No Ceasefire in Sight: Donbass Sitrep May 11-20

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By Julio Martinez for FRN 

General situation – The fight during May 

It seems that after the attrition suffered in April, as on previous occasions, there was a pause in operations while the Ukrainian army relieved worn units and repositioned their forces for new attacks.

There was relative calm the first week of May, but attacks intensified again on May 10, and there has been strong pressure against Gorlovka in the last few weeks.

May 11

With ups and downs the fighting has continued throughout May. Apparently the intensity of the fighting is still above the March average.

On Victory Day, May 9, the Ukrainians beat a new record with 36 bombings and attacks and more than 1,100 heavy caliber explosions recorded. The actual figure is of course higher, as a report quoted below, dated May 1, confirms that the attacks and bombings declared in the DPR and LPR’s official reports do not even reflect 10% of what is actually happening. This could be an exaggeration, but all the available evidence of Ukrainian wounded soldiers arriving in hospitals in the rear and statistics published by sappers on both sides about the deactivation of unexploded projectiles confirm that this is indeed the case. After all, the easiest way to lie and pretend that nothing is happening is to simply remove a zero from the numbers of real impacts and casualties.

The Ukrainians have proceeded with troop rotations: the 57th Brigade, worn out by the fight, has been relieved by the 92nd. The interesting thing is that the latter is only at 70% of its capacity, so the relay will not be complete, and some units of the 57th will have to stay in front.

On May 10th, 516 heavy weapon impacts were recorded – half of the number from the previous day, but still well above the March average, which was a typical month.

The Ukrainians are experiencing a shortage of officers. They have so few that they placing sergeants (who command at most a squad of 15 men) in charge of platoons ( 2 or 3 squads or about 30-50 men usually commanded by a lieutenant),  following mere three-day training courses.

By comparison, graduating as a junior lieutenant takes 4 or 5 years of studies in a military academy.

Ukrainian units are generally short on personnel, a trend that began to be noticed in 2017 and now is confirmed. This situation does not seem to be improving despite Kiev’s latest mobilization, conducted without publicity to avoid discontent and panic

According to Anti-Maidan reports, data has been confirmed on “the catastrophic shortage of personnel in formations and divisions of the UAF throughout the country. Force levels are 70% of the personnel in units on the front – in the rear are less than 48%. 

Currently, the Ukrainian military and political leadership is trying to “plug holes” through a spring recruitment, which by the number of recruits is comparable to a mobilization wave. 

According to the Kiev’s official government statement, more than 15,000 people are being recruited.

However, to reduce the panic and flight of potential recruits from military recruitment offices, this figure has been understated by 2.5 times. In fact, 38 thousand people will be summoned.

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May 12-14

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Ukrainian forces have doubled up on their attacks. These days they have again beat the record of explosions so far this year, with about 1,300 impacts on May 11. The figure is much higher than official reports claim.  Kiev’s forces were repulsed in Gorlovka, and lost an important height.

 

Ukrainian reports spoke of new missiles supplied by Russia to the rebels, with certainty these are the new artillery rockets of which we have already spoken. Videos with DPR forces equipped with new rocket launchers and other heavy-gauge rockets have circulated.

 

On May 12 there were 70 clashes. In two weeks the Prizrak brigade in Lugansk  suffered 20 casualties. If in all likelihood the losses of the Ukrainians are more than a thousand a month, then by pure statistics, then Novorussian casualties must be between 200 or 300 dead and injured per month.

A total of 400 explosions have been recorded.

May 15

 

A Ukrainian advance southwest of Gorlovka failed. According to frontline reports, the maneuver ended in shame, with Ukrainian punitive forces literally ‘praying’ for evacuation from Gorlovka.

The offensive of the Ukrainian army in the direction of Gorlovka has been drowned. According to the public report “Summaries of the Novorossiia militia”, the soldiers of the Ukrainian army in the settlement of Chigaryi have already requested from their command evacuation from this sector of the front.

Ukrainian soldiers of the 24th brigade are in an extremely difficult situation in Chigaryi. Not only have they used almost all their ammunition and weapons, but their food and medicines have run out. 

The Ukrainian punishers’ positions are being surrounded by the forces of the Donbas militia. Since all the surrounding heights are occupied by the armed forces of the DPR. Without assistance Ukrainian troops can not withdraw from Chigaryi.

 

The forces of the Ukrainian regime have simultaneously reinforced their fire positions to the west of Donetsk, transferring 203mm self-propelled guns such as the 2C7 PION to Turakhovo, less than 50KM from the front.

 

 

Intense fire was heard day and all night to the west and north of Gorlovka. In the language of frontline reports: “Militants of the terrorist organization ‘Ukraine'” have used small arms, armored vehicles, tanks 82 and 120 mm mortars and 122 and 152mm artillery.

The sky is burning with the glow of artillery fire. In Zaitsevo and Glubokoye people are hiding in basements, afraid to come out, with fire exchanges reaching the intensity of 2014. 

