By Irina Burya, Donbass International News Agency
The shelling of Donbass does not subside. According to the Defense Ministry of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Donetsk and Lugansk republics have endured about 2,000 bombardments during the past week, including over 1,000 where the Ukrainian side used heavy weapons.
More than half of the attacks occurred on the outskirts of Donetsk city. Residents of the northern and western suburbs of the city heard daily explosions of Ukrainian shells, lasting well into the night, until the DPR army returned fire. Last night soldiers of the republic managed to destroy a Ukrainian warehouse filled with ammunition, creating a glow of the fire that was visible for several miles.
As a result of the Ukrainian attacks, according to the local authorities, one civilian was killed and another three wounded. The information about damage to homes and infrastructure is yet to be confirmed.
Early last week, the newly elected speaker of the Verkhovnaya Rada (Parliament) in Kiev, Andriy Parubiy, said that constitutional reform in Ukraine was possible only after a complete ceasefire in Donbass. His statement was made against the backdrop of Kiev’s ongoing delivery of heavy weapons to the front line, including dozens of tanks and armoured vehicles, self-propelled artillery systems, howitzers, anti-tank cannons, and MLRS’s (see photos of weapons mentioned at original posting of story, weblink above).
In his latest interview, the head of the DPR, Alexander Zakhatchenko, said that the situation on the front was very tense. Having amassed a significant amount of weaponry near Donetsk, Kiev is also creating another two attack groups: in the north, in the Gorlovka area, and in the south, in the Dokuchaevsk area.
DPR intelligence has reported the discovery to the north of Donetsk of a Ukrainian foothold with Grad MLRS, fully prepared for combat. To the north of Gorlovka, several Uragan MLRS’s were detected. In the southern direction, which remained relatively quiet until recently, the intensity of Ukrainian attacks is also increasing.
Moreover, according to the republican authorities’ sources in the Ukrainian General Staff, Kiev has been delivering to the conflict zone equipment from the Chernobyl area. The equipment is believed to have undergone restoration at Ukrainian repair plants. The removal of the radioactive residue, however, has proved to be impossible. Nevertheless, the Ukrainian army units have apparently already received this equipment, with no Ukrainian soldiers or their commanders warned about the dangers to their health and wellbeing.
Satellite images of the exclusion zone of the Chernobyl NPP show that the cemetery of contaminated equipment located there is almost empty. Earlier, the hacker group ‘CyberBerkut’ published documents according to which about a half of Ukrainian military equipment had been located, at a given time, in the Chernobyl zone.
Kiev is also massively delivering nationalist battalions to the front line. According to DPR intelligence sources on the ground, over the past three days in the Donetsk area alone, about 500 radicals from the Right Sector arrived, one of the most right-wing radical organisations in Ukraine. Local residents reported that the nationalists had been accommodated on the territory of a former children’s camp surrounded by minefields. The civilian personnel of the camp had been sacked prior to the radicals’ arrival.
Apparently Kiev is sending radicals to the east to strengthen the Ukrainian units on the contact line, whose morale decreases with each passing day. According to the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine, the number of deserters from the Ukrainian army is close to 2,000, of which the Office has managed to prosecute just around 300 men.
However, the right-wing radicals’ methods of increasing the morale of Ukrainian soldiers usually ends in armed clashes between them. According to DPR intelligence sources on the ground, over the last week in the north of Donetsk alone, seven Ukrainian soldiers were killed and over 20 wounded in such clashes. The nationalists suffered up to 20 men killed and about 25 wounded.
In addition, yesterday the press service of the administration of the Ukrainian President indirectly confirmed the “self-destruction” of one of the checkpoints. The day before, two soldiers were found shot at close range, their commander hanged, and another soldier had disappeared together with his weapons, his whereabouts unknown.
The Lugansk People’s Republic Defense Ministry also reported a clash at one of the Ukrainian checkpoints, resulting in two Ukrainian soldiers fleeing from the shooting to the LPR side and surrendering.
Locals have informed of recent attempts of the Ukrainian military to deliberately delay the process of civilian crossings of the contact line in order to force them to spend the night on the Ukrainian side. At night, car drivers are forced to arrange their vehicles around the checkpoint, thus creating a “human shield” around the position of the Ukrainian military in case of bombardment from the Republics.
It should be noted that the Ukrainian side has used the same tactics to seize areas of the buffer zone. It has called OSCE observers to the territories it occupies as a way of providing cover against return fire from the DPR army. In the protective presence of the OSCE observers, the Ukrainian military has carried out engineering works, a fact never mentioned in any of the OSCE mission reports.
Kiev authorities, however, are not satisfied with shelling of civilian towns, even with heavy artillery. They are also tightening the economic blockade of the republics. The local authorities of Pervomaysk, a frontline town in the LPR, informed yesterday that the town had been cut off from gas supply from the Ukrainian side. The city hospital, more than 30 schools and kindergartens and other social facilities were stopped from functioning. The Ukrainian side confirmed the cessation of gas supply to the town, without giving any explanation why.
A month ago, the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced that Ukraine would recover Donbass within a year, exclusively by peaceful means he said.
The Donetsk International News Agency (DONi) is a private, non-profit information agency founded in 2015 and located in the center of the city of Donetsk. It is headed by Finnish journalist Janus Putkonen and has ten full time journalists on staff. Approximately half of those are citizens of Western European countries.
The DONi website features regular, ‘Situation reports’ for Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics, here. For clarification of facts mentioned or additional information, please ask in the comments section or email the author at: [email protected]