Monday, February 23, 2015

Memorial Sunday in Ukraine

"Today is memorial Sunday, but on this day terrorist scum revealed its predatory nature."
"This is a brazen attempt to expand the territory of terrorism."
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko

"We don’t have a ceasefire, because a ceasefire means that no one shoots."
Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukrainian prime minister

"They [Detained suspects in Kharkiv bombing] are Ukrainian citizens who underwent instruction and received weapons in the Russian Federation, in Belgorod [a city across the nearby Russian border from Kharkiv]."
Markian Lubkivskyi, aide, Ukraine SBU security service
Petr David Josek / Associated Press
Petr David Josek / Associated Press  Ukrainian government troops sit in the back of pick-up trucks as they pass a checkpoint near the town of Mariupol, Ukraine last week.

The residents of Mariupol know that the nightmare has not passed them by. A series of booms inform the port town residents that the conflict is continuing and they will suffer the same burden that citizens of Debaltseve experienced, those that hadn't fled the onslaught, living a miserable time of uncertainty, fear and risk of injury and loss of life. "It's very loud, we can hear it perfectly, and every time we hear it we remember what happened here", said Natasha Gugliya.

In Shryokyne, a coastal village of cottages and holiday resorts ten kilometres from Mariupol, one of the nastiest confrontations since the fall of Debaltseve is ongoing. Ample reason to anticipate that the strategically and economically valuable city of Mariupol is next on the agenda for an offensive by the Russian-incited-and-backed rebel forces. Ukrainian authorities warned of a fresh buildup of separatist forces there.

According to Col. Andriy Lysenko, speaking for the Ukrainian military, 20 tanks, ten mobile rocket systems and about fifteen trucks had crossed the Russian border into Novoazovsky, on Friday, the main rebel-held town in the area, 40 kilometres east of Mariupol. The town was delivered to the rebels in September through an offensive NATO believes spearheaded by regular Russian forces. The ambition to "liberate" Mariupol is no secret.

"There is a buildup, but I am confident we have sufficient forces to defend the city. If the entire Russian army shows up, that is another question", he commented.

Separatists forces are known to have moved into the area close to the port city of Mariupol, fuelling fears that it could come under attack. Seizure of the city by the rebels would guarantee a direct land route between Russia and the Crimean peninsula, annexed after the fall of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Moscow's chosen candidate to lead Ukraine closer to Russia's interests. Many Crimeans justify their new allegiance, feeling his overthrow represented a coup.

Ukrainian forces initiated an offensive to move the front lines from Mariupol before the Minsk peace talks last weekend. The deputy commander of Ukrainian forces defending Mariupol, Col. Viktor Shidlyukh, stated that the rebels had made use of mortars, tanks and heavy firearms attempting to dislodge the Ukrainians. Russian aircraft have flown reconnaissance flights along the coastal strip between Novoazovsk and Shryokyne.

Rumours of Russian warships and a heavy rocket system buildup on the separatist side of the lines were dismissed by Col. Shidlyukh as "enemy attempts to spread panic". Should a concerted attempt be made now to take Mariupol the waning hopes of reviving the compromised peace agreement would be effectively buried. Rebel leaders had stated they saw Debaltseve as an 'exception' to the ceasefire.

For Vladimir Putin's long-range plans, however, everything is an exception, and nothing can be guaranteed to be honoured as stated in his sanctimonious statements on the need for the conflict to be put to an end. Unspoken is the conclusion, that the conflict will end only when he deems it timely; when his aspirational gains have become reality, and Ukraine, broken and humiliated, will crawl at his imperious feet and beg for mercy.

When a bomb hit Ukraine's second largest city, Kharkiv, it was no mystery who was behind it. Four suspects had been arrested; armed and instructed in their duty while in Russia. The attack took place during the rally of the anniversary of the death of protesters at demonstrations against pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych, killing a policeman and another person.

While Mariupol is in east Ukraine where Mr. Putin's ambitions to sweep the area into Novorossiya prevail, Kharkiv is over 120 miles from the front lines.


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