Russian material and air support provided to the separatists has lead the separatist-forces to take over the key Artemyvsk – Debaltsevo road. Cutting through that road may lead to a situation, in which the Debaltsevo-stationed Ukrainian forces would find themselves surrounded by the enemy. Meanwhile, the government forces have started their offensive operation in the south, within the Mariupol area.
It was on Monday, 9th February, when the separatists have taken over the strategic points along the Artemyvsk – Debaltsevo route, and started to create pressure on the government forces from both directions. Even though the city has not been completely isolated yet, breaking the communication route which has been so far used to support the forces stationed inside, means that the Ukrainian soldiers have been de facto cut off. Had it not been for the Russian support, this would not be possible.
Lately, numerous Russian tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, self-propelled artillery and trucks with soldiers have been sent towards the positions of the Ukrainian infantry. Strela-10 (NATO codename: SA-13 Gopher) anti-aircraft systems have been deployed in the area placed to the west of the city, and the Russian Air Force has attacked the government forces stationed north-east from Debaltsevo.
Even though the information above has been denied by the spokesperson of the Ukrainian counter-terrorism operation, the units that are stationed in Novogrigoryewka have informed, e.g. via the social media, about the Russian Su-25 Frogfoots repeatedly striking their positions. It is obvious that the Russian side may claim that the aircraft belong to the separatists air force, one should consider the fact though, that so far this formation had only 2 Su-25 fighter-bombers at their disposal. In the meanwhile the Ukrainian soldiers are stating that two to four aircraft attacked their positions simultaneously. At least three strikes on the positions held by the 40th Battalion and “Azov” battalion of the government forces have been conducted on Monday.
On Tuesday heavy rockets have been used to perform a strike on Kramatorsk, city which is located far behind the front-line. This city is not a place where relevant military facilities are placed, nor significant Ukrainian forces have been stationed there at the time. The city centre has been a target for a strike, which has been conducted with the use of numerous rockets and sub-munitions.
On the same day, the government forces have started the offensive operation east of Mariupol, in the southern section of the front-line. The attack is being realized in the direction of Novoazovsk. “Azov” regiment has reported taking over the Shyrokiey town, while towns of Sakhanka and Kominternove are being a battlefield within the fight against the separatists is taking place. These towns are placed within the areas which so far have been controlled by the separatists, however, the situation is inclined to be changed soon.
Taganrok town near the Sea of Azov has been a place where tanks and infantry fighting vehicles have been spotted heading West towards the border between Ukraine and Russia. That may mean that the Russians have started a counter-offensive operation, which would be headed towards Mariupol. Press office of the Ukrainian Counter-Terrorist Operation also reported the fact that 1500 Russian soldiers and several hundred of vehicles have crossed the border in the Izvarine region, in the Luhansk Oblast.