The intensity of clashes in the ATO zone is increasing with each day of summer. The terrorists openly use heavy artillery
The nature of the shelling and diversionary activity from the militants indicates that at the very least they are not going to stop trying to regain the ground they lost during the summer campaign of 2014, and could under certain circumstances push an offensive deep into Ukraine.
The situation near Avdiyivka is traditionally tense. There, the militants have been unsuccessfully trying to force Ukrainian Army units out of an industrial zone. The same can be said of the Svitlodarsk salient, although the manner of fighting is very different, and the outskirts of Mariupol.
In recent days, the terrorists, sabotage and reconnaissance groups have also livened up in the Luhansk area, which was previously relatively quiet. Every day, intelligence reports that the illegal armed formations are moving up their forces along the entire front line and actively conducting drills.
Russian generals initially split the terrorist forces into two army corps, imposing strict military discipline and training the militants how to operate as part of tactical battalion groups and interact with tank and artillery units, as well as various artillery systems. However, in May 2016 the supervisors from the Russian Federation decided to change this format and have now established the Donetsk Operative Command instead of the 1st Corps; they plan to do the same with the 2nd Corps.
The armoured units of the Russian terrorist forces are worth mentioning separately. Formally, there are no armoured brigades as such in either "DPR/LPR" army corps, but both contain so-called separate tank battalions: Diesel in the "DPR" and August in the "LPR". There is no need to pay attention to these strange names – they do not mean anything anyway. Much more interesting is the military hardware of these units. Each battalion consists of four armoured squadrons, an infantry company, an anti-tank platoon and, most importantly, their own artillery groups, which include a 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzer battery, a D-30 howitzer battery and a BM-21 Grad rocket battery. Incidentally, it is interesting that the militants are equipped with both T-64 and T-72 tanks. In terms of upkeep and maintenance, it seems illogical and overly expensive to keep two different types in one battalion. But if we look at the true purpose of these units, everything falls into place: Russian handlers have created units that can independently conduct offensive operations at various tactical depths in each so-called army of the DPR and LPR. With 40 tanks each and essentially an artillery battalion at their disposal, August and Diesel could easily start an offensive against Ukrainian troops. After all, such armoured artillery units are not formed in order to sit at their bases.
Let's return to the growing level of terrorist activity: if you analyse the ATO map, you can see that they are gradually creating tension across the entire front line. It is not hard to guess that by restarting shelling and significantly increasing their number of attacks on Ukrainian military positions, the militants could mask the area/areas of potential major assaults. Thus, in late July-early August the terrorists have started to fire mortar shells at Stanytsia Luhanska and act boldly – only return fire from the Ukrainian military could force them to stop their provocations.
Shelling in the area of Popasna and Novozvanivka is getting stronger by the day. The Zolote-Popasna line is of strategic importance for both the Ukrainian Army and the militants. The latter is attempting to convince the population of the temporarily occupied territories that Ukrainian troops are about to go on the offensive in Pervomaisk, Kirovsk, Stakhanov and Brianka. Although it is absolutely clear that this hysteria is supposed to conceal their intentions to seize Lysychansk and Severodonetsk then advance towards Bakhmut.
This summer, fighting on the Svitlodarsk salient has not stopped for a single day. Terrorists constantly shell the ATO forces using heavy artillery, while sabotage groups of various sizes operate day and night. Svitlodarsk is extremely important to the militants for two reasons.
Firstly, Ukrainian troops, even after leaving Debaltseve, retain a tactical advantage in this area. After all, if the Ukrainian government decides on a military solution to the Donbas conflict, this would be the most suitable place to attack from, because it would be possible to deal powerful blows to Debaltseve, Shakhtarsk and Yenakiyeve with the potential to advance towards Alchevsk and Krasny Luch, cutting off the militant groups and reaching their rear.
This was likely the main reason for the large-scale offensive on Debaltseve by Russian terrorist forces in February 2015. So they will continue to make attempts to push Ukrainian troops as far back as possible, in order to deprive them of this option. It should also be noted that the Ukrainian Armed Forces have not been passive in this sector, gradually regaining territory from the militants who, of course, themselves have not abandoned hope of capturing Bakhmut and Kostiantynivka, gaining access to Slovyansk and Kramatorsk.
In order to realise their ingenuous plans, the terrorists are reinforcing their ranks near Novozvanivka, Rozsadky, Holmivskyi and Lozove. Indeed, in late June the militants realised that their short-attack tactics were not affecting the Ukrainian Army at all, so decided to involve greater numbers. They created a strike group of heavy artillery that went on the offensive in the area around Lozove village. The Ukrainian military calmly repulsed the advance, without the use of prohibited artillery, went on the counterattack and pushed towards the militants' forward positions. The command of the Russian terrorist troops deployed their reserves in panic and used heavy artillery – more against their own men than Ukrainian soldiers. Panic spread through the terrorist ranks that the "Ukrops" are going to attack Vuhlehirsk and Debaltseve. As the captured high points were not strategically important for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, they returned to their positions. Since then, the militants have repeatedly attacked Ukrainian lines, but to no avail.
As always, there is no peace around Horlivka, but for now the militants are mainly firing on Ukrainian forces in Verkhnyotoretske, Novoselivka-2 and Novhorodske. The Avdiyivka Industrial Zone is on the receiving end of the lion's share of attacks – the terrorists are persevering in their attempts to push Ukrainian units back from the Yasinuvata junction. At nightfall, it has become tradition for the "militia" to start pounding Ukrainian positions with mortars, heavy machine guns and RPGs, but, just like six months ago, with zero success.
The probability of a full-blown attack here is extremely low due to the saturation of Ukrainian soldiers on the battleground and lack of room to manoeuvre. The terrorists are afraid that ATO forces could develop an attack on Yasinuvata, Minerane and Yakovlivka. Regular clashes are also continuing near the Butivka mine and the fortified area Zenith. But this situation should be looked at in full from the village of Nevelske to Avdiyivka. And the facts are clear – everything there is safely under the control of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Maryinka and Krasnohorivka have also turned into flashpoints. The militants have become significantly more active over the past few days. Attacks by subversive groups have increased in frequency. The terrorists approach Ukrainian positions, but ask for a ceasefire as soon as they are faced with any serious resistance.
The enemy is also gradually increasing pressure around Mariupol. The long-suffering village of Shyrokyne is increasingly returning to the ATO press centre's situation reports. Talakivka, Hnutove and Vodiane have also been experiencing powerful shelling lately. The situation around Hranitne, Starohnativka and Novotroyitske is tense. This region is the best suited for large-scale offensive action, so enemy movements there should be very carefully monitored.
The renewal of shelling by the militants and increasing sabotage activity along the front line creates continuous tension from Stanytsia Luhanska to Shyrokyne. This could mean that the Russian terrorist forces are preparing to deal one or several powerful blows to fulfil their strategic goals. It is hard to say whether they will go on the offensive today or tomorrow, because this is influenced by many different factors. But their preparedness for such a step is a serious concern. In addition, we must not forget about the quantity of Russian troops concentrated around Ukraine on its eastern borders and in Crimea.
The Ukrainian Week talked with French cybersecurity expert Christine Dugoin-Clément about mechanisms for fighting fake news, the prospects for certifying true information, and the likelihood of separating propaganda from journalism once and for all.