Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Ukraine SITREP October 8th, 16:00 UTC/Zulu: The calm before the storm?

Military situation

The situation in the Ukraine and Novorussia is a very tense and could lead to a major resumption of hostilities.

The Junta Repression Forces (JRF) have used the ceasefire to lick their wounds, get reorganized, concentrate their forces, bring in much needed reinforcements, prepare defensive fortifications and bring in new units.  The Novorussian Armed Forces (NAF) have done the same but, unlike the JRF, the NAF suffer from a lack of equipment, possibly made worse by a reduction of the flow of weapons, in particular heavy ones, from Russia (the so-called voentorg).  In terms of personnel, the influx of volunteers to the NDF has remained steady and strong.

Why did Moscow turn down the air-spigot to Novorussia?

There could be a number of reasons, but the three main one are probably:

1. A way to put pressure on the Novorussian leadership to abide by the ceasefire and to remind them that they cannot ignore the Kremlin's position.
2. To deny the AngloZionists any possibility to find some proof of the voentorg.
3. To show the Europeans that "see - we are upholding our end of the deal while the Junta does not"

The latter is absolutely true, by the way.

Even though the Donetsk airport has finally been taken (I define "taken" not as "every Ukie killed" but as "every Ukie artillery system destroyed" because this is what matters for Donetsk), the JRF is still shelling the city the north, the west and southwest.  Furthermore, there are some very ominous signs that the JRF is preparing to try to encircle Gorlovka.

October 7th combat map
In the meanwhile the NAF has pulled back the units which had gone as far as the north and even west of Mariupol and the "southern front" has now acquired a much more defensible shape as shown by the latest map (click here for a high-resolution version).

The frontline has not moved much during the ceasefire.  The NAF has made some local advances, the JRF has retreated in certain locations, but by and large the line of contact has remained unchanged and it being used as a basis for the development of a disengagement plan prepared by Ukrainian, OSCE, Novorussian and Russian experts.  Indeed, there are officially 80 Russian General Staff officers currently in the Donbass (invited by Kiev) who are participating in the development of the planned "buffer zone" between both sides.  This fact is, in itself, rather interesting as it now shows that the US, EU, OSCE and the Junta had to give up on their long-standing claim that the Russians had no say or status in an "internal and sovereign Ukrainian process".

Another very interesting development has been the offer of President Lukashenko of Belarus to send in peacekeepers which the Novorussian authorities immediately accepted.  So far, this is not officially on the table, but the offer is interesting for the following reasons:

1. The Belarussians have an extremely powerful military, well-trained and well-equipped and they would be a very robust and tough peacekeeping force.
2. The Belarussians armed forces are extremely close to the Russian armed forces and, for all practical purposes, they are one entity.  Thus both the Novorussians and Russians could trust the Belarussians.
3. While Lukashenko is somewhat of a goofball who regularly makes bizarre and contradictory statements, he is also a smart man who knows the score and who will remain loyal to Russia and the CSTO.

In other words, bringing in the Belarussians - even as peacekeepers - could well mean the end of any Ukie hopes to re-conquer the Donbass.  This, however, also could mean the end of any Novorussian hopes of liberating the Junta-occupied Novorussia.

Will the ceasefire hold?

I don't know, but I am confident that the Novorussians will not break it first.  Most of them absolutely hate this ceasefire, but they also understand that there are bigger political issues involved and that they cannot simply defy Moscow.  As for the Kremlin, its position appears to be that "Plan A" is to make the most of the ceasefire and "Plan B" is to make sure that the Ukies carry the full political responsibility for a resumption of full-scale hostilities.

Parsing the Russian media (corporate and social) I would say that:

1. There is a very large consensus in Russia that the Novorussians have earned the right to be free from Kiev.  Of course, many (most?) Russians do understand that Novorussia might have to remain formally part of a unitary Ukraine, but only formally, not in any meaningful way, and only temporarily.  A good example of his understanding is this blogger's analysis (see here machine translated by Google).
2. Nobody in Russia trusts the junta or Poroshenko.  There is a consensus that the only way to keep Novorussia safe is to have it militarily strong enough to beat back any possible Ukrainian attack.
3. The Dugin-Limonov camp has lost the PR war and very few people still make the case for an overt Russian military intervention.  However, this might very rapidly change of the JRF break the ceasefire and attack.
4. The CIA-backed "liberal" (in the Russian sense) camp is in total disarray.  Except for the TV channel Dozhd or the Ekho Moskvy Radio station, nobody takes them seriously and when one of their representatives shows up on a TV show they get eviscerated in minutes by all the other guests and even the show host.

From all this I conclude that Russia is "ready to pounce": if the Ukies break the ceasefire and massively attack, the "voentorg-spigot" will reopen immediately and freely flow, if the Ukies are successful and if the NAF proves unable to withstand the assault, Russia will directly intervene again like she did in August.  If Novorussia is truly threatened, Putin will openly send in the Russian military (though he would do that only if given no other options at all).

Political situation: Banderastan

The situation in Junta-occupied Ukraine (aka "Banderastan") is one of complete chaos.  Violence (political and criminal) is everywhere and the state has more or less ceased to function.  Take for example the numerous destructions of the statue of Lenin.  First, the fact that they are being destroyed to begin with is a telling example of the Ukie ignorance of history since it was Lenin which created the Ukraine as a state, Stalin which added the western Ukraine, and Krushchev which gave the Ukies Crimea.  So they can continue to go on repeating their slogan "Комуняку на гілляку" ("commies on branches" meaning that Communists should be hanged), but the modern Ukraine is a 100% commie-made entity (besides, Lenin was a vicious russophobe who hated everything Russian with a passion).  But the main point is that the destruction of these statues shows that law and order are gone and the mob rule is really the only "authority left".

