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Uh so has Debaltseve fallen?

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If I am not mistaken, according to the Minsk 2 agreements Debaltseve was to be Separatist territory anyways after the cease fire, which appearently was kept in most other areas right? So why did fighting continue around D, did the Ukrainians not want to leave or did the Separatists not let them?

 

In fact everything I read about Minsk-2 said that the Debaltsevo area was not comprised in the cease fire agreement.

It's not that clear why many western medias have been constantly accusing the separatists to violate the international agreements by committing an offensive on that city

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I am only confident in long term trends. The war in Ukraine is unsustainable from Russia's perspective. This is more akin to First Chechen War or Afghanistan than it is any other conflict Russia has fought or proxy fought since the fall of the Soviet Union. Ukraine is in tough shape too, but Ukraine isn't the one that is trying to be a world power.

Everything in life is relative. If you keep that in mind when assessing something, you'll do a lot better than if you stick with absolutes. Nations can win battles and lose wars. Even the most powerful ones.

Steve

 

Actually, I don't see why Russia needs this, I mean intense combat. From Russian perspective it would be better if sides adhered Minsk[-2] agreements and simply kept conflict frozen for a while. The only reasonable explnation is that Russia is not controlling rebels that tightly to enforce strict adherence.

 

IMO, Putin is now between two fires: further escalation of this war is pointless for Russia, but he can't simply abandon rebels, as he would face drop in popular support whithin Russia.

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Also why haven't the Ukrainian forces counterattacked?

Are they bidding their time, (maybe there is one counterattack in the making I guess time will tell), or simply overwhelmed?

 

And I don't think you can use the proximity of the Minsk deadline as an explanation for their inaction and passivity because really the separatist offensive hasn't been exactly lightining fast.

This stage of the offensive began with the taking of Uglegorsk or Vuhlehirsk and that was what a month ago? So what gives?

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Also why haven't the Ukrainian forces counterattacked?

 

 

Because they have no army, only volunteers consistently fight. The conscription efficiency was about 15%. Officers cadre is saturated with Russians and Russian sympathizers - neither HQ nor soldiers trust them. HQ itself is infiltrated. There are 8 mln ethnic Russians  in Ukraine, over 4 mln still living outside of Crimea or combat zone. There are millions of Ukrainians  who voted for Yanukovitch (elected according to all democratic standards) who all now are devoid of any democratic political representation (their parties/representatives declared illegal). Ukraine is far from being homogeneous, even not considering the frontline.

 

 

My sense is that the separatist/Russian soldiers have probably lost 3-4 times as many dead and wounded as Ukraine. I think that is conservative and it does include the fairly significant losses Ukraine suffered in the past few days. Loss of equipment seems to be a bit more favorable to Ukraine.

 

I disagree. With superior equippement, morale and command they can afford to limit loses and still meet political and military goals.

 

 

Even if it was 1:1, Ukraine has a deeper pool of replacements for men than the separatists do.

 

 

No. Further conscription attempts will put the country dangerously close to another rebellion, at least at some areas. People in Donbass enlist for separatist army willingly (and to be honest this is often the only way they can feed their families) and it is suspected that some oligarchs pay both sides for immunity. And there is always endless mecrcenary source in Russia.

 

 

Then there is the political fallout that is already starting to happen. Minsk 2 was the last chance for Russia to show that negotiations could work. It's now proven (yet again) that Russia's word has no practical value, t

 

Contrary. The inevitable fall of Debaltseve was an obvious fact to all sides of the agreement and bears no impact on its viability. And I think cease -fire is still probable. In long term there is only one side interested in prolonged war: USA - as the conflict makes whole Europe less competitive.

 

And there is Biden's son 'helping' big Ukrainian gas company....yeah

 

There is even a joke:

Q: "How long will USA fight Russia in Ukraine?" 

A: "to the last Ukrainian volunteer standing"

Edited by Ashez

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A lot of major European media outlets are calling this a major military disaster for the Ukraine, calling it a major strategic defeat and wonder if the present Ukrainian government can survive the fall-out from this defeat. There's also many quotes from Ukrainian soldiers and commanders bemoaning the scale of their losses, the position they were left in until encirclement was a certainty and attacking their government for abandoning them. 

