First of all, I ought to notice that this article describes the beginning of de facto civil war in Ukraine which started 7 April and to these days. Events to precede this war (such as Russian spring, Odessa tragedy and Crimean crisis) were described in separate articles.
It is very important to determine the subject of discussion and to understand official positions of belligerents and purposes they assert.
Ukrainian version: insurgency in Donbass (Donetsk + Lugansk) is inspired by Russian government and it is one of phases of a hybrid war to take under Russian control Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts (regions). By deep conviction of Ukrainian officials military aggression at Donbass must be considered as continuation of Crimean annexation. Insurgency at Donbass have been constantly called "terrorists" and "separatists" and Ukrainian government not intend to negotiate with them. Russia is condemned in this process as terrorist helper but no really evident testimony of significant military support of surgency is not provided. Nevertheless Ukrainian side don`t dare not to claim war to Russia, nor start negotiations with the opposite side. They just announced Couner-offensive operation, which is not right to be called so as it were numerous violations of holding such type of operations (big number of casualties among civilians, using restricted ammunition etc.) This is really awkward position of Ukrainian authorities which not let them advance in this problem but instead of it is making the situiation worse day by day. Ukrainian media also affect the situation in bad way as they try to calm down Ukrainian population with fake victories of Ukrainian army and actively producing the image of enemy from Russia in the same time declaring that everything under control. By image from media we can see that Donbass citizens are massively not supporting "terrorists" and begging to save them from insurgents. This is not actually true to put it mildly. Ukrainian government not able to recognize the deep split of Ukrainian society. Some of us really support the government, the significant part has sympathy to Russia and the biggest part of society just don`t want anything and tired from this events and support anybody. Another proof of totally different approach of problem between Russia and Ukraine with its Western sponsors is the good article on Wiki about "Russian military intervention" in Ukraine which is not have Russian version because of Russian Federation do not recognize and qualify it as "aggression" pointing to number of casualties.
Russian position: is totally opposite. Russia don`t even consider itself as a belligerent side. They try to appeal to Ukrainian government about they are making war with their own people and it`s necessary to stop bloodshed immediately. Russian side always speaks for arriving international groups and human rights commissions into the battle zone to document possible violations from both sides. But these initiatives often blocks by Western countries which is not quite comprehensible. Russia don`t recognize its help and connections with insurgency of Donbass and rejects supply of arms. But this is little archness from Russia as everybody understand without their help Donbass insurgency would be last long. In fact, Russia provides humanitarian relief to the suffered region and accepts refugees. Russia treats refugees not as foreigners and mostly as fraternal people with possibilty of fast citizenship changing from Ukrainian to Russian. It is strange situation indeed when people escape from their own country to be saved at the side of vowed "enemies".
So the complicacy of this situation we will overview in the end of the article and now let`s move the history of the standoff.
Beginning of the movement
There is the excellent article, we can say a real anthology about these events of insurgency in Donbass at Wikipedia and after detailed review I have no reason not to believe or impugn facts mentioned there. But also I have some additions to it. First of all, yes, the captures of RSA buildings in big eastern-southern cities of Ukrainian were not spontaneous, but they also weren`t financed or inspired by Russia. It was the reaction of total lawlessness and nazi sabbath in Ukraine where almost every right of a person including the right to life can be violated without trial. As you can know from our "Maidan aftermath" article, Kharkiv RSA was captured by "Right sector" militants and they showed strong intention to control civil life all over Ukraine. Right sector activists didn`t have scruples to walk with unregistered weapon, produce robbery or provoke official servicemen and insult them on camera. Also they could freely come to some official and ask or make him/her to resign just if they don`t like he or she. This was total anarchy and no one can justify such situation.
As the reaction to it 1 of March took place a series of marches all over the south-east against the Right sector and arbitrariness of new government. Hundreds of thousands of people went out on squares and show their protest of not agreeing with chaos in the country. They demand federalization to leave money in regional budgets and to be able provide more independant policy in regional business and social/cultural spheres. Also federation allows the system of state authority to be not such vulnerable. Because with overturn in Kiev all country plunging into chaos.
