Active combat operations have been resumed on Donbass. From January 10 on the entire line of contact between the militia and the Ukrainian Armed Forces are observed active artillery duels and direct engagement of opposing forces.After the failure of the idea of the next round of an international peace conference this can lead to the outbreak of the next stage of military confrontation in the Donbass.
The situation in and around the Donbass worsened suddenly. So, from January 10 across fighting line of the Donetsk and Lugansk “people’s republics” began almost incessant artillery exchanges. Both sides blame each other for provoking engagements and shelling civilians’ quarters. Primarily under attack were Donetsk and Debaltsevo, Stakhanov, Pervomaisk, Slavyanoserbsk, Schastie and Stanitsa-Lugansk. Instead of the actual adherence silence, inhabitants of areas that are in the combat zone, got another “portion” of the war.
Moreover, for the first time since September, that is, since the signing of the Armistice Minsk protocol, the parties proceeded to direct engagements – not just artillery exchanges but scramble for the cities. So, militia of the Lugansk assume the offensive and occupied Novotoshkovka of Slavyanoserbsky area in the Lugansk region. In addition, the militias have resumed attacks on a number of checkpoints on the National Guard under the so-called “Bakhmutskaya highway” linking Lugansk with Lisichansk controlled by the Ukrainians. At the same time there is an open confrontation in the region of Ukrainian Debaltsevo and Donetsk airport.
Simultaneously with the intensified combat operations Ukraine holds the fourth stage of mobilization and rearmament of units. President Poroshenko signed a decree on the phase-by-phase mobilization this year. It is noteworthy that as a justification for such a move indicated activation of confrontation across the front line and the death of 12 civilians in the area of Volnovakha after the shelling of the bus. The previous, third wave of mobilization ended September 9 – a few days after the signing of the Protocol of the Minsk.Then mobilization was justified by heavy losses of the Ukraine Armed Forces as a result of the summer offensive and protracted positional engagements with militias. Throughout the autumn and early winter there was no need for mobilization because one way or another, the negotiations between Kiev and the unrecognized republics continued.
But now – when the Astana summit turned out to be disrupted as a result of intensified fighting – it really became close to war. After the exchange of captured in December, no progress in the negotiations is observed. Moreover, neither Moscow nor Kiev or Brussels can say when and in what format consultations can be resumed. Against this background, the parties prepare themselves to meet on the battlefield.
Ukrainian Armed Forces has received additional funding. Defense spending will be about 50 billion hryvnia, though it would be half of the original version of the budget for 2015. Army and the National Guard received new weaponry and armor. Soldiers and officers were retrained. In addition, the president Poroshenko’s environment took a number of measures to limit the independence of volunteer battalions and the National Guard special regiment. Defense Minister prepares them to reassign to him.”Free” military formations are planned to be sent to their homes.
Similar processes occur in the camp of the militiamen. So, after the murdering of a Lugansk republic’s prominent warlord Alexander Bednov (“Batman”) on January 1 and the disarmament of another commander with the call sign “Foma” January 6 the process of unification of the military leadership in the region has been intensified dramatically. Now in the case of a new war militias will be more coherent and subordinate to the sole command.
Thus, the conditions and even a formal occasion (the death of civilians in a bus) are ready to “unfreeze” the conflict. Everything depends now on the political will of Kiev, Washington and Brussels, which haven’t decided yet whether to reject the peace plan completely or to support the resumption of military actions.