March 12, 2015
Translated on Voices of Sevastopol
Russian Professor, Doctor of Political Sciences and a member of the Academy of Military Sciences Igor Panarin counted the losses of foreign military as a result of participation in the so-called ATO, in the territory of Donbass. The document published is called: “The losses of foreign mercenaries and NATO troops in Donbass in the period from 2 May 2014 to 15 February 2015“. As a result of calculations it became known that the foreign mercenary troops suffered losses of about 1,200 people killed.
The greatest losses among foreign mercenaries operating in the punitive units of Ukrainian junta were suffered by:
– Polish PMC «ASBS Othago» – 394 people (killed and wounded)
– American PMC “Greystone” -180 people,
– American PMC “Academi” (until 2009 known as Blackwater) – 269 people. Baltic sniper women lost 26 people. CIA – 25 people.
In addition, according to some expert data, there were about 25% of the personnel (approximately 2,200 people) of NATO troops and foreign mercenaries as a part of the encircled punitive group in Debaltsevo. This explains the diplomatic activity of the Western leaders and arrival of the leaders of France and Germany in Moscow.
We can assume the losses among NATO military and its allies (killed and wounded) in Debaltsevo pocket:
1.Soldiers of UK Airborne Service – about 20 people
2.The military forces of SOF (Special Operations Forces) of the United States – about 15 people
3.Soldiers of Foreign French Legion – 10 people.
4.Polish military -10 people
4.Soldiers from Israel -10 people.
5.Soldiers from Croatia -10 people.
There are good news, which somehow went unnoticed. But actually it is very important. Because it marks a new life of Donbass, its rebirth. The first steps of peaceful development.
I am very glad that the rail service between Donetsk and Lugansk has been restored. I remember when I was in Novorossia, in order to get to Donetsk from Lugansk and Alchevsk, we had to loop around narrow bypass trails in the dark of the night in a minivan – from checkpoint to checkpoint. Hoping that we won’t make the wrong turn and stumble on the ukro-punishers. 🙂 Under the seat layed the two “Mukhi”, on the seat – the AK. The feeling was unforgettable. But now Debaltsevo is free. And the direct way is open.
“On March 28 from Yasinovataya-Passazhirskaya station departed the first train in 8 months, connecting Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. It departs 3 times a week through the stations Yenakiyevo, Debaltsevo, Rudakova and 14 other settlements with the last stop in Lugansk at 13.30.”
And this is not a small thing. This is a huge, hard work of thousands of people. And those who freed Debaltsevo, and those who restored the rail communications and power lines.
“In response to another statement of the ATO spokesman Lysenko that UAF will leave us a “lunar surface”, and as directed by the head of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, we are ready to lay the railway on the “lunar surface”, which is left after the Ukrainian army.”
Donbass will be peaceful. Donbass will be prosperous. Hooray!
Initially it seemed surprising that on the first day of the negotiations marathon in Minsk a bill to “provide lethal weapons to the Government of Ukraine in order to defend itself against Russian-backed rebel separatists in eastern Ukraine” would be introduced in the US Congress. However, it soon became clear that its sponsor, Sen. James Inhofe (left), simply harbors no illusions about his Ukrainian partners’ competence or ability to comply with their obligations. He understands that Kiev will inevitably violate the cease-fire and that Washington will soon have to explain why the militias in the devastated region of what is known as the “Debaltsevo cauldron” are in possession of such a vast number of captured weapons originating from NATO countries.
And there can be no doubts whatsoever that this will happen. The militia continues to provide documented evidence of Kiev’s use of NATO-standard weapons, such as Paladin M109 self-propelled howitzers, portable Javelin anti-tank weapons systems, and small arms (M16 rifles and much more).
Video taken in Gorlovka on Feb.1, 2015. Life News reports that the Christian cathedral in the centre of town was shelled by 155mm cannons of a US-made Paladin howitzer.
Video taken at Donetsk airport on Jan 18, 2015 presenting piles of NATO light weapons left by the Ukrainian soldiers.
Ukrainian TV report (Sept 2014) on Western military assistance to Ukraine. Javelin anti-tank weapons and other systems presented.
