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By Yevgeny Krutikov, Daria Volkova, and Alyona Zadorozhnaya. Moscow – translated by John Helmer, Moscow

Large units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Donbass will be cut into pieces, and then destroyed.

Russian troops, as well as units of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), are moving towards each other from the north, east and south, and will soon be able to close a huge cauldron in which the 50,000-man Donbass group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) will be. These are the most trained units of the Ukrainian army – they have been in the combat zone since 2014, well trained and strengthened. But only the defeat of the AFU in the Donbass will allow us to solve other military and political tasks in Ukraine. How will the offensive develop?

First published in Vzglyad on March 31.  Maps, illustration, and captions have been added to this translation.  

All the main tasks of the Russian forces in the Kiev and Chernigov directions have been completed, and so now the goal of regrouping our troops is, first of all, the completion of the operation for the complete liberation of Donbass. This statement was made on Wednesday by the Russian Defense Ministry.

Following the results of the first stage of the special operation, it was possible to force the enemy to concentrate forces around Kiev and Chernigov. Thanks to this, the Donbass group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine was left without an influx of fresh resources from the west and from the centre of Ukraine, RIA Novosti reports the message of the Defense Department.


Click on source link for enlarged view: https://www.nationsonline.org/


Source, with map enlargement, key and explanatory notes, French Ministry of the Armed Forces.  


Source: https://t.me/Belarus_VPO/11862 the tactic of army manoeuvre, called envelopment, is called kettle or cauldron in Russian, pocket in English; Kesselschlacht in German. For background, read this. The Battle of the Korsun- ShevchenkivskyiPocket was won by the Red Army in January-February 1944, and resulted in the destruction of the 80,000-man German force trapped inside. It was fought on the west bank of the Dnieper River, between Kiev and Dniepropetrovsk. The Battle of the Falaise Pocket, Normandy, August 12-21, 1945, ended with the Allied destruction of the German Army Group trying to escape France for Germany; there were 60,000 German casualties. For the current US Army understanding of Russian operational tactics and strategy, including the cauldron, read this paper of  2019,  and this one of 2021.  Russian reports indicate that US and British Army tactics officers have been directing the terbats tactcis, and are now trapped inside Mariupol, unable to escape.

Earlier in the day, the head of the DPR Denis Pushilin said on air on  TV channel Russia-1: “there is every reason to believe that now the operation to liberate Donbass will go much faster.” The head of the republic named several directions in which the DPR troops continue to develop the offensive, the official website of Pushilin reported.

The defenders of Donbass are moving towards Avdiivka – actually the northern suburbs of Donetsk and Maryinka, located just west of the capital of the republic. Pushilin mentioned two more targets located 30 to 40 kilometers from Donetsk. These are Novobakhmutovka – to the north, near the highway leading to Kramatorsk, and Novomikhailovka, located southwest of the capital of the DPR.

Pushilin also assessed the situation in Mariupol, which is now being liberated by the DPR forces together with the Russian military and the forces of the Rosgvardiya [National Guard].  According to the head of the republic, resistance is being put up by disparate groups of the territorial battalions [terbats], their eradication is being undertaken. Earlier, the Azov battalion units were forced out of residential buildings — about seven thousand militants in all were blocked off in the industrial zone of the Azovstal plant.

According to a source of the newspaper Vzglyad, there is evidence that at a meeting in Mariupol of Ramzan Kadyrov with the commander of the 8th Army, Lieutenant General Andrei Mordvichev (previously Ukrainian propaganda declared him dead ), the timing of the cleansing of Azovstal was discussed. That is supposed to require about a week. But the isolation of the plant’s territory on the eastern bank of the Kalmius River already allows us to release significant forces for their transfer in other directions.

The DPR is pushing back the front line

Thus, it can be concluded from Pushilin’s words: after the completion of the Mariupol operation, the DPR troops will focus on pushing back the front line (the former line of contact) from Donetsk, Horlivka, Yasinovata and other cities of the central Donetsk agglomeration, which continue to suffer from shelling by the AFU. For example, on Wednesday, Ukrainian artillery struck Donetsk twice from the Grad MLRS [multiple launch rocket systems], firing at least 25 missiles in total.

