Ukrainian army brigade and regiment officers who participated in the defense of Debaltseve are appealing to the President to dismiss the entire General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
In the letter the officers speak of the supreme incompetence of the General Staff and about the failure of the command force of the General Staff to take charge when action is required.
After two weeks accountability was not found in the Presidential Administration. That’s why the text of the mentioned letter was published at Ukrainian website fakty.ictv.ua for a wide audience [at the moment of current publication access to the original text is denied]. The next day, Ukrainian SBU claimed that the letter is no more than a fake and provocation, organized by Russian FSB. Finally, today Yuriy Butusov [Chief editor in censor.net.ua] reports that’s the letter is real, which is confirmed by at least three Ukrainian officers, who signed it, and that only one officer refused from his signature (reportedly was forced to do it by officials).
Where is the truth? EMPR team does not know. What we know is that truth is singular and its versions are mistruths. That’s why we publish english text of this mysterious letter. And please make your own conclusions.
TO THE SUPREME COMMANDER OF THE ARMED FORCES OF UKRAINE, POROSHENKO P. A.
Respected Petro Oleksievych!
In the interest of the defense of our country we appeal to you with a petition and a clear-cut request that you take immediate steps to replace the entire managing staff of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The circumstances of the battle for Debaltseve have clearly (yet again) shown that the worst enemy of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is our own General Staff with its satellite headquarters – the commanding officers and the ATO sector headquarters firstly. We will provide evidence for our claims by using the battle for Debaltseve as an example.
In the more than six months that a plan for the Debaltseve operation had been in existence the senior officers and the headquarters of sector ‘C’ Anti Terror Operations and the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine demonstrated a complete incompetence in working out the tactics, in managing the operation and in planning military action. Keep in mind that the rotation of personnel at headquarters failed to produce any meaningful improvements. Decisions on where support bases and reserves should be positioned along the line of defense were made exclusively by looking at an old map; no reconnaissance was conducted, no exploration of the locale was done nor was a survey and assessment made of the enemy’s position. Visits to the front lines were made sporadically, only for show. Not once in the course of preparations for the operation did a single representative of the command force or of ATO sector headquarters visit any of the KNP-NP units even though it was precisely from KNP(NP) positions that a visual assessment could be made in regard to the advantages and disadvantages that the Ukrainian troops and the enemy troops were faced with. It was exclusively for visual effect that any ‘work’ was performed by the representatives of the sector headquarters and, of course, the ATO senior officers. Any crisis that arose at the support bases was solved solely by the battalion (brigades) personnel who picked the location for the base and then fortified it following the personal judgment of the battalion (brigade) commander in charge of the forces and the organization. A certain common opinion emerged among the soldiers that the commanding force is ineffective and incapable of resolving anything. For this reason the center where all operative procedures were resolved and all the battle orders for the entire Debaltseve operation were coordinated and synchronized was moved to the headquarters of the 128th brigade. The management of all artillery firing was now concentrated at the headquarters of the artillery brigade. Included was the coordination of the artillery reconnaissance unit of the 25th OMPD. At the same time the artillery brigade headquarters took over the responsibility no one was willing to take on, that of running an artillery sector control center. The management of the senior commanders’ artillery sector was established along ‘horizontal power’ lines of communication.
In the course of battles direct, stable and coordinated action was established among the subdivisions that took part in the Debaltseve operation without even the slightest participation of the commanders or the headquarters of the sector. Thus on February 12th a group of soldiers from the 40 OMPB 17 OTBr headed by a stand-in commander, Lieutenant Shcherboviy I. I., code name ‘Matchmaker’ (who was killed on February 15 during the attempted breakthrough of a convoy that was carrying the wounded), together with a group of soldiers from the 95th brigade destroyed a strike force made up of 15 men and defeated a group of 22 men in the vicinity of the ‘March 8th’ settlement. One of the men was taken captive; the soldiers got the map the strike force was using with the next day’s battle orders written on it.
‘Matchmaker’ transmitted to a special channel the information that was gotten from the map and from the captive. An edited version of the data was used to adjust the artillery strikes at the enemy and deeper into the area where the reserves and headquarters were concentrated. An attack that had been launched on the center of Debaltseve was curbed as a result of the strikes. The assault in that general direction was restarted only after 24 hours after reserve troops were brought in and after the enemy’s shaken strike force was replaced. What was left of the artillery was used by the 128th brigade for fire and repelled the attacks on the support base ‘Alexander’ (eastern Chernukhino). Especially at the start of the storming of Debaltseve the role of headquarters and the commanding officers of the ATO sector fell to zero. No wonder it turned out that on February 15 two support bases 40 OMPB and 17 OTBr were cut off from the main unit and were left without any instructions or ideas of where to go and what to do because the leadership of the sector was completely unengaged. Til the end of the day on February 17 they did not receive any help in the breakthrough operation nor replenishments for their base nor an order to break out. The soldiers decided what to do on their own and laid down their weapons.
During the Debaltseve operation neither the command sector nor the ATO commanders took any measures to replace the dead soldiers or the lost weapons. Thus the 128th brigade’s cannon artillery power was reduced by 70%. As it turned out the four self-propelled artillery vehicles that arrived in accordance with procedure to supplement the loss incurred in battle were freshly painted and had barely been brought out of storage. They broke down in three days. 75% of the mortars the 25th OMPB had were unusable. Because of the decreased artillery power our soldiers had at their disposal the chances that they would be able to hold their battle positions diminished proportionally. In addition to which in the course of an uninterrupted, practically month long siege the enemy increased their strength and power. Their superior performance with their constant artillery shelling contrasted sharply with our inability to fire back and that led to the inevitable and senseless losses in our subdivisions. If all our key positions had been lost the Armed Forces of Ukraine would have suffered a certain defeat in Debaltseve. Which would have meant captivity or death for 2000 soldiers.
