Monday, January 30, 2017
Russia Escalates War vs Ukraine; Kyiv Calls it War Criminal
Russia has dramatically escalated its military campaign against Ukraine over the weekend, leading to one of the deadliest outbreaks in fighting in the eastern oblasts since mid-December.
At least seven Ukrainian soldiers were killed in battle with pro-Russian terrorists, according to Ukrainian military reports, prompting Kyiv to decry Russia as a war criminal.
“The situation in the Avdiyivka industrial zone is challenging. The enemy continues to fire at our positions with heavy artillery and mortars,” Ukrainian military spokesman Col. Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said at a regular daily briefing.
The deadly uptick in fighting comes a week after the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States and the threat of a dangerous détente between Washington and Moscow that could relegate Ukraine to a vassal region in Russia’s renewed prison of nations.
Russia’s intensified attacks against Ukrainian positions caught the x-captive nations and the free world by surprise, prompting President Petro Poroshenko to cut short his visit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In a statement about Russia’s latest violation of the ceasefire agreement, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its “deep concern” and called on allies to step up pressure on Moscow to abide by the truce.
The rebels began attacking government positions in the eastern frontline town of Avdiyivka on Sunday, January 29, Ukrainian officials said.
“According to tentative information, five Ukrainian troops were killed and 14 were wounded in action in the past 24 hours. The Ukrainian troops incurred almost all the losses in the heavy fighting in Avdiyivka,” Motuzyanyk said on Monday. The toll has since grown.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has killed some 10,000 since it began in three years ago this February, according to the UN Human Rights Office.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak said during the talks with injured servicemen at a Lviv military hospital that the operational situation in the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) area in Donbas remains complicated, but at the same time the Ukrainian troops managed to seize a strategically significant outpost during the battle in the Avdiyivka area.
“Today there is a serious aggravation in the Avdiyivka area: in the morning the terrorist groups started the shelling, then, two groups of the hostiles comprising 25-30 people each launched assault actions on our positions. At one of the positions this attack was stopped by the armed forces servicemen, on the second one our servicemen went into the offensive and seized an important outpost, which has strategic significance. Our servicemen, unfortunately, sustained some losses. The situation in the ATO area is thorny, but controllable,” the ministry press service quoted Poltorak as saying.
Ukrainian military officials accused the Russian mercenaries of using tanks and grad multiple grenade launchers and said they recorded intensified fighting all along the front line — outside the separatist stronghold of Donetsk, in the south of the front-line north of Mariupol and west of Luhansk. The grad launcher is among heavy-caliber weapons that should have been pulled back from the front line under a 2015 truce between the warring parties.
In the Mariupol sector, 20 shells were fired from BM-21 grad rocket launchers on Ukrainian army positions near Talakivka, the staff said on Facebook on Monday morning. Vodiane came under attack of a Grad P rocket launcher, 122mm artillery, mortars of various calibers, grenade launchers and small arms, it said.
According to the staff, the hostiles fired 122 mm artillery on Lybidynske, mortars on Krasnohorivka, and grenade launchers and small arms on Hnutove, Pavlopil, Shyrokyne and Krasnohorivka, and engaged armored personnel carriers and infantry combat vehicles in Shyrokyne.
Two onslaughts were mounted near Avdiyivka in the Donetsk sector but the enemy troops “suffered casualties and had to retreat,” it said. Mortars of various calibers were fired on Verkhniotoretske, Avdiyivka, Opytne, Luhanske, Zaitseve and Kamyanka on Sunday. “Tanks shelled Novhorodske and Pisky,” it said.
The militants fired mortars and grenade launchers on Novo-Oleksandrivka, Troyitske, Popasna and Novozvanivka in the Luhansk sector, it said.
Ukraine and NATO accuse the Kremlin of supporting the rebels with troops and weapons. The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia over the war, as well as for its occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.
With Trump considering dropping the White House’s support for punitive sanctions against Russia, Ukrainian officials, the former captive nations, the European Union, the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus and other friends of Ukrainian on Capitol Hill will be stepping up efforts to mobilize support for maintaining global sanctions against the Kremlin until it surrenders occupied Ukrainian regions and withdraws its troops and mercenaries to Russia.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry issued the following statement:
“Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry expresses deep concern over the intensification of the Russian-terrorist forces in Donbas.
“For the last two days, the Russian occupation forces carried out massive attacks across the contact line using all available weapons, including MLRS ‘grad,’ artillery of 152 mm and 122 mm, mortars of 120 and 82 mm, tanks, all prohibited by the Minsk agreements, and small arms. The Russian weapon has killed 8 Ukrainian soldiers and has left 26 wounded.
“Civilians suffer because of the shelling of the residential areas: 2 civilians have been wounded. The cities of Yasinovata and Avdiyivka were fully cut off from electricity by shelling. More than 400,000 peaceful civilians in the region have no access to water, electricity and heating. Given harsh weather conditions and the continuing shelling by the militants, the humanitarian situation in the area continues to deteriorate.
“Such actions of the Kremlin may qualify as a war crime, a gross violation of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, an unlawful, wanton and extensive destruction of property not justified by military necessity.
“Obviously, the current escalation in Donbas is a clear indication of Russia’s continued blatant disregard of its commitments under the Minsk agreements with a view of preventing the stabilization of the situation and achieving any progress in the security and humanitarian spheres.
“We demand from the Russian Federation to cease hostilities immediately and to comply strictly with the ceasefire.
“We request our international partners to step up political and diplomatic pressure on the Kremlin to stop this dangerous escalation in Donbas and avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in the region.”
With Russia continuing to violate truce accords and escalating its war against Ukraine, and behaving like a war criminal, Kyiv has no other recourse except to sever diplomatic relations with Russia and arrest all Russian diplomats in Ukraine.
The White House must not contemplate establishing good relations with the Kremlin as it deepens its bloodshed in Ukraine. The US must not partner with a country and its leader that emulate Nazi Germany’s bloody behavior.