But this protest didn`t take any effect. So people were trying to attract attention of authorities with all possible means. But when everything was in vain, different public organizations amalgamated into one solid movement (also by means of social networks) and decided to follow the Crimean scenario. There were attempts to capture City councils and buildings of Security Service with creation of parallel branches of government and holding referendum to legitimize their power if society will expose to it.
Don`t you agree that referendum is the most democratic way to reveal people`s attitude to one or another problem in life of a country? If so, Ukraine is the most undemocratic country in the world as we had never have the referendum in our independent history. But instead of changing this injustice, new government tries to suppress social movements on Donbass, Kharkiv oblast and other rebellious regions where people were not agree to live under illegitimate government. Instead of attempts to find the understanding with people, Maidan junta begins to prohibit mass assemblies near City Councils and on squares which is direct infringement to personal freedom and human rights. And if since April 7 almost everywhere forcible suppression succeeded, Donbass was still the area of mutiny. And after 12 May`s referendum which passed under colossal pressure, most of people (as it stated by Russian media, as of most Western media ignored it) voted for independence from Ukraine and for creation of two new People`s Republics: Donetsk (DPR) and Lugansk (LPR).
After referendum events started to develop rapidly. Martial law in DPR was claimed on 15 May by self-titled president, Pavel Gubarev. He vowed that Donetsk military forces would provide "total annihilation" to Ukrainian forces if they don`t pull out the Donetsk oblast border by 21:00 same day. 22 May was vowed a martial law in Lugansk by president Valeri Bolotov.
At the same time authorities of new-created republics began to nationalize finance streams and large-scale industry as had stated Denis Pushilin (chairman of the State Council of DPR). The main target of these actions was the richest person of Ukraine, Rinat Akhmetov, who was trying to avoid this scenario. He arranges meeting of coil miners "against the war" which was claimed up to 300 000 participants around the Donbass but in fact there was much less number. People didn`t want to go to such artificial assembly. Akhmetov loses his positions on Donbass very quickly.
Beginning of battles
After the referendum which showed that voters support the Declarations of Independence of DPR/LPR by 89% and 96% respectively, real full-scale and broad range military actions by Ukrainian new government against separatists began. If before this different regions controlled by alternative government Kievan government treated more or less tolerantly, after referendum we became witnesses of bloody attempts to suppress a rebellion.
24-25 of April Slaviansk, big town at the north of Donetsk oblast was the only hot spot on a map, where Ukrainian National guard tried to brake through the Igor Strelkov`s squads of self-defense. May 2, Ukrainian-junta soldiers took an important altitude near Slaviansk, Karachun hill. Since it they started artillery gunning the city from this point. This was the confirmation of inability to regain Slaviansk by Ukrainian militants and they switch to remote-gunning subsequently destroying local infrastructure and civilians. Very strange tactics for counter-offensive operation. 29 of May near Slaviansk was shot down the helicopter with National guardsmen on the board. Major-general Sergei Kulchitsky was on the board of Mi-8 as 13 other soldiers.
Events with bringing down Ukrainian aircrafts with applying MANPADS have had tended to happen more often. It associated with will of a new-elected president Poroshenko to end the counter-offensive operation more quickly and military forces redeploying to Donbass a very big amount of enginery. Often transfering of human resources was producing by air.
Also another considerable occurence took place near small city of Volnovakha. Three armoured personnel carriers and three military lorries were ambushed and gunfired. During the battle insurgents withdrew as Ukrainian servicemen` reinforcement was about to come. But Ukrainian military helicopters by numerous eyewitnesses attacked own infantry of 51-st Mechanised Brigade and finished the remians of squad. Was it a fatal error of Ukrainian army or it was planned action to hide the failure of Ukrainian operation, or maybe it was attempt to blame separatists we will probably never know. In addition can be stated that servicemen of this squad neglected with self-defense measures and all the enginery and personnel was unready for standoff.
