Ukraine's relentless shelling of Donetsk continues and the West stands by and does absolutely nothing.
— The Sirius Report (@thesiriusreport) February 1, 2017
@SimonOstrovsky do you think the phone call with Putin had anything to do with the uptick in violence (as some have suggested)?
— Ailean Beaton (@AileanBeaton) February 1, 2017
The Actual Target of the Latest Ukrainian Offensive is the Trump White House:
U.S.-Russia Detente Has to Be Prevented by Kiev and its Globalist Backers at Any Cost
— Zlatko Percinic (@ZlatkoPercinic) February 1, 2017
“As Ukraine’s military adventure fails, Poroshenko is starting to play a diplomatic gamble. Poroshenko’s efforts on January 31st fit into this formula. First, he urgently interrupted his visit to Germany and meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Then he called to convene the Tripartite Commission (the “Normandy Four” minus Russia). The Ukrainian foreign ministry today issued a statement which routinely accused Russia of escalating the conflict in Donbass. Without a doubt, soon will follow a Ukrainian appeal to the UN and other international organizations.
But I’m not going to talk about the stupidity of such speculations. Even Ukrainian officers admit that the offensive was undertaken by the Ukrainian side. Russia does not benefit (especially not now) from an escalation of the situation in Donbass. The only beneficiary is the ruling Ukrainian regime.
According to his press service’s official statement, Poroshenko was forced to urgently return to Ukraine to address the “humanitarian situation” in Avdeevka which, let us note, occurred as a result of none other than the Ukrainian army’s adventurous actions on Poroshenko’s orders.
The situation in Avdeevka and the massive losses that the Ukrainian army is incurring nevertheless give the Ukrainian president an occasion to play the role of the victim and cry to the world (the West) to punish the offender (Russia). If the UAF had not met such tough resistance on its attack and if the offensive had gone deep into the republics of Donbass, then Poroshenko would simply conjure another formula justifying Ukraine and blaming Russia. To be more precise, such a formula has long since been hatched and is waiting its turn.
The main actor for whom this whole bloody spectacle is being played is US President Donald Trump. We’ve already repeatedly written for Fort Russ on how Poroshenko is attempting to provoke a war in Donbass in order to prevent normal dialogue between the US and Russia. Allow us to recall the content of one of our articles, in which my sources in the DPR’s military circles forewarned that they expect a massive UAF offensive just before or immediately after Trump’s inauguration.
Poroshenko’s regime is practically at a stalemate on both the international and domestic political fronts. Before the new team of American diplomats appointed by Trump starts working and Trump’s new European policy principles swing into action, Poroshenko will try to win over the American president. His method? By literally producing the fait accompli of “pro-American” Ukraine (in reality, pro-liberal and “pro-democratic”) needing support in Donbass. The Americans call this trick “wag the dog.” ”
— Sergey Bobkov (@sbobkov) February 1, 2017
The actual target for the latest Ukrainian offensive is not so much the LDNR/NAF, but thousands of miles away in Washington. The Washington Post is claiming on its op-ed page that Russian President Vladimir Putin is probing the new Trump Administration to see how it will respond to provocations in Ukraine. The legacy media have seized upon the fact that the fighting flared up after the Trump-Putin White House phone call on Saturday to make their 'case' for the Donetsk republic initiating the latest battle. But with the exception of clashes around the Ukrainian-held Svitlodarsk bulge near the NAF controlled town of Debaltseve over a month ago, the conflict had been seemingly contained, and the NAF has been in a defensive posture since it successfully seized the railway junction of Debaltseve with the assistance of Russian advisers in February 2015.
Once More Into the Breach:
Ukrainian Troops Attempting to Advance 'Meter by Meter' Suffer Heavy Losses
Daily and often nightly exchanges of fire had been recorded by the powerless observers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), whom pro-NAF and Russian media accused of turning a blind eye to Ukrainian violations of the Minsk 2 ceasefire reached almost two years ago, which is supposed to prohibit the presence of heavy artillery and rocket launchers near the front line. But it was only in the last week that Ukrainian troops boasted to reporters about infiltrating the so-called 'grey zones' or no-man's-lands between the two sides trenches using civilian vehicles as cover.
