"I understand and share in the bitterness and resentment of those who found out this morning that the Militia has left Slavyansk. The news washed over everyone – the hoorah-patriots, the all-is-lost-patriots and even the cold analytical types. And now, please listen to a person who spent the last month and a half in Slavyansk.
From the time of the very first checkpoints on the outskirts and to the almost complete encirclement of the city. When we broke out of Slavyansk along the by-pass “guerilla” road in the middle of June, a few hours later a Ukrainian army checkpoint appeared there. That’s it; the city was blockaded on all sides. Supplying the garrison turned into a constant headache incommensurate with its tactical advantage. And, despite all the despair coming through in the public statements made by Igor Ivanovich, when he told the entire world that “we could not hold any longer than July 12,” I am more than certain that, if NazGuard [Note: National Guard] did manage, on New Year’s eve, finally to enter Slavyansk, leveled to a cement pancake, then there would still have been automatic rifles and grenade launchers hitting the Ukrainian troops from every other basement.
In reality, the fate of Slavyansk was being decided in April-May, when Karachun Mount was taken. It is impossible to conduct a fulsome and active defence when you are faced with a strategic dominant height overhanging the city, several kilometres in length, seized by the adversary and laden with enemy artillery. And to fight, moreover, without any means of counter-battery warfare. Impossible, and, yet, Igor Ivanovich and the Militia managed to resist anyways. And not only to resist, but, in a mere few days, to disabuse the many-times superior enemy of any desire to engage the Militia in a direct confrontation. As far as I can tell, they abandoned any intention to assault the city as soon as the Militia returned Semyonovka under its control.
Undoubtedly, Slavyansk became the symbol of the “Russian Spring;” moreover – it entered history. Forever. But the purpose of the city was different. Slavyansk drew to itself all the battle-worthy forces of the Ukrainian army, it enabled the mobilization of the Militia in Lugansk and Donetsk." (Komsomolskaya Pravda)
I am in full agreement with this assessment by Dmitry Steshin. The rebels appear to be well trained, well led and well motivated. A telling example is this short video of rebel 120mm mortars in action. Aiming stakes are out. That means there are forward observers and a fire direction center. The gunners are leveling the tubes between rounds. That all takes training and discipline. I’m impressed. Many of the rebel leaders and probably a decent portion of the rebel soldiers are veterans of one or both Chechen wars. The regular Ukrainian army units don’t have their hearts in the fight. The National Guard units, largely composed of Pravy Sektor thugs and their ilk, are plenty motivated for the ATO (anti-terrorist operation), but they’re better trained for Maidan Square rioting than combined arms warfare.
Why hasn’t Putin initiated his peacekeeping operation to stop the fighting and slaughter of civilians? The Saker and many others are clamoring for intervention. There are plenty of logical reasons for not intervening so overtly. But I don’t think the threat of sanctions and a new cold war are what’s holding Putin back. No, he is another hard hearted empath. He knows that Novorossiya must be forged from fire if it is to survive. They must want it and be willing to fight for it themselves. Back in April, Igor Strelkov, the former Russian SPETZNAZ colonel and military leader of the rebels, complained that not enough men were stepping forward to fight. That has changed. The rebels are now 20,000 strong. The Donbass miners have defied their oligarch employers and began taking up arms just last month.
Additionally, Putin disdains the West’s penchant for R2P and aggressive interference in the affairs of others. He will move if he thinks it is necessary and when he thinks it is necessary. For now, I believe he is content to provide covert support as necessary, push for a real ceasefire and political solution, and bide his time as a new nation that intends to span from Kharkov to Oddessa and Transnistria births itself.