miércoles, 18 de febrero de 2015

El tiempo es veloz en Debaltsevo

Cinco breves noticias procedentes del sitio Russia Insider (http://russia-insider.com/en) sobre el caldero o bolsillo de Debaltsevo. El tiempo es veloz, chicos.

Título: Ukraine Presidential Advisor: 'No Money Left for Army Offensives. Must Dig In'

Subtítulo: Poroshenko's advisor Yuriy Biryukov says Ukrainians must face the fact the military does not have the resources to conduct meaningful offensive operations

Texto: An excerpt from an interview on Ukraine's Hromadske TV:

Biryukov: “At the moment we don’t have a Ukrainian version of the Mannerheim Line”

Q: “Do we need one?”

Biryukov: “People are saying we’re going to win, forward, we’ll reach the border and fully liberate [sic] the Donbass from the militants [sic]—right now it’s impossible, we don’t have the resources. We have to get used to the fact that we don’t have the resources for large-scale offensive operations, but we need defensive lines in any event so we should dig them.”

J.Hawk Comments: The Mannerheim Line was a Finnish fortified defensive line on the Karelian Isthmus—which, in any event, was successfully breached by the Red Army during the Winter War, forcing Finland to sue for peace.

So it’s a rather inept comparison, but an example of how incoherent Ukrainian national identity becomes as soon as it tries to deny its shared history with Russia. I mean, seriously, you have to seek out examples from Finnish military history? Which, incidentally, are not even remotely applicable to Ukraine, which is too large and too sparsely populated for any defensive line to be practicable in the long term.

Aside from that, Biryukov was one of the most ardent propagandists of, and advocates for, the “counter-terrorist operation” on the Donbass, so it’s rather gratifying that he has now switched gears. The UAF must really be at the end of its tether if even Biryukov recognizes the obvious.

Título: Ukraine Already Selling Junk UK Armored Vehicles It Just Bought

Subtítulo: Apparently Kiev now concurs with the UK general who condemned the sale of Saxon APCs on the account they were "useless"

Texto: There are times when even Jonathan Swift's sense of satire would be silenced by reality. After a lot of huffing and puffing by the "Arms for Ukraine Now!" neocons like General Sir Richard "Helmand" Dannatt over the weekend ridiculing Britain for only supplying Saxon Armoured Vehicles, a Kiev-based company is already offering them for sale! 

For the specifications: http://vt-group.com.ua/p28119645-saxon-at105-4x4.html. But remember it is a cash-only transaction! 

Título: What's Cooking in the Debaltsevo Cauldron?

Subtítulo: Poroshenko denies that thousands of Ukrainian troops are surrounded in Debaltsevo. Maybe because the trapped soldiers aren't even from Ukraine?

Texto:  Apparently Petro Poroshenko has slipped into an opium-filled Edgar Allan Poe fantasy—a beautiful, hazy dreamworld where 8,000 Ukrainian troops are not surrounded in Debaltsevo. Here is DNR leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko explaining to captured UAF soldiers that Kiev denies the very existence of the cauldron: 
Reality is a cruel, cruel mistress. But the question still remains: What exactly is cooking in the Debaltsevo cauldron?

There are reports (although apparently without independent confirmation) of rebel forces around Debaltsevo intercepting communications in English, Polish, and French. In layman's terms: Either the NAF has trapped the entire faculty of Kyiv National Linguistic University, or there are foreign mercenaries operating in Debaltsevo—which is not only against the recently signed Minsk agreement, but would also be a huge embarrassment to Kiev if the soldiers were to be captured.

And if mercenaries were found with NATO equipment, it would be...well, let's just say, bad. 
We are not interested in contributing to the non-stop rumor mill that surrounds this conflict—an endless barrage of baseless accusations, usually on Twitter, coming from both sides. But there does seem to be mounting evidence as to why (despite the obviously hopeless situation of the entrapped troops in Debaltsevo) few seem willing to put down their arms.

Case in point: Civilians evacuated by NAF forces in Debaltsevo say that they saw black men zooming around on APCs. (We should mention that this accusation is widely mocked and ridiculed on respectable websites such as "Reddit". Why? Why would a civilian make up such a story? Is the entire world on Putin's propaganda payroll? Of course the answer is yes.)

Time will tell, but it seems that the rebels are intent on taking Debaltsevo. What they find waiting for them is anyone's guess. Maybe some French professors?

