Ukraine: Deputy Defence Minister addresses possible invasion
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Claims of an eruption of violence come as fears of an invasion by Russian forces grow as troops mount on the two nations’ shared border. Russian-backed separatist militias in the Donbas region – which includes Donetsk – have been insurging against Ukraine since 2014.
According to the Telegram channel “Reports of the militia of Novorossiya”, Ukrainian forces opened fire using artillery in the north of the region, near the airport.
They also claimed that the nation’s armed forces struck Spartak – a village on the western outskirts of Donetsk – with 120mm mortars, as well as the Kievsky district.
Local residents said that warehouses and garages were on fire as a result of the attack
The channel also claimed that volunteers from Russia would return to the region to combat further “aggression” by Ukraine.
Later, the channel said that a member of the militia of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) – one of the separatist groups – had died from a mortar attack in Gorlovka.
Another separatist channel, Donbas Decides, claimed that local residents who had left the militia would now return.
The channel interviewed a businessman from Debaltseve and “veteran” of the DPR militia, known only as Oleksiy.
He claimed that “fascism” would “pass here today and go further to Russia”.
He added: “Therefore, we will not let them [Ukrainian forces] in, we will start crushing them with our teeth.”
Meanwhile, Alexander Khodakovsky, commander of the Vostok brigade, suggested that Russian forces may become involved in the conflict in the Donbas region.
He told one separatist channel: “Now we are not talking about what we are like as the DPR and [Luhansk People’s Republics] because we know our potential very well, we do not deceive ourselves in this regard. We are now talking about what we and Russia are like.”
The channel also claimed that Mr Khodakovsky was “sure” that “joint efforts” would be able to hold back the Ukrainian armed forces, “no matter how much weapons and ammunition its Western friends supply it with.”
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Insurgents have been fighting with Ukrainian forces in the region since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Since the conflict was initiated, there have been 29 ceasefires, each of which has failed after a matter of weeks. The longest was six weeks, in 2016.
The most recent ceasefire came into effect on July 27, 2020, which saw no deaths for over a month.
Since then, fighting in the region has intensified.
Meanwhile, it is now estimated that around 100,000 Russian troops are stationed on the border with Ukraine.
British intelligence published in January suggested that Russia was preparing to install a Kremlin-backed leader in Kyiv in the event of an invasion.
Western leaders have spoken publicly about their fears of an imminent Russian invasion, although the Kremlin has always denied it is preparing a military offensive.
The UK has since 2015 helped build Ukraine’s defensive capabilities, including the training of 22,000 troops and the building of a naval base on the Sea of Azov.
Last month, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed that the UK would also send anti-tank weaponry, as well as a small contingent of British personnel to train Ukrainian forces.
He told the House of Commons that they were “clearly defensive weapons” and “pose no threat to Russia”.
Mr Wallace added: “Any invasion will not be viewed as a ‘liberation’ but as occupation, and I fear that it could lead to huge loss of life on all sides.”
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