Ukraine tank
© Reuters / Oleksandr Klymenko
There's always money for war
Over the past two days the intensity of shelling has decreased. The 207 incidents of shelling reported by the DPR Defense Ministry are a less terrifying experience than the roughly 800 incidents of shelling before. Nevertheless they still threaten the lives of civilians and cause a considerable damage to their homes. According to the Ministry, the latest shelling resulted in two civilians being wounded in a suburb of Donetsk and a 10-year-old boy suffering shell-shock in Gorlovka, a city to the north of the capital of the DPR.

The heavy shelling forced the DPR Ministry of Transport to suspend repair works on the segment of the railway that had been damaged by a Ukrainian sabotage group several days ago. This part of the railway is the main line for transporting coal mined in the DPR, in particular to Ukraine. Due to the explosion, coal supplies to Ukraine were stopped. However, Kiev seems more interested in destruction of the DPR infrastructure than in the unencumbered functioning of Ukrainian industry.

The threat posed to civilian life and property forces the DPR Army to return fire. Over the past two days the Ukrainian military authorities have reported receiving 102 incidents of shelling on their positions by the DPR Armed Forces, indicating that both sides are not observing the ceasefire.

(Credibility - DONi closely follows the reports of the governments of the DPR and their Ukrainian counterparts and secures independent confirmation when possible. In our experience, the DPR's claims are correct approximately 95% of the time, whereas official Ukrainian reports are almost never correct, and for all appearances, deliberately so.)

Under intensive artillery cover, Kiev continues to seize localities within the buffer zone delineated by the Minsk negotiations. Two days ago, during the heaviest shelling, Ukrainian social networks exploded with posts celebrating the taking by Ukrainian forces of one such locality near Donetsk, even though such creeping advances represent open violations of the Minsk Agreement.

Today the press service of the Ukrainian military headquarters has confirmed this fact, adding that another small town in the south of Donbass is also under Ukrainian control. Besides this, the OSCE mission reported the presence of six Ukrainian infantry fighting vehicles in yet another locality within the grey zone that is supposed to be totally demilitarized.

The OSCE international observers also informed that they had not been allowed to inspect a checkpoint of the Ukrainian forces in the Lugansk region. It is possible that Kiev in such a way tries to prevent detection of foreign mercenaries quartered in these areas. DPR intelligence has repeatedly reported from their sources on the ground of the observation of English-, Polish- and Arabian-speaking soldiers near the front line.

Several days ago the LPR Defense Ministry also reported of the existence of a group of 30 soldiers, apparently belonging to a US private military company, located in an elite cottage settlement in the north of the Lugansk region. The settlement is heavily guarded by Ukrainian soldiers: its perimeter is patrolled and the entrances have checkpoints. According to local residents, the unit provides protection to the OSCE representatives as well as trains the Ukrainian military.

Kiev previously always insisted that foreign mercenaries were merely being used as instructors for Ukrainian forces. However, two days ago it was officially announced that US snipers are to take part in the hostilities in Donbass on the Ukrainian side. At a press conference of the Georgian National Legion, which became a part of the nationalist battalion Kievan Rus, one of these snipers was introduced as already a member, with ten more to follow.

The Ukrainian authorities need mercenaries because their own army is collapsing. DPR intelligence has repeatedly reported of extremely low morale in the regular-army units, demonstrated by their constant drinking, marauding, and fighting of each other. Two days ago in the south of Donbass there was a fire at a local market that partially destroyed the main source of provision for the locals. According to Ukrainian media a probable cause of fire was violation of fire safety rules in using electrical appliances. The town residents, however, informed that the market had been set alight by Ukrainian soldiers after they plundered it while searching mostly for alcohol.

Aside from increasing the numbers of mercenaries on the front line, Kiev also reportedly continues to amass weapons and equipment there. According to DPR intelligence, over the past two days alone, one 220mm "Uragan" MLRS, eleven 152mm and 120mm motorised artillery systems, 38 tanks, 11 infantry fighting vehicles, four mortars and one 85mm anti-tank cannon D-44 has arrived on the front line. (See pictures below for weapons mentioned).

In addition, OSCE observers have noted in their latest report the presence of previously undocumented military equipment. It would seem that in terms of weapons and military equipment, Kiev is guided more by its plans to escalate the conflict than by the Minsk Agreement to resolve it.