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Ahead of Normandy Four meeting, Donbass residents spending nights at bomb shelters

The military situation in Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) has escalated along almost the entire frontline with growing intensity of the hostilities. There are both civilian and military deaths, Alexander Matyushin (codename Varyag), the commander of a volunteer battalion “Russian Ostrog” told EADaily on March 3.

“Intensity of the military actions is growing day by day, though the DPR Defense Ministry and army corps spokespersons speak just of the growing number of provocations. It was declared in Minsk that drills are conducted on both the sides of the frontline and we do not understand that these are just drills and start shelling each other. Despite these statements, we can state that hostilities are almost everywhere,” Matyushin said.

In his words, the villages that have not rehabilitated from last year’s hostilities are under bombardments again, as the operation they conducted in 2015 has not been completed. “My squadron took the height over Logvinovo. But now that village is under shelling again, unfortunately,” Varyag said.

He said Ukraine’s forces are shelling Gorlovka from all directions. Zaytsevo, Yasinovataya, all near frontline agglomerations, are being shelled at. “They are using mortars, tanks and other weapons banned by the Minsk Agreements that are not effective, unfortunately,” he said.

Matyushin said the situation is tense in the area of the Donetsk airport too. There is constant shelling from Avdeyevka with use of artillery, tanks, mortars large-caliber guns. Kuybishev and Kiev regions of Donetsk are caught under shells. According to Varyag, “civilians residing in districts close to the airport have to spend nights in bomb shelters.”

Nothing has changed in Peski settlement, he said. Shelling continues in Maryinka, Staromikhailovka and others settlements. The people in the rear can hear the bombardments clearly. “They wrote to me from the rear. They thought the offensive started. However, it is just ‘ceasefire’ – position war,” Alexander Matyushin said.

There is constant shelling in the area of Yelenovka and Novotroitskoye, where the only operating checkpoint is located.  In the south, the situation is not peaceful either. “We have noticed deployment of military hardware closer to the front line. We can see troops in the direction of Gorlovka, Yasinovataya and Donetsk,” Varyag said pointing at increased quantity of the Ukrainian armored vehicles, multiple artillery rocket systems in the area.

There are many civilian causalities. A day ago, in Petrovsky region, two were killed within a day. “Six people from the self-defense forces have been killed since last Friday, as far as I know,” Varyag said.

As for the Normandy Four talks that will be held on March 3 in the evening, Matyushin thinks they will not change the situation in Donbass. He thinks Europe will exert pressure on Russia and Ukraine, and Russia will probably go on certain concessions, but on paper only.  In fact, the situation will escalate even more.

“They will probably try to push through the ‘Indonesia option.’ In particular, they will try to replace our government fully with a new neutral one. There will be a foreign, even not Ukrainian, an invited prime minister. He will form the government on our territory until elections. Meantime, the DPR and LPR have already announced the establishment of a joint army corps to protect the engagement line. They are building government institutions. We are de-facto independent state,” Matyushin said.

He thinks Europe will anyway try to press Russia to get concessions from it. Simultaneously, EU will press Ukraine over Donbass. Matyushin pointed at the current economic and refugee crises in Europe. Therefore, he said, they do not need “Makhnovism” near their borders.

Alexander Matyushin thinks the Ukrainian politicians are determined to fight for victory and will hardly be negotiable. As for Russia, he said, it will probably agree on some concessions, but, as usually, on paper only.

Ukraine does not believe in the success of the Normandy Four talks. According to Ukrainian media, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Alexander Turchynov says the Normandy Four talks will hardly result in any breakthrough in the conflict in Donbass.

The talks are scheduled for March 3 in Paris. On the eve of the meeting, the Tripartite Contact Group convened and signed two documents: an agreement to stop the military exercises in the 30km zone along the line of engagement and an agreement on de-mining.

Meantime, Donbass residents share information on daily bombardments and the useless Minsk Agreements. “Inform the world about the true reports from the DPR. Bring Pushilin back from Minsk. Explain Putin the real state of affairs in DPR and help us get back our Donetsk region,” Alexander Bolotin, the head of a public movement, posted on Facebook. People leave comments in social media on the bombardments and shelling.

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