Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 14.01.2019
Lieutenant-General Serhiy Nayev commands Ukrainian forces in Donbas that are defending Europe from Russian invasion. He says that “above all, Moscow seeks to create a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula occupied by Russia.” For the Russian Federation at war with Ukraine, this is the most practical line of attack.
In an interview given to Austria’s Wiener Zeitung on January 9, Lt.-General Nayev said: “Russian occupation forces are currently not attacking, but that does not mean they have stopped their attempts to provoke further conflict. Currently, the enemy is very active, especially in the Mariupol area and the Azov region.”
Since a “New Year’s ceasefire” supposedly began on December 29, the Russian forces invading Ukraine in Donbas have bombarded Ukrainian defensive positions constantly but at a lower rate than previously. The approaches to the east and north-east of Mariupol have been a particular area of preoccupation for the Russians. The 1st Army Corps (so-called “DPR”) of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation have attacked Ukraine’s entrenched positions near the villages of Chermalyk, Pavlopil, Hnutove, Vodiane, Lebedynske, and Shyrokyne – from the Kalmius River down to the Sea of Azov. Russian invasion-occupation troops open aimed fire with armament of infantry fighting vehicles, grenade launchers of various systems, large-calibre machine guns, and small arms.
On January 12, mercenaries of the Russian armed forces directed small arms fire at an OSCE SMM team near the village of Chermalyk, 25 kilometres north-east of the free Ukraine city of Mariupol. A Ukrainian soldier at an observation post witnessed the attack. According to the Ukrainian side of the Joint Center for the Control and Coordination (JCCC), the provocative actions of the mercenaries of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are part of an attempt to mask their fire activity towards units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The Russians hope to intimidate the OSCE SMM into abandoning monitoring of the approaches to Mariupol.
The Ukrainian side of the JCCC condemns the irresponsible and potentially deadly actions of the Russian occupation forces, and points out that they are a flagrant violation of the Minsk accords. The press service of the Joint Forces Operation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine presented this information about the Russian attack on the OSCE SMM near Chermalyk.
On January 11, an OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) mini-unarmed aerial vehicle spotted 22 BM-21 Grad multiple launch rocket systems stationed in Khrustalnyi, a town 50 kilometres south-south-west of the Russian-occupied city of Luhansk. This information is found in the daily report issued by the OSCE SMM on January 12. By positioning these 122 millimetre calibre weapons in Khrustalnyi, the Russian Federation is violating the withdrawal lines stipulated by the Minsk Agreement of 11 February 2015.
“The Putin regime is becoming ever more aggressive towards Europe,” says Lt.-Gen. Nayev. It is difficult to disagree. The solution is not to appease the Putin regime but to inflict pain upon it. The Ukrainian commander puts it like this: “To completely stabilize the situation, we must first fight back against the enemy in Donbas – that’s clear.”
In the meantime, the Russian Federation will keep breaking every term of the Minsk Agreement, violate the ceasefire constantly, and look to goad Ukraine into making a ‘provocation’ that will be the casus belli for a full military offensive. The Putin regime desperately needs a “land bridge” between Russian-occupied Donbas and Russian-occupied Crimea to rescue the fiasco that the invasion of Ukraine has turned out to be for Russian power and prestige. Ukrainian skill, combat experience, and intelligent restraint means Putin is not getting the ‘provocation’ he craves. Ukrainians know, as Lt.-Gen. Nayev said, that at all times “Moscow will remain true to its own foreign policy principle: ‘The worse, the better.’”
Ukraine is successfully defending Europe from Russia at war. It is the only effective combatant nation. The commander of Europe’s defences in Donbas says that the Russians may focus their next military offensive against Mariupol and the Sea of Azov. We should believe him, and plan for the worst from the implacable enemy.