Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Get Ready For The Big One

With the May 25 presidential elections in Ukraine now only days away, there is growing evidence that the Ukrainian government may be ready for a decisive final battle to eliminate the armed separatist rebellion in the Donbas once and for all.

The government’s anti-terrorist operation appears to have been taking a heavy toll on the rebels and their foreign mercenaries as of late, both in terms of casualties and in morale. In the past week perhaps more than one hundred rebels have been killed, with Ukrainian forces’ losses at about 25 – the Ukrainian defense ministry yesterday said that between 50 and 100 bodies of rebels killed in recent fighting are piled up in the morgues of Sloviansk, and that the rebels planned to move them out of the country by establishing a corridor through the Ukrainian border that would also allow reinforcements to gain entry to Ukraine.

Possible evidence of the rebels’ attempt to put such a plan into effect came last night, when there was fierce fighting between a group of rebels and Ukrainian border troops at Stanichna Luhanska on Ukraine’s border with Russia in Luhansk region. The border troops repelled the attack.

Then there are the recent pronouncements by the rebels, notably one by the bearded Russian mercenary “Babai,” who appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin for aid, and a corridor to be set up to resupply the rebels, and Russian insurgent commander Igor Girkin, who complained of a lack of support from the local population. These could well be signs of a collapse in morale among the terrorists; there have also been numerous reports of infighting between rebel groups.

On top of that, reports and videos have emerged in recent days demonstrating that the people of the east of Ukraine have tired of supporting their armed Russian guests - not that they ever even fully supported them at all.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov also yesterday gave the green light to the commanders of the government’s anti-terrorist operation to move into the final phases of the plan. That would imply an attack soon on the rebels’ last strongholds in Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. Once those nests of armed rebellion are cleared out, there is nowhere else for the mercenaries to go but back to Russia – if they survive the fight.

Such an operation would be perilous and would definitely involve loss of life on both sides, and probably casualties among the civilian populations of these occupied towns, but the government may feel it now has a decisive edge over the rebels, and that a final battle would allow it to secure control over the restive eastern regions in time for polling day on Sunday.

If so, we can expect a strong attack on Sloviansk in the coming days. Get ready for the big one.

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