No nation has ever benefited from a protracted war.
The Sun Tzu quote reflects what has happened in the Donbas. The truce that came after the withdrawal of the Ukrainian forces form Debaltseve was necessary for the both sides. The separatists have suffered heavy losses (for example, in Alchevsk local militants were hiding in hospitals to avoid going to the frontline). The Ukrainian army was somewhat demoralized by its ‘outstandingly well-organized’ withdrawal. After that, a withdrawal of the heavy weapons occurred.
Unlike the Ukrainian forces, the separatists were moving their weapons in circles, taking them out via major highways and returning them back via field roads. It is not clear whether it was done to confuse the OSCE observers or to keep the separatist soldiers busy and maintain their discipline. One thing is clear that while mimicking a withdrawal of artillery, militants have been able to accumulate a significant number of mechanized units on the main and expected directions of attack. In addition, separatist units train themselves regularly and create new fortified areas in all directions.
However, truce played its positive role. Perhaps because of miracle, but our authorities were able to get first tranche from the International Monetary Fund to the extent of $5 bln. Exactly this circumstance has crucial importance for our enemies. First, Putin understands now, that nobody will be ‘just scaring’ him anymore. Europe’s ‘deep concern’ era regarding situation in Ukraine is gone and Merkel promised adequate response should there be an attack on Mariupol and North of Donbas. International financiers from the IMF have convulsively ‘raised’ this money during the whole year, and now they are just forced to leave everything as it is, even if it is temporarily.
Second, the law on the special status of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts was adopted by the Verkhovna Rada. Or, more precisely, it was not adopted on the Russian terms and conditions. This forces Mr. Putin to look for the possibilities of non-financing the territories of Ukraine which are occupied by Russia and look for another approach to destabilize the situation in our country. There are some opportunities here. We will not discuss the point of Mr. Kolomoyskyi’s ‘war against all’ and new surprises from Mr. Firtash. Mr. Putin has other options as well: e.g., Mr. Akhmetov.
Namely with Akhmetov’s help Moscow will try to destabilize Mariupol. It does not mean that Rinat Leonidovich himself is Moscow’s agent. Moscow can just play nicely on Akhmetov’s interests. What this would be? Can it be that war which destroyed most of the Donbas infrastructure almost omitted Akhmetov’s factories? We should understand how steel is produced by Akhmetov’s steel works. Therefore, it is quite possible, that terrorussians will try to destabilize Mariupol, and then so called ‘Army of DPR’ will enter the city. An attempted attack on Berdyansk Airport proves this scenario. So, while somebody is trying to divide Ukrtransnafta, another piece of Ukraine might be split off.
However, if a heavy-handed approach will be favored, it will look like following. Behind the tragedy in Kostiantynivka, the enemy transferred its forces to Northwestern suburbs of Horlivka. Apparently they assumed disobedience of the local population because of tragic death of a girl will lead to mass riots, which will contain the 81st brigade of the Ukrainian Army.
Consequently, this will allow battling through in the direction of Horlivka — Dzerzhynsk — Kostiantynivka and seize the city. We should praise the consistent work of the Ministry of Defense and Ukrainian media, which demonstrated Ukraine’s readiness to punish the perpetrators of the crime. Although, it is early to relax, there is unverified information about arrival of a new group of militants to Kostiantynivka and they might try to destabilize the situation in the town.
According to the information from the open sources, militants repaired railways in Debaltseve and this will simplify a supply of their units close to the line of contact. But attack along the route M03 in the direction of Debaltseve — Artemivsk is impossible because of the system of water reservoirs between the towns. However, the attack on Artemivsk from Horlivka and Pervomaisk looks quite possible, especially if the militants are able to capture Kostiantynivka.
In case of the seizure of Kostiantynivka militants will not try to get to Artemivsk through Druzhkivka and Oleksievo-Druzhkivka, because the generals of RF army forces might remember negative experience of the first Chechen war. However, moving towards Sloviansk via M03 would be the most probable scenario. Not to mention that vegetation will start soon and a green leaves will appear. We remember the 2014 summer campaign, when small groups of militants used guerilla tactics against the Ukrainian forces in the North of Donbas. Besides, control over Kostiantynivka will give an opportunity to develop success towards Krasnoarmiisk and will allow the militants to control the Western entry to Donbas.
We were forced to examine the scenario of the attack on Krasnoarmiisk because of a sequence of events, namely: Kolomoyskyi’s war against other oligarchs and the authorities. Dnipropetrovsk is tightly connected to Yuzhmash Missiles Factory with production ties to the Russian Army. Up until now it had no separatism symptoms because of the activities of the oblast governor. Pressure on Kolomoyskyi can destabilize the situation in the oblast with all the outcomes…
We wrote already in a previous report, that seizure of Kostiantynivka will allow the militants to hinder supply of the Ukrainian forces. Besides, taking Artemivsk will allow them to cover their left flank and attack Lysychansk to control the river passages over Severskyi Donets.
Special attention should be paid to the point with coordinates N48.819444° E38.588033° with a fording site over the Siverskyi Donets near village Ustynivka, a leftover of former training range which was located here. Taking control over it will allow the militants to transfer their equipment to the Northern bank of the river and get close to Shchastya from the North. Iraklii Komaxidze reported accumulation of the enemy strike forces near the settlement of Millerove. This leaves high probability of strike from the Russian side, masked by crossing of Siverskyi Donets near Lysychansk and Ustynivka. Similarly, special attention should be paid to Stanytsia Luhanska, where militants already tried to cross the river and build block-post on its Northern bank. Speaking of the direction of Vesela Hora — Shchastya, we would like to remind again about Siverskyi Donets which means any strikes in this area will be of a fictitious nature only.
Let us go South. Militants continue to gather the forces for the attack on Avdiivka. Possible reason is a coking plant, or the necessity to push the Ukrainian forces away from the route M04 to avoid risks for the Terrorussian equipment moving via this route. One way or another, the militants will not give up their attempts to take Avdiivka. Going far South, one should admit the increasing activities of the militants near Dokuchaevsk and Starobesheve. Enemy continues to group equipment for the possible attack on Volnovakha and further on Volodarske and Mangush, aiming to cut Mariupol from supply routes. That is why they are pulling equipment to Shyrokine area, trying to accumulate Ukrainian forces there. Possible landing operation near Berdyansk is possible as well. Especially after the recent exercises of the Russian marine corps in Crimea.
The original analysis was prepared by the military analyst Artem Vasylenko with the support of InformNapalm team, translated by Sveta Kemblowski and Andrii Gryganskyi and edited by Gennadiy Kornev