A fresh article from the military analyst Mikhail Litvinov sent to our editor.
It covers the comprehensive review of fighting in the vicinity of Saur-Mogila.
Combat in the area of Donetskiy Kryazh
Events, which precede the start of hostilities
The starting point of the development of hostilities on the South of the DPR and the LPR became the coordinated attack of the militia of these republics against the objects of the State Border Patrol Service of Ukraine. This offensive started on June 2, 2014, when the LPR militia initiated the first attack against the headquarters of the Luhansk border patrol unit and the mobile frontier post "Luhansk" (which in its essence is a special force detachment).
The garrison of the border patrol unit resisted decisively, aviation arrived in order to help it, the garrison of the Luhansk airport persistently tried to make its way through in order to help as well. Therefore, the fighting took on a lingering nature. Only after it became clear for the border control troops of Ukraine that the paratroopers from the airport won't be able to break in to help them, they left their location according to the corridor that was negotiated with the leadership of the LPR militia. This happened on June 4th. After that by similar agreements all departments of the border control unit on the territory controlled by the LPR surrendered, which were devoid of special force support they couldn't provide effective resistance and accepted negotiated surrenders.
Simultaneously, starting from June 4th the measures were taken in order to provide the routes from the border to the main settlements in the republic. This required creating significant fortified garrisons along the main highways, which caused pulling out significant militia forces into Krasnodon, Antratsit, Rovenki, Sverdlovsk, including at the expense of active segments of front lines. These actions were perceived negatively by the psychologically unstable militia commanders, which resulted in a number of inappropriate public announcements. However, the subsequent development of the situation fully justified the measures that were taken.
The operation of taking the border under control in the DPR went on in more difficult circumstances. The operation started later than in Luhansk, which gave the opportunity for the authorities in Kiev to take measures. Already on June 4th the military units of the Ukraine's Armed Forces were deployed into the area of Amvrosiyevka, which set up checkpoints. The mobile post of the Donetsk border control unit was redeployed into the vicinity of the Marinovka border checkpoint. The DPR intelligence didn't uncover these actions of the enemy in a timely manner. On July 5th the detachments of the "Vostok" battalion of the Ministry of State Security of the DPR started the operation on taking the border checkpoint and the traffic routes from the border under control in the zones of the border control departments Dmitrovka and Amvrosiyevka of the Donetsk border control unit.
It is necessary to digress a bit. The so-called "Vostok" battalion is not a tactical unit and in the proper sense of this word does not have a battalion commander. The "Vostok" battalion is a group of units. Such a structure is quite typical for Ukraine's security agencies. For example, "Berkut", "Alpha", "Omega", "Griphon" – they are aggregates of single units of one ministry, connected by common tasks, recruiting principles, and preparation. The structure of the MSS DPR battalion "Vostok". Within this battalion there are detachments, which are formed based on the former Ukrainian security detachments, local militia fighters, and also volunteers from other countries who decided to offer fraternal assistance to the people of the DPR in its struggle for independence. Their subordination to the MSS DPR is a voluntary choice of these units and their commanders. The reasons for such a choice have their grounds. Because several units of "Vostok" took part in the operation, their coordination was performed by the Minister of the State Security of the DPR himself. During the operation the strongpoints were created in Snezhnoye and in Amvrosiyevka. However, the operation in the Marinovka checkpoint failed because of the significant enemy forces and their air support. One of the detachments of the "Vostok" battalion, along with the minister, exited into the territory of the Russian Federation during combat, where it was interned by the Russian authorities.
However, the commanders of the militia operation exhibited firmness and resilience. After reforming their units in the vicinity of the Russian border, the detachments of the MSS DPR already on June 7th again transitioned to offense and captured the strategically important high point 277 and the adjacent to it forrest area of the Donetskiy Kryazh. The reforming, of course, occurred away from the Russian territory.
The strategic location of the high point 277 is determined not only by its command over the vicinities. No less important is that within the reach of even mortar fire from it there are both roads that lead East in this area: through Stepanovka and through Marinovka towards Dimitrov, the crossing of these roads near the village Tarany on the river Kamyshevka. And, naturally, the roads towards Snezhnoye and Torez. Moving from East to West or from West to East between major cities to the North and the Russian border to the South it is impossible to pass this location. Simultaneously with occupying Saur-mogila, Snezhnoye started to be transformed by the detachments of the "Vostok" battalion into a fortified point similar to Antratsit or Krasnodon in the LPR. As further events showed, these actions of the "Vostok" battalion are at this time the most significant operational success of the militia and influence the overall course of fighting significantly up to this point.
The course of fighting in the vicinity of high point 277.