— WorldOnAlert (@worldonalert) February 1, 2017
Positions seized in this manner are often exposed to heavy mortar or artillery blasts as well as small arms fire due to their visual proximity to NAF lines. But the resulting heavy casualties seem to be irrelevant to the Ukrainian high command, so long as fresh units can be brought to the front. The apparent order is to advance and attack wherever possible and the result has been Ukrainian fatalities exceeding 100 combat deaths in just over a week, and a figure in the low hundreds of wounded. According to Dr. Eduard Popov and other pro-NAF sources, the Ukrainians are lying and understating their losses, once again with the complicity of the legacy media covering the war. But after heavy fighting as of Wednesday the UAF are admitting to just over sixteen combat deaths and a few dozen seriously wounded. NAF losses over the past week are also said to be significant, though slightly lower than those figures:
“In yesterday’s commentary for Fort Russ, I wrote that the casualty figures of the Ukrainian side that were contained in the intercepted confidential report by the Ukrainian General Staff for President Poroshenko, i..e, only 78 deaths, was probably an underestimation. It is most likely that the number of Ukrainians killed in the recent firefights is no less than 100. My friends close to military circles agreed with this assessment and added that the number is probably even higher.
Here’s the information that I’ve just received from them.
Information is constantly coming in from their associates in the cities of Ukrainian-occupied Donbass and Ukraine. All the morgues in the nearby towns of Donbass controlled by the Ukrainians (Konstantinovka, Kramatorsk, Bakhmut, etc.) are littered with the corpses of UAF soldiers. The bodies are being taken to the regional centers neighboring Donbass such as Dnepropetrovsk and others. The situation with wounded is similar. Hospitals are swamped and even civilian hospitals in neighboring Ukrainian cities are packed.
Back in autumn of last year, my friends from the Lugansk People’s Republic reported that the UAF had established field hospitals along the contact line. This explicitly suggests that Ukraine was preparing for an invasion of Donbass.
According to my friends’ assessment, the Ukrainians’ losses are colossal. It is probable that the number of dead and wounded is rising to the hundreds. The political leadership and military command of Ukraine are incapable of managing to hide such huge losses like they did back in 2014. The truth will break out and Poroshenko and the Ukrainian General Staff will be faced with the question: for what sake were hundreds and hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and officers killed?”
— Tom Burridge (@TomBurridgebbc) February 1, 2017
Artillery is Still a god of War:
The Bombardments of Donetsk and Counterfire at #Avdiivka
Civilians in both the UAF held town of Avdiivka and the frequently pounded Oktobursky/Kievsky districts of Donetsk have been killed or injured by GRAD rocket fire. At least one woman, the mother of a teenage daughter, was reported killed in UAF held Avdiivka. American journalist Patrick Lancaster based in Donetsk reports five civilian deaths in the last few days from Ukrainian rocket and artillery fire. Scores of miners were trapped underground for several hours after shelling cut off power to their mines in DNR held territory. Civilians in Avdiivka have lost power and heat in -7 C (20 F) daytime conditions with colder temperatures at night, while residents on both sides of the contact line huddle in basements to avoid seemingly round the clock shelling.
There are reportedly about 17,000 out of a prewar population of 30,000 people left in Avdiivka, while Donetsk prewar census approached nearly 850,000 souls (roughly equivalent to the population of Indianapolis, IN) of whom DNR authorities claimed in late 2015 90% had returned. Those numbers seem overly optimistic to us, given the ruin of neighborhoods like Oktobursky and suburbs perhaps counted in that prewar estimate such as the Donetsk Airport proximity Spartak or the battered 'Sands' (Pisky), the actual Donetsk metropolitan population is likely lower than the authorities would admit on both sides of the contact line.
