Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 13.12.2017
Russian shelling of Ukrainian defenders and civilians was particularly intense all along the Donbas battlefront on December 12. Witness reports came in from Luhansk to Donetsk to Mariupol, and from some places that for a long time have been relatively quiet. Russia’s invasion-occupation forces in Ukraine typically fire shells and rockets from residential areas of towns and villages, using a “human shield” tactic to avoid counter-battery fire from the Ukrainian defenders. Witnesses are usually able to tell where the Russians are shooting from, because it is nearby to their apartments and houses. The Russians also typically start their bombardments by shooting back at Russia-occupied territory, to claim that all their subsequent attacks against free Ukraine territory are retaliation.
On December 12, residents of Russia-occupied Luhansk city could hear shelling; this was surprising as it has been a long time since the sounds of war reached this far from the battlefront. Also in Luhansk region, the residents of Russia-occupied Kadiivka heard shelling coming from their town, but this has been an almost nightly occurrence for the past many months. There was the sound of battle coming from the Svitlodarsk Bulge, which is an area of the battlefront north of Russia-occupied Debaltseve. People in the free Ukraine towns of Toretsk and Novohorodske heard shelling, which is usually a sign that the Russians are striking from residential areas of Russia-occupied Horlivka towards residential areas of Zaitseve in free Ukraine. People in the free Ukraine towns of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk could hear the sounds of Russian heavy artillery striking the village of Krymske, which is 30 kilometres away in a straight line. Online reports came in from Russia-occupied Donetsk city and also Makiivka of artillery firing out from the neighbourhoods; the usual targets of these strikes are villages in free Ukraine to the north: Pisky, Opytne, Vodyane, and also the ruins of Donetsk airport, the “Butovka” mine shaft, the town of Avdiivka, and the Yasynuvata block post. The Russians fired from their positions in the town of Dokuchaievsk; usual targets for these strikes are the free Ukraine villages of Berezove and Mykolayivka and the town of Novotroitske.
What is unusual about Russia’s attacks of December 12 is not that they used heavy weapons that are banned by the Minsk Agreements, but that tanks and Grad multiple-launch rocket systems were deployed aggressively. The Russians just don’t care that they are seen to pay no attention whatsoever to the Minsk Agreements and their associated ceasefires.
Also significant is that Russia did not back up any of its attacks with an armoured infantry assault against the Ukrainian defenders. Russia is not capable of taking and holding ground with the the army it has in place in Donbas. Offensive operations in Putin’s War are impossible without a massive influx of Russian regular forces, which was last seen at the Battle of Debaltseve at the very beginning of 2015. The Ukrainian armed forces control the battlefield as it is now constituted, and are at no risk of losing ground to the Russians.
Ukrainians will defend Ukraine forever. Ukrainian soldiers who are in the trenches in Donbas are in their own country, stopping a foreign invader from doing further harm to their own people. They will never give up the good fight. Russians are the invaders. The lies of Kremlin propaganda fall away when confronted with the reality of Russia’s aggression: young Russian soldiers, who are usually mercenaries, become aware that they are doing great wickedness and evil. Putin can pay these soldiers and send them shells and rockets to fire endlessly – and he does. But he cannot give them the fighting spirit that the Ukrainian defenders have.
Putin cannot win his war against Ukraine, and he lacks all the skills a leader needs to guide Russia out of the mess it’s in. Putin’s current tactic is to ship endless ammunition to his invasion-occupation army in Donbas, keep the Kremlin propaganda TV spotlight off the endless shelling, and to delay, delay, and further delay every other aspect of his invasion of Europe in Ukraine.
The West cannot allow Putin to dictate every single event in the progress of Russia’s invasion of Europe. Just for once, in 3 years, 9 months, 23 days of combat in the heart of Europe, a Western leader needs to act instead of react. Europeans in Donbas are being killed, being wounded, their property is being destroyed and their lives are being ruined. Russia is bombarding Ukraine – the largest country wholly within Europe – every day and every night with artillery and with tanks and with rockets. European nations can stop Russia from killing and wounding and destroying. Only when Europe fights Russia will Europe be saved.