Ukraine ready to take on Donetsk pocket of rebellion

posted at 5:21 pm on August 5, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

The government in Kyiv has had a successful, if slow, response to the armed rebellion in its eastern provinces. Ukrainian forces have gradually divided and reduced the pockets held by the pro-Russian separatists, retaking control and sovereignty over the last few months after Russian-inspired uprisings, a reversal after the humiliating loss of the Crimean peninsula to Vladimir Putin. Now their forces have surrounded the last power base of the rebels in Donetsk, and are ready to tighten the noose:

The Ukrainian military on Monday appeared to be readying a long-awaited major assault on the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, warning civilians to leave as troops tightened their ring around the city amid heavy fighting.

Extra evacuation corridors were set up for cars bearing white flags, said Andriy Lysenko, a military spokesman. The Donetsk city government posted the corridor routes on its Web page and noted: “As practice shows, such messages are distributed before the start of active combat operations.”

Lysenko also announced that troops had taken the town of Yasynuvata, home to a key railway control center between Donetsk and Luhansk.

The military has almost encircled the two large cities, where rebels have declared “people’s republics.” Intense fighting was reported Monday in the Donetsk suburb of Marinka. Members of a volunteer militia called the Azov battalion posted photos on Facebook purporting to show them advancing on Donetsk with the Shakhtarsk battalion, but mapping technology suggests that the photos were taken in Marinka.

In other words, the fighting has gone remarkably well for a country that has had problems with political stability, even within the framework of the new, West-oriented republic. The Prime Minister just dissolved the government last month after parliamentary squabbles; the success of the national election didn’t carry unity forward for very long afterward, it seems. Yet the Ukrainians’ morale seems high, and their determination to enforce their sovereignty more firm than ever despite the losses of war. The rebels’ morale appears to be faltering, especially after shooting down Malaysia Air Flight 17 in error last month.

Or perhaps it’s the lack of Russian military support that has their morale ebbing. Putin’s forces have gathered on the border for months in varying levels of troop strength, but have yet to intervene as expected. Ukraine estimates that there are 45,000 Russian troops on the border now, which would be a peak this year if true:

The US says the Russians could move on Ukraine at any time:

Russia has roughly doubled the number of its battalions near the Ukrainian border, Western officials said Monday, and could respond to the Kiev government’s gains there by launching a cross-border incursion with little or no warning.

Over the past several weeks, Russia has built up 17 battalions — totaling 19,000 to 21,000 troops, according to one Western estimate — into a battle-ready force of infantry, armor, artillery and air defense within a few miles of the border. In addition, it has vastly expanded its firepower, increasing the number of advanced surface-to-air missile units to 14 from eight, and deploying more than 30 artillery batteries, according to the officials.

The Kremlin’s intentions in increasing its military abilities remain unclear. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia could be seeking to pressure Ukraine and the United States to agree to a political settlement that would grant the eastern provinces of Ukraine maximum autonomy. But Mr. Putin, Western officials fear, may also be developing the option to intervene more directly if it appears that the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine are on the verge of defeat. …

Another senior American official added, “The more success Ukrainian forces have, the more pressure there is on Moscow to escalate.”

There are, though, declining returns the longer Russia waits to intervene. The legitimacy of the rebellion took a big hit with the MH17 shootdown, and their losses have eroded what’s left. A Russian intervention at this point will look a lot less like a liberation of ethnic Russians and more like a land grab, plus it will be all the more difficult to roll back Ukrainian troops rather than hold them off.

So why wait? The economic sanctions could be one reason. The West finally got serious about going after the Russian economy rather than just a few Putin cronies and their travel options, and a ground invasion will force the US and EU to crack down even harder. The MH17 shootdown might also have Russians thinking twice about explicitly allying with the rebels. It could just be a survival issue; perhaps Putin calculates that the rebels aren’t really all that viable if they can’t hold their own territory in the Russian-speaking eastern provinces, and doesn’t care to get involved in an occupation that will produce significant economic and political damage.

