The Ukrainian Donbass War Thread

Feanor

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I tried looking for the last one of these we had but it seems to be buried pretty deep, so I'll start a new one. This is a catchall thread for the ongoing military and geo-strategic stalemate in eastern Ukraine.

As of late there have been increasing indicators that something might be brewing. Mostly pro-Russian sources have been pointing out increasing movements of Ukrainian troops, including armor, towards the front line. Now there are indications of rearmament of frontline units with upgraded tanks. There is also information of Ukrainian forces being at high readiness. There is also information that previous positions that had been abandoned as part of the separation of sides process have been re-occupied by both sides. There has also been an increase in shelling.


Also US and British RC-135s were seen flying around Crimea conducting reconnaissance. In and of themselves this wouldn't be particularly noteworthy. US and other countries' recon aircraft fly-by Crimea regularly.


As of now its unclear what all of this entails. Prior to this escalate there was some discussion in the press of a potential new peace plan but I strongly suspect that Russia will insist on the Minsk process, especially since the process has been confirmed and re-confirmed time and again by multiple countries. We could see a major escalation but I have a hard time seeing what Ukraine would have to gain by this, unless they hope that Russia will somehow stay out of it.

In terms of overall strength its pretty clear Ukraine is far stronger then the LDNR forces combined. In their favor they have prepared defensive positions, an all volunteer force of at least theoretically professional soldiers, and a steady stream of supplies, weapons, and equipment from Russia. Ukraine however has not only a numerical advantage but at this point a technological one as well (though its not drastic, if used well it should make a difference). Ukraine has purchased and fielded Javelin ATGMs, has upgraded a portion of their tanks with new comms, thermals, and GPS navigation, has upgraded another portion with new ERA, has purchased and fielded some Bayraktar UAVs, has restocked a portion of its lost light armor vehicles, and even acquired batches of rebuilt BTR-3s and new BTR-4s. Ukrainian infantry units have drastically improved comm gear, and individual tactical gear (body armor, boots, tactical vests, etc.) On the flip side the rebel forces, while now better organized and better trained, have not received large quantities of post-Soviet era gear and equipment with the exception of some comm gear, and better individual tactical gear. Without direct Russian support it's highly likely that they will only be able to put up a fight for a limited amount of time, trading space for time, and inflict losses and disrupting the tempo of Ukrainian forces but likely not defeating them in pitched or set battles.
 

Ananda

The Bunker Group
We could see a major escalation but I have a hard time seeing what Ukraine would have to gain by this, unless they hope that Russia will somehow stay out of it
Seems from what I read on Turkish media and Forums, Ukraine with increasing co-op with Turkey also try to find much information from recent Azerbaijan campaign in defeating Armenian. The usage of UAV seems really put interest from them. Thus I do see Ukraine hope to do the similar thing in Donbass.

Perhaps they're looking at two scenarios; one Donbass without Russian support and the other with Russian support. However what they're hoping if Donbass got Russian support ? Are they realistically think at this point there are any more cards that West still hold against Russia ?

At this point, Russian seems not care anymore with what West think on their encounter with Ukraine. If Ukraine do launch campaign against Donbass, Russian has nothing to lose anymore regarding Western relationship. With that, what Ukraine realistically think that new campaign in Donbass will not attract new Russian interference ?
 

Feanor

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Seems from what I read on Turkish media and Forums, Ukraine with increasing co-op with Turkey also try to find much information from recent Azerbaijan campaign in defeating Armenian. The usage of UAV seems really put interest from them. Thus I do see Ukraine hope to do the similar thing in Donbass.

Perhaps they're looking at two scenarios; one Donbass without Russian support and the other with Russian support. However what they're hoping if Donbass got Russian support ? Are they realistically think at this point there are any more cards that West still hold against Russia ?

At this point, Russian seems not care anymore with what West think on their encounter with Ukraine. If Ukraine do launch campaign against Donbass, Russian has nothing to lose anymore regarding Western relationship. With that, what Ukraine realistically think that new campaign in Donbass will not attract new Russian interference ?
This is really what I wonder about as well. The current Ukrainian government is not a collection of insane right-wingers from the Azov movement, or Right Sector. They're an oligarchical elite that has basically no reason to even want to retake the Donbass in its present form (it's part of why Ukraine has been sabotaging the Minsk accords). It's possible that I'm missing something in Ukrainian domestic politics, but I can't imagine the current Ukrainian government taking such a major move without consultations with the US, and likely other western countries. But then what's the point of the current posturing and what appear to be real buildups? To scare Russia into agreeing to the new peace plan? If that's it, it's a pretty hare-brained scheme.
 