The age and condition of these weapons suggests that the West is simply selling Ukraine military equipment that was already destined for the recycling bin. For example, Britain first produced its Saxon armored personnel carriers in 1983, and they were removed from service in 2008. Now they are being shipped through the port of Odessa to the company Ukroboronprom, which will adapt them to the needs of the Ukrainian army. The Ukrainian government is spending about $51,000 on each Saxon AT-105. It is worth noting that due to the all-out crisis situation there, the Ukrainians have vetoed the idea of producing their own Dozor-B armored carrier.
Image: Ukrainian Pres. Petro Poroschenko touches the Saxon’s thin armor. Photo via Accidents News
According to official statistics, before 2007 the German army possessed 570 M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzers. But not a single one remains. Where do you think those tanks went? The answer is simple – in December 2014, Ukrainian officials suddenly closed the airports in Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhye, and Kharkov because of the ostensible threat of Russian paratroopers (!), while several of NATO’s C-17B Globemaster and C-130 Hercules military transport planes landed there. Eyewitnesses in Zaporozhye and Dnepropetrovsk saw four self-propelled Paladin howitzers (and boxes of their ammunition) being unloaded. Witnesses in Kharkov claim two RomanianLAROM MLRS and a Spanish Teruel-3 were transported there.
Military convoys that have been regularly crossing the Polish-Ukrainian border since the summer of 2014 are arriving at the 169th Training Center of the Ukrainian ground forces in the Chernihiv region, where instructors from NATO countries are conducting workshops with soldiers serving in Ukraine’s security forces, in order to train them on NATO weapons and equipment.
Polish General Bogusław Pacek is leading the group of NATO advisers in Ukraine since September 2014.
The incompetence of the Ukrainian army, as well as the question of provisioning them, is a very serious problem. NATO weapons systems are difficult to operate and require large quantities of the proper ammunition, which is not manufactured in Ukraine. But channels for delivering such ammunition to Ukraine have already been established. For example, in early February the cargo ship Yasar Abi sailed from Burgas (Bulgaria) to the port of Oktyabrsk (the Mykolaiv region, Ukraine) carrying a load of 680 tons of NATO and old Soviet ammunition.
So Senator Inhofe’s bill is not about rendering military assistance to the puppet government in Kiev, but is rather a way to legitimize the shipments that are already being sent. As usual, only the most aged, decrepit weapons are ending up in the region where the anti-terror operation is underway – meaning that Ukrainian officials are re-exporting everything that is worthy of resale to third countries, including Syria. No one can guarantee that the weapons that will pass to Ukraine legally will not soon be used against America’s interests in global hot spots. However, it seems that this threat is the last thing on the minds of US senators.
Update #1 Feb 20, 2015; 4pm msk:
Militias in Debaltsevo after liberation of the city. DNR and LNR fighters came upon a large number of weapons left by retreating Ukrainian military, American armored Humvee vehicle among them.
We are receiving the first reports concerning the approximate numbers of equipment captured in the Debaltsevo cauldron.
Armored vehicles. By first estimates, Novorossia captured over 80 tanks in repairable condition. Some of them were fully operational, even loaded with ammunition. Some have been abandoned without fuel, others were abandoned after their tracks were damaged, most of the vehicles captured have light or medium damage. This is sufficient for at least two tank battalions.
According to the official Kiev GenStaff announcement, as many as 15 tanks managed to leave the cauldron…out of at least 5 battalion tactical groups which were originally in the cauldron and 4 additional ones that were sent in to help.
Over 100 BMPs and BTRs have been captured in repairable condition. The junta managed to take out only about 50.
Artillery. Not fewer than fifty 122mm and 152mm weapons (not counting 120mm mortars), many of which are repairable, and about 15 BM-21 122mm Grad launchers. At least 500 tons of artillery ammunition.
A huge amount of small arms, including heavy machine guns, RPGs, RPOs [flame rocket launchers used for assaulting fortified positions and buildings]. Storehouses of food and medicine. Other goods.
Novorossia commanders are especially grateful to the numerous volunteer organizations which have equipped the junta’s forces so well: the hundreds of night vision devices, digital radio stations, thermal imagers, modern ballistic computers and fire direction gear, wound treatment and anti-shock kits of Western origin, Kevlar helmets (even though Russian ones are better, there aren’t enough of them), modern body armor, will be of great use.