"Retreat!" – we can hear from the first video. – "What a f*ck are they doing? Are these ours? (By the telephone) Right now wounded one soldier – not ours, specialsquad here … No, no, not our seriously wounded… Is there a way to inquire army aviation, what a f*ck? Mi-24 coming and neat queue shoot all our BMDs … flew two of 24, one Mi-8. They walk along the plantation and shoot accurately in our roadblock that there are corpses only… We extinguished with firemen, there are BMP… We thought they will take away wounded and they are firing!"
Severe clashes took place near and in Donetsk airport. 26 May about 200 insurgents besieged the airport building and erected roadblocks by perimeter. But government forces striked back with airstrikes and paratroopers. Also they could organize an ambush to pro-Russian militants and up to 40 wounded insurgents were destroyed in lorries that were trying to evacuate them from the place of hostilities.
That day in Donetsk was set ablaze local sport center "Druzhba" (Friendship) which is home arena to hockey team "Donbass" acting in KHL. This action was executed by separatists in reaction of non-supporting and blaming their activity from Ukrainian deputy from "Party of Regions", Boris Kolesnikov, owner of the club.
At the very end of May Luhansk insurgents attempted to take under control the state border with Russia. At least five separatists were killed. Nobody knows about the Ukrainian border guard losses but the border eventually took under control by "terrorists". In the same day horrifying event happenned at Lugansk City Council. Ukrainian attack aircraft Su-25 made an airstrike using restricted cassette bomb right in the center of big city. 8 civilians died and many suffered. Nobody charged for this teract.
The month of June bring a new wane of furious governmental forces attempts to regain control over the rebellious region. And they sufficiently improve the front line to the main directions of Lugansk and Donetsk. But they still weren`t able to troop round DPR and LPR and cut them off from Russian border.
But still there were planty happenings worth to recall. As was many times rumored, Russian tanks and echelons of machinery and different enginery crossed the borderline and came into reinforcement to pro-Russian combatants. International media confirmed whole three(!) tanks to appear in controlled by separatists zones of Makeevka and Torez. However, these tanks or whatever didn`t showed up till now (the end of July) and didn`t affect no seriuos battle. Maybe it is the secret weapon of separatists and they conserving it to black days who knows. Also, omnipotential and omniscient American satellites didn`t detect any activity on Russian border and not able to provide any proof of these theory.
14 June in the night was shot down Ukrainian aircraft carrier Il(Ilyushin)-76 which had to land in Lugansk 48 servicemen for rotation of personnel and equipment. But using MANPADS separatists prevent this and plane fell down near airport and everybody inside had died.
Severe battle between Ukrainian forces and separatists took place near Yampol, 19 June. This town is near Krasniy Liman controlled by government and Yampol was another strategic point for Ukrainian army to make pressure on Slaviansk but pro-Russians didn`t want to give it up. In result, Yampol was taken by Ukrainian forces after 2-days battle.
After this was vowed 15-point peaceful plan by pr. Poroshenko about unilateral ceasefire. But as we will see further, it was just preposition to regroup Ukrainian military forces and to increase military presence and tactical efficiency in the region.
According to official position of Kiev peaceful-plan was disrupted by separatists`s falt and reconciliation which was so generously proposed by pr. Poroshenko didn`t rake place. But if you are more attentive you can note that it wasn`t a peaceful-plan, ilateral ceasefire or something because it really was inacceptable from the very beginning. It sounded like ultimatum: "Insurgents must lay down arms and give up to Ukrainian army. After this nobody will be hurt, I promise. I hear South-East and we will give more power to regional authorities and bla-bla-bla". No Russian language as second in the state, no referendums by the main strategical problems and no federalization. Rather shitty peace-plan, isn`t it. Poroshenko realized that nobody will agree these terms and gave a command to regroup the army around Donbass, make rotations and pressing improvements to be ready to renew the offensive.
Artillery shooting indeed were stopped and the week gone less or more quietly, but as it was numerously reported, separatists fired by Ukrainian army servicemen. Probably it was cuased by active movement of Ukrainian military forces which accordingly to defense Minister of Ukraine, Michael Koval "it was plan to distract the attention and provide rearrangements during "peaceful plan". Our army don`t want any peace with terrorsists".
