The mystery of why a part of the Ukrainian Army is still shelling Donbas instead of fighting elsewhere in the country, especially in Kyiv, is solved. A gigantic and most combat-ready part of the Ukrainian Army remains without any military objective in Donbas, says Russia.
Tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers, the most combat-ready units of the first-line defense, are forming a defensive fortification around Sloviansk (Slavyansk), Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk, in the Donetsk Oblast, the eastern part of Ukraine.
How big is the Ukrainian detachment in Donetsk?
Since 2014, Ukraine has deployed a large chunk of its Army to fight Lugansk and Donetsk militia fighting for independence. These units have the most battle-hardened soldiers of the Ukrainian Army as the militia, supported by Russia, has given them a tough fight.
In February, a large column of the Ukrainian Army moved towards Donetsk. As per eye witness accounts, “On the hundredth unit lost count. (They) went from Donetsk on the highway between Donetsk and Makeyevka (Makiivka or Makiyivka), probably in the direction of Yasynuvata.”
Other eyewitnesses said that a column of tanks and armoured vehicles passed through the city centre at about 22:00 (February 21) outside Kyiv. The echelons were moving along Universitetskaya Street in the north-western direction to the line of contact.
According to eyewitnesses, tanks and armoured personnel carriers were spotted in convoy with people. Allegedly, according to them, the movement of equipment lasted for an hour.
Similar manoeuvres of equipment and men from different directions were seen marching to the direction along the line of contact. In particular, several thousand mobilized ‘people’ were brought to the territory of a plant in Makiivka, where they were given weapons and clothes. Allegedly, their number is several thousand. Even the Ukrainian Air Force moved its men and equipment to the area.
The residents of Donetsk told the media that they had not seen such a large concentration of troops in the last eight years.
The movement also points out that Ukraine had committed a large force before Russian President Putin declared ‘Special Operation’ on February 24.
How does Russia gain from this?
Forcing this group to surrender or liquidate it should be a huge blow to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The most experienced soldiers will be lost, hundreds of armoured vehicles, tanks and artillery will be left, ‘nationalist’ battalions will be liquidated. There will be a considerable gap in the front line from the Ukrainian side, observe Russian experts.
Suppose the Russian plans to destroy or liquidate this massive force fructify; it will also mean Russia has taken control of the entire territory of the Lugansk and Donetsk ‘republics’.
The capture of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk will have a tremendous symbolic meaning as it was from these cities that the fight for DPR began, and the Kyiv authorities consider their capture and retention to be their main achievement in 2014.
Why is Russia not destroying them faster?
Interestingly, in Ukraine, the Russian leadership generally uses the tactics already tested in Syria. A slow offensive in different directions, careful work with local authorities, avoiding civilian casualties, pinpoint strikes against fortified areas instead of carpet bombing. This approach is also costly.
Previously, the militia and the Russian Army have reported Ukrainian Army seeking a humanitarian corridor.
In the initial days of fighting, a section of the Ukrainian soldiers had mined and barricaded themselves in a factory in Donetsk. The militia said the soldiers were asking for safe passage. It is not known if the passage was provided to the soldiers.
Russia can let the Ukrainian soldiers remain in the protective formation, strike their equipment with precision strikes, or launch an offensive until they surrender.