ERR Correspondent's Blog: Ukraine Faces Challenge of Stabilizing Defensive Lines (1)
Estonian media continue to keep a close eye on the conflict in Ukraine. ERR's Igor Taro, known to some as the correspondent in rural southeast Estonia, is now traveling to Ukraine with an ETV camera crew for a few days.
Much like Dmitry Tymchuk, the former Ukrainian military officer who keeps the world informed on Facebook about what is happening on the front lines in Ukraine, Taro recently started a daily-updated FB blog in Estonian that is generating positive notice.
Although ERR News's coverage may have seemed militaristic of late, Putin's war has undoubtedly moved into a new stage, internationally syndicated columnists are concerned about a wider conflict, and reports in major newspapers are foggy at best. We've decided to step up our Eye on Ukraine and translate parts of Taro's latest entry from August 29.
Ukrainian forces have started preparing for the defense of Mariupol, the southernmost large city in Donetsk oblast. Russia has concentrated about 50 tanks and armored vehicles within several dozen kilometers in Novoazovsk. The total size of the Russian contingent may be about 10,000 or more, based on a lobby group of mothers of Russian soldiers.
There is a collective community action under way in Mariupol to dig trenches, the national guard is establishing defense positions and presumably mining high-risk approaches in order to keep tanks from breaking through. In mid-June the national guard of Ukraine succeeded in arresting agitators and forcing them out of town, and the city is also the where the legitimate government of Donetsk is seated. So the fall of the city would be strategically and emotionally difficult for Ukraine. The Ukrainians claim that they have enough power there to hold the line, as long as Ukrainian units stay in place. Allegedly it was due to two large units leaving their positions in the Ilovaisk area that led to the sad state of affairs later on.
Regarding the Ukrainians besieged at Ilovaisk [east of Donetsk], we know only that the ones who tried to break out of the envelopment met with several ambushes. The journalists speeding in front of the column escaped with their lives, but there are probably many wounded and killed among the military in the armored vehicles.
Last night [August 28] Putin made a reprehensible statement, calling on the terrorists to open a corridor for the Ukrainians to escape. The Kremlin's nightly announcements are meant for the US audience due to the time zone difference. He is still trying to dress himself in the clothing of a herald of peace. The backup forces sent to Ilovaisk from Debaltseve were also ambushed.
Near Luhansk, the Ukrainians had to finally retreat from the road segment between Novosvitlovka and Khryashchuvate which connects Luhansk with Krasnodon and Russia. There just weren't enough reserves and the Ukrainian mechanised equipment was out of commission due to standing in one place for so long. Automatic weapons and machine guns alone are no good against armoured columns, which is now coming over the border more actively than before. Some positive achievements were reported north of Luhansk in the mop up operations but it is nothing compared to the worsening of the situation south of Donetsk.
The Russiuan-led terrorists boasted of having seized a number of Tochka-U missile batteries from the Ukrainians, but it seems unlikely and it is more believable that Russia has brought the weapons in itself. The Tochka-U is a predecessor of the Iskander missile and is a 500-kilo guided bomb with a range of tens of kilometres, 70 km. So there's no point in keeping something like that on the front lines. Ukraine has about 90 of the missiles, of which 12 are battle ready and the rest are stowed away. If that kind of weaponry falls into enemy hands, it could have just as sad consequences as with the Buk-M that brought down the Malaysian airliner,
The Ukrainian army now faces the challenge of stabilizing the front and developing an effective defensive line. They may have sufficient infantry but they have likely lost their previous equipment advantage. Much has been lost in defending along the border, as well as in defending the airfields by Luhansk and Donetsk and elsewhere where the priority was holding the line, not destroying the enemy in maneuvers.