Donbass at War: The Siege of Gorlovka – Part 3

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By Julio Martinez for FRN 

The siege of Gorlovka – general situation 

The situation is, to put it mildly, serious in Gorlovka. The city is in a ring of fire, there is fighting and bombing around the perimeter, but the Ukrainian aggressor has been repulsed. The Ukrainians attacked again on May 21 in at least three points Chigary to the SW, Mayorsk to the NW and Golmovsky to the NE.

Ukrainian forces tried to break through in the area of ​​Mayorsk, outside northwest Gorlovka.
 Local reports indicate serious fighting in the area of ​​coal mines 6/7 from 4 am. According to unofficial reports, there are a large number of injured.
In Golmovsky somewhere to the east of Zaitsevo, they attacked with two companies (about 200 men), but could not break through to the front, as they were surrounded and annihilated by heavy fire after refusing to surrender. 

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Initial reports on the fighting on 21 May
From the front:
Elena Bogdanova, May 22 08:00 hours:

“Many wounded on our side, I talked to a girl who is a doctor and is in a hospital there. In general it seems that it was a badly planned attack with many Ukrainian losses. Many of our men wounded and  I do not know yet how many  dead. At Hospital No. 2 in the city of Gorlovka, at this moment there are a minimum of 25 critical wounded . In the morgue at least 9 of our men, and 4 died already in the hospital.… Bodies of 7 more men could not be removed from the no man’s land due to the shelling.”


A survey of reports suggests that 20 Novorussian troops were killed in action in Gorlovka in a week. According to Novorussian official sources, over  these last 3 weeks the Ukrainians have a total of 40 dead and 240 wounded. I guess that by interceptions of radio messages, an average of 15 casualties per day. In reality the actual figure is much higher, triple at least.

Summing up the previous figures: The wounded are at least three times the dead. So in Gorlovka the Novorussian forces have an average of 10-15 daily losses.


The Ukrainians’ attacks are usually sloppy  – without the support of armored vehicles – and end in bloody failure. In just one of the attacks, in Golmovsky, they had to send 10 ambulances to evacuate the wounded, given an average of 4 stretchers per ambulance, and a single trop, that gives a minimum of 40 injured and a dozen dead. This confirms my previous calculation of 50 casualties per day around Gorlovka, plus a similar figure on all the rest of the front. In the very least, when May ends, the total Ukrainian casualties will be around a couple thousand dead, injured, and missing or deserted.


Reliable sources in the area, such as a high-ranking officer in Gorlovka, confirmed to me that the Novorussians suffered one hundred lost soldiers – whether in one day, on the assault on the 21st, or over the course of week is unclear. At any rate, we could add to this several hundred injured. This means that the defense forces have lost a whole battalion.

The truth is that this surprises me, indeed shocks me, because although the Donbass defense forces have been victorious, this has come at a high price. But I have been even more surprised by the fact that reports and summaries have belittled the fighting to skirmishes. This does not fit civilians’ or combatants’ reports about strong bombardments and intense firefights. Nor does it match accounts of explosions heard or casualty counts. 

This is no longer the low-intensity war of position of 2016-2017 with sporadic artillery and shooting from one trench to another. These are major battles on the level of companies with artillery, although still without tanks. 

Therefore, the losses among Donbass defense forces and the Ukrainians in Gorlovka should be around a thousand (dead and wounded). 

In Gorlovka a large-scale battle of an intensity that has not been seen since 2014 is being fought. Reports from several sources contradict official reports that minimize the intensity of the fight. It is an intensity that has not been seen since at least 2015 in the attack on Marinka.

With Novorussian losses being serious, the fact that the bodies have been taken to the hospital .. or to the morgue indicates that the Novorussians were masters of the battlefield. If the Ukrainians had taken a position they would have taken pictures of the corpses of the defenders and exhibited them as trophies. The only thing they have to show for their effort is that they have taken three prisoners. 

There are no statements of victory on their part. When they keep silent, this means that they have suffered much more.

There are two explanations, either the DPR’s official briefings which everyone usually parrots are not true, and the Ukrainians attacked with a lot more people, or we are dealing with repetitive, smaller wave attacks in addition to, of course, constant bombardment and the exchange of shots between trenches. Even in such repetitive small clashes, it is by all means possible that Gorlovka’s defenders could have lost a hundred or even two or three times more in wounded, i.e, a complete battalion or 20% of their strength. Again, similar situations occurred in 2014.

And it is purely logical that the Ukrainians have lost even more when leaving their protected positions and trying to advance exposed and vulnerable. Not to mention that the Novorussian artillery is very effective and is bombarding their troop concentrations. There were reports of columns of explosions around Gorlovka from Ukrainian armor and ammunition being hit. The real losses of the enemy are not seen, because most of the Ukrainian casualties are inflicted by artillery, and they happen behind their lines, out of sight.

According to an Anti-Maidan report, we are dealing with a couple of units (30 men each) in Golmovsky – that is also the official report. It would be credible if it were as in previous years, small-scale attacks. But it is possible that they are lying to us and the attack was much greater – two companies (that is, going from 50 to 200 men) – and this is the point where they have been isolated and have been crushed.

There is also the claim that the Ukrainians attacked Gorlovka with two brigades of about 10,000 men, which is an implicit acknowledgment that the attacks are much more intense than an “affaire des postes” with a few platoons. I think that yesterday (May 21) there were at least 3 battalion-scale attacks at different points. Or at least several company-scale repeated at the same points, this sounds more likely and in line with previous experience from similar attacks the Ukrainians trying again and again in the same spot. And to that the casualties inflicting by the harassing fire of the cannonade and constant  shooting along the entire perimeter, and of course the Novorussian return fire.

In Gorlovka the Novorussians have a brigade, with 3,000 men perhaps – if they have lost a full battalion, or roughly 20% of their strength, that would explain why the DNR command have sent the elite battalion Sparta as reinforcements. There should be other reserve battalions available as reinforcements, but the fact that they have sent the best they have indicates the intensity of the fighting.

The report also mentions several counts of the number of artillery explosions in the report, but I think that the figures provided are disinformation, because the real total is much higher as everyone at the front has attested. The Internet analyses of Cassad and others are flawed because they accept at face value the official DPR report, but all other indications, such as the noise of the cannonade and the battle, and the eyewitness accounts of the Gorlovka hospital, confirm that a battle is being fought on a large scale.

What leaves me perplexed is that the Ukrainians continue to not use their tanks in support of their infantry, Maybe they want to probe Donbass’ defense and wear it down before launching the main attack, opening the way for the armor to attack with infantry. This is a waste of Ukrainian lives, which Ukrainian generals have generally demonstrate that they do not care about. 

There are no reliable reports yet of the fight on the 22nd, but I suspect, based on previous experiences and the failure of the one on the 21st, that there were extremely limited or no infantry assaults altogether, instead mere artillery fire between both sides, as civilians reports of smoke columns and burning ammunitions suggest. 

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