March 2, 2016

The Calm before the Storm?

Yuriy Radkovets


At the beginning of this year in the final reports (estimates for 2015 and forecasts for the development of the military-political situation for 2016), insofar as it refers to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the overwhelming majority of both governmental and non-governmental international and Ukrainian analytical centers predicted the preservation of permanent tension in the zone of the antiterrorist operation (constant shelling, armed conflicts, attempts to extrude each other from the “gray zone” and capturing settlements and infrastructure in it, etc.) without escalating of the confrontation into Russia's large-scale military actions against Ukraine with the involvement of the whole contingent of troops.

It is possible that the formation of just such estimates and forecasts for this (“Ukrainian”) issue was influenced by the establishment at the end of 2015 of the so-called “regime of silence.” Thus, December 22, 2015, the Trilateral Contact Group to Resolve the Situation in Donbas agreed to establish an unconditional cease-fire in the zone of the anti-terrorist operation (ATO), beginning at 00:00 on the night of December 22 to 23, 2015.

However, in the second half of February, in individual assessments of foreign and Ukrainian experts, analysts and military experts, we can observe a number of direct and indirect signs of an alarming trend in the development of the situation around the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

Today it is no secret that neither Russia nor the so-called LPR/DPR are fulfilling the agreements within the framework of the Minsk negotiations (Minsk-2), but on the contrary:

heavy military equipment and armament of the Russian-terrorist forces in the Donbas during a day were demonstratively “withdrawn” from the collision line, and at night were secretly returned to the war zone and were placed and camouflaged there;

they continued the hidden throwing and accumulation of weapons, military equipment (only in February 2016, dozens of “Grad” and “Uragan” MLRS) and ammunition (up to 200 thousand tons) for Russian-terrorist forces in the combat zone at the main operational-tactical directions (including in the areas of Mariupol, Debaltsevo, Mospino and others near the dividing line between the parties);

they continued permanent provocative shelling of the positions of Ukrainian troops (including with the use of heavy weapons; sometimes the number of attacks reached more than 100 per day), as well as the Russian-terrorist forces' special operations in the ATO area.

Quite logically a question arises: why all this is done by the Russian-terrorist forces and exactly in the military sphere?

According to experts of “Borysfen Intel”, these or similar activities of the Russian-terrorist forces, above all, contribute to the implementation and mastering of the following tasks:

Task 1 — preserving the factor of permanent military and political pressure on the Ukrainian side, especially on the eve of the talks or forums on the settlement of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict;

Task 2 — finding out (using fighting reconnaissance) the strengths and weaknesses in the system of defence of Ukrainian troops — to take them into account when planning the upcoming offensive actions (operations) on the appropriate tactical directions;

Task 3 — preserving permanent tension directly on the dividing line in order to constantly physically and psychologically exhaust Ukrainian security forces and to provoke them to fire actions in response, with subsequent blaming the Ukrainian side before the representatives of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM);

and, most importantly, Task 4 — a secretive preparation for possible large-scale offensive military operations of the Russian-terrorist forces and the Armed Forces of Russia against Ukraine (the time, directions, facilities, forces and means agreed on in advance).

In this context one should thoroughly and carefully consider the reforming of the 12th Reserve Command of the Southern MD (Military District) (as part of the reorganization and improvement of the management system of the Russian occupation troops in the East of Ukraine) into the Center of the Territorial Forces of the Southern MD of the RF Armed Forces with directly subordinated to it 1 AK army corps (secondary name — the corps of the “people's militia of the DPR”, headquarters — Donetsk) and 2 AK (secondary name — the corps of the “people's militia of the LPR”, headquarters — Luhansk). Today there are active “rumors” about the beginning of formation of a new (reserve, according to other sources — special task) — 3 AK, with its headquarters in the city of Rostov-on-Don (according to other sources — in the city of Novocherkassk). A feature of the mobilization plans of these three army corps of the Center of the Territorial Forces of the Southern MD is that all their units are staffed mainly by ethnic Ukrainians — both volunteers and mobilized from the Crimea, Donbas, and even from Kuban and other regions bordering on Ukraine.

