Russia and Ukraine were heading Sunday, April 27, for their first battle over the rebel-held flashpoint town of Slavyansk, debkafile’s military and US sources report. The outcome will determine who controls the Donetsk region and possibly all of East of Ukraine – the separatists or the provisional government in Kiev.
With a superior, professional and well-trained force armed with a preponderance of fire power, the Kremlin has several options to choose from for this engagement:
1. To order the 11,000 troops, based at Rostov on Don 40 kilometers from the Ukrainian border, to cross over and head for Slavyansk and Donetsk.
2. To send a tank column against the 15,000 Ukrainian troops deployed over the weekend around Slavyansk. According to Russian sources, the force from Kiev is armed with 160 tanks, 230 armored personnel carriers and 150 pieces of artillery and missiles.
4. Moscow, Kiev and their backers may understand how such a war began, but once it is under way, no one can tell how it will end.
6. The Kremlin must decide whether to go for an overall invasion of Ukraine. debkafile’s military sources report that the force poised on the border is smaller than the 40,000 estimated by Kiev. It consists of 15,000 armored corps soldiers with T-72B tanks and one division each of infantry and paratroops.
A Russian invasion would bring about the partition of Ukraine between the Russian-controlled East + Crimea and the sector ruled by the pro-Western administration of Kiev.
The Ukrainian army’s capacity to beat the Russian invaders, or even stop them in their tracks, is close to nil. Its threat to blockade the more than a dozen towns where separatists are entrenched in official buildings is unconvincing.
Indeed, the Kiev government faces five fairly dismal prospects once a militlary collision begins:
a) A full-blown military clash will test the limits of US and European readiness to come to its aid against Russian forces. The US and NATO are more likely to pitch in with condemnations and sanctions than by sending troops to the rescue. The Ukrainian government would find itself exposed as incapable of defending itself and bereft of effective international protectors.
b) The Ukraine government has not been able to summon up international financial or economic assistance.
c) The 15,000 troops concentrated at Slavyansk have more or less scraped the bottom of the barrel of Ukraine’s operational military assets. The 150,000-strong army is sizeable enough but it is not ready for war, and the loyalty of most units and their officers to the Kiev regime is questionable.
But America’s allies have made it clear that a broad international coalition for a strong stand against Russia will not be forthcoming. President Obama is left with the option of striking almost alone, or climbing down from his threats.
Full article: Russian and Ukrainian armies shaping up for initial military clash over Slavyansk (DEBKAfile)