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Thread: The new Ukraine ''ceasefire'' and Debaltseve

  1. #1

    The new Ukraine ''ceasefire'' and Debaltseve

    The news accounts are saying that the one place the new Ukraine ceasefire is not being observed is the railroad hub town of Debaltseve, where the Ukrainians are dug in and have been fending off fierce attacks by the Russians and their surrogates. It is like the last ceasefire, where the place is was never observed was the Donetsk airport which remained under assault for months by the Russians and their surrogates.

    Debaltseve has a particular interest to me because a co-worker has a relative by marriage and his family trapped there. Her husband's brother took a job some years ago with the Ukrainian raliroads there. He already knew Russian as a second language and learned Ukrainian and was promoted until he held a rather high position before the war came. Early in the conflict there was damage to the railroad facilities but the town was not badly damaged. He continued receiving his salary from the Ukrainian railroad even though in the early stages of the conflict it was controlled by the pro-Russian armed groups. At that time there were shortages of lots of things and utility outages but no fighting locally. He stayed in touch with his relatives by cell phone. Debatlseve was recaptured by the Ukrainians in last summer's counteroffensive. The railroad facilities were destroyed by most of the town came through okay. Like most civilians, his family stayed in their basement during the fighting. Under Ukrainian control, things went back to normal, more so than they had been. Now for the past several months, the town has been under intense attack by the Russians. Shelling has largely destroyed the town. Utilities have been continuosuly out. THe family has been living in the basement again, even with the cold winter weather. Shelling got so bad that they were no longer able to safely get to the public generator to recharge their cell phones. The batteries went several weeks ago, and my colleague and her familty members have not heard from them since. They hear in the media of the intense shelling and are very concerned. Volunteers evacuated much of Debaltseve on civilian driven buses, which were shot at by the Russians as they went in and out, but the section of town where this family lived was under such intense shelling that they were not able to get the people there out. Now, just before the ceasefire and immediately after it, Debaltseve has been under even more intense attack by the Russians. The US State Department has revealed that a number of the artillery units attacking it are regular Russian army, not irregulars. My co-worker and family are anxious to learn of the family, but are very concerned about the continued shelling there.

    It is hearing of personal experiences like this that really bring what is happening in Ukraine into focus.

    Another of the family members was also on another longtime front line in the conflict. This brother's wife's father and brother and his wife lived in one of the residential blocks near the Donetsk airport, which was subject to heavy fighting throughout the conflict including all during the last ceasefire. The Russians and their surrogates used a number of nearby residential buildings, although not theirs, as firing platforms to attack the airport, drawing return fire from the Ukrainian defenders, who were nicknamed the Cybourgs, In the warm months, residents still living in the blocks crowded into the basements for safety on a regular basis, but when the weather turned cold most decided that the conditions in the basement could kill them more easily than shelling, so they took their chances staying in their apartments. In the time before the first ceasefire, the front lines moved back and forth through their area and sometimes they were in Ukrainian controlled territory and sometimes in Russian controlled territory. During these times, many fallen soldiers bodies remained where they fell, and the stench of decomposing bodies was a constant. The Ukrainians usually removed their fallen soldiers but the Russians and their surrogates would let bodies remain sometimes for weeks. The father had a medical condition and due to the fighting was unable to see his doctor or get his medications refilled, and died of that medical condition during some of the fighting. His son rode his sidecare motorcycle to the coroners office to report the death, and was told it was unsafe to try to go to the cemetary, so just to bury his father in the yard of the apartment block. Instead, he found someone who was selling rough coffins, bought one, put it in the motorcycle sidecar and returned home. He and his wife put his father in the coffin, and put it back in the sidecar, with some shovels. She got on the motorcycle behind him and they dodged fighting to the cemetary, dug the grave themselves, and buried his father.

    They at least are in communication and are safe. The fighting has finally moved away from their area after many months. There are still many shortages and regular utility outages, but they are happy the fighting has moved away. They say that the locals who were avid Russian supporters almost all left for Russia after the fighting started, and most of the strong Ukrainian supporters had to leave because the separatists were hunting them down. Those left are just regular citizens who don't have strong political views and just want to get on with their lives. They say that the armed pro-Russian fighters in Donetsk do not speak Russian with the local Donbas accent, but with various accents of places in Russia. Oddly, they say many of the Russian and Russian surrogate fighters are Muslim but say they are there to preserve the Orthodox church in the Donbas. Many others are from some private Cossack militias in Russia who are trying to relive the glory days of the Cossack units in the Czar's army. Among the pro-Russian fighters that citizens encounter in Donetsk, they say it is very rare to hear a local accent among them.

    Reading accounts in the media is distressing enough, but to hear these personal accounts from my co-worker's relatives drives it home even more.

    I hope and pray that my co-worker's husband's brother's family emerge safe from the ruins of Debaltseve.

  2. #2
    I saw a clip of what looked like nuclear ordinance going off in Donestk. It was reported that an ammo supply was hit by a missle but by the looks of the mushroom cloud at detonation it sure looked more than what was reported.

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    New video of Debaltseve:

    And the Parliamentary Association of the Council of Europe is urging the opening of a ''green corridor'' to allow civilians to leave Debaltseve:
    Last edited by Carolinian; 02-16-2015 at 11:07 AM.

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    This the explosion that seemed heavy.

  5. #5
    The latest from today's Daily Mail of London:

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    Thank you for that amazing insight into what is actually happening there and nearby ..such a change to real reports rather than BBC and CNN
    A pity so many of our members did not read it ( yet ? )
    All safe with you ?

  7. #7
    The Ukrainian army has retreated from Debaltseve, so the fighting has stopped. I hope that my colleague will now hear from her relatives.

    The ceasefire game the Russians seem to play is to declare a ceasefire so that they can concentrate their forces against their major military objective, say the ceasefire does not apply there, and then overwhelm that one point. With the first ceasefire, it was the Donetsk airport. This time it was Debaltseve.

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    This Reuters article is on Donetsk but tells the plight of the civilians there:

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