Título: Kiev Has Lost Debaltsevo

Subtítulo: Ukrainian soldiers are fleeing Debaltsevo—and leaving behind huge caches of weapons and gear

Texto: SVITLODARSK, Ukraine — Ukrainian troops began leaving the embattled eastern city of Debaltseve Wednesday one day after the Ukrainian military admitted it no longer had full control over the strategic railway hub, news reports said.

“In Debaltseve there is a massive surrender of weapons by (Ukrainian) forces. These people number in the hundreds,” the Reuters news agency reported, quoting the separatist press service DAN. The numbers could not be independently confirmed.

“The withdrawal of forces from Debaltseve is taking place in a planned and organized way,” said Semen Semenchenko, a parliamentary deputy from the separatist Donbass paramilitary unit, also quoted by Reuters.

The British Broadcasting Corporation in London also reported the beginning of the Ukrainian military’s withdrawal from the embattled town. But Ukraine’s ambassador to the European Union told the BBC in an interview that fighting continued in the city.

Another pro-government paramilitary leader, Mykola Kolesnyk, also said that not all troops were pulling out. “We are talking only about units which are surrounded in populated areas in and around the town,” Kolesnyk, who heads the Krivbas battalion, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

A Ukrainian member of parliament who leads a pro-Kiev volunteer battalion confirmed that some troops were pulling out, Reuters reported, which was also quoting the Interfax news agency in Moscow.
The Ukrainian military admitted Tuesday that it no longer had full control over the transport hub, as rebel leaders claimed to have seized broad swaths of ground in street-by-street combat, including the train station.

The apparent gains in Debaltseve by pro-Russian separatists came as they and Ukrainian forces picked up the pace of their artillery battles, trading fire in areas around the city despite a three-day-old cease-fire under which the two sides were to remove their heavy weapons from the front lines starting Tuesday.

During the day, the Ukrainian military was seen and heard firing projectiles from multiple rocket launchers along a highway leading to Debaltseve, while evidence of shelling from rebel positions also was apparent, especially near a power plant outside Svitlodarsk, where one shell hit a gas pipe, causing a fiery explosion.

The worsening situation posed a critical challenge to the continued viability of the cease-fire, which never really took effect around Debaltseve, although it was observed at other points along the front lines since going into effect Sunday. And before the fighting in and around Debaltseve potentially unravels the fragile peace elsewhere in eastern Ukraine, the government faces the question of what to 
do about the 5,000 troops all but trapped in the contested city.

Over the past several days, separatist forces have effectively encircled Debaltseve, blocking it on all sides except along the highway leading to pro-Ukrainian territory. But soldiers who escaped described that road as all but impassable, because the rebels occupy positions on either side.

Although Ukraine has gone through a series of large-scale mobilizations since it began fighting the separatists in the east, the 5,000 soldiers in Debaltseve are a significant part of the army’s ready fighting force. A year ago, before the war commenced, that number would have been almost the entire combat-ready force of the country, according to estimates the defense minister provided to parliament at the time.

Pro-Russian rebel leaders have offered the troops a way out only through surrender. On Tuesday, they claimed that at least dozens of pro-Kiev soldiers were voluntarily giving up their positions and weapons.
“The Debaltseve boiling pot is closed,” Luhansk rebel leader Igor Plotnitsky said. “It is Ukraine who cannot, and does not want to, recognize this.”

But Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, denied that any Ukrainian soldiers had surrendered. He also accused the separatists of capturing a group of Ukrainian soldiers trying to deliver supplies to encircled troops when they ran out of ammunition — but he did not say how many had been taken prisoner.

Trapped soldiers and some of those who managed to break out described the situation in Debaltseve as hellish. Amid the protracted crisis, leaders of some of Ukraine’s volunteer battalions have pleaded with Kiev to adopt a new strategy.

Semenchenko, the head of the pro-Kiev Donbas battalion, many of whose fighters are in Debaltseve, called on military and political leaders to take “decisive actions” to free the soldiers, adding that any delays could be “very costly” and that simply trying to hold their position “could lead to disaster.”
Semenchenko suggested that it might be time to give up trying to hold Debaltseve.

“It is necessary to save the core of the army,” he said. “Territory we can always get back.”
The situation in Debaltseve has led Ukrainians to draw likenesses between the soldiers’ predicament there and the summer siege of Ilovaysk, during which the Donbas battalion claimed 1,000 soldiers had died.

