I interrupt my Tukhachevsky series (with only ONE episode left, I promise!) to bring you this breaking news from the Ukraine.
This past week, Monday and Tuesday, 25-26 October, the Ukrainian Armed Forces attacked a few towns in the “grey zone” between Ukraine-controlled and Separatist-controlled Donetsk Province. In the course of this attack, the Ukrainians employed a forbidden weapon, namely, a Turkish Bayraktar drone. This is the first time in the Donbass war that a drone has been employed against the Seps, hence the lede.
Ukrainian soldiers subsequently seized the town of Staromar’evna without a shot being fired. Mainly because this town contains only 180 residents, none of them fighters. It is noteworthy, however, that 37 of those residents are citizens of the Russian Federation. For that reason, I reckon it could be said that Ukrainian President Zelensky droned the Russians as well as “his own people”, as the saying goes. Either way, Zel portrayed the seizure of this tiny town as a glorious victory for the Ukrainian army. Making it all the more bitter, I reckon, when his guys were subsequently forced to retreat. That happened yesterday, and is the second lede. But we’ll get to that…
In the course of this small war, the Ukrainian army shot up a series of Donbass towns, including Novaya Mar’evka, Tel’mankovka, Gorlovka, Yasinovataya, and Yakovlevka. The artillery caused damages to town infrastructures, for example, electricity blackouts, fires, and destruction of several homes.
Donetsk Peoples Republic (DPR) Military responded by moving their forces and tanks closer to the front line. A T-72 was spotted cruising down the streets of Tel’manovka. At the same time Separatist sources confirmed that the Ukrainians had taken Staromar’evka. Separatist supporter and writer Vladlen Tatarsky complained that the Sep peoples militias “were just fucking around and allowed the Ukry to take Staromar’evka.”
According to Russian blogger Yury Butusov, the Seps had attacked the Ukrainian 93rd Mechanized Brigade near the town of Granitny; which is the point from which the Ukrainians were shelling Tel’manovo and other populated towns. It was at this point in the combat that the Ukrainians decided to employ their Bayraktar drone, which they had purchased from Turkey after the latter’s successful war in Nagorno-Karabakh. The drone carried a bomb which allegedly took out a Russian Howitzer. “This was the very first time a Bayraktar was employed in the Donbass war,” according to Butusov. He added that the order to employ the drone was given by Ukrainian Armed Forces Chief Valery Zaluzhny. The Ukrainian General Staff confirmed this information on their Facebook page. The Ukrainians claimed that the drone did not “cross the line” defined by the Minsk agreements, but were caught out in a lie when their own video showed that the coordinates of the flight ran deep into DPR territory.
This was a clear violation of Minsk. The French and the Germans were upset enough about it to scold Zelensky. Zelensky retorted with a speech full of self-serving pathos about the Ukrainians sacred right to defend themselves. The Germans were not impressed, but the Americans were ecstatic and egged the Ukrainians on to do even more.
“Your game is not worth our lives”
In the end, the Ukrainian soldiers who occupied Staromar’evka, had to retreat from it. (Even though they live in the so-called “grey zone”, the residents of the town consider themselves DPR people and vote in Russian elections.) The soldiers posted a video on youtube addressed to President Zelensky and explaining why they are retreating:
“We’re sitting in a trench near Staromar’evka. We suffered big losses. They promised to send reinforcements last night, but none came. We’re trying to figure out how to get out of this place. Zelensky, don’t think of us as traitors, but your grandstanding (понты) is not worth the price of our lives.”