Monday, July 7, 2014

Polkovnik (Colonel) Strelkov

by Auslander

Sketch by Christopher
I've read a lot of reports this morning about, according to The West, the 'catastrophic defeat of the terrorists and rebels with massive casualties' and the 'glorious victory of the Ukraine army in evicting the terrorists from their bastion of Slavyansk' sometimes followed with 'the incredible destruction carried out by the terrorists as they retreated through Slavyansk' and in one article 'the freeing of the scores of hostages held by the terrorists in some cases for months'. And so forth. On the other side of the spectrum are 'Putin has to act now to save Novorossiya or he's done for', 'Putin is betraying the people of Donetsk and Lugansk when he said he would save them', 'Strelkov is a traitor' and 'Strelkov is a coward, he should have fought harder'. And so forth.

All of this is easy to say while we sit in front of our computers in relative comfort. We could just as easily sit here and argue that if Lee had listened to Longstreet and gone around the Yankee army gathering at Gettysburg he could have fought on ground of his choosing, beat the danged Yankees, taken Washington and won the war. We were not there, we were not privy to the conversations, we were not privy to the recon reports nor did we hear the supposed shouts from Richmond to 'get on with it, win the war' or the complaints of the citizenry to Lincoln about a rebel army sitting on the doorstep of Washington, just as none of us are privy to what Colonel Strelkov wanted to accomplish, what his information was, what his supply situation was and is, what his orders were and are, his conversations with his subordinates, nothing, nor are we privy to Mr. Putins plans long term and short, his conversations with his advisors and allies, his goals and ambitions.

Most of us only know what we are allowed to know and we know what we know generally after the fact. We can surmise, we can pontificate, but most of us know nothing of what will happen, only what has happened and precious little of that. What follows, and it's pretty short and sweet, is what I know has happened.

Colonel Strelkov arrived up north in April. He had with him 20 or so men. That's all. Not all were armed and some of the armed ones had bolt action rifles from the second war. This was the nucleus of what Strelkov built. In the first early weeks several hundreds of men rallied to the new colors and volunteered for service with Strelkov. It was with these men that Strelkov held off the first tentative attempts by the Ukes to enter Slavyansk. It was his men that took Karachun Mountain and it was his men who could not hold the mountain, to be specific the radio/TV tower that used to be up there, against a heavily armed Uke force that was determined to take it back. With the Ukes holding Karachun Mountain (in reality a long series of high hills) they could see all of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk and the surrounding towns and villages, rail lines, the local airports as such, and the main and secondary roads in the whole area. The die was cast. Was it a trap for the Ukes? We'll find out when the memoirs are written in the coming years.

As the situation developed the Ukes poured in more and more troops to the Slavyansk area, both the regular army and the new 'national guard', which is nothing more that right sector under arms. Several of the Uke regular army units refused to fight against their fellow countrymen and one airborne unit surrendered and left, leaving half a dozen light tanks in the possession of Strelkov's forces. At the same time, in a desperate bid to get more weapons for his burgeoning little army Strelkov's men took several Militsiya (criminal police, pun intended) and DAI (traffic police, totally corrupt and useless) armories and managed to arm all his men with Kalashnikovs, light and medium machine guns and sniper rifles. Don't ask me why two police organizations have a huge amount of weapons but they do. We did the same thing here in Krim when we armed up to defend ourselves and our north borders from right sector thugs on their way down here from Maidan.

As time progressed the Ukes began to make stronger attempts to get in to Slavyansk and Kramatorsk. Each and every one failed with sometimes significant losses to the Ukes. It seems that Strelkov always managed to get a few more men where they were needed most at the last minute. At the same time small units began to stalk and hunt the Uke supply columns day and night in addition to small patrol units. In this way antitank weapons, automatic grenade launchers, medical supplies, large ammunition supplies and at least 3 towed twin barrel anti aircraft guns were obtained. Still, Strelkov was fighting on a shoestring and he seems to have known it.

As May ended the bombardments of Slavyansk, Kramatorsk and other towns and villages began. The Ukes installed more and more medium and heavy artillery on the crests of Karachun, both towed and SP. Tanks by the hundreds arrived in the area as did troops by the thousands and BTR, BMP and BMD light armored vehicles in the many hundreds. And still, try as they might they could not break in to either Slavyansk or Kramatorsk although they tried, twice mightily. Each time they failed to enter either city the Ukes increased the level of bombardments. Almost all were not aimed at Strelkov's men or areas, they were patently aimed at civilian infrastructure, the electric, gas, water and sewage facilities, civilian living areas including not only villages but large areas of 5 to 11 story flats houses, shops and industry. Civilian losses grew exponentially.

Air attacks started in June. In addition to the attack on the administration building in Lugansk on 03 June, two of Strelkov's small units were savaged by Mi 24 ground attack choppers. Two days later Strelkov obtained air defense missiles of the shoulder fired variety and began to knock the Uke airframes from the sky. Did they come from Russia? How the heck would I know? Go up there yourself, find some discarded empty tubes and run the serial numbers. Same with the 5 T 64 upgrades Strelkov has and the now two T 72s. Run the numbers and tell me where they came from. I know their origin, the Uke army, just like every BTR, BMP and BMD Strelkov has. How do you capture tanks and other armored vehicles? Simple. When you own the battlefield, no matter how small it may be, after the fight you get the spoils. Poorly trained and motivated tankers and AFV crews are notorious for bailing out of their iron warhorses at the first loud 'thump' on the side. They'll bail rather than risk burning to death in their iron coffins. The trick then is to kill the crew so they don't simply go back to base and get another one. It takes under wartime conditions a week or less to assemble a tank. It takes six months to field a well trained and motivated tank crew.

As mid June approached, 80% of the entire Uke army was arrayed around Slavyansk and Kramatorsk. The fighting became more and more savage. Grad and Hurricane MLRS joined the bombardments of the cities and towns. Civilian losses were getting horrendous. The West was silent, literally hardly a word said in the MSM. Both cities and surrounding towns and villages were cut off and the critical supply of diesel and benzine was running out.

On 05 July Strelkov evacuated Slavyansk and Kramatorsk, pulling almost all of his fighters in. A very few small volunteer units were left in the cities to discourage any Uke advance to interfere with the evacuation (almost all survived and have returned to the fold). As it turned out a two kilometer long column of trucks, AFV's, tanks, GAZ jeeps and civilian vehicles left well before dawn, taking every last piece of equipment with them and every bullet and weapon they had. Nothing was left for the Ukes. This was not a spur of the moment run for cover, this was a well planned and executed tactical withdrawal, I would say two weeks minimum in the making. Most of the fighters from Slavyansk and Kramatorsk managed to get their families out with the withdrawal. To the best of my knowledge the entire move was executed with 3 casualties, all civilian at the tail end of the column. My information says they all made it and the wounds were not life threatening.

AAR (After Action Review). For three months Polkovnik Strelkov tied down the vast majority of the Ukeland Army in his small area. His position was untenable from the beginning. He and his men persevered and fought. He commenced a well planned and masterfully executed evacuation of his forces and many civilians in the dark of night under the very noses of a force that vastly outnumbered him and that force was arrayed all around him. The evacuation column arrived to Donetsk in broad daylight. He arrived with 20 men in April and three months later left with an army of reasonably well equipped, very well trained, and blooded veterans after savaging many units of the Uke army. In the time he held the Ukes off Novorossiya was formed and the infrastructure put in place. I would say the good Tovarich Polkovnik performed his task rather well.