Things are hotting up on the front line.
With a Normandy Format meeting in the offing, Russia’s forces have duly kicked in with heavy weapons. Over the last few weeks, the widespread use of mortars has again become the destructive norm. With reports of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine soon to hold another round of peace talks, the Kremlin appears to be playing the peacemaker card.
Regrettably, nothing substantive has ever come out of these joint talks. Russia’s certainly never been put under pressure by either Germany or France to make concessions; this lackluster approach leading to accusations the two countries are at best politically naive or worse pro-Russian. Over the last 5 years, Russia has merely used these Normandy Format gatherings as a delaying talking shop, stating it wont do anything until Ukraine does this and that.
With each time having little to show for their deliberations, this political impasse routinely results in France and Germany eagerly agreeing to a new ceasefire proposal. Russia then stresses it will do all it can to stop “separatist” forces (Russia’s own forces) from firing. Cue the announcement of another short-lived ceasefire, but little else. However, this time there is another factor at play. With Ukraine having a new president, there are genuine fears France & Germany will pressure president Zelenskyy to make concessions, rather than Russia. On the plus-side, Zelenskyy is a pro-active president, one who is keen to talk and resolve the conflict. This willingness to negotiate with Putin makes for a refreshing change and is an excellent way of countering the Kremlin’s propaganda. All along we’ve heard Russia claim Ukraine’s to blame for the lack of peace progress, so saying put up or shut up to Putin, is a smart move. So, let’s see how things pan out this time.
Front line News.
Including one Ukrainian soldier wounded today, since Sept 2nd, 6 soldiers have been reported killed and 25 wounded. The OSCE has certainly witnessed a greater volume of firing. From last Thursday, the below ceasefire stats list 1,000 ceasefire violations and an increased number of explosions. As you can see, the level is higher than the corresponding average in 2018.
To give a flavour for the recent fighting, here are two English translated videos.
Sept 15th: Top one details Ukrainian soldiers holding the line at the town of Avdiivka. Opposite the occupied city of Donetsk, this is one of the hottest parts of the front line. Ukrainian positions dug into the towns now destroyed industrial centre come under fire virtually every single day. With the death of one of their commanders here, Russia’s forces have been a little more revengeful active.
The second Sept 11th video shows the aftermath of a Russian mortar strike. Soldiers defending positions opposite the occupied town of Horlivka, show how shrapnel ripped through everything, inc washing hanging on the line and a kettle. Luckily no one was hit and even the units dog and kitten survived. Last week several soldiers were killed here.