Military situation in Eastern Ukraine

Kindly translated by Anne-Marie de Grazia

The military situation underwent an important evolution during these past two days. The Kiev forces seem to have collapsed South of Donetsk, opening the way to a counter-offensive of the insurgents which on Monday, August 25th, reached the shores of the Sea of Azov and the port city of Novoazovsk. According to my correspondents (who are Western journalists working on the side of the insurgents), there was no real combat. The Kiev forces having withdrawn to Mariupol. This has been indirectly confirmed by the declarations of the Kiev government. Tactically, this implies that the Kiev forces which were operating South of Donesk are surrounded. The « cauldron » which was thus formed could be reduced in the coming days. Moreover, the withdrawal to Mariupol of the Kiev forces shows that the latter are in a state of considerable confusion. Sources close to the insurgents, and which therefore must be considered cautiously, indicate that these forces might be evacuating Mariupol in favor of Zaporozhie. This remains to be confirmed. What seems confirmed at any rate, is that the advance of the insurgent forces has provoked a panic in the ranks of the forces of Kiev in Mariupol. A counter-offensive of the insurgents is also being signalled North-West of Lugansk, beyond Pervomaisk, which brings them practically at the height of Slavyansk. In the same time, heavy fighting took place around the surrounded units of the Kiev government. It appears that we are confronted with a major crisis for the forces of Kiev, as witnessed by the correspondents who are in Kiev proper. At any rate, if Kiev wants to stabilize the military situation along the shores of the Sea of Azov, it has no other choice but to:

  • (1) Remove some of the forces deployed North of Donetsk, but with the risk that insurgents might push through in this sector as well. However, in view of the successes encountered by the insurgents, this is a VERY risky option for Kiev, while the counter-offensive from Lugansk is unfolding.
  • (2) Deploy troops held in reserve in the West of Ukraine, but whose military efficiency is doubtful. The risk here is that engaging these units might bring about new losses and lead to the capture of important materiel by the insurgents.

Map 1


In the same time, the return of Igor I. « Strelkov »[1] is announced. He could by early Septembre coordinate the military operations of the militias of Lugansk and Donetsk out of Krasnodon.

At any rate, it is clear that the insurgents have scored important points during these past two days. One cannot exclude that the Kiev forces, at least those which are not yet encircled, will withdraw on the defensive line which has been defined in the past few days. This indicates clearly that we are witnessing a crisis in the ranks of the Kiev forces which is military as well as political. President Poroshenko’s decision to dissolve Parliament (the Rada), a decision taken well before this crisis developed, must now be considered as being part and parcel of it. On the other hand, the shortness in numbers of the insurgents forbids them to push their advantage too far, at the risk of making themselves extremely vulnerable to counter-attacks from the Kiev forces. It is therefore possible that within a week or two, we will arrive at partial stabilization of the situation, which could open the way to a cease-fire. It is possible that this will be discussed on Tuesday, the 26th, when the Russian President will meet the Ukrainian President in Minsk. But, even if this stabilization ends up in a cease-fire, which is what must be hoped for, the situation would still remain very tense. The insurgents, at present, are no longer ready to accept anything else but a scenario of the type of Abkhazia, or of South Ossetia. Yet such a situation would be difficult to accept for Poroshenko, even besides the fact that it would imply that the coal resources of the Donbass, something needed by the metal-working industry as well as by power-generating stations, will remain in insurgents hands. That will cause formidable problems for Ukraine as soon as winter sets in. Poroshenko will need time to find an acceptable compromise, but time is precisely what is in short supply for the regime in Kiev. It could well be witnessing in the months to come a backlash of its incapacity to overcome the insurgents in Donetzk and Lugansk. Its incapacity to crush the insurrection in blood, which was the stated goal of the government in Kiev, will again raise the question of the reliability of the populations in the regions around Dnepropetrovsk and Zaporozhie. Upheavals could occur during the winter. The economic and financial situation of Ukraine will moreover continue to degrade rapidly. From this point of view, every day added is an advantage for the insurgents who seem henceforth have brought about the durability, at least temporarily, of the « Popular Republic of Donetsk » (DPR) and of the « Popular Republic of Lugansk » (LPR).

Jacques Sapir

Ses travaux de chercheur se sont orientés dans trois dimensions, l’étude de l’économie russe et de la transition, l’analyse des crises financières et des recherches théoriques sur les institutions économiques et les interactions entre les comportements individuels. Il a poursuivi ses recherches à partir de 2000 sur les interactions entre les régimes de change, la structuration des systèmes financiers et les instabilités macroéconomiques. Depuis 2007 il s'est impliqué dans l’analyse de la crise financière actuelle, et en particulier dans la crise de la zone Euro.

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