Ukraine Day 1097: LIVE UPDATES BELOW. Two Ukrainian soldiers were wounded and 2 more civilians, bringing to 4 the number of civilians wounded in the last 2 days, including 3 teenagers as heavy fighting continues in eastern Ukraine. The ‘Normandy Quartet’ announced yet another ceasefire to go into effect Monday, February 20.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
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A window broken by shelling from Russia-backed forces on Trudovskiye. Photo by National Police of Donetsk Region.
Heavy fighting continued in eastern Europe today.
There were a number of social media reports of the shelling today.
Anna Dombrovskaya, an independent Russian war correspondent who was injured in a Right Sector attack in Odessa in 2015, reported from Trudovskoye.
Translation: Pro-Russian militants shelled Trudovskoye near Volknovakha. Two residents were injured, 22 homes were damaged.
She uploaded a video made by a woman civilian who was in her apartment with her children, one of whom was supposed to celebrate her birthday today. She describes the shells as they made impact.
Translation: Heavy shelling #Krasnogorovka 2/18/2017. Hands shaking from fear.
o DNR Reports No Casualties; Gas, Power Lines Struck
The pro-Russian Donetsk News Agency (DAN) reported that Ukrainian forces had taken three DNR supporters as POWs, according to Darya Morozovaya, the human rights ombudsperson of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR).
Eduard Basurin, the self-styled deputy commander of the DNR forces said that Ukrainian forces had fired 1,980 times today from tanks, BMPs, grenade-launchers, mortar-launchers, anti-aircraft systems and firearms on the areas around Gorlovka and Yasinovataya, damaging a gas line, DAN reported
Basurin did not report any casualties.
o Normandy Quartet Agrees on New Ceasefire
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that yet another ceasefire had been negotiated among the “Normandy Quartet”, the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, who met in Munich this weekend. The group is so named for their first meeting in 2014 in France on the 70th anniversary of the landing of Allied forces on the beach in Normandy.
It’s probably too soon for people to be optimistic about the latest ceasefire agreement, according to CNN International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson, but “what you have here are the ingredients to reinvigorate the Minsk agreement,” he said.
Earlier this month, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, made it clear that any lifting of Russian sanctions would be tied to a withdrawal from Crimea.European leaders won’t lift sanctions until full implementation of the Minsk agreement.
“What we seem to be seeing here is Sergei Lavrov perhaps taking a step further to make that happen,” Robertson said.
o Putin Decrees ‘Temporary Recognition’ of DNR/LNR Passports
President Vladimir Putin signed a decree today granting “temporary recognition” of the “passports” of the self-declared “Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.” While this recognition of travel documents stops short of recognition of the republics per se, and may seem a formality given Russia’s de facto control of the Ukrainian border in eastern Ukraine, the move was seen as both “humanitarian” in nature as well as a form of pressure on Ukraine.
As Novaya Gazeta reported, the recognition of the passports enables Russia-backed separatists fighting against Ukraine in the Donbass to evacuate to Russia if need be.
Gleb Pavlovsy, a political analyst who formerly served as a consultant to the Kremlin commented (translation by The Interpreter)::
“The motive for the recognition of the passports is simple. It is the wish to put a light pressure on the West. Simultaneously on both Europe and on the Trump Administration. This decision was deliberately tied to the [Normandy Quartet] conference in Munich. It hints somewhat at the possibility of further escalation. Recognition of the republics is the next step, but in principle, that is little different from recognition of the passports, despite all the claims of humanitarian purposes.”
Pavlovsky added that the recognition meant that Russia was prepared to recall to Russia all those in the Donbass who fear the return of Kiev’s control over the region. He said the move was both a concession of sorts and aggressive in nature — and was therefore “an explosive mixture”.
Dmitry Oreshkin, another political analyst said:
“I think this is related to Putin’s disappointment in Trump. When he came to power, there were immediately injustified hopes that we would make an agreement because he [Trump] is a person who is dependent on us. The Russian system of values was fairly simple: leave Crimea alone and remove sanctions.
While there was hope that this window of opportunities could be used in some fashion, Putin behaved. Then it became more obvious that Trump’s reputation was tarnished. If if Trump wanted to establish relations with Putin, he would have to be kept as far away as possible. Because any positive movement toward Putin will be seen as an attempt to pay for the help that the Kremlin, as people believe in the USA, provided to Trump during his presidential campaign.”
Oreshkin pointed out that it was “nonsense” to recognize a region’s travel documents but not recognize the region as a country.
Aleksei Chenakov, director of the Research Council of the Center for Current Politics said that the main argument for the recognition was to give people in the Donbass who would not be able to get Ukrainian passports the opportunity to study, to get medical treatment, and to move around Russia. He believes Kiev is conducting a “genocide” of people in the Donbass with both shelling and an economic blockade; Putin has “taken a serious step” to address.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick