With the arrival of a new year, suddenly expecting Russia to stop killing people is unduly optimistic. In eastern Europe, Russia’s forces have been busy murdering both Ukrainian civilians and soldiers for the last 7 years; it’s what they do for a living. So it comes as no great surprise to learn, in 2021 Russia’s already killed another European, another Ukrainian soldier.
Seen below, Oleh Andriyenko served with Ukraine’s 56th Motorized Infantry Brigade. Jan 11th he died at approximately 3.30 p.m. in the abandoned front line town of Pisky, close to the ruined Donetsk city airport. Reported as having “sustained a fatal gunshot injury,” he succumbed to his wounds shortly after. This brave Ukrainian warrior leaves behind Timur, his new born son & his wife Maryna. Like the US Police officer who died when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol Building in Washington DC, he too died defending democracy; the only difference being, few will write about Oleh’s death. Report.
Jan 11th saw a significant increase Russia’s forces firing, resulting in the death of one Ukrainian soldier. This is what’s called provocation firing, and as the name suggests, it’s designed to provoke return fire and stir up things on the front line. Dec 2020 witnessed similar levels of increased firing, including the almost daily use of mortars. To me this had all the hallmarks of the Russian military command wanting to wake up its largely mercenary and poorly trained troops. During a long-term ceasefire, having an army of around 35,000 grunts doing very little is not good for morale, especially during a harsh Ukrainian winter. More than a few of Russia’s cannon fodder soldiers will have been sitting in their freezing, muddy trenches and wondering what the fuck am I doing here. So a spot of increased fighting, coupled with Ukrainian return fire will have done wonders to snap most out of their end of year apathy.
What can we expect in 2021?
The July 2020 ceasefire is still in place. In the past, the cynical Kremlin tactic of old was to increase firing over a long period of time and then via its puppet republics in Ukraine, Russia would agree to yet another ceasefire. This disingenuous ceasefire call usually occurred during a Normandy Format Summit, when Russia wanted to be seen as the peacemaker.
With the level of firing still well below that seen in 2019, over the next few months, I expect we’ll see a continuation of sporadic low level firing, with occasionally increases such as seen yesterday. Then once things have settled down in the US and the Coronavirus is less of an issue, we’ll have to see what happens later in the year. Remember, much of Russia’s propaganda revolves around demonizing the Ukrainian army. Falsely claiming Ukraine’s army keeps breaking the ceasefire and targeting civilians is standard fare, hence in an attempt to provoke return fire, Russia’s forces fire on Ukrainian positions.
Two hotspot areas to keep an eye on.
2020 saw continued Russia’s forces firing at Ukrainian defences around the town of Avdiivka near the occupied city of Donetsk, and down on the south coast at the village of Vodyane, outside the Ukraine held city of Mariupol. At these two locations, both sides are very close to each other, with just a few hundred metres separating them. In Nov 2020, the OSCE reported seeing new Russia’s forces trenches and firing positions, dug closer to Ukrainian lines defending Avdiivka (see below report).
Much of the firing at Avdiivka is centered around the Donetsk Water Filtration station. Located in a small area of no-mans land between both sides, the station provides water for around 400,000 people on both sides of the line. For water purification, it holds a large quantity of liquefied chlorine gas. Should this stockpile be damaged by shell fire, there’s a real danger it could leak into the natural water supply causing an ecological and humanitarian disaster. So it goes without saying, Russia’s forces digging closer to it, only enhances this likelihood.