Questions You Should be Asking the World Around You
RFERL, notorious for stirring discontent across the European webscape, mistakenly reveals that Kiev is on a campaign to escalate tensions between the US and Russia.
Straight from the horse’s mouth, “brave” Ukrainian conscripts conquer sleepy town that was not occupied by separatists.
NOVOLUHANSKE, Ukraine — The way Ukrainian commander Vyacheslav “Eagle-Owl” Vlasenko described it, his troops snuck into this rustic town of 4,000 people in broad daylight and took it — and a valuable pig farm — without firing a shot.
Concealed in trucks that looked like those used by the pig farm, the troops’ advance into Nuvoluhanske — which had been part of the gray zone, a ravaged no-man’s land between the warring sides — took their Russia-backed separatist foes by surprise.
The RFERL even uses the terms “Mounting discontent” to describe the stalemate between Novorossiya and Kiev.
Frustrated by the stalemate in this 33-month war of attrition, concerned that Western support is waning, and sensing that U.S. President Donald Trump could cut Kyiv out of any peace negotiations as he tries to improve fraught relations with Moscow, Ukrainian forces anxious to show their newfound strength have gone on what many here are calling a “creeping offensive.”
Observers say the Ukrainians appear to be trying to create new facts on the ground, while officials and commanders insist they are fighting to stop the flow of contraband into separatist-controlled territories and fending off attempts by separatist groups that call themselves the Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics” to seize more territory.
Whatever the case, since mid-December Ukraine’s armed forces have edged farther into parts of the gray zone in or near the war-worn cities of Avdiivka, Debaltseve, Dokuchaievsk, Horlivka, and Mariupol, shrinking the space between them and the separatist fighters.
In doing so, the pro-Kyiv troops have sparked bloody clashes with their enemy, which has reportedly made advances of its own — or tried to — in recent weeks.
Oddly enough, the RFERL comes out sounding more sympathetic to Novorossiya than to Kiev. Is it a change of tone by the CIA?
Soon, from a road over the hill came a convoy of European monitors who had been critical of the advances. They were there to inspect the new Novoluhanske positions.
“The direct result of forward moves is escalation in tension, which often turns to violence,” Alexander Hug, the principal deputy chief monitor of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Special Monitoring Mission (OSCE SMM) to Ukraine, had told RFE/RL prior to his visit.
Hug said the soldiers had recently become more brazen. For much of the conflict, they have played a game of hide-and-seek with the OSCE, concealing their weapons from the international monitors’ scrutinizing eyes.
But, Hug said, they now position large-caliber artillery, including towed howitzers, main battle tanks, and multiple-launch rocket systems banned under the Minsk deal “in the open with impunity.”
Civilians in Novolugansk feel like meatshields.
At an elementary school in Novoluhanske a few hundred meters from the 46th battalion’s new trenches, teacher Lyudmila Alekseyevna told RFE/RL while watching her fourth-graders slide down an icy mound that townspeople feel like “death is knocking on our doors.”
“We are ready for peace to return to us,” she said, adding that she did not know why the military had come to Novoluhanske.
Fake excuses by Kiev. There’s no police presence because it’s a grey zone. Since Kiev oligarchs are too corrupt to supply the town with humanitarian aid, the civilians have no other way of acquiring food and medicine.
Pavlo Zhebrivskyy, the governor of the Donetsk region, told RFE/RL at his office in Kramatorsk that the Novoluhanske move to where there had been no police presence was necessary to stop smuggling.
With supplies limited in the conflict zone, a lucrative black market has flourished. Kyiv estimates traffickers make millions sneaking coal, fuel, food, and more across the front line.
Ukrainian warlords in denial. They claim Novolugansk to be Ukrainian land, but refuse to supply the town with humanitarian aid.
Ukrainian authorities insist their moves do not endanger the peace process and are not in violation of the Minsk deal because they did not cross in separatist-controlled territory.
“According to the Minsk agreement, there is a clear delineation of the contact line, and there were absolutely no violations by Ukraine in terms of the contact line, but there have been significant violations on the other side’s part,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak told RFE/RL in Kyiv on January 21.
Put more simply, Stalker said, “It’s our Ukrainian land. How can it ever be a violation?”
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