Translated from Russian by J.Hawk
The situation remains extremely tense. The focus of efforts
of both sides remains the Donetsk Airport and its vicinity, Kiev artillery and
reserves concentrations around Peski and Avdeevka, Gorlovka, and also the
flanks of the Ukrainian forces’ wedge near Debaltsevo.
After the intensification of artillery bombardments of
Donetsk, Novorossia Armed Forces [NAF] were able to relatively quickly
eliminate the Kiev-loyal forces at the airport. After repelling counter-attacks
NAF forces followed the retreating Ukrainian units and began the assault on
Peski and Avdeevka. This forced the Kiev leadership to throw part of its
reserves from sector B (subunits of the 25th Airborne Brigade) and
then the reserves of the entire Kiev grouping in the form of tank and
mechanized battalions. Kiev reserves were also brought up to the vicinity of
Debaltsevo and Bakhmutka.
The artillery battle has reached its peak, and NAF is able
to systematically suppress or destroy Kiev artillery and MRL positions on all
sectors; this forces Kiev to bring up new artillery units, and to also use
combat aircraft to bomb Gorlovka for the first time since summer.
There are cases of individual AFU, National Guard, and
territorial units refusing to follow orders fom the high command; radio intercepts indicate
daily requests from unit commanders to be withdrawn from the front line.
Overall, one can draw the conclusion that Kiev’s attempt to
escalate the situation is failing: Kiev forces have not scored successes on any
sector of the front, and losses suffered during the operations have forced Kiev
to bring in reserves to repel NAF counter-attacks and hold positions. The
artillery battle is also not going in Kiev’s favor.
The escalation is causing a sharp increase of casualties
among the civilian population and the destruction of Donbass housing and
infrastructure, which means the immediate NAF task is the elimination of Kiev
artillery grouping in the vicinity of Donetsk, or pushback to a distance that
would make it impossible for it to fire on Donetsk civilian quarters.
Translator’s Note: The capture of the airport have placed
the Ukrainian leadership in a difficult position. They do not want to
acknowledge the loss of the airport for prestige reasons, but the need to
reclaim it forces them to launch counter-attacks which are proving costly to Ukrainian
forces. Even at the outset of this latest battle AFU was weaker than on the eve
of the Ilovaysk debacle. The losses it is suffering in apparently poorly
coordinated counter-attacks (10 tanks here, 20 tanks there) are undermining its
strength even further and are causing political strains within the already
uneasy alliance with the Right Sector and the “volunteer battalions.” A number
of news reports have noted the arrival of the Pion 203mm self-propelled
howitzers to the conflict zone. These are long-range weapons which would enable
Kiev to continue shelling Donetsk even if Peski and Avdeevka were lost. But it’s
not clear yet that Kiev has resigned itself to losing those towns or even the
airport yet—too much is at stake politically, which means Kiev is liable to
push its military to, and even beyond, its breaking point.