The conditional truce has freezed active hostilities. Therefore, we would like to focus on the two key points:
- The enemy continues to build up and regroup its forces;
- Social tensions intensify in the occupied territories; there is an increasing number of clashes between the DPR and LPR gangs.
There is a split in opinions among the leaders of the militants as for the further developments. Some of them sharply criticize the heads of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics: Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitskiy for signing peace treaties, looting of humanitarian aid and misappropriating the funds coming from the Russian Federation. In one of his video messages, the Commandant of Pervomaisk (Luhansk Oblast) Yevheniy Ishchenko accused the leaders of the DPR and LPR in “carve-up of power” and threatened to “turn weapons against them”. “The Head of the LPR Security Service” Vladimir Gromov also criticized Plotnitskiy accusing him of embezzling $100K allocated to the “Zarya” terrorist battalion.
These and many other statements made in the second half of December are probably anticipating yet another reshuffle in the leadership of the terrorist organizations in Donbas. We also receive confirmations that the former chair of the Party of Regions, as well as the former chair of the Luhansk Regional State Administration Oleksandr Yefremov and the Yanukovich Family are involved into shadow management in the occupied territories. This is supported by the fact that no object belonging either to the Yanukovich Family of Mr. Yefremoiv suffered during the conflict. Also, some of the propagandists of the Party of Regions occupy courtier positions in the LPR.
For example, Mr. Yefremov’s godson, Rodion Miroshnik, who still bears the title of “Honored Journalist of Ukraine” and is the protégé and the press secretary of Mr. Yefremov himself, is deputy Igor Plotnitskiy, Head of LPR, and is responsible for the propaganda in the so-called “Novorossia”. By the way, in February 2011 he was appointed deputy Chair of the Oblast Organization of the Party of Regions on Ideology. You can see that the functions he performs in the Party of Regions and in the LPR are the same.
A scheme emerges, in which the disgraced leaders of the Party of Regions (Mr. Yanukovich, Mr. Yefremov, Mr. Akhmetov etc) run the mechanisms of distribution of the funds, and the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation is in charge of the centralized military management. All other reshuffles, carve-ups of power, misappropriation of the funds and humanitarian aid, occurring at the grassroots level, is just for the show.
Meanwhile, there are internecine clashes both between the gangs, the militants and the regular units of the Russian Armed Forces. However, this is quite common for the territory that lacks an effective government system and is flooded with weapons and mercenaries of various ideological, moral, ethical, religious, and political views. It is noteworthy that there are guerilla groups, which operate completely independently and pursue their own goals. Some of them are guided by the ideas of the “United Ukraine”, while others just want to get even with the terrorists for the expropriated or destroyed property, killed or maimed relatives, etc.
Aleksey Mozgovoy, one of the leaders of the LPR military formations, is of particular interest. His entourage emphasizes that he is too independent and many people dislike that.
Now let us look at the map: Mr. Mozgovoy considers Lysychansk to be his fiefdom and longs to bring it back. He has repeatedly stated that in his interviews. According to our insiders, large amounts of military equipment were recently transferred towards the Alchevsk—Bryanka—Pervomaisk—Stakhanov agglomeration, it is possible that a mechanized regiment is going to be formed there. And this is where a double jeux can happen.
The self-proclaimed authorities of the Luhansk People’s Republic assisted by the Kremlin begin to discredit Mr. Mozgovoy so that later he could be blamed for all the sins of disrupted armistice and fallback to the active phase of clashes. However, covert sponsorship of his gang will continue. The goal of the operation is to gain control over the natural water obstacles to be able to make a forced crossing of the Severskiy Donets.
This is the reason why the terrorists started to shell Bryanka on December 26 — they just need an excuse. However, in Bryanka civilians were able to drive militants’ MLRS out of the Druzhba Stadium and that is why there was no retaliatory strike. However, the Pervomaisk—Lysychansk direction requires increased attention. Even if Mozgovoy fails to reach Lysychansk, he may be able to create a small pocket for the Ukrainian forces in the area of Toshkivka, Novotoshkivske, Krymske.
This theory is confirmed by the constant transfer of military equipment towards Luhansk via Krasnodon. For example, early in the morning of December 27 a large number (circa 95 units) of Russian military equipment entered Ukraine from Izvaryne border crossing and proceeded towards Luhansk. It makes no sense for the militants to accumulate military equipment there because Shchastya (thanks to the Severskiy Donets river) remains unapproachable for the militants.
Now let us look at the Shakhtarsk—Torez—Snizhne—Krasnyi Luch agglomeration. According to the insiders, up to 100 enemy tanks are concentrated there (this approximately corresponds to a tank brigade). Some of the tanks are in the constant readiness status. There are two options there: either Russian military expect an attack by Ukrainian forces from the direction of Debaltseve along the M03 highway, or they themselves prepare an attack in the opposite direction.
We observe increased activity of the militants near Mayorsk (Horlivka). If you look at the map, you will see that Mayorsk is pathway from Horlivka to Artemivsk. This activity may indicate a possible attack towards Artemivsk. Then an attack from Krasnyi Luch towards Debaltseve could be aimed at tying the Ukrainian forces there. Therefore, an attack on Artemivsk from Pervomaisk also seems logical.
Judging by the number and quality of bunkers in the western outskirts of Donetsk, it seems that the militants are preparing for defense. However, for several days in a row we have been observing movement of military equipment from Komsomolske towards Starobesheve and then towards Donetsk. In the morning of December 27, we observed increased activity of military equipment in the Petrovskiy District of Donetsk. This is why an attack on Kurakhove remains possible, as well as an attack towards the Donetsk—Selidove direction. According to the insiders, militants move towards Selidove by Krasnohorivka. Their mission will probably be to block communications of the Ukrainian forces located to the West of Donetsk in case of an offensive in the directions pointed out above.
As for the Mariupol direction, the scenario remains unchanged there. Because there is the Kalmius river in front of the Russian forces, it greatly complicates attacks in the Telmanove—Hranytne—Donske and Krasnoarmiiske—Talakivka—Volodarske—Mangush directions. A part of the militants’ military equipment had been transferred towards Olenivka in a preparation of an attack towards Volnovakha. Although it will be as cold as minus 20° C and the ice will be thick enough to allow the passage of light armored vehicles, attacks are unlikely here.
Activation of hostilities in all mentioned areas depends rather on the particular orders “from the above”, than on tactical situation. We do not expect any significant changes on the New Year’s Eve. However, we must be ready for anything.
We wish you well. Glory to Ukraine!
Original summary was drafted by InformNapalm’s military analyst Artem Vasylenko and InformNapalm’s coordinator, military correspondent Roman Burko and then translated by Aksana Dymchenko and edited by Gennadiy Kornev.