Moscow (GPA) – After months of daily skirmishes between Ukraine’s armed forces and the rebels in the Donbas, fighting has flared up over the past few days and could possibly result in mass evacuations.
This week, the Ukrainian military says the fighting has escalated in the Donbas region when rebels launched an attack on the town of Avdiivka, which borders territory controlled by the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). So far the renewed violence has resulted in the death of eight Ukrainian soldiers and an unknown number of rebels.
Russia, acting as an observer in the region, has said that the rise in violence was caused by an attempted offensive by Kiev. The Russian foreign ministry on Tuesday, called on Kiev to put a halt to the “armed provocations” by Ukrainian government forces.
Russian authorities claim to have their own evidence that the assault was actually led by pro-Kiev paramilitaries that fight with assistance provided by the government. These “volunteer battalions” have worked closely with the government in Kiev since the protests in the Maidan in 2014 and have since been integrated into the Ukrainian military structure. These groups tend to include forces from the far right and those hostile to Ukrainians of Russian heritage, making them too extreme to be in the EU approved military of Kiev.
Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov told reporters today that “[The paramilitary] tried to attack the territory controlled by the [self-proclaimed] republics of Donbass,” and that in doing so had “crossed the disengagement line” in the ceasefires agreed on by Moscow and Kiev. Peskov said that the line was crossed with “artillery fire support from the Ukrainian Army,” forcing the rebels “fight back near the town of Avdiivka and take back the seized land.”
Avdiivka is home to a population of about 16,000. The Ukrainian army says they have begun evacuating at least 8,000 civilians as of today. Water and electricity have been cut off in the area, causing a humanitarian crisis which included 200 miners being trapped underground for a period of time.
As usual, the EU is siding with the Ukrainian government in deciding who violated the ceasefire first. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday when she addressed the press saying that “the ceasefire doesn’t exist.” Merkel went on to say it is “important to do everything” to try to get both sides to adhere to the 2015 Minsk ceasefire, negotiated by Russia, Ukraine and several EU members.
Ukraine has the power to stick to the Minsk ceasefire anytime they choose, despite having violated it several times in the past. Russia, on the other hand, continues to be punished for alleged violations by the rebel groups despite only acting as a negotiator on their behalf. Kiev controls their military but Russia, despite allegedly providing material support to the rebels, has no final say in what actions they carry out.
Despite this, Russia has been hit with sanctions several times for actions supposedly carried out by the rebels in the Donbas. Russia negotiated in Minsk on the promise that they would curb actions by the rebels to their best of their ability, but they are not ‘in control’ of the groups the way the US media portrays it.
The US media is clearly continuing the Russophobic assault in blaming Russia for the increased fighting in Ukraine as an attempt to further demonize Vladimir Putin as US President Donald Trump tries to cool relations with Moscow. Do not be fooled into thinking that US leaders and media really care about Ukraine, the surge in fighting is clearly just them furthering the war in an attempt to make the country a sacrificial lamb in their war on Russia.
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James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.