By Roman Nesterenko
Translated from Russian by J.Hawk
Our source in Artemovsk says that the remnants of Ukrainian forces which “broke out” of Debaltsevo total only 1000 soldiers, and a third of them are wounded and injured. Moreover, they are on the verge of mutiny. UAF troops claim they were betrayed, and hold Poroshenko personally responsible.
The “breakout” tragedy unfolded as follows:
On February 17th the 128th Transcarpathian Mountain Infantry Brigade commander Colonel Sergey Shaptalo started negotiations with commanders of DPR and LPR units attacking Debaltsevo. At the time Shaptalo was the most senior UAF officer left in the cauldron, as the entire Sector S HQ had fled a week earlier. UAF troops report that Shaptalo made an agreement that the 128th Brigade will be allowed to leave with trucks and small arms, but just as they were going to withdraw, under pressure from Kiev, Shaptalo tried to form an armored vehicle column as well. So therefore the HQ column and half the brigade’s troops came out without a snag, but the second and third columns, which contained armored vehicles, the “separatists” shot to bits.
The departure of the 128th Brigade means that LPR and DPR have practically eliminated the cauldron due to the breach in its defenses. LPR/DPR was able to take the well fortified Olkhovatka without a fight, where the UAF abandoned dozens of armored vehicles and much artillery. UAF troops who made it to Artemovsk say that after their departure there were still about 3000 UAF troops left in the cauldron, who more than likely surrendered. Another 300 troops surrendered on their own accord during the march from Debaltsevo to Artemovsk.
The moral state of UAF troops who “broke out” of Debaltsevo and are now in Artemovsk is very low. Poroshenko’s arrival in Artemovsk only added fuel to the fire, when he quickly took a few photos with the spec ops troops (who came out with the HQ column) and then gave a speech on how the wise UAF commanders saved its troops from the “Debaltsevo salient.”
Ordinary troops did not take this speech very well, since they were being constantly lied to over the course of last several weeks. Nobody told them they were surrounded, they were starved for a week and a half, their own headquarters abandoned them and, as a final indignity, the command violated the agreement it had with DPR/LPR so as to preserve Poroshenko’s image, even though it led to extremely heavy personnel losses. Artemovsk hospitals are full of wounded, they brought about 100 dead soldiers with them, and one can’t even estimate how many dead had to be left behind. They mention various numbers, from 150 to a 1000.
The most popular figure among the troops is now Semen Semenchenko because he is the only one “who tells the truth.” Troops are marauding, commanders are told to go to hell, there is a story that makes the rounds that yesterday deserters killed members of the Ukrainian Security Service on the road to Kramatorsk.
It’s possible that such attitudes will spell the end of the UAF as an organized fighting force.
J.Hawk's Comment: As I wrote earlier, for the life of me I can't figure out why Poroshenko did not make some sort of a "Dunkirk speech". Whom is he trying to fool? Does he really not know? He is either out of touch with reality or his political instincts non-existent. Though, come to think of it, these qualities are not mutually exclusive.