Translated from Russian by J.Hawk
I stopped issuing such overviews several months ago due to
the absence of active combat operations. January 2015 roused everyone from
their slumber, which was caused in the first place by either side’s inability
to achieve its objectives during the 2014 summer campaign. VSU [Ukrainian Armed
Forces] could no longer impose its will, while VSN [Novorossia Armed Forces]
could not impose their will yet.
Both sides began to reform their armed forces, because by
the end of the campaign in September it became clear that the current
organization was poorly suited to accomplish the missions that were set before
In September, the most numerous component of VSN was the “levy”,
which was able to capture some heavy equipment from VSU, and to score some
successes in the East. The main problem was their “localization.” Units were
formed on a local basis, and accepted responsibility for a certain region that
was “feeding” them. Having done well on the defense, these forces were
unsuitable for offensive operations, which became evident during battles in LPR
and DPR. All successful offensive operations were carried out not by the
heavily propagandized field commanders and their subunits, but by formations
whose existence was not known to anyone in the world. Two-three motor rifle
brigades, which ended their process of formation during the summer, became the
nucleus of the future Novorossia army. They became the model along which the
entire “levy” was reorganized. I will not touch upon all the misadventures of
that process (all of this be said in due time). But ultimately the Makhno-style
anarchy was conquered in DPR and greatly weakened in LPR. By early 2015 the VSN
comprised 12-15 numbered motor rifle brigades, each numbering between 1.5 and
1.8 thousand soldiers.
The VSU suffered heavy losses in personnel and equipment
during the battles of August and September. Many line brigades were shattered
and lost their combat effectiveness. The third wave of mobilization failed and
the VSU leadership started to implement reforms. In the army there were 32
territorial defense battalions (TDBs), staffed mainly by volunteers and Maidan
self-defense sotnyas. But they had practically no heavy equipment. VSU had such
equipment (after repairs), but was badly short of personnel. In order to
quickly bring up the mechanized and tank brigades to full strength, it was
decided to subordinate some of the TDBs to VSU combat brigades. Up to 15-17
TDBs were “spent” in this manner. The rest were used to form “light units”, or
motorized infantry brigades (so far three have made their presence felt),
airborne (so far one, plus one being formed), and an artillery brigade.
Therefore the VSU were able to restore their manpower strength and create five
brigade-type formations. But the summer losses meant the army had some weak
spots, namely in the realm of officers and equipment. Many of the cadre officers
were lost during the summer campaign. In the newly formed units the commanders
were reserve officers who filled positions which did not correspond to their
training or rank. The army’s technical support and maintenance situation
greatly worsened, by comparison with the summer. The majority of equipment with
which the VSU started the war was lost or damaged. It is not possible to fully
restore its battleworthiness due to a wide range of reasons. Third-string
equipment, by definition, is not going to be battle-ready. That’s the baggage
which the VSU brought with it into the winter campaign.
There were likewise major political changes. DPR/LPR held
elections with legitimized the government in the eyes of Novorossia population,
which in turn allowed Moscow to establish a strict “vertical of power” on the
The elections to the Kiev parliament held at the same time
did not end the division of authority. Neither Poroshenko’s “party of peace” nor
Yatsenyuk’s “party of war” was able to gain control over the Parliament. The
crisis kept intensifying over the course of the fall and winter, erupting into
outright confrontation with the first defeats at the front. The second half of
January was a period characterized by nearly open preparations for a
confrontation, as the parties are openly blaming each other for all failures
either at the front on in the rear areas. It’s highly likely this confrontation
will play itself out in February, which may spell the end of the current
composition of the Kiev regime.
The junta’s international situation changed for the worse.
The unified anti-Russian front began to crack. Attempts to set fire to Russia’s
borders (Azerbaijan, Armenia) had failed. Europe is sliding into a recession
and is less and less likely to act jointly with the US. The recent elections in
Greece were a shock to the EU. Currently EU’s main problem is not Ukraine but
rather EU’s unity. Ukraine became a marginal issue which moreover is having a
strong negative impact on the economy.