 

These aren't Russian sources - these are MSM European news sources like The Guardian, BBC News, The Independent, FRANCE 24, The Telegraph, etc., etc..  All these sources point to a disorganised retreat under massive artillery fire and small unit ambushes of the fleeing columns. The columns themselves consisting of shot-up soft vehicles filled with lightly wounded men towed by the few remaining armoured units. Interviewed survivors speak of leaving all their more heavily wounded comrades in the pocket and the loss of all their heavy equipment.

Edited by niall78

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I've seen multiple messages that from Debaltsevo Ukraninan Army pulled out ~2450 men and 200 vehicles including 15 tanks and 50 BMPs.

 

Any sources on total amount of forces Ukranian Army had in Debaltsevo?

 

Has only unofficial source in LJ saying that inside Debaltsevo there was 5 BTGs and 4 more were sent to rescue.

Edited by Alexey K

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I've seen multiple messages that from Debaltsevo Ukraninan Army pulled out ~2450 men and 200 vehicles including 15 tanks and 50 BMPs.

 

Any sources on total amount of forces Ukranian Army had in Debaltsevo?

 

Has only unofficial source in LJ saying that inside Debaltsevo there was 5 BTGs and 4 more were sent to rescue.

 

European MSM is quoting Ukrainian forces saying they had to retreat though fields - as the road network was cut or under sustained artillery fire - in groups of under fifty and under small arms fire. From reading these sources it looks like whatever was in Debaltsevo only came out in fragmented pieces minus their wounded and heavy equipment.

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It's hard to tell, has Putin won or not without knowing his intent.

There are widly different speculations on this matter. Versions range from that all war in Eastern Ukraine is just cover operation for tacking Crimea back, to that he wants to annex entire Ukraine and rebuild Soveit Empire (of Evil).

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European MSM is quoting Ukrainian forces saying they had to retreat though fields - as the road network was cut or under sustained artillery fire - in groups of under fifty and under small arms fire. From reading these sources it looks like whatever was in Debaltsevo only came out in fragmented pieces minus their wounded and heavy equipment.

 

That mode of retreat implies loss of all heavy equipment, doesn't it?

Edited by Alexey K

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That mode of retreat implies loss of all heavy equipment, doesn't it?

 

Going on European media the situation has been critical for weeks at Debaltseve. With supply routes cut-off or interdicted to major forces caught within the pocket. It looks like only remnants have escaped the pocket leaving all the badly wounded and most heavy equipment behind. All the while relief forces have battered themselves senseless trying to break into the pocket to save the defenders.

 

It all points to a major defeat for Ukrainian forces. Again this is how it is being reported by MSM European sources who have now moved to the political implications of this strategic defeat for the Ukrainian government and their armed forces.

Edited by niall78

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In fact everything I read about Minsk-2 said that the Debaltsevo area was not comprised in the cease fire agreement.

It's not that clear why many western medias have been constantly accusing the separatists to violate the international agreements by committing an offensive on that city

This is not true in the least. The lines were frozen and the ceasefire was supposed to be unilateral as of Sunday. THERE WERE TO BE NO EXCEPTIONS! So yes, it is clear to me why pretty much everybody other than separatist and Russian media sources are considering this an egregious act that clearly shows that Putin's word continues to be worth even less then the Ruble.

As with the previous separatist combat operations against the airport (in particular) during the Minsk 1 ceasefire, if they had a problem with the specifics of the agreement then they were supposed to discuss them in Minsk, not make unilateral decisions on the ground.

Here's what I've managed to figure out from various reports:

1. The separatists refused to participate in the Minsk discussions, instead saying they wanted to keep fighting. Putin negotiated on their behalf.

2. At Minsk Poroshenko wanted Debaltseve specifically addressed. Putin refused and the West told Poroshenko to drop it.

3. On the day the Minsk discussions started a large amount of armor moved over the border from Russia to the Debaltseve area. On top of that, the 14th "humanitarian aid" convoy was rushed in with the usual refusal to let anybody inspect it. There has been ample evidence that the convoys, which contain fuel trucks, are mostly to supply the fighting. Which is why Russia refuses to let anybody inspect them, contrary to international law and "if you have nothing to hide, then why are you hiding?" logic.

4. Poroshenko wanted an immediate ceasefire, but Putin pushed for a 3 day delay without much logic behind it. The West told Poroshenko to accept it and it is probable that the IMF loan was used as leverage by the West.

5. The 3 day delay was obviously specifically designed to allow the separatists time to seize Debaltseve without violating the ceasefire. The attacks against Debaltseve increased dramatically.

