Staromaryevka - Ukrainian village that almost started a war
War in Ukraine
The village of Staromaryevka in Eastern Ukraine is located in the so-called “gray zone” – between the positions of the warring parties. At the end of October, shelling resumed here, and, for the first time, Ukraine used a Turkish-made Bayraktar drone against the pro-Russian forces. Which irritated Russia and worried Western diplomats. A report by the Ukrainian hromadske television company gives us an insight into what life is like in the frontline village.
The demarcation line in this section runs along the Kalmius River. On the right bank is Granitnoe, a territory controlled by Ukraine. On the left is Staromaryevka, which is connected to the `Ukraine-controlled territory by a footbridge.
Every day about a dozen residents of Staromaryevka, who work or study in Granitnoye, go to work and school via this footbridge.
Soon, the military banned people from using the bridge. Now, in order to get to Granitnoye, one needs to walk almost one and a half kilometers along the dirt road running by the river.
13-year-old Misha says that every morning he is taken from Staromaryevka by car to the “masonry”. If the weather is bad, he gets up half an hour or an hour earlier, puts on rubber boots, and walks.
“Masonry” is a sheet metal footbridge that has already been warped. Nearby is a sign “Stop, mines!” with a skull on it. There is a checkpoint just beyond the river. Here you need to show your birth certificate or passport. The Ukrainian military is checking whether you are on the list of those who are allowed to pass, and if all goes well, they will let you through. They have known the majority of those traveling in person for a long time.
“How can one live in such a world?!”
At the headquarters of the JCCC (Joint Center for Control and Coordination of Ceasefire Issues and Stabilization of the Line of Delimitation of the Parties – Ed.) There are pieces of metal, grouped in piles of five to ten pieces. Below them are sheets of paper with dates. There are shell fragments from October 27th and those that date back to August 5th.
If someone had managed to collect all the fragments from October 25, 26, and 27 shelling, then there would hardly be enough space for them even in the central square of Granitnoye. During these three days, about 120 shells fell on the village.
One of the goals of the militants was the very crossing that the military undertook to build. Neighboring streets were also damaged.
“How can one live in such a world ?!”, a local woman, asks sobbing as she shows the fragments of shells that she has collected in her yard over the past few days.
She says that sometimes she goes to the other side of the river to get water from a well. To cross the river, she also needs to show her documents.
On October 26, the Russian television program “60 Minutes” began with the “capture” of the Ukrainian Armed Forces of Staromaryevka. The entire 42-minute episode was devoted to the escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
“Ukraine continues to absorb the ‘gray zone’. Recently, the Armed Forces of Ukraine almost seized the village of Staromaryevka, where 37 Russian citizens live. How long are we going to put up with this? This is, perhaps, the main question”, presenter Skabeeva said.
Bayraktar in business
Turkey-produced attack drone Bayraktar, which is in service in Ukraine, is a more modern and high-tech method of reconnaissance. Bayraktar drones raised a fair amount of controversy, and not only on Russian television.
“A very useful thing for reconnaissance. I would say that this is a new level. They provide reconnaissance day and night. Long-distance. The enemy’s electronic warfare does not interfere with them”, says Andrey, a serviceman of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
According to him, the enemy began to fire when they saw that the Ukrainian military was building the crossing. It was intended only for passenger cars of local residents; heavy equipment could not pass through it. But the militants took this as the Ukrainian army’s attempt to move its positions further.
When asked whether it would be beneficial for the Ukrainian army to occupy Staromaryevka, he replies that there is no point in occupying the village – it is located in lowland, and that would be a disadvantageous position.
But the militants, it seems, believed so much that it was necessary to restrain the Armed Forces of Ukraine that they fired almost continuously. The scheme was as follows: two hours of fire from heavy weapons – change of position – continued shelling.
“After about two hours of shelling, Bayraktar was used. It was involved in reconnaissance in order to understand what the situation was like, where the enemy was, what means was the enemy using. But in the process, a D-30 fire platoon was discovered (122-mm D-30 howitzer was created in the USSR in the late 1950s – ed.) and the commander-in-chief decided to use Bayraktar”, says the serviceman [as a result, the drone fired a shell at one of the guns – JAMnews].
Germany and France expressed concern about the use of Bayraktar. The United States called on “both sides of the conflict in the Donbas to abide by the terms of the ceasefire agreement”, and emphasized that the responsibility for the escalation lies with “the side controlled by Russia”.
After many days of escalation, the situation returned to the way it used to be. Ukraine abandoned the idea of building a crossing, the militants let the Red Cross cars with coal through and again opened up the crossing for the passage of people.