The 20th day of the conflict was not marked by the new occupation of any major Ukrainian towns or cities by the Russian, DPR and LPR forces. At the same time, there were significant changes in the configuration of combat forces on the fronts. Russia was rotating units. It was bringing fresh assault units forward. Throughout the day Russian artillery and aviation were engaged massively.
At the same time, the AFU continued to withdraw its units from the Donbass region to the west, towards Zaporizhya, Dnipro and Kiev, but stubbornly defending well-fortified positions in the region.
To the north-west of Kiev along the bank of the Irpen river, the destruction of the Ukrainian armed forces’ stronghold continued by intensive artillery fire. The Ukrainian armed forces’ positions in Moshchun, where there is a strong fortification prepared during World War 2, were being hit.
Significant Russian Airborne Forces units were located in the town of Bucha, Kiev region, 7 km. north-west of Kiev. Apparently these strike units were preparing to break into the city. To the east of the city, fighting took place to the north-east and east of Brovary.
The Russian Army’s Orlan-10 UAV uncovered a concentration of AFU combat equipment and a large number of military personnel at a railway station on the outskirts of Chernihiv. Artillery struck a missile and artillery weapons depot, destroying the facility and up to 20 pieces of weaponry and military equipment.
In the Mykolayiv area, fighting was taking place to the north of the city, which was preparing to repel an assault. For its part, the Russian Armed Forces had so far limited themselves to advancing towards Krivoy Rog and Nikopol, and had occupied the remaining settlements of Kherson Region and declared full control over it.
Odessa was waiting for the Russian Black Sea Fleet to launch a landing operation. The AFU command in Odessa feared that the Russian Armed Forces were preparing a strike on Odessa north of Mykolaiv. Therefore, a significant part of the remaining AFU forces in the area was in the Odessa area, although in theory they could alleviate the blockaded Mykolaiv. In the night between 15 and 16 March, reports began to come in that the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s ships had launched an artillery and missile attack on the coastal zone in Odessa Region near the village of Tuzla.
Throughout the day, fighting continued around Kharkiv. In this section of the front, the Russian army also adopted the tactic of suppressing enemy resistance through massive artillery shelling and air strikes.
In the Izyum area, the Russian Armed Forces, advancing from Kharkiv, were clearly pushing the AFU towards Slavyansk. Bridges to the southeast of Izyum were being actively undermined in view of this. The Slavyansk-Kramatorsk agglomeration itself was under attack, which augurs well for the imminent start of fighting for the city.
The assault on Mariupol continued. The DPR units had advanced in a number of areas. At the same time, the Ukrainian armed forces continued to put up stubborn and organized resistance. The warring sides in the city were fighting to total elimination and there was little or no reporting of captured. The 53rd mechanized brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces had been almost completely destroyed. There were reports that the AFU General Staff was considering disbanding the brigade due to its massive losses.
According to reports from Mariupol, fighting inside the city was being carried out exclusively by the DPR forces. Russian units manned by soldiers from Chechnya had not entered the direct combat so far.
On 15 March, offensive units of the Donetsk People’s Republic pushed back the Ukrainian Armed Forces by 8km near Horlivka, in the north of the DPR.
An eyewitness in the ranks of the advancing units reported that “the enemy fled, leaving their wounded behind. I attribute this success to the unconditional professionalism of the commander in charge there. He is not a general…”. As a result, near Verkhnetoretske (Horlivka sector), the DPR forces managed to advance with artillery and aviation support and create a direct threat of blocking the road leading to Avdeevka, as well as opening the possibility of developing a further offensive towards Dzerzhinsk.
In the Avdiivka industrial zone, bordering Donetsk in the northwest, DPR units that had earlier launched an offensive were forced to pull back.
At the late evening of Mar. 15, from the Avdiivka side, the Ukrainian armed forces launched another strike with a Tochka-U tactical missile, this time at the large settlement of Makiivka, which borders in the north-east.
Fighting continued near Ugledar and towards Marinka-Kurakhovo. The Ukrainian Armed Forces were slowly retreating, but the resistance of Ukrainian units was not disorganized. The AFU command in this direction was trying to buy some time before retreating to the next line of defence.
The LPR troops continued fighting in the western part of Popasna and also occupied at least half of Rubizhne, north of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk. Fighting also continued there, as well as on the outskirts of Severodonetsk. Also, the republic’s troops are anchoring themselves on the administrative border of the former Kharkiv and Luhansk regions.
People trying to evacuate from Kyiv-controlled Rubizhne told how Ukrainian soldiers opened fire on their car, one person died and four were wounded. The family was evacuated in a car marked “Children”.
LPR forces removed the family from under fire and took them to a hospital. Ukrainian servicemen shot the boy’s grandfather. In the video, the great-grandfather, grandmother of the boy and daughter of the dead man (mother of the boy) talk about the incident. According to them, the rest of the family managed to survive only because Russian soldiers literally pulled them out of the targeted fire of the Ukrainian nationalists.
There are hundreds of testimonies from residents of liberated Volnovakha about how Ukrainian soldiers shot residential houses at point-blank range from tanks while the residents were in their basements. This was done for fun and to destroy as many buildings in the city as possible before retreating. AFU soldiers looted civilians and stole personal vehicles. Before retreating, they completely destroyed the city hospital. Patients and medical staff were kept in the basement of the hospital. Now more than 85% of all buildings and structures in the city are fully or partially destroyed. Units of the DPR MOD and emergency services are delivering humanitarian aid to the city and have begun demining and clearing the streets.
The videos below shows some eyewitness stories.
In Mariupol, it was possible to start evacuating civilians as DPR units occupied peripheral areas around the city perimeter and took control of the exits. Many people break through to the exits from the city at their own risk, choosing those roads inside the city where there are no Ukrainian soldiers.
The Russian Defence Ministry reported that the nationalists had mined all approaches to the city, blowing up bridges, residential areas in Mariupol, kindergartens and schools, medical facilities and other civil infrastructure.
In the video below, the Ukrainian “journalist” being live on air, called for Russian children to be killed first and foremost, referring to statements by his idol, the Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann. Because then, he said, the children wouldn’t grow up and take revenge. If we were called Nazis, we should not be ashamed of it.., he added.
These statements explain very well the behaviour of fighters from nationalist units of the AFU, which they have demonstrated throughout the 8 years of conflict
Adolf Eichmann[was a German-Austrian SS-Obersturmbannführer and one of the major organisers of the Holocaust – the so-called “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” in Nazi terminology.
On 15 March, there were serious staff reshuffles in the command of Ukraine’s Joint Forces Operation (JFO). Due to the defeat of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in Donbas, Zelenskyy dismissed commander Pavlyuk and appointed his deputy, General Moskalyov, to this post. It can be assumed that the Ukrainian leadership lost confidence in him due to General Pavlyuk’s complete inability to manage the AFU defence, as well as the loss of Volnovakha and the blockade of Ukrainian troops in Mariupol.
However, the decisive factor for Pavlyuk’s removal was his unauthorized use of a Tochka-U tactical missile system with a cluster-type warhead on the city centre of Donetsk, which killed 21 civilians and wounded 37. This was a strong rehearsal for Ukraine’s political leadership, which was particularly sensitive against the backdrop of Kiev’s increasing need for external financial and military assistance from the West.
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