J.Hawk’s Comment: Just to reiterate, these are the weapons and equipment which are in repairable condition. Many of UAF’s losses were irretrievable—there are many photos circulating on the internet showing fields and roads littered with burned out armored vehicles left behind by the UAF.
Judging by the “LifeNews” report on February 19, 2015 about Novorossia fighters collecting trophies after Ukrainian troops withdrew from Debaltsevo, among other finds, NAF received one whole complex of LCMR (Lightweight Counter-Mortar Radar), supplied by the United States as part of military assistance to Ukraine.
The U.S. has decided to send to the armed forces of Ukraine 20 LCMR radars, the first three of which were delivered in November 2014. According to the information, received by our blog from the most serious sources, soon after the transfer one of the stations was damaged during transportation, and then another station was damaged by artillery fire of the enemy at the first attempt of its combat use by the Ukrainians. We can assume that the LCMR radar, abandoned by the Ukrainian troops in Debaltsevo is the third of this ill-fated first batch of the three stations.
The vehicle was one of the many seized from the UAF at Debaltsevo and its vicinity. It seems to be in perfectly good working order. I suppose the most surprising thing about it is that the UAF had no time to put it up for sale, as it did the British-supplied Saxon APCs…
NAF: Thank you to Canadians and Ukrainians for supplies! (Video)
February 19, 2015
Translated by Kristina Rus
00:00 – 13:00
NAF commander Terek is in charge of a drone recon unit of the First Slavyansk battalion. His unit of 25 people works with drones doing intelligence gathering near Debaltsevo.
Military correspondents of Novorossia TV delivered humanitarian aid to the unit from humanitarian battalion “Novorossia.” Some deliveries are addressed to specific units and fighters.
– Is this a good bulletproof vest?
– It’s average, so so, but better then nothing.
– I am wearing a police one.
– If you crawl on the ground, the pockets start to tear. The detachable pockets are better.
The correspondents asked commander Terek, what they need.
– Thermal boots, or at least warm leather boots
– Everything is mined, there are not enough sappers, so we use drones to save the lives of our fighters who go on recon missions.
– We need thermal underwear, thermal socks, thin warm hats under helmets, tactical gloves, knee pads and elbow pads.
This is regarding the personal equipment, but as far as military equipment we have plenty of trophies left by Ukrainian troops. New drones. You know they had truckloads left in Nikishino. When they run, they leave everything behind. Were do you think our drones come from?
We do need radios with closed channels. They cost 25 000 roubles, unfortunately. At least a few would be nice. We had to shut them off in Nikishino. Because their artillery works on signal very well, they strike on the signal of our drones.
We need serious things, because they get serious things from America and Europe.
– Night vision goggles – at least couple, not to stumble on their positions.
– We have nothing to charge the radios, phones with, no heat, we need generators, better diesel – because there are problems with gasoline.
– We got dry meals, thermal underwear, hygiene products for women. Thank you to the Russian brothers for helping us! The war showed who is our friend and who is our enemy.
A large amount of ammo and equipment was left by the Ukrainian troops.
– We got lists of who was in Redkodub, even with phone numbers.
Tank ammo, Vasilek ammo, 82 mm grenades, 120 mm grenades, RPG, 762, TURs.
We are almost on a frontline.
This is ammo left by the Ukrainian troops in Redkodub.
This is only a tenth part, a lot has been taken out already.
Mines, bullets, we are not supposed to have anything else.
Several Ural truckloads were taken out just by our brigade.
American, NATO helmets, goggles, about 40 bulletproof vests, good quality, neck protection, 4th generation.
– So you got your own humanitarian aid from Ukrainian volunteers?
– Canadian helmet with excellent quality. Comfortable. Thank you to Canadians and Ukrops for deliveries of supplies!
– Ukrainian army left us some excellent weapons, 120 mortar in great condition.
TUR – anti-tank rocket system
– Why does a mortar unit need TUR?
– We want to be prepared for any breakthrough. We have our own TUR, RPG, muhi, now we are not just a mortar, but a mobil assault brigade!!!