6. Ukraine recognized that it would not be able to hold Debaltseve so it began planning the withdrawal from it. However, Ukraine deliberately timed the withdrawal to happen after the ceasefire went into effect so as to prove to the world that the Minsk agreement was not made in good faith.

7. The separatist attacks gained ground, but more slowly than anticipated. They knew they would not secure Debaltseve before the ceasefire went into effect. This is when Putin started saying that Ukraine's forces were surrounded and should surrender. He further laid out justification for the ceasefire violation by saying that Minsk never intended to have surrounded pockets and therefore, because it was surrounded, obviously it was separatist territory. Yet Ukraine's forces were not surrounded and (again) this is something that should be decided in Minsk with all signatories and not Moscow by Putin alone.

8. Ukraine started its phased withdrawal after it was sufficiently clear a) that (as expected) it could not hold the positions without great risk and B) that the Minsk 2 agreement was a farce. This is important from Ukraine's point of view because the Europeans have really run out of credibility just as Putin has.

Steve

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A lot of major European media outlets are calling this a major military disaster for the Ukraine, calling it a major strategic defeat and wonder if the present Ukrainian government can survive the fall-out from this defeat.

That is a fair assessment of what the generally uninformed and under whelmingly accurate mainstream media is reporting. I will remind you that this is the same bunch of people that weren't sure if Russia had invaded Crimea. The reporting in the West has been consistently poor ever since.

There's also many quotes from Ukrainian soldiers and commanders bemoaning the scale of their losses, the position they were left in until encirclement was a certainty and attacking their government for abandoning them.

Grunts at the front always say these sorts of things. There is some truth to it, of course, but overall it's the media focusing on the negative because that is what sells.

 

These aren't Russian sources - these are MSM European news sources like The Guardian, BBC News, The Independent, FRANCE 24, The Telegraph, etc., etc..  All these sources point to a disorganised retreat under massive artillery fire and small unit ambushes of the fleeing columns. The columns themselves consisting of shot-up soft vehicles filled with lightly wounded men towed by the few remaining armoured units. Interviewed survivors speak of leaving all their more heavily wounded comrades in the pocket and the loss of all their heavy equipment.

Again, the journalists covering this story have NO CLUE what they are talking about when it comes to military matters. They say a BMP is a tank. They are not reliable sources for assessing military reality. Period.

I see a totally different situation with Debaltseve compared to Ilovaisk. And let us remember that Ukraine didn't fall apart after Ilovaisk, which was a massive scale defeat. The differences in how both happened and the end result is almost night and day different. And Ukraine didn't crumble and fall apart after Ilovaisk... they instead got stronger and more determined. Too early to say that is what will happen this time around, but those who are counting Ukraine down and out now are also speaking prematurely.

Steve

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I've seen multiple messages that from Debaltsevo Ukraninan Army pulled out ~2450 men and 200 vehicles including 15 tanks and 50 BMPs.

 

Any sources on total amount of forces Ukranian Army had in Debaltsevo?

No, but the pre withdrawal estimate was somewhere between 2000 and 3000. Losses are said by several sources to be around 50 dead and 200 wounded. Which added to what they pulled out is pretty close to 3000. So it seems the numbers are at least reasonably accurate.

 

Has only unofficial source in LJ saying that inside Debaltsevo there was 5 BTGs and 4 more were sent to rescue.

25th Airmobile was sent to the "mouth" of the pocket and kept the sides open while the forces withdrew, with the 128th Mountain Brigade coming out last. Equipment that was either immobile or damaged was destroyed on spot and left behind. Supplies were left behind as well. Some trucks and probably some AFVs were lost during the withdrawal, but the majority were returned to friendly lines.

From what I can see the withdrawal was fairly well executed:

1. Instead of blundering down the main roads, which were under effective enemy fire, they reconnoitered alternative routes that were both traversable by the transport they had and not too "hot".

2. They pushed in some forces to reinforce the escape routes.

3. They conducted a phased withdrawal with the lighter units and the wounded coming out first. The 128th was tasked with the most dangerous part of the operation, which is holding the existing line and falling back.

4. Despite a harrowing trip, which included suffering casualties along the way, the vast majority of forces made it back safely to friendly lines. Including the 128th, which was at the most risk.

