Image by Noah Brooks
It was predictable. With global tensions ratcheting up between Russia and the West, it was just a matter of time before the proxy fight in Donbass flared once again.
Ukrainian and separatist forces reported casualties over the last week as heavy weapons, once removed under the Minsk accords, were repositioned back to the front and put into use. Separatists reported two dead and one wounded from Ukrainian army shelling in the village of Gorlivka. Ukrainian forces reported being attacked as well with heavy weapons, including Grad rocket launchers, with at least seven casualties. Civilians were also killed and wounded in the village of Troitsky in Luhansk.
“The chief monitor of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) special mission to Ukraine Alexander Hug left the conflict zone on Thursday due to a “serious deterioration of the security situation”, the organisation said,” reported AFP.
The Ukrainian military press service reported arms being supplied to the pro-Russian separatists from inside the Russian Federation. “Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry’s main intelligence directorate also reported that Russia distributed a considerable amount of munitions, including 122-millimeter Grad rockets, artillery shells, and small arms supplies, to its proxy forces in the occupied Donbas. The new batch of hardware was transported by rail to the occupied transport hub of Ilovaisk, military intelligence said on May 20,” reported The Kyiv Post.
The Trump administration recently began providing the Ukrainian military large-caliber sniper rifles, and Javelin anti-tank missiles among other supplies. Additional sanctions have also been applied on Russian citizens and entities over the Skripal poisoning, and alleged Russian cyber efforts. Ukraine recently declared the conflict had moved from an anti-terrorist operation, to a war for territorial integrity against another state.
It is hard to prove which side restarted the violence at these levels. Perhaps Kyiv feeling confident with American weapons, or Russia, looking to pressure the West over sanctions issues pushed separatists to take the gloves off, we will probably never know. What is for sure is innocent people are dying, and the conflict could spread if a solution is not found.
East Ukraine is simply a brutal proxy war of attrition between East and West.