The command of the punitive operation couldn't accept the fact of losing control over the border in Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Therefore, it urgently prepared an offensive operation with the purpose of cutting the main cities of the LPR and the DPR off the border with the Russian Federation. By concentrating the main forces of the 79-th airborne brigade and detachments of the 3rd regiment of the special forces of the UAF, the armed units of Ukraine started the offensive on June 12th.
During combat of that day the main forces of the strike group managed to proceed towards Dmitrovka and further to Dyakovo, passing the area of Saur-mogila. The mortar fire of a fairly low number of the available mortars in the "Vostok" battalion couldn't prevent the movement of armor convoys, which entered the Luhansk region. However, the attempts of the punitive infantry to take Amvrosiyevka, Donetskiy Kryazh, and Saur-mogila under control resulted in a defeat for the detachments of the 79-th airborne brigade and the 3rd regiment of the special forces UAF, which only irrevocably lost 11 men.
In order to secure further development of the operations in this directions the command of the punitive corpus during June 13th performed a number of actions. It took no fewer than one tactical group of airborne forces off the front lines under Slavyansk and redeployed it into the vicinity of Saur-mogila. It took Mariupol under control, as an important transport hub, for procuring the operations on the border direction. It made an attempt to fortify the garrison of the Luhansk airport, so that, by widening the controlled territory, the mechanized group which broke through along the border could be supplied. The last point of this plan failed, because the IL-76 with the reinforcements was shot down by the militia air defense. Due to this on June 14-15 the main efforts of the border grouping of the punitive corpus of Ukraine were directed at the assault of Saur-mogila and Amvrosiyevka. However, the lack of infantry led to effectively reducing the efforts to fierce bombardments, and on the evening of June 15th, at the onset of darkness the tense battle started near Marinovka. The fighting went on so close to the Russian border that next morning three unexploded mines were discovered near the Russian settlement Primiusskiy. Naturally, it is entirely out of question that it was the detachments of the "Vostok" battalion breaking in from the Russian side. Everybody knows that Russian authorities don't help the militia in any way. The only correct explanation could be that during the night the punitive troops were shooting at each other. By the amazing coincidence, after this battle of the punitive troops with themselves, militia howitzers emerged near Saur-mogila, and the minister of the state security of the DPR started to be noticed again on the territory of the republic.
No less mysterious battle happened on June 17th, 2014. Before the dawn the forward base of the punitive corpus in the vicinity of Alekseyevsky, which is located more than 12 km away from Saur-mogila very close to the Russian border, was subject to exceptionally precise bombardment. During the 40-minute shelling the base was put completely out of order. By the official estimate of the armed units of Ukraine the losses amounted to 31 men wounded. The rusted cannons, which are shipped to the militia by the unscrupulous members of the civil society, exhibited exceptional precision. The leadership of the Border Control Service of Ukraine insinuated that the fire was carried out by 8 mortars, but this is hardly possible, because at dawn the mortar crews would have to retreat to the Saur-mogila, Amvrosiyevka, or Donetskiy Kryazh no less than 2 hours. Needless to say, such a retreat over the open territory during the day time through the positions of the punitive troops would be impossible. There are no grounds for supposing that the retreat was carried out to the Russian territory or even more that the shelling was carried out from the territory of the Russian Federation.
However, the crucial importance of fighting in the vicinity of the high point 277 lies elsewhere. The mechanized grouping of the AFU that broke through along the border couldn't accomplish its duties and block the movements of the LPR militia through the Russian border. The deficit of fuel and ammunition binds the actions of punitive troops on this direction. The Russian authorities who fulfill the Washington demand to withdraw forces from the border couldn't secure the border in this location. As a result, the flow of rusty and useless for combat things that were picked up by the unknowns at scrapyards was essentially uninterruptible. After waiting for two more days expecting a miracle, the so-called president of Ukraine was forced to announce a cease-fire, which was timed for signing the EuroAssociation, without cutting of the Russian border.
The positions in the vicinity of Saur-mogila cause big problems for the command of punitive troops in Donbass.
Their major successes the punitive troops manage to achieve given quality informational support. It was decided to use this approach in the case of Saur-mogila as well. On July 3rd through certain blogs the disinformation was launched about mass death of civilians from artillery shelling in Saurovka, Dmitrovka, Marinovka, and Semenovka. There was talk of death of about 1000 people. The chosen points are located near the garrisons and the main supply routes of the punitive troops, which are subject to shelling from Saur-mogila. However, the provocation on compromising the units of the MSS DPR and blaming them in crimes against civilians fell through, because it was promptly exposed by the locals.
