- By Reid StandishReid Standish is associate editor, digital, at Foreign Policy. Reid writes on Russia, Ukraine, and Central Asia and is the newsroom’s digital point person. He has lived in and reported from Finland, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine, where he covered everything from Santa Claus to drug trafficking. A native of British Columbia, he holds a B.A. in international studies from Simon Fraser University and an M.A. from the University of Glasgow.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has wasted no time bringing the fight to pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. This week, he halted a ceasefire and launched a military offensive to retake territory held by the rebels. As Russian President Vladimir Putin is sending vague signs that he hopes to de-escalate the conflict, Poroshenko is pushing forward, using his military to regain control of restive cities and border posts.
After being repeatedly humiliated by rebel forces, the Ukrainian military is starting to see some success, recapturing the Dolzhansky border post and taking areas around the eastern city of Slovyansk. There is intense fighting in eastern Ukraine as its army has unleashed heavy artillery.
The ongoing conflict continues unfolding in real time on social media, providing a fairly unfiltered snapshot of Europe’s first military confrontation since the 1990s war in the Balkans. See government forces firing artillery outside the eastern city of Slovyansk in photo below. The Ukrainian government claims it has retaken several small villages in the surrounding area recently.
With Ukraine’s army bearing down on rebel forces civilians are caught in the middle. According to Ukrainska Pravda, pro-Russian separatists blew up a civilian car close to Kryva Luka, a village by the city of Kramatorsk. According to the report, a 10-year-old girl was seriously injured and both her parents killed.
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In one 24-hour period, hundreds of separatists and at least five Ukrainian soldiers were killed, Ukrainian National Defense and Security Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said on Wednesday. Since fighting broke out in April, 200 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and 619 wounded, Lysenko added. Rebel forces, meanwhile, say that their death toll has reached 1,000.
Morale among separatist fighters appears to be waning as the Ukrainian military advances. On Wednesday, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry posted a video on YouTube purporting to show rebel forces surrendering to their Ukrainian counterparts near the city of Metalist. It comes amid other recent reports and videos of separatist laying down their weapons in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Videos, such as the one below from the city of Slovyansk, supposedly showing the destruction caused by Ukrainian forces’ shelling are also emerging.
Pro-Russian media outlets are releasing similar videos. The Russian government and its media allies continue claiming that the Ukrainian military eagerly commits acts of violence on civilians.The video below, which contains graphic material, reportedly shows destruction caused by shelling north of Luhansk.