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The Bakhmut Diversion And The Donbass
By Russell Bentley
Everybody in the world is talking about Bakmut these days, and the AFU/NATO Spring Offensive that is expected before the end of April, less than a month away. The Wagner Musicians are having a hard fight in Artemovsk/Bakmut, but do continue to advance. The largest concentration of UAF/NATO troops on the Donbass Front today is definitely there. Or at least in that vicinity. Pregozhin reports a ukrop troop concentration of 80,000 soldiers in the area.
Other reports from Bakmut mention "several hundred tanks and IFV's" in Bakmut, which is a formidable task force, but nowhere near 80,000. And, in fact, 80,000 troops is far more than would be required for a total rout of the Wagner and RF Army forces around Bakmut. The nazis have concentrated some of their most savage fighters, not in the city itself, but in the vicinity, including AZOV, the "Free Russians", AIDAR, 1st Border Detachment, and 241st Territorial Defense Brigade, all of which are genuine hardcore nazis, and among the best equipped in the ukrop army. There are also an unknown but militarily significant number of highly trained and motivated foreign "mercenaries" from NATO countries in the area. The estimates vary widely, but all agree the number is in the thousands.
Currently, and as usual, the main determining factor in whether Wagner will be able to surround, take, and hold the city (or even hold their current positions) will again be the amount of fire and material support they get (or don't get) from RF Army Command, which has so far proven itself to be rather dubious at best. If the AFU/NATO make a concentrated counter-attack on Bakmut, a failure to have sufficiently reinforced and re-supplied the Russian and Republican troops will be a virtual death sentence for the Wagner "Musicians", among the greatest Heroes of this war. There also remains a risk, and serious indications, of counter-attacks in the Zaporozhia and Ugledar areas, but I think these will probably be feigned, and not occur unless a prior breakthrough by the ukrops develops elsewhere first. And by "elsewhere", I do not mean Bakmut, I mean the major cities along the Donbass Front - Gorlovka and Donetsk/Makeevka.
CURRENT TROOP CONCENTRATIONS ALONG THE DONBASS FRONT ACCORDING TO UKRAINE MEDIA SOURCES
One scenario the "experts" have so far failed to mention is the very real and ongoing danger that the ukrops may make another attempt to do exactly what they originally planned to do in March of 2022 - break through the Donbass Front and enter directly into the main cities of the DPR. Understand that the second biggest concentration of ukrop troops after Bakmut is between Ugledar and Avdeevka, right along the Donetsk/Makeevka city limits. It would be no cakewalk, but if the ukrops can break through our defenses on the edge of these cities, and advance 15 Km (less than 10 miles) from their present positions, they will literally be in the center of Donetsk and Makeevka, the two biggest cities in the DPR. Gorlovka, the 3rd biggest city in the DPR, also still remains on the firing line, with significant ukrop army concentrations on the edge of the city. It is less than 30 Km (20 miles) from Bakmut to the center of Gorlovka. All the units around Bakmut could instead attack Gorlovka, a move that no one seems to be talking about, but one I sure hope our guys are prepared to deal with.
If the nazis can occupy Gorlovka, they can occupy Makeevka and Donetsk which completely changes the dynamics of the whole war. If the nazis enter Donetsk, Makeevka and/or Gorlovka, it makes the battles for Bakmut and Ugledar superfluous. And if Donetsk, Makeevka and Gorlovka are occupied by nazi troops, the Zaporozhian land bridge to Crimea, and Crimea itself, can be dissected at leisure, because if Russia loses Donetsk, Makeevka and Gorlovka, they have already lost the war. And if Donbass falls, Crimea will fall, and if Crimea falls, Russia will too. This possibility is very real, and the AFU/NATO attack will almost certainly occur within the month.
