The rolling thunder of Kiev’s artillery attacks has grown more distant each day since the Debaltsevo pocket was “neutralized”. The cauldron that never was might go down as the last nail in the current Kiev government’s coffin.
This defeat followed closely behind the devastating loss of the Ukies’ armored brigade, which was wiped out in a two-day attack on the Donetsk airport. The militia defenders were well prepared for it, and took care of business when it came. Poroshenko doubled down on his denial bet on Debaltsevo not being another such disaster, but it was worse.
His denial of his troops being surrounded there gave the Republics legal cover to continue operations to “disarm or neutralize illegally armed groups” in their territory, per the Minsk2 agreement. Here is what happened.
I have the video of the Republic militias cutting the MO3 highway north to Artemyevsk. A militia company had advanced on Logvinovo, the first settlement north of Debaltsevo, during the night and attacked it without artillery covering fire in the morning. Using light weapons and RPGs, the Ukie post was so quickly overrun that it did not send out a warning it was being attacked and overrun.
This was soon proven by the staff car coming south down the highway that got shot to pieces with two Ukrainian army colonels inside, one of them carrying orders that he was the new deputy commander of Debaltsevo. I watched the one as he was dying, and with it Poroshenko’s claim to military fame.
The militias had closed the pocket prior to the Minsk2 meeting and Poroshenko soon knew it. The deaths of these two colonels were to be followed by many more Ukies. In a futile and desperate attempt to hide the disaster, Poroshenko spun a fairy tale of an organized withdrawal, which of course left abandoned units all over the pocket.
Why he thought he had any chance of maintaining this illusion for more than a day or two is beyond me. The dead don’t speak, but their bodies can be counted. But let me cover the combat tactical situation more fully before the sad ending.
The Ukies were in the Debaltsevo salient because it controlled the railway for the export of coal from the Donbass mines and the main east-west highway between Donetsk and Luhansk. Gorlikva to the west controlled the water mains for the two Republic regions. Controlling these areas effectively negated any potential functioning economy for the Republics, and would put Kiev into a much stronger position in future settlement talks.
The Ukie armored brigade attack on the Donetsk airport had the dual goal of maintaining it as the artillery punishment platform for the entire Donetsk area. Western military strategists advising Kiev had bet the farm that the continued shelling of these civilian areas would erode support for the Republic governments, or force Russia to really send troops in to save them, and thus give credence to the West’s long claimed Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The freedom and democracy Westerners who thought they could use the Donbass people and Ukie conscript army as their new throwaway Free Syrian Army were dead wrong. The continuing slaughter of both created the obvious blacklash that anyone with some moral fiber could have told them beforehand. “No General Breedlove, this does not include you, sir.”
We could see this at VT clearly without even being on the scene. Just from watching the militia videos, including the women fighters… they told you straight out they were not just fighting for their land. They were up against an enemy killing their grannies and children which had to be fought tooth and nail for the devils they were. I hope you are reading this General Dempsey, as you were smart enough to know this.
The second hammer to fall was the legions of targeted conscripts fleeing Ukraine to avoid being sucked up into the Kiev fratricidal tornado. Some villages even contracted buses to take all their draftees out of the country. Estimates were that 1.5 million men of military age had left the country. Those are some very substantial tea leaf hints that your cause is not just.
Then, we had the overconfidence of the Ukie Army. They had a substantial three-ring defense around Debaltsevo, with lots of artillery and anti-tank weapons. They thought they were a killing machine for the expected militia attack to push them out, which the Republics had to do to have any economic viability. But the Ukies made some tactical mistakes.
They were a stationary target. Once the militias had them ranged, they could pummel them with artillery and mortar fire. But when it came time for all the massed Ukie artillery to obliterate them, they ran into a few problems.
The militias had superior recon talent, both offensively and also for finding and killing the Ukie spotters who were hunting their guns. Added to that was the militias’ use of constant movement due to the US satellite passes being made overhead, and the time needed to transfer that position intelligence to the Debaltsevo batteries. The militias’ big guns were not there any more. Usually they would have been moved closer in.
The militias also had helicopter drones for aerial recon and artillery fire correction support. When you are being shelled the last thing, you are going to be doing is sticking your head up looking for a tiny drone 5000 feet over you. I had earlier watched a video of one of these correcting artillery fire on Ukies at the Donetsk airport.
So the heavily entrenched Ukie army started getting hammered, and no one seemed to know what to do when the counter battery fire seemed unable to knock out the militia guns. When Logvinovo was taken, everyone knew that resupply was cut off.
On February 17th Colonel Sergey Shaptalo realized what was going to happen to his men and negotiated with the militias an adjustment to the green corridor restriction of leaving with all weapons and equipment left behind. The militias agreed to let him take his men and transport out with light weapons.
The staff column and about half the men got out. But after Porky had declared that his army was not surrounded in Debaltsevo, huge pressure was put on 128th’s Colonel Shaptalo to break the agreement with the militias and retreat with his armor, which turned into a disaster for them on the Artemyevsk highway. I watched a helicopter drone video today of a stretch of that highway, and it was not pretty.
I have watched a militia video of the exact moment when a recon team spotted the first tanks heading north. The video includes the radio message being sent in to the artillery guns to begin shelling the road. A total of only 1000 men, which included 300 wounded, made it out to Artemyevsk, in what was described as a mutinous state.
But Porky got his media moment to claim 2450 men had retreated in order with all of their equipment. But the dead men had the last word. Kiev now admits to at least 1500 missing in action. And because the militias used jammers to break up Ukie communications, isolated pockets of their troops found themselves cut off with most not even knowing they had been surrounded.
When the 128th mountain brigade pulled out of its positions, that left the southern door wide open for the militias to make their first entry in force into the city. Most of the Western contractors and technical mercenaries had sneaked out during the earlier “civilian” evacuations, dressed up as locals and wounded. The militias found the civilians still hiding in their basements, and thrilled to learn their horror was finally over.
As for Porky’s claim to equipment removed, the battlefield tells a different story. It has been a Santa Claus moment for the militias, as they remove the hundreds of guns, APCs and tanks they can repair and use to continue defending their land under the Cross of St. George.
I watched commander Givi in an Donetsk airport interview being asked where did the militias get their equipment if not from the Russians. He gave a very credible short laugh and casually said they were supplied by the Ukrainian Army.
Their estimate on munitions recovered in the Debaltsevo pocket was 500 tons, plus enough armor for four new brigades. So expect to hear of new reports by Kiev of more Russian armor brigades inside the Republics.
Some of the EU countries like Germany began to get a handle on the reality of what was happening, in terms of the collapse of the Ukie’s best military force. It sparked the quick trip to Moscow by Merkel and Hollande after the Munich Security conference, with the US and NATO crowd sneering at them for abandoning the the Western ship.
German Intelligence has been leaking their comments, including General Breedlove’s, and time has proven them correct. But the Germans twisted the knife on Breedlove. They quoted him saying that sending lethal weapons to Kiev might not allow them to win a military victory, but it would drag the fighting out longer.
His justification was that it would buy more time for the sanctions to work against Russia. It also showed that he and his bosses cared nothing for those killed and the lives destroyed in Ukraine if it served some US interest. Breedlove is a guy I hope to watch being sentenced for war crimes some day. He and at a lot more of them have earned it, and the battlefield dead request their company.
Jim W. Dean, managing editor for Veterans Today, producer/host of Heritage TV Atlanta, specially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.