Aleksandr Khodakovsky about latest battles in Donbass: ''This small axe made a very big mess''

Aleksandr Khodakovsky about latest battles in Donbass: ''This small axe made a very big mess'' Photo: online.ua

On January 29, the conflict broke out in the east of Ukraine in the area between Avdeyevka, which is controlled by Ukraine, and Donetsk, which is controlled by militias. Realnoe Vremya contacted the former head of the battalion Vostok and leader of the Patriotic forces of Donbass Aleksandr Khodakovsky, who told about how critical the situation is in the area Avdeyevka, what role geopolitics played in this story and how severe consequences of the conflict can be.

'I think of it as an analogue of the Donetsk airport''

Mr Khodakovsky, tell us about what is happening in the area of Avdeyevka and how serious the situation is?

The situation is quite critical for those who are in close proximity to each other, I mean us and the opponents. For those, who are engaged in the conflict, in the local skirmish, which has reached a peak of intonation now, the situation is very critical.

But if any hardly imaginable things do not happen, no large-scale offensives on both sides are expected, because objectively we are observing neither a pull-up of reserves by the enemy nor an accumulation of strike forces in order to develop this offensive. In general, I think of it as an analogue of the Donetsk airport, when we had been fighting for it for more than a month. Because it was a principled position.

Tell us more about the territory. What is its strategic role?

Tactically and especially strategically this site is of no value either for us or for the enemy. There are no any advantages of seizing or retention of this site.

''The situation is quite critical for those who are in close proximity to each other, I mean us and the opponents. For those, who are engaged in the conflict, in the local skirmish, which has reached a peak of intonation now, the situation is very critical.'' Photo: kievnews.net

''We are trying to decipher what's behind all this....''

In your opinion, what are the reasons of the hostilities and who is the initiator?

Maybe there was some hidden from our eyes tendency associated with the political process, and it required activation. The day before we tracked the fact of moving of a significant column through a large city in Donetsk Oblast, which is under the control of Ukraine — Kramatorsk. This column for almost 2 hours was moving around the city in the direction of Debaltsevo. We expected a provocation on that site, but they started here.

Actually, it all started as an ordinary local skirmish, not particularly standing out from a number of other such clashes in recent times. This area was always tense, but since there appeared the principle on their part, on our part there began such tight knot that we have already been undoing for the third day.

This process is going with minimal involvement of personnel because it is impossible to involve them: it is impossible to go there as in the newsreels of the war years to attack in close formation, shouting ''Hurrah!''. It is simply impossible there. There are groups within the number of a platoon, and as soon as they try to advance in order to solve a task they immediately come under intense fire from small arms and grenade launchers. Since this site is viewed, and everything has already been divided into sectors and squares, and each arm is responsible for their area, it remains only to give a location of a particular group, and immediately there arrives with remarkable accuracy all that is needed in order to deprive people of life. We have already seen launches of rocket systems of volley fire. In general, this small axe made a very big mess.

I openly declare that objectively the attack early yesterday morning on the position was started by the Ukrainian military. We were standing there stationary and we were not planning to move anywhere. So the statements of the Ukrainian side allegedly of our creeping offensive and other things — it's outright fabrications and attempts to ennoble their actions that clearly smell the violation of any agreements.

We had no plans or intentions to move because we did not even have necessary resources. I just came back from a funeral, we buried the commander, who was responsible for this area. We were in constant communication, we organised meetings, consultations, and neither we nor the corps of national defence had intentions do some movements on this site. Any statements like these that accuse us, it is a fabrication. The fact that now it is very serious there, that is true. Now we are also shooting, no one is thinking about compliance with the agreements, calibres. We use everything we can.

''Since the enemy positions are located in the immediate vicinity of Avdeyevka, and in order to give yourself the military advantage, we have to suppress these positions (especially artillery), then, of course, the shells are flying in the direction of the settlements.'' Photo: i24.com.ua

There is a version that the purpose of the activation is to attract attention to Ukraine. It is also assumed that it is a way to ''feel'' Trump and Russia. What do you think about these versions?

