Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 01.01.2019
The Russian Federation began New Year’s Day 2019 by shelling Ukraine. The 1st Army Corps (so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic”) of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation attacked defensive positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine near the village of Hnutove in Donetsk region close to the Sea of Azov. The Russians opened fire with an 82 millimetre calibre mortar early in the morning of 1 January 2019.
Hnutove is 10 kilometres to the north-east of the city of Mariupol by road. Mariupol is in free Ukraine. The battlefront where Muscovy is invading Ukraine is only 4 kilometres to the east of Hnutove. The Russians have been attacking in the vicinity of Mariupol for almost four and a half years, ever since they expanded their invasion of Ukraine from Crimea to Donbas.
There is supposed to be a ceasefire in effect in Donbas. The Tripartite Contact Group working under the Minsk Agreement agreed to what has been called the “New Year’s ceasefire” which was scheduled to begin at midnight starting 29 December 2018. The Russians violated the “New Year’s ceasefire” with six attacks on December 29th, two attacks on the 30th, and four attacks on the 31st. Early on 1 January 2019 there is already one reported ceasefire violation by the Russian Federation.
A permanent ceasefire was supposed to have taken effect after the second Minsk Agreement was signed on 11 February 2015. The Russian Federation violated the Minsk Agreement ceasefire immediately by fighting the Battle of Debaltseve and seizing Ukrainian territory beyond the “line of control” that was agreed upon. The Russians have violated every paragraph of the Minsk Agreement and every ceasefire made under it.
The guarantor nations, Germany and France, impose no penalty on the Russian Federation for breaking the Minsk accord and waging war on Ukraine. For example, on December 31st the 2nd Army Corps (so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic”) of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation bombarded Ukrainian positions in the area of Novoluhans’ke with 120 millimetre calibre mortars. Artillery with a calibre larger than 100 millimetres are required by the Minsk Agreement to be withdrawn beyond a 50 kilometre wide band along the “line of contact” in Donbas. The Russians are violating the part of the Minsk accord requiring withdrawal of heavy weapons and the part requiring a ceasefire. Despite this open breach and thousands of others beforehand, the guarantor nations Germany and France take no notice whatsoever. The Russian Federation goes unpunished.
Only Ukrainian skill and forbearance keeps incessant Russian attacks from becoming a ‘provocation’ that could lead to the wider war that Putin so desperately wants. The Ukrainians have organized the defence of the homeland in Donbas as the Joint Forces Operation (JFO), and placed this military/security/intelligence/law enforcement initiative under the control of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The JFO began on 1 May 2018 and it has contained Russian aggression with remarkable effectiveness. The Ukrainians know how to give a measured response to Russian bombardments and assaults, and have learned from years of combat experience when not to respond at all.
Two Ukrainian soldiers serving in the JFO were wounded in action as a result of Russian attacks on December 31st. This closes the book on casualties for 2018. Sadly, 2019 will certainly see more Ukrainian soldiers and civilians killed and wounded in the war that has been visited upon them by Muscovy.
The Russian bombardment of Hnutove on January 1st means that 2019 is the sixth calendar year in which the Russian Federation has been waging war against Ukraine, bringing international war to the heart of Europe.