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Four battles that broke the Ukrainian army

The latest fighting near Avdeevka in Ukraine repeats the same disastrous tactics which led to the Ukrainian army’s previous defeats in the “cauldrons” along the Russian border (the ‘southern cauldron’), in Ilovaisk, at Donetsk airport, and in Debaltsevo.

Alexander Mercouris

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The latest fighting in and around the eastern Ukrainian town of Avdeevka is being represented as the product of a supposedly new Ukrainian ‘infiltration’ tactic whereby Ukrainian troops are said to insert surreptitiously into no-man’s land thereby gradually gaining territory and putting the eastern Ukrainian militia at a disadvantage.

In my opinion this is wrong.  The latest ‘infiltration tactic’ is simply a variant of the same tactics the Ukrainians have used throughout the war, which is to attack headlong, putting their troops in an untenable position, which causes them to suffer heavy losses for no actual gain, and in which certain cases leads them to becoming surrounded in pockets which the militia calls “cauldrons”.

The militia use of the term “cauldron” (sometimes translated as “kettle”) to describe how these pockets work.

The Ukrainian troops cut off in these “cauldrons” are deprived of resupply and reinforcement.  Over time their position becomes completely untenable.   The militia does not try to storm the “cauldron” but instead lets it slowly ‘heat up’ until resistance finally collapses.  Any Ukrainian troops still left in the “cauldron” when the collapse comes are then generally exchanged for militia prisoners taken by the Ukrainians.  The heavy weapons left behind – the tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery – are however taken by the militia and refurbished in the militia’s workshops.  The Donbass being a major industrial area there is no shortage of the necessary tools and skills to do this. They are then reused by the militia, becoming weapons in its increasingly sophisticated army.

An unknown but probably very large percentage of the large number of heavy weapons the militia now possesses have probably come to it in this way, with no less a person than President Poroshenko admitting in September 2014 that the Ukrainian military had as of that point lost 65% of its armoured vehicles (see my discussion here).  It is likely that a good percentage of these vehicles are now in militia service.

The fighting in Ukraine most of the time now has something of the static quality of trench warfare.  Whenever the Ukrainians have however attempted large-scale offensives the result has however almost invariably been “cauldrons”, which are the result of the Ukrainians’ own tactics.

A list of the most important of “cauldrons” (there have been other smaller ones) would include the following:

(1) The “southern cauldron”

Arguably the most important and decisive of them all, though one which has been entirely unreported by the Western media.  This arose in July 2014 as a result of a Ukrainian attempt to outflank the militia and cut it off from the Russian border.  The result was that a large Ukrainian armoured column itself got cut off and found itself pinned down against the border.  The Ukrainians tried to resupply this force by dropping supplies by air, but to little effect, and lost several aircraft in the process, for which they blamed the Russian air force.  Without going into the details of this contentious topic, I would here merely say that MH17 was shot down during this fighting.

This “cauldron”  finally collapsed in early August, providing the Ukrainian militia with many of the heavy weapons (including armour) they used in the counter-offensive they launched in late August.

(2) Ilovaisk

This arose in mid August 2014 as a result of a Ukrainian attempt to split the two militia strongholds of Donetsk and Lugansk from each other.  A large Ukrainian force advanced into the town of Ilovaisk only to be rapidly surrounded there.  Ukrainian losses in this “cauldron” were exceptionally heavy, but were limited by Russian President Putin’s call to the militia to allow the Ukrainians to retreat.

The Ukrainians have consistently blamed their defeat in Ilovaisk on the intervention of the Russian army, and this has become an article of faith in Ukraine and amongst the Ukrainian regime’s supporters in the West.  Ilovaisk is also often cited as the decisive battle which caused the defeat of Ukraine’s military campaign in the Donbass in the summer of 2014, which up to that point was supposedly going well.

Neither of these claims should be allowed to go uncontested, though in the West both invariably are.

The reality is that by the time of the battle of Ilovaisk the Ukrainian offensive launched to suppress the Donbass on 1st July 2014 was already in serious trouble, with the defeat in the “southern cauldron” having already happened, and with Ukrainian troops elsewhere becoming increasingly bogged down and unable to make progress against the strongly defended militia positions in Donetsk and Lugansk.

Far from being an unexpected defeat brought about by Russian intervention in a hitherto successful campaign, the advance on Ilovaisk looks more like a desperate last throw to rescue a campaign that was already failing.

As for claims of Russian military intervention in the battle, the supposed ‘proofs’ of this are nothing like as clearcut as is usually said.

The excessive emphasis given by the Ukrainians and their Western supporters to the Ukrainian defeat in Ilovaisk, and the blame for it which they put on the Russians, is arguably explained by a wish to conceal the extent of the Ukrainians’ previous unreported failure in the summer campaign.  In that incidentally it has been largely successful, creating a false narrative of a decisive defeat in August brought about by Russia, which supposedly threw into reverse a previously successful campaign.