Or it might just mean that Putin’s on his own schedule, and the time isn’t ripe yet. If he waits for the rebels to collapse, them he won’t have much trouble pushing them aside and annexing the eastern provinces in a military conquest. That’s more or less what happened in Crimea, only without Ukraine choosing a military confrontation over it. Putin knows that Ukraine won’t give up their eastern provinces as easily, though, and he could be calculating just how much value he’d get out of the war it would provoke. The only option for the West is to make sure Putin knows how much damage he’d do to Russia in the long run if he moves forward.


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Vice News has been doing some good reporting from Ukraine.

forest on August 5, 2014 at 5:31 PM

Or it might just mean that Putin’s on his own schedule, and the time isn’t ripe yet.

Obama goes on vacation on Friday. Putin’s schedule will move forward when the American leader is off wearing a stupid bike helmet, golfing with fat cat donors, and sucking down shaved ice with his worthless brats.

But there is a crisis at the White House today. How do you get the slain 2-star general back to Dover in time not to mess up “the boss’s” fun time. We all saw how Obama pouted when he had to come back because of a budget debate (he was on the plane back to Hawaii even as the bill was being auto-penned into law). I can only imagine how Obama is going to react when told he has to go to Delaware as the CINC in the middle of his vacation.

Happy Nomad on August 5, 2014 at 5:33 PM

Russia diverts pension savings to plug budget hole for second year

anotherJoe on August 5, 2014 at 5:25 PM

No lock box?

Happy Nomad on August 5, 2014 at 5:33 PM

Go for it. But don’t expect the United States or Europe to come to your aid.

SC.Charlie on August 5, 2014 at 5:35 PM

I would love to see them retake Crimea too.

txdoc on August 5, 2014 at 5:39 PM

Go for it. But don’t expect the United States or Europe to come to your aid.

SC.Charlie on August 5, 2014 at 5:35 PM

So far, the Ukrainians have been doing exactly that.

Doomberg on August 5, 2014 at 5:45 PM

Looks like Google maps shows Crimea as part of Russia…

Aplombed on August 5, 2014 at 5:49 PM

No thanks at all to the douchebag in chief obamacommie.

All hopes for a successful rout to the russkie forces at the hands of Ukraine.

Shit on putin, shit on russia, shit on obama.

Diluculo on August 5, 2014 at 5:51 PM

Looks like Google maps shows Crimea as part of Russia…

Aplombed on August 5, 2014 at 5:49 PM

To hell with the fascist communist spy network called GOOGLE. I don’t use them, and I wish hotair would not use their freaking ad servers. /spit.

Ukraine lost Crimea, it’s gone, done. Mostly because of the deal pootin struck with the muslim scumbag death desiring idiots there. That will come back to haunt his dumbass, and I’ll laugh and laugh.

Diluculo on August 5, 2014 at 5:54 PM

I would love to see them retake Crimea too.

txdoc on August 5, 2014 at 5:39 PM

That is a bridge too far right now. Putin wants the energy resources of the the Black sea and taking Crimea gives him almost all of it. He may not fight for a run down industrial backwater area like eastern Ukraine but he has a nose for where the money is. His oligarch backers do too. He will fight for Crimea and punish visciously any attempt to take it back.

KW64 on August 5, 2014 at 6:00 PM

I can only imagine how Obama is going to react when told he has to go to Delaware as the CINC in the middle of his vacation.

Happy Nomad on August 5, 2014 at 5:33 PM

A murdered Ambassador didn’t keep him off the fundraising circuit, do you really think he’s going to let an assassinated 2-star interrupt his trip to the vineyard?

JusDreamin on August 5, 2014 at 6:04 PM

Damn lot of equipment and ordnance on the side of the ‘infiltrators’ in Ukraine, coupled with a non-existent Chain-of-Command suggests that the fecal matter is about to enter the rotating mechanism.

And King Putt golfs.

I wonder who he’ll task to receive the deceased Two Star at Dover AFB?
Will it be a Kodak Moment like Ambassador Stevens’s flag draped casket?

Missilengr on August 5, 2014 at 6:13 PM

I can only imagine how Obama is going to react when told he has to go to Delaware as the CINC in the middle of his vacation.

Happy Nomad on August 5, 2014 at 5:33 PM

He’ll just send the Skinny Dipper in his stead.

