What’s going on in Ukraine’s south-east: details and causes
There have been active hostilities in Ukraine’s south-east since January 29. Avdiivka town, located in the vicinity of Donetsk, is an epicenter of confrontation. However, there have been firefights along the entire separation line between the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR/also referred to as DNR) and Ukraine. Over 100 people were killed within 10 days of hostilities.
There is no electricity and there are frequent water supply cut offs in Avdiivka. It’s very cold in the apartments, since the local coke and chemical plant,which heated the town, has been left without electricity. Warming centers have been arranged right in the town’s streets. The population of Avdiivka makes over 20,000 people. However, only 177 families, mostly those with small children, consented to the proposed evacuation.
Avdiivka is under control of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The town is shelled by DPR units from heavy weapons, including BM-21’Grad’ multiple-rocket launchers, 152 and 122 mm artillery and tanks.
Here’s how the Novaya Gazeta reporter sees the life in Avdiivka:
“One will rarely meet anyone empty-handed in the streets here. People take humanitarian aid on children’s sleds, prams, bikes and wheelbarrows. Whereas there arethe whole wagons of state and volunteer aid coming.
The area outside the school #2, where a tragedy occurred on the eve, is overcrowded. A shell crater has been slightly powdered with snow, there is aglass cartridge case nearby, people avoid looking in this direction. Boxes, bags and sacks are taken to the houses, where most of the windows have been boarded up with plywood.
In the evening,Avdiivka plunges into darkness and strains its ear. Traditional shooting duels begin after 10 p.m., something heavy could be heard arriving after 2 a.m.. In the morning it turns out that foreboding hasn’t deceived one: a shell hit a five-storey building in Sobornaya street, getting in the wall between the apartments.”
Christopher Nunn, The New Yorker and the Financial Times photographer, suffered serious eye injuries. The volunteers timely delivered him to hospital and Nunn was operated. Later he tweeted: ‘I’m alive’.
The Ukrainian side’s version
According to the Ukrainian side’s version, the self-proclaimed DPR broke the ceasefire in the vicinity of Avdiivka on January 29, using the heavy weapons banned under the Minsk treaty. The Ukrainian forces found it hard to return fire, since the adverse party’s missile launchers are positioned in the residential areas.
Here’s the interpretation of the developments offered by Masi Nayyem, former serviceman, an officer of the 122nd battalion of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, station in Avdiivka:
“If the adversary [DPR– edit.] had aimed at destroying humanitarian warehouses, it would have carried out multiple precision strikes.Whereasit delivered just a few strikes, hitting the residential buildings.
It seems that the ‘DPR’ just wants to intimidate the local residents.
At the same time, the whole Ukraine is rendering assistance to the locals. There is almost everything here, in Avdiivka: water, food, people come forhumanitarian aid 2-3 times a day. There are places where one can warm up and get food.Of course, the conditions here resemble those of the military, but it’s quite possible to live here.
We are doing our best so that the locals don’t experience humanitarian catastrophe that Russia and NPR are trying to create here. But we most of all fear for the military men, who have been under constant fire for so many nights.”
A version of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR/DNR):
According to the self-proclaimed NPR version, those were the Ukrainian Armed Forces that launched an offensive along the entire contact line in the vicinity of Avdiivka, on January 29.
Daniel Bessonov, the head of the press service of the Armed Forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), commented as follows:
“28 settlements in the DPR came under fire only this night alone.The number of destroyed houses is still being estimated. There have been as many as 40 since January 29 until present, whereas now there are much more of them. According to the early reports, 2 civilians were killed and over 15 were wounded overnight. The precise data aren’t available yet, people are still turning to hospitals. Overall 10 people were killed and more than 20 were reported wounded within the past few days.
Many international media have particularly noted that a new wave of sharp escalation of tension in the Donbass immediately followed a telephone conversation between the Russian and U.S.Presidents.
There have been speculations that Ukraine could become a bargaining chip in relations between the two major powers.
However, such projections haven’t been confirmed so far by the recent developments. At the recent UN Security Council session, on February 3, 2017, the U.S. Envoy to this organization, Nikki Haley, sharply criticized Russia for its actions in Ukraine’s south-east and in Crime. It is noteworthy that she was using exactly the same rhetoric as the former administration.
Speaking at the UN Security Council session, Nikki Haley stated: ““The USA continue to condemn and call for immediate end of Russian occupation of Crimea. Sanctions against Russia will remain in place until it returns control over that territory to Ukraine.”
The EU, in turn, announced about its intention to maintain sanctions against Russia for another 6 months.
Nevertheless, Andrey Piontkovsky, a prominent analyst (who had to emigrate from Russia),believes that assumptions about possible changes in the external environment around Ukraine could be substantiated. In Piontkovsky’s opinion, Trump knows Putin’s value and shares the most stringent assessmentsin his regard, but he still views him as a valuable ally.
Lilia Shevstova, a well-known Russian political analyst, in turn, claims, the hopes that President Trump’s administration pins on the Russian leadership may soon be dispelled, especially whenit becomes clear that cooperation with Putin may well result in more risks rather than benefits.
“Trump is a businessman. His philosophy is quite simple: ‘The winner takes it all’,”she pointed out in her blog.
Photo: “Novaya gazeta”, “Hromadske”, Reuters, RIA-Novosti
- An armed conflict in Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine started in summer 2014.
- According to the Ukrainian authorities, there are terrorist groups in the regions, made up of criminals and mercenaries, enjoying Russia’s support, against whom the counter-terrorist operations are carried out.
- The self-proclaimed DPR and LPR authorities refer to their units as the volunteer militia troops.
- More than 3 million local people have become refugees andover 10,000 Ukrainian servicemen have been killed during the conflict.
- There is no precise statistics on casualties among civilians, but they count thousands.
- The majority of the UN member states supported the resolution condemning Russia’s aggressive actions.