DONETSK (Sputnik) – The forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) willcease fire everywhere except for inner regions of the self-proclaimed republic, any attempts of Kiev soldiers to break out the encirclement at the town of Debaltseve will be stopped, theDPR head said Saturday.“We are ceasing fire everywhere but inner regions of DPR. Any attempt of [Kiev soldiers] to leave the ‘cauldron’ [Debaltseve encirclement] will be stopped. I have already given this order,” Alexander Zakharchenko told reporters.
“There is not a single word about Debaltseve in [Minsk] agreements. That means that Ukraine simply betrayed 5,000 people in the ‘cauldron’,” Zakharchenko said.
Debaltseve, one of Ukraine’s biggest railroad junctions, has become the site of intense fighting between Kiev and southeastern Ukrainian pro-independence fighters.
Earlier in the day, deputy head of the DPR forces Eduard Basurin stated that the republic was not planning to let Kiev soldiers trapped in Debaltseve leave the town until they surrender. According to Basurin, Kiev told soldiers to not surrender, as they would be taken out ofDebaltseve in rotations or usingOSCE help after February 15.Kiev denies claims that its soldiers are encircled in Debaltsevo.
During Thursday’s Minsk talks, the leaders of Kiev and the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk managed to sign a deal, stipulating a ceasefire from Saturday night, prisoner swaps, weaponry withdrawal and constitutional changes in Ukraine.
Donetsk forces announced readiness to cease fire and allow surrounded Kiev soldiers to leave the Debaltseve area “on respectful conditions.”
An earlier ceasefire agreement reached by the warring sides last September broke down, with clashes intensifying in recent weeks. Debaltseve, one of Ukraine’s biggest railroad junctions, has become the site of intense fighting. According to reports, up to 10,000 Ukrainian troops remain surrounded after attempting to recapture the contested town.
“We are under fire from mortars, Grads, self-propelled howitzers, small arms, and lots of other stuff. There is close combat in the streets. 90% of the civilian population had left. Debaltsevo is not fully surrounded, but all roads leading into it are under militant [sic] fire. It is practically impossible to enter the city.
“Gusar,” an officer of the 128th Brigade (published on the Zerkalo Nedeli web site):
“We are facing the second Ilovaysk. It’s been five days since the cauldron had closed. When the Donetsk Airport was taken, they lied to people for five days that it’s under control. In reality it was the other way around. Debaltsevo is under de-facto encirclement since five days ago. There used to be a small path out, which they tried to use to break out. They lost vehicles but broke out. The enemy occupied the commanding heights along the road and has it covered with fire. People are telling us nice stories that there are still communication routs, some detours, dirt roads…There was a road like that, but as of yesterday the convoy of five vehicles that left Debaltsevo yesterday lost all five of them. Only seven guys made it out. We don’t know what happened to the rest.”
Viktor Baloga, Politician [Transcarpathia oligarch, governor] (comment on facebook).
“Mr. President. You and I both know well that we no longer control Debaltsevo. I’ll say more. Preventing the media from reporting the true state of affairs will not help anyone. Our own HQ is lying worse than the Russians. Moreover, the lies are obvious—there are so many people there that it’s impossible to conceal the truth. My local guys are there, lots of them. But since nobody is doing anything, they are losing faith.
You know what needs to be done, both in the military and diplomatic sense. In other words, either we cancel the ceasefire which had never existed for the entire region, switch on the artillery and send weapons and ammunition in. Or we decide to withdraw. The decision must be made NOW!”
Deputy Commander of the 25th “Kievan Rus” Battalion
“The situation in Debaltsevo is critical, very bad. 90% of Debaltsevo is under their control. It is in operational encirclement. All three roads to the city are mined and under dense enemy fire. Our higher command is gone. The Sector command and commander were here. But in reality he abandoned this position and caused senseless losses. The command is not in control of the situation here.”
