Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 19.12.2018
The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and their mercenaries in Donbas escalated their use of heavy artillery which is prohibited by the Minsk Agreements. On the morning of December 18, Russian occupation forces opened fire on Ukrainian defensive positions outside the village of Novotoshkivske, which is in Luhansk region. The Russians used 152 millimetre calibre artillery and 120 millimetre calibre mortars in the bombardment. The fire base used by the Russians is in the direction of the settlement of Kadyivka, which is currently under de facto administration by the Russian Federation through a proxy statelet, the so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic.” Kadyivka is 18 kilometres south of Novotoshkivske.
News of the attack by Russian occupation forces was given in a briefing by Dmitry Gutsulyak, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine. There were no casualties among Ukrainian defenders.
Novotoshkivske is on Route 66, known by Ukrainian troops as the Bakhmut Road. A multi-year battle has been fought for control of the Bakhmut Road, with Russian forces regularly attacking Ukrainian defensive positions near Krymske, near Novotoshkivske, and near Zolote. For example, on 19 September 2017 Russian forces bombarded Novotoshkivske using the same configuration of heavy artillery: 150-mm artillery and 120-mm mortars.
By attacking Novotoshkivske, Ukraine the Russian Federation violated Measure #1 of the Minsk Agreement which requires “strict implementation” of a ceasefire. By using artillery systems of calibre of 100 and more the Russian Federation violated Measure #2 of Minsk which requires withdrawal of all heavy weapons so as to create a security zone 50 kilometres wide at the contact line. The contact line is supposed to be the battlefront where the Russian Federation is invading Ukraine, as it was when the Minsk Agreement was signed on 11 February 2015.
Ukraine condemned the Russian Federation for breaking the ceasefire and using heavy artillery. A statement from the press service of the Joint Forces Operation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine read: “The Ukrainian side of the JCCC [Joint Center for the Control and Coordination] condemns such actions by armed formations of the Russian Federation and their mercenaries in Donbas, which indicate an interest in further escalation of the conflict, demonstrate the reluctance to abide by the cease-fire regime and deliberate failure to comply with the Minsk accords.”
Attacks by Russian invasion troops in the Battle of the Bakhmut Road have been among the most intense in the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine. Ukrainian forces at their strongholds near Novotoshkivske have been especially hard-pressed. But the Ukrainians hold the line. Whether they use heavy artillery or use sabotage & reconnaissance groups, the Russians have never found a weakness in the Ukrainian defences at Novotoshkivske. Ignored and unhelped by other Europeans, Ukrainians are fighting and stopping the Russian invasion of Europe in Donbas.