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Ukraine: frozen war?

November 23, 2014

Summary: The conflict is ongoing, a new separatist offensive is being predicted

ukraine-russia-631A useful reminder here that, although seemingly frozen in more ways than one, with ice starting to cover the front lines, the conflict is still ongoing in Eastern Ukraine,  The Ukrainian forces believe that a new offensive is being prepared by separatists:

The Daily Telegraph, 22 Nov 2014:

The truth is that the trenches and anti-tank ditches appearing in the fields west of Donetsk have yet to be tested. But they are a telling illustration of how the fortunes of Ukraine’s war have changed since September’s ceasefire. The Ukrainian army’s hopes of finishing the war this summer were dashed by a separatist counter-offensive in late August, which almost certainly had Russian backing. Now, it is the Ukrainians who find themselves on the defensive, focused on containing the separatists rather than winning back ground…Some believe the conflict is slowly freezing, like the ice on the new Ukrainian pill boxes. But others fear an imminent and very major flare-up.

In recent weeks, several vast convoys of military trucks hauling howitzers, Grad rocket systems, and tanks have been seen moving through separatist territory. Nato, meanwhile, has accused Russia of sending combat troops, tanks, artillery, and anti-aircraft systems across the border.  The popular wisdom amongst soldiers and civilians on both sides of the lines is that the rebels are readying to grab the port of Mariupol, in a bid to open a land corridor to the Russian-occupied province of Crimea…

While the separatists who control Donetsk enjoy the logistical benefits and relative comforts of the region’s capital, the Ukrainians are hunkered down in the fields and villages outside the city, dependent on lines of supply from Dnipropetrovsk.

In Peski, the strategic village that acts as the lifeline to the beleaguered garrison in Donetsk airport, the Ukrainians live in a vast network of trenches, tunnels and machine gun nests that comes under near-constant bombardment from rebel artillery.

Further to the rear, the men live in dugouts and trailers on freezing checkpoints, or billeted in houses in the poverty-stricken country towns that dot the western part of Donetsk region.

There is some interesting detail in here as well.  Ukrainian forces seem to be very much provided on a very much volunteer basis – local businessmen raising their own combat battalions.  This almost seems to be the new way into politics.  The forces interviewed here suggest most of the opposition forces are indeed local, as opposed to Russian army, although they claimed to have captured a Russian paratroop major previously.


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