The enemy has “serious fortifications in all the above-mentioned offensive directions, but nevertheless we are moving forward,” the Donetsk leader stated. “It is not possible to talk about a  deadline for the operation yet: everything is tied to many different factors. But the fact that the operation is accelerating is already a fact,” the head of the republic stressed again. According to him, about 55% to 60% of the territory of the DPR within its [pre-2014] administrative borders has been liberated. Recall that until February 24, the republic controlled only about a quarter of this territory.

Even more ambitious — but the smaller concentration of enemy troops should be taken into account —  were the successes in the Lugansk direction. At the moment, the LPR controls at least 90% of the official oblast territory; almost everywhere the republic has reached the borders proclaimed in 2014. The exception is the agglomeration of Severodonetsk – Lisichansk – Rubezhnoye in the west of the Lugansk region near the border with the DPR. Active fighting continues here.

Directions of impact

At the same time, from the beginning of this week, clashes between the Armed Forces of Russia and the Armed Forces of Ukraine continued to the south and southwest of Izyum (Kharkov region, 44 kilometers in a straight line to Slavyansk, 55 km to Kramatorsk). There were also battles in the southern direction near Gulyai-Pole and the above-mentioned Novomikhailovka.

It is to these areas that fresh reinforcements have been transferred in the last few days, as well as those units of the Russian army, the DPR and the LPR which are being released in Mariupol as the city is being cleaned up. Forces are also being transferred here from the direction of Kherson – Nikolaev. This  redeployment became possible after the defeat of the units of the 28th Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which tried to attack in the Kherson direction; that ended on Monday.

According to analysts, the transfer of troops indicates the preparation of a strike in the coming days in converging directions from the south and north in order to finally encircle the largest Donbass group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with its subsequent destruction.

“We are talking about the defeat of a group of 40,000-50,000 people,” military expert Boris Rozhin explained to Vzglyad. “In fact, for the Russian army, this is the largest operation of its  kind since the Great Patriotic War. This has its own difficulties. But the enemy is losing in its defence. Then everyone is waiting for the start of the second phase, which is connected with an offensive operation to encircle this group.”

“The main AFU group is actually divided into two parts. A smaller part of it was surrounded in Mariupol and has already been partially destroyed,” Rozhin added. “There is a large group that is defending itself in the area of Donetsk, Horlivka, and there is also a group associated with it that is defending itself in Severodonetsk and Lisichansk. The task is to surround and destroy them.”

Left to right: Boris Rozhin (Colonel Cassad); Andrei Prokaev; Alexei Leonkov (Arsenal of the Fatherland).  

Offensive from the north: they will not storm Slavyansk head-on

“A grouping of Russian troops will be deployed in the Donbass region of Izyum to ensure a further offensive in the direction of Kamenka and other settlements in order to encircle the Ukrainian grouping of troops in the Slavyansk-Kramatorsk and Lisichansk-Severodonetsk urban agglomerations,” says military expert Andrei Prokaev.

It can already be stated: after the defeat of the Ukrainian group near Izyum, the slow but gradual advance of the Russian Armed Forces began to the south directly to Slavyansk and to the southwest to Barvenkovo. This creates the prerequisites for movement from north to south in order to close the cauldron around the Donbass group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The resistance in this area was serious, but gradually the front began to shift. Now Russian troops have gained a foothold on the southern shore of the Seversky Donets and continue to accumulate forces there.

The Svyatogorsky Holy Dormition Monastery, conveniently located on the high bank of the river and turned into a defensive position by the AFU and the territorial battalions, also falls into a semi-circle. In a straight line to Slavyansk, there are about 10 kilometers left, but, according to experts, most likely no one will storm the fortified agglomeration of Slavyansk – Kramatorsk head–on.