Most of those who are qualified to have an opinion expect a major UAF/NATO offensive before the end of April, if not sooner. A very dangerous and serious attack, with existential implications for Donbass, Russia and the world. Actions and statements by NATO and Ukrainian forces almost guarantee an offensive is coming, and soon. The only, and key, question, is where. Consider the following -
The original attack plan, scheduled for the first week of March, 2022, for a decisive Ukrainian victory over the DPR/LPR/Crimea was to begin with a concentrated assault on the major cities of the Republics - Lugansk, Gorlovka and Donetsk/Makeevka. That plan has been postponed by the SMO, but it has not been abandoned or forgotten. Russia's lack of military progress, the fact that after a year of heavy fighting, the UAF/NATO military positions near these cities are effectively in the same place they were a year ago, in the same positions the original offensive was planned to be launched from, is almost an invitation for them to try again. And while Russia has significantly reinforced troop strength in the cities, it would not, and does not, preclude the possibility of the UAF/NATO trying it again. The fact is, confirmed by sources from both sides, that in spite of heavy losses, Ukraine currently has a reserve force of 200,000 troops, in theater, and ready for action. The number of Russian troops in the Donbass theater of operations is not known, but what is known is that Russian forces have also suffered heavy casualties over the last year, and it does not appear that the reserve troops raised are actually in the conflict zone, ready for action. The original attack was planned with 150,000 UAF/NATO troops involved. Now, they have 200,000...
If UAF/NATO counter-attacks from Bakmut or Ugledar, or towards Melitopol or Berdyansk, what are the military advantages? Very little, if any. The first two are empty cities razed to rubble, the second two are over 100 Km from the current UAF/NATO positions on the Zaporozhia Front, across open and empty enemy territory, with UAF/NATO assault groups and re-supply columns open to attack from both sides along the entire route. A frontal attack on the Bakmut or Ugledar Fronts gain the UAF/NATO nothing of military value, and only place the attacking forces deeper within the pincers that the Wagner and DPR forces have worked so hard to create, and again, in empty, open enemy country, vulnerable to attack from both sides.
But if the 80,000 UAF/NATO troops around Bakmut suddenly withdraw to Konstantinivka, giving a "victory" to Russian Forces attacking Bakmut, which move in to take the empty pile of rubble, the ukrop troops are free to move south along the Ukrainian controlled T0304 and T0516 highways, and by the time they reach the front line RF/DPR positions, they are literally 7 Km ( 5 miles) from the city center of Gorlovka. If half the 80,000 troops from Bakmut area move on Gorlovka, they will certainly break the Gorlovka Front (barring Russian use of tactical nukes) and be able to move into the city. If the other 40,000 troops move down the H20 Highway, (which is also under UAF/NATO control and mostly out of range of Russian artillery) they can break the northern pincer of the Russian attack on Avdeevka and simultaneously attack Yasynuvata, and moving south behind the Front, split Makeevka and Donetsk. Factor in the artillery in and behind Avdeevka, and the UAF troops concentrated around Ugledar making a sudden shift to Mariinka, about 15 miles (24 Km) north and all the major DPR cities suddenly, in a matter of a day or two, find themselves facing another 100,000 to 200,000 combat ready troops, in addition to the thousands already there, right on their doorstep, if not actually within their city limits.
If a UAF/NATO assault force is able to advance a mere 15 Km (9 miles) forward from their present positions on the city limits of Donetsk/Makeevka and Gorlovka, they will literally be in the center of these cities, surrounded by well over a million Russian civilian human shields, which negates Russia's main military advantages - air, missile and artillery power. Occupying these cities also gives the invaders the opportunity to loot food, water, fuel, housing and other resources that do not exist in razed cities or open terrain, and do not have to be transported forward or even paid for. Furthermore, an attack on the main cities would immediately trigger a mass exodus of refugees towards the Russian border, which would cause instant gridlock, paralyzing the roads between the cities and border in both directions.
There are only three border crossings between the DPR and Russia - Uspenka, Marynivka and the southern crossing at Novoazovsk. The closest to Donetsk is Uspenka, at a distance of about 100 Km, over poorly maintained, mostly 2 lane roads. The other two border crossings are further, with inferior roads in worse condition. And while the DPR is de jure now part of the Russian Federation, de facto, the border inspections and passport control still continue as before, with the resulting lines of scores, if not hundreds, of waiting vehicles at the border, (even under normal conditions) which will be the cork that will quickly block all the roads, all the way back to Donetsk, in case of an attack, or even the credible threat of one.
The instant gridlock would make Russian reinforcements from the Southern Military District in and around Rostov, Taganarog or Sambek extremely slow and difficult, if not impossible. And whatever Russian reinforcements did arrive to defend the cities, would arrive after a more than 100 Km road march across open country, undoubtedly under fire, only to arrive and have to go directly into combat against an already ensconced enemy, dispersed throughout a built up urban area filled with friendly civilian human shields.