At this, declaring readiness to implement the provisions of the Minsk Agreements, the Command of the Russian occupation troops activates measures to build up the combat capability of the compounds and units of 1 AK and 2 AK of the Center of the Territorial Forces of the Southern MD of the RF Armed Forces. The direction and theme of the recent combat training, during which they worked out the tasks of offensive/counter-offensive nature, objectively show that the enemy has not given up its plans for expansion of controlled territories in the Donbas and uses a “state of ceasefire” actually to get prepared for the resumption of military confrontation, a large-scale one included.

The latest news regarding the aforementioned army corps — namely the decree of February 12, 2016, issued by the “head of the DPR” Zakharchenko on reforming the 9th Separate Motorized Rifle Regiment of the 1 AK into the 9th Special Motorized Rifle Regiment of Marines (Novoazovsk), as well as strengthening it with units from the 810th Separate Brigade of Marines of Coastal Defence Troops of the RF Black Sea Fleet may be evidence of both, legalization of the presence of Russian marines in the East of Ukraine, the high probability of intensification of sabotage and intelligence activities in coastal areas and of operational cover for the preparation plans to conduct an amphibious operation on the same direction.

Special attention should be paid to V. Putin's recent statement about the tasks that, according to him, are imposed on the aviation group of the Russian Federation's Armed Forces in Syria, namely — training of the flying personnel of the combat aircrafts for operations in extreme conditions of modern warfare. Even just a preliminary analysis of this statement raises a number of questions. Training — for what? For actions — where and against whom exactly? In modern warfare — in which region and at what direction? At this, we must bear in mind that until now Russian invaders almost had not used combat aircrafts (except for intelligence and army) at the Ukrainian direction.

Also do not forget that the Russian side has twice used the cruise missiles X-101 from aircraft of strategic aviation Tu-22M3 and “Kalibr” from the surface ships and submarines of Russia from the water areas of ​​the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, in particular, with a demonstration and provocative aim, and in fact — has tested their combat use over long distances. That is, Russia has practically mastered this method of applying the rocket and air strikes on enemy's territory.

Another troubling sign of the possible training Russian-terrorist forces to conduct offensive military operations in the nearest future is the latest information on the forced vacating of beds in the front-line local hospitals, as well as the beginning of the mobilization of medical staff in the DPR/LPR.

As for the Group of Russian occupation troops in the Crimea, according to different sources, it has from 23 to 25 thousand military servicemen (as part of land, air and maritime components) and has a strong tendency to increase through an additional deployment of nuclear weapons carriers, coastal long-range missile systems, forces and means of the Air Defence, as well as surface and underwater ships.

Recently, the Russian Military Command has significantly strengthened the grouping of troops along the Crimean isthmus, by transferring to the area of units from armor, airborne troops and special task forces, explaining it by the fact that NATO is increasing its presence in Eastern Europe. During active measures for combat training of these units, they fulfill tasks of combat coordination and interaction, as well as the tasks of offensive and counter-offensive nature.


That is, with a great degree of certainty it can be argued that nowadays in the Donbas there are all indications that Russia is preparing for active military actions, and with the arrival of the warm season its probability will only grow. At this, today along the dividing line at different distances from it are accumulated so many weapons that it would be enough to destroy a huge military potential, and — on both sides. It would seem that this has to sober V. Putin, the Kremlin and the Russian side as a whole. However, even if Russia does not dare to large-scale conflict, it does not mean that it will not fan the fire of hostilities along the line dividing the sides.

Then the logical question arises: when and where exactly will the Russian-terrorist (occupation) forces begin the offensive?

The answer to it may be as follows (and it will be correct!) — anytime and anywhere, as the Russian-terrorist (occupying) troops today are quite well equipped, trained and practically prepared for offensive combat actions at any time. But all the same I would like to get a more specific and reasonable answer.

