Yesterday, June 20th, in Rostov-on-Don I met with my colleagues from Stakhanov (Lugansk People’s Republic). The latter city is on the very front line in Donbass, literally within several kilometers of the Ukrainian army’s positions. According to my colleagues, the situation in the area remains tense. The Ukrainian Armed Forces shell the LPR’s People’s Militia and civilians’ homes on a daily basis, usually with mortars.
Yet there is one particular recent trend worth highlighting, and that is that OSCE Special Monitoring Mission observers have begun to more frequently record the Ukrainian side’s violations and call on Kiev to comply with the ceasefire. It is as if the “sleeping” OSCE observers, as Donbass people call them, have suddenly woken up.
However, this OSCE behavior has not found reflection in Ukrainian troops’ behavior, as the attacks have not ceased. Periodically over the past few weeks the intensity of Ukrainian attacks has reached critical points, even resembling the fire density of the hottest summer months of 2014. Even if their frequency is somewhat down, their intensity is up.
My friends from the LPR are of the opinion that full-scale war will not break out in Donbass in the near future, by which they mean the coming weeks. Of course, there is always the 1% uncertainty that the incompetent Ukrainian leadership will give the order for an offensive or be forced by foreign “friends”, such as the Washington hawks, to rush into battle. Nevertheless, war remains unlikely.
Meanwhile, information resources in the Donbass republics continue to claim the arrival of new Ukrainian troops and vehicles to the front line, which official Russian “propaganda” delicately calls the “contact line.”
Insider information on Ukrainian army plans has also appeared in the press. On June 19th, a Ukrainian journalist with accreditation and contact with the headquarters of Ukraine’s United Forces Operation in Kramatorsk (Donetsk region), got in touch with the People’s Militia of the Donetsk People’s Republic and leaked information on UAF military facilities and operations. According to reports of this Ukrainian journalist’s leak, the UAF is in fact planning an offensive on both republics soon. The journalist passed along his knowledge of the Ukrainians’ attack plans. According to this source, the plan is to cut between the DPR and LPR’s lines of defense.
A number of observers in the military circles of the DPR have already expressed doubts as to this source’s credibility. Indeed, there are more than a few grounds to believe that we are dealing with disinformation by Ukraine.
However, Donbass and Russian media have reported the deployment of Ukrainian tanks and various artillery systems closer to the frontline. What’s more, the Operation United Forces headquarters has set up ammunition points close to the frontline. One such temporary ammunition depot was established near Konstantinovka and was subsequently blown up – it is unclear whether this was done by DPR artillery or the Ukrainians themselves in order to eliminate the traces of potential ammunition theft, which is a ubiquitous problem in Ukraine. The deployment of military field hospitals near the frontline and the distribution of a large number of night vision devices to UAF forces have also been reportedly sighted.
Again, it must be admitted that many observers have suggested that the Ukrainian army is not ready for any large-scale offensive operations. First and foremost, they are stuck with bad weapons and Kiev is in no position to arm its troops with modern weaponry in the required volumes, as the Ukrainian defense industry has continued to disappoint. Even the much-vaunted Ukrainian Oplot T-84 tank turned out to be a wreck. To recall, at the recent NATO tank biathlon in Germany (which was set up because US and NATO countries are afraid of competing in the original tank biathlons held by Russia), Ukrainian tankists came in 8th place.
Another argument against war being imminent is that the Ukrainian army would need huge amounts of ammunition, spare parts for military equipment and vehicles, rations, etc., which would also demand huge transportation and logistics operations. Ukrainian railways would be literally filled with columns of military supplies, which we have not seen.
According to military analysts, as things stand Ukraine has the capacity to wage a full-scale war for a maximum of two to three days. But Kiev must remember how Hitler’s invasion of the USSR ended when the Wehrmacht bet on a blitzkrieg and was not ready for war in Russian winter. It cannot be forgotten that many of Ukraine’s United Forces’ Operation’s officers learned from Soviet textbooks, graduated from Soviet military academies, and the head of Kiev’s operation in Donbass, Sergey Naev, even served in the Russian Army in the 1990’s. It is therefore unlikely that Ukraine’s military will opt to repeat the adventure of 1941.
In numerous articles and interviews for Russian media, I have repeated my argument that there will be no war in the near future. Why? Because Russia’s recent demonstrative war games successfully frightened the Ukrainians. The war games held in Russia’s Southern Military District, especially areas bordering the DPR, LPR, Ukraine, and in Crimea, together with Vladimir Putin’s hotline warnings on June 7th, have demonstrated to the Ukrainians that Russia is not joking around. If the Ukrainian army risks it all and goes on an offensive during the World Cup, it will be destroyed swiftly. Then Kiev will be next in line for liberation from the Nazi plague.
Today we also learned of Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko’s latest phone negotiation, the official goal of which – if we believe the Ukrainian “president’s” press service – was, like the last call, discussing the fate of Ukrainian “political prisoners”, by which is meant Ukrainian terrorists arrested for preparing explosions at public events in Crimea.
It is difficult to say whether this stated goal was really the content of the negotiations. What is clear is that Poroshenko has received a warning from Vladimir Putin that Russia will defend Donbass from any Ukrainian invasion. Now Poroshenko is faced with fending off the attacks of the radical Nazi street movements in Ukraine who want war, and playing the part of a tough leader capable of communicating harshly and uncompromisingly with Putin. In reality, Poroshenko is more likely to call Putin to beg for guarantees as to his wealth and safety in the case of any war between Russia and Ukraine than he is to put up any courageous fight for Ukrainian terrorists.
Translated by Jafe Arnold