Donbass at War: The Siege of Gorlovka – Part 2

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By Julio Martinez for FRN 

The Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) have been given the mission of “tightening the noose” around Donetsk, the capital of the Donetsk People’s Republic.

On the night of May 20, Ukrainian armed forces attempted to attack the positions of the soldiers of the DonetskPeople’s Republic (DNR) outside Gorlovka.

A high ranking officer of the Ukrainian army  said that Gorlovka is considered by the command to be the most advantageous front for “tightening the encirclement” around Donetsk: “Gorlovka is surrounded by dominant heights, even in the village of Yuzhny. Who owns these heights, in fact, owns the city. From them, the entire city is exposed to shelling. Therefore, if the heights around Gorlovka are taken by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the separatists themselves will surrender without a fight.”

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Gorlovka is a strategic springboard for an attack against Debaltsevo and Eenakievo. Therefore, the siege around Donetsk would be tightened, and the Ukrainian army claims that it would not be formally violating the Minsk Agreements, since the heights around Gorlovka are in to the so-called gray area. The Ukrainian officer said: “We have every right to occupy the gray area, this movement does not count as an offensive.” 

However, in 2016, the deputy head of the Special Monitoring Mission of the OSCE, Alexander Hug, noted that there is no concept of a “gray area” in the Minsk Agreements, and an advance by either side is a violation of the agreements.

Meanwhile, “Strana.ua” has denied reports that Ukrainian tanks have advanced. “Tanks did not participate in the attack on the outskirts of Gorlovka. There is too steep of a slope.  BMP and BTR armored vehicles did not advance; they were limited to supporting our infantry with the fire of their guns. But our attack did not have any significant success: they only advanced a few tens of meters,” a fighter of the Ukrainian brigade that took part in the offensive claimed. 

According to political analyst Oleg Matveichev, The Ukrainian army has no chance of taking control of the republics of Donbas, despite recent attempts at advances in Gorlovka. In Matveichev’s view, there are several theories explaining these Ukrainian moves: 

“The first version is a short one: they are advancing to a small extent for some tactical reasons. The second version: Poroshenko needs a state of emergency to cancel the the Ukrainian presidential elections. For this, the following combination can be played: first an offensive is launched and then abruptly withdrawn so that the militiamen take over some new territories.”

“This”, Matveichev explains, “will be described as an offensive by the Russians, who attacked and snatched a piece of Ukraine, hence the necessity of the country being unified to stop the enemy. A state of emergency will be extended so that the presidential elections are eliminated from the agenda. At the same time, problems will be caused for Russia during the World Cup.” 

“The third option is the most insane, and that is if Poroshenko has believed the Americans that ‘if you take a step forward, we will support you’. In this case, in a desperate gamble, Poroshenko could go on the offensive and create a big problem. This would end as it did with South Ossetia: the attacks will be repulsed and the question of recognizing Novorossia will be raised. He simply does not have any options to seize Donbass: because even if such were successful, this would be an unacceptable loss of face for Putin. Naturally, in that case, we would have the right to urgently recognize the republics and respond immediately to their request for military aid, “said Matveichev.

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