(3) Donetsk airport

The temporary ceasefire agreed between the Ukrainians and the militia in Minsk in September 2014 left the Ukrainians in control of a part of Donetsk airport.

The Ukrainian defeat in August 2014 left the Ukrainian troops holding the airport in an untenable position.  However despite this, and despite suggestions by some in Ukraine that the Ukrainian troops in the airport should be withdrawn to more defensible positions and militia claims that the September 2014 Minsk Protocol required control of the airport to be transferred to them, the Ukrainian leadership ordered its troops in the airport to dig in, and reinforced them with some of Ukraine’s best Special Forces troops, whose prowess was talked up by the Ukrainian media, which called them “cyborgs”.

This is very typical of the approach taken by the Ukrainian leadership throughout the conflict.  It persistently refuses to give up a centimetre of territory however indefensible it has become, an attitude that has repeatedly doomed Ukrainian troops to heavy defeats and heavy losses.

The result was that throughout the autumn and early winter of 2014 and 2015, despite the supposed ceasefire, fighting in Donetsk airport continued unabated until Ukrainian resistance finally collapsed in January 2015 after hundreds of Ukraine’s best troops had been killed, with hundreds of others captured.

As in the battle of Ilovaisk the Ukrainians have blamed their defeat at Donetsk airport on military action by the Russians, with President Poroshenko making the fantastic claim that no less than 9,000 Russian troops were involved (presumably defeating the “cyborgs” needed that many).

In reality the Ukrainian defeat at Donetsk airport was the result of the Ukrainian leadership’s insistence that the Ukrainian troops hold an indefensible position long after that fact had become obvious.

(4) Debaltsevo

Debaltsevo is an important town and railway junction which was captured by the Ukrainian army during the summer 2014 campaign.  The ceasefire in September 2014 left it in Ukrainian hands but surrounded on three sides by militia controlled territory.

In January 2015, following a Ukrainian offensive coinciding with the battle of Donetsk airport, a militia counter attack caused the Ukrainian troops – supposedly the ‘heart’ of the Ukrainian army and numbering according to some reports as many as 8,000 men (some reports put the number much higher) – to become trapped there.

The Debaltsevo “cauldron” caused panic amongst Ukraine’s supporters in the West, with concern that the best part of the Ukrainian army would be destroyed there.  This led to a frantic round of negotiations spearheaded by Angela Merkel, who flew to Moscow for private talks with Russian President Putin leading to further talks in Minsk which eventually resulted in the February 2015 Minsk Agreement.

During the negotiations in Minsk Merkel and French President Hollande, who also participated in the talks, discovered the same intransigent refusal by the Ukrainian leadership to face reality and retreat from an untenable position in Debaltsevo that has been a consistent feature of the whole Ukrainian war.

Not only did Ukrainian President Poroshenko refuse their pleas to order his troops to retreat from Debaltsevo, but he refused even to admit that they were trapped there.  This is how I described his behaviour in an article I wrote at the time for Sputnik

The denial reached farcical levels during the negotiations in Minsk. Half the 16 hours of negotiations were reportedly taken up with attempts to get Ukraine’s President Poroshenko to admit the obvious, that his troops in Debaltseve were encircled. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko refused to do so, refusing to order his troops to retreat and rejecting all offers from others to arrange this.

There is no logic behind this denial of reality. No military objective was achieved by continuing to defend Debaltseve when its capture by the militia was just days away.  As commander in chief President Poroshenko owed it to his men to agree the terms of their withdrawal when it was clear their further sacrifice was in vain. At an earlier stage in the war militia commander Strelkov withdrew his men from Slaviansk when it had become clear Slaviansk was undefendable and that no purpose was served sacrificing the lives of his men defending it. That is the basic duty owed by every commander to his men.

President Poroshenko failed in that duty.

The result is scores of Ukrainian soldiers (thousands by some counts) who might be alive are now dead.

In the event the Ukrainian troops did eventually retreat from Debaltsevo after suffering heavy losses and in great confusion, and apparently without waiting for orders from Poroshenko, after which Poroshenko preposterously claimed a “victory”.

As I have written previously, reports of the fighting in Avdeevka suggest that nothing has been learned from these repeated disasters.

The Ukrainian leadership continues to order its men to take and hold indefensible territory.  The Ukrainian ‘infiltration tactics’ near Avdeevka have not resulted in any significant change in the overall military situation.  What they have achieved is to expose the Ukrainian troops to heavy artillery fire by the militia, which has caused them to suffer heavy losses whilst threatening them with encirclement in another “cauldron”.

Realistically, just as peace in Ukraine is impossible whilst the present regime remains in power there, so a change in tactics is hardly likely whilst the same people remain in charge.  It is Ukrainians in the meantime who pay the price.

