Day 704: After A Brief Lull, Fighting Worsens In The Donbass

January 22, 2016
A mine warning on the road to separatist-held Kominternovo, outside Mariupol. Screenshot from TSN news.

Fighting has escalated dramatically once again after a two-day lull.

Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.

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Kerry Suggests Sanctions On Russia Could Be Lifted Within Months If Minsk Agreement Fulfilled

Bloomberg reports that US Secretary of State John Kerry has said that the Minsk process could be implemented within months and sanctions on Russia lifted.

“With effort and with bone fide, legitimate intent to solve the problem on both sides, it’s possible in these next months to find those Minsk agreements implemented,” he told an audience in Davos, Switzerland. If this happens, it would “get to the place where sanctions can be appropriately — because of the implementation — be removed,” he said.

Full implementation of the Minsk agreements within “these next months” seems far-fetched to say the least. 

Bear in mind that the Minsk agreements demand the restoration of Ukrainian control over the border with Russia, the holding of local elections in currently occupied areas of the Donbass in accordance with Ukrainian law, and the withdrawal of all “foreign” – i.e. Russian – military forces.

Before any of this can even begin, there has to be a ceasefire. Not only are both sides reporting dozens of attacks, but heavy weaponry continues to be used.

The withdrawal of heavy weaponry beyond stipulated distances from the line of contact was among the very first components of the agreement to be attempted. Clearly, this has failed.

We see the use of not only 120 mm mortars, which is reported almost every day, but Grad MLRS and heavy artillery, as recorded by the OSCE as recently as January 9 and 10.

So the implementation of the Minsk agreements any time soon looks very unlikely. But what is worse is that Kerry is ignoring the fact that sanctions were originally introduced not in response to the Russian invasion of the Donbass, but the occupation and annexation of Crimea earlier in 2014.

The Minsk agreements have no relation to the occupation of Crimea, so those sanctions applied in response to the annexation of the peninsula should not be affected by the implementation of Minsk anyway.

Furthermore, the statement comes just a day after the British public inquiry into the murder of Alexander Litvinenko found that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) was responsible, and that President Putin himself had “probably” ordered the killing.

It is a strange time to offer such conciliatory remarks. 

— Pierre Vaux

After A Brief Lull, Fighting Worsens In The Donbass

The Ukrainian military today reports that, after a relative lull in fighting for the previous two days, the situation has deteriorated again with “nearly incessant” attacks west of Donetsk as well as the use of heavy weaponry.

At 6:00 this morning, the ATO Press Centre reported 69 attacks over the past 24 hours.

The ‘defence ministry’ of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) claimed meanwhile that Ukrainian forces had conducted 20 attacks over last 24 hours, firing 153 rounds.

According to Colonel Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Ukrainian Presidential Administration, Russian-backed fighters fired almost non-stop on the Krasnogorovka and Marinka suburbs, west of Donetsk. One Ukrainian soldier was wounded in Marinka.

The heaviest fighting was seen to the north of the separatist-held city, with attacks concentrated on Peski, near Donetsk Airport, and Opytnoye.


In turn, the DNR accused Ukrainian troops of shelling the western Staromikhailovka and Aleksandrovka suburbs, as well as Spartak, Donetsk Airport and Zhabunki in the north of the city.

Ukrainian troops near Mayorsk, north of Gorlovka, were attacked with grenade launchers, while armoured vehicles fired on troops near Luganskoye and Novgorodskoye, east and west of the separatist-held town respectively.

In the Lugansk region, there were attacks on positions near Troitskoye and Zolotoye, where Russian-backed fighters used automatic grenade launchers. In the village of Sizoye, near Stanitsa Luganskaya, a Ukrainian servicemen was wounded by an explosive device.

It was in the south of the Donetsk region that heavy weapons were reportedly used.

Lysenko claimed today that Russian-backed fighters had used 120 mm mortars to shell Ukrainian positions outside Starognatovka, east of Volnovakha.

Aleksandr Kindsfater, spokesman for the Ukrainian military headquarters in Mariupol, told that the same weapons had also been used near Talakovka, just outside the port city.

Kindsfater also reported attacks in the Shirokino and Chermalyk areas. The number of attacks in the Mariupol sector yesterday was, he said, “unprecedented.”

According to the DNR, Ukrainian troops fired on the villages of Belaya Kamenka, near Starognatovka, and Kominternovo, around 10 kilometres east of Mariupol.


Yesterday Ukraine’s TSN news channel spoke to marines guarding checkpoints on the road towards Kominternovo, who told the station that mortar attacks on their positions took place “every day, it happens throughout the day.” A local civilian echoed this, saying that “they’re shooting every day.” 

‘Mongol,’ the commander of a marine company, claimed that Russian-backed fighters were using 120 mm and 82 mm mortars, in addition to recoilless rifles, automatic grenade launchers and small arms.

— Pierre Vaux