Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Ian Greenhalgh -- Ukraine: The Trophy haul from Debaltsevo

Ukraine: The Trophy haul from Debaltsevo

A staggering amount of goodies were left behind
This is a follow-up piece to the article I published last week on the current status of the war in Ukraine:
In that article I reported on the repair and return to service of large numbers of captured Ukrainian armoured vehicles by the Novorussiyans and how they came to have so much Ukrainian equipment.
One of the key events I mentioned was the battle of Debaltsevo in February 2015 where the Ukrainian armed forces suffered a major defeat.
While there are conflicting reports of the actual forces involved and the casualties suffered, there is no doubt that a large number of Ukrainian forces were cut off, isolated and surrounded before surrendering. The exact number captured is probably not far from the 8000 claimed by the Novorussiyans; the video below is probably an honest representation of events:
17th February, 2015, Ukrainian forces surrendering; they were running out of ammunition and food rations as their commanders have failed to keep them supplied, so they chose to surrender instead of trying to fight their way out of the ‘pocket’.
Those men are Ukrainian army conscripts, but a large portion of the Ukrainian forces were composed of foreigners – mercenaries, white supremacists and neo-Nazis; they formed the ranks of the ‘volunteer’ battalions organised by Right Sector and other extremist groups and financed by oligarchs like the Ukrainian-Israeli Igor Kolomoisky.

This video, shot by the Novorussiyan forces gives a good impression of the nature of the fighting – largely in and around the villages and small towns. The Ukrainians allege that Russian Army troops fought at Debaltsevo and it is clear from the video that the Novorussiyans are  fully equipped with modern Russian arms and equipment, they are clearly Russian soldiers but what is open to question is why they were there – had they been sent by the Russian government or had they joined the Novorussiyans on their own as volunteers? Either way, the key point is that the Novorussian forces are composed of experienced, well trained and well equipped Russian soldiers; their exact motivation for being there is rather secondary.
The outcome of the Debaltsevo fighting should come as little surprise as whenever poorly trained and under-equipped conscripts and foreign mercenaries of dubious ability and motivation are pitted against experienced, well-trained and motivated troops the result invariably favours the latter.
However, it must be recognised that alongside the low quality conscripts, neo-Nazis and mercenaries were also motivated Ukrainian army forces and they fought hard, inflicting heavy casualties on the Novorussiyans before withdrawing. It was not a one-sided battle, there was a lot of fierce fighting and both sides suffered heavy casualties.
In this video, we see the immediate aftermath of the fighting and there can be no doubt – the Ukrainian forces fled the battlefield in great haste, leaving everything behind, not just their supplies and ammunition, but also their personal belongings and even their pet cats and dogs.
As can be seen in the video, a huge quantity of munitions, supplies, heavy weapons and armoured vehicles were abandoned by the Ukrainians, all of which would be put to good use by the Novorussiyans – all the vehicles and heavy weapons were towed away to be repaired and returned to service.
The staggering quantity of equipment, weapons and supplies captured by the Novorussiyans is laid out in this Russian news article:
The DPR militia captured and removed nearly 500 pieces of Ukrainian army’s equipment in the Debaltsevo pocket after it liberated the city, the DPR Defense Ministry spokesperson Eduard Basurin told journalists today.
“Our engineering units found and removed 471 pieces of military equipment, of which 198 units were in good working order,” – Eduard Basurin said, commenting on Kiev’s statements that the Debaltsevo pocket allegedly didn’t exist.
In particular, the DPR militia removed from Debaltsevo: 58 tanks (15 operable), 14 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzers (nine operable), 6 D-30 howitzers (all operable), 13 2A65 MSTA-B howitzers (all operable), 3 BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launchers (2 operable).
“All Ukrainian equipment after restoration and rehabilitation will equip our units, and we’ll use those not repairable as a source of spares. There are still significant numbers of Ukrainian weapons and equipment scattered near Debaltsevo, but most of that is actually only useless junk. Some we can use for future mine clearance activities, but all we can do with the rest is to scrap them,” – Eduard Basurin said.
Ukrainian army’s military equipment removed by the DPR militia from Debaltsevo:
* tanks (total – 58, operable – 15);
* infantry fighting vehicles (total – 104, operable – 38);
* other IFVs/APCs (total – 37, operable – 12);
* trucks (total – 180, operable – 76);
* special equipment vehicles (total – 28, operable – 9);
* MT-LB vehicles (total – 11, operable – 4);
* 9P148 Konkurs ATGMs (total – 3, operable – 3);
* 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzers (total – 14, operable – 9);
* BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launchers (total – 3, operable – 2);
* ZU 23-2 anti-aircraft guns (total – 6, operable – 4);
* 100-mm anti-tank guns MT-12 Rapira (total – 3, operable – 3);
* 2S9 NONA self-propelled mortar (total – 1, operable – 0);
* 2B9 Vasilek 82-mm gun mortars (total – 2, operable – 2);
* 120-mm PM-38 mortars (total – 2, operable – 2);
* 120-mm D30 howitzers (total – 6, operable – 6);
* 2A65 “MSTA-B” towed howitzers (total – 13, operable – 13).

NOTE: the NAF claim that their AFV repair facilities, on an average, can salvage 1 AFV for every 3 damaged units recovered from the battlefield.
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