Kiev has gone to the length of a full-scale renewal of the military action in Donbass under an instruction of the gone US administration in order to make Donald Trump and his team maintain the previous policy towards Ukraine, former defense minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic Igor Strelkov has told EADaily’s correspondent. He also shared his forecasts on where the Ukrainian Armed Forces will take the decisive offensive and what will be the developments in the battlefield.
Could you compare the current deterioration of the situation with any period of the Donbass war? Can we state that it has the same intensity as at the first stages of the war?
The intensity of yesterday’s military actions can be compared with the battles near Debaltsevo in early 2015, but the difference is that this time it was the Ukrainian Armed Forces instead of the Novorossiya’s forces. The attacks were carried out in at least six areas, but all of them were like fighting reconnaissance, be it a serious one. These are three key areas.
In general, within the whole frontline from Stakhanovo to Mariupol fierce clashes are taking place. It is an artillery war in full scale. The matter does not concern any reduction in shelling activities supposed by Minsk agreements.
What did cause the deterioration of tension and how can it end?
Up to now my assumption is that the Ukrainian armed forces under an instruction from Kiev and on agreement with the group opposing Trump are trying to make Russian troops greatly involved in the military action to have an opportunity of accusing Russia in a large-scale aggression again.
In case if we see no “northern wind” from Russia, they are ready to wage a truly full-scale offensive aimed at destroying units and divisions of the people’s militia. They intend to win under any developments getting tactical benefits.
Are losses large among the self-defenders in these days?
As far as I know, the losses from both sides are dozens of killed and two or three times more of those wounded. It is only within last two days.
Do you think the Ukrainian Armed Forces may take an offensive after the fighting reconnaissance?
Starting from the New Year’s Eve, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have carried out a discreet mobilization, mostly of those who previously participated in the anti-terrorist operation, they pulled military hardware to the frontline. As early as a week and a half ago, I was getting data that they were pulling a lot of military hardware, bringing back many brigades that were previously pulled out. The Ukrainian army was secretly preparing for the attack.
Where the Ukrainian Armed Forces will most probably take the attack?
They are already ready to launch the attack, but they still are expecting a response from Russia. The offensive may start at any moment in the same areas. Probably, in others too. For instance, near Stakhanovo, Debaltsevo. It is suspiciously silent in the north, in the Lugansk People’s Republic. I would expect the decisive attack from there.
It is classics of the warcraft to draw away all the forces and reserves in one direction and then strike in a different one. However, I cannot say for sure how the Ukrainians will act.
It would be logical in terms of military to strike via the Seversky Donets river from current footholds into the rear of the whole group of forces between Pervomaysk, Stakhanovo and Lugansk. But these are theoretical assumptions only.
What response shall we expect from the Trump administration?
The administration is very inhomogeneous. The key posts are taken by those who do not like Russia. They are Republican hawks and they mostly influence Trump’s attitudes in the foreign policy.
I have repeatedly stated that there is no grounds for hoping that the US-Russian relations would become better after Trump has come. In the best-case scenario, we shall remain where we are. Ukraine, Poroshenko are acting under instructions of the previous administration in order to make Russia take military action and force Trump stick to the same policy.
It is worth mentioning that under information of the DPR operative commandment, within last day the Ukrainian Armed Forces violated the ceasefire more than 3,000 times. They used multiple launch rocket systems, mortars, land battleships, and other munitions. There are victims and wounded persons reported among civilians. According to Donetsk News Agency, residents of Yasinovataya were left without water supply after a filter plant near Donetsk was gunned. Earlier, two reporters were hurt in the skirmishes. As the DPR leader Alexander Zakharchenko said, the Ukrainian Armed Forces started their attack under a direct instruction of Petro Poroshenko.
Interviewed by Kristina Melnikova