Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ukraine SITREP April 24, 1405 UTC/Zulu

Pretty much all my sources confirm that the junta in Kiev has launched an attack on the city of Slaviansk.  Most sources say that only SBU and Right Sector forces are involved, though other source report that the "special forces" (no details) seen on the airport near Slaviansk are also participating.  My personal take is that at most the military is providing some support, but that the real fighting is now purely SBU + RS.  From the junta's perspective, this is a very wise decision because, unlike the paratroopers or regular military forces, the SBU/RS troops will be more than happy to kill, kidnap, torture or maim what they see as local "separatists" and "Moskal-supporters".  Furthermore, also unlike the paratroopers or regular military units, the SBU/RS thugs can expect no mercy at all from the locals, so they will not surrender or, even less so, switch sides.

So now the only question is how determined the Russian-speakers in the eastern Ukraine really are.  In 08.08.08 the local people of Tskhinval succeeded in bogging down a *FAR* superior attacker, backed by *massive* and *sustained* artillery and tank fire (something which has not occurred yet in Slaviansk), but they did that because they had no doubt whatsoever what a takeover of South Ossetia by Saakashvili's truly genocidal thugs meant for them.  I am not at all sure that most people in the eastern Ukraine share that kind of determination.

The good news - at least so far - is that today's attack was rather lame and has nothing to show, really.  All the fighting happened only on the outskirts of Slaviansk, only 2 local militia men are reported dead, a few attempts at entering the city in mini-vans appeared to have been intercepted and at the end of the day the attacking force had to retreat.  For a force reportedly composed of 5'000 attackers backed by armor and heavy machine guns that is rather pathetic.

The bad news is that Slaviansk appears to be surrounded on all sides except for the main road between Slaviansk and Donetsk.

The bottom line is this: the western press wants to show that the junta has some muscle while the Russian press wants to show that the junta is committing a crime against the civilian population.  Thus both sides have vested interest in inflating the situation.

Personally I see no evidence at all of an 08.08.08 kind of attack.

I would also note that Putin's reaction today was very measured.  He did threaten "consequences", but if you listen carefully, he threated the "officials involved" and said that this would also affect the "relationship" between the two countries.  What is important is that he did not refer to Ossetia, he did not mention his right to intervene, he did not speak of protecting the Russian population outside Russia as Lavrov did yesterday.  I am in no way suggesting that Putin is hesitant, or that he will not deliver on his promise to protect the Russian speakers in the eastern Ukraine, I am only trying to point out that on the "threat scale" he has so far decided to wait and see.  In fact, he quite literally said exactly that.  So yes, he did threaten "consequences" but so far this threat is really directed at the decision-makers in the junta, not at the 5000 or so attackers on the ground (who will be the real target of a Russian intervention, should it happen).

This one is too early too call.  We must wait and not get infected by the constant hyperbole of the corporate media.

Stay tuned, I will try to keep you posted.

The Saker