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“Ukraine’s Armed Forces seizing ‘grey zone,’ while Donetsk is trying the role of a peacekeeper and going to nowhere”

The seizure of the Yasinovataya checkpoint, for which the fighting is still going on, will cut Donetsk from the north of the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), create a new hotbed of tensions and potential for penetration of Ukraine’s troops into Donetsk. This will cut the capital of the DPR from the rest of the republic’s territory, Alexander Matyushin (codename Varyag), the commander of a volunteer battalion “Russian Ostrog” told EADaily on March 9.

“The military actions for the Yasinovataya checkpoint have been held for two years already, since Ukraine’s army approached Yasinovataya and Donetsk. The checkpoint is located some 200-300 meters from Yasinovataya. Before that war, it was a big checkpoint of the Road Police,” Matyushin said. In his words, it was one of the first checkpoints yet during “the Russian spring.” Then Sergey Taruta (the Kiev-appointed “governor of the Donetsk region of Ukraine” – EADaily) was the head of the administration. Matyushin recalled that the tent camp emerged there and people were gathering there from Kharkov and Lugansk to coordinate their actions.

“It is team site, but it is of big strategic importance. The checkpoint is well fortified now, but the fight for it breaks out regularly. With its seizure, Ukraine’s army will get an additional access to Yasinovataya, cut the communication of Donetsk – Gorlovka – Yasinovataya and access Donetsk, as the highway runs directly to Donetsk,” Alexander Matyushin said.

Currently, he said, the highway is not used due to permanent bombardments and direct clashes. The local residents have to reach Donetsk and Makeyevka using the byroad they used yet in 2014, in the period of the severest battles.

Matyushin said the situation is rather tense, as mortars and tanks are used. In his words, Ukraine’s troops have seized the ‘grey zone’ in the village of Spartak and have come closer to the positions of the DPR. “They have actually seized a piece of our territory approaching the Yasinovataya checkpoint even more,” Varyag said. He told EADaily that a couple of weeks ago it was yet possible to drive along the highway, unlike now, when intensive shelling has paralyzed the traffic.

On other sections of the engagement line, the situation has not changed and clashes continue along the front line, Matyushin said.

 “The only change is Spartak. It happened after the people that had defended Spartak for a long time, for almost one year, have been replaced with others, who failed to keep our territory and ceded a not large part of our land,” Matyushin said.

Varyag believes that the situation could be corrected through an offensive to force the adversary out of the Grolovka-Yasinovataya-Donetsk airport triangle. A joint operation is needed, he said. “Instead, we continue to try the role of peacekeepers reaffirming our commitment to the Minsk Agreements that do not work. In fact, we can see the ‘grey zone’ being seized gradually,” Matyushin said. 

As Eduard Basurin, Deputy Commander of the Corps of the Donetsk People’s Ministry, said, after intensive shelling of the positions of DPR’s army within three days, Ukraine’s 58th Motorized Infantry Brigade subdivisions with several tanks and armored vehicles attempted to penetrate into the neutral zone near Yasinovataya, but failed. According to Denis Pushilin, the DPR will voice the situation around Yasinovataya at the talks of the Contact Group in Minsk. Earlier, a passenger bus and a group of Russian journalists came under fire near the Yasinovataya checkpoint. 

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