Donbass Militias Repel Ukrainian Attack in South DPR: What’s Next?

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On the night of June 23rd, Ukrainian troops attempted to rush forward and set up more advantageous positions not far from the village of Kominternovo in the South of the Donetsk People’s Republic. According to the DPR’s command, Donbass’ defenders were attacked by two squads numbering 15 people in all. This offensive attempt was thwarted, as DPR soldiers immediately spotted the Ukrainian group and opened small arms fire on it.

According to the DPR, no less than three of the UAF fighters were killed and another four were wounded, and one Donbass militiaman was also wounded.

The firefight near Kominternovo was of local, tactical significance. It also gives a glimpse into the Ukrainian army’s strategy. The southern front, along with Gorlovka and Debaltsevo, are places which are always candidates for a UAF strike in the case of a large-scale offensive.

The South of the DPR is important because from Kominternovo opens up a direct path to the city of Novoazovsk (controlled by the DPR), from where the border with Russia is but a short distance. Kominternovo is also a potential base for a DPR counter-attack, as it is close to Mariupol, one of the largest cities of the former Donetsk region and currently Ukraine’s largest port on the Azov sea.

Many of the DPR’s units in the South are made up of natives from Mariupol and nearby villages. I have met many of them and am familiar with Novoazovsk and the surrounding villages.

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The South of the DPR up to the border with Russia is as flat as a table, which is very convenient for tank and motorized group movements. The rest of Donbass’ landscape is mainly an alternation of hills and ravines with islands of forests, which are navigable for sabotage and reconnaissance groups but uncomfortable for heavy military equipment. Ukrainian military leaders are constantly discussing the convenience of a tank wedge offensive from Mariupol to Novoazovsk and the border.

In fact, this type of offensive was launched in summer 2014. And it ended with the Ukrainian army trapped in the “Southern cauldron”. Some of the Ukrainian troops (at least 500) fled to Russia, where they were provided with food, medical care, and personal hygiene. Then these Ukrainian run-aways were transferred (along with their guns!) back to Ukraine and continued to participate in punitive operations against the Donbass population. Russia’s mercy, of course, found no reciprocity. 

It has been repeatedly confirmed, including by the OSCE mission, that Kiev is violating the Minsk Agreements in Donbass.

Ukrainian troops regularly attempt to attack DPR and LPR militias’ positions by advancing their forward positions and deploying heavy weapons prohibited by the current ceasefire agreement. Ukraine is deliberately creating conflict zones in various districts – one of the largest towns in the DPR, Gorlovka, was recently one such target. Now the center of Ukrainian military activity has moved South.

I believe that Ukrainian troops were prompted to do so by their American military advisors who are the true bosses in the headquarters of the United Forces Operation. The effectiveness of this tactic should be recognized.

The Ukrainians are afraid of launching a full-scale offensive in Donbass, as such would end with the total defeat of the Ukrainian army and NATO commandos. But constantly provoking Donbass on different fronts and keeping it tense while destroying its civilians and infrastructure is a less risky move. Only the DPR and LPR observe the Minsk Agreements, because Russia has asked them to. In this situation, the Ukrainian military is playing a win-win game. The Donbass republics thus face a stalemate.

Today I had a long discussion with friends from Donetsk, among whom are veterans of the DPR’s founding and the Donbass militia. Their opinion – and mine – is that the Ukrainians are avoiding going on a full-scale offensive, but will harass the DPR/LPR with pin pricks – painful, but not fatal.

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