Second, while there are clans who fight each other inside the junta (Poroshenko vs Kolomoiski vs Liashko vs Iarosh vs Tymoshenko etc.) there is no real opposition left.  Well, I guess you could say that there is almost no real opposition left.

Elena Bondarenko
Following the brutal assault on Rada Deputy Nestor Shufrich (who is now in the hospital), the last two more or less well-known opposition figures are Elena Bondarenko and Nikolai Levchenko, both, like Shufrich, from the Party of Regions.  Bondarenko was openly threatened by the Minister of Internal Affairs who actually said on Ukie TV the following: "when I hear her speak my hand goes to my gun".  These are the words of the top law enforcement official in Bandestan!

To be honest, I am very concerned for her personal safety and since she has refused to participate in the upcoming farce of the Ukie elections, she should probably find refuge in Russia or Crimea as her life is most definitely at risk.

Nikolai Levchenko
The other high profile opposition figure is Nikolai Levchenko, also a Party of Regions Deputy who is often associated with the oligarch Rinat Akhmetov.  Levchenko, who was elected in the Donbass, is particularly hated by many Novorussian field commanders because he opposes both the JRF and the NAF and because he often compares the two sides.  Whether Levchenko truly believes that armed resistance only makes things worse or whether he speaks for the financial interests of Rinat Akhmetov is anybody's guess.  All I can say is that he did openly oppose the neo-Nazi junta in the Rada and that he was assaulted and beaten up for it.  Bondakeno also dared to openly challenge the Ukies junta during her speeches in the Rada and was forcibly removed from the podium but not beaten up (yet?).

It is important to stress here that both Bondarenko and Levchenko are loyal Ukrainians - they not only put some of the blame for the violence on the Novorussians, they also reject the return of Crimea to Russia which they blame on the crazy policies of Kiev.  If the West had had any decency (or brains for that matter), these are the people it should have supported, but now it is way too late and people like Bondarenko and Levchenko have simply lost their constituency which not only rejects their "moderate" stance but which now considers itself as having left the Ukraine and thus not concerned by elections to the Rada.

As far as I know, neither Levchenko nor Bondarenko are running in the next "election" since they both consider it a total farce (and, besides, since the Donbass won't participate in this election anyway, what would be the point?).  As for the Ukrainian Communist Party, it has basically gone underground, with many of its members assaulted, murdered and threatened.  The sad but undeniable reality is that there is no opposition in Banderstan, only various clans and various flavors combining neo-Nazi and oligarchic interests.

Banderastan thus has no political future to speak of.  But then, neither does it have an economic, cultural, social or any other kind of future.  The only question now is whether it will resemble more Haiti, Somalia or Iraq.  The only certain thing about the future now is that coming winter will be terrible and violent.

Political situation: Novorussia

The infighting of Novorussian political leaders and field commanders continues.  At best, some of them simply ignore everybody else (Khodakovski or Cossack leaders) at worst, they openly fight each other (Bezler and Zakharchenko).  In fact, Zakharchenko apparently resigned, then this resignation was pulled back.  

Why is this infighting continuing?

There are several reasons for that:

1) The ceasefire agreement is extremely controversial and while nobody likes it in Novorussia, the degree of opposition to it differs from person to person.
2) Even though Strelkov tried really hard to turn an insurgency of volunteer militiamen into a regular army he was not given enough time and while the purely military coordination has improved (reportedly with Russian General Staff specialists), the political unity is still lacking.
3) There are also upcoming elections in Novorussia and some politicians (Zakharchenko, Gubarev) feel that they must take a politically correct stance.
4) The fact that Russian and Novorussians objective interests are not one and the same also exacerbates the issue of who will get Russian help.
5) Some Novorussian military field commanders (Mozgovoi?) feel that this entire political circus is useless and that Novorussia should be run by those who liberated it: the military.  Obviously, civilian politicians don't care for this kind of vision.
6) The Russian infighting between the "Atlantic Integrationists" and "Eurasian Sovereignists" is having a spillover effect into Novorussia.

As a result of all this, I would say that Novorussia is solid in military terms and weak in political terms.  Furthermore, contrary to what I had expected, Strelkov has not had much of an impact on the Russian political scene and, at least so far, has been relatively recluse.  I have no explanation for that.


On one hand, the ceasefire is being constantly and increasingly violated.  A major Ukie attack is definitely possible.  On the the other hand, the work on the creation of a buffer zone, possibly involving foreign troops, is actively being pursued and the conflict could temporarily be frozen along the current line of contact.  Both Banderastan and Novorussia are politically weak and neither is truly under the authority of one single person or group of people.  The following months will be catastrophic for the Nazi-occupied Ukraine and quite literally anything is possible there including a 3rd Maidan, a coup, local insurrections, false flag operations, assassinations and, of course, war.  In a way, the stupid trench-to-become-wall the Ukies are building along the borders with Novorussia, Russia and Transnistria might end up protecting Banderastan's neighbors from the effects of the explosion to come.

The Saker