Maksym Butchenko, NV correspondent:
Moscow would find it symbolic to reach the Dnipro and occupy the capital if possible
When in the beginning of April armed people with St. George’s Ribbons occupied Slovyansk, the plan to capture not only Donbas but the entire country was enacted. Russian analysts, including the infamous Strelkov (Igor Gikin), developed a certain algorithm of events – the destabilisation of the situation in the east of the country, the enrolment to the so-called self defence ranks of a big number of local citizens, coordination through Main Intelligence Headquarters specialists. All of this in order to finally pull the trigger – gather a numerous army and move deep inside the country. There were certain predispositions for this.
A Defence Ministry worker told me that as of that moment the Ukrainian army had just a couple thousand really able soldiers. The armed forces were demoralised. The Russian Federation wanted to repeat the Crimean scenario, when the military units were simply handed over to the Russian army without a fight. A source close to Olexandr Turchynov informed me that the order regarding response action upon attack on military units had been signed. Nevertheless, Crimea was taken almost without a single shot.
The Russian Federation planned to start a similar Blitzkrieg in the nearest weeks after occupying Slovyansk. They want to at least reach Dnipro, or even occupy Kyiv. For Moscow it would have been very symbolic and iconic – Russian liberators, akin to the Soviet army, are shifting the “fascist occupants” from historical Slavic territory.
One of the highest officials of the President’s Administration remembers how back then special departments and soldiers were sent to Slovyansk, which had to prevent the Crimean scenario from unfolding – by blocking the enemy and not letting them start large-scale military action. The plan wasn’t bad but to carry it out, only 400 people were enlisted from all over Ukraine – fighters from Jaguar and Omega, about 30 Alpha fighters (only 10% of the 300 special department workers remained – the rest disbanded), and some Internal Armed Forces soldiers.
They told me in the SBU that back when Olexandr Yakymenko was head of the institution, direct preparation for Russian occupation of Crimea was underway. The leading posts in the service were held by Russian citizens, all operations were coordinated with Moscow. And shortly before Euromaidan the special workers even had their sniper rifles taken away and redirected to the peninsula, after which the weapons ended up in the hands of the Russians, together with Ukrainian military equipment.
This is the state in which we entered war. On one side, well-armed mercenaries and specialists from the Russian MIH, on the other – morally repressed, humiliated by offensive attitude to them and their jobs, Ukrainian special soldiers, as well as the few that remained in the army.
But the first clashes with the terrorists became the turning point in the Blitzkrieg. A source in the President’s Administration says that victims among the separatists have reached 200, and this significantly cooled the rigour of the occupants, putting under doubt the technology rehearsed in Crimea.
If you will, these 400 Ukrainian soldiers became those 300 Spartans that blocked the way for the Persian king Darius in Thermopylae. Though this comparison sounds like a bit too much, but thanks to the resilience of several hundred people the plan of a swift occupation of Ukraine fell. Whether it is a lot or a little is up to you.
Translated by Mariya Shcherbinina