Donbass blog, July 1: Kiev Probes DPR Defense - DPR Changes Response to Provocations Concept - Sappers Captured During De-Mining
This week the negotiations of the Contact Group have resumed in Minsk, and, naturally, the situation at the front has sharply deteriorated. According to the DPR Defense Ministry, the intensity of fire on the DPR territory by Kiev has increased significantly, reaching 700-800 bombardments on some days. In addition to traditional mortars, infantry fighting vehicles, grenade launchers and small arms, the Ukrainian side also openly used artillery of large calibers, which accounted for about a hundred attacks per day.
The most massive bombardments were applied to Donetsk in the central part of the front, Gorlovka in the north of the DPR, and Dokuchaevsk and Kominternovo in the south, Mariupol direction.
The DPR authorities reported that, as a result of the attacks, five civilians were wounded in three days, two of them women, and 43 houses were damaged, one of which was completely destroyed. In addition, because of the shelling by the Ukrainian military the water treatment plant, the water supply was disrupted in Gorlovka.
In Dokuchaevsk the Ukrainian side also shelled a refinery. The next day, when a group of the OSCE and JCCC observers came there to document results of the bombardment, the Ukrainian military shelled the plant again with mortars, which resulted in the international observers inspection disrupted.
According to eyewitnesses, 4 mortar shells were launched at the plant from the Ukrainian positions. Unexploded projectiles still remain on the territory of the plant. However, according to the DPR authorities, it is not possible, for security reasons, to dispatch sappers there.
On the same day, the DPR sappers DNR were directly attacked by the Ukrainian side, when they were de-mining the Shirokino area. This area, according to the Minsk Agreements, is a demilitarised zone. However, in the spring, some of its segments had been occupied by units of the Ukrainian army and the nationalist battalions. The de-mining works were agreed by the DPR authorities with the OSCE mission, whose representatives had often refused to inspect this area, referring to their life being endangered.
According to the DPR Defense Ministry, the Ukrainian side opened artillery fire at the group of sappers, after which they were attacked by a Ukrainian reconnaissance group. As a result, two sappers were killed and another eight taken prisoner.
The same day, in a situation report of the Ukrainian operational headquarters (ATO) they were declared Russian mercenaries. A day later, however, in reports of official Kiev, they turned out to be deceived locals, who had entered the DPR service because of inability to find another job, but still armed with Russian weapons.
After the capture of the DPR residents performing the work coordinated with the international missions in the demilitarised zone, the DPR authorities announced the revision of the concept of response to provocations on the Ukrainian part.
Having analysed the actions of Kiev in the Mariupol direction, the military authorities of the Republic have come to the conclusion that the nature of the provocations in the south of the DPR indicates the work of the Special Operations Forces of Ukraine, which were previously found by the DPR intelligence in the Donetsk area. Such groups usually include foreign mercenaries, experts in sabotage and provocations.
The fact of Western instructors training the Ukrainian military may also explain a strange, at first sight, attempt to break through the DPR defenses, which occurred two days ago in the Debaltsevo direction, one of the quietest recently.
According to the DPR military, at night the positions of the Republican Army were shelled from the Ukrainian side with mortars, the return fire was not opened. Half an hour later, the mortar attack was repeated and followed by fire from a tank, which also remained unanswered by the DPR. It is most likely the Ukrainian military decided that the main forces of the DPR army were somewhere at “hotter” spots, and went on break, accompanied by two infantry fighting vehicles and an armoured personnel carriers, having managed to push the DPR positions 4 km deeper into the territory of the Republic.
The DPR army command sent to the breakthrough spot reinforcements that recaptured Kiev’s attack and regained their positions. During the battle, both sides used all kinds of weapons and equipment available in this sector of the front, including artillery and tanks.
The next day, the press service of the Ukrainian operational headquarters (ATO) categorically denied any attack on their side. However, a day later, the speaker of the ATO admitted heavy fighting in this sector, and even acknowledged the losses in the Ukrainian army, namely, one dead and 11 wounded men.
At the same time, the DPR soldiers, who participated in the battle, speak about dozens of Ukrainian soldiers left on the battlefield, and several destroyed pieces of equipment. This information is indirectly supported by Ukrainian volunteers calling for urgent medical assistance in social networks. The DPR military officially lost two men wounded.
This attack by Kiev looks strange from the point of view of both the configuration of this segment of front and the number of forces sent by the Ukrainian command for the breakthrough. Even the successful deepening of the Ukrainian military into the DPR territory was most likely to have ended for them with another mini-pocket. To keep the seized territory, the small mechanised group had no chance whatsoever.
On the other hand, military experts say that the sudden roll of the Ukrainian military to Debaltsevo made it possible to solve several urgent tasks, including finding out the situation and testing responsiveness of the DPR troops at the forefront, revealing types of weapons used to return fire, as well as aerial photography and air control of the positions of the DPR Armed Forces.
It is also possible that the General Staff of Ukraine expected that, repelling the attack, the DNR army would not stop and would go on a counter-attack, which would have allowed Kiev to declare the failure of the Minsk Agreements on the part of the Republic.
On the eve of the breakthrough attempt, the President of Ukraine Poroshenko announced that Kiev refused to fulfil the Minsk Agreements until fire completely stopped in Donbass. At the same time, the speaker of the Verkhovnaya Rada stated that the return to a discussion of these agreements was possible after, at least, 30 days of complete silence on the front.
Meanwhile, Kiev continues to deliver to the contact line heavy equipment and weapons. In recent days, in addition to already familiar reports about infantry fighting vehicles, tanks, howitzers and motorised artillery systems, the DPR intelligence reported on arrival at the front line of Ukrainian anti-tank cannons and MLRS "Grad" and "Uragan" of 220mm caliber.