Azov’s “phoney war” at Mariupol

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Azov militants captured at Shirokino

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2/10/2015

The Azov Battalion attack in the Mariupol sector turned out to be mainly for show.

Translated from Russian by J.Hawk

The Tuesday Ukrainian attack on the Mariupol sector which
was accompanied by numerous and pompous accounts of its victories turned out to
be mainly a showy senseness “march in review” before the eyes of its leader,
whose role was assumed by Aleksandr Turchinov, the head of the National
Security and Defense Committee, who specially arrived in Mariupol for this
reason.

The attack began in the morning. It was spearheaded by the
Azov Special Purpose Regiment. Its troopers drove through the villages located
between Mariupol and Novoazovsk which are located in the so-called “no-man’s
land”—a buffer zone between UAF and Novorossia forces—where they made several
photos which confirm their “victory”. The trip cost them two wounded, due to
the fact they were photographing themselves: Novorossia snipers noted the
camera flashes.

Azov claims that they captured genuinely important villages of
Sakhanka and Shirokino were not confirmed. “As of 15:20, the UAF attack on
Sakhanka was repelled. Ukrainian forces which entered the outskirts were forced
to retreat. There is fighting around the western edge of Sakhanka and Shirokino”—is
how the militia reported the events.

Similar announcements were issued by DPR Ministry of
Defense. However, both the CTO spokesman and the Minister of Internal Affairs
Arsen Avakov who went to Mariupol to observe the “offensive” said something
exactly the opposite.

“Having shattered the Russo-terrorist grouping around
Mariupol, our armed forces ensured a reliable defense for the city. Today the
National Guard forces together with the Azov battalion and with UAF support
broke enemy defenses near Mariupol. The offensive captured the cities of
Pavlopol, Kominternovo, Lebedinskiy, Bedyanskoye, Shirokino. Enemy suffered
very serious casualties. Having shattered the Russo-terrorist grouping around
Mariupol, our armed forces have ensured a reliable defense for the city [yes,
the sentence is repeated in the original-J.Hawk] by protecting it from
artillery fire.”

The CTO spokesman Andrey Lysenko said that the UAF
counteroffensive is continuing. He also said that its goal is to push back the “terrorists”
to the demarcation line that was agreed upon in the Minsk Memorandum.

The UAF offensive is not yet over. Judging from everything,
the UAF was not able to take into the most important towns. Therefore they will
either return to Mariupol, which was already announced by a number of DPR
sources, or they will continue their attacks on a sector where the militia had
few concentrated forces earlier.

DPR HQ is of the opinion that the offensive was intended to
draw forces away from the Debaltsevo pocket, which had finally been closed.

J.Hawk’s Comment: There are several aspects of this
operation that deserve closer attention. The first is the presence of both
Avakov and Turchinov in Mariupol, as if they are trying to seize the mantle
victorious commanders and thus set themselves apart from the bumbling Poroshenko,
which would make their seizure of power that much easier.

Then there is the glorification of Azov which had not scored
anything resembling a massive victory. Again, we don’t hear which National
Guard (which is largely loyal to Poroshenko) units participated, or which UAF
(also largely loyal to Poroshenko) units took part in the operation, the only
individual unit which receives attention is Azov which is loyal to Turchinov.
Is this another one of those “warning shots” to Poroshenko, informing him that
should he “give up” too much to Novorossia he will be replaced?

The possibility that the attack was staged to draw
Novorossia’s forces away from Debaltsevo is mentioned in the article, but that
seems like one of the less likely explanations. Turchinov probably is not
interested in anything that makes Poroshenko look stronger or more competent—if
anything, a debacle at Debaltsevo strengthens the hand of Turchinov and Avakov.

The final variant is that the junta will need to make whatever
happens at the negotiating table look like a victory, a need which is all the
more pressing due to the deteriorating situation around Debaltsevo. It’s easier
to make that impression stick if one stages a showy if militarily useless
operation that makes it look like Novorossia was “forced to the negotiating
table.” That variant assumes that Turchinov and the rest of the “party of war”
have come around (I mean, Merkel, Hollande, Biden, and Obama could hardly have
been more obvious in their stance on the need to grant Novorossia autonomy
within Donetsk and Lugansk region borders), have reconciled themselves to the
need to end the war, and are positioning themselves for the post-armistice
power struggle in Kiev.

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