The current lack of large-scale offensive action on the part of Russian-terrorist troops in Donbas, as well as the lack of activity on the part of Ukrainian troops under the Minsk Agreements, have resulted in the lowered attention of the Ukrainian society towards the events in the ATO zone. That is only to be expected. However, based on the events at the start of this year , we are well aware what lies at the end of such [quieter] periods.
Therefore, here are some comments on the current situation:
1. Concerning the future advance of the terrorists.
We don’t know when Russian-terrorist troops will become a full-scale offensive. The leaders of the “DNR” [Donetsk People’s Republic] and the “LNR” [Luhansk People’s Republic] are also unaware of that. As seen from the events around the time of the Ilovaisk tragedy and the Debaltseve springboard battles, the decisions made in Moscow are communicated to the terrorists as last-minute orders.
However, even as of this time, three main strike groups of Russian-terrorist troops have ALREADY been formed; the enemy is actively scouting out the positions of Ukrainian troops (using any means from sabotage and reconnaissance groups to radio intelligence); and on the tactical level, the terrorists are trying to create a ‘configuration’ of the front line that would be convenient for them, by attempting to squeeze out our troops from their positions in several sectors at once (Avdiivka, Shyrokyne). We observed a similar situation late last year – and early this year, it resulted in the loss of the Debaltseve springboard. Therefore, the facts are that Ukraine must be ready for a full-scale offensive even today.
2. Concerning the current processes in the “DNR” and the “LNR.”
At this time, the insurgents (or rather, representatives of the Russian [military] command, the FSB [Federal Security Service], and the GRU [Main Intelligence Directorate] of the Russian Armed Forces, currently supervising insurgents in Donbas) have the following tasks:
– complete the roundout of “DNR” and “LNR” formations, making the “final touches” to the strike groups formed in the following sectors: Donetsk and Artemivsk (the most powerful terrorist group was concentrated in this area, on the base of the “Horlivka garrison,” able to act in two operative sectors: southwest and north), north of Luhansk oblast (sectors of Shchastya and Stanytsia Luhanska); and the Seaside (Mariupol) sector.
– create a single structure of terrorist formations, with a single command system (the “administrative” separation of the “DNR” and “LNR” does not matter in this instance; nominally, each “terrorist republic” has its “army corps,” but both of them are subordinated to a single command). The main task here is to join all gangs in Donbas under a single command. The mechanism for a single command of the troops has already been tested during the Debaltseve springboard battles (January – February 2015), where an offensive with a singular purpose was carried out using the “DNR” forces (advancing from the northwest and south) as well as the “LNR” forces (advancing from the southeast and east).
– create a single system for logistics support of both “army corps” using resources delivered from Russia. The intermediate “hubs” used to distribute these resources are already functioning as part of this system; the resources are delivered via two main routes (we nominally call them “northern” and “southern” routes). The insurgents’ current efforts to increase the capacity of the railway points in Ilovaisk and Debaltseve are aimed at creating this single supply system.
– create a single system for personnel training. Nominally, this system consists of two components: training camps in Russia and in the occupied Crimea (the main centers are in Rostov-on-Don (Russia) and Perevalne (Crimea); in the latter case, trained personnel is transferred to Donbas through [Russia’s] Rostov oblast); and training centers created by Russian [military] specialists in the “DNR” and “LNR” territories.
The first component is aimed at training traitors in Crimea and mercenaries from Russia. In this aspect, the trend is rather bleak for Putin. While last year, the majority of mercenaries deployed to Donbas had served in special force units and had armed combat experience, this year, training centers are grabbing everyone they can find. More and more mercenaries are “cannon fodder” who have not done even compulsory military service, let alone setting foot in active war zones. Russia may be vast, but the human resource is not endless, and there are less fools every day.
The second component’s effectiveness is also dubious. Experience shows that most of the local insurgents in Donbas are gentlemen not burdened by intellect, and even the efforts of the best Russian instructors may not be enough to turn them into competent soldiers. Combined with the shortage of [qualified] Russian mercenaries, this renders the Kremlin’s task of enabling the “DNR” and “LNR” to conduct serious military operations without the help of the regular Russian army impossible. A rather unpleasant turn of events for Putin.
3. Concerning the presence of Russian troops in Donbas.
After the Debaltseve operation in February of this year , we are observing a rapid decrease in the strength of regular Russian forces in Donbas (in the form of battalion and company technical groups, formed on the basis of different units and divisions of the Russian Armed Forces). Most of the Russian military servicemen active [in the region] right now are members of the GRU’s sabotage and reconnaissance groups, or acting as military instructors in training centers and officers in command bodies. The same picture was observed in September, after the Russian-terrorist Ilovaisk operation.
The algorithm is obvious: during large-scale offensive action that the insurgents cannot conduct on their own, Russia quickly brings in their units to Donbas to bear the brunt of the combat missions. After the end of the operation, the troops are withdrawn, and only the necessary minimum remains in Donbas.
Therefore, when we evaluate the potential of Russian-terrorist troops, in particular in the north of Luhansk oblast and in the Seaside [Mariupol] sector (theaters of war in proximity to the Russian border), we must firstly take note of the Russian troops stationed in the borderland regions of Russia opposite these sectors. At this time, the majority of Russian battalion tactical groups is indeed concentrated in these borderland regions. Let us draw the conclusions.
Dmitry Tymchuk, Head of the Center for Military and Political Research, Coordinator of the Information Resistance group, Member of Parliament (People’s Front)
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine