On the 4th year anniversary of the Delbatseve operation, there is little change at the Donbass contact line in eastern Ukraine. according to Colonel Cassad, a military expert closely following the conflict in Ukraine.
In his latest piece, the author describes the situation in Donbass.
The standard artillery shelling with the use of 82-mm and 120-mm mortars and 122-152mm caliber guns, is a traditional part of the medium-intensity fight in the neutral zone, with occasional aggravations and shelling of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) front-line settlements destroying the infrastructure of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) and increasing casualties among civilians. The corps stand on the defensive and confine themselves to restraining the enemy, occasionally striking in retaliation as part of the counterattack and on areas of concentration. These are then attributed to tensions with the Ukrainian units themselves or warehouse explosions caused by drunk soldiers (which according to the author is also not that uncommon).
Provided are several videos showing the results of the UAF’s latest shelling on infrastructure in the DPR and LPR. As well as other operations and observations.
Also ongoing are attempts to probe the front line with tactical intelligence, but the clashes are nothing out of the ordinary, however there is an apparent increase in captures of UAF units, which the DPR propaganda utilizes to its utmost.
On the one hand, this leads to an increase in losses, on the other hand, this indicates a purposeful attempt to maintain the tensions on the front line.
“This is certainly not a peace or a truce, it is a positional form of war.”
For some time now, all of this has been complemented by the intensification of the enemy’s UAV’s actions (both reconnaissance weapons used to correct artillery fire and also dropping ISIS-style bombs), as well as enemy snipers, which resulted in an increase in hardware losses during the winter campaigns.
However, retaliatory measures cause a symmetrical growth of losses on the other side of the front line, as a result of which the losses of the military from both sides increased in January-February.
Both sides have certain problems in maintaining their regular strength. Prolonged positional standing also gives rise to such problems as a significant number of non-combat casualties, the spread of drunkenness.
Moral fatigue is also a factor when some have been sitting in the trenches for years with nothing fundamentally changing in the long-term.
Veterans from 2014-2015 campaigns are present, but in very small numbers, they represent the backbone of both sides.
On the part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, this role is played by nationalists and NATO-trained battalions of mechanized and air assault brigades.
Of course, the nature of the endless positional war makes it difficult for political leaders to maintain morale on both sides, but the military of the DPR and the LPR is simpler, since their city and home are in danger, or worse, their home can come under occupation of the UAF.
Therefore, the UAF’s hopes that the DPR and LPR militaries will get exhausted and demoralized is not justified.
In terms of forces composition:
The UAF holds the main mechanized forces in the second echelon, since another round of losses similar to those at Ilovaisk and Debaltseve, would remove any possibility to replace the lost hardware (production is weak, long-term storage warehouses have been generally cleaned up, which periodically leads to banal “cannibalization” of the equipment), the only hope would be Western aid, which in theory can organize supplies of tanks and armored vehicles from Eastern Europe.
From the LPR/DPR side, the main forces are also located in the second echelon, which is due to action plans in case of an attack by the UAF. The plans assume that in the event of the enemy going on the offensive, the APC and the first echelon of the brigades of the 1st and 2nd corps hold the enemy.
In the event that something goes wrong (which, given the correlation of forces, is by no means excluded), the South Military District troops deployed in the border areas of the Rostov region can be used as insurance, which actually keeps the Ukrainian Armed Forces and Poroshenko from trying to repeat the operation “Oluya”.
A scenario different than this one which leads to the Russian armed forces undertaking a direct intervention in Donbass is unlikely, according to the author.
On the Ukrainian side, things appear to not be going well for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, even with all his charades his ratings seem to be catastrophically low. The US also presumably support him, but they also appear to be looking at different options in Ukraine. Therefore, the risk of an escalation in the Donbass is not completely gone.
According to the article, Poroshenko has missed the timing of establishing martial law once more. However, nothing prevents the hands of Muzhenko and Poltorak from unleashing controlled high-intensity bloodshed to switch attention from opponents and allegations of corruption to “Russian aggression” 2-4 weeks before the elections. That would be so people see that Poroshenko is the only hope, otherwise armored vehicles would reach the Hungarian border on the next day.
UAF losses (and even more so military and civilians in the DPR and LPR) are not significant for Poroshenko, as there were no significant crews of the “Ukrainian squadron” who could actually be drowned as part of organized provocation, according to the author.
According to Volker, political contacts between the United States and the Russian Federation have been de facto stopped, and Moscow simply waits for the election results to build a further strategy depending on the outcome.
Accordingly, the line on maintaining the status quo in the Donbass remains unchanged until at least mid-April, although some aggressive actions of Poroshenko can make adjustments to this scheme, similar to the November 25th incident between the Russian Coast Guard and the Ukrainian Navy. The outcome was surprising for Kiev, because Russia did not instantly sink the vessels or attack them and fail to destroy them, they simply boarded, arrested the sailors and seized the trespassers.
But desperate for political survival, Poroshenko may force riskier options, such as trying to implement a plan against around Donetsk and Gorlovka or a blow along the border with Russia through Yelenovka and Telmanovo.
Thus, the current situation has a very high probability of simply continuing in the same way, but provocations that cause a local military exacerbation are not unlikely in the Donbass.
The article concludes that the issue requires a political decision that can either be taken by the top military brass or the authorities of Donetsk and Luhansk, since the DPR and LPR can only wait and hold the front line until the political situation changes.