To prevent our forces recycle, the enemy is trying to keep our troops down by carrying out local attacks and shelling in the areas of Popasna, Avdiivka, Pisky, and Krymske. But these attacks do not pose a serious danger, the forces are small.
One might say that the winter offensive of Russian terrorist forces in the Donbas was successfully repelled along the front line. However, the enemy regroups and continues to conduct local attacks and attempts to destroy certain strong points and certain units of the Ukrainian army. In the areaof Debaltseve, these attacks represent a great danger because the size of the bridgehead is so small that the fall of even one brick in battle formation will lead to serious consequences.
The situation on the Debaltseve salient is extremely difficult and requires immediate decisions by the Commander-in-Chief, the General Staff, and the ATO Command.
As a result of large losses of infantry and armored vehicles by the Russian mercenaries, which losses demoralized the terrorists significantly, the enemy is trying to avoid attacks by large forces and attempts local attacks by small groups of infantry and tanks, with strong artillery support. Russian artillery is the main adverse factor.
A serious threat to Troitske and the M-103 highway remains as a result of enemy's piercing near Krasnyi Pakhar and elevation 307.9, as well as in the area of Kalynivka.
The Russian command is currently redeploying mercenary units and accumulating penetrating force in the area of Vuhlehirsk, as well as increasing the pressure on the entire eastern face of our bridgehead from the enemy-occupied area - to Ridkodub, Chornukhyne, and Kamianka. In recent days Chornukhyne and Ridkodub have been under attack by assault groups and tanks of the enemy. This is an acute problem. Fierce fighting is under way with both sides suffering heavy losses. It is obvious that there is need for reinforcement here.
The enemy is attempting to infiltrate into the rear of our troops - in general, it is trying to find routes for convenient breaking of integrity of the defense and place at least one segment of the M-103 highway under observation.
The eastern face of the Debaltseve salient is the most vulnerable spot in our combat formations. There is a need for rotation of the units that have been under fire for a long time.
The enemy is moving forward very cautiously and retreats when meeting organized resistance. The new 'humanitarian' convoy of Putin has delivered a large quantity of ammunition, and the enemy prefers to solve tactical problems using artillery. There is a video posted online showing Russian artillery batteries with the number of combat vehicles making it obvious that these are not "miners" but "soldiers on leave", and they are armed with artillery systems which they can only get from the infamous Putin's "military shops":
as well as significant amount of videos showing Russian artillery firing at our troops. Russian videos also show batteries of heavy 152 mm Akatsyia and Msta-S howitzers.
The resistance of the Ukrainian soldiers at Debaltseve bridgehead is worthy of the highest regard. They have been under constant pressure from the enemy since Jan. 17, and have not left the battlefield for two weeks - our strong points are subject to constant shelling. There are no signs of demoralization, and soldiers continue to strictly follow orders.
The Russian artillery is conducting massive shelling of towns with civilians to disorganize our rear and show that the Ukrainian army cannot provide security from the attacks in the Donbas.
We maintained the front, but there is nothing static and permanent in war. Active actions of the enemy have to be countered by active actions on our side. There are no other options here. Debaltseve salient is not a fortress - its strong holds are field ones built by the troops. They help the defense, but the area of Debaltseve is only holding thanks to the courage and professionalism of our soldiers.
Change in strategic situation on the front line
Debaltseve salient was occupied by our troops in July. Since then, the situation at the front line has changed significantly. The enemy has changed. In July, the Russian soldiers were used as a part of intelligence, crews of tanks, and artillery sections. Armies of the Russian mercenaries of 'DPR' and 'LPR' were not organized and were simply large gangs. They could not withstand a large collision with the Ukrainian troops and could not conduct independent offensive operations into tactical depth, they could only defend cities and conduct sabotage and intelligence activities.
Today the situation has changed. Since October, Putin handed over the control of mercenaries' military operations from the Russian special services in to the armed forces of the Russian Federation. Large recruiting centers were organized in Russia, which provided for massive bringing in of former and current military personnel of the Armed Forces, who were subsequently sent to the war in the Donbas. In fact, Putin has turned terrorists' gangs into private military companies. The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation set up headquarters for combat control and completely took over the organization of the fighting.
In January, Russia once again began to fight with the forces of the regular army. Units of the Russian self-propelled artillery and multiple launch rocket systems are primary means of fire destruction of our troops.
Russian units maneuver freely, muster strength at selected areas, and look for weaknesses and gaps in the defense. They go for the rotation and rest; they receive uninterrupted supply of military equipment and ammunition supplies from Russia.
