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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Day 1038: December 21, 2016

Publication: Ukraine Liveblogs
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Battle Near Debaltsevo Enters Fourth Day With Casualties Continuing To Mount

Ukraine is perhaps seeing its worst battle in a year.

The fighting that broke out near Debaltsevo on Sunday morning shows no sign of lessening, with casualties continuing to mount.

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2016-12-21 16:16:10

According to the Ministry of Defense, two more Ukrainian soldiers were killed and eight injured yesterday. This brings the official number of soldiers killed in the battle to eight, but the number of casualties may well be higher.

MOD spokesman Colonel Andriy Lysenko has also announced that a Ukrainian soldier, reported missing since Sunday, has been captured by Russia-backed forces.

This Hromadske journalist reported encountering a severely wounded Ukrainian soldier at a hospital in Bakhmut (formerly Artyomovsk), north of the battlefield:

Translation: Bumped into @Helgi__UA [a military medic] outside a hospital in Bakhmut. A 300 [wounded soldier] was brought past us. Severely. I hope he makes it.

Translation: No one talks about the actual figures on camera. A medic at the Chasov Yar hospital: the losses are greater than the official figures. In the photo - Bakhmut central hospital.

Military medics told Hromadske that 12 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since Sunday.

Valeriy Levinchuk, commander of a medical company in the 54th Mechanised Infantry Brigade told the internet television channel:

"There hasn't been such a deterioration for a long time. Many of the wounds are to the chest, to the stomach. A sniper's at work."

At the Chasov Yar hospital, Hromadske was told that one soldier had been run over by an armored personnel carrier and had been evacuated by helicopter to a hospital in Dnipro. 

Yuriy Kryzhanovsky, an ambulance driver evacuating troops from the front line, said:

"The soldier who was run over the the APC suffered very serious injuries. But most of the casualties have shrapnel wounds. We didn't rest for a minute on the first night of the escalation. We were going there and back without stopping. One of the dead was from our 25th Brigade."

Mikhail Karnaukh, head of a mobile military hospital in the 65th Brigade told Hromadske that two civilians, residents of the village of Luganskoye, on the road between Bakhmut and Debaltsevo, had also been wounded.

Luganskoye and neighboring Mironovsky have been subjected to heavy shelling by Russia-backed forces during the fighting. 

Meanwhile pro-separatist propaganda outlets have released grisly videos showing what are claimed to be dead Ukrainian soldiers in the snow near Debaltsevo. A Russia-backed fighters claims that the green ribbons seen on the arms of the dead are used by Ukrainian forces to identify their own side, however we are unable to verify whether these are really Ukrainian or Russia-backed fighters' corpses. Such videos are likely intended to demoralise Ukrainian fighters as a form of psychological warfare.

Perhaps in a similar vein, Andrei Marochko, a military representative for the Russia-backed separatists in Lugansk claimed today that 40 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed and more than 50 wounded in the battle. 

Heavy shelling continued this afternoon.

Translation: At approximately 14:30 (Kiev time) artillery was fired from within the city limits of Debaltsevo for the first time in a long time. People are scared.

Translation: Well guys. On camera soldiers told us that every calibre was flying in yesterday. Today, by the sounds of it, heavy [weaponry] is going as normal.

Oleksandr Turchynov, secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) travelled to the front line today and claimed that Russia-backed forces were firing more than 800 shells each day. 

This seems feasible given that OSCE monitors have reported hearing hundreds of explosions from observation positions in Debaltsevo and Gorlovka over the last few days. Notably, the OSCE reports the use of multiple-launch rocket systems in addition to 152 mm artillery and 120 mm mortars. 

The US ambassador to the OSCE, Daniel Baer, said today:

"The United States expresses its deep concern over the offensive combined Russian-separatist forces launched on Sunday, December 18, in what appears to have been a failed attempt to seize territory in strategic areas outside the town of Svitlodarsk, near separatist-held Debaltseve.  This brazen contravention of Russia’s commitments under the Minsk Agreements is an issue of the utmost concern to the OSCE, and we agree with Ukraine that there should have been a special Permanent Council meeting called to address it."

Meanwhile, shelling attacks have continued across much of the remainder of the front line.

According to this morning's report from the Ukrainian military, Russia-backed forces conducted 33 attacks yesterday. 

Fighting was reportedly heavy in the north of Donetsk this evening:
Translation: 17:35 Donetsk in Putilovka can hear HELL from the north, tracers in the sky, the air vibrates from the peals, seems like they're pounding with every kind of weaponry.
-- Pierre Vaux