We’ve known each other for a very long time. Since the Chechen war, so, perhaps, this is why this conversation took place.
“…Let’s just agree – data on quantities, organization and other “installations” we will leave out of the brackets. Russia did not participate in this war and will not participate, and that’s the end of it! Therefore, we will call our group structure – ‘North’, and call me ‘a Northern man’. I will answer the questions that are really important for the future of Novorossia, and you can put it together …
I have a high opinion of them. After all, Ukrainians – are ourselves. The same breed, same ethnic background. The strengths – persistence, perseverance. Especially – the elite part of the airborne troops, air mobile, special forces. Already defeated, nothing to fight with. Offer to surrender and lay down their arms and go – refuse. Try to breakthrough, having no chances. This is why many died. To avoid our own casualties, we just covered them with artillery. A few times – we let them go, so as not to kill them. We know they already lost all equipment on the road. Why the extra corpses? They are somebody’s sons, husbands, fathers …
Weaknesses – command, control, disorganization. Their whole army is a salad. UAF, nazguardia, volunteer battalions. There is no unity of command. Answering to multiple agencies – is their main mistake. We had this twenty years ago in Chechnya. And they have climbed on these rakes and now are jumping. They don’t learn on other’s mistakes. Have to learn with their own blood. The entire war is run by ground commanders, and each one pulls in his own direction. One says “Let’s go!”, the second says “Stop!”, and the third actually “Run away!”.
UAF has more order. Decades of Soviet schooling still show. The interaction between the armed forces, the combat, the reaction to the changing situation. But it had frozen at the beginning of the nineties of the last century, and stayed there. You can tell that they didn’t care about their army. The system remains, but the combat control school was lost.
Air mobile forces and spetsnaz as elsewhere, are the most combat-ready. But they where heavily battered in combat and replenishment is much weaker than those who started the war. But they have high motivation. Mainly due to ‘corporate moral’. “We Are Spetsnaz!” “We Are Airborne!” Meanwhile, for our ‘northerners’ it was crazy to see burnt vehicles with exactly the same emblems, flags, like ours, the portraits of Mikhail Margelov. But they are enemies! Surreal …
Infantry – very weak! Most of them have zero desire to fight, commanders often have no experience.. Supply is practically nonexistent. Lived almost off the grass. Hungry, dirty, in rotten uniform – zombies! Only a few battalions were in decent form and ammunition, but it didn’t make them more combat-ready.
Tanks – as an independent branch in this war do not exist. Mainly as a means of fire support of infantry. Therefore, the use of small groups went up to company size. Hence the loss rate is extremely high. The infantry rather than protecting the tanks and interacting with them, pushed them ahead of themselves. With saturation of militia with anti-tank devices it ended sadly.
Artillery – the most advanced branch in UAF. Whatever you say, Soviet artillery school was and remains the best in the world. The quality of the gunners in the post-Soviet school remains very high. The Ukrainian artillery quickly evolved from poorly prepared, shooting into white light, to the main factor in this war. In fact, the artillery carries the main burden of the war, compensating and outright weakness and low level of command and control, and a whole bunch of problems. Everything is compensated by tons of shells and rockets, which are unleashed on the territory of Donbass. In the last weeks of our stay Ukrainian artillery reconnaissance stations appeared, and began to engage in effective contra-artillery battles.
Nazguardia. Highly motivated but poorly trained and poorly armed units. They are commonly called ‘battalions’, but their numbers range from two hundred to seven hundred and fifty people. Usually used as light infantry, or for sweeping a new area, but very poorly coordinated with UAF, bear heavy losses. In difficult situations prone to panic, may leave position and retreat without the consent of command.
The high command is very poor. Between ATO command center and the troops is just abyss. They play with their troops like with paper soldiers – make up an operation, set tasks, and forward! Give us results! Failed, losses? You don’t know how to fight! You don’t love Ukraine! Let’s Go! But that the task was originally unattainable, that the calculation of assets was not carried out and does not correspond to the task – no one cares.
The same with lower command. In general, the fundamental difference of UAF from the Russian army that caught my eye – is the treatment of soldiers. In Russia, even in the most heinous 1990s, in war, officers and generals valued and protected their soldiers as they could. The generals of that period are remembered be entire county – Troshev, Shamanov, Pulikovsky, Rokhlin.
And the Ukrainians? In the area of hostilities was one of the commanders of Southern operational command, the former Commander of the 8th Corps, General Homchak, in charge of attack near Ilovaisk. And it came full circle for him, from which, with the agreement on a cease-fire, he fled with the remnants of the staff and a couple of dozen fighters. Then started to tell the tale, about the fact that there where four times more Russians than he had his own soldiers.
Aha! Well, that is if under the command of the general there was a total of six thousand, it turns out, there were a whopping twenty four thousand Russians! The whole package! Homchak can tell tales like Munchausen. However, other Ukrainian military leader, General Litvin, with the threat of encirclement just left the troops, escaped from the cauldron and now, as far as I know, was promoted to Commander of Operational Command.
For the Ukrainian command – soldiers are nothing! Sent into battle like a herd, and what would become of them, how many will die, how many come out – no one cares. The main thing is that the task is achieved. And in case of a defeat it is better that no one comes out, then there was no defeat. And people will be written off as deserters.
In six to seven months UAF (if there is political will and help from the West) will complete reform, or, if you like – will transform into a different quality. Learn lessons from defeats, change the command to reorganize and then we’ll see a different opponent. So savoring past victories is just silly. This enemy can be forgotten. We will not see him again. It’s already past …
Translated by Kristina Rus