Editorial note. We are publishing a good overview about the military situation in Donbas, which came out as a column of our partners “Petr&Mazepa” called “Good Morning, Vietnam! Late June” . This text is rich in details, which might be of interest to our foreign readers, that is why InformNapalm volunteers are planning a translation of this publication into different languages of our website.
The end of June was marked with some of the heaviest military clashes since the time of Mariinka and Novolaspa offensives. Apart from fighting at the Avdiivka industrial zone, several new flare points emerged. This is not surprising, since both sides are in a hurry to reach their objectives during the summer campaign. For now, this is all about hybrid war with emphasis on massive media campaigns combined with steady military pressure to exhaust the enemy. Only according to official data (which does not include the Right Sector), we had up to 26 soldiers killed and about 170 wounded during this June. The numbers for May were no less, and according to some information even higher. Stabilized trench warfare is always bloody, and this period is no different. The enemy also has a substantial number of killed and wounded; especially if we take into account how often they try to push us out of the fortified areas and to go through dense mine fields. There are daily messages about casualties among mercenaries. The fighting for Svitlodarsk salient, operations in the Azov Sea coastal areas and mortar attacks in Sakhanka cost the adversary hybrid army up to 15 killed, 8 POW’s and a lot of wounded. These are the figures of only few active days, published in open sources. We can only guess the general number of casualties through the whole month, since Donetsk Peoples Republic (DPR) and Lugansk Peoples Republic (LPR) have not managed to keep a combined track of casualties after two years of the war.
What has changed during the period under discussion? On June 27, the 54th Separate Reconnaissance Battalion and Ukrainian Volunteer Army have conducted a highly successful operation near Vodiane village. We will not give any details for now, but terrorists had a bit of dumb luck with only 8 captives and 3 killed engineers from the “DPR marines”. By the way, the video of interrogation is very telling: the people who had been serving for only about a month under the command of the squad leader who had had only 4 months of experience, were sent to perform an ambush preparation and a other special tasks. This predictably ended in casualties on their side. It is loud near Dokuchaevsk, they use artillery, up to self-propelled howitzers. In the area of Toretsk near Horlivka, heavy artillery was used too: terrorists complain that they are being shelled. Mortars are being used at Avdiivka traditionally every night, whereas we perform our tasks keeping pressure up on the road interchange and embankment and holding the sector under fire control. We also keep our positions, both in the built-up area and the vineyards. On the Svitlodarsk salient, on June 29, Ukrainian Armed Forces conducted a short attack on the front checkpoints with the participation of units of 54thand 59th Infantry Brigades and the first assault company of the Ukrainian Volunteer Army. As a result of reconnaissance-in-force the defense of the enemy collapsed, units of the 7th brigade of the hybrid army pulled back. We took high points between Lohvynove and Kalynivka. We also used mortars against the retreating enemy forces. In a few hours enemy’s artillery started an active shelling – up to three batteries from Horlivka to Yenakijeve. The 7th brigade is notorious for strong drinking, even among mercenaries, they are not the most capable unit. For its support, the enemy scrabled units of the 100th motorized rifle brigade of the DPR, reinforced with main battle tanks (MBT) and artillery.
Fire duels were going on for several hours. The enemy was shelling not only high points which they had lost, but also other positions. They were using everything they had – MBTs, 122 millimeter artillery (including 2S1 Gvozdika systems), mortars, at times multiple rocket launch systems (MRLS). The fight was raging for no less that 8-10 hours. As a result the assault line remained running from the area of height 236.1 to Hriazevski pond, through the buildings near the pond, to the line of heights near Mironivskiy. The enemy suffered substantial losses, including an officer in a dug-out, who remained on the territory taken by Ukrainian forces. Our side also had up to 3 servicemen killed.
There was no massive assault even on the operational and tactical level, nothing even close to clearing Vuhlerirsk or approaching Debaltseve. As usual, an ordinary local incident was blown out of proportion on social networks. Officially, the media can only talk about a counter attack of the Ukrainian Army in response to a night offensive of the terrorists. Unofficially, that was a powerful signal for the political process: by attacking the grey zone and destroying front fortified blocks we gave a clear sign that it would be good to implement the agreements faster, not to raise stakes any higher and risk a necessity to send in invasion troops again, getting under more sanctions. Moreover, Ukraine does not violate anything – the clashes are happening in the zone which, according to Minsk agreements, has to be under Ukrainian control, and which was being seized live during the negotiation process in winter 2015. As the enemy once did near Mariinka, we in our turn are now testing their reflexes, including the reaction speed of Russia, arrival time of reinforcements, including fire and counter artillery systems, their communications under pressure of our electronic warfare systems. In general, after Shyrokine, the initiative is on our side. Starting with last summer, the enemy is receiving attacks on checkpoints, suffers casualties, trying to cross the collision line and knocking its head on the industrial zone without any apparent success. Even though “nothing much is going on”, the enemy had to get 6 killed mercenaries in Sakhanka from the rubble of the incoming mortar fire. At the same time, our reconnaissance battalion brought 8 captives with bags on their heads, while our special forces in the territory controlled by terrorists kidnapped a person responsible for the death of our soldiers on a pilot recovery mission. In the last few weeks, the trend of active Ukrainian operations in the “grey zone” has been getting more and more pronounced – we are now dictating time and place of contact to the enemy.
