Donbass at War: The Siege of Gorlovka – Part 1

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By Julio Martinez for FRN 

Artillery shelling and the rattle of machine guns in the vicinity of the city of Gorlovka have not ceased for two weeks. An active exchange of shots began exactly at dawn on Victory Day, on May 9. And since then it has not stopped.

To save at least the children in Gorlovka, all the schools and kindergartens were closed urgently. However, almost daily from this city there are reports of civilians killed and injured.

The Ukrainians are bombarding the Gorlovka civilian population not only with mortars but also with 122mm artillery shells loaded with hundreds of small flechettes steel darts, to cause the maximum number of wounded and dead.

It is clear that it is even more difficult for those who are sitting in the trenches on both sides of the front. Meanwhile, victorious reports of their own deafening successes and great losses of the hated enemy sound repeatedly from both Kiev and Donetsk.

Let’s try to find out what is happening around Gorlovka today.

It is necessary to bear in mind that in just ten months Ukraine will hold presidential elections. And Petro Poroshenko, of course, sees himself as his winner. To do this, he needs to do the bare minimum: to show the people of his country that he is faithful to the promises with which he came to power. One of the main ones rang briefly: return Donbass to Kiev. Petro Poroshenko promised voters to do this almost instantly.

Then Ukraine believed him and handed him the ataman club [the scepter of authority]. And what happened? For the last four years, the front practically has not moved, and the anti-terrorist operation has become an interminable, exhausting and bloody positional war.

Therefore, victory is urgently needed for Poroshenko in Donbass. The taking of individual villages in the so-called “gray zone” is not enough. Taking a big city is a whole different story. 

Donetsk and Lugansk are ruled out. Both cities by the standards of Ukraine are simply huge and prepared for a long defense. Trying to take them would cost a river of blood to the Ukrainian army. As a consequence there would be a catastrophic electoral defeat for the organizer and inspirer of such a “victory”.

What is left? Gorlovka, in which fourteen years ago there were 271,000 people (how many are left today, of course, nobody will tell). First, it is closer to the front line. The frontline runs through the outskirts of the northwest (the area of ​​Maiorsk station) and the suburbs of the west.

Second of all, Gorlovka has remained half-surrounded by Ukrainian troops since 2014. 

Thirdly, Gorlovka spans over a vast territory of 400 square kilometers. And, in addition to the central part, it consists of several mining communities, which are very difficult to link in a single defense system. It is only possible to create a chain of isolated strong points that can be destroyed separately.

Fourth, from here it is easy to reach  Donetsk – there are only 37 kilometers in a straight line. Therefore, should Gorlovka fall, the outskirts of the capital of the Donetsk People’s Republic will be within the reach of Ukrainian artillery.

Fifthly, the fall of Gorlovka will put in a difficult position a part of the 1st Army Corps of the DPR defending Enakievo, Uglegorsk and Debaltsevo

Now about the balance of forces in this area. According to sources in the public domain, the total number of Ukrainian troops on the front line in this area is approximately 2.5-3.5 times higher than that of the opposing units of the 1st Army Corps of the Donetsk People’s Republic. And the tanks and artillery of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in Gorlovka are 1.5 to 1.7 times more.

The main attack force of Kiev in Gorlovka are the 24th brigade and the 54th mechanized brigade . The 24th brigade has alleged military successes in May around Gorlovka. These “successes” are summarized in that the units of the brigade in the “gray zone” advanced about two kilometers from Bogdanovka towards the village of Petrovsky and occupied the village of Chigaryi located in this territory.

However, experts have suggested that the objective of the operation was not Chigaryi, but the small Sheverevka mine. If taken, Ukrainian gunners would have a great opportunity to adjust fire from the observatory of the pile of rubble against the city center. But Ukrainian attacks have been continously repulsed. 

In view of the dangerous situation, the main reserve of the 1st Army Corps of the DPR – the assault battalion “Somali” – was transferred to the area of ​​combat operations. This is the unit created by the famous Givi (Mikhail Tolstykh) who died at the hands of Ukrainian saboteurs in February 2017.

Meanwhile, observers have drawn attention to another eloquent fact, which may indicate the beginning of a serious operation of the Ukrainian army, approved, of course, by the Pentagon.

In recent months, reconnaissance drone aircraft of the optical and electronic reconnaissance unit RQ-4B Block 30 “Global Hawk” from the NATO base of Sigonella in Sicily have carried out regular flights over the armed conflict zone.On May 12, when the cannonade near Gorlovka was already rumbling, an aerial reconnaissance pilot of the US Air Force the call sign UAVGH000 suddenly deviated from the usual route. After passing through the regions of Kirovograd and Dnipropetrovsk, it went to the Kharkov region. But there is no war there, so what was it checking? 

The explanation of this may be, in my opinion, that Kharkov is on the border with Russia. As a result, the US military is very interested in the conditions of a possible advance by Russian troops deployed on the border with Ukraine. The Pentagon fears that in case of a massive attack against Gorlovka, from the Russian side of the border, will blow the strong “North Wind” and the rumble of tank caterpillars will be heard. The “North Wind” is the name given to a hypothetical intervention of the Russian army. 

Of course, the World Cup in Russia will take place soon. And this severely limits the Kremlin in a military-political maneuver in the form of a “North Wind”. But in war everything is possible. And Kiev’s foreign sponsors are taking this into account. 

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