Across Eastern Ukraine, Russia is moving in artillery, leaders, tanks, and troops. Although, that’s nothing new. The thing that makes this maneuver different is the sudden stationing of Moscow leadership in Eastern Ukraine and the promotion of key Russian military leadership who have overseen Russian operations in Eastern Ukraine.

Make no mistake, the war in Ukraine is not being hosted by a rag-tag group of rebels. This war is being orchestrated from the Kremlin – As long and ugly as it has been.

The inevitability of this third offensive against Ukraine has reached its capstone and known realism.

DSC_2468-750x440A shell game of empty aid trucks from Russia to East Ukraine has begun again with the 53rd  “Gumkonvoya,” and the trucks again arrived, half-empty. The State Border Service of Ukraine recorded the convoy at Russian checkpoint “Donetsk” as it entered Ukraine. The convoy was unannounced, unregistered, and  in violation of the norms of international and domestic law consistent with the standards established by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and allied partners have actively observed Russia’s on-going effort to supply weapons and military equipment in Eastern Ukraine, an effort which has amplified and become increasingly aggressive. Russian multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) have returned to the line of contact. There were thirty-six 122mm MLRS, GRAD-type, in the areas of Almazna, Horlivka, Luhansk, Mala Verhunka, Mineralne, Poliove, Yasynuvata.

The most intriguing of these can be observed dangerously close to the line of contact near Olenivka, Makiivka, and Yasynuvata. Around these strategic hot-spots; platoon sized deployments of 122-mm MLRS GRAD rocket-artillery from the Russian, Fifth Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade, Joint Strategic Command “South,” of the Russian Federation (ЮВО/YUVO,) have established hasty firebases. These deployments are supported by the recently delivered eight-hundred tons of fuel, four-hundred tons of ammunition, four additional 122-mm MLRS GRAD wheeled-launchers, six armored infantry combat vehicles (AICV,) and ten additional unknown-type military vehicles.

The increased presence of Russian troops and material has further frustrated Ukrainian force with a steady daily increase of attacks upon Ukrainian troops and positions.

A steady increase of UAVs used for reconnaissance and to direct artillery fire against Ukrainian position has also been observed. The flight path of these UAVs was traced back to the directions of Donetsk, Mariupol, Novoaidar, Volnovakha, and Russia.

Russia has also actively increased aerial reconnaissance of allied countries as a hunt for intelligence on military objectives in throughout Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia as well as following the course of the NATO and multinational exercises of, “Anakonda-2016.” Russia took the opportunity to execute a comprehensive and deliberate aerial reconnaissance operation well into the airspace of Belarus. The overt reconnaissance of these aerial reconnaissance operations was completed by the Il-20 and Su-24MR aircraft of the Aerospace Forces of the Russian Armed Forces.

The 45th separate Special Forces brigade (45th SEP SF BDE) of the Airborne troops, of the Russian Armed Forces (Kubinka, Moscow Oblast) have recently conducted reconnaissance, sabotage, and training operations of Russian loyalist guerrillas throughout Donetsk, Volnovakha, Sloviansk, and Mariupol. The Russian Spetsnaz have increased training of diversion and reconnaissance units, snipers, as well as specialized training of secured radio equipment.

The disposition of Russian forces and battlefield preparation is underway.

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The Russian-backed separatist self-proclaimed leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR/DPR) Oleksandr Zakharchenko, released a bewildering statement. In the statement, he announced plans for an offensive . . . Yet in typical totalitarian double-speak he said that the offensive attacks would not be a rejection of the Minsk peace agreements.

I’ve never said that I refuse to follow Minsk II. On the contrary, unlike Kiev, we intend to bring the Minsk story til the end and get Kyiv to fulfill its obligations, and I haven’t given the order on Mariupol offensive yet.

From the military and economic point of view, it is better to seize Berdyans’k. Mariupol will then go down with a fight

The reality of this offensive I’ve previously covered on Ukraine, and whether or not the attack on Berdyans’k is real or even achievable by the Russian-backed separatist. An assualt on Mariupol is a real threat.

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Still the most likely Russian-backed separatist course of action. Image via stratfor.com

 

Mariupol, less than 60 kilometers from the Russian border and home to the strategically important Azovstal Iron & Steel Works and Port of Mariupol. Mariupol has been tactically anticipated as a point of advance by pro-Russian separatists. The projected seizure of Mariupol would not only mean the capture of these strategic resources but would also provide Russian-backed separatist forces a key stepping-stone for the much-needed land bridge to Crimea. Although the fight to Berdyans’k would be bloody, but not impossible if supported by Russian forces.

Russia is also currently invested in a bridge project to Crimea. The project could easily reinforce an offensive over-land or simply be out of play in the meantime, as Moscow sets the stage to advance further into Ukraine.

 

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What the initial attack path launched from Eastern Ukraine and to Crimea would most likely look like. Via Buck Clay, Google Earth.

