Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was forced to cut short his visit to Germany and return to Ukraine, in connection with the disastrous battle near the city of Avdeevka (Ukrainian spelling Avdiivka), near Donetsk.
Deputy Commander of the Donetsk Peoples Republic (DPR) forces, Eduard Basurin, communicated to the press that his military intelligence people had gotten their hands on a secret report delivered by Viktor Muzhenko to the Ukrainian General Staff. Muzhenko is Chief of the General Staff and Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian army. Muzhenko reported, according to Basurin, that, during just two days(January 29-30) of fighting near Avdeevka, the Ukrainian Armed Forces lost 78 dead and 76 wounded. This news was so alarming, that it forced Poroshenko to return from his trip and attempt to deal with the situation.
According to Basurin, quoting this secret report which his spies obtained: The morgues of the town of Selidovo received 29 bodies; Krasnoarmeisk (recently renamed Pokrovsk) – 41 bodies; Novy Trud received 8 dead bodies and 14 wounded; Chasov Yar – 62 wounded.
This number of casualties is unusually high, even though the fighting around Avdeevka has been waging for over a year.
What Has Changed?
What changed recently is that the DPR forces — what the Ukrainians called “Separatists”, so might as well use that term, since it became a self-fulfilling prophecy — started to fight back in earnest against the daily shellings and other attacks directed at them.
This more detailed analytical piece, by Evgeny Krutikov, details the history and what led up to this battle over the weekend.
Briefly, for over a year now the Ukrainian Army has been attempting to take back Donetsk from the Separatists, using what Krutikov calls a “Leapfrog” tactic. The overall battlefield is a triangle consisting of the cities Peski – Yasinovataya – Avdeevka; and also near the city of Dokuchaevsk. In all of these towns, as well as in Makeevka and in in the capital Donetsk itself, shells have been landing in civilian houses and flats on a routine basis for quite some time. Ordinary people never get used to these shells landing in their homes — there have been demonstrations, meetings, and calls for the DPR leadership to do something about this outrage; but the DPR army had its hands tied mostly and could do very little to react. Within the DPR forces itself, casualties occur on an almost daily basis, but mostly in the number of ones and twos.
Things changed radically towards the middle of last week. DPR forces began to shoot back, using reactive artillery. Now both sides are using reactive artillery, and the situation has spun out of control, especially since Sunday. Ukrainian forces launched at least four (and possibly more) “Hurricane” (Russian “Uragan”) rockets at DPR forces. As a result of this, DPR forces lost 10 men killed in one day — considered a shock and a tipping point.
The DPR counter-attacked in a way that has not been seen in over a year. The Ukrainian army then attempted a counter-counter-attack using armored infantry. Two attempts were made to break through DPR lines: in Avdeevka, and near Mariupol. Both battles turned into meat-grinders for the Ukrainians. During the Avdeevka battle, the Ukrainians accidentally turned their artillery on their own, and many perished from friendly fire. The other Ukrainian attempt at Novoazovsk via Shirokino, also turned into a rout.
Starting 18:00 hours on Sunday, the DPR started launching their own “Uragan” rockets at the enemy. Each “Uragan” consists of hell in a capsule. By evening yesterday (Monday) Ukrainians were complaining that the bombardments continue along the whole line of the front: from the Azov Sea all the way to Kharkov Oblast. The Ukrainian front lines were not able to withstand such a massive artillery attack. Krutikov reports that in the course of just a few hours the DPR forces were able to drive the Ukrainians back from Peski and Andeevka. The Ukrainians naturally attempted to regroup, but were surprised to see that the DPR forces, which are always considered to be ragtag and fragile, actually have a surprisingly deep back bench.
And we also see here the typical human situation where the two sides in a war both possess the same level of projectile technology — in this case Uragan rockets.