The purple assed mandrill of peace has been spotted among the sunflowers on the steppes of eastern Ukraine… or Novorossiya. There have been only fleeting glimpses so far and no one with open eyes and a clear mind thinks a breeding population will be established anytime soon.
On the plus side, the current ceasefire has seen a significant reduction of the bombardment of Donetsk and Lugansk. The people of Lugansk are starting to clean up their neighborhoods and rebuild. Electricity, water and communication services are beginning to be reestablished. Refugees are returning to their homes. However, neither side sees this truce as a prelude to peace, just a lull before the fighting resumes. The Ukies are using the truce to regroup and redeploy their battered forces. They needed this respite badly. That is what they have done in every other truce they have called. Separatist militia leaders Alexei Mozgovoi and Igor Bezler have noted this and decided to stay on the offensive. Bezler said, “Ukraine’s criminal authorities resumed military operations. Now there is no way back for us. There is a long road ahead – to Kiev!” That is the general opinion of the separatist fighters.
But the separatists were not, as some have claimed, on the verge of major victory before the ceasefire was agreed to in Minsk. They also needed a respite to regroup and resupply, if not at 1800 GMT on 6 September, then within a few days of that.Their forces are not strong enough to defeat the entire Ukrainian army or make the run to Odessa to create greater Novorossiya. They are spread thin. The inability to quickly reduce the many pockets of Ukie units is evidence of this. Most of the separatist units operate as small saboteur-reconnaissance groups. This is how Mozgovoi described the evolving tactics employed by his Ghost Brigade:
“Here are the outlines of a few situations in which my unit has participated. I will start with the failures – the defense of Lisichansk. To suppress our forces, Ukraine threw eleven thousand men at us. Our lack of success was characterized by the fact that we were still true to the original tactics – the tactics of a clean fight: creating a clear front, setting up checkpoints. That was a mistake. This war, constructed by Ukies, is built on deceit: from the news to the battlefield; and because we were expecting a clean fight, we suffered casualties. I feel the loss of my men, most severely. For me, a loss of even a few individuals is a painful blow.
“Yes, we have won fights; we pushed the enemy and they have retreated, but they always returned, in greater numbers, with more weaponry. Here is a shining example of this pattern. They set up a checkpoint at Staraya Krasnyanka, between Kremennoye and Rybezhnoye. We worked it over ten times. One day we destroy it; the next morning it is already manned with new people. Today – destroy, tomorrow morning – new people. Ukies load up Kamaz trucks with corpses and straight away, bring in new personnel – new men destined to become corpses the following day.
“The tactics of the Ukrainian army can be summed up in this: they have placed the full weight of war upon the artillery and the rocket launchers. They commence an attack with a purge of territory, which they do using Grads and self-propelled artillery systems.
“They call it targeted attacks but the outcomes of such attacks are huge areas, whole squares swept “clean”. Afterwards, the tanks arrive with means to destroy in case anyone is left alive somewhere. Finally, their armored personnel carriers follow, manned with soldiers to finish up. It seems like their tactics are unbeatable. That is the reason why we’ve changed our own tactics.
“Even though we have grown in numbers, I refuse to send men into the open. We prefer to work in saboteur-reconnaissance groups (“SRG”): they went, they saw, they worked, and they returned. That’s all. We work on their communications; we work on their distributions and their ammunition warehouses. If they don’t have ammo, they don’t have the ability to fire.
“Only yesterday I was informed about the destruction of a column of 10 Urals trucks that were delivering the missiles for the Grads, which were headed toward Donetsk. What can be more effective? Even if they have the launchers, without the shells those are simply piles of scrap metal, ballast. We hit them with RPGs and “Shmels” grenade launchers. (Colonel Cassad)
Mozgovoi, BTW, is not at all pleased with the Minsk agreement and the bogus ceasefire. Not only did he decide to remain on the offensive after Ukie forces opposing him violated the ceasefire, but he has called for the political leadership of the Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples Republics to step down.