The World Cup in Russia has just finished, and the military situation in Donbass has once again been sharply aggravated. Reports have been coming in from both DPR and LPR media, as well as from my sources in the military circles of Donetsk and Lugansk.
On July 16th and 17th, intense shelling plagued a number of cities of the republic, particularly Gorlovka and Dokuchaevsk. Loud explosions could be heard even in the central districts of Donetsk.
If lately the Ukrainians have been firing small arms, then now they have put their mortars to work, which are deadly weapons when used against densely populated cities. Both the DPR and LPR armies have suffered casualties.
According to my sources, Donbass defenders continue to be killed in action every day, especially at the hands of snipers. And it has not been ruled out that these are not Ukrainian troops, but NATO commandos.
Just last week, my friends buried a friend who was blown up by a mortar. This man had fought in Donbass since the very beginning of the civil war and was from one of Ukraine’s regions. The percentage of Donbass militiamen from Ukrainian regions is very high. I do not think I am mistaken in saying that they form the backbone of many combat units and are the ones who wish to liberate the DPR and LPR’s territories occupied by Ukraine as soon as possible. Even better, they supply the enthusiasm to march on Kiev and destroy the duumvirate of Nazis and oligarchs and de-Nazify the whole country.
Meanwhile, Kiev’s troops shelled the outskirts of Donetsk on July 18th. This part of the city has a low population density, as many managed to escape during earlier phases of the war, and I have no information on possible casualties there.
Overall, what is happening in Donbass over the past several days resembles a theater of absurdity: just a few dozen kilometers away, the World Cup concluded in Rostov-on-Don, which was visited by three million foreign guests. At the same time, Donetsk, a city with a million people, was being shelled with mortars. The surreal impression of the war in Donbass is in no small part intensified by the fact that one can watch the shelling online.
Yet despite the fact that, with new media and citizen journalism, the conflict in Donbass is one of the most media-covered wars in history, no progress has been made in peacemaking. European leaders are frankly tired of Ukraine and Poroshenko and are pretending not to know about the bloodshed still ongoing in Donbass.
Meanwhile, Russia’s official position continues to give cause for surprise and criticism. Apparently, some kind of agreement has been reached between Moscow and Kiev for now, and the Ukrainians most likely heeded Putin’s warning that their army and state would face “serious consequences” if they launched active military operations against Donbass during the World Cup.
From my perspective however, this is cynical: World cup tourists are guaranteed security, but the civilians of Donbass are not. Donbass deserves eace after four years of war and Russia, I am convinced, must gradually abandon the trap of the Minsk Agreements and move to recognize the Donbass republics. Then Russia can start issuing citizenship to the people of the DPR and LPR en masse. Ukraine has persisted in ignoring the Minsk Agreements, and Western politicians have given it the benefit of the doubt.
This means that there is no point in sitting around and expecting peace from Ukraine.