On March 23rd, it was reported by EurAsia Daily and others that Taiwan has already delivered «almost 1,000» drones to Ukraine that were not only capable of dropping bombs, but were also programmed to function as a swarm, and interact autonomously with each other. UAF terrorists have already posted multiple videos of their production and use of chemical weapons, including one which filmed two Russian soldiers being killed by poison gas . DPR military has also published a video of one of their soldiers suffocating after an enemy drone dropped a poison gas bomb near his combat position. The production and use of chemical weapons by ukrop nazis has been confirmed by multiple sources on both sides . The UN and OPCW have studiously ignored the irrefutable proof of these war crimes and the use of these prohibited weapons, effectively giving the "green light" to their further and wider use. They have been, and will be, used.
Now, imagine a thousand, or even a hundred, drones swarming across the Front and into a major city full of civilians. If even a few civilians or soldiers were killed by poison gas, how long do you think it would be before videos of them convulsing and choking to death in the streets got on social media and panic starts? Ukrop media says the drones will be used to sow panic, "in Crimea", but there are no major population centers within drone range in Crimea. But Donetsk/Makeevka and Gorlovka are literally on the front lines, and heavily populated. It is no secret that there are not enough gas masks for the soldiers here, much less for the civilian population in these cities. If you were a nazi terrorist with a thousand swarming drones and chemical weapons, where would you use them? In the empty rubble of Bakmut? The open fields on the way to Melitopol? Or in the major cities of Donbass?
I am not a military genius, but I have read Sun Tsu, Von Clauswitz, Patton, Rommel, and Che Guevara. I have studied history. And I have played a lot of chess, and I have learned from all of the above. I am, as Scott Ritter recently pointed out, not an "intelligence officer", but unlike Ritter, I am intelligent. As a combat veteran, I have learned that the most important skill a soldier can have is to clearly see and analyze reality, and from this understanding, be able to predict what the enemy will do next, by putting myself in my enemy's position and asking myself what I would do if I were him.
I also understand that everything our enemies say in public is a lie. When the NATO nazis announce they are going to send depleted uranium ammunition to Ukraine, it means it is already here. The more Zelensky says he does not have enough weapons and ammo to mount an offensive, the more he really means he already has. The goal of those who own and control the Kiev Regime and the NATO and Western militaries and governments is to destroy Russia as an obstacle to their ambitions for world domination, while causing as much death and destruction as possible. If I was them, and that was my goal, and I had their weapons and assets, 1,000 swarming drones, poison gas, 200,000 soldiers in reserve, and no human conscience, where do you think I would use them? Where would you?
There comes a time in a chess game where competent observers can tell with a high degree of certainty who will win and who will lose. And from there it is not far to the point of inevitability, where there may still be a few futile moves to make, but the game is already and irreversibly lost. In the Donbass War today, it is not quite yet "Mate in three", but it is close. But the game, and the war, can still be won. As a combat veteran and patriotic citizen defender of Donbass and Russia, and as a competent observer, I have a few suggestions...
Wars are won by the side that makes the least mistakes. And they are lost by military commanders who make egregious mistakes, and are allowed to continue to do so. The litany of mistakes by the top Russian military decision-makers, the complete disregard for the most basic principles of military science, in both their number and severity, cannot be excused, and can only be explained by a level of astronomic stupidity or something worse, on the part of those responsible. And these mistakes, if indeed that's what they are, predate the SMO by years. To think that the same ones who have wasted an ocean of blood and a mountain of gold only to bring their Motherland to the threshold of disaster, will suddenly unveil some brilliant plan to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat is delusional. They should have been replaced months, if not years, ago, and as long as they maintain decision-making authority over military operations, they are the greatest impediment to the possibility of Russia saving itself from the dire situation it now finds itself in. They must be replaced immediately by competent, serious and combat proven soldiers of the caliber of Khodakovsky, Pregozhin, and Surovikin.
Russia's most imperative task is to prevent the entry of UAF/NATO units into the urban areas and civilian concentrations of the major cities of the DPR, at any cost, up to and including the use of tactical nuclear weapons. The cities on the Donbass Front should be massively reinforced, starting yesterday, to the point where a breakthrough, even by an assault force of up to 200,000 will not be possible, understanding that an enemy advance of just a few miles changes the entire dynamic of the war, militarily and politically, putting Russia at great risk and serious disadvantage. Russia only gets one chance to get this right. If the nazis make it into the main cities of Donbass, Russia has lost Donbass, Crimea and the war.