“We have had Ilovaysk. Now we have Debaltseve,” Aleksander Chelobitchenko, a senior lieutenant on the Ukrainian side of the Joint Control Commission, a combined Ukrainian-Russian observation team based in Soledar, said Tuesday. “If you keep cutting the branches off a tree, eventually the tree will die. This is very bad, to lose all this.”

But the stakes in Debaltseve go beyond the number of soldiers trapped there, Chelobitchenko said.

“It’s not just the people. It’s also the equipment and the weapons there,” he said. “If one side takes over the equipment, they can turn it against the other side.”

The weapons and other equipment that could change hands if Ukrainian troops surrender or lose would be a significant gain for rebel forces, even if Ukrainian leaders are still regularly pleading with their Western allies, especially the United States, to supplement their combat efforts with lethal military aid. They need it, Ukrainian leaders insist, to face the separatists, who Kiev and its allies believe are being directly bolstered with Russian troops and weapons.

Russia has routinely denied direct involvement in the conflict. On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed a finger in the opposite direction. Asked during a visit to Hungary how Russia would respond to a U.S. shipment of lethal arms to Ukraine, Putin said that “these weapons are available now.” He also said that no matter what weapons were introduced into the conflict, “the number of victims can certainly increase.”

The Obama administration has said that no decision has been made to send lethal aid to Ukraine. A spokesman for the National Security Council said in Washington on Tuesday that the policy on not sending such aid was still intact and that the administration had “no idea what Putin is referring to.”


Título: German Intelligence: Ukraine Army Disintegrating

Subtítulo: While social unrest is brewing in the rear

Texto: Putin, the Kremlin insider says, believes he is in a strong position. "The later the Western states and the Ukraine are prepared to agree to a really stable compromise, the weaker their negotiating position will be," the insider says.

That analysis might not be far off. Ukraine government troops could indeed collapse if the fighting continues. Morale within the army is not nearly as strong as it is among the separatists.

The Ukrainian army was unprepared for the war in the east. Whereas Russia completely modernized its military recently, Ukraine scrapped or sold off much of the equipment it had inherited when the Soviet Union collapsed and radically reduced the size of its military, dismissing two-thirds of its soldiers. The weapons now being used by Ukrainian troops fighting in the east are far inferior to those possessed by the separatists.

At the beginning of the war, the Ukrainian army had some 130,000 troops according to the most optimistic estimates, with half of them fulfilling their compulsory military service.
Now, many young men are doing their best to avoid conscription altogether by heading overseas. The National Guard has a further 35,000 men in uniform. They mostly man checkpoints and guard infrastructure.

President Poroshenko is thus dependent on the help of militias, those voluntary units that fight in the service of oligarchs or out of their own interests. But they often don't follow orders from Kiev, making them difficult to control and unfit for use in strategic operations.
According to a report delivered recently to the Chancellery in Berlin by Germany's foreign intelligence service, the BND, the Ukrainian army is slowly disintegrating, demoralized by the separatist advances and short on personnel.

Even arms deliveries from the West, the BND believes, would be more likely to overwhelm the Ukrainian army than it would to make it a more effective fighting force.

Increasingly Unsettled

Furthermore, the grim state of the country's economy threatens to destabilize Poroshenko's government. The Ukrainian currency, the hryvnia, fell to a new historic low on Wednesday. Just a few weeks ago, the rate was 18 hryvnia to the euro, now it is 30. The country is increasingly unsettled.

The chief public prosecutor has already fallen. He proved unable to recover the billions of dollars that former President Viktor Yanukovych smuggled out of the country to Switzerland, Luxembourg and the US. Furthermore, reform programs for the judiciary and public administration are making little progress.

Frustration among the public at large is growing with some in Kiev even talking about a "new Maidan," a reference to the protests that drove Yanukovych out of office (and out of the country) one year ago.

"If nothing changes in Ukraine, then everything will explode in four to six months," says Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia and supporter of the new Kiev leadership.

Aid from the International Monetary Fund and other donors is aimed at preventing such an explosion from taking place. In the next four years, Ukraine is to receive around €40 billion euros -- but the program includes "extremely strict conditions," say senior Berlin officials with concern. Among them is an increase in gas prices for private consumers as well as an unpopular pension reform aimed at cutting government spending.

Berlin is worried that support for the government could rapidly disappear should too much be demanded too quickly. Chancellor Merkel has thus charged her economic policy advisor Lars-Hendrik Röller with encouraging the IMF to exercise political caution. "The aid program cannot be allowed to destabilize Ukraine domestically," said one government official in Berlin.

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