russians at Debaltsevo two weeks ago, the russians were going to capture the city….. and that did not happen at all, in fact the russians stopped their attacks because of the great loses inflicted on them by the ukranians. These ukranians look hard people and very dificult to be routed and above all they know how to inflict big pain over their enemy. Really interesting what is doing an almost crumbled country with the russian army…..

  4. 4 convoys with supplies, including munition, reached #Ukraine troops in #Debaltseve: #Poroshenko @JuMistress:

    This news is shown in Twitter tonight…… confirming what i am Reading from people with firsthand knowledge…… surround of Debaltsevo…… far from reality. We will see in the next days what has happened there.

      • As I said before in other posts, we must see what has happened in the next days, but what I read in the posts of ukranian soldiers and volunteers fighting there and blocking the russian advance, it seems to confirm that the russians have not blocked the city of Debaltsevo at all. And the experience reading the “facebooks” of these guys in the past, tells me that these people do not tell lies. If the situation is really bad they say it.

      • So long as the Ukrainian army as a whole always defends, but never attacks, it is going to be destroyed piece by piece.

        Poroshenko faces many of the same challenges that US president Linclin faced during our civil war:

        -Both led nations that were unprepared for war
        -Both faced experienced enemies
        -Both had generals with questionable abiltities leading troops of varying degrees of commitment.

        What makes Lincoln different from Poroshenko is that Lincoln started firing general after general and appointing new ones until he found some that could win against the Confederates.

        Ukraine needs to find some winning Generals- fast. If Semenchenko is a winning Batallion commander, he needs to be promoted and given a Brigade tomorrow.

    • The point over whether Debal’tseve is fully blocked/under siege/Boiler is slightly missing the point, It doesn’t need to be. The Russian insurgents only need to severely restrict the flow of supplies into Debal’tseve to reduce the situation from difficult to dire. The Insurgents have insufficient forces in the area to enforce a total blockade, but by blocking regular supplies to Debal’tseve the situation can only deteriorate.
      Yes, I do note that 4 trucks of supplies allegedly got through today, but the bigger point is 1500 – 8000 troops (depends on who you want to believe) need significantly more than that per day to maintain combat effectiveness, ammunition is being burnt through at a significant rate and then you have the food and water situation as well.
      The chances of a large resupply convoy getting through are highly unlikely, way too much heavy artillery and tanks in the area to even try that, but sneaking through the odd truck, ambulance each day is entirely possible.
      Going forward from where we are now, the Minsk II agreement requires the removal of heavy weapons from the area, which is the only way the insurgents can effectively enforce a boiler in Debal’tseve, due to the fairly open countryside in the area.
      So that potential constraint means a full assault in the next few weeks (with the potential large losses on both sides), or for the insurgents to come up with “A cunning plan” to avoid implementing Minsk II, to sweat the situation over a longer time frame.

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