Ananda

The Bunker Group
But then what's the point of the current posturing and what appear to be real buildups? To scare Russia into agreeing to the new peace plan? If that's it, it's a pretty hare-brained scheme.
When you're in significant disadvantage on military balance, posturing Military only benefit to shown you are ready for potential larger force invasion. However posturing as threat to make your own invasion, just don't make sense.

Whatever Ukraine thrown, it will be easily handle by Russian force. So either they hoping Russian stay out from supporting Donbass (which's false hope in my opinion under current condition), or are they hoping to drawn active support from West (if Russia provide active support for Donbass forces).

Anyway I do agree it's a big gamble by Kiev to do Military action against Donbass at present condition.
 

SolarWind

Active Member
Perhaps the Ukrainian leadership is trying to provoke Russia for a more direct role in Donbass, thinking that would serve to advance some of Ukraine's international goals, such as cooling Russia and EU's warming relations and stopping the nord stream 2 project for good. Previous experience has shown that Russia does not seek to occupy Ukraine and thus political risk may be limited.
 

KiwiRob

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When you're in significant disadvantage on military balance, posturing Military only benefit to shown you are ready for potential larger force invasion. However posturing as threat to make your own invasion, just don't make sense.

Whatever Ukraine thrown, it will be easily handle by Russian force. So either they hoping Russian stay out from supporting Donbass (which's false hope in my opinion under current condition), or are they hoping to drawn active support from West (if Russia provide active support for Donbass forces).

Anyway I do agree it's a big gamble by Kiev to do Military action against Donbass at present condition.
If Ukraine strikes first I don't think they will get a lot of public support in Europe. They would be seen as the aggressor.
 

Feanor

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It appears that now the other side is also gearing up. Additional Russian troops have been spotted moving towards Crimea and along the Ukrainian border.


Spotted among the columns were Vystrel armored cars, a rare and unimpressive armored vehicle that has however some association with Russian PMCs.


US European command has raised its watch level for the conflict in Ukraine to potential imminent crisis, the highest level, up from possible crisis.


It's still unclear whether this is a real escalation or posturing. Russia could be conducting another large scale exercise, they're fairly routine (Russia runs them twice a year at scales big enough to look like a medium-sized war). And using regular exercises to both create a real buildup and send a message to Ukraine, and its western partners, while conducting regular training is in principle a good move. A real buildup costs money and disrupts the training cycle pretty drastically. There's also been a lack of information from the Ukrainian side over the past two weeks, aside from an incident where 4 Ukrainian sappers died under unclear circumstances.
 

KiwiRob

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You can already see the pro Ukraine media are starting to spin the Ukraine is being threatened by Russia message. There is no mention of the Ukraine buildup only what I presume to be the Russian response to this buildup.
 

ngatimozart

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Well it's close to fighting season there so both sides maybe getting ready to break the stalemate.
 

Feanor

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The DNR has declared its first ever draft. Up until now all LDNR forces were volunteer only, and paid relatively well, especially by local standards. This was not only a matter of practicality (the infrastructure to draft personnel simply didn't exist), it was also part of the hearts and minds aspect, keeping the locals from feeling too unhappy about LDNR leadership. Normally I would have thought this is simply another step in the direction of the LDNR getting on the same page with Russia (like they have with other areas of government activity), but given the context I can't help but wonder what is brewing.


Meanwhile it appears that at least some of the troop movements into Crimea are a planned element of military development. The 56th Para-Assault Bde is being reformatted into the 56th Para-Assault regiment, likely folded into the 7th Para-Assault Division (giving them 3 regiments) and being stationed in Feodosiya, Crimea. For quite some time VDV divisions, both para-assault and para-drop, were 2 regiments each. Plans were made for adding a 3rd regiment to each division. There is already an independent btln in Crimea, and it's likely that the 56th isn't just being reformatted but instead is sacrificing part of its personnel to the formation of a new VDV regiment for the 76th Division, while the bulk of the personnel with move to Crimea, and pick up the independent VDV btln that has been formed there.

Note this doesn't explain the columns of 2S19 howitzers of BMP-3 IFVs. Neither are part of the VDV.

 

Feanor

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Update.