The hybrid army stays true to its style: massive shelling at nightfall, adjustment fire and short heavy artillery attacks, moving mortar and grenade machinegun attacks, sniper activity. On June 29, they shelled Krasnohorivka with mortars. Near Novotroitske, our forces prevented a flank attack on the Ukrainian forces, the enemy offense was cut short with dense fire. Near Avdiivka, regular clashes happen at nightfall, mostly with the use of heavy machine guns, and sometimes with artillery. The Donetsk triangle is hot. The frontline is tense from the Azov coast up to Zaytseve and Svitlodarsk salient. Near Mariupol, this includes Shyrokine, Hnutove, Talakivka, Pishchevyk, Hranitne. There were short attacks with heavy artillery of up to 152 millimeter caliber including self-propelled howitzer. 2B9 Vasilek mortar systems, grenade launchers and 120 millimeter mortars are being used regularly. Our marines suffered losses in this sector (one serviceman killed and 3 wounded), because of a 82 millimeter mortar shell which hit a group of soldiers, while they were cooking food. In the southern sector the hybrid army traditionally uses moving self-propelled artillery groups, ZU-23-2 aerial guns, antitank missiles, and artillery duels happen here even more often. It is much quieter in the North, in the area controlled by the LPR force, but even here military clashes happen sometimes at Novozvanivka, Novoaleksandrivka and Popasna.
Let us now draw some conclusions. During the period under discussion units of the 10th Separate Mountain Assault Brigade have also taken some positions in the area of the “stables”, where mercenaries’ positions were located during the fight for the town. Now there is a clearly visible pattern – we rely on the built-up and fortified areas, we spend months fortifying our positions, creating a unified net of fire, dug-outs, and solid shelters, lateral lines of communication and fire positions and then we make one step forward, taking key heights in the area. That’s how it was at Shyrokine with “Mayak” and the cottages, that’s how it was with the Avdiivka industrial zone, high points above Dokuchaevsk and Svitlodarsk; now we see it in Mariinka. The enemy attempts to react, trying not to let Ukrainian forces consolidate, and we fire mortars in response from our strongholds. When the enemy uses artillery and MRLS, our artillery units remain in the base camps outside of the enemy’s reach, nearly on the limit of their operating range – all material equipment, including vehicles, ammunition and fuel trucks are well covered there. In such cases they they “travel light” to the familiar prepared positions and fire from there. After they finish their job, they pull back quickly, increasing the distance and breaking contact. To reinforce this tactic we are getting few more dozens of radars, and means of digital communication. We are also expecting to get some drones, which will allow us ot practice “active defense”, based on the infiltration into the “grey zone”, keep a unified fire system, lead effective counter-artillery warfare and pressure the enemy from several directions at once. The pressure is rising gradually – in the center, in the South, on Svitlodarsk salient. Mercenaries got hit near Zaytseve, sappers wasted bear Vodiane, fortifications of the 7th terrorist brigade destroyed, a successful assassination hit on Zaria brigade commander (two other separatist commanders survived by sheer luck). We got active Mariinka, we keep a regular fire pressure against the hybrid army’s communications at the Avdiivka industrial zone and near Dokuchaevsk. Mercenaries suffered losses near Sakhanka and two companies of the enemy were crippled near Yasynovata road interchange. Everything is going according to plan.
Does Ukraine violate Minsk agreements? Well, Avdiivka should be controlled by Ukrainian army, according to Minsk agreements. The same goes for our positions near Svitlodarsk and in the coastal area. We do not violate anything. Sooner or later the situation will explode. By that time, we will have several battalion-task groups, trained at Yavoriv and Shyrlan ranges, we will have hundreds restored artillery systems, more than 40 counter-battery radars, 70-80 new drones, more than 1500 anti-tank missiles, produced during the 2015-2016. Hybrid army may start trying to capture 15-20 kilometers a year again, paying a price of hundreds of killed and wounded. They can try to break through kilometers of tranches and dug-outs, they can also try to capture towns the size of Mariinka and alleys of 4 buildings. Or else, they can continue holding out under the fire of mortars and grenade launchers, burying their commanders and leaders, not being able to publish real losses even for their supporters. The most adequate alternative for them would be to hand the border over to OSCE and to start building their own declining economy and get back to fixing their own Russian problems. In any case, not only the ball is on our side, but the hybrid army brought it all on themselves by trying to reach the regional borders, by attacking Debaltseve during negotiations, by shelling our positions with heavy artillery. Recent events are just an adequate response.
Sine more than 1.5 years, the enemy has stopped talking on “taking on Kyiv”. Their objectives have been reduced to capturing “strategic” vineyards and stables. We can not afford losing 50 people a day in a massive warfare and to switch our economy to the wartime mode. That is why we need to take this way – step by step digging into the ground locally and blocking Russian diplomacy globally. There is no other way for us now. It is a very hard and bloody way, but Ukraine will walk it. Sooner or later, we will win.
Translated by Maksym Sviezhentsev