 

Mariupol remains key and additionally operates as the new capital of Donetsk Oblast since April 2014 when anti-terrorist operations (ATO) began corresponding with the occupation of the city of Donetsk by pro-Russian separatists operating in the Donetsk’s People’s Republic (DPR or DNR).

If Russian-backed separatists seize Berdyans’k they would effectively be able to shut down Ukrainian maneuver capability. The current disposition of Ukrainian forces, as well as an antiquated, command and control structures, would prohibit and Ukrainian reinforcement by air, rail and sea to effectively counterattack. If Russian-backed separatists are able to maneuver with the speed and security of Russian command, troops, and overwatch, Russian-backed separatist could be poised to seize the capital of Kiev with little to no resistance.

The opportunity for Russian assistance is plentiful and while many eyes are on Crimea, Donetsk, and Rostov-on-Don. Direct Russian support is available at a much closer range.

 

Such as from this military-heavy airfield, 70-kilometers from Mariupol, in Yeysk.

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West of the Yeysk airfield is an amphibious staging area and artillery position.

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To the south of the position above, a military staging area.

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One-hundred kilometers to the East of Mariupol are the Taganrog airfields, which are heavy with Russian bombers, reconnaissance, and transportation aircraft.

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On Friday the 25h of July,the former Deputy of the Russian Federation Duma, LeIlya Ponomaryov received a Russian residence permit for Ukraine. Ponomaryov represents dissent and in the form of the Communist Party list of left-wing organizations in Ukraine. He claims that his Moscow-based “left” logic is different, that of the traditional the Communist Party  or any other left-Ukrainian Party, for example, the Progressive Socialist Party Vitrenko.  The reality is that he is a representative of the Moscow destabilization force, another page in the planning and operations manual on Hybrid Warfare. LeIlya Ponomaryov and his supporters have been taking an active part in the hostilities in Eastern Ukraine against the Ukrainian government. His presence is simply a means to maintain Moscow order and control over the situation in Eastern Ukraine.

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LeIlya Ponomaryov, would like to take a moment of your time – To remind you who is really in charge.

Many Russian-backed separatists claim allegiance to Communist enclaves, such well-known American traitor and media puppet, “Tex“.  The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) and legislative branch have targeted the Communist Party in Ukraine for supporting the annexation of Crimea by Russia and “financing terrorism” by providing support to Russian-backed separatists in Eastern Ukraine, both moves are considered acts of treason against the Ukrainian state.

Three Russian generals in Eastern Ukraine were promoted by President Vladimir Putin’s order on 11/06 No 276, as well. According to Putin’s decree, the commander of the First Army Corps of the Southern Military District, or the Joint Strategic Command “South” of the Russian Federation (ЮВО/YUVO.) Major-General Valery Asapovu was awarded the rank of Lieutenant-General.

In addition, Major-General Sergei Yudin, commander of the Russian Second Army Corps YUVO was also advanced to Lieutenant-General. The largest promotion went to the commander of the Second Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade (Lugansk,)  of the Second Army Corps YUVO,  Russian Colonel Andrei Ruzinskomu, to Major General.

The YUVO, ‘coincidentally’ became active in 2010, boasting a 1,848-hour program to transform Russian civilians into soldiers.

 

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President Vladimir Putin’s order on 11/06 No 276.

A DPR offensive operation against Mariupol was announced in January 2015, although the DPR took to launching unregulated GRAD, multiple launch rocket system attacks against civilian targets in Mariupol. The Russian-backed separatist attack was mostly was unrealized and halted in a struggle within the ugly yet stagnated fighting for Lebedyns’ke, Shyrokyne, and Vodyane. The Russian-backed separatists were unable to take Lebedyns’k, but seized half of Shyrokyne, and left Vodyane as a free fire zone which is often contested but never occupied.

After the artillery rocket attack on the city of Mariupol  and failed offensive Oleksandr Zakharchenko released an apoplectic statement,

Nobody was going to storm Mariupol.

The launching point for most The Russian-backed separatist attacks throughout the Mariupol region is centered out of a fire and armor base in Sakhanka. The town turned stronghold hosts a Russian armor company and a detachment of self-propelled artillery that I watched maneuver just outside of Vodyane last year and open fire on Ukrainian positions with 152mm artillery last year. The detachment I was embedded with was able to evade the drone and follow-up patrol that detected us in the village of Vodyane following the bombardment. I still have a scar from the experience, as we cut the metal cutting fences in-between the yards of the abandoned buildings to seek cover as we evaded a force of Russian-backed separatists who outnumbered and outgunned us.

 

 

Ukrainian vs. Russian land forces. Via Jane’s 360.
Ukrainian vs. Russian land forces. Via Jane’s 360.

 

 

Ukrainian forces remain outgunned and outnumbered and any real assistance from Europe is laughable while the American administration has been laughably flaccid in its own ability to assist Ukraine or stand up to an aggressive Russia. Currently, the American leadership forces the focus on Daesh (ISIS,) as the global threat while Russia expands in a threatening and alarming rate across the globe.

 

 

Featured Image – 122-mm MLRS Grad with Russian occupants in Eastern Ukraine via Видаль Сорокин