Donbass Rebels Advance on Major City, Thousands of Ukraine Troops Risk Encirclement
- The advance is against Mariupol - a coastal city and the second largest city in Donetsk oblast
- Ukraine troops threated by encirclement are in the Debaltsevo bulge on the main road between Donetsk and Lugansk - the two rebel capitals
This article originally appeared at Global Economic Trend Analysis
Yesterday, DNR (Donetsk People's Republic) president Alexander Zakharchenko issued this statement on a ceasefire:
"There will no longer be any attempts to speak about a ceasefire from our side. We will now see how Kiev reacts. Kiev doesn’t currently understand that we can advance in three directions simultaneously".
Jacob Dreizin, a US citizen who speaks Russian and reads Ukrainian provides a DNR perspective that he has seen.
Background for Zakharchenko's "no more ceasefires" statement stems from rebel disappointment back in August when Moscow forced the rebels to the negotiating table in Minsk, Belarus. The rebels gave up some territory around Mariupol at a time when Ukraine army was retreating, and in complete disarray.
This could have been a great opportunity for Kiev to come to its senses and accept a political solution.
However, the Ukraine side openly and repeated stated that the so-called ceasefire was just a tactical move prior to building up the forces and going back on the offensive. Then Kiev announced a 4th wave build-up of 50,000-100,000 troops.
In that context, Zakharchenko is telling the world that the Ukrainians blew their second chance, and there will be no more opportunities because all Kiev has done is move to strengthen its forces. Zakharchenko’s patience has run out especially considering nonstop bombardment of rebel-held cities.
Enough is enough.
Attack on Mariupol Begins
Today Zakharchenko announced the battle for Mariupol is underway. Also, to the North the Debaltsevo cauldron is closing and 7,000 to 8,000 Ukrainian forces will be trapped (encircled).
Here are some images and text regarding the attack on Mariupol from Colonel Cassad.
Colonel Cassad writes... "This morning our forces continued their attempts to sever an exit path for the Debaltsevso-Group of Ukrainian forces. Encirclement failed so far, but according to reports, our artillery began to pound the main road leading from Debaltsevo to Svetlodarsk."
That paragraph is in reference to the about-to-be trapped Ukrainian forces around the city of Debaltsevo (the Debaltsevo cauldron).
Red Alert: Rocket Fire Could Signal New Offensive on Mariupol
Reports of heavy rocket artillery firing on the eastern parts of the city of Mariupol, Ukraine, as well as a statement made by a separatist leader, indicate the potential preparation of an offensive on the city. While this would be a significant escalation and an indicator of Russian intent to push further into Ukraine, potentially forming a much-rumored land connection to the northern border of Crimea, there are also several indicators required for such an offensive that are currently still missing.
The attack comes days after the Russian forces secured the Donetsk Airport, important in defending the right flank of any offensive westward. It also comes days after Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe, came to Ukraine and publicly announced that a small number of U.S. Army trainers would be arriving in Ukraine. While any large-scale offensive would have been considered and planned for much longer, the decision of the United States to send Lt. Gen. Hodges could have affected the dynamic of internal Russian calculations.
In any event, we do not yet know Russia’s strategic intentions. This could simply be an attempt to signal the danger Russia could pose to their negotiating partners in the west. It could be an attempt to extend the pocket they hold modestly. It could, finally, be the opening of an offensive toward Crimea.
The Russian position in Crimea is untenable. Crimea is easily isolated should Ukranian forces strengthen or Western forces get involved. Russia holds Crimea only to the extent that the West chooses not to intervene, or to the extent that it extends a relatively wide and robustly defended land bridge from Russia to the Crimea. Crimea and the Sevastapol naval facilities are of strategic importance to Russia and the decision to hold these facilities but not extend their power makes diplomatic sense, though it is not militarily rational. Either Russia can build the geographical structure to support Crimea, or it becomes a permanent weak point in the Russian position. The Russians do not want a massive confrontation with the West at a time of economic dysfunction, yet at the same time, having made the decision to hold Crimea, they will not have a better moment for consolidation.
This is an ongoing conversation in Moscow. It is not clear that it is over. The artillery may simply be a minor probe or it could be the preface to an assault. We know that there has been a significant increase in Russian presence in the pocket, but it does not seem to us that the Russians are logistically ready for a major offensive yet.
Taking Mariupol is a first step to a broader offensive. It is also an end in itself, anchoring the southern flank in the city, though may not even be that. However, the MLRS barrages on Mariupol open the door to multiple avenues of exploitation and have clearly moved the fighting to a new level, not so much in intensity, but in raising serious questions of strategic intention.
In contrast to the analysis from Stratfor, it seems to me the major offensive started yesterday with the warning from DNR president Alexander Zakharchenko "Kiev doesn’t currently understand that we can advance in three directions simultaneously."
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