Boilers, Kettles, and Cauldrons – The Battlefields of Novorossia

Tactics and Terminology of the Donbass Partisan


Those who are following the conflict in Novorossia may note continual references to Kiev forces being in a ‘cauldron’. Sometimes translated to ‘kettle’ or even ‘boiler’. In this introductory page we explain the origin and meaning of the term and its relation to battle.

In short, it means an encirclement. Being inside an encriclement is akin to having the choice of surrendering, or else.

It is the tactic being deployed to deplete Kiev forces in the Ukraine Civil War of 2014-.

Southern Cauldron

Probably the most well known encirlement in the civil war thus far was the Southern Cauldron that developed during the first phase of the conflict in 2014. This entailed the surrounding of thousands of Kiev forces, mainly conscripts, who ultimately were allowed to escape to Russia.

The Debaltsevo Boiler

Several other cauldrons have developed in the course of the war. The latest, as of the end of January 2015, is around the settlement of Debaltsevo. A strategically important town that sits on the main road midway between the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk.

debaltsevo cauldron boiler kettle novorossia

This shows the near-completion of a classic “cauldron”. If the pincers numbered ‘7’ and ‘9’ come together, up to eight-thousand Kiev conscripts will be surrounded, cut-off from resupply, and, if the outcome of previous encriclements is to be a guide, without any hope of relief.

Origins in Zululand

King Shaka of the Zulus developed a military tactic which he called The Chest and Horns.

This was an offensive maneuver in which advancing troops would spread out left and right, as the horns of the attack. Behind them, and remaining in the centre of the line, would be the core battle-group – the chest. The horns would close in the rear of the enemy, drawing them in to an encirclement.

Modern Warfare

The most famous encirclement of all was the Stalingrad Kessel during WWII in which as many as 300,000 Nazis were surrounded and annhiliated by the Red Army.

In German the word used to describe the encriclement was “Kessel”, literally meaning “Kettle” in English, and “котел” (Kotel) in Russian.

Understanding Online Translations

In Novorossia initial reports of battle are given in Russian, and the word being used to describe the disposition of Ukranian troops is increasingly “котел”, implying they are surrounded.

For English-speakers the best translation of “котел” would be “Cauldron”. Online auto-translators will render the word variously as Kettle, Cauldron, or Boiler.

Boiler seems to be a recent one, possibly due to Twitter’s re-introduction of Bing translations from Microsoft.

So, if the upcoming battle depicted above comes to be known as The Debaltsevo Boiler we have microsoft to blame for the wording, and Kiev (along with their Western sponsors) to blame for the bloodshed.


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