Donetsk, Ukraine Civil War

DPR Forces Withdraw Along Contact Line: Shirokino Blunder Revisited? (Updated)

Unilateral Retreat of DPR Militia Defies Logic

by Karl Pomeroy
Quemado Institute
July 19, 2015
Edited July 20 & August 13, 2015

[For important July 20 update, see articles following commentary.
August 13 update is found at end of post.]

Is this Shirokino all over again?

The Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) militia is beginning its withdrawal of military equipment supporting guns of caliber less than 100 mm to 3 kilometers from the contact line, according to the Donetsk News Agency (DAN), DPR’s official news site. It is significant that weapons of this caliber are not covered by the Minsk ceasefire agreements. The DPR is therefore not obligated to make such a withdrawal. And of course, the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) have certainly not withdrawn their weapons of equal caliber. In fact, TASS reported yesterday that some 70,000 UAF troops have just advanced to the line of confrontation.

How does the DPR rationalize such an ill-timed retreat? As reported by DAN, it is a unilateral measure executed “in the interest of a speedy peace.”

Peace? Really? Will this weak-kneed appeasement gesture actually bring Kiev to its senses? Of course not. The Ukrainian Armed Forces and rogue volunteer battalions will happily step into the vacuum, taking advantage of this misguided gambit to escalate the shelling of civilians. Good will seldom works against this kind of enemy. It didn’t work for Saddam Hussein against the United States.



During the first week of July, the DPR militia withdrew unilaterally from the Azov Sea resort of Shirokino. The residents of Shirokino had at least been evacuated. The DPR then promised that if Ukraine also withdrew, this retreat operation would be duplicated along the entire contact line. Now it seems the DPR is carrying through on its promise.

I had optimistically forecast in my previous commentaryShirokino Retreat: Gambit, Blunder or Outright Betrayal?” that the refusal of Ukraine’s Azov Battalion to withdraw from the seaside village would put an end to this suicidal scheme. Apparently not.

At least  DPR Ministry of Defence spokesman Eduard Basurin assures us: “If the Ukrainian side tries to break through the line of engagement or continues shelling of civilian population or DPR militias, the weapons will be pulled back to their positions, but only after a relevant order from the commander-in-chief”. Somehow this doesn’t console me.

When the JCCC became operational on 26 September 2014*, the first Russian representative was Lieutenant-General (2 star) Aleksandr Ivanovich Lentsov. (

When the JCCC became operational on 26 September 2014*, the first Russian representative was Lieutenant-General (2 star) Aleksandr Ivanovich Lentsov. (–

I suspect the Kremlin is behind this scheme. We know, of course, that Moscow is not a party to the Ukraine war. Yet high-ranking Russian military brass, operating under the auspices of the Joint Center for Coordination and Control (JCCC) in conjunction with the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, are serving as “advisors” along the front line. It was the JCCC, apparently, who negotiated the one-sided Shirokino deal — or so I speculated in my earlier commentary.

Vladimir Putin (

Vladimir Putin (–

Why would Vladimir Putin concoct such a scheme? The Russian President has harbored one consistent goal since the US-aided coup that destabilized Ukraine in February 2014: Ukrainian territorial integrity. And Minsk is the only feasible mechanism for achieving this ill-conceived goal. Of course, Minsk has become a fiasco. And its failure may be a measure of Putin’s desperation.

Why value Minsk? Universal amnesty is one reason. Time is another. And Time is on the Side of Novorossiya.

Is there still reason to hope? Certainly. The innate resilience of its leadership, military and citizenry will compel Novorossiya to ride out the storm. Poroshenko’s Ukraine will ultimately capsize, while the Donetsk People’s Republic continues to sail.

Update at 23:00 UTC: Kiev has not yet responded to a letter from the DPR authorities requesting Ukraine’s participation in the withdrawal of armored vehicles. “If Kiev is really interested in a peaceful resolution of the conflict, we are waiting for a similar response under the supervision of the OSCE Mission and the representatives of the Joint Center for Coordination and Control of the Ceasefire to stabilize the sides of the demarcation line,” summed up the representative of the Ministry of Defense [Eduard Basurin]. “I believe that only strict implementation of the Minsk agreement and proposed measures will allow us to avoid further needless civilian casualties.”

