More details show the alleged “orderly retreat” of Debaltsevsky by Ukrainian forces was anything but orderly. Now that the city has fallen, Germany and France have again renewed efforts at a ceasefire.

Yahoo!News reports Debaltseve Under Rebel Control, Cossack Fighters Celebrate. My inline comments are in braces.

Rebel fighters, many of them Cossacks roamed the streets of Debaltseve on Thursday, a day after Ukrainian forces began withdrawing from the besieged town. The mood was celebratory, with fighters laughing, hugging each other and posing for photos.

[See Wikipedia for a description of the term Cossacks]

Associated Press journalists drove Thursday around about half of the key rail hub that has been the focus of weeks of fighting in eastern Ukraine between Russia-backed separatists and government troops. They found all its neighborhoods under the control of rebel fighters.

On the road out of town, dozens of Ukrainian military vehicles were retreating to the government-held town of Artemivsk. Many were riddled with bullet holes or had their windshields destroyed. Soldiers in them spoke of enduring weeks of harrowing rebel shelling, barrages designed to annihilate their ranks.

“Starting at night, they would fire at us just to stop us from sleeping,” a Ukrainian soldier named Andrei told the AP, sitting in his truck outside Artemivsk. “They did this all night. Then in the morning, they would attack, wave after wave. They did this constantly for three weeks.”

[All the while Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said his troops were not surrounded. That charade continued even through the Minsk II ceasefire agreement. In fact, refusal to admit the loss of Debaltsevsky, coupled with Kiev reneging on both amnesty promises and on promised constitutional reforms is why the ceasefire had no chance from the beginning.]

As rebels waved separatist flags in Debaltseve, Nikolai Kozitsyn, a Russian Cossack leader and prominent warlord in separatist eastern Ukraine, drove around in a Humvee-like vehicle captured from Ukrainian troops.

Two rebel fighters inspected a tank left behind by Ukrainians, what they called a “gift” from the government troops.

Capturing the town is a significant military victory for the rebels because it’s a railway junction that straddles the most direct route between Donetsk and Luhansk, the separatists’ two main cities.

France and Germany, which oversaw marathon peace talks between the Ukrainian and Russian leaders last week in Minsk, Belarus, both signaled Thursday that they’re determined to salvage the cease-fire deal and keep the two sides talking.

The German government said the four leaders had agreed “to stick to the Minsk agreements despite the serious breach of the cease-fire in Debaltseve.”

Debaltsevsky Boiler Remains

Note the separatist flags over Debaltseve and Chornukhyne. Also note the tightening noose around the remaining troops.

Here is a simplified map I created.

Colonel Cassad has comments on what remains of the Debaltsevsky Boiler. My translation follows …

The total boiler south Loginov is about 4,500, down from the original group of 8-9 thousand. Man. The group is cracked in half. A key success was a surprise attack on Uglegorsk, after which the events went in our favor after an unsuccessful offensive in Svetlodarsk.

Stubborn resistance by a number of parts of the junta was higher than expected. To escape encirclement, parts of the junta’s forces left behind heavy weapons including tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. Other forces tried to break free as with Ilovaiskaya and crumbled. Once again some idiots decided that the agreement (safe exit in return for the surrender of equipment) does not apply to them.

Up to 500 were captured and approximately the same number seeped through fields and back roads north of the M-103, partly on foot.

Most of the heavy weapons remain in the boiler so there are really a lot of “trophies”. All stories about an organized exit is propaganda bulls**t.

The junta suffered 1200-1500 killed in the battle for Debaltsevsky. Our losses not were not specifically voiced to me, but they were still very significant.

Battle of Ilovaisk

I believe Cassad’s comments on Ilovaiskaya refer to the devastating defeat of Ukraine in the Battle of Ilovaisk in which Ukrainain forces refused an offer to exit encirclement by leaving behind equipment. Instead, everything was destroyed including the encircled Ukrainian army.

As the above map shows, the battles for the cities of Debaltseve and Chornukhyne are over, but Ukrainian forces in the area are encircled. They face certain doom unless they agree to abandon “trophies”.

What’s Next?

A lasting truce is easy. All Ukraine has to do is agree to a federation with Donetsk and Luhansk coupled with universal amnesty and an offer of political independence.

That deal certainly would have prevented a civil war in the first place. Instead we have witnessed the destruction of huge parts of Ukraine with needless lives lost.

Since Poroshenko has proven to be a military dimwit as well as a stubborn fool, I now expect the way forward may eventually involve someone in Kiev getting tired enough of this senseless war to take him out.

Perhaps Poroshenko will finally listen to chancellor Merkel who applied pressure on him to agree to a federation. However, history suggests two things. 1. Fools seldom learn. 2. Fools stay in power longer than most expect.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock