by Dmitry Steshin (Komsomolskaya Pravda)
Translated from Russian by Gleb Bazov / Edited by S. Naylor & @GBabeuf
I understand and share the bitterness and resentment of those who found out this morning that the Militia has left Slavyansk. The news washed over everyone—the ‘hoorah-patriots’, the ‘all-is-lost-patriots’ and even the cold, analytical types. And now, please hear from a person who has spent the last month and a half in Slavyansk: from the time of the very first checkpoints on the outskirts, up to the almost complete encirclement of the city.
When we broke out of Slavyansk along the “guerilla” bypass road in the middle of June, within a few hours a Ukrainian Army checkpoint appeared there. And that was it: the city was blockaded on all sides.
Supplying the garrison had turned into a constant headache, incommensurate with any tactical advantage. And, in spite of all the despair coming through in the public statements of Igor Ivanovich—when he told the entire world that “we could not hold out any longer than July 12th”—I am more than certain that, if the NatsGvardiya [Note: National Guard] had finally managed to enter Slavyansk on New Year’s Eve, after having levelled it to a cement pancake, then there would still have been automatic rifle-fire and RPG-fire hitting the Ukrainian troops from every other basement.
In reality, the fate of Slavyansk was decided in April-May, when Mount Karachun was taken. It is impossible to conduct a full and active defence when you are faced with a strategic, dominant height overhanging the city, several kilometres in length, seized by the adversary and laden with his artillery. And, moreover, to conduct a defence without any means of counter-battery warfare.
Impossible—and, yet, Igor Ivanovich and the Militia did manage to resist… And not only to resist, but, in a mere handful of days, to disabuse the many-times numerically superior enemy of any desire to engage the Militia in a direct confrontation. As far as I can tell, they abandoned any intention to assault the city as soon as the Militia brought Semyonovka back under its control.
Undoubtedly, Slavyansk had become the symbol of the “Russian Spring”; moreover, it has entered History—forever. But the purpose the city served was different. Slavyansk drew to itself all the battle-worthy forces of the Ukrainian Army, thus enabling the mobilization of the Militia in Lugansk and Donetsk.
Slavyansk gave Mozgovoi an opportunity to crack the border on land and in the air, whereby something real (you do not need to tell me about virtual ‘YouTube’ armoured columns) actually made it into the region, by dribs and drabs, including “Tunguskas” purchased at the GUM [Note: GUM—“State Universal Market” in Moscow].
Slavyansk enabled the rest of the region to set up almost a dozen reinforced centres of resistance. It was Slavyansk that brought down the majority of Ukrainian fliers; and the “Slavic Sky” came true in every regard. Finally, Slavyansk gave the South-East time to create political centres of power, allowed them to be legitimized, and, of course, provided covering fire for the referendum. One last thing—thousands of untried militiamen and volunteers passed through the trenches of Slavyansk, all with minimal losses.
By the middle of June, Slavyansk had outlived itself. Having drawn and bound to itself an enormous army grouping, the city, at the same time, required an ever larger garrison, and, in return, started to tie up the not inexhaustible human and technical resources of the Donbass People’s Army.
Besides, being the legal Commander-in-Chief of the Militia, Igor Ivanovich could not provide full and efective guidance to his army from a besieged city. He had a direct line to the DPR government (I do not know about the LPR), but this was, understandably, not enough for adequate control over the Militia units, each of which was beholden to the charisma of its direct commander.
In a situation like this, you need a “mega-Batka” [Note: Batka—an Old Man], but the “mega-Batka” was forced to sit in Slavyansk and wax melancholy. I do not fear this word—he grew bored with blowing up endless ammunition stores on Karachun and pummelling Ukrainian checkpoints on the near and far outskirts of the city. Igor Ivanovich needed operational freedom; this night, he finally found it.
Don’t forget—he came to Slavyansk some time ago with a few battered automatic rifles and even smooth-bore “Saiga” and “Vepr.” He left with a column of armoured vehicles. Not to even mention the loads of other equipment. This, undoubtedly, is yet another testament to the dizzying victory of the Ukrainian Army, which ended up with a mousetrap instead of a trophy. And nor was it an empty mousetrap: as I understand it, the Ukrainian Army has yet to enter the city.
Igor Ivanovich, veteran of two Chechen wars, naturally made sure to leave behind enough manœuvrable groups with grenade launchers and cover. And it is no accident that Mr. Tymchuk has been squealing about thousands of Militiamen breaking through from Kramatorsk to Donetsk. Mr. Tymchuk has no idea that the road from Kramatorsk to Donetsk is absolutely free. But what Mr. Tymchuk should really think about is his fighters, sitting dejected at the Kramatorsk airfield and in the Donetsk airport.
As I understand it, in the next few hours they will be added to the number of the “Heavenly Hundred.” Furthermore, Mr. Tymchuk will soon have to explain to his readers: why did the Ukrainian Army spend two months battling with Slavyansk and what will it do with the city now?