Who carried out and carries out the command of the units of the MSS DPR in these engagements is unknown. There is a version that the command is carried out by the subordinate of the Minister of Defense of the DPR with a nickname of "Prapor". This version has a number of weak spots that are incompatible with reality. First, in his interview from July 8th the minister of defense announced that the main battle unit in this region is the "Vostok" battalion, which, as it is well-known is not subordinated to the minister of defense of the DPR. Second, according to the statement of the very same minister of defense of the DPR, in the morning of July 14th the militia commander known by the name of "Prapor" was lightly wounded during the attack against the checkpoint near Kirovsk in the vicinity of Yampol, in one and a half hundred kilometers from Saur-mogila. And, third, the first evidence about the participation of the commander with the alias of "Prapor" in fighting near Saur-mogila relates to July 1st. For the sake of fairness it must be noted that in this area at this time the operational command was transferred to the minister of defense of the DPR. It cannot be ruled out that the new leadership will be no less effective.
Perspective of new developments in the vicinity of the high point 277.
The positions occupied by the militia in the area of Snezhnoye – Saur-mogila, have significant influence on the choice of further action of the armed units of Ukraine. The thing is that the grouping of the AFU that broke through along the border remains limited in its combat readiness due to the lack of ammunition and fuel. It would be most appropriate to withdraw it back, behind Saur-mogila. But such decision is hard to make on the wave of euphoria from the victory in Slavyansk. Besides that, the retreat of the grouping will have a detrimental effect on the fate of the garrison of the Luhansk airport. Such a decision will be very hard to make for the political leadership of the punitive corpus. Judging by the concentration in the area of Shakhtersk – Torez – Amvrosievka of the 5th battalion of the territorial defense and the detachment of the local criminal elements, which is known as the battalion of the special designation of the MIA "Shakhtyorsk", the relocation of the detachments of the MIA battalion "Azov" closer to this area, the punitive command plans to create an operational base outside the limits of the effective fire of Saur-mogila. The purpose of this base – advancing and supporting the checkpoints around Torez and Shakhtyorsk, in which the DPR authority is not sufficiently solid. In this case the direct route between Snezhnoye and Donetsk will be cut off. And, therefore, the punitives don't intend to withdraw their border grouping.
The major success achieved by the punitive troops during occupying of the Slavyansk fortified region without losses, freed up a rather significant grouping of their forces for carrying out further offensive operations. Currently these forces are developing powerful pressure against Seversk, trying to squeeze the militia out of it. The calculation is made that the resilience of the militia in defense, as fighting in Slavyansk showed, is low. Depending on the development of events, the Mozgovoi group could be cut off from Luhansk or it could be forced to retreat into Luhansk.
However these efforts of the punitive corpus should not distract from another possible development. Under the disguise of the activity on the Northern direction, the main attack of the punitive corpus of Ukraine will be made from the area of Artyomovsk towards Svetlodarsk and further towards Debaltsevo. Together with actions near Torez and Shakhtyorsk this will lead to a complete cutting of communications between Donetsk and Luhansk and the Russian border. Certainly, the best plan for the armed units of Ukraine would be capturing of Snezhnoye or Antratsit instead of Torez and Shakhtyorsk. Then together with the blockade of Donetsk it would be possible to bypass Saur-mogila and to establish supplying the border grouping. But such optimism within the limits of a single operation appears excessive even under the conditions of the current euphoria in the command of the punitive operation.
It must be noted that all of these calculations can be built only with an expectation of a low defensive resilience of the militia and of miscalculations by its command. There are no objective military reasons for such development of events. The firepower of individual groupings of the punitive corpus can be a limited threat only for minor settlements like Nikolayevka or Seversk, with population of up to 20 thousands. Runs of armor are dangerous only for small garrisons, which cannot physically organize rotation of the units exhausted by bombardments or for garrisons with a command that does not have any influence on the ongoing events. This is because the junta does not have a lot of infantry that could fortify within settlements after the retreat of armor.
Quite the opposite, with firm command even the available forces of the militia can transition to offense with limited goals on many directions. One of these convenient directions is precisely the area of Saur-mogila. The perspective of completely cutting supply routes for the border grouping of the punitive troops is quite satisfactory, because all major convoy pathways of the enemy are within the reach of artillery fire from Saur-mogila. And, therefore, creating a battalion fortification point on these pathways will be provided with immediate artillery support. The success will be especially realistic if the militia will stop using the available heavy armor in small groups but instead will support its attacks with forces of no fewer than one tank company, which will be freed up immediately after the engineering setup of the fortified strong point. Creating such a strong point will inevitably lead to the loss of initiative by the punitive troops and to organizing the responsive actions. The enemy does not have a lot of spare forces and they are quite far away.
Author: Mikhail Litvinov
http://cassad.net/category/war/134-boevye-deystviya-v-rayone-doneckogo-kryazha.html – link (in Russian)
Original article: http://colonelcassad.livejournal.com/1660053.html (in Russian)