Vitaliy Tilizhenko, volunteer (facebook)
“The Debaltsevo cauldron had closed! There is exfiltration by small groups. Somebody is covering the withdrawal and holding positions, gradually abandoning them and withdrawing. We have lost the police HQ and the rail station in the morning. We lost 1/3 of our equipment at Ilovaysk. We’ll lose 1/5th of all equipment, abandoning it because people are more valuable, and there will be nothing to fight with, as always. All withdrawing groups are falling into ambushes and are losing men and equipment. The ambushes are growing stronger and more fortified with every hour, and the percentage of people making it out of the cauldron is dropping. They won’t say this on TV. Everything is great there. Pete [Poroshenko] outplayed everyone, no need for martial law, Europe is concerned, etc.”
Debaltsevo Update, morning 2/17
“The separatists [sic] fired from all kinds of weapons, from mortars to SP howitzers and Uragan rocket launchers. Our guys held their positions to the last. We had no communications with them. They started to come out of the city at night, in a column of trucks and APCs. There were many wounded in the column. Our intelligence was able to find a relatively save path out. Our guys broke into groups. ‘McCloud’s’ group went second. Tolya was behind them. They fell into an ambush. Lost lots of equipment, but managed to break out. But that corridor is now closed.”
The cauldron will cease to exist in a few hours, a day at the most. Novorossia’s army has taken most of Debaltsevo. UAF and volunteer battalions have lost their HQ, therefore are acting in an uncoordinated, chaotic fashion, in order to save themselves. Many of the soldiers who have nothing to fear (draftees and reservists) are laying down their arms. DPR/LPR is mentioning hundreds of POWs. But that is only the beginning.
Most of the prisoners will likely be captured today or tomorrow, and here’s why.
Up to yesterday UAF troops could still hope they’d be rescued. The yesterday’s assault on Debaltsevo by Republican forces [a reference to the Spanish Civil War? Because the other side is fascist, after all…] which went very well, showed that the cauldron can quickly turn into a graveyard unless they do something fast.
They can do only two things: either surrender or break out. Surrendering is not the best option for the volunteers. The draftees and reservists it means a new lease on life. It means getting out of the war which feels alien to many of them. Moreover, the experience from last summer means that captivity equals life and…freedom. Many UAF prisoners prefer not to return to Ukraine but rather to sit out the mess in Russia—that’s the reality of the civil war.
But one has to keep in mind that these brigades are not merely reservists. Many territorial battalions have been incorporated into their organization (the 128th Brigade has three of them). So far from all 128th Brigade soldiers will be wiling to surrender. Nevertheless, already last evening we were seeing reports that the soldiers of the 40th “Krivbass” Battalion were surrendering. This was reported by the battalion commander himself.
Already yesterday we say several units withdraw toward Debaltsevo, which could have meant preparations for a break-out. Indeed, it began yesterday morning. It’s hard to tell how successful it was (it’s chaos out there), but it’s clear that they suffered enormous losses in the attempt. Semenchenko writes the following on facebook:
“The situation at Debaltsevo is growing more tense. I received a report from a commander who is holding positions on the “road of life” closer to Debaltsevo. The column exiting Debaltsevo was without tank support for part of the way. Terrorist [sic] tanks came out and shot it to pieces. Our artillery and Grads are firing against enemy tanks. We are evacuating the killed and wounded. We are holding the road. The information is being verified.”
At the same time, Poroshenko announced earlier today that UAF units are leaving Debaltsevo in practically a parade formation (and with only 30 wounded). But Porky has certain credibility issues. It’s already clear that the break-out attempts led to huge personnel losses and a near total loss of heavy equipment. We’ll know how much only in several days. We’ll also find out how many UAF soldiers made the rational decision to surrender to avoid death during the break out. To be sure, DPR/LPR authorities said they are not going to announce the identities of these soldiers if they don’t wish them to be revealed, and will release the captives to their relatives.
In the meantime the situation in Debaltsevo is this: HORROR, DARKNESS, FIRE, and DEATH. One thing is for sure: the comparison between Debaltsevo and Ilovaysk is not only appropriate but obvious.
P.S. The Debaltsevo recriminations will play themselves out against the background of the first anniversary of the coup. Hang on, Porky.
The authorities of the Ukrainian armed group gave an order to mine the entire rail infrastructure of Debaltseve, according to deputy head of the self-proclaimed Dontesk People’s Republic’s (DPR) militia Eduard Basurin.
