Fears of new flareup in Ukraine as violence grows on frontline
PISKY: It’s been only two months since Yelena Krivonos has stopped sleeping in her cellar to hide from shelling, but now that violence has ticked up in eastern Ukraine she is headed back underground. “Combat has begun again,” the 31-year-old mother of two said after taking warm clothing for herself and her children to the basement. “At night they are launching mortars and something heavier, the house is shaking again.” “I guess the end of this war is still a long way off.”
Yelena’s house stands close to the frontline near Donetsk, the largest city held by proRussian separatists in the country’s east who have battled with Ukraine’s forces since April 2014. In September, the latest in a string of Western-brokered ceasefire agreements went into force, pushing fighting to its lowest level since close to the start of the conflict. Officially the warring sides insist they have been withdrawing weapons, with Ukraine’s military on Saturday saying it has pulled their 82-mm mortars back from the frontline, following similar declarations by pro-Moscow rebels.
On the ground however, each side is accusing the other of firing at soldiers and civilians, underlining the fragility of the truce that some fear could disintegrate like previous ceasefires. In the village of Pisky, the closest Ukrainian position to the ravaged rebel- controlled Donetsk airport, soldiers report combat injuries every day. On the other side of the frontline in rebel-held territory, Yelena’s village of Staromikhailivka and outlying neighbourhoods of the insurgent capital Donetsk complain of Ukrainian attacks.
“Even after pulling back heavy weapons, we are seeing the enemy take tanks almost into Pisky,” said Dmitry Dvoichenkov, artillery operator and press officer for Ukraine’s 93rd brigade based in the village. “They are shooting every day from firearms, mortar launchers and grenade launchers,” he said. “Lately we even had people die... constantly we have people hit, our guys are injured on a daily basis.” If there is a full-blown assault on Ukrainian positions, “we’ll defend with what we have,” Dvoichenkov said, adding that the rest of weaponry could reach the frontline “within an hour”. On Tuesday, Kiev said four Ukrainian soldiers were injured in eastern Ukraine. —AFP
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