Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 13.01.2018
Russia has been invading Ukraine in Crimea and Donbas since 20 February 2014. That’s 3 years, 10 months, 24 days of unrelenting warfare by Russia against Ukraine – the largest countries that lies wholly within Europe.
Since the signing of the second Minsk Agreement on 11 February 2015 and the Battle of Debaltseve which ended on 20 February 2015, the Russians have settled into a pattern of static warfare against Ukrainians. Just like in the First World War trenches and fortified positions separate the warring sides – in the case of Putin’s War it is the invading Russians on one side and the defending Ukrainians on the other. Putin’s invasion of Europe battlefront in Donbas carves out a corner of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine. The Russian invaders rely on an endless series of ceasefire agreements to cause the Ukrainian defenders to refrain from shooting back at the shells and grenades and mortars and rockets and bullets coming from Putin’s invasion-occupation army. Eventually, Russia’s attacks escalate to such a point that the lives of Ukrainian defenders and civilians are taken in drone-targeted attacks – that’s when the Ukrainian armed forces are obliged to return fire. The escalation continues until the next worthless ceasefire is agreed at Minsk, and the pattern is repeated.
Since the static phase of Putin’s War against Europe began in late February 2015, the overall pattern has been steady escalation. In a press conference on January 12, Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, Alexander Hug, reported that there were more ceasefire violations in 2017 than there were in 2016. The monitors recorded a total of 401,336 ceasefire violations in 2017. In 2016 there were 320,130 violations, which is an increase by a quarter. Heavy weapons (which are banned by the Minsk Agreement) were used 4,065 times in 2017, compared to 3,099 times in 2016 – a 31.17 percent increase. The freedom of movement of OSCE monitors was restricted 2,422 times in 2017, compared with 1,950 in 2016 – a 24.2 percent increase.
An example of banned heavy weapons being deployed by Russia was reported by the OSCE SMM on January 12. In Russia-occupied Donetsk region, near the village of Kachkarske (which is 35 km north-east of Mariupol), the monitors saw a multiple launch rocket system. It was a BM-21 Grad, which fires 122 mm rockets mounted from a truck. This is one of Putin’s favourite terror weapons: he used it to attack the village of Novoluhanske in free Ukraine on 18 December 2017. 47 homes were damaged or destroyed and eight civilians were wounded in that particular Russian attack last month.
Putin’s war policy against Europe’s defenders in Donbas is to steadily escalate shelling and rocket attacks – fed by an endless supply of weapons, ammunition, fuel, matériel and soldiers from Russia. It is clear that Russia has no intention of adhering to any of the terms of the Minsk Agreements. It is clear that Putin will not settle for a “frozen conflict” and that he is waging war for the defeat of Ukraine.
Sanctions were imposed on Russia in 2014 because Russia brought war to peaceful Ukraine. The illegal occupation of Crimea and part of Donbas must not be allowed to stand. The so-called annexation of Crimea must not be recognized. These are the purposes of sanctions on Russian individuals and entities responsible for war crimes and human rights violations against Europeans in Ukraine. Logic dictates that because Russia’s attacks against Ukraine are increasing, sanctions should increase too. New war crimes and new atrocities against human dignity are being committed by the Russian invaders, and they deserve the same penalty as the outrages by Putin’s army in 2014.
Over 10,000 Europeans have already died in Putin’s War since it started on 20 February 2014. Ukrainians have given their lives defending their fellow Europeans from the foreign Muscovy invaders. Other European countries do not fight alongside Ukraine. Other European countries do not arm Ukraine. Other European countries put in place half-hearted sanctions after Russia’s initial invasion and have not implemented more numerous and more severe sanctions since. Ukraine is strong in Europe’s defence, but other European countries are weak and do not adequately engage in the war which Russia wages against them. Because Putin will never stop until he is stopped, stronger sanctions against Russia must be imposed.