5. The soldiers who have returned are rightly pissed off that they had to endure such a maneuver instead of being relieved in some sort of general offensive, but that is to be expected from soldiers.

I can not emphasize this enough... from a strictly military point of view this was a pretty good result for Ukraine. Compare this to Ilovaisk or the "southern cauldron" and tell me there isn't a massive difference. And then tell me that the separatists/Russians are truly pleased with the results (i.e. not their propaganda presentation, but what they are saying about this in private). Because unless you can do both, then my assessment of the situation is standing on firm legs.

With that said, I will say again I do see the loss of Debaltseve as a defeat for Ukraine. But I do not see this as a victory for the separatist/Russian side either. At least any sort of victory I would be proud of.

Steve

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Are any official reports about casualties?

 

Zakharchenko claims "3500" of Ukranian casualties :)

 

Ukranian resources do not report any summary numbers, but are quite grim when talking about this battle. Titles are like "Hell in Debaltzevo" and authors exhibit general distrust to official reports.

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Although I do value The Independent as one of the better newspapers around, I agree with Steve as to in general almost all media are very poor at interpreting actual (current) military events. Because there is no time or chance to have proper research conducted by unbiased and knowledgeable persons any local source available to the journalist, working from a reasonable safe position in the area, will be the base for their journalistic interpretations.

 

One question that came to my mind after reading about the fall of Debaltseve is: how does a 'orderly' retreat from a frontline position looks like? Everybody lining up in nice ranks and driving of in proper column formation? ;-)

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One question that came to my mind after reading about the fall of Debaltseve is: how does a 'orderly' retreat from a frontline position looks like? Everybody lining up in nice ranks and driving of in proper column formation? ;-)

 

Er... "Reverse Direction Advance"? :)

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Because there is no time or chance to have proper research conducted by unbiased and knowledgeable persons any local source available to the journalist, working from a reasonable safe position in the area, will be the base for their journalistic interpretations.

Exactly, and the best anyone posting here can do from their armchair is speculate.

My speculation is that the Ukrainian economy and Military are teetering on the brink of collapse.

Edited by z1812

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I read a good three weeks ago that Ukrainian troops in Debaltseve already had contingency plans in place for an orderly withdrawal if desired. Who goes in what order, under what protective fire, by what routes.

 

A Russian mercenary commander at Debaltseve tweeted that Russian bodies were strewn unburied  across the battlefield. All to take possession of a blasted hole that used to be a railway yard. The definition of a Pyrrhic victory.

Edited by MikeyD

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I read a good three weeks ago that Ukrainian troops in Debaltseve already had contingency plans in place for an orderly withdrawal if desired. Who goes in what order, under what protective fire, by what routes.

 

A Russian mercenary commander at Debaltseve tweeted that Russian bodies were strewn unburied  across the battlefield. All to take possession of a blasted hole that used to be a railway yard. The definition of a Pyrrhic victory.

 

I would be very strange for "Russian mercenary commander" to tweet things like that. 

Can you provide link to that tweet?

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Steve, thanks for ringing in on this topic.

 

What are some good sources (English-language) that one can follow these events on?  So far it has been mostly youtube for me, and only some of those are in English.  I also have seen that real-time map site, which is ok but just one source from one side.

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Are any official reports about casualties?

Not yet, but several credible sources have put the number of dead and wounded in the several dozens dead, several hundred wounded category. This includes reporters visiting hospitals.

 

Zakharchenko claims "3500" of Ukranian casualties :)

HAHA! That guy should do standup comedy. He's about the least reliable source of information out there.

There is no way, and I mean NO way, that this figure is even remotely accurate. That is just about the size of the entire Debaltseveo force, if not even larger. Which gets back to my earlier point about why I am admittedly biased against separatist sources of information like this. It's far too likely to be a load of crap.

 

Ukranian resources do not report any summary numbers, but are quite grim when talking about this battle. Titles are like "Hell in Debaltzevo" and authors exhibit general distrust to official reports.

It is also a matter of perspective. Ukraine has been taking, on average, about 3-5 killed and 10-20 wounded each day since the January offensive started. To lose 50 killed and 200 wounded in the course of 2 days in one spot is definitely something to complain about. If we figure the force to be around 2500, that is 10% casualties. Which means that pretty much every soldier in the pocket knows someone killed or wounded in the battle.

But emotional reporting is not the same as accurate reporting.