This marks five days of attacks in Gorlovka which have seen Ukrainian platoons seek to advance by a couple sections at most. 400 explosions. It seems that the Ukrainians have been beaten back in Gorlovka because they are silent on the subject.

May 16

Ukrainian forces fired Grad rockets at the water filtration station in Donetsk. 

Messages from Donetsk say that Makeevka is in a desperate situation and called for the second line of the front to be reinforced. But there are not enough troops.

 

May 17

Ukrainian President Poroshenko and US State Department Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker announce “big changes” for Donbass. This announcement confirms the intensity of the fighting, which as we have said is 10 times greater than press reports might indicate.

 

May 18

The battle around Gorlovka continues. The Ukrainians continue to move slowly, on both sides every day, with dead and wounded. The city itself has been bombarded constantly with heavy artillery.On the Novorussian side, one report suggested that the brigade commander defending Gorlovka is a “drunk” with “a total inability to carry out minimal official duties.” 

 

Fighting near Gorlovka: Chigaryi

As always, as soon as fighting breaks out on the Donbass front, a large amount of information is disseminated across network, often contradicting each other and to a large extent caused by the work of agitprop on both sides of the front. Similarly, today it is also taking place in the area of ​​the south-eastern outskirts of Leninskoye settlement in the western outskirts of Gorlovka.

Kiev claims that its armed forces have “liberated”  Chigaryi, but Donetsk has reported that the Ukrainian Armed Forces have been trapped in a cauldron. 

As usual in such cases, neither correspond to the truth. Today it is already possible to completely re-consider analyses of the intention of the UAF operation, explain more or less  say why such obstinate confrontations are ongoing, and suggest how the situation will develop in the future.

What is Chigaryi?

To understand the situation, it should be clarified that there is no village of Chigaryi west of Gorlovka – there is a remote outskirts southeast of Leninskoye (Yuzhnoye) which locals call it. Generally, in each small town for convenience, its inhabitants call separate parts in their own way. For them, in the communication, it was clear what part of the town in question.

For example, in the town where my father grew up, in which there were around 300 households in those “districts”, there were five or six (I do not remember exactly).

Why the village of Chigaryi appeared in the reports is also understandable. Kiev needs a triumph, so a couple dozen village houses in the outskirts are reported in the media as “the next liberated settlement.”

The intention of the UAF operation

The meaning of the operation was as follows. Of course, there was no need to capture the ‘town’. The main objective of the operation was the debris from the Shevelevka mine and possibly the ruins of the mine itself. With the successful mastery of this area, Kiev units would have a strong bulwark on the outskirts of Gorlovka, as well as convenient positions to observe and correct the bombing of much of its western surroundings. This, in turn, would create considerable inconvenience for the Donbass militia, and the problems that the population of these areas would have had is terrible to imagine.

More importantly, the occupation of this site would not constitute a formal violation of the Minsk Agreement, since Chigaryi and the surrounding area formally belong to the Leninskoe (southern) settlement, which must “according to Minsk” be in the “jurisdiction” of Kiev.

As before in the battles in the Svetlodarsk arc, the element of surprise is the main calculation.

What happened

On the night and early  morning of May 12, UAF tactical assault groups (very likely, two) crossed the stream and entered the streets of the village. The task was to cover the piece of the Shevelevka mine in the south and east and take advantage of it. They managed to go on the offensive, but they could not accomplish the second part of their mission. It remains difficult to reconstruct the details of what happened, but both groups fell under the heavy fire of small arms and mortars, later joined by artillery.

The chain of problems began when they were faced with having to deploy armored vehicles, since such had to be deployed in an open area, which could easily be destroyed by Novorussian anti-tank weapons. Yet without armored vehicles, the Ukrainians could not assault fortified positions whose forces have artillery support. In short, it turned out to be a suicide operation. Thus, Kiev had no choice but to declare Chigaryi as its main target, and the soldiers who broke in there were given the order to dig and entrench themselves.

What’s next?

The situation here is twofold. In general, UAF soldiers are at risk of being isolated if they cannot establish supplies. They will simply have to leave sooner or later. The Ukrainian military command has not yet given the order to withdraw. Will Kiev’s troops endure? This is an open question. As of May 20th, the situation seemed to be in a state of deadlock, but sooner or later one of the parties will have to withdraw. 

That is why the command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine despite the losses does not give the order to withdraw from the positions won. But will your soldiers endure? This is also a question. Now the situation in this area is in a state of equilibrium. But sooner or later, one of the parties will have to withdraw.

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In May, the level of fighting in the Donetsk People’s Republic is constantly increasing; the level of bombings increased considerable. Many people were killed and injured, both civilians and soldiers.

The hottest point is still Gorlovka and the nearby villages. Mayor Ivan Prikhodko has commented: “Saying that the situation is difficult is to say nothing. Every day there are dead and injured. Today, a man and a woman died during the night, and in the morning another man was wounded. Since May 1, 107 houses have been destroyed…only eight could be restored. “

Donbass artillery have bombed enemy positions around Gorlovka. Ukrainian losses are high. The intensity of the fighting has not reduced.

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