The last week was terrible for Ukrainians – 18 soldiers were killed, 92 wounded, while 9 civilian had casualties in Eastern Ukraine. The unceasing shelling started in Avdiivka on the night of 30 January. Military medic Natalia Khoruzha was killed when a Russian guided missile struck the ambulance where she was taking care of the wounded. Natalia became the first female military to die in the Donbas war in 2017. Tens of thousands people were left without electricity and water in subfreezing temperatures (around – 20ºC) in Avdiivka. The humanitarian situation in Avdiivka is very difficult. As a result of the shelling, critical infrastructure of the town was destroyed.
Ukrainians were waiting for international support, which followed to some extent. The UN Security Council had its special meeting on the situation in Eastern Ukraine on 2nd February. Regardless of Ukrainian fears as to the change in American policy towards Ukraine, the new US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley used quite rough words talking about the Russian role in the war in Eastern Ukraine. She condemned Russian support to separatists in Donbass and called it Russian ‘aggressive actions’ against Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Haley also pointed out that American sanctions imposed on Russia after its annexation of Crimea would remain until the peninsula is returned to Ukraine.
The EU’s response was as usual. The European leaders expressed their high concern as to the escalation of the fighting in Ukraine and urged both sides to stop shelling.
Although, there was no formal message from White House regarding Ukraine after the elections, US House of Representatives is going to review the bill “On the maintenance of stability and democracy in Ukraine”, as it was registered once again. According to it together with sanctions against Russia, Ukraine could receive a lethal weapon. Some experts state, that the escalation of the war in Eastern Ukraine is a perfect chance for Ukraine to return to the discussion of getting lethal weapon from international community.
According to some analysts, the escalation is the way for Russia to check Trump’s attitude to the crisis in Ukraine. From the other point of view, Ukraine and Russia could both test the possible Trump’s response to the escalation of the war in Ukraine. According to some the de-escalation could be a response to Ukraine’s armed forces maneuvers of near the war-torn cities to shrink the space between them and the separatist fighters. According to OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, both sides were putting heavy weaponry in the gray zone to invent “new realities” on the ground and to negotiate from a better position in the future. President Putin stated that posing the country as a victim is Ukrainian way of getting money from the US and the EU. And in the current crisis it would be difficult for Ukrainian politicians to keep power without foreign financial support.
While Ukraine is waiting for international support its own politicians are gambling their own interests. The whole week Ukraine was waiting for Poroshenko-Trump telephone speech, however when it happened nothing concrete was achieved and the real outcome is unknown. After the week of intensive war in the East, Ukrainian President had a telephone call with his American counterpart. According to Ukrainian President’s official web-page, the USA confirmed territorial integrity of Ukraine. The two leaders expressed deep concern about the spike in tension and deterioration of humanitarian situation, especially in the area of Avdiivka.
While Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had a privilege to talk on the phone to American president, Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko flew to the USA and had a short meeting with President Trump. As she has been struggling for becoming Ukrainian president for years, the meeting with the USA president could serve a start of her future electoral campaign. As to Tymoshenko, Donald Trump assured her that he would be on Ukrainian side when communicating with Russia about the conflict in Ukraine and would not lift sanctions until Ukrainian territory is integral. The White House confirmed the meeting.
While American policy towards Ukrainian crisis stays a mystery, President Trump gives controversial information in his various interviews. Once he is fascinated with President Putin, once he is eager to show American power and solve the war in Donbass. Lately, Trump also said that it would be better to be friends with Russia, but the county is responsible for the occupation and the war in Ukraine.
As always both sides blame each other for the fights and the truth is difficult to be found even with contemporary technology. However, some proof was revealed. On 2nd February, Bellingcat agency released a report showing satellite photos of firing positions of pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine. There were at least 100 Grad rockets in Donetsk area on 31st January, half of them were located in residential area in the city, using civilians as shields. Observers confirm some of them firing near Auchan hypermarket and the highway. All of the rockets were turned west into Ukrainian controlled territories, where Avdiivka is situated. As the launch sites were close to the residential area, any Ukrainian counter attack would risk civilian lives. Paradoxically Russian media as TV channel Zvezda blamed Ukraine for shelling Avdiivka itself, as if Ukraine was attacking a town on its own territory.
Therefore, foreign actors showed their high concern as to the war in Ukraine once again and Ukrainian politicians are fighting for their own political interests, while the war is escalating and people are dying.