 

One question that came to my mind after reading about the fall of Debaltseve is: how does a 'orderly' retreat from a frontline position looks like? Everybody lining up in nice ranks and driving of in proper column formation? ;-)

This is the primary reason I dismiss the Western and Ukrainian reports from the front as alarmist and ill informed. As a military historian I see a fairly well executed and largely successful withdrawal, especially under the circumstances. I once again challenge anybody who disagrees to compare this to battles that led up to the September 5th ceasefire. Ukrainian forces were totally disorganized and lacking centralized control. They made a mad rush for their lines, including two units that left their positions which could have kept an opening for others. They also were so desperate that they believed Putin when he said there was a safe passage and they paid with about 100+ dead from a premeditated trap. NONE of that happened this time.

 

Steve

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Exactly, and the best anyone posting here can do from their armchair is speculate.

My speculation is that the Ukrainian economy and Military are teetering on the brink of collapse.

Well the economy is getting at least a bit of a lift from the IMF and with Russia's blatant disregard of the negotiations it is likely you'll see the west continuing to provide the financial assistance to keep the Ukrainians going. As to the military, I see nothing to indicate the UA folding, if anything they have every reason to harden their resolve. Russia is a long way from winning this thing. The UA may have had to withdrawal, but that has not come without cost to Russia.

My speculation? This will continue to drag on, the seperatists will continue to ignore the ceasefire, those in the west trying to continue negotiations will realize their futility, sanctions will continue to escalate, Russia's economy will continue to nose dive. Eventually someone in Russia will realize Putin has no exit strategy and there is no end game that is a "win" for Russia. Then things will start to get real interesting.

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I would be very strange for "Russian mercenary commander" to tweet things like that. 

Can you provide link to that tweet?

Actually, they say a lot of things like this. Especially the ones that are not inclined to be controlled by Russian military commands. I just saw two videos of low level commanders taking part in the battles around the time of Minsk saying they had taken significant casualties and they had no intention of obeying the ceasefire. One commander said he lost 9 dead that day, another one said 12 that day. I have an article somewhere of a rare interview by a western journalist of a wounded separatist who said that basically their whole battalion had been eliminated because Russia forced them to attack massed across an open field and they were slaughtered. There are pictures of this and it is probably what MikeyD's post refers to. The fields were littered with dozens of bodies of separatists caught in the open when a grad strike hit.

I don't speak Russian or Ukrainian and I have no problems finding these reports, so if you're not seeing them then perhaps you need to look in different places.

 

 

Steve, thanks for ringing in on this topic.

 

What are some good sources (English-language) that one can follow these events on?  So far it has been mostly youtube for me, and only some of those are in English.  I also have seen that real-time map site, which is ok but just one source from one side.

A lot of my information comes from Google translations of Ukrainian and Russian language reports. There are also some timely English translations of some things and the separatists have a long established propaganda arm that prints in English.

The Livemap is, by far, the best single place to check. It is simply a gateway to many sources, as the website itself produces no information. Some of the links point to things which are distorted or likely false, but after a while it is pretty easy to see which things can be ignored and which things are worth paying (at least some) attention to.

Steve

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As to the military, I see nothing to indicate the UA folding, if anything they have every reason to harden their resolve.

Each time Ukraine's military suffers a setback the next time they emerge on the battlefield they are much better than before. It is a bloody and horrible way for a military to learn where it's weaknesses and shortcomings are, but if the resolve is there then it can work over time. Remember many people thought the Red Army was finished after the summer of 1941 :D

 

My speculation? This will continue to drag on, the seperatists will continue to ignore the ceasefire, those in the west trying to continue negotiations will realize their futility, sanctions will continue to escalate, Russia's economy will continue to nose dive. Eventually someone in Russia will realize Putin has no exit strategy and there is no end game that is a "win" for Russia. Then things will start to get real interesting.

I am not so sure there will be much in the way of ceasefire violations for the short term. The two most important objectives the separatists/Russians wanted were the Donetsk airport and Debaltseve. They now have both. The offensive north of Luhansk city went nowhere and the distraction force against Mariupol has suffered a serious bloody nose (something I don't see anybody talking about here). I think the significant losses and expense of logistics taking the airport and Debaltseve is going to force a bit of a lull for the time being. Possible exception being continued counter attacks against Ukrainian gains along the Sea of Azov front. Even then, they might just be content to leave the front where it is since the assault towards Mariupol was never more than feint.

Steve

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