DONETSK, February 8 (Sputnik) – Kiev authorities have ordered their forces to mine the entire rail infrastructure in the eastern Ukrainian town of Debaltseve, deputy head of the self-proclaimed Dontesk People’s Republic’s (DPR) militia Eduard Basurin said Sunday.
“According to information received during the questioning of two surrendered soldiers of the 25th brigade near Chernukhino, the authorities of the Ukrainian group gave an order to mine the entire rail infrastructure of Debaltseve,” Basurin told reporters.
Kiev has decided on this measure to prevent future rail links between the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk republics after the Ukrainian forces retreat, Basurin explained.
“Locomotive and rolling stocks are being mined, the railway junctions at the Debaltseve-Sortirovochnaya station, locomotive depots and control centers, as well as the administrative zone of the Debaltseve station,” Basurin said, adding that municipal pumping and transformer stations have already been mined.
Debaltseve, located on the border between Ukraine’s two breakaway regions, has recently become the scene of heavy fighting between the Ukrainian troops and the local militia. Thousands of Kiev soldiers are reportedly trapped in the town surrounded by the independence supporters.Earlier this week, the warring sides agreed on a temporary ceasefire to evacuate civilians from the contested city. According to later local media reports, shelling in Debaltsevo continues.
Despite the signing of a ceasefire agreement between Kiev and pro-independence militia in September 2014, fighting has continued in Donbas, intensifying in the first weeks of this year. The two warring sides have traded blame for the recent string of shelling attacks in eastern Ukraine.
Even those in Donetsk who originally supported Kiev have come to realize that Ukraine is waging a war against its own people.
Although this article tries to make the people of Donetsk appear gullible and indoctrinated, it does make one incredible admission: Kiev is waging a vicious war against its own people—something that East Ukrainians will never forget, and probably never forgive. This article originally appeared in Financial Times
As world leaders convened in Minsk this week to decide the fate of east Ukraine, Tatiana Prussova, a teacher at Khartsysk school number 23, stood in front of her class, a map on the wall behind her.
For 10 minutes, she led a group of 15 and 16-year-old students through the day’s lesson: a review of the recent developments in the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). She explained a new local holiday — February 8: Day of the Young Anti-Fascist Heroes — and recounted a pivotal week in which the US was considering arming Kiev while the rebel army had gained ground around the crucial rail hub of Debaltseve.
“Thanks to the gains of our Donetsk People’s Republic rebels, the road to Debaltseve has been closed and the town has been encircled,” Ms Prussova told the students, gesturing at the map in the same way other history teachers might point to the battle lines in Flanders or the Napoleonic War.
The class is one of dozens of so-called political information lessons now being taught at schools across rebel-controlled east Ukraine. It is a Soviet tradition that was disbanded following the fall of the USSR but has been revived by the pro-Russian DPR’s education ministry.
“We decided to inform the children from an objective point of view about the current developments of what’s happening inside the Donetsk People’s Republic,” said Lidiya Aksyonova, the school’s principal. “The beliefs that we form here in school will in 10 years become the political views of our government.”
While some may see this week’s Minsk memorandum, which calls for a ceasefire in east Ukraine and the eventual re-establishment of national borders, as the first step towards the DPR’s disbandment, there are few signs in the region of a rebel leadership preparing to relinquish control — or a society that wants them to.
After a months-long siege that has destroyed local infrastructure, and left the population under the near-constant percussion of artillery, a new sense of regional identity has taken hold in Donetsk. Though some of it is being transmitted through top-down initiatives such as Ms Prussova’s class, much of it has come through the Ukrainian army’s shelling, which has turned many formerly pro-Ukrainian locals against Kiev.
Another source of anger for many was an October speech by President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine, in which he declared that the region’s citizens would suffer for the rebel leaders’ actions. “Our children will go to school and nursery school, and theirs will sit in basement!” he declared, waving a finger.
“As a student, as the future generation, I was for a united Ukraine. We really believed in Poroshenko,” said Yekaterina, a 20-year-old student at Donetsk National University. While her family fled to the Ukrainian side during the summer, they were forced to return to Donetsk in September after they ran out of money. It was then that her feelings changed.
