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Monday, 26 March 2018 10:42

ESCALATION IN ASSAULTS ON UKRAINE ACROSS RUSSIA'S INVASION OF EUROPE BATTLEFRONT

Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 26.03.2018 
 
Russia attacked Ukraine with increased vehemence on the weekend. The ceasefire violations committed by the Russian armed forces invading Ukraine numbered in the double digits. On Saturday, March 24, Russia opened fire on Ukrainian defenders 13 times. On Sunday, March 25, the Russians unleashed a staggering number of assaults – 44.
 
There is supposed to be a permanent ceasefire in effect along Russia’s invasion of Europe battlefront in Donbas. The Trilateral Contact Group, meeting to implement the Minsk Agreements between invader Russia and defender Ukraine, announced yet another ceasefire – calling it “permanent” – on March 5. Russia broke the silence regime right away. But the number of Russian attacks has been low for the past three weeks, compared to the previous four years of Russian war brought to Ukraine. Last week there was even one day when the Russians did not shoot guns or fire artillery or launch missiles at all. For their part, the Ukrainian armed forces defending Europe have respected the “permanent” ceasefire in a one-sided fashion.
 
All this changed on the weekend of March 24-25. On Saturday, Russian attacks and ceasefire violations were confirmed 13 times by the Joint Forces Operation of the Ukrainian armed forces. Most of these attacks were in the Donetsk sector of the battlefront. From south to north, Lebedynske, Pavlopil, Novotroitske, Staromykhailivka, Shakhta Butivka, and Kamianka were attacked by Russia’s armed forces using various weapons: grenade launchers, heavy machine guns, and small arms. In the Luhansk sector of the battlefront, the Russians attacked Troitske (south-west of Russian-occupied Pervomaisk) and Schastya (north of Russian-occupied Luhansk). Ukraine suffered no casualties in action on Saturday, but one soldier was killed and another injured in a non-combat explosion.
 
On Sunday, Russia was back to fighting undisguised open warfare against Ukraine. 44 attacks against the positions of the Ukrainian defenders of Europe were recorded. In the Donetsk sector, Opytne, Lebedynske, and in particular Shyrokino on the Azov Sea were attacked by the Russians with 120-mm mortars (which are forbidden-for-use by the terms of the Minsk Agreements). Near Pisky, west of the destroyed Donetsk airport, the Russians deployed a tank to fire on the Ukrainians. Defenders near Talakivka were attacked with a banned 82-mm mortar. Avdiivka, Bohdanivka, Novotroitske, Vodyane, the Butivka mine, Verkniotoretske, and Pavlopil were attacked by Russian armed forces using grenade launchers and large-calibre machine guns. The Russians deployed an infantry fighting vehicle to attack near Hnutove (a village north-east of Mariupol in free Ukraine). With small arms, the Russian invaders attacked Kamianka, Maryinka, and Krasnohorivka. In the Luhansk sector, Russia attacked Ukrainian defensive positions in Novhorod and near Troitske. One Ukrainian soldier, a defender of the homeland and a defender of Europe, was killed in action. One Ukrainian soldier was wounded in action.
 
Russia’s bombardment from occupied Horlivka was particularly intense on Sunday. The target of the artillery strikes appeared to be to the west, towards Shyroka Balka and Novhorodske, and to the south-west, towards Verkhniotoretske. Around 7 in the morning, it appears as if the Russians shelled Ukrainian civilians in a neighbourhood in occupied Horlivka, in a neighbourhood to the northwest towards the Maiorsk checkpoint. Russia’s proxies and Russian propaganda channels in occupied Horlivka were quick to say that a 66 year old woman was killed by shrapnel. This may be true. The Russian armed forces regularly use terrorist tactics in Ukraine, firing on Ukrainian civilians in Russian-occupied neighbourhoods to create a fiction for propaganda that it is the Ukrainian armed forces shelling their own people. Subsequent Russian shelling of free Ukraine is portrayed as a response to this ‘provocation.’ Firing at their own people first and firing at the enemy second is a long-standing Russian tactic of war.
 
The Ukrainian armed forces do not initiate firefights, and only respond when Ukrainian troops or Ukrainian civilians are in mortal danger. The Ukrainians do not generally do counter-battery fire against Russia’s artillery, because the Russians use “human shield” terrorist tactics and place their artillery amongst the houses and apartment blocks of Ukrainian civilians under occupation – which is of course a war crime. Ukraine follows the rules of war and the Geneva Conventions; Russia flagrantly violates every norm of civilized human behaviour, and did so on March 25.
 
The fraudulent Russian presidential ‘election’ is over, including its illegal conduct in Russian-occupied Ukrainian Crimea. Putin no longer needs to pretend to care what the Russian public thinks. The sharp escalation in Russia’s attacks against Ukraine may presage a spring offensive. More likely it is part of Putin’s never-ending effort to delay implementing any aspect of the Minsk Agreements on Russia’s part. Putin thinks he needs the war he is making in Donbas to distract from the mistake he made by occupying and claiming to annex Crimea. His strategy is incoherent, and his tactics are unsound. In all the fury of Russia’s assaults, the brave Ukrainian men and women who are defending Donbas, Ukraine, Europe, and the West did not give up a metre of ground. Putin is not winning the war he started.
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