Russian troop movements continue. The second link is particularly interesting. Recently Russian regiments part of newly formed divisions have been receiving a mixed regimental artillery group consisting of 2 howitzers batteries and 1 MRL battery. The train appears to be carrying such a regimental artillery group, including associated rear echelon support elements, command vehicles, and the equipment of the artillery recon platoon.


The Black Sea Fleet has begun a large scale set of readiness inspections in Crimea. This doesn't explain the scale of troop movements, and instead appears to be another step in preparation for potential combat.


Some explanation has appeared for the Vystrel armored cars recently sighted, apparently a Russian unit near Bryansk has at least a pair. They were seen at a Victory Day parade.


DNR forces have been spotted with new Russian pickup trucks, used as technicals. These are distinct post-Soviet vehicles, and vehicles produced fairly recently, it's possible they were delivered this year.


Peskov, press secretary to the Russian president, has stated that additional measures would be taken should US personnel appear in Ukraine. Presumably this refers to any direct support of Ukrainian military operations.


Ukrainian military intelligence claims that Russian troops are being prepared for "peacekeeping" operations in Ukraine and claim Russian diplomatic missions have received instructions to be ready to explain Russian military actions in Ukraine as protection of Russian citizens.


A meeting between Canadian, UK, and US military attaches with Ukrainian military officials has taken place in Kiev.

 

Musashi_kenshin

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Peskov, press secretary to the Russian president, has stated that additional measures would be taken should US personnel appear in Ukraine. Presumably this refers to any direct support of Ukrainian military operations.
You have to love the Russians. They can interfere in Eastern Ukraine as much as they like, but US support for the Ukranian government is a no-no.

Talk about a neo-colonialist mindset.
 

Hone C

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You have to love the Russians. They can interfere in Eastern Ukraine as much as they like, but US support for the Ukranian government is a no-no.

Talk about a neo-colonialist mindset.
True, but that's the nature of geopolitics.

For the Russians, Ukraine is a fundamental national security issue. For the US, Ukraine's only valuable if they're planning on confronting Russia.

You can't really expect Russia to have a sense of humour about it, any more than the US has about Cuba or Australia has about PNG.
 

ngatimozart

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True, but that's the nature of geopolitics.

For the Russians, Ukraine is a fundamental national security issue. For the US, Ukraine's only valuable if they're planning on confronting Russia.

You can't really expect Russia to have a sense of humour about it, any more than the US has about Cuba or Australia has about PNG.
Yep the Yanks get real septic about Cuba.

The Rooskies would get pretty septic if Belarus suddenly decided to get all nice and friendly with NATO. Putin would have a right hissy fit and blow a couple of gaskets. I remember reading sometime last year that Tsar Vladimir was attempting to sweet talk Lukashenko back into the bed chamber with Mother Russia, but Lukashenko wasn't having a bar of it because he knew that would be the end of Belarusian independence.
 

swerve

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True, but that's the nature of geopolitics.

For the Russians, Ukraine is a fundamental national security issue. For the US, Ukraine's only valuable if they're planning on confronting Russia.

You can't really expect Russia to have a sense of humour about it, any more than the US has about Cuba or Australia has about PNG.
Yes, but there used to be an easy way round that for Russia. Let everyone in or near to power know that Russia didn't think it appropriate to interfere in Ukraine's internal politics, as long as Ukraine remained friendly (no obligation to be an ally: amiable neutrality would be fine) & didn't ally itself with anyone antagonistic to Russia. As long as Ukraine didn't get too cosy with NATO or anyone else Russia didn't like, e.g. didn't allow any foreign troops on its soil, & wasn't nasty to its Russian minority, Russia would stick to its promise to guarantee Ukraine's borders, & offer help if Ukraine faced any threats. And apart from that, Ukraine could do what it liked. Orange revolution? Ukraine's business. Russia would offer its friendship to whatever government Ukraine chose, & tell potential separatists to forget it: Russia wouldn't support them or allow their territory to join Russia.