TXUS on August 5, 2014 at 6:13 PM

The world burns and Obama keeps whoring for money.

Krupnikas on August 5, 2014 at 6:27 PM

The problem Ed, isn’t for the Ukraine to (re)take territory…it’s going to be holding it.

Unlike some world leaders, Putin isn’t afraid of Bad Press, nor does he want to look weak in front of his own government that has a few bad actors in it that could almost make HIM look moderate.

Not to mention, all that gear they’re stacking up on the border isn’t just for show- they’ll have a few new toys they’ll want to Real-World test, and frankly, who’s gonna tell him no?

This whole bit is strangely enough, a variation to “Red Storm Rising”…NATO is pretty much paralyzed, especially with Germany being carved out of the way.

BlaxPac on August 5, 2014 at 6:28 PM

Or it might just mean that Putin’s on his own schedule, and the time isn’t ripe yet. If he waits for the rebels to collapse, them he won’t have much trouble pushing them aside and annexing the eastern provinces in a military conquest.

Putin is just Biden his time until Oblunder goes on vacation. America’s enemies like to attack in August, when American Presidents (and European leaders) like to take vacations. For example, Saddam attacked Kuwait in August of 1990. The 9/11 attacks were being planned in August of 2001.

Putin might have to wait a little longer this year for more “flexibility”, because Obama still has to stay around a few days with his pen and phone to welcome millions of new Democrats over the border.

Steve Z on August 5, 2014 at 6:30 PM

100 years to the day.

formwiz on August 5, 2014 at 6:44 PM

A murdered Ambassador didn’t keep him off the fundraising circuit, do you really think he’s going to let an assassinated 2-star interrupt his trip to the vineyard?

JusDreamin on August 5, 2014 at 6:04 PM

Point taken.

He’ll just send the Skinny Dipper in his stead.

TXUS on August 5, 2014 at 6:13 PM

Probably. Or Chuck Hagel. Too busy on the vacation to take a couple hours off to do his damned job. But if some street thug gets shot for mugging the wrong guy in Florida, or some racist professor at Harvard gets treated like “normal” people, or some whore gets critical comments about demanding free contraception- well Snuggles will find his way to a mic.

Happy Nomad on August 5, 2014 at 6:48 PM

I like how Mr. Ed uses the alternate version of Kiev. He, in his advanced years, grew up hating Russia. He and many others want an enemy for the US to fight, to take away from the economic wreckage at home and spur .mil spending.

Simply put, Ukraine was at one point entirely Russia. History did not end in 1989, 1954, 1917, or any prior year. If they take Ukraine entirely back then they deserve it.

Even Europe doesn’t agree with this mongering. They are pivoting away from the US. France sells warships to Russia. Germany is working on a deal to ease relations and allow Russia to keep her gains. Russia, India, China are working on an alternative money system.

Its hilarious… but we are trying to convince Europe to go against her interests in order to satisfy a bloodlust or desire for moral clarity in the US worldview.

antisense on August 5, 2014 at 7:03 PM

Merkel’s working on a land for gas deal with Putin where Russia would buy Crimea from the Ukraine for $1 billion as compensation for lost rent. Germany is rumored to be joining the BRICS alliance.

ezspirit on August 5, 2014 at 7:18 PM

Simply put, Ukraine was at one point entirely Russia. History did not end in 1989, 1954, 1917, or any prior year. If they take Ukraine entirely back then they deserve it.

Interesting. Would you say the same about California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas? How about Silesia, Pomerania, and Prussia? Or for that matter, Alsace-Lorraine? How about Kosovo, Bosnia, Macedonia? The whole of the Levant was once Egypt, you cool with Egypt rolling into Israel? (not that they’d succeed)

This “Ukraine is and always was part of Russia” meme is such ignorant BS. The two countries have a very similar culture and a shared history. So do Portugal and Spain, or Germany and Austria. I think there’d be protests if either of those countries absorbed their neighbor (again.)

Ukraine is not Russia any more than Ireland is Britain.

TarasBulbous on August 6, 2014 at 11:13 AM

Ukraine is not Russia any more than Ireland is Britain.

Sorry, United Kingdom. England. Whatever.

TarasBulbous on August 6, 2014 at 12:29 PM