Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 26.12.2018
The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are shelling the residences of Ukrainians in occupied areas of Donbas. While doing so, they are propagating false information that it is the Ukrainian army doing the shelling. The Russian Federation is preparing for an offensive to expand its invasion of Ukraine beyond the areas of Crimea and Donbas which its troops currently occupy. Firing on civilian infrastructure in areas under their control is an attempt by the Russians to spark a provocation which they hope will serve as an excuse to launch an offensive.
On December 23, the 1st Army Corps (Donetsk or so-called “DPR”) of the Russian army in Ukraine shelled the district of Trudivskyi Petrovsky, a western suburb of the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk. This neighbourhood is very close to the battlefront and to the town of Maryinka which is in free Ukraine.
The Ukrainian side of the Joint Center for Control and Coordination (JCCC) said that this was an attempt to discredit the Joint Forces Operation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The Ukrainian officers said that active hostilities and dissembling by the Russia occupation forces threatens the lives of the civilian population and the civilian infrastructure of Donbas.
All damage to multi-apartment residential building on three streets in Trudivskyi Petrovsky district was caused by the impact of 23 and 30 millimetre calibre ammunition. Ukrainian forces are too far away to have been responsible.
The Russians always fire artillery from residential areas of towns and cities under occupation, close to where Ukrainian civilians live. They do this whether they are shelling the positions of Ukrainian defenders, or residential areas in free or Russian-occupied Ukraine. By using civilians as a human shield, the Russian invaders of Ukraine are committing war crimes.
Putin called this tactic “behind their women and children” when Russia was beginning its invasion of Ukraine in Crimea. Russian occupation troops followed this tactic on December 24, when they shelled Pivdenne from the Haharin mine settlement. The target and the source of this particular Russian bombardment are on the western outskirts of Russian-occupied Horlivka. Pivdenne is fully under the control of the Ukrainian army while the Haharin mine settlement is the farthest extent of Russian control in this sector of the battlefront.
The Ukrainian side of the JCCC said that this attack by the Russian occupiers on a residential area of the village of Pivdenne from an area where civilians live in the Haharin mine settlement violated the rules of warfare and the norms of universal morality.
It should be noted that the Russians are not succeeding in goading the Ukrainian army. They are not getting the provocation they want to launch the offensive. The Ukrainians continue to practice heroic restraint, firing back at Russian fire points only when the lives of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are in danger and only when counter-battery fire will not endanger Ukrainians living under Russian occupation.
A Russian offensive is prepared. Putin would prefer to spark a provocation as an excuse for him to launch it. He may very well choose to expand his war against Ukraine with or without a provocation. Shelling Ukrainian civilians in areas of Donbas under occupation by Russian troops is another sign that Putin’s planned offensive is on a hair trigger.