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?
Gleb, I particularly don’t understand this:
“I am more than certain that, if NazGuard [Note: National Guard] did manage, on New Year’s eve, finally to enter Slavyansk, leveled to a cement pancake, from every other basement there would have been automatic rifles and grenade launchers hitting the Ukrainian troops.”
There is an omitted initial clause of the form, “If it weren’t for factor x, then…,” but I can’t figure out what it is.
I see. I know there is an omitted clause there somewhere, but I translated as close to the text as possible. Here is what this sentence means:
I am certain that there would have been automatic rifles and GL shooting at NazGuard soldiers from every basement If NazGuard ever managed finally to enter Slavyansk.
I am also certain that NazGuard would not have been able to enter Slavyansk any time soon.
The earliest they could taken the city would have been on New Year’s eve.
In addition, they would have had to level Slavyansk with artillery before assaulting the city.
In the process of shelling Slavyansk, they would have turned it into a cement pancake.
Hopefully this make sense now.
There’s still a condition I am not grasping. What he is saying may be this: if it were not for the artillery, the junta would not have been able to assault the city in any other way than with infantry, and if that had been the case, then we would have inflicted losses upon them which would have broken their morale long before they could ever have broken ours. Which is no doubt true.
Thank you for the translations from Germany.
I have no connection to Eastern Europe whatsoever and wasn’t really interested in Ukraine. But this changed on 2nd of May, when I watched the butchering at Odessa via livestream. I was shocked, I haven’t seen people getting murdered on livestream in my entire life. When I searched for German news, I didn’t find anything and I got really mad. I terminated all contracts with G + J (German company) and put all other news sites on adblock. This was the least I could do. German media does not report, since not pulling the company line will get you short tracked to be booted out of your career path (this is my guess, I am sure most journos are aware of the facts on the ground). To my worst imagination Ukraine authorities repeated the Odessa event on the 9th May in Mariopol and on the 2nd Juni in Lugansk. Many more events have added up since then, but those stuck in my mind.
Not seeing any reports in German news, my anger grew and grew and I am now so far to really want anyone from Ukraine in Germany to be deported back to Ukraine, who identifies himself with the Ukrainian authorities actions. I simply don’t want to have Ukrainians in Germany who glorify the butchering of civilians. I am still shocked and can’t really do my daily job properly for thinking about the events unfolding that are not reported in the news (I am a laywer).
What I hope for is, if Ukraine keeps butchering civilians, that Russia closes its market for Ukrainian goods and for Ukrainian workforce. Ukraine depends on the Russian market, since Ukrainian goods are not competitive on our German market. Neither the EU nor the US is going to pump billions of Euros into Ukraine. Ukraine is too big and too much of an econmic disaster after 20 years of oligarchs ruling the country, that we could hold the economy of Ukraine together. So Russia holds all the keys. Putin knows it. You will see how our politicians will creep up to Putin to get him on board not to seperate the Russian economy from Ukraine. If he plays hardball, Ukraine goes belly up. And they deserve it for towing the all-Ukrainian line of their West Ukrainian grandparents who collaborated with my country in WW2 against Jews and Poles mercilessly butchering them in Galicia and Volynia in 1943/44. Now they use indiscriminate shellings of its population in the East. I have never been that angry in my life.
Please keep your Western audience informed, since we can’t read Russian or understand what is being said in videos. Keep it up.
I want to reply in more detail. But, for now, I am simply floored. Coming from a fellow lawyer (I too am one), this is one of the most succinct and poignant expressions of a civic position that I have encountered to date. My eternal gratitude. I am in your debt by mere virtue of the fact that you have reminded me that people like you exist. I will continue this work knowing that it is needed.
Truly thank you,
Thank you very much for your kind words.
I have one thing to add the argument that has been thrown around that Russia “annexed” Crimea. This argument has been used by German news which slowely sunk in with the German main audiance. It is now accepted by them that Russia “annexed” Crimea.
This legal assumption is debatable or even incorrect.
Under international law you have different titles to acquire land. One is annexation. The other one is that another subject of international law joins in. The latter one is still (even after WW2) a recognized way to acquire land. So what happen in Crimea:
The people of Crimea held a referendum under the supervision of the Russian army (otherwise they wouldn’t be able to hold one) to create a new state.
Were they allowed to do so? Yes, they were. The right to self- determination of a people is on bed rock principle, another one is territorial integrity. Both principles contradict each other. Interestingly, none is superiror to the other one. They are equal. So Crimea had the right to secede from Ukraine under international law to become a new state.
How is statehood acquired? A state contains three basic requirements: A people, a territory and a (loose) power that holds it together. If these are met, a new state is born. More interestingly is that this process does not require other states to recognize the new state. This recognition is de facto. The de jure requirement is only the will of the people to become independent.
What happens, if another state in the person of Russia is supervising this process? Will this make the whole process of undergoing the right to self-determination illegal? This is were the debate kicks in. I don’t think so and a German law professor from Hamburg Uni as well ( http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/debatten/die-krim-und-das-voelkerrecht-kuehle-ironie-der-geschichte-12884464.html ). Then Crimea as a new legal entity could ask Russia to join the federation. This is perfectly in line with international law (if you follow my line of argument).
As a laywer you are used to news papers throwing it all together and mixing legal things up. But in this case, it is breath taking, since “annexation” is the forcible acquisition of a state’s territory by another state. The definition does not apply to the case at hand for one reason: Russia did not force Crimea to ask for its application to join the federation.
If you want, you can use this in debates with the uneducated masses throwing in legal terms they have no clue about.
Jodocus, I have an idea that you and I, as lawyers, would be best suited for. Can you get in touch via email – gbazov @ gmail . com. Thank you, GB
Cold-blooded strategic considerations and chess mentality aside, the word choice of the title and tone of the Steshin article “Slavyansk out of sight” is IMHO entirely inappropriate and flippant, purposefully flying in the face of the grim gravity of the situation. Out of sight, out of mind, and concern? The people of Slavyansk, and now Ruptly reports Kramatorsk, and one can infer all of the towns between there and Donetsk have been effectively abandoned without protection to the tender mercies of the Natz Guard, the Right Sector, and the “filtration camps”. Everyone has heard the horrific reports of what has supposedly been happening to the people of Saurovka and Krasni Liman. I don’t think anyone seriously believes the excuse that the retreat from Slavyansk and Kramatorsk was done to “save the people”. This is a vanity, a comforting self-delusion that must be cast aside and the grim truth faced. The people were sacrificed to save the fighters and hope to fight another day. May the Goddess turn her face…
Really I felt very sad yesterday when after seeing in twitter the deaths of residents over there, the only news in my tv was about 13 Ukrainian soldiers killed.
So, after thinking a bit about, I reached the conclussion that it was the news agencies where our good paid journalist took their news and traslate them to us.
That’s our very praised “free press” has ended.
They haven’t said anything about Slavianks in these months. Anyway, as in many other conflicts in the world the truth uses to appear at the end.