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Peace on Korean Peninsula within reach, if only Trump can remove Pompeo & Bolton (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 152.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss the results of the Putin-Kim summit in Vladivostok, Russia, aimed at boosting bilateral ties between the two neighboring countries, as well as working to contribute to a final peace settlement on the Korean peninsula.

Putin’s meeting with Kim may prove to be a pivotal diplomatic moment, as North Korea continues to work towards normalizing ties with the U.S. amidst ongoing denuclearization talks with the Trump White House.

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Via the BBC…

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un needs international security guarantees if he is to end his nuclear programme.

Such guarantees would need to be offered within a multinational framework, he added, following talks near Vladivostok in Russia’s far east.

Mr Kim praised the summit as a “very meaningful one-on-one exchange”.

Mr Putin said North Korea’s leader was “fairly open” and had “talked freely on all issues that were on the agenda”.

The meeting followed the breakdown of talks between the US and North Korea in February, when Mr Kim met US President Donald Trump in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

Those talks reportedly stalled over North Korea’s demand for full economic sanctions relief in return for some denuclearisation commitments – a deal the US was not willing to make.

Speaking after the talks on Thursday, Mr Putin said he wanted to see full denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula.

But he said this could only be achieved through respect for international law.

“We need to restore the power of international law, to return to a state where international law, not the law of the strongest, determines the situation in the world,” he said.

Mr Kim greeted Russian officials warmly when he arrived in Russia on Wednesday.

The North Korean leader was entertained by a brass band in Vladivostok before he got inside a car flanked by bodyguards, who – in now familiar scenes – jogged alongside the vehicle as it departed.

What do we know about the summit?

According to the Russian presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin believes the six-party talks on North Korea, which are currently stalled, are the only efficient way of addressing the issue of nuclear weapons on the peninsula.

Those talks, which began in 2003, involve the two Koreas as well as China, Japan, Russia and the US.

“There are no other efficient international mechanisms at the moment,” Mr Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.

“But, on the other hand, efforts are being made by other countries. Here all efforts merit support as long as they really aim at de-nuclearisation and resolving the problem of the two Koreas.”

What do both sides want?

This visit is being widely viewed as an opportunity for North Korea to show it has powerful allies following the breakdown of the talks with the US in February.

The country has blamed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the collapse of the Hanoi summit. Earlier this month North Korea demanded that Mr Pompeo be removed from nuclear talks, accusing him of “talking nonsense” and asking for someone “more careful” to replace him.

The summit is also an opportunity for Pyongyang to show that its economic future does not depend solely on the US. Mr Kim may try to put pressure on Moscow to ease sanctions.

Analysts say the summit is an opportunity for Russia to show that it is an important player on the Korean peninsula.

President Putin has been eager to meet the North Korean leader for quite some time. Yet amid the two Trump-Kim summits, the Kremlin has been somewhat sidelined.

Russia, like the US and China, is uncomfortable with North Korea being a nuclear state.

How close are Russia and North Korea?

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union (of which Russia is the main successor state) maintained close military and trade links with its communist ally, North Korea, for ideological and strategic reasons.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, trade links with post-communist Russia shrank and North Korea leaned towards China as its main ally.

Under President Putin, Russia recovered economically and in 2014 he wrote off most of North Korea’s Soviet-era debt in a major goodwill gesture.

While it is arguable how much leverage Russia has with the North today, the communist state still regards it as one of the least hostile foreign powers.

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Putin meets Kim for the first time (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 151.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at the historic meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the city of Vladivostok in the Russian Far East.

The meeting marks the first ever summit between the two leaders.

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Via RT…

Leaders of Russia and North Korea sat down for a historic summit in Vladivostok, expressing hope it will revive the peace process in the Korean Peninsula and talks on normalizing relations with the US.

The summit on Russky Island, just off Vladivostok, started a little late because President Vladimir Putin’s flight was delayed. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had made the trip by train, arriving on Wednesday.

In brief public remarks before the talks, the two leaders expressed hope the summit will help move forward the reconciliation process in the Korean Peninsula. Putin welcomed Kim’s contributions to “normalizing relations” with the US and opening a dialogue with South Korea.

Kim said he hoped the Vladivostok summit would be a “milestone” in the talks about denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, but also build upon “traditionally friendly ties” between Russia and North Korea.

The North Korean leader also made a point of thanking Putin for flying all the way to Vladivostok for the meeting. The Far East Russian city is only 129 kilometers from the border with North Korea.

The historic summit takes place less than two months after Kim’s second summit with US President Donald Trump in Hanoi fell apart without a breakthrough on denuclearization. The US rejected North Korea’s request for partial sanctions relief in return for moves to dismantle nuclear and missile programs; Washington insists on full disarmament before any sanctions are removed.

Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the main subject of the Kim-Putin summit, but there will also be talks about bilateral relations, trade, and humanitarian aid. The first one-on-one meeting is scheduled to last about an hour, followed by further consultations involving other government officials.

Following the summit, Putin is scheduled to visit China.

 

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Kim And Putin: Changing The State Of The Board In Korea

The future of Korea could be decided by these two men today.

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Authored by Tom Luongo:


Today is a big day for Korea. The first face-to-face summit of Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un takes place.

At the same time the 2nd annual Belt and Road Forum kicks off in Beijing.

This meeting between Putin and Kim has been in the works for a while but rumors of it only surfaced last week. But don’t let the idea that this was put together at the last minute fool you.

It wasn’t.

The future of Korea could be decided by these two men today.

I know that sounds bold. But hear me out.

And while no one seems to think this meeting is important or that anything of substance will come from it I do. It is exactly the kind of surprise that Putin loves to spring on the world without notice and by doing so change the board state of geopolitics.

  • Russia’s entrance into Syria in 2015, two days after Putin’s historic speech at the U.N. General Assembly
  • 2018’s State of the Union address where he announced hypersonic missiles, embarrassing the U.S. Militiary-Industrial Complex which accelerated the Bolton Doctrine of subjugating the world
  • Flying 2 TU-160 nuclear-armed bombers to Venezuela, creating panic in D.C. leading to the ham-fisted regime change operations there.
  • Nationalization of Yukos.
  • The operation to secure Crimea from U.S. invasion by marines aboard the U.S.S Donald Cook during the Ukrainian uprising against Viktor Yanukovich.

Both Putin and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping are angry at the breakdown of the talks in Hanoi back in February. It was clear that everyone expected that meeting to be a rubber stamp on a deal already agreed to by all parties involved.

In fact the two meetings between Kim and Trump were only possible because Trump convinced them of his sincerity to resolve the ‘denuclearization’ of North Korea which would clear a path to rapid reunification.

It’s why they went along with the U.S.’s increased sanctions on North Korea as administered through the U.N. in 2017.

That John Bolton and Mike Pompeo destroyed those talks and Trump was unwilling or unable (who cares at this point, frankly, useless piece of crap that he is) to stop them embarrassed and betrayed them.

They are now done with Trump.

He’ll get nothing from either of them or Kim until Trump can prove he’s in charge of his administration, which he, clearly, is not.

And they will be moving forward with their own agenda for security and Asian economic integration. So I don’t think the timing of this meeting with that of the Belt and Road Forum is an accident.

And that means moving forward on solving the Korea problem without Trump.

It is clear from the rhetoric of Putin’s top diplomat, the irreplaceable Sergei Lavrov, that Russia’s patience is over. They are no longer interested in what Trump wants and they will now treat the U.S. as a threat, having upped their military stance towards the U.S. to that of “Threat.”

If Bolton wants anything from Russia at this point he best be prepared to start a war or piss off.

This is also why Russia took the gloves off with Ukraine in the run up to the Presidential elections, cutting off energy and machinery exports with Ukraine.

To put paid Putin’s growing impatience with U.S. policies, he just issued the order to allow residents of Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics to apply for Russian passports.

This will send Bolton into apoplexy. Angela Merkel of Germany will be none too pleased either. Putin is now playing hardball after years of unfailing politeness.

It’s also why Lavrov finalized arms and port deals all over the Middle East in recent weeks, including those with Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey and India.

Bolton, Pompeo and Pence are ideologues. Trump is a typical Baby Boomer, who lives in a bubble of his own design and believes in an America that never existed.

None of them truly understand the fires they are stoking and simply believe in the Manifest Destiny of the U.S. to rule the world over a dim and barbaric world.

Putin, Xi, Rouhani in Iran and Kim in North Korea are pragmatic men. They understand the realities they live in. This is why I see Putin willing tomorrow to sit down with Kim and flaunt the U.N. sanctions and begin the investment process into North Korea that should have begun last year.

Putin would not be making these moves if he didn’t feel that Bolton was all bark and no bite when it came to actual war with Russia. He also knows that Germany needs him more than he needs Germany so despite the feet-dragging and rhetoric Nordstream 2 will go forward.

Trade is expanding between them despite the continued sanctions.

Putin may be willing to cut a deal with President-elect Zelensky on gas transit later in the year but only if the shelling of the LPR and DPR stops and he guarantees no more incidents in the Sea of Azov. This would also mollify Merkel a bit and make it easier for her politically to get Nordstream 2 over the finish line.

There are moments in history when people go too far. Bolton and Pompeo went too far in Hanoi. He will pay the price now. Putin and Kim will likely agree to something in Vladivostok that no one is expecting and won’t look like much at first.

But the reality is this summit itself marks a turning point in this story that will end with the U.S. being, in Trump’s transactional parlance, a “price taker” since it has so thoroughly failed at being a “price maker.”

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