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Published in Stream:
Ukraine Live Day 340
Press by
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
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There has been a significant amount of fighting in eastern Ukraine over the last 24 hours. As far as we can tell, the new agreement between Ukraine and Russia which emerged from the talks in Berlin late at night on January 21 have accomplished little or nothing.

We predicted that at the time:

Here are some excerpts from this morning's briefing from the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council:
3 dead and 50 wounded is a significant amount of casualties, comparable to the height of the fighting last autumn. Now let's take a look at the map of the fighting, which reveals that there is literally fighting on every front:

A closeup of the map shows that there is a significant amount of fighting around Donetsk Airport, which as far as we can determine is now mostly in control of the Russian-backed separatists, and Debaltseve which Ukraine still controls but which is surrounded on three sides by Russian and Russian-backed forces:

ATO-map-zoom-on-donetsk-20150123-620x595

Near the airport, we just carried a report that 20 Russian-backed fighters have been killed. But in that report we also see that new territory is now being fought over, and despite this reported victory, the Ukrainian government appears to still be losing ground.

From Debaltseve, Kyiv Post's Maxim Tucker has a similar report:

A Ukrainian military spokesman (known for his passionate outbursts and his blocking of journalists who don't share his views) has pushed back on Tucker's assessment, but it's worth noting that Tucker's pessimism in the last few weeks has been warranted (and is shared by this author).

Tucker's report from the besieged city is ominous and suggests that, just like at Donetsk Airport, with each victory the Ukrainian government's soldiers win, the fighting still brings them closer to ultimate defeat. In this battle, however, there are more civilians who are trapped:

“The road we’re standing on now is the connection between Ukraine and Rostov-on-Don, Russia,” the Ukrainian soldier said as he motioned to an icy, cratered road punctuated with concrete-clad blockposts and demarcated on both sides by deep virgin snow.

“On the left side, the LPR (separatist Luhansk People’s Republic), on the right, the DPR (separatist Donetsk People’s Republic),” the soldier went on. “People are trying to leave there and come here, so we need to keep the road open. But this means the enemy can see us, and they are constantly attacking our position.”

Those attacks intensified as separatists surged forward, having forced Ukrainian troops to abandon Donetsk Airport after 242 days. Now Debaltseve, with a pre-war population of 30,000 residents and once a working railway center, stands as the easternmost bastion of Ukrainian forces in Donetsk Oblast.

UNIAN reports that one civilian died in Debaltseve on Friday morning, hit by incoming artillery fire from Russian-backed militants.

"According to [Interior Ministry in Donetsk region Viacheslav Abroskin], there is no light, water and heat in Avdiivka and Debaltseve."

But this is just the situation on the northwestern front of the fighting. The Russian-backed rebels are still on the offensive on the Bakhmutka Highway, between Lugansk and Donetsk. And there are still reported attacks near Mariupol and elsewhere on the southern front as well.

In other words, this is a major offensive, and it's not clear whether Ukraine has the military capacity to stop the advance of the Russian-backed fighters.

NATO says they're worried that the Russian-backed rebels have launched a new offensive and have rejected peace negotiations:


But as I pointed out last night, Western strategy appears to rely on Russia fulfilling its end of the Minsk accord, and bringing the Russian-backed separatists along with them, but at the same time the United States and its allies do not believe that Russia is a reliable partner. So what is the strategy?
Meanwhile, some late-breaking news from Maxim Tucker:
-- James Miller