But Putin blew that.
 

ngatimozart

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Don't you mean "Lukashenko wasn't having a bar of it because he knew that would be the end of Lukashenko being in charge of anything more important than a tractor factory"?
Yep but I was being polite. Didn't the Lukashenko managed tractor factory go broke and is now rusting? Noting that it's not in Belarus. :D
 

Feanor

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Yes, but there used to be an easy way round that for Russia. Let everyone in or near to power know that Russia didn't think it appropriate to interfere in Ukraine's internal politics, as long as Ukraine remained friendly (no obligation to be an ally: amiable neutrality would be fine) & didn't ally itself with anyone antagonistic to Russia. As long as Ukraine didn't get too cosy with NATO or anyone else Russia didn't like, e.g. didn't allow any foreign troops on its soil, & wasn't nasty to its Russian minority, Russia would stick to its promise to guarantee Ukraine's borders, & offer help if Ukraine faced any threats. And apart from that, Ukraine could do what it liked. Orange revolution? Ukraine's business. Russia would offer its friendship to whatever government Ukraine chose, & tell potential separatists to forget it: Russia wouldn't support them or allow their territory to join Russia.

But Putin blew that.
I don't want to go too deep down the rabbit hole, politically there is much to discuss here. I'll try to keep this brief and hopefully we can leave this thread primarily to the military and geo-strategic developments surrounding this conflict.

I don't think what you describe was ever a realistic option. Russia and Ukraine, following the dissolution of the Union were ruled by very similar oligarchical elites fighting for power. The key difference came when a single, relatively well organized, political clan with ties to the military and national security apparatus managed to win the power struggles in Russia, and put in Putin as their representative/leader (Putin in 1999 and Putin in 2014 are very different political figures). To the Ukrainian elites (as to their Russian counterparts pre-Putin) there really are only two main priorities, being allowed to continue to rob the country blind, and keeping out of any future empire building projects be they nationalistic (Russian) or ideological (Soviet). This is not because they think it's genuinely bad for their country (objectively speaking Russian GDP PPP per capita has done much better then Ukraine's, despite the considerable economic wealth Ukraine inherited, and despite it having far better infrastructure and modern industry in 1991). It's because they don't want party commissars or tsar's envoys looking over their shoulder to keep them in check. With this in mind, Putin objectively was a problem for them, especially after what he did to Russia's oligarchs. Rabid nationalism, even when not based on any reality, is a tool for them to keep Russia out of their (the elites) affairs. There is no scenario where they would remain friendly-neutral to Putin's Russia. They could remain hostile-neutral but even that would be very hard to manage.

With this in mind there is one other consideration. Russia is traditionally and to this day very weak in soft power. Russia has soft power in some areas but doesn't know how to use it. Even if a mythological friendly-neutral Ukraine was a reality, and Russia stayed out of their internal politics, the democracy-promotion and NGO activity soft power from the west would inevitably create a drift towards the west over the course of time. In the medium term Russia would be faced with the exact same prospect, an increasingly US/EU friendly Ukraine, with their internal politics being pushed in the direction of Euro-Atlantic integration. Thus leading to the exact same conflict. Arguably the current scenario is even preferable to that, since currently Ukraine is such a corrupt authoritarian mess that any real NATO or EU membership is off the table for a long time to come.
 

Ananda

The Bunker Group
There's something that intrigued me for sometime now. If we look older maps (like the ones attached), it's shown that what being called Eastern Ukraine from the time of Russian Civil war is owned either by Communist Sovyet or Monarchist White. If not mistaken it's also owned by Russia during the time of Empire.

That territory become Ukraine mostly on USSR administrative division (@Feanor sorry if I make mistake on this, just based on what I found in open source). Thus for me raise question, when the "Empire" that govern all those Republics broken up and cease to exist, which territory that should be back to each Republics ? The territory that as it is, or the territory that belong to each 'States/Republics' before the USSR administrative division ?

This's will be different compared to Poland that gain practically most of Prussia due to division after War. Eventough some in German still thinking that those area should be return to United Germany, however most of Germans already accepted that due to consequences of Germany Wars.

While the results of territory of each ex USSR Republics (to differentiate with Warsaw Pact USSR satellites), many create due to administrative divisions. If Scotland leave UK, the territories of what's Scotland or England mostly based on what is traditionally belong to Scottish and English old Kingdoms. This's also similar if Catalonia leave Spain. However it's not that clear cut if we talk on ex USSR Republics territories.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not pro Russia or pro Ukraine in this matter. I'm just talk with their situation, perhaps the Russian in Donbass has legal base to argue that they are not Ukrainian and their territory is not Ukrainian. Can territory that divide based on administrative consideration of one ruling empire that govern them all, be challenged by people on that territory that want to revert back ?

ucrania_marzo_1919.png
 
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