— Tom Burridge (@TomBurridgebbc) February 2, 2017
Ukrainian Twitter trolls have pointed to outbound rocket fire from Donetsk's urban districts, but both sides keep their equipment too close to civilians, as is evident from the BBC's own footage showing Ukrainian tanks and APCs standing right in front of apartment buildings in Avdiivka. If the large scale Ukrainian shelling continues at the worse pace seen since 2014, the Russian 'vacationer' artillerymen may come back to Donetsk to assist the locals in firing for effect against those shelling their hometowns, with a heavy toll for the Ukrainian troops and any civilian buildings nearby:
“What strikes one in Military Balance data are huge losses of light howitzers D-30 – ~80%. Partially this can be explained by the fact that many howitzers were transferred to semi-regular units of the National Guard that mostly shelled cities and townships. But this does not explain the losses of self-propelled artillery pieces Gvozdika (~60%) and 152 mm Akatsia (~50%). It certainly does not explain the losses of ~50% of MRLS Grad and Uragan. The destruction of self-propelled artillery (SPA) is hard due to its mobility and armor. The destruction of MRLS requires an incredibly short time of reaction, as they leave the positions within a minute. Thus, these losses of self-propelled artillery and MRLS and incredible losses of howitzers D-30 suggest that the UA was confronted by modern artillery, very possibly Russian.
Tymchuk (Ukrainian military commenter – translator’s note) wrote many times about the presence of Artillery Radio-location system (RLS) Zoopark-1 in Donbass (http://www.unian.net/politics/1025946-boevikiperebrosili-na-trassu-vozle-enakievo-radiolokatsionnyiy-kompleks-zoopark-1-is.html). This RLS can observe missile trajectories and calculate the location of launchers even before the missiles hit the ground. Then Zoopark, using communication channels protected against radio-electronic interference, transmits the coordinates of the launchers or artillery pieces for targeting. However, only a modern SPA or MRLS using global positioning information Glonass can act on this to immediately hit SPA, MRLS, or a howitzer. Indeed, there was a battery of “on-leave” servicemen using Msta-C, possibly modernized to Msta-CM. It is doubtful that these Msta-Cs are war trophies, as the UA lost only 5 units of heavy Msta-C. Also note that the UA has only 35 heavy Msta-C, which is too few to win artillery duels on such an extended front. Another candidate for fighting with Zoopark-1 is modern Russian MRLS Tornado-G, but it is hard to distinguish it from usual MRLS-12 Grad: the difference is in electronic systems of control, navigation, and communications.
Either way, these huge losses of the UA artillery cannot be explained without supposing that its adversaries possessed more powerful and modern artillery, at least at the time of artillery duels. It is likely that reduced shelling of Donbass towns by the UA is not so much the result of Misk-2 agreement as the result of anti-artillery actions, which might have been conducted by “on-leave” Russians.”
A Caution About the Staggering Rate of Ukrainian Artillery Losses (Which Were Definitely NOT Due to 'GRU Hacking a UAF Artillery App' as the Shysters at Crowdstrike Claimed)
It should be noted here that the alleged 80% loss rate for Ukraine's towed or self-propelled howitzers since the start of the 'ATO' in 2014, while staggering and likely the result of some GRU targeting officers 'performing certain tasks' that Putin admitted last year, is not a conclusive figure. Meaning that a large number of artillery pieces may have been sold off since 2014 by corrupt Ukrainian generals to the jihadists in Syria via buyers in Turkey. As Colonel Cassad aka Crimea-based amateur military analyst Boris Rozhin writes, a significant number of artillery pieces particularly self-propelled guns left in storage since Ukrainian independence in 1991 may have also been cannibalized for spare parts.
Nonetheless, the picture that emerges from the figures and Poroshenko's admission to a 60% attrition rate for UAF equipment since the start of the war is that being an artilleryman is one of the deadliest jobs in the Ukrainian army -- even more dangerous than being a front line infantryman though only slightly more than being a tanker. The domination of the urban and semi-urban terrain by artillery and mortar fire accounts for both the inability of either side to effectively achieve any armored breakthroughs, and the urgency with which the two sides fight over the cover of the so-called industrial zone between Avdiivka's southeastern outskirts and northwestern Donetsk. This industrial zone is key to the NAF's defense of the Donetsk and ruined airport outskirts and a major highway to the NAF held frontline city of Gorlovka to the northeast, and beyond that, to the other people's republic in Lugansk and the Russian border.
— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) February 2, 2017
The So-Called Avdiivka 'Promzone' as a Key Battleground for the UAF vs. NAF
“It’s the third day of fighting in the area south-east of the city of Avdeyevka. The short and relatively successful UAF attack by a company from the 1st Mechanized Battalion of the 72nd Mechanized Brigade undertaken in the pre-dawn darkness of January 29 has led to consequences which were wholly unexpected by those who authorized the operation.