You know, if there was no displacement of the column, about which I have already said… Intelligence analysis made us conclude that it was not a planned rotation of some forces at the contact line (just a replace of some by others), it was a strengthening of those who already were there, the consolidation of some groups. If not this circumstance, I would think that geopolitics has not the slightest relation to the whole situation.

The powers of a size of not more than a company are fighting on both sides. Therefore, it would be possible to regard it simply as a situation, which then, after the fact, would be used as a side effect in order to create some sort of information-propaganda wave. However, there are too many all sorts of circumstances in politics on this particular period of time: the looming withdrawal from the parliamentary majority in the Parliament, the proposed timeframe for the adoption of amendments to the Constitution, the activity of some Ukrainian politicians, in particular Yulia Tymoshenko, who was invited to Trump and who is considered as one of the ''torpedoes'' to change the internal political situation. Apparently, we need some kind of appropriate picture — either to divert attention or, on the contrary, to draw it. We are trying to decipher what's behind all this.

Have the settlements been affected due to the conflict?

Since the enemy positions are located in the immediate vicinity of Avdeyevka, and in order to give yourself the military advantage, we have to suppress these positions (especially artillery), then, of course, the shells are flying in the direction of the settlements. It is hard to say how they land and what damage and destruction they cause. The same thing is with the enemy, but the question is that our positions are localised in the specific area and they could be more selective from the point of view of destruction, but unfortunately, they shoot randomly, and their projectiles fly at 20-30 kilometres away from our localised area. It is, of course, civilians who suffer.

''The fact that the degree of intensity is being underestimated suggests that at the political level they try not to give special importance to this situation. From a military-tactical point of view, I would do the same because nothing large-scale is provided here.'' Photo: facebook.com/ato.news

''We need to use this moment and this situation somehow''

Will Russia defend the current territorial situation? How large is the role of the Russian army?

Now the Russian army does not play any role here. The thing is that even our national defence is not actively involved now. Only one battalion is involved, the battalion commander who was killed, and only because it is happening in his area.

By the way, the level of losses does not match what is claimed. One of the central Russian TV channels as if casually mentioned the aggravation and said there was one dead and one wounded. I have different information. The fact that the degree of intensity is being underestimated suggests that at the political level they try not to give special importance to this situation. From a military-tactical point of view, I would do the same because nothing large-scale is provided here. Now there is no reason to say that the territorial integrity or overall existence of the Republic is in danger.

In your opinion, what are possible consequences of this conflict?

It is difficult to forecast the consequences now because we are at a point of balance. Generally, we will resonate to any change in Ukraine — they will affect us anyway. The catalyst can be any domestic political processes. The first and most probable option may be early elections to Rada, which is being considered seriously now. They have already set up a coalition: in particular, the coalition between Tymoshenko and a Ukrainian politician Levochkin. This collapse of Poroshenko block has a reason — everything is doing in order to hold a re-election. Perhaps, it will possible to tell about it in March.

If a re-election takes place, automatically each of the political forces will begin to appeal to their electoral base. For many political forces, it is radicals in Ukrainian society. Accordingly, if they are given the corresponding message, then uncontrolled processes can start. You know, people have long accumulated sufficient energy, and it may begin to act like at Maidan when someone tried to lead the processes, but most of the were chaotic and it involved broad masses of the population. But here the situation is even more complicated because Ukraine has been fighting for two years, there are many people that have passed through ATO (anti-terrorist operation), unhappy, abandoned by the state. These people are embittered, with already warped psyche because they fought and killed, and these people are armed. Therefore, the Ukrainian society is volatile. If political circumstances evolve in such way that all this critical mass comes into movement, it will difficult to control it.

We now are carefully observing the ongoing processes, but we do not read tea leaves because there are certain social laws. At the same time, we are working on a strategy in case of certain circumstances.

We understand that if any radical changes start in Ukraine, those layers that are radically set against us will strengthen their positions. Until that happens, we need to use this moment and this situation somehow. But this is just theoretical calculations. We are doing no practical preparations. On our side, there is only passive observation yet.

By Lina Sarimova
Analytics