Monday, February 20th, the new ceasefire agreement is in full swing across the front line of Ukraine, but is it going to hold up?
I was in one of the front-line villages in last few days, and the Russian-backed rebels have dropped everything on them from AGS (Automatic grenade launcher), 82mm mortars, 120mm mortars to Grad rockets. It was 7 am Monday morning as the sun was coming up on this ghostly village. This place has been totally destroyed. Not a building intact, everywhere you look: bullet holes scar the buildings, walls, cars, shrapnel litters the road, and mortar tails embedded in the roads. With only a handful of Ukrainian soldiers holding the village, it was quiet, too quiet for my liking. But that would not last for long. At around 3 pm multiple bangs rock through the empty village, followed by small arms whizzing around.
The rebels have been backed out of the village, they lay in trenches just outside of the town; 700m away from the Ukrainian positions and some remote farm building. They can’t help but engage the Ukrainians and this works both ways. It’s not long before Ukrainians return fire and let them know the fight is still on. One of the biggest disadvantages for the Ukrainian soldiers is that they are being monitored. The SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) is positioned in the rear lines of the town making sure they keep the peace or try their best too. On the top of this, the OSCE (Unarmed civilian monitoring service) is never too far away, but there is no one to monitor the Russian-backed rebels. Try and figure that one out.
Small arms would rattle on and off throughout the day including AGS, but around 5 pm it was getting dark and I think the Ukrainians thought “Fuck this!” They respond by sending a Tow Missile down range. I was sitting with my friend in one of the compounds when we heard the bang, we rushed outside and heard the missile cutting through the air followed by a boom. Then there was silence, a lot of chatter on the radio and some rather happy Ukrainian clapping. Must have been a good hit! Big guns fell silent for a few hours but small arms could be heard throughout the night. By the time morning came it, was back to silence. I think they just need a rest for a few hours, get some shut-eye, and no doubt they’ll be back as soon as they can!
Like I said in my last article, you cannot have two opposing forces in such close proximity, this will not work and never has. These guys want to fight on both sides and I think it’s unfair to monitor one side. All these ceasefires do is cause hindrance to Ukrainian operations. I also believe the Russians use this to regroup/rearm and sort their lives out.
Maybe Russia is using this opportunity to finalize some paperwork for the groups like Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, making them legitimate Russian citizens. And now the Kremlin is working out how best to pull off an annex maneuver? I guess we will have to wait and see for the future.
But for now the front is as it has always been, the Wild West; with what seems to be a never-ending story.
Images courtesy of the author.