Ukrainian Army's Failed Offensive Near Debaltseve Leaves At Least 5 UAF KIA, 26 WIA as Donbass Forces Counterattack

Some have suggested that the motive for the latest Ukrainian attacks is to distract the population of the country from ongoing power struggles in Kiev -- the largest bank in the country by deposits, Privatbank, formerly owned by oligarch turned warlord Ihor Kholomoisky, has been nationalized. President Petro Poroshenko has justified this as a move to protect depositors backed by Ukraine's International Monetary Fund creditors. In fairness to Poroshenko, it does appear that the bank has been thoroughly looted by Kholomoisky and his cronies, while non-performing loans thanks to Ukraine's steadily imploding economy (notwithstanding the sunny numbers from the IMF and Finance Ministry) have left a five and a half billion dollar hole in PrivatBank's balance sheet, in a country where one Ukrainian hyrvnia currently exchanges for about $0.03:

Risky lending practices had left a capital shortfall of around $5.65 billion on PrivatBank’s balance sheet as of Dec 1, while some 97 percent of its corporate loans had gone to companies linked to its shareholders, it said in a statement.

PrivatBank is the jewel in the crown of the business empire of Ihor Kolomoisky, a powerful tycoon who was locked in a protracted tussle with Poroshenko last year.

Rescuing it — which the finance minister said would require a minimum of $4.5 billion from the budget — could help unlock more aid from the International Monetary Fund next year but could also threaten more instability.

Opposition parties have repeatedly called for snap elections to unseat the pro-Western leadership that took power after the 2014 Maidan protests.

They have harnessed the anger of depositors of banks previously shut down in a sweeping clean-up of the financial system, demanding the central bank chief’s resignation.

Poroshenko urged the bank’s more than 20 million clients to “stay calm” and said that he had submitted a draft amendment to parliament aimed at giving additional protection to depositors.

— http://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/18/ukraine-to-nationalize-its-biggest-lender-privatbank.html

What better way to distract Ukrainian television viewers from their understandable anger over PrivatBank enhancing the already severe capital controls on withdrawing their money, then by ordering up more fighting along the mostly static trenches of the quasi-frozen Donbass war?

Since yesterday evening, reports have been incoming from the frontline in Lugansk that the Ukrainians have violated the Minsk Agreements for the nth time, this time shelling militia positions with artillery and attempting an offensive on the Uglegorsk and Debaltsevo fronts in the Lugansk People’s Republic.

The attack has been halted, but firefights are ongoing. The attack was presumably being led by neo-Nazi volunteer battalions.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces shelled the residential area of Kalinovka near Debaltsevo 150 times with artillery prohibited by the Minsk Agreements before attempting to break through the defense positions of the Lugansk People’s Militia.

The head of the directorate of the LPR’s People’s Militia, Oleg Anashchenko, has reported from the scene of the battle: “UAF attempts to break through the defenses of the LPR in the Kalinovka and Logvinovo districts have ended in failure. Over the course of the poorly planned attempt at breaking through in the direction of Kalinovka, the enemy has suffered heavy losses and returned to its original positions to regroup forces, replenish its losses, and prepare for active combat operations. All attempts to penetrate our defenses have ended in complete failure for Kiev’s punitive forces.”

According to Ukrainian sources, five Ukrainian troops were killed and 26 were wounded. Reports have since come in that more than 35 have been wounded, most being evacuated to the military hospital while others could not be withdrawn from the battlefield due to intense artillery fire. Ukrainian volunteer Yurii Mysyagin from Dnepropetrovsk has suggested that the number of dead has risen to six. The official “Anti-Terrorist Operation” headquarters has released significantly lower figures, counting only five dead and six wounded.

— http://www.fort-russ.com/2016/12/sudden-ukrainian-offensive-in-lugansk.html

The other motivation for issuing orders to the UAF to attack along the Debaltsevo (and related Gorlovka) fronts besides the ongoing Ukrainian banking crisis is certainly political infighting in Kiev. Nadezhda Savchenko, the female pilot previously hailed as a war hero for fighting as an artillery/mortar spotter with volunteer battalions, has now been branded a traitor. How exactly Ukraine went from celebrating the glorious 'peremoga' (victory) of her release from Russian captivity and the commutation of her sentence in the mortar killing of two Russian journalists to shouts of 'zrada' (treason) is an interesting story. Ukraine seems to be a place where shouts of triumph quickly turn to cries of treason or betrayal with a blur of backstabbing and lies in between. If you doubt this or think the Russia Analyst is merely Ukraine-bashing rather than observing the tragic history of this oft-coveted by great powers but selfdom well governed territory, check out this amazing article from Russia Insider, describing the deep post-Maidan 'revolution of dignity' disillusionment in the western Ukrainian nationalists' capital of Lvov :

In 2011, the ‘criminal pro-Russian regime’ of Victor Yanukovich had the wildly popular former PM, Julia Timoshenko, jailed for signing a deal with Gazprom on terms supposedly favorable to Russia.

“Julia! Julia!”, chanted the crowds at the Maidan who cheered her triumphant return after Yanukovich’s violent overthrow in February 2014 for refusing to sign an association agreement with the EU.
Several days ago, Timoshenko travelled to the Ukraine’s westernmost and most pro-European region of Lvov and came back concluding that Yanukovich was not so bad after all.

