Zero hour in Debaltsevo/Update 2
Posted by Charles II on February 14, 2015
As of zero plus 8-some, there’s no further elucidation of the situation in Debaltsevo. The garrison does not appear to have surrendered. The rebels have made it clear that no one is getting out alive unless they have surrendered. The Kyiv Post has a “Debaltsevo? Where’s that?” attitude. Fortruss presents an explanation of how Debaltsevo developed. It sounds like capturing it was the only part of a complex Kiev plan that worked. At which point, Debaltsevo should have been abandoned. But no one cared enough about the human beings there to tell them that it was time to withdraw.
I feel very bad for the men there. Their lives seem to have been squandered.
Recent Small Wars Journal posts here. Jane’s on Russian systems in Ukraine here.
As of zero plus one, I don’t see any statements about the ceasefire except RT:
The militias will stop all military action outside the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Zakharchenko said. However, he said that the self-defense forces will reply to any provocative actions by the Kiev troops, including assaults and precision fire.
The DPR leader also said that rebels won’t release a large group of Ukrainian troops, who have been entrapped near the village of Debaltsevo since early February.
“Their every attempt to break out will be suppressed,” Zakharchenko is cited by RIA-Novosti news agency.
The rebels’ leader reminded that “there wasn’t a word mentioning Debaltsevo in the agreements” signed in Minsk on February 12, which means that “Ukraine simply betrayed the 5,000 people trapped in the Debaltsevo ‘cauldron’.”
RT has blown off Pyatt’s claims of “Russian systems” and said:
Also last year, Pyatt was found guilty of posting fake images of US drills and tanks taking part in exercises, after internet users immediately noticed the photographs had been published at a much earlier date.
A site Bellingcat has a database of alleged equipment sightings that could substantiate claims of Russian equipment being moved into and around Eastern Ukraine. Of course, these are “social media sightings” and therefore, it seems to me, could be uploaded by anyone. But unfortunately the U.S. isn’t providing any proof, and the Kiev government have been repeatedly caught lying, so…. By the way, the NYT registered this important fact:
the security forces [on the Maidan prior to the overthrow of the elected Yanukovych government] might not have used deadly force until after they were first shot at by armed supporters of the pro-Western demonstrators.
As I write this, six hours remain until the Minsk 2 ceasefire is established. Night has fallen, and any actual combat operations are probably over, though shelling may continue. My prayers for those isolated in Debaltsevo, as well as civilians there and in other areas near the shelling, continue.
The rebel sites have been quiet, although Cassad has uploaded a lot of videos in Russian, apparently having to do with humanitarian aid. A google translate of his last other post says that Zakharchenko is going to shell Debaltsevo till the last minute. Also that Poroshenko is threatening to impose martial law on the rest of Ukraine.
As of now, there’s only one piece of additional news. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt has posted photos of what he says are “Russian systems” (whatever this means): artillery, towed and self-propelled, as well as air defense systems near Lomuvatka (southeast of Artemivsk, northeast of Debaltsevo, and a rocket launcher near Molodyy Shakhtar (about 20 mi west of Donetsk, I think). As I understand it (which is not too well, since I don’t read Russian), the rebels claimed to hold Lomuvatka a week ago, and Shakhtars’k-Molodets’k was well within their lines. And a lot hangs on what is meant by “Russian systems.” Is he alleging Russian personnel? Russian arms that the rebels could not have captured from Kiev? People are making fun of Pyatt on Twitter.
It would be surprising to me if the Russians aren’t sending artillery. As you recall the Brits just shipped armored cars lacking machine guns/cannons and claiming they’re “non-lethal” aid. Maybe the Russians are shipping the shells separately from the artillery so they can make the same claim.
The New York Times has a piece on Russian propaganda. Ironically, it sounds a lot like American news today:
Mr. Pomerantsev’s area of study is propaganda, and he believes he saw many classic techniques at work in Moscow. He says one favorite trick was to put a credible expert next to a neo-Nazi, juxtaposing fact with fiction so as to encourage so much cynicism that viewers believed very little. Another was to give credence to conspiracy theories — by definition difficult to rebut because their proponents are immune to reasoned debate.
Credible expert versus crazy liar to discredit the expert? Try almost anyone against Dick Cheney and the other architects of war. The media love to show the one guy at a demonstration with a Zionism is Pollution sign and ignore the 50,000 obviously sane people next to him.
Juxtaposing fact with fiction to promote cynicism? We’ve talked at length about the media’s “some people say earth is round but opinions differ” approach to discussing global warming, economics, and so on. When will American media simply start saying, this is crap and we are not going to sully our reputations by pretending otherwise?
Giving credence to conspiracy theories? A lot of what got reported about America’s official enemies is conspiracy theory stuff. Trying to psychoanalyze Putin, for example (see a few posts below).
From what I have seen, Russian media is often paranoid and assumes conspiracy where incompetence, greed, and malevolence would suffice to explain the situation. But US media is used propagandistically, too.
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