In the conditions described above the commanding officers and their headquarters and the ATO headquarters displayed criminal negligence by being passive observers and by pulling in the most battle ready subdivisions for their own protection. In the ‘narrowest’ place between Kalynivka, occupied by the enemy, and ’empty’ Lohvynovo four soldiers of the 54th ORB ‘held the defense’ in a combat reconnaissance vehicle that didn’t work!!! That was what led to our pull out and the consolidation of the enemy on the ‘road of life’ without a battle!
Especially tragic-comic were the attempts the commanding officers made to ‘clean up’ the area around Lohvynovo where the enemy had positioned two BTHs as defense with the support of two tank companies (the sector headquarters had that information) at first with platoons and then with a merged company that was put together utilizing several subdivisions between the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the National Guard, and later the effort widened to include the cooks who cooked for the commanding officers and the communications guys, too, to break through the encirclement!!! On the fifth day after losing control of the supply route it became clear to all the commanding officers that such orders will land the entire Debaltseve outpost, already a surrounded unit, in captivity or death.
Such were the circumstances that had forced the more enterprising officers to come to a critical decision whether to go ahead with the withdrawal of troops out of the encirclement no matter what the ‘authorities at headquarters’ had determined. A plan was worked out to prepare the artillery and the retreat and masked command points outside the encirclement were set up for managing the use of fire power and for communication. At the same time the distant battle posts were informed about the change of location for a concentrated breakthrough. Trusted communications channels were used to relay the information and the sector headquarters was excluded from that channel. All the subdivisions had been waiting for just such a single correct decision so there was no problem in coordinating action. On February 18th at 2:00 o’clock organized columns of soldiers launched a breakthrough operation. Army Special Forces, the National Guard and the militia filed in after the subdivisions of the 128th brigade. Sector headquarters as well as the subdivisions in charge of protecting and defending the column were informed about the withdrawal as well, and without ‘trying to be clever’ they joined in the breakthrough operation. By firing at the enemy and by making clever moves the shock brigade was able to block the enemy as they tried to follow us. A passage was opened up for the trucks that were loaded with the most essential supplies. The last pieces of the still functioning artillery the 128th brigade had was used to protect the retreating soldiers.
In the rearguard of the retreating column were the soldiers of the 25th OMPB who were leaving along with the units of other subdivisions that had arrived from the supply bases that had been stationed in the southeastern direction. The 25th OMPB protected the Vuhlehirsk route with its multitude of enemy tanks that could have been used to follow the withdrawing troops. Inasmuch as all the trucks and military equipment the 25th OMPB had was either destroyed or unusable, the retreat was made on foot along a 25 km route behind the column of machinery the 128th brigade had. The retreat lasted until 13:00 o’clock. In the interim the enemy attempted to cut off the escape route for the rearguard by shooting at the flanks from the direction of Sanzharivka. The enemy attacks were stopped and repelled by ‘VALERA,’ the support post of the 128th brigade. Ignoring the concussion and shrapnel injuries he suffered, ‘Flint,’ the artillery corrector of the ZKP 25th OMPB and ZKP 128th brigade took charge of managing artillery fire at the attacking enemy BTH (what was left of the ‘Sanzharivka’ unit after our artillery barrage). Artillery fire was executed under the management of ZKP of the 25th OMPB and ZKP of the 128th brigade, combat unit 25, and the reserve combat brigade 128 with the direct participation of the firing squad commanders subordinate to the senior officers of ATO, ignoring the headquarters (utilizing horizontal connections). It was only after the orders were executed and the flank of the retreating troops was protected that the unit ‘VALERA’ was withdrawn and moved to the river Luhanka. From the direction of Novohryhorivka the retreating units were protected by the support post 40 OMPB ‘Zozo’ under the command of an officer with the code name ‘Flint.’ That support post was abandoned after the full execution of the battle orders that took five hours and forty minutes on February 18th, 2015.
Thus, having exhausted all the available resources in trying to hold the Debaltseve outcrop, the best moment (at night after resisting the enemy in a fierce battle) for the retreat was picked to have as few casualties as possible among the fully armed (at the beginning of the retreat) Debaltseve contingent of the AFU along with the National Guard subdivisions and militia.
A chasm of distrust exists between all the military formations at the front and the headquarters of the General Staff (ATO sector). Currently a strange appointing mechanism has been put in place that pushes people who are professionally and morally utterly inadequate into the highest command posts. The level of distrust toward these ‘managers’ cannot fall any lower! The stance exhibited by the members of the existing General Staff and the satellite staffs is causing senseless casualties and huge losses in military equipment and weaponry. It is helping the enemy to increase their successes. Moreover, when soldiers do not trust their commanding officers their fighting spirit diminishes greatly and their commitment and loyalty are compromised, as well.
The problem cannot be solved by dismissing certain individuals. It is vitally important to appoint an all new staff that will be held responsible for executing all decisions; people with initiative and with experience in leading and supervising military brigades and battalions in battle situations under battle conditions, people who with their actions and dedication will win the trust and respect of the soldiers. People who will not run from responsibility, who in situations that require the singular competence of a supreme commander will be willing and able to stand up for an honest assessment, evaluation and resolution.
Glory to Ukraine!
Lieutenant S. A. Shaptala, Commander of 128th HPBr
Officers collective of the 128th HPBr
Officers collective of the 25th OMPB; Chairman, Major D.V Volyk
Officers collective of the 40th OMPB, Secretary, Sargent d-t V. A. Lomaka
General collective of the 54th ORB (1st, 2nd Company and Reconnaissance Corps), Secretary, Senior Officer V. A. Shovkun