Our soldiers continue to fight successfully, but keeping such a small bridgehead so deep behind the enemy's lines for a long time under constant fire of heavy artillery is not possible without dynamic actions because we lose equipment and people, as happened in the sector "D", without reaching the results.
At the moment, all units of the Armed Forces and the National Guard at the bridgehead retain full operational capability and manageability. The men are holding, but the iron and concrete are not. And the enemy cannot be stopped on heroism and self-sacrifice alone. We need to maintain the combat capability of our army and prevent the enemy from destroying the military equipment.
Holding the bridgehead in Debaltseve is only possible with reserves that will provide front-line units rotation and conduct counter-attacks since the bridgehead is swept through by the artillery.
A key factor should be noted - the heavy artillery of the enemy. Some leaders underestimate the factor of heavy artillery and its impact on defense. The thing is that the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan did not use 152 mm howitzers and heavier weapons systems. And they did not use artillery en masse, in the size of batteries and battalions.
The artillery reveals any field fortifications, and its use is unnerving.
Possible solutions to the problem of the Debaltseve bridgehead - pros and cons
The defense of the bridgehead in Debaltseve from military point of view:
1. Holding the strategic bridgehead which poses a threat to Horlivka and disrupts connectivity of the enemy's defensive positions to the east of Horlivka.
2. From moral and political point of view, Debaltseve is Ukrainian land, and handing it over to Russian invaders means showing to Ukrainians of Donbas that we do not have the forces to secure their safety at any point.
3. Holding the Debaltseve bridgehead is an argument in the peace talks which shows to the entire world that Ukraine hss ability to resist, as well as the need to support our struggle.
1. The bridgehead has a very small area and can be searched through the entire depth with caliber of even 122 mm. This makes it impossible to deploy any unit or detachments for rest out of the field artillery zone.
2. Holding the perimeter requires much more forces from us than from the enemy.
3. The defense of the bridgehead is only possible with constant an active search and strike actions at the bridgehead itself, as well as the presence of permanent armored reserve in case of a possible enemy breakthrough. The constant armored reserve is also required to cover the neck of the Debaltseve salient.
4. Guaranteed possession of the bridgehead requires possession of the strategic initiative, meaning active offensive operations in other neighboring areas.
5. The Ukrainian troops have already shown an increased level of combat capability, and the Putin's mercenaries fail to fight without the direct participation of Russian troops. After the success achieved, it would be silly to complete the successful battle and fall again into a dangerous tactical situation.
6. Putin conducts no talks and obviously expects to achieve a significant military success.
A key factor in the war is speed. It is because of the slow assessment of the situation by the political leaders and the General Staff that a tragedy of the Donetsk airport new terminal occurred. This recent lesson must not be forgotten and must not be repeated.
No less important factor to hold the Debaltseve salient is the same as for the war at large - the presence of fresh mobile operating reserves with a high level of combat readiness. The reserves are necessary to ensure the rotation, conduct local attacks, as well as for readiness to seal off any enemy attacks.
From a military point of view, holding the Debaltseve bridgehead is gainless. The bridgehead has primarily moral and political value.
The decision to stay or draw back depends on the Ukrainian command's understanding of its capabilities and resources.
It would not do well to repeat the situation with the Donetsk airport in Debaltseve, when the troops were holding all positions, but due to the lack of command's response to changes in the situation, the enemy managed to turn the new terminal into a kill zone which has led to huge losses and its prompt abandonment.
In my opinion, since the enemy was defeated in a defensive battle and is restoring its forces for a new assault, it is necessary to ensure the evacuation of all civilians, ensure their living conditions in Ukraine, prepare sectional positions to ensure quick withdrawal of troops through intermediate lines, check the equipment in terms of readiness and ensure its repair, and prepare the path of retreat so as to withdraw all troops in one bound if necessary.
Politicians shall do their work, and the military shall do theirs. Sometimes politics should affect military strategy, sometimes - on the contrary. A key factor in preserving the independence of Ukraine is the fighting capacity of the army. And in this case the military logic, in my opinion, outweighs. The Russian commanders are actively preparing for the beginning of the spring campaign in the Donbas, and we don't have superiority in strength compared to the enemy. Public opinion in the West does not yet make it possible to talk about the introduction of NATO peacekeeping troops to Ukraine during the spring campaign. Meanwhile, Russia already uses its army and conducts constant terrorist artillery strikes on our cities and our soldiers. In terms of military, we shall count only on ourselves for at least the next six months. And based on this, we should make decisions both in military and political field.
Yurii Butusov, Censor.NET