Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 16.08.2018
On land and at sea, the Russian invaders of Ukraine are attacking with increasing aggression. Putin’s occupation army in Donbas is putting relentless pressure on Ukrainian civilians, particularly at the check points through which they pass to go from the Russian-controlled zone to free Ukraine. Bombardments and assaults against Ukrainian defenders are intensifying all along Russia’s invasion battlefront in Luhansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine. The foreign invaders from Muscovy are making all efforts to cut off Ukraine from the Black Sea, seeking domination of the Sea of Azov and its littoral, the coast around Crimea, and international waters off the coast of Odesa region. Every condition is in place for an offensive and further invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
Ukrainians who live in the Russian-occupied zone travel back and forth to free Ukraine, but they are required to do so through controlled crossings: ‘humanitarian corridors.’ Russian occupation forces put these controlled crossings under constant stress.
The crossing at Stanytsia Luhanska is for pedestrian traffic only, as it is a mostly-destroyed bridge spanning the Siverskyi Donets River. The Russians break the ceasefire in this area to prevent disengagement of forces, and they refuse to allow repair of the bridge they destroyed.
Zolote is supposed to be a vehicle crossing, and the Ukrainian side has been ready for a year to begin operation. The Russian side has taken no action, such as certifying that de-mining has taken place. Because Zolote is not open, there is no vehicle crossing in Luhansk region at all across the battlefront.
North-west of the Russian-occupied city of Horlivka, Donetsk region, Ukraine there is a crossing at Mayorsk. The Russians occasionally attack this ‘safe’ civilian corridor: the last attack occurred on August 9 by 1st Army Corps (Donetsk) soldiers of the Russian army, using small arms and anti-tank missiles. Structures were damaged, but fortunately no people were hurt.
Russia occasionally sends reconnaissance and sabotage groups against Ukrainian defensive positions near the Maryinka crossing, which is west of the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk.
The town of Novotroitske and the village of Berzove in free Ukraine are regularly attacked from the Russian-occupied city of Dokuchaevsk. A ‘humanitarian corridor’ is in the middle of all this shooting.
Finally, there is a crossing near the free Ukraine village of Pyschevyk, east of the Kalmius River and north-east of Mariupol. In an extended battle to capture the approaches to Mariupol, the Russians attack Ukrainian fortifications near Chermalyk, Pavlopil, Pyschevyk, Hnutove, Talakivka, Vodyane, Lebedynske, and Shyrokyne.
Every controlled crossing of Russia’s invasion battlefront in Donbas is being put under stress by the occupation forces from Muscovy.
The defence of the homeland in Donbas is under the command and control of the Joint Forces Operation (JFO) of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The press officer of the JFO used understated language in his briefing on August 15 to say that “the situation in the area of the Joint Forces had signs of exacerbation in some areas.” Russian occupation forces are using heavy guns in their bombardments, notably 152-millimetre and 122-millimetre artillery, 120-millimetre and 82-millimetre mortars, anti-tank missile systems, and armament of “BMP” infantry fighting vehicles. This heavy weaponry is banned for used by the terms of the Minsk Agreement, and Russia is flagrantly violating the terms of that accord by using them to attack Ukrainian defenders and civilians.
The Battle of the Bakhmut Road has been raging intensely for months. The Russians are assaulting Ukrainian fortifications outside of Krymske in Luhansk region, but they are also attacking Novotoshkivske.
The Battle of the Svitlodarsk Bulge has never stopped since Russia captured Debaltseve early in 2015. The Russians regularly bombard Luhanske, Svitlodarsk, and Novoluhanske in this sector of the battlefront.
The Battle of Horlivka has picked up since the Ukrainian army liberated Pivdenne two months ago. Shelling from residential areas of occupied Horlivka, the Russians are reducing Pivdenne to rubble. Zaitseve, Mayorske, Zalizne, and Novhorodske are regular targets of Russian bombardment in this sector.
The Battle of Avdiivka is constant. Along a front to the north, north-west, and west of the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk, the invaders from Muscovy regularly attack Kamyanka, the Donetsk Water Filtration Station, the Yasynuvata block post, Avdiivka, Opytne, the “Butivka” mine, Pisky, Krasnohorivka, Maryinka, and Novomykhaylivka.
“The situation is still the most tense in the Mariupol direction,” according the the press service of the JFO. The Russians attack the string of Ukrainian fortifications that are to the east and north east of Mariupol in free Ukraine, on and near the coast of the Sea of Azov. Putin wants to break the stalemate in this sector more than any other, as a breakthrough would give him the opportunity to establish a ‘land bridge’ to Russian-invaded and occupied Ukrainian Crimea.
The JFO notes a sharp increase in the number of Russian intelligence officers in Donbas. These intelligence officers are deployed to prepare reconnaissance and sabotage groups to be sent against Ukrainian defences.
The Russians extensively use surveillance drones for artillery and sniper spotting. They use the Orlan-10 unarmed aerial vehicle, predominantly.
Russia supplies its army invading Ukraine with faked ‘humanitarian’ truck convoys across the uncontrolled Luhansk border, with surreptitious truck convoys across the uncontrolled Donetsk border, and by rail. The 1st (Donetsk) and 2nd (Luhansk) Army Corps of the Russian army get everything they need, in limitless quantities, to attack Ukraine from Russian-occupied Donbas. Surveillance drones of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine have spotted Russia’s reserves of armour waiting for the offensive, when it comes: multiple-launch rocket systems, tanks, self-propelled artillery, and more.
Putin at war is making all efforts to turn the Sea of Azov into a Russian lake. Since the illegal Kerch Bridge was built, the Russians have been harassing shipping destined for the Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk. An effective maritime blockade is in place. The Armed Forces of Ukraine are training with military aviation and armour to defend against a potential combined arms offensive by Russian on the Sea of Azov littoral.
On August 15, Russia declared ‘off-limits’ a huge swath of the Black Sea, stretching from Russian-occupied Ukrainian Crimea to Odesa region in Ukraine to Romania. Ostensibly for training exercises, Russia is signalling that all access to the Black Sea is closed to Ukraine – from the Sea of Azov to Crimea to Odesa.
Putin’s war aim is to destroy Ukraine. A new military offensive by Russia will come because Putin will not allow the partial success and overall failure of his invasion of Ukraine in 2014 to be the end of the matter. Over four years of appeasement by Western leaders of Russian aggression has guaranteed that Putin’s War is about to get much worse.