Feeling better, but on the road all day today. Will resume full-time blogging tomorrow.
Debaltsevo cauldron - still *not* closed:
According to Cassad, the cauldron is still not closed and I trust him. This being said, the Novorussians are holding the only highway out of the cauldron under their fire and they selectively allow some units to leave (medical, support & staff, for propaganda purposes) while destroying others (combat units). So even if the cauldron ain't quite closed, the junta forces are de-facto surrounded. See map (from Cassad):
Novorussian air defenses:
Remember the Tochka-Us shot down over Saur Mogila? Auslander reported that they had been shot down by (non-Novo) Russian. Then recently, two junta Tochkas "broke up in mid air". This time around the Novorussians have admitted that they shot down at least one Tochka. See the photo (also from Cassad):
|Rear section of a Tochka-U ballistic missile
1) The Pantsir is a brand new Russian system. IF a Pantsir really did this, then the fact that the Novorussians are saying so basically means "Putin is arming us and we ain't even hiding it". A message to Kiev maybe?
2) The Pantsir is not supposed to be designed to shoot down ballistic missiles. IF a Pantsir really did this, then it proves that its real capabilities are far larger then its officially advertised ones.
3) If this was NOT a Pantsir, then we go right back to the explanation of last summer: the Russians are "covering" Novorussians with their S-300PMs.
I am personally inclined to believe the that this is what happened. The Pantsir is a very advanced "combined" (missile+guns) mobile but *point* defense systems designed to shoot down cruise missiles, aircraft and precision weapons. Ballistic missiles are different due to their speed and flight trajectory. Whatever may be the case, the fact that the Novorussians admitted that "they" shot down the Tochka is very good news as it shows a degree of confidence which will horrify Kiev.
The 4th Junta mobilization is the 4th one to totally fail:
Yup, just like the 3 previous ones, the 4th mobilization completely failed. According to a Ukrainian newspaper up to 80% of the conscripts do not want to go to fight. I am not sure about the 80% figure, but it appears to be a huge problem which further waves of mobilizations (the 5th one has already been announce) will, of course, not solve at all.
Novorussia (finally) announces a full mobilization:
Zakharchenko has announced that Novorussia is declaring a full mobilization. The neat thing is that this mobilization will be *voluntary* but that Zakharchenko expects 100'000 men to show up. Here we can only "thank" the junta for its systematic terror campaign against the towns and cities of Novorussia which has acted better than any recruitment center ever could. If the Novorussians really succeed in getting these kinds of numbers, and my guess is that they will, by next summer the junta will be in real danger of really losing all of historical Novorussia and of having Crimea linked to Russia by land.
Summary and conclusion:
Ever since the junta resumed its offensive against Novorussia the Novorussians have acted very carefully, slowly and effectively. True, these counter-attacks were limited to tactical level engagements. However, this is the correct response as a full scale operational level counter-offensive would be very dangerous and considering how much time the junta forces had to dig in and prepare its defensive positions, such a counter-attack would probably have been stalled, if not defeated. Zakharchenko and his General Staff clearly have protected their most precious resource - their men - and have limited their response to relieving the pressure on Donetsky and Gorlovka.
However, I am beginning to detect the signs of a much bigger operation to come. For example, the combats around Mariupol were also a good way of probing the junta defenses. Combine that with the rumors that the Novorussians have one, possibly two, SU-25s (how much will they have by this summer?), that their air defenses are shooting down ballistic missiles, that the Russian Voentorg is almost an officially admitted reality, that the Novorussians will only negotiate on the basis of an existing line of contact (rather then the one agreed upon in Minsk) and you get the imagine.
Then look at the other side: the 4th mobilization failed. The junta's "winter offensive" was a complete disaster. The economy has tanked and not even the combined "moral" (so to speak) pressure of Soros and Levi has succeeded in getting the money to bail out the junta. Add to this protest and even riots in junta-controlled Banderastan, the EU cracking along all its seams (SYRIZA in Greece, Podemos Spain, the Charlie Hebdo psyops in France, the Swiss Franc earthquake, the use of "quantitative easing" (i.e. the printing press) by the ECB and ask yourself what the anti-Russian camp will look like in, say, 4-6 months.
I am starting to get the feeling that the Russians (Novo and others) have decided that they will solve the "Novorussian part" of the "Ukrainian problem" this summer (the Ukrainian one will probably take many years to solve).
Can you imagine what a 100'000 strong Novorussian army armed to the teeth with the latest Russian military hardware will look like by June? Especially from a riot-filled, economically devastated Kiev?
Am I dreaming or do you also get that feeling?
Cheers and,until tomorrow, open thread again!