At least five people including a pregnant woman were killed and more than 10 injured early Wednesday on the front line in eastern Ukraine in the worst civilian loss of life there in months, separatist officials said.
The 2-year-old war has ravaged eastern Ukraine, killing more than 10,000 and displacing more than 1 million.
Along the front lines, Ukrainian troops are dug in and ready for combat. As one soldier put it: “This is my life now.”
Russia–Ukraine barrier – also known as Ukrainian Wall or European Wall – is a fortified border barrier currently under construction by Ukraine on the Russia–Ukraine border. The aim of the project is preventing Russian military and hybrid warfare intervention in Ukraine
On 20 August 2015, it was announced that Ukraine has completed 10% of the fortification line, stating that roughly 180 km of anti-tank ditches had been dug, 40 km of barbed wire fence and 500 fortification obstacles had been erected. 139 million hryvnia out of 300 million allocated has been used for construction of the wall at this point, and that another 460 million hryvnia were budgeted for 2016.
Combined Russian-separatist artillery, tank, mortar and small arms attacks occur daily at hot spots near Donetsk, capital of the Donetsk People’s Republic, one of two breakaway territories.
“It’s like this every day,” John Slobodyan, 23, a soldier in the Ukrainian army’s 93rd Brigade, said. He spoke as the bass notes of artillery cut through the air at a Ukrainian outpost near the town of Karlivka, about six miles from Donetsk.
“There is no cease-fire,” Slobodyan said.
Combined Russian-separatist forces attack Ukrainian positions in the area every day. They said the attacks usually comprise 120 mm and 82 mm mortars, small arms and sniper fire, although larger caliber artillery and Grad rockets sometimes are used. They also said tanks routinely fire at their positions in the town of Pisky, just outside the Donetsk airport.
The soldiers said the military supply chain has improved, but civilian volunteers still meet food and water shortfalls, and uniforms remain a hodgepodge from different countries. With no common uniform, soldiers attach colored tape to their helmets and body armor to distinguish themselves from their enemies.
At night, soldiers on watch in a blacked out observation post took turns peering through a single night-vision scope to scan separatist positions across 1,200 meters of no man’s land.
Night-vision technology is still scarce within Ukrainian ranks, largely limiting combat to daylight hours. Lack of encrypted communications is another challenge. Ukrainian soldiers often communicate with off-the-shelf Motorola walkie-talkies, sharing frequencies with their enemies. The two sides sometime taunt each other over the open airwaves.
The War in Donbass (also called the War in Ukraine, War in Eastern Ukraine) is an armed conflict in the Donbass region of Ukraine. From the beginning of March 2014, demonstrations by pro-Russian and anti-government groups took place in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine, together commonly called the “Donbass”, in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and the Euromaidan movement.
Following months of ceasefire violations, the Ukrainian government, the DPR and the LPR jointly agreed to halt all fighting, starting on 1 September 2015. This agreement coincided with the start of the school year in Ukraine, and was intended to allow for another attempt at implementing the points of Minsk II. By 12 September, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that the ceasefire had been holding, and that the parties to the conflict were “very close” to reaching an agreement to withdraw heavy weaponry from the line of contact, as specified by Minsk II. The area around Mariupol, including Shyrokyne, saw no fighting. According to Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak, violence in the Donbass had reached its lowest level since the start of the war. Whilst the ceasefire continued to hold into November, no final settlement to the conflict was agreed. The New York Times described this result as part of a “a common arc of post-Soviet conflict, visible in the Georgian enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan and in Transnistria”, and said that separatist-controlled areas had become a “frozen zone”, where people “live in ruins, amid a ruined ideology, in the ruins of the old empire”. This state of affairs continued into 2016, with a 15 April report by the BBC labelling the conflict as “Europe’s forgotten war”. Minor outbreaks of fighting continued along the line of contact, though no territorial changes occurred