The new US position began to irritate Maidan supporters in
the second half of January. It started to look as if the “dignity revolution”
was being “flushed down the toilet,” together with the revolutionaries. The
main reason for such a sharp turn of US policy was the junta’s inability to
rein in corruption and its own appetites.
The Economic Situation.
Ukraine’s economy is doing very badly. Each month of the
continuous drop in economic activity makes the junta’s position weaker and
weaker. In the summer, they were being forgiven for everything (as long as it came
to an end quickly). The fall showed how fragile the regime’s economic situation
is. A rapid deterioration of the standard of living for the majority of
population caused the first social protests.
The inability of the Kiev officialdom to address the day-to-day
problems of its citizens helped to galvanize and mobilize the protest movement.
Rolling electricity blackouts turned out to be a real trial for the
The closing of factories, the adoption of a part-time work
schedule has become a real scourge of Ukraine. January saw the beginning of
closures of the “flagships” of the Ukrainian industry (for example, Yuzhmash).
Unemployment and wage non-payment among state workers, the increase in utility
payments by several times, created an explosive situation within the society.
As if that weren’t enough, now DEFAULT has popped its head from around the corner
and is now assuredly marching toward Ukraine.
It’s possible to tell the population and the world the fairy
tale that everything is the fault of the war, but it’s evident to me that the
main factor behind Ukraine’s crisis is the greed and stupidity of the junta. An
absolute absence of the habits of governance and pathological greed of its
members have caused that in December Ukraine was growing poorer by 3.16 BILLION
hryvnya A DAY.
In other words, everything is very bad, and will get even
Here it is even worse (so far). Because the Donbass is a
zone of military operations. True, there were positive trends in
December-January regarding the payment of pensions and wages. The “grey market”
supplies of coal to Ukraine enabled the coal mines to resume work and reduce
wage pressure from the miners. And, finally, the payment of wages to VSN
servicemembers enabled many families to lead a bearable life (to the extent it’s
possible in war).
In other words, everything is even worse than in Ukraine,
but there is hope and positive trends (now if only the artillery bombardments
The Situation at the Front
All said and done, the future of Ukraine and the Donbass
will be decided at the front (nothing can be done about that). If it is
impossible to resolve the political and economic problems through peace, then
wars begin. The Donbass war is no exception. The Minsk-Astana peace process was
off-handedly broken by the US and the Ukrainian “party of war. The inability to
find a way out of the dead end into which the oligarchical Ukrainian government
had placed itself forced it to once again seek a military decision.
The war started during Christmas (as usual during a major
church holiday). The junta was preparing for war and even started it, but
proved unready for it. The bean-counting of bayonets and armored vehicles can
be deceptive. On paper you have 232 thousand soldiers, but barely 500 soldiers
were scraped together for the main offensive operation (Donetsk Airport).
This one episode shows the degree of decay which has
afflicted the VSU during the ceasefire. You can replenish units with manpower
and equipment, but you can’t instill in them a combat spirit and the faith in
victory if they have none. So on paper you have 232 thousand soldiers and
thousands of pieces of equipment, the majority of which are not battle-ready.
One should wonder not at the fact that the VSU had suffered a defeat during the
January battles, but at the toothlessness of the military machine which even
during the summer was still quite formidable. In actuality, two VSN battalion
tactical groups, with the overwhelming support by artillery and militia units,
were not merely able to tie down the much larger grouping at Debaltsevo, but
bleed it white. Once the commanding heights over the city were occupied, the
fate of the Debaltsevo grouping was decided. But that will happen in February,
like many other things.
Russia has firmly seized the initiative in the confrontation
against the US over Ukraine. The attempts to restore the situation through
terrorist attacks against inhabited areas or buses, so as to restore the
unified anti-Russian front, had failed. The peaceful means of stabilizing the
situation which Kiev is embracing today were rejected by Kiev itself as soon as
it began the barbaric bombardment of the peaceful cities of the Donbass.
Already in the fall the junta’s path was preordained (I paid a lot of attention
to this question back then). It is currently following that path. Into