Russian and Ukrainian armies shaping up for initial military clash over Slavyansk

Sunday, April 27, 2014
By Paul Martin

Debka.com
April 27, 2014

Russia and Ukraine were heading Sunday, April 27, for their first battle over the rebel-held flashpoint town of Slavyansk, DEBKAfile’s military and US sources report. The outcome will determine who controls the Donetsk region and possibly all of East of Ukraine – the separatists or the provisional government in Kiev.
With a superior, professional and well-trained force armed with a preponderance of fire power, the Kremlin has several options to choose from for this engagement:
1. To order the 11,000 troops, based at Rostov on Don 40 kilometers from the Ukrainian border, to cross over and head for Slavyansk and Donetsk.
2. To send a tank column against the 15,000 Ukrainian troops deployed over the weekend around Slavyansk. According to Russian sources, the force from Kiev is armed with 160 tanks, 230 armored personnel carriers and 150 pieces of artillery and missiles.
3. To send warplanes and helicopters from the giant Russian airbase of Tsentralniy – a prospect gaining ground in recent hours. This action would broaden the engagement into a major war operation between Russia and Ukraine.
4. Moscow, Kiev and their backers may understand how such a war began, but once it is under way, no one can tell how it will end.
5. In the event of a major escalation, Moscow ill have to decide whether to throw into battle the special rapid deployment and paratroop units stationed at Tsentralniy, which are held ready for intervention in the Middle East and are now in reserve for action in Ukraine.
6. The Kremlin must decide whether to go for an overall invasion of Ukraine. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the force poised on the border is smaller than the 40,000 estimated by Kiev. It consists of 15,000 armored corps soldiers with T-72B tanks and one division each of infantry and paratroops.

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