See also Sputnik report: Lugansk Republic Completes Withdrawal of Less Than 100mm Weapons in Donbass (July 19).


Monday, July 20, 2015 Update:
Betrayal? Or clever trap for Ukraine?

As the Donetsk People’s Republic militia continues, at a number of sites, to unilaterally withdraw weapons of up to 100 caliber to a distance of 3 km from the contact line, the Ukrainian Armed Forces, who of course have not agreed to these terms, also continue, unsurprisingly, to amass troops near the boundary while shelling Donbass neighborhoods. The DPR/LPR unilateral retreat appears so foolish and self-defeating, I do not believe the alleged rationale stated by DPR officials Eduard Basurin and Denis Pushilin. The resounding silence of Prime Minister Alexander Zakharchenko also arouses my suspicion. [Later note: I may be wrong; at least one other analyst takes a much more optimistic viewpoint; see Saker article at end of post.]

I am convinced, at this point, that the withdrawal operation is motivated by external political forces, likely originating from the Berlin-Moscow Axis. The political futures of Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin hang on the success of the Minsk agreements, or so they seem to believe, and due to the tenuous state of that agreement, they have managed to exert sufficient pressure on the DPR/LPR leadership, possibly via Russian operatives at the  JCCC and European agents in the OSCE, to compel their acquiesence to this obviously suicidal policy, Again, I expect the DPR/LPR will overcome these obstacles, but not until Russia and Europe keep their hands off. As I have frequently said. Novorossiya is fighting the whole world, even Russia.

Why would Merkel and Putin pressure Novorossiya rather than Ukraine? Because the Kiev regime is far more belligerent than the leadership of the Donbass Republics.

I urge Berlin and Moscow to place pressure on Kiev instead, by applying economic sanctions and refusing further US/EU/NATO military training. But asking Berlin and Moscow to take a sensible course of action is almost as futile as requesting the US government, CIA, NATO, and the European Commission behave with civility and compassion.

The withdrawal operation is outlined in the following article, (also presented on our News from Novorossiya page)  which has been condensed from five of today’s Donetsk News Agency reports:

NAF Withdraws Weapons from Contact Line While UAF Continues to Advance / Donetsk News Agency / Edited autotranslation [condensed from five articles] / July 20, 2015 / UAF opened fire on militia positions in Zautseva at the time of removal of armored vehicles. Fire was opened on the positions near the village of Zaitseva in northwest Gorlovka (Nikitovsky district) that have just been [vacated]. According to the DPR Defense Ministry spokesman, “the attacks are done by snipers and automatic grenade launchers.” The interlocutor of the agency said that the position of the UAF is two kilometers from the place of removal of armored vehicles. Earlier, on July 18, Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republic announced the beginning of withdrawal from the line of contact of tanks and armored vehicles equipped with cannons of caliber 100 mm to a distance of at least 3 km. DPR equipment is left only at the positions to the north of Donetsk and Debaltsevo, in the most stressed parts of the contact line. The respective equipment was discussed for a long time in Minsk, but [the DPR/LPR] failed to work out an agreement with Kiev, so the DPR and LPR decided to act unilaterally in favor of a speedy peace. / The militia removed five tanks and 77 infantry fighting vehicles today from line of contact – Basurin. Five tanks and 77 BMP of the militia of the Donetsk People’s Republic were withdrawn today from the line of contact. This was stated by the Deputy Commander of the DPR Ministry of Defense Corps Eduard Basurin. “Today, five tanks and 77 infantry fighting vehicles were taken to 3 km from the line of contact,” he said. He noted that this procedure is assigned to different areas along the line of contact. The day before, as stated by Basurin at the DAN briefing, 41 tanks and 84 infantry fighting vehicles [were pulled back] from the contact line. / The DPR militia began to divert armored vehicles from the village of Styla in the Starobeshevskiy area, it is reported by a DAN correspondent from the scene. Four BMP were discharged to the replacement position in the rear, in the presence of observers from the Joint Center for Monitoring and Coordination [JCCC] of the ceasefire. / The militia of the Donetsk People’s Republic took from the line of contact more than half of tanks and armored vehicles, the Deputy commander of the DPR Corps of the Ministry of Defense Edward Basurin said today. “We have already allocated more than 50 percent of arms. However, this is a long process, there are points on which we do not avert, will look at the situation.” The representative of the Ministry of Defense said that lists of numbers assigned to the equipment will be transferred to the OSCE observation mission. / Ukrainian security forces are building up forces in Donbass, while the DPR militia continues to unilateral withdrawal of weapons of caliber of less than 100 mm from the contact line, the Deputy Corps Commander of the DPR Defense Ministry Eduard Basurin told jouralists today. “Our steps to restore peace in Donbass did not get support from the Kiev authorities. We continue to unilaterally withdraw weapons of caliber up to 100 mm, while the UAF units, in violation of the Minsk Agreement continue to move heavy weapons and artillery to the line of contact.” Basurin added that “while security forces continue shelling settlements in the Donetsk People’s Republic and positions of our troops using guns and mortars of a caliber of 100 millimeters.”