As of early January 30, everything looked like the Svetlodarsk scenario. A short attack, then defense. Then several days of opposing artillery fire and you can record another “victory.” But already the fighting on January 30 showed that the Novorossia Armed Forces (NAF) leaders decided to not only recover several positions lost earlier but use this occasion to return the Avdeyevka industrial zone under its control.
The importance of the Avdeyevka industrial zone
This sector has enormous tactical importance. The zone not only provides cover for the Donetsk-Avdeyevka road that runs parallel to the front line, but also can act as a very convenient staging point for an eventual advance on Avdeyevka itself.
The Avdeyevka industrial zone, if held by the NAF, is a veritable nail in the UAF command’s ass. If it’s not under control, the UAF can forget about further advance toward Yasinovataya and northern suburbs of Donetsk. It also forces the creation of a defensive line along the southern outskirts of Avdeyevka which, considering the terrain, would require considerably more resources, which in turn is a very heavy burden on the command of the 72nd Brigade given the severe shortage of said resources.
The zone is of crucial importance to the NAF for the same reasons. Control of the zone means the area can be defended effectively with fewer forces, and the zone also can be used to launch offensive operations.
Hence the intensity of fighting and the stubborn desire to control this territory which has been in evidence for almost a year (the first serious battles here took place in February 2016).
The fighting on January 31
The overall situation in the Avdeyevka area on January 31 shifted dramatically against the UAF. Their tactics did not assume the need to advance beyond the forward NAF outposts, hence the small size of the assault groups used for the task (several platoons).
These assault groups have now spent three days under continuous NAF artillery fire (UAF positions in the area have been under heavy fire from all calibers). According to the UAF, this does not allow them to evacuate the wounded (and the temperature is below freezing) or to resupply ammunition.
This is responsible for the high percentage of fatalities, due to the inability to render medical aid in a timely fashion (even in the highly abridged official casualty reports).
Judging from available information, the NAF, having concentrated significant artillery assets in this sector and realizing that the adversary has tied himself to an insignificant piece of terrain and is incapable of advancing further, intend to repeat the Debaltsevo operation. Which is to bring the “garrison” to desperation by a combination of an artillery “steamroller” and cutting off logistics.
According to reports from the scene of fighting, the NAF carried out several small group attacks and made some progress into the industrial zone. There is indirect evidence of close-quarter fighting in the form of Dnepropetrovsk hospitals receiving casualties with bullet wounds (which did not happen on the 30th).”
The Case of a Drone Shot Down by a UKRAINIAN BUK SAM and How the Pieces Leftover Expose the Huge Holes in the MSM/NATO 'Russian BUK Shot Down MH17' Narrative
As we reported in our recent Rumors of War with Russia: Part 12 article, the NAF with Russian advisers assistance have often achieved fire superiority over the Ukrainian artillerymen since July/August 2014, when actual Russian Army indirect fires from massed rocket launches destroyed UAF units attempting to seal the Donbass border. Nonetheless since a great deal of counterbattery fire has been directed using Russian military provided drones if not technicians based in downtown Donetsk, it's not surprising the Ukrainian military has brought up its BUK surface to air missiles in order to shoot down drones observing its forces or flying higher to see more of the front line and track UAF reinforcements. According to Vineyard of the Saker editor 'Scott', however, the Ukrainian BUK missile was likely fired at a large OSCE quad-coptor drone in the area. It's unclear to us from the footage released below by pro-NAF cameramen whether the BUK rocket struck the OSCE drone or missed its target.
The fact that Ukraine's stocks of BUK SAMs are basically leftovers from the early 1990s Soviet era and thus may not have been properly maintained for two decades has been brought up in the context of the MH17 shoot down by pro-Russian investigators -- as has the fact that Kiev's Defense Ministry lied to Dutch TV, the rest of the global news media and investigators about having BUK launchers in the 'ATO zone' prior to or about on July 17, 2014.
