The most intensely shelled areas have traditionally been the northern and western suburbs of Donetsk; Gorlovka, the second-largest city in the north of the DPR; and the DPR checkpoint in the area of Yasinovataya, situated between Donetsk and Gorlovka. The Ukrainian forces bombed the Yasinovatsky checkpoint with 120mm mortars, despite the presence of the OSCE observers, who reported no less than five mortar bombs coming from the Ukrainian side. According to the DPR Defense Ministry, three DPR soldiers were killed in the bombing and another three wounded, one of them seriously.
Due to the daily shelling of the northern suburbs of Gorlovka, the OSCE mission made a decision to regularly patrol the area, which did not serve to stop Kiev from attacking the city again. The local authorities reported that in the latest shelling a school was damaged, with at least 10 mortar bombs landing nearby.
The DPR forces were forced to return fire in order to push the Ukrainian troops from the buffer zone, which the latter had seized over the past two weeks. According to the Ukrainian military press center, the DPR has over the past two days shelled the Ukrainian positions 97 times, including 86 in the direction of Donetsk, using more than a 100 82mm and 120mm mortar bombs, 12 shells from a tank and four shells launched from a 122mm howitzer.
The Kiev officials did not specify the number of casualties. However, Ukrainian journalists and volunteers situated on the Ukrainian positions near Donetsk posted in social networks of about 13 soldiers having been wounded and the commander of one of the Ukrainian brigades having been killed. They appealed to the Ukrainian military authorities, questioning why the US-provided IMEDS hospital had not been deployed to the frontline to save the lives of Ukrainian soldiers, but this question was left unanswered.
The information about the highly intense fighting in the north of Donetsk was coming from both sides of the frontline. The Ukrainian journalists reported that the Ukrainian soldiers had been forced to retreat from their positions seized in the buffer zone and were, in fact, asking their superiors for reinforcements.
Kiev, however, decided to avenge the retreat of their troops with a brutal shelling of Makeevka, the northern satellite town of Donetsk. The attack took place last night, after the situation on this segment of the front had relatively stabilized, and was heard even in Donetsk, including by DONI reporters. According to the Town Council, it resulted in four civilians being wounded, two houses destroyed, a kindergarten and 15 houses damaged, and about 1,000 homes without power.
(Credibility – DONi closely follows the reports of the governments of the DPR and their Ukrainian counterparts and secures independent confirmation when possible. In our experience, the DPR’s claims are correct approximately 95% of the time, whereas official Ukrainian reports are almost never correct, and for all appearances, deliberately so.)
From Kiev’s previous attempts at offensives, shelling of residential areas of Donbass always precede the beginning of full-scale hostilities. In addition, the so-called Gorbulin Plan, named after an adviser to President Poroshenko, and detailing how to “pacify” Donbass, was recently leaked in the media.
According to this plan, Kiev is to tighten the blockade of Donbass and carry out harassing shelling of both the Republican military positions and residential areas in order to exhaust the DPR and LPR Armies and make the lives of civilians unbearable. The plan assumes that with such a tactic, the DPR and LPR authorities will soon lose the support of the population, as well as the aid from a Russia weakened by Western sanctions, after which Kiev will seize the territory of the Republic with one mighty blow as did the Croatian Army on the Serbian Krajina in 1995.
The suggestion that Kiev is hatching such a plan is supported by their flat refusal to implement any points of the Minsk Agreements, the fact of which has already been officially confirmed by the leaders of Germany, France and the USA. Two days ago, another meeting of the Contact Group took place in Minsk, where the amnesty law, one of the main requirements of the Minsk Agreements, was discussed. According to the head of the DPR delegation at the negotiations, the Ukrainian side proposed to base it on some transitional justice, providing the temporary rejection of the principle of the presumption of innocence. It seems like Kiev either believes that each resident of Donbass, with the war having been brought to his home by the Ukrainian army, has to prove his right to defend it; either that or Kiev is deliberately making any peaceful solution of the conflict impossible.
Another requirement of the Minsk Agreements is the withdrawal of mercenaries from the conflict zone. To circumvent this, President Poroshenko signed in November 2015 the law allowing foreigners to serve in the Ukrainian army on contract. The DPR intelligence sources on the ground repeatedly report of the presence of English-, Polish- and even Arabic-speaking soldiers in the near-front areas occupied by the Ukrainian military. Two days ago the commander of the “Kievan Rus” battalion of the of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs officially announced that 12 Georgians and three Americans had signed contracts with the Defense Ministry of Ukraine and joined the battalion.
It may look like Kiev is trying to solve the problem of the lack of the Ukrainian soldiers arising from the total failure of the last two waves of mobilization. At the same time, it is not excluded that in taking such a step, the Ukrainian authorities are implementation another point in the Gorbulin Plan. This point envisages the deployment of NATO troops, disguised as NATO-Ukraine joint brigades, in Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk and Zaporozhye, to prevent the DPR and LPR Armies from advancing into the territory of Ukraine in the case of a failure of the Ukrainian offensive.
Kiev’s further amassing of heavy weapons and equipment on the frontline does not contradict the suggestion of their preparation to deliver a decisive blow either. According to the LPR Defense Ministry, over the past two days the Ukrainian side delivered to the near-front areas seven tanks, 10 self-propelled artillery systems, 12 infantry fighting vehicles, and five “Ural” trucks with 120mm mortars and 300 personnel. In addition, the LPR special services discovered on the territory of the Republic a cache with about 1,000 weapons of different types, obviously prepared to arm Ukrainian subversive groups. DPR intelligence reported the arrival of six tanks, four infantry fighting vehicles, 18 122mm D-30 howitzers, and a mortar platoon (see below pictures of weapons mentioned).
As a result of the OSCE’s latest inspections of the sites of storage of weapons and equipment prohibited by the Minsk Agreements, the international observers reported the absence of about 30% of both sides’ weapons supposed to be stored there. In addition, the Ukrainian journalists who witnessed the fighting in the north of Donetsk two days ago informed of self-propelled artillery systems being used by both the Ukrainian and DPR military. Therefore, Kiev’s amassing heavy weapons on the front, using them on residential areas, causes another escalation of the conflict, as it forces the Republics to act to save their people’s lives and stop further destruction by all means available.