There are thousands of combat veterans of the DPR defense forces who, for one reason or another, are not currently on active duty. I myself am one of them, due to the fact that I am 63 years old. But I have a Makarov pistol and my trophy AK, and can still defend my home and country if need be. Russia should immediately begin forming and arming civilian self defense units, whether their existence may be considered militarily significant or not. If the nazis take the Donbass cities, they have often and openly announced their plans for "filtration" of the entire civilian population. To be "filtered" by nazis is a death sentence, simply a code word for genocide. Russia will be complicit in this nazi genocide if it fails to defend more than a million of Russian citizens, and refuses them even the means to defend themselves.
Russia must immediately, fully and permanently prevent the movement of troops and weapons from the West to the Donbass Front. The primary method of transport for these troops and weapons is by rail, on railroad bridges across the Dnieper River. There are 40 bridges that cross the Dnieper River in Ukraine, 12 of which are operational railroad bridges. To destroy some or all of these rail bridges (which should have been done in the first few days of the SMO) will severely degrade the ability of UAF/NATO forces to rotate, reinforce and resupply the nazis attacking the Donbass Front. Vladimir Putin was recently asked directly by a Russian journalist about these railroads and bridges. He answered that what could be done, had been done, and that the reason the bridges still stood was because it was not possible to destroy them. I believe this was the first time I have ever heard him lie.
"USE IT OR LOSE IT..."
I was trained as a Combat Engineer in the US Army, and that training included specifically learning to build and destroy bridges. Russia has the technical ability and military arsenal to destroy these bridges and prevent their reconstruction, but somehow, lacks the political will to accomplish this military imperative. The TU-22M strategic bomber can carry 18 FAB-500 bombs, a total payload of almost 20,000 lbs of high explosive. Russia has recently begun using the upgraded version of FAB-500 to satellite guided smart bombs (comparable to US JDAM bombs) which can be released and guided to target from as far as 40 miles (63 Km) away. There are 12 rail bridges across the Dneiper in Ukraine, none of which could remain operational after a strike by 18 satellite guided bombs of 1,100 pounds each. Russia had at least 63 TU-22M's in service in 2018, it probably has more today. Do the math.
Yes, major airstrikes on bridges in central Ukraine would entail some serious risks, and the loss of some aircraft is almost a certainty. But the southern bridges near Khersan and Odessa could be approached from over the Black Sea, the central bridges near Zaporizhia and Dniepropetrovsk approached from Russian controlled territory east of the river, and the northern bridges near Kiev, from Russia itself (or even shorter from Belarus), all of which put planes on target with relatively short flight times in UAF/NATO controlled airspace. Risky and potentially costly, yes, but but totally possible, and absolutely essential. The Russians may suffer significant losses of their air force in an air raid on the Dnieper rail bridges, but the alternative is to lose the war, and suffer a devastating and humiliating defeat.
Above all, Russia's political military and political leadership must understand that the NATO nazi invasion of Ukraine today, is and will remain, every bit as much of a lethal threat to Russia's existence as a nation and survival as a people as the German nazi invasion of 1941 was. And it must be fought with the same dedication, wisdom and sacrifice as the Great Patriotic War, because the stakes are the same for Russia and for Russians - Victory or Death.
I have said since I arrived in Donetsk in 2014, that "As goes Donbass, so goes the world." Those of us who have stood our ground for 9 years and fought the nazis of the 21st century to a standstill on the Donbass Front have not only defended ourselves and Russia, but the future of Humanity from those who would exterminate most of the world's population, and enslave the rest. And now, the denouement is upon us. One bright, cold day this April, the clocks will strike thirteen, and the decisive battle of this 9 year war will take place. That day may well turn out to be as portentous as October 24th, 1929 or September 1st, 1939. Or May 9th, 1945. The UAF/NATO offensive is coming. We will soon see where it lands, and whether Russia will win or lose this war.
If Russia is prepared and under competent and serious military and political leadership, Russia can break the upcoming nazi offensive, the UAF will be finished, and NATO will withdraw, or at least have serious reservations about the advisability and ability to remain or investing further billions in a lost war. Russia can then advance to Kiev and take control of it, and all the territory east of that. This will achieve the stated goals of the SMO - the denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine, and the removal of all military threats to the Russian Federation and its People from Ukrainian soil. There are only two outcomes. Victory or Death.