Addressing her fellow Verkhovna Rada deputies Timoshenko, the leader of the Fatherland Party, said that people there call the present Kiev policy “systematic genocide”:

“We had a walk around the city, talking to people. I’ve never seen so many tears, curses, such hopelessness as these people are demonstrating, after consistently fighting for Ukraine’s independence and a pro-European choice. They would say that if the democrats in power cannot rule the country, they should resign and bring back the “criminal power” that improved people’s lives”.

“If that’s the feeling there, you can imagine what people in the rest of the Ukraine think”, she concluded.

— http://russia-insider.com/en/politics/julia-timoshenko-victor-yanukovich-come-back-my-tormentor/ri16589

The Russia Analyst does not claim to know all the particulars of Ms. Savchenko's apparent road to Damascus conversion from the party of war to the party of peace -- perhaps she had a genuine Orthodox Christian awakening while in Russian jail awaiting and during her widely publicized trial. Nonetheless, (post)western media have been far more reluctant to report Savchenko the Rada deputy advocating for peace with Donetsk and Lugansk's 'separatists' than they were to promote Nadiya the great Ukrainian Joan of Arc warrior-martyr. Ft. Russ has more details:

On December 16th, Verkhovna Rada deputy Nadezhda Savchenko gave an interview to the Ukrainian TV channel Espresso TV, in which she stated that the leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics are not terrorists. According to her, “There, some are separatists and some are collaborationists. And there is part made up of the occupied population.”

Savchenko also added that Ukrainian authorities need to decide whether they are dealing with an anti-terrorist operation or a war in Donbass, and then it will be easier to define the leaders of the DPR and LPR. What’s more, she confirmed that she held a trilateral meeting with the leaders of the republics and representatives from Russia in Minsk. Commenting live on Hromadsky TV, Savchenko also announced that an agreement on exchanging prisoners had been achieved as a result of meeting with Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky. In her words: “We agreed on just how many people can be exchanged. According to the lists, this means 226 from the Ukrainian side and 52 people from the separatists.”

Such statements by Nadezhda Savchenko and her meeting with the leaders of the DPR and LPR have provoked a storm of outrage in Kiev. Representatives of the Fatherland Party led by Yulia Tymoshenko have claimed that Savchenko did not coordinate her actions with anyone, adding that they reject any negotiations with the leaders of the unrecognized republics. Subsequently, the Fatherland Party expelled Savchenko from the ranks of the faction.

Poroshenko has also expressed his regret that Verkhovna Rada deputy Savchenko met with the leaders of the DPR and LPR. What’s more, he placed the blame for her actions on the political force for which she ran for parliament, i.e., Fatherland and its leader, Tymoshenko.

In so doing, Poroshenko is attempting to turn minuses into pluses. He is compensating for the lack of military victories on the Donbass front with minor tactical successes in the struggle against his political opponents. If it ends up being confirmed that Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has resigned and fled, then Tymoshenko will be left as Poroshenko’s main opponent in Ukraine.

The rumors have been confirmed that Tymoshenko has been at negotiations in Washington, at which she has actively proposed herself for the role of a new, more effective manager (president) of Ukraine. Poroshenko is turning into a lame duck. The Obama Administration’s departure could mean the political death of the administration’s Ukrainian protege, President Poroshenko.

— http://www.fort-russ.com/2016/12/savchenko-vs-tymoshenko-maidan.html

Former Verkovna Rada deputy turned Novorossiya/Donbass unofficial spokesman Oleg Anatolyevich Tsaryov, who was the first Ukrainian politician to label the pending Maidan putsch a CIA/State Department fueled coup d'etat, has been saying for many days that Washington may dump Poroshenko before lame duck President Barack Hussein Obama leaves office. And the presumptive replacement for Porky is -- who else? -- the former jailed 'gas princess' queen of Ukrainian corruption, Fatherland party leader Yuliya Timoshenko.

The State Department and McCainiacs in Congress as well as the National Endowment for Democracy/International Republican Institute and Soros-niks apparently can't find anyone but the aging retread of 2004's original failed Maidan Orange Revolution to put forward. But it appears after over two years of fratricidal war, massive currency devaluation and oligarch clan infighting in the parliament, Timoshenko is more like the Hillary Clinton of Ukraine than a fresh face. Since Washington's dirty deep state needs a backup plan to salvage some of their investment in turning Ukraine into a frontline garrison state for Cold War 2.0, Savchenko may be emerging as a dark horse candidate to challenge even mighty Yuliya herself in Ukraine's Game of Thrones. But to do that, she will have to face not only the wrath of the ultra-nationalists and Ukro-Nazis who view her as a traitor who went soft while in Russian captivity, but also professional EU(SSR) funded propagandists like Jakub Kalensky or Kateryna Kruyk. Both of whom love this war but you'll never see anywhere near the frontlines of the Donbass:

Unfortunately for the men of Ukraine's 54th Mechanized Brigade and the Right Sector fighters attacking across muddy, below freezing fields alongside them, they're the unlucky bastards designated to bleed in the latest Paths of Glory-style attack ordered by the idiots, oligarchs and corrupt politicians ruling Kiev.