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Sunday, August 24, 2014 2:36 PM

Rebels Launch Counteroffensive: 4,000 Ukrainian Forces Trapped; Federalism to Save Ukraine?

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If you believe mainstream media then you believe the rebels are surrounded, on the run, and a victory party for Kiev is on the way.

Other reports tell a far different story. If you believe pro-Russia news sources, the rebels are on the march, headed towards the Black Sea, and a counteroffensive in Donetsk and Lugansk is underway.

In this version of the story, the Ukrainian army is stretched way too far, support lines are cutoff, and the army is suffering huge losses of men and equipment.

"Donbass Donetsk - We Are Advancing"

To a cheering crowd, Donetsk Peoples' Republic leader, Aleksandr Zacharchenko, announces the counteroffensive.

In the video, Zacharchenko announces "My dear ones, my dears, dear brothers and sisters. Yesterday we began a counteroffensive. As of today, Amvrosievka, Kuteinikova, Blagodatnaya are totally surrounded. Around four thousand men (of the Ukrainian forces) are trapped. Now there are battles in the direction of the town of Elenovka. I hope we will liberate it by evening."

Translation above provided by Jacob Dreizin,Jacob Dreizin, a US citizen who speaks Russian and reads Ukrainian.

Dreizin comments ... Zakharchenko is referring to a rapid advance yesterday that took the Donetsk forces from Ilovaisk (where they had been fighting three Ukrainian volunteer militia battalions for several days) to points over 15km south, or possibly as much 50km if we count today's advances.

Rebel Tanks Advancing

The translated YouTube headline reads Battle in Zeleniy and Grabskoe near Ilovaisk. Unit of the Donetsk militia commander "Senia"

Dreizin comments "The rebel tanks appear to be T-64s with applique / ERA armor plates. These are the most common tanks in the Ukrainian army and may have been seized from the Ukrainians."

Lugansk Front Video

Here is some footage of a Ukrainian "Grad" battery that was destroyed near Lugansk in the last few days.

The translated YouTube headline published August 23, says Militias destroyed column MLRS "Grad".

More Comments from Dreizin

The rebels have advanced north of Lugansk city, and their recon units have reportedly reached as far as the suburbs of Severodonetsk (which they had evacuated roughly a month ago.) Hence, the remaining positions of the Ukrainian army near Lugansk are looking increasingly hopeless.

In the Donetsk region, and in addition to the main battles in and south of Ilovaisk, yesterday the rebels reported that they had advanced south directly along the Russian border and reached the outskirts of Novoazovsk on the Sea of Azov.

If this is true, it shows that the Ukrainians had essentially no forces south or southwest of Amvrosievka with which to block this rapid advance. This would confirm what I told you about the Ukrainian rear being "hollow." That is, the entire Ukrainian army is at the front or close to it, and there are essentially no strategic reserves or combat-capable units in the rear echelons.

In general, the Ukrainians will have to organize new defensive lines, but the further the rebels advance, the longer the stretch those lines would have to cover, and the easier it will be for the rebels to maneuver around the strong points, provided that they have sufficient forces.
Germany's Vice-Chancellor Backs 'Federalization' in Ukraine

Meanwhile, the story out of Germany is rather interesting where Germany's Vice-Chancellor and economy minister Sigmar Gabriel came out in support of 'Federalization' in Ukraine.

Chancellor Merkel immediately claimed Gabriel did not mean what he said.
Germany's vice chancellor has spoken out for a "federalization" of Ukraine once fighting between Ukrainian and Russian separatist forces in the eastern part of the country has ended.

"The territorial integrity of Ukraine can only be maintained if an offer is made to the areas with a Russian majority," Gabriel was quoted as saying.

"A clever concept of federalization seem to be the only practicable way," he said, adding that a ceasefire was the first step and that still appeared to be a long way away.

His comments raised eyebrows because of his use of the word federalization, which is a sensitive term in Ukraine.

During a news conference with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Merkel said what Germans understood by federalism was seen very differently in Ukraine where it was linked to a greater degree of independence "that we don't want at all".

Pro-Russian media have in the past called pro-Moscow separatists supporters of federalization.

"What we call federalism is decentralisation," said Merkel, when asked about Gabriel's remarks. She said she supported Poroshenko's plans to give more responsibility to local authorities as part of a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
Choose Federalism to Keep Ukraine Together

Flashback May 15, 2014: The Globe and Mail says Choose Federalism to Keep Ukraine Together
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany is right to be nudging Ukraine toward a federal structure. That is the best hope for bringing restive provinces such as Donetsk and Luhansk back into the fold of democratic politics, and the best way of accommodating those who may feel themselves somehow both Ukrainian and Russian, or somewhere in between. It’s the best hope for removing disputes from the hands of masked men with guns, and back into the realm of politics.

Already in March, Ms. Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, spoke of “federalizing solutions.” Accomplishing this, he said, would be a major part of “the political redirection of Ukraine.”

The country would be much better off if, instead of appointed governors, it had the equivalent of Canadian provincial premiers and legislatures, with all their imperfections. It would be best if those opposing the new government in Kiev were encouraged to take the argument off the streets and into elected bodies. Those favouring greater regional autonomy, and even closer ties with Russia, might win some local elections. That would be far better than their winning gun battles.

Would Russia favour a federal Ukraine? Yes. Would some of the splittists in Eastern Ukraine support it? Surely. That is no reason for Kiev to be opposed. Federalism does not mean debilitating decentralization. It means the possibility of stopping violence and restarting politics. And it’s the most plausible way of keeping Ukraine intact.
The US does not want "federalism" for Ukraine, it prefers scorched earth. Unfortunately, scorched earth is precisely what we have.

Independence Rally in Donetsk

Question of the day: Do those look like terrorists?

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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