Update 20:45 UTC: Russia Insider features well-known political analyst “The Saker”, who has taken a startlingly optimistic view of the DPR/LPR weapons withdrawal. Indeed, the “peace retreat” is depicted as the ultimate trap for Poroshenko and the Ukrainian Army. Saker makes the news sound so good, it puts Novorossiya back in action and taking the drivers seat. I hope his favorable prognosis is more correct than my own gloomy outlook:

If Poroshenko Attacks His Days Are Numbered
by The Saker

Russia Insider
July 20, 2015

Damned if he does, damned if he doesn't

Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t

East Ukraine rebels are going out of their way to show their interest in peace even as they have never been militarily stronger. This is done so that when the inevitable Ukraine attack demanded by nationalists and the US comes it will be impossible to blame the rebels. After that the rebels stand a good chance of neutralizing Ukraine attack and moving on the counter-offensive. At which point it is unlikely Poroshenko will be able to maintain power. Top Novorussian officials from the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (Zakharchenko, Deinego and Pushilin) have held a joint press conference and officially announced that they had taken the unilateral decision to withdraw at least 3km from the front line all their weapons up to a 100mm caliber (weapons of a heavier caliber were supposed to have already been withdrawn according to the Minsk-2 Agreement (M2A); the Novorussians complied, the junta in Kiev did not). Before that, the Novorussians had already done a similar unilateral action by withdrawing all their forces by over 1km from the town of Shirokino. Predictably, the the government side did not follow suit and stayed on their positions (but did not dare enter Shirokino either, at least as far as I know). This time around, the Ukraine sdie greeted the new “gesture of goodwill” of the Novorussians with an unprecedented barrage of artillery fire on the city of Donestsk which, again, was shelled all night long. So what is going on here? Have the Novorussians suddenly gone crazy? Far from it. In fact, they have set a very elegant trap for Poroshenko and his western backers. Here is how it works. . . . MORE.

August 13, 2015 Update

In the above article I said, “Will this weak-kneed appeasement gesture [withdrawal of weapons from the contact line] actually bring Kiev to its senses? Of course not. The Ukrainian Armed Forces and rogue volunteer battalions will happily step into the vacuum, taking advantage of this misguided gambit to escalate the shelling of civilians.”

Indeed, this is exactly what has happened. Not only did Kiev refuse to agree to a commensurate withdrawal, but the Ukrainian Armed Forces have begun massive shelling along the entire contact line on August 12 and 13, just as predicted.

It was the Shirokino withdrawal that coincided with Zakharchenko’s gradual retreat from public discourse. (See our commentary What is the DPR Without Alexander Zakharchenko?) Just a coincidence? Are other factors responsible? Or was his retreat due to the actions of the Russian elite, who have financial connections with Kiev regime leader Petro Poroshenko, and want to prevent a Novorossiya victory. (click link above and scroll to end of commentary for Fort Russ article on Russian elite connections.)


Donetsk Militias Complete Lighter Arms Withdrawal

Donetsk Surprised at OSCE’s Unwillingness to Confirm Withdrawal

Alexander Hug ignores withdrawal

OSCE Monitor Alexander Hug ignores arms withdrawal

Kiev to Donbass: Minsk Always Meant Your Unconditional Capitulation

Vladimir Putin, Sergey Lavrov, Minsk 2015 (

Vladimir Putin, Sergey Lavrov, Minsk 2015 (–




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