When pieces of a BUK SAM fell to earth in the rebel held city of Makivka northeast of Donetsk, Ukrainian social media warriors claimed the BUK had to have been fired by either active duty Russian or pro-Russian forces, despite their being no evidence that such a hard to conceal SAM launcher had been seen in recent weeks anywhere in the Donetsk or Lugansk republics. The fact that no fragments of a BUK missile similar to those which fell on Makiivka this week were recovered from the wreckage of Malaysian Airlines flight 17 (only a few pieces of shrapnel that supposedly match those found in a BUK warhead), is another strong indicator that the entire Kiev/Dutch Joint Investigative Team (JIT)/Bellingcat BUK theory is deeply flawed at best and fraudulent at worst. See the above video with large easily identifiable pieces of a BUK SAM rocket, then compare them to the tiny fragments Dutch investigators claim to have recovered from the MH17 crash site, and upon which they base their case that only a Russian and not earlier model Ukrainian BUK could've been used to down the airliner.
SPICER SAYS `WE HAVE NOT MADE ANY DECISION' ON RUSSIA SANCTIONS https://t.co/CGuZTVsmcg
— Russian Market (@russian_market) January 29, 2017
Under Trump the State Dept Isn't Taking the Bait Offered by Poroshenko -- So Far
While the fighting is likely to continue until Ukrainian losses reach an unconcealable and therefore unsustainable point, the US State Department has been more muted in its criticisms of the pro-Russian forces than under the Obama Administration. Russia itself has not been mentioned in the State Department appeals to both sides for calm, but the Obama legacy staffers at the U.S. Mission to the OSCE have been more direct in their condemnations of the Russians.
It should be noted here that three and a half weeks prior to the start of the latest Ukrainian offensive, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and his sidekick Lindsey Graham (R-SC) visited the Ukrainians front lines at Shyrokine. It isn't clear from the footage if they met with members of the neo-Nazi led, SS rune flag waving Azov Battalion which occupies the Donbass' only port city of Mariupol. However at that time McCain exhorted the Ukrainians to attack and repel the 'invaders' (apparently including Donbass natives armed by Russia but born in the USSR) 'back to where they came from'. McCain as is typical for him was probably blind to the irony of the statement that the vast majority of his hosts in Shyrokine were not from Donbass, and many of the region's residents consider the Ukrainian Army to be the 'invaders' or Kiev's 'punishers'. At any rate, McCain's heroes fight they believe for Ukraine, while their opponents fight for their own homes, more than the idea of being part of the 'Russian world':
““I admire the fact that you will fight for your homeland,” Graham told Ukraine’s 36th Separate Marine Brigade in the town of Shyrokyne, about four kilometers from the line of contact, according to a video released Monday by the Ukrainian presidency.
“Your fight is our fight,” Graham said during the visit on Saturday alongside President Petro Poroshenko. “2017 will be the year of offense,” he continued. “All of us will go back to Washington and we will push the case against Russia. ...”
McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate and prisoner of war in Vietnam, said: “I believe you will win. I am convinced you will win and we will do everything we can to provide you with what you need to win. ...””
Trump's awareness that the infamous McInsane and Mrs. John McCain duo have been out to undermine his policy of detente with Russia both publically and covertly greenlighting Minsk 2 ceasefire violations by Kiev likely prompted the President's outburst on Twitter about the warmongering couple 'trying to start WWIII':
...Senators should focus their energies on ISIS, illegal immigration and border security instead of always looking to start World War III.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 29, 2017
All the same, while the Trump White House and discombobulated State Department play it cool regarding the latest outbreak of fighting in the Donbass, Kremlin-connected liberal realists such as the 50-year-old Fyodor Lukyanov caution that Moscow should not get its hopes up too much. Donald Trump's team is American nationalist, and not unalterably hostile toward Russia like Obama's Administration, but it should be expected to put U.S. dominance first over Russian aspirations for a privileged sphere of interests in its former Soviet 'near abroad'. At least that's the message Lukyanov, who writes for Foreign Affairs, conveyed on Russian television this past week:
Still simmering in the background are the issues of Iran, which is now a Russian ally via the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and which National Security Adviser retired Army Gen. Michael T. Flynn 'put on notice' this week over a ballistic missile test, and The Donald's challenge to China, which is Moscow's most powerful and populous partner. Regardless, in the tough negotiations ahead between Washington, Moscow and Beijing, the white elephant/International Monetary Fund (IMF) propped-up regime in Kiev is not going to be at the top of the agenda, or even near the top.