Thus, according to “Borysfen Intel's” experts' estimates, cessation of hostilities in the Donbas and the withdrawal of the Russian-terrorist formations will actually mean the end of V. Putin's “hybrid policy” and his political death. Under such circumstances, he understands that he should definitely do something about it, because any stagnation or delay will lead to the fact that the Russian-terrorist (occupation) troops in the Donbas (and in general in the Ukrainian Crimea!) will get definitely demoralized and will lose their combat capability. That is why, in his opinion, they need to be kept in the “tone” — a very stressed state, with simultaneous organizing and active support to internal destabilization in Ukraine.

At the same time, we should not forget about the predatory disposition of the arrogant, cornered, but ready at any moment to throw himself at the opponent “Leningrad rat”.

Possible options of resumption of offensive actions of the Russian-terrorist (occupation) forces and the mechanisms for their implementation, according to experts of “Borysfen Intel” Analytical Center, will depend on many specific circumstances and conditions, namely:

the first option — limited offensive actions of the Russian-terrorist forces in order to establish control over the entire territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. This option is most possible before the planned by the DPR/ LPR leaders local elections in the controlled by them territories of these regions;


the second option — application of tactical blows of the Russian-terrorist forces at the Mariupol and Donetsk directions, conducting an amphibious operation in the coastal areas, with the support of the occupying forces from the Crimean Peninsula, which in converging directions come into the area of ​​New Kakhovka — the main transport-technology center of concentration and distribution of water, gas and electricity for the Crimea. Under favorable conditions, in the future — with the introduction of operating reserves — continuation of the offensive in the direction of Mykolaiv-Odesa with access to Trans-Dniester. This option is most possible in the spring or early summer — on the eve of the expiry of the “Donetsk package” of international sanctions against Russia (31 July 2016);

the third option — full-scale military operations (full-scale war) — a combination of the second option with Russian troops' striking at Kharkiv, Sumy and Chernihiv directions with the use of the entire spectrum of the arms of land, sea and air forces, as well as missile and air strikes on a certain depth. This option is most possible in case of Russia's military and political defeat in Syria, the loss of the unity of the Western countries' positions regarding Russia and Ukraine, as well as a sharp aggravation of the internal political and socio-economic problems in Ukraine.

That is, the possibility of Russia's large-scale hostilities (full-scale war) against Ukraine is not removed from the agenda. By and large — today Russia is actually seriously “stuck” in the civil war in Syria and all its plans for “on equal terms” co-operation with the USA and Europe to resume its status of a great state do not find their support. Besides, today Russia has also a whole range of dangerous challenges and threats to its national security both, in Eurasia and in Europe.

So, V. Putin is not going to change his “hybrid policy” regarding the actions in the Donbas. Moreover, Putin's policy of continuous, comprehensive and focused pressure on Ukraine will be carried out precisely in order to prevent the processes of European and Euro-Atlantic integration of our country.

The military confrontation and violence along the line dividing the sides in the Donbas, which separates the areas occupied by the Russian — terrorist forces, of course, will continue to significantly complicate the search for a political solution. At this, the potential for escalation in the ATO zone is not only preserved, but also increases significantly.

It can be argued that the options and the scale of offensive military actions of the Russian-terrorist forces in the Donbas or, on the contrary — continuation of the fragile truce, of course, will depend on Russia's military achievements/failures in Syria and its success/failure in the dialogue with the European Union, United States and on the level of destabilization of the political and socio-economic situation in Ukraine, as well as on how much the West supports our country.

At this, V. Putin will keep trying to use the Syrian conflict and appeals to the United States about cooperation in the confrontation with IS (“Islamic State”), as well as all sorts of “geopolitical proposals” to join efforts in the fight against international terrorism and the “immigration crisis” in Europe with the aim to promote the status of Russia as a great and influential state, and to stop its international isolation.

To make Russia give up its plans for capturing the South-Eastern Ukrainian or a large-scale war against our country, the Ukrainian State and its Armed Forces have to be continually strengthened. So far, Ukraine is teetering on the edge of what we can and what we aspire to. But the protection and preservation of the Ukrainian State — is not the task of the Western world, but, first of all, our determination and ability to provide a proper response to the enemy.


The article was published in the edition of the Romanian Center “INGEPO Consulting Company” —

“Geostrategic Pulse” №211 from April 5, 2016