“We thought [Mr Poroshenko] would come to Donetsk, but he didn’t come once,” she said. She dismissed claims that Donetsk locals were being brainwashed by the rebel leadership and Russian television. “You don’t need to be a soldier to understand from what direction artillery fire is coming,” she said. “We have access to the internet. We’re not in the stone age. We’re not zombies.”
In Donetsk’s Kievsky district, one of the most heavily bombed parts of the city, a middle-aged worker named Svetlana said she had been living underground in a cold war-era bomb shelter with 50 of her neighbours since the bombing began in May. While she refused to take part in the separatists’ referendum and appeal to join Russia in May — “I could tell that something smelt funny,” she explained — her views changed during the months underground.
“How can I be for a united Ukraine when Kiev has spent the past six months bombing us?” she asked. “They came to power and destroyed the entire infrastructure of southeast Ukraine.”
Enrique Menendez, a Ukrainian-born businessman with Spanish roots, said one of Kiev’s biggest mistakes was to vilify the people of southeastern Ukrainian rather than open a dialogue.
“At the beginning, a lot of journalists, bloggers, opinion leaders — most of them pro-Ukrainian — left Donetsk. But when they got to Kiev, the rhetoric [about southeast Ukraine] was very negative,” said Mr Menendez. “This aggression and lack of understanding of what was going on here really offended the people that stayed behind.”
One of a dozen organisers of a March rally for a united Ukraine, Mr Menendez eventually decided to stay in Donetsk to set up an organisation that delivers humanitarian aid.
In August, there were only five people left in his apartment building. They would crowd into the corridor during the worst of the shelling. Now, nearly all the 80 or so former residents have returned.
“The wartime mentality has changed us,” he explained. “We’ve stopped valuing the superficial things in life. We’ve lost everything: our savings, our prospects, our businesses. Some people lost their relatives. But we’ve become more pure.”
Even though the rumble of artillery fire could still be heard in central Donetsk this week, much of city life felt normal. A ghost town for much of last year, most of the city’s residents have now returned. Restaurants and shops are reopening, and most local schools are in session.
Igor Kostenok, the DPR’s education minister, appears determined to use his post to encourage a lasting regional identity. In addition to the new political information classes, Mr Kostenok said schools would also teach students about the experience of youngsters who fought for the rebels during the summer.
“Our story of the Great Patriotic War [second world war] tells us that many children who were forced to grow up early because of the war took up arms and defended their home. History is doomed to repeat itself,” he said.
One such youngster is Alexander Vasin, a 16-year-old student from the Donetsk suburbs who fought at Donetsk airport over the summer in a rebel battalion called the 15th International Brigade, despite his parents’ objections. He returned when school resumed in September, but said he would go back to the battalion later this year if the war had not ended. Of the fighting, he said: “It’s difficult at the beginning, but you get used to it.”
A video of the fighting he shot on his mobile phone won a prize from the DPR education ministry and is now being shown at schools across the region.
Earlier today the Russian Spring reported that, according to the information from the relatives of UAF troops located in the vicinity of Debaltsevo, the chain of command has completely broken down and the troops were issued orders to break out of the cauldron on their own. However, several Ukrainian media immediately denied the reports, claiming it was panic-mongering.
However, only an hour ago the acting spokesperson for the Ukrainian General Staff Vladislav Seleznev confirmed this information during a live interview on the TV channel 112, saying that DPR units were assaulting the UAF base-camp at Debaltsevo, and that the headquarters for all UAF forces there has been destroyed.
Oddly enough, Seleznev would not confirm that the Ukrainian forces are in a cauldron. But he did not deny it either.
J.Hawk’s Comment: So it’s coming to an end. It’s only a matter of how many troops make it out alive. But the loss of equipment, combined with earlier losses here and everywhere, put into question the UAF’s ability to conduct large-scale operations for a long time to come. The days of “Victory” have come to an end. The days of “Treason” are only beginning… Poroshenko and others were able to avoid reckoning for the earlier Ilovaysk debacle apparently only by promising a rematch. They seem to have lost that one too, and Round 3 does not seem in the cards. But Round 2 is the only thing that kept all the different factions of the very fragile “pro-European” junta together.