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 SVITLODARSK: SCENARIO OF THE FUTURE WAR

The clashes at Svitlodarsk reminded the society that the war goes on, and only a thin line of strongpoints divides us from the bigger fighting.

“Dec. 18-22, nine Ukrainian soldiers died heroes near Kalynivka village, at a small area of the frontline. What happened near Svitlodarsk and what are the consequences of this fighting?” Censor.NET Chief Editor Yurii Butusov writes for Dzerkalo Tyzhnia.

Svitlodarsk is a clear sign that the war is still here, and that the cease-fire at some areas of the frontline is possible only after complete destruction of the enemy. The situation will not get any quieter there, but the opposite — it will aggravate. What has happened is not the beginning of a big war, but mundane events of the local war. What makes them unique is that no one wanted to retreat in this case, and the area is of tactical importance.

Svitlodarsk area is defended by the 54th Mechanized Brigade of Ukraine’s Armed Forces. The 25th Motorized Infantry Battalion and the 1st Mechanized Battalion of this brigade cover a chain of elevations that are used by the enemy defense between Debaltseve and Vuhlehirsk, both controlled by Russian troops. The entire area should be controlled by Ukrainian Army, as stipulated by the Minsk agreements of 2015. However, the Russian command continues seizing our land and conducting combat activities there in violation of the accords.

In particular, two high points – 223 and 216 — are located on the enemy side in front of Lohvynove and Kalynivka villages. They are used as location for strong points of the 3rd battalion of the 7th motorized rifle brigade of the 1st army corps of the Russian occupation troops. A surrender of these elevations would force the enemy to retreat several kilometers to the south.

On June 29, the 1st and the 25th Battalions and a Right Sector volunteer unit assaulted and seized a strong point of the enemy at the 223 high point. However, after a several hour skirmish, our detachment was ordered to retreat and abandon the elevation. Well-known volunteer and opera singer Wassyl Slipak was killed in that fighting along with another two soldiers. The reasons behind the ATO [anti-terrorist operation – ed.] Staff’s decision to retreat from this dominating position haven’t been voiced officially, but it’s obvious this weird decision has no other motivation but political. The two soldiers were killed during the retreat, not during the assault. If we hadn’t surrender the elevation back then, today’s fighting would have been totally different.

After those clashes the enemy took measures to strengthen its defenses in the area. The Russian command amassed batteries of large-caliber artillery here; preparatory fire was conducted for both Ukrainian and own positions — the latter for the case of their seizure.

In order to secure the high points of 232 and 216, the enemy created frontline positions in front of them, in a small forest between our positions and those of the enemy. Four fortified positions have been created. The positions in this forest allowed the enemy posing threat to the defenses of the 54th brigade.

In local war of positions, the fighting always is for such small forests and elevations that become a problem for local units for many months.

The local war has its own diplomatic logic that does not allow massive use of large calibers. So we’ve seen months of small arms fire exchanges. The enemy started to call this area “Enchanted forest.” Wouldn’t it have been wiser not to assault the enemy and save lives of the people? It ’ s hard to tell. But this is war. If you do not respond to a threat with an assault, this doesn’t leave you out of danger.

On Dec. 18, the enemy conducted another reconnaissance and shelling of our positions from the “Enchanted forest.” In response, a striking force up to a platoon has been created. It assaulted the “Enchanted forest” with three infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs). It turned out a total surprise for the enemy — the militants abandoned four bodies, their armament, and the four positions in the forest and rolled back to the high points.

Our soldiers seized control of two of the four positions in the very forest. Unfortunately, three Ukrainian soldiers who advanced the first were seen by the enemy and killed. The bodies of two of them could not be evacuated due to intensive fire, and they were taken away by the enemy. Suppressing the enemy on the high points with only artillery was not successful as well. An operation was conducted with small force on a small area. The high points were not assaulted during this operation.

The enemy’s positions for observation and fire at the high points 216 and 223 survived, so the units that escaped from the “Enchanted forest” managed to recover and regain control.

The enemy also aimed its heavy artillery at our primary positions and those seized in the forest. In the massive shelling, more Ukrainian soldiers were killed.

On Dec. 18, six Ukrainian soldiers of the 1st and 25th battalions were killed. Two more were killed the next day, one more fighter perished on Dec. 22. This data was received directly from the frontline staffs of these units.

At the moment, intensive fighting continues in this area with the use of infantry weapons and active use of artillery; however, the number and intensity of the fire has significantly decreased.

Our fighters maintain control over the newly taken positions in the so-called grey area.

Unfortunately, local action at a small frontline area without suppressed and assaulted flank positions of the enemy led to grave losses.

At the same time, our units have liquidated frontline positions of the enemy that were a threat to our flanks and in turn created a threat to the strongpoints of the enemy at high points 216 and 223. It’s a sorrow we had to pay with lives again for leaving the high point 223.

Anyway, this time the situation has been analyzed adequately, and no one is going to surrender the forest we paid this high price for.

Some interesting conclusions on the enemy’s combat capability might be drawn. The fighting has revealed low capability of Russian occupation troops. The enemy lost the close combat and retreated. It was not able to restore command over the troops for some time. Despite advancement of its reserves, strong artillery support, and controlling observation stations over the area, the enemy was not able to organize a counterattack.

It’s also important that these tactic activities are analyzed and the troops are educated in terms of what worked and what didn’t; what’s good and what’s bad.

Waging a war with small infantry units at a small frontline area, with the enemy’s defenses and artillery unhindered, counting only on tactical surprise might lead to losses.

The losses in such operations could be lower. For that, the military command should receive an order to fight. Fighting in this case does not mean an offensive against Donetsk. Fighting means removing the threat in frontline areas where the enemy is penetrating into our defenses, i.e. the areas of Popasna, Svitlodarsk, Horlivka, Avdiivka, Marinka, Pisky, Dokychaievsk, Vodiane, Shyrokyne.

The fighting in the Svitlodarsk area demonstrated that despite low manning of our troops, Russian army corps have bigger manning problems. This is especially true for infantry, in terms of both people and motivation. They must be fought, and with the right training, our losses in such local operations would not be higher than during mundane sitting in trenches.

The effect of combat losses upon the enemy is huge. We are not able to compete with Russians in numbers of old Soviet weapons in the Donbas — they are able to bring in more. But we can kick out of the enemy what it really lacks.

The army should be trained on firing ranges to fight local operations; for infantry to be able to act independently; to act wisely in terms of tactics in limited areas of the frontline.

This is the future of the Donbas war.

Without a military solution, without military and forceful influence, without killing occupants in the Donbas daily, in the rear and at the frontline, we would not be able to change the situation in the diplomatic front. Only power leverages are able to make it clear to Putin that war in the Donbas is a trap he needs to get out of as fast as possible, and leave the Donbas. The most powerful way to force the Kremlin out of Ukraine is to increase the number of coffins from the frontline to Russia. And to minimize our losses as well.

Let those who were killed near Svitlodarsk rest in peace. All of them were volunteers and served for several years; all of them were genuine patriots of Ukraine and highly motivated people. It’s a pain to lose every one of them. There are people in the present-day world that cannot be replaced. Every defender of Ukraine, every genuine Fighter is a loss that cannot be compensated for. The main task of the Ukrainian command is to fight in a way so that the losses are dramatically decreased and every life is highly valued. Valuing our own army at the war means destroying the enemy in efficient and professional manner.

Yurii Butusov for Dzerkalo Tyzhnia

   
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