The Genesis of the Debaltsevo Cauldron



Intent and Realization

By Kolov_Rat

Translated from Russian by J.Hawk

The Ukrainian General Staff operational intent represented a
classic scheme:

First Phase:

One. Create a salient around Debaltsevo, concentrate maximum
possible forces, create two defensive positions: Debaltsevo and Olkhovatka.

Two. Concentrate forces in the Olenovka-Dokuchaevsk area,
create a southern defensive position.

Three. Fortify positions in the Krymskoye—31st
strongpoint, control the Bakhmutka road from commanding heights nearby which
allow to dominate terrain with fire all the way to Gorlovka, and thus prevent
Novorossia forces from maneuvering on the Lugansk-Gorlovka axis.

Four. Tie down maximum DPR forces in attritional battles
using the Donetsk Airport as a base for military operations.

Five. Provoke the Novorossia army to attempt to close off
the Debaltsevo salient at Svetlodarsk.

Looking closely at the map, we see that the Debaltsevo
salient forms two additional interesting “horns”, in the vicinity of Gorlovka
and Popasnaya. If everything is properly calculated, one of them can be neatly
cut. That’s what the Ukrainians were counting on.

2nd Phase.

One. As soon as combat operations begin, Ukrainians begin
mass artillery bombardment of Gorlovka from Artemovsk, Avdeevka, and heights
around strongpoint #31 to prevent DPR maneuver in the “horns” so as to prevent
provoke Novorossia forces to attempt to close the salient around Svetlodar.

Two. Slashing attacks on the Debaltsevo-Ilovaysk and
Olenovka-Ilovaysk axes cut off Donetsk and close a huge cauldron. DPR
practically ceases to exist.

Three. A supporting attack on the Debaltsevo-Gorlovka and
Avdeevka-Yasinovataya-Gorlovka axes cuts off Novorossia forces in the Gorlovka

The configuration of the frontline itself suggests such a
plan of attack, as do the operations during January-February 2015.

The Ukrainian grouping in Debaltsevo and Olkhovatka was
reinforced, and defensive positions were readied. This is the reason for the
slow pace of the Debaltsevo operation. Moreover, Ukrainian forces conducted a
reconnaissance in force on the Avdeevka-Yasinovataya axis, and conducted a
heavy bombardment of Gorlovka. Ukrainian forces also concentrated in the vicinity
of Olenovka and Dokuchaevsk, with several active attempts to create a breach on
these sectors. Novorossia forces were met with stubborn UAF defense around
Svetlodar and had very limited success there.

Novorossia Army Operations

First of all, the Ukrainian operational intent was
understood from the start. Therefore once the “cyborgs” were knocked out of the
airport, the UAF was deprived of a fortified location in the immediate vicinity
of Donetsk, but at the same time Novorossia forces made it look like it took
the bait.

At the same time, Novorossia forces destroyed the 31st
strongpoint in the north-west of the Lugansk region, thus gaining control over
the commanding heights and blocked UAF operations in the vicinity of Popasnaya
and Krymskoye.

Second. After demonstrating activeness in the vicinity of
Svetlodarsk-Krasnyy Partizan, they went over to defens, thus strengthening the
flanks of the Gorlovka salient and north of Popasnaya. The demonstration in
front of Mariupol forced UAF to divert some of its forces away from Olenovka.
The storming of Nikishino and Chernukhino pinned own the Olkhovatka grouping.

Then they proceeded to gradually form the small Debaltsevo
cauldron, whose destruction we are observing right now.

J.Hawk’s Comment: This scenario sounds entirely plausible. While
the Ukrainian plan of operations was sound, any plan is only as good as the
forces that are supposed to implement it. 
Which is why the UAF had failed.  Novorossia
forces proved to be better led and motivated, which more than offset the
considerable UAF numerical advantage.  

The UAF, moreover, was too rigidly wed to its own plan, for there was no attempt to abandon the salient when it became obvious it could not serve as a springboard for an offensive to cut off Donetsk. That such a large group of forces allowed itself to be trapped speaks to the ineptitude of UAF leadership and the lack of fighting spirit of UAF rank-and-file. Both were qualities which Novorossia forces showed in abundance.

Novorossia forces also excelled at communications discipline—virtually
all of its major operations came out of the blue and were not preceded by any “chatter”
on the social media, which instead tended to focus their attention on less
important sectors of the front. Because, let’s face it, the Ukrainian General
Staff can read Colonel Cassad and Strelkov too, and both of them know it.

Where do we go from here? It’s not at all clear how Ukraine
could attempt another operation like this one in the foreseeable future. This was the UAF’s best shot,
and they are not likely to get another one any time soon. It’s not clear how
the UAF will replenish its losses, especially in terms of heavy equipment.
NATO countries know all too well by now that any weapons they supply will soon appear as burned-out hulks on Novorossia battlefield videos. While in theory the UAF still has a huge pool of recruits, their morale and level
of training are very low. Ukraine is also in a far worse financial situation
than it was even two months ago, and Western lending institutions who now
practically own Ukraine look askance at military adventurism.

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