Tensions are on the rise on the frontline in Donbas. Last Friday, on March 26, four Ukrainian soldiers were killed in shelling as Russian forces and pro-Russian separatist fighters opened fire. Among the killed was Lieutenant Colonel Serhiy Koval. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged the leaders of the so-called Normandy Format, a diplomatic process involving Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France aimed at resolving the conflict, to tackle the conflict amid the increase in fighting in Donbas.
The Warsaw Institute reported on escalating tensions in Donbas on March 17. Since then the situation has worsened. Four soldiers died and two others were injured in a bombing in eastern Ukraine on Friday, March 26. The incident took place near the settlement of Shumy, northwest of Horlivka in the Donetsk region. The attack targeted the positions of Ukrainian forces with 82-mm mortars, automatic grenade launchers, and large-caliber machine guns prohibited by the Minsk agreements. The incident marks the worst loss of life in the region since a ceasefire deal came into force in late July 2020. The settlement of Shumy has long been among the most vulnerable areas to a Russian attack on the frontline. Analysts believe that after the shelling last Friday, this is where the enemy may hit if a Russian-orchestrated attack takes place in the coming weeks. Zelensky said that Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Ruslan Khomchak immediately flew to the scene. A Ukrainian delegation to the trilateral contact group in charge of resolving the Donbas conflict is to urgently convene a meeting of a subgroup for security issues. Within the delegation, aides to the Normandy Four leaders will be responsible for discussing the incident. Zelensky also added he would be in talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is to be expected that Kyiv could tighten its stance and take action targeting pro-Russian opposition parties, among others. The skirmish brings the total number of Ukrainian servicemen reported killed since the beginning of the year to 16 and the death toll might stand even higher. Officials in Kyiv have no other choice but to respond to the use of artillery by rebel fighters by rolling out the same weapons near the frontline. Recent attacks appear to mark the end of a fragile ceasefire that had held since July 2020.
Photo source: FLICKR / MINISTRY OF DEFENSE OF UKRAINE
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