Many of us in the West have been under the assumption that the hostilities in Ukraine have arrived at a ceasefire. Webster’s defines a ceasefire as, “An agreement to stop fighting a war for a period of time so that a permanent agreement can be made to end the war.” One must then ask whether this can be considered a ceasefire: Although offensive operations to capture ground have ceased, the fighting has not.

The fighting has been steady; pro-Russian separatists continue to fire on Ukrainian positions throughout the day, every day, with a variety of weapons. The environment there is so surreal, it resembles the gameplay of the popular video game, “Fallout.” The landscape seen in Eastern Europe often appears post-apocalyptic anyway, and the local characters who issue orders and those involved in operations are such that they could only have fallen from another reality.

Members of the press share and capture a “Fallout” moment. Video courtesy of the author. 

A principle example of one of these characters would be “Somali.” Somali, despite the name, is rather fat. Think Eric Cartman fat with a matching personality. On the far southeastern line, near Russian-backed Eastern Ukrainian separatists, this small-unit captain commands a platoon of volunteer fighters under the lesser-known flag of Kryvbas, 40th Territorial Defense Battalion. Here, Somali wages war in his mind: He swaggers across the lines wearing a khaki, floppy safari hat and orange-tinted hunting glasses. He carries little to no mission-essential equipment other than an abundance of mismatched tactical clothing.

Somali operates in his small area of operations (AO), his unit on overwatch approximately five kilometers from the eastward-facing line. He shares this AO with several other volunteer battalions, elements of the Ukrainian Army, and National Guard, all without a coordinating battle captain or tactical operations center (TOC). Adding to this cluster, the only way to communicate to adjacent units is in person. Moreover, any operational intelligence tends to be speculative, paranoid, and is more than often rumor-driven.

Because it is normal to have a Christmas tree up in May, especially one surrounded by weapons.

For instance, once, a report came down from Somali that a squad conducting reconnaissance had vanished overnight and there was no further information except that they were nearby. He then instructed all elements in his AO to standby while he went to a meeting. Hours passed as those of us left waiting could only speculate and prepare for a possible search-and-rescue operation, which did not occur. Somali remained out of contact and failed to disseminate the information indicating the story about the lost patrol had been unfounded and that all soldiers in the AO were accounted for. The group commanders eventually had to coordinate their own search just to obtain this information.