“There are fortified areas on the line of contact, which are marked by important points – Avdiivka, Slavyansk, Severodonetsk, Lisichansk and Krasnoznamensk,” recalled Alexei Leonkov, editor–in-chief of the Arsenal of the Fatherland magazine.

According to Prokaev, Russian troops will need to protect the flanks in order to avoid attacks on them during the offensive. “We are opposed in Donbass by experienced units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, they have been fighting there since 2014, have headquarters, warehouses, fortifications. In addition, Ukrainian sappers will blow up the remaining bridges, and this factor should also be taken into account by the Russian military during the offensive,” the analyst noted.

Offensive from the southwest: the key role of Gulyai-Pole

Russian troops are “waiting for the cleanup of Mariupol to be completed in order to transfer additional forces to the Zaporozhye direction, Rozhin believes. In turn, the Ukrainian General Staff decided to strengthen the southern flank of the Donbass group at the expense of assault units – the 95th Zhytomyr and 25th Dnieper odshbr (separate airborne assault brigades).

The General Staff of the AFU planned to recapture Volnovakha, recently liberated by the forces of the DPR, and “unblock” Mariupol. But Kiev’s calculations were not justified. The above-mentioned two amphibious assault brigades, abandoned in the area from Gulyai-Pole to Ugledar, are gradually rolling back north to Novomikhailovka and further to Kurakhovo, driving themselves right into the cauldron, analysts say.

A breakthrough near Novomikhailovka and near Gulyai-Pole will destroy the entire front of the AFU, and therefore it is to these areas that the released units and reinforcements are being transferred now. Experts believe that the occupation of Novomikhailovka by Russian units will lead to a breakthrough on the front with access to Kurakhovo – this is already 50 km from Donetsk. Parts of the DPR in the same place are slowly moving west through Marinka. The fighting is already underway in the area of the main landfill, dominating the steppe, up to Kurakhovo. All this threatens the Ukrainian group west of Donetsk with a cauldron.

“The goal is to get to the rear of this group, advancing along converging directions of the north and south,” Rozhin noted in turn. “In the end, it is necessary to cut the Donetsk – Pavlograd highway, along which the main supply of the AFU in the Donbass goes.” To clarify, Pavlograd is a city in the east of the Dnipropetrovsk region, about 150 kilometers northwest of Donetsk.

As previously reported, Russian aircraft and Kalibr missiles fired from the sea destroyed a key AFU facility – a railway junction in Pavlograd, which the Ukrainian military is hastily trying to repair. Russian troops “can advance through Slavyansk, Barvenkovo or through Lugovoye in the direction of Pavlograd itself,” Rozhin noted. “Of course, no one will disclose what kind of plan the command will choose,” the expert explained.

“The troops who now have to ‘reset’  the 50,000 men group of the AFU who will act on the principle of ‘divide and destroy’  – large enemy formations will be ‘cut’ into separate pockets of resistance, and then thoroughly destroyed,” the expert says. At the same time, according to Rozhin,  all types of weapons will be used: artillery, mortars, multiple launch rocket systems, precision weapons,  and aviation weapons systems.

What’s next?

“When the entire Donbass group is liquidated, we will release a significant number of our Armed Forces, as well as the forces of the LPR and DPR,” Leonkov suggested. “They will continue their offensive to the west, where they will unite with those groups of troops who entered the territory of Ukraine from the north. And then they will carry out the tasks that they face —  demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine.”

According to the experts, the initial strategic plan aimed at destroying the largest groups of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the National Security Forces, eliminating the military infrastructure of Ukraine and depriving it of its military potential  — this hasn’t changed. But only after the defeat of the Donbass grouping of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the National Security Forces, the issue will be resolved in other directions, including in Nikolaev,  Odessa, Krivoy Rog, Zaporozhye and Dnepropetrovsk.

At the same time, Russia in Ukraine is dealing with the largest army in Europe (except for the Turks) and is trying to solve the issue with as little bloodshed as possble.

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