We should notice that Ukrainian media is slightly differs from European and even American where from time to time one can see the trifles of truth. But Ukrainian media is ideal in this attitude. All the channels and radio working in mainstream: insurgents called "terrorists" and "militants" only; Russia is supporting them, fires from their territory on Ukraine; in Ukrainian army everything`s fine with material supply, with morale; it is unvowed war between us and Russia; nobody dies on the field of hostilities, there are only few of wounded; terrorists dying only; be patriots – defend your country from cruel enemy and quack-quack and bla-bla. In the "democratic" country with "freedom of speech" is no else position but pro-governmental and absolutely unreal. In the detached article we will discuss the achievements of modern Ukrainian democracy but now a couple of words about post-ceasefire period.
The resumption of offensive, 1 of July, pro-governmental forces began with attepmts to cut-off insurgents from Russian border and to surround and besiege them. After the severe hostilities checkpoint Dolzhansky went under control of Ukrainian army. And they moved further to retake the rest of border. But this day insurgents took control of Lahnsk airport which was a stronghold of official Ukrainians for a long time. A lot of casualties was cliamed after these clashes but officially approved only 2 died insurgents. No precise information from Ukrainian side provided (as always).
5-th of July the defense of Slaviansk fell. It was a big hit to insurgent`s positions and their overall morale. Slaviansk held for a very long time and was properly fortificated, defense was organized by one of the most famous commanders of People`s Army of Donbass, Igor Strrelkov (Girkin). But as he was stated, he took the decision to withdraw to Dinetsk "due to overwhelming numerical superiority of enemy". Now his squads are fighting near Donetsk, reflecting the Ukrainian army attacks. July 7 Donetsk was completely blocked by separatists and arterial roads and railroads controlled by People`s army. Main bridges were blown up to block possible ways of offensive. 30K people leaved their accomodations and drove away from Donetsk in few days.
Almost without any resistance were retook Druzhkovka, Artemovsk and Konstantinovka, 10 of July was taken Seversk. Ukrainian soldiers reported as extremely fast and succesful operation goes. But it was evident that insurgents just regrouping forces and soon Ukrainian exaltation ended.
After these victories Ukrainian army didn`t progressed despite heavy artilleru fire and airstrikes which them using much more often after the "ceasefire". 10 July battle for Donetsk airport resumed but Ukrainian soldiers could repell the attack. Since 11 July near Luhansk begins a real clash for suburb territories. Nikolaevka was under the air attack on 3-th of July, 8 civilians died, many households suffered and destroyed, but Ukrainian army denied their implication to this action.
11 July by Grad rocket lorry was destroyed Armed Froces column near Rovenky. At least 23 soldiers died. Next day Ukrainian forces retalied by airstrike and vowed 500 casualties from insurgents but it`s an obvious disinformtaion. Separatists well-dispersed by locality and have a good communication and reaction possibilities. It is impossible to destroy more than 30-50 men squad for one time as they don`t fight by big number.
Meanwhile the situation near the Russian border worsen to Armed Forces of Ukraine. 3 airmobile brigades and different military units of National Guard got into encirclement and were blocked in salient and subsequently attacked with no ability to step back from hostility. Few days later 75 and 79 airmobile brigades were totally destroyed. Their remains were forced to ask for help in Russia and 18 wounded Ukrainian soldiers were treated in Taganrog hospital whole week and 24 July sent back to Odessa by plane.
Since 19 July right after the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 which was shot down by rocket supposedly, Ukraine blamed insurgents in all sins and began to bomb major cities, Donetsk and Lugansk with all possible weapons. Bombs and mines fell in residential quarters and caused numerous casualties. Continues the bloody opposition for airports of these cities. But earlier president Poroshenko sweared that nobody will shell Donetsk and Lugansk. But AGAIN he lied. Insurgents telling about some mobile diversionary groups intruded as civilians to cities for provocations. To prevent their activity governments of LPR and DPR claimed curfiew for autotraffic. We have a lot of video evidents of shelling and destroying but international society and international commissions just close eyes on it. They believe Ukrainian government which can do anything and then blame insurgents.
Video from Lugansk: we can learn from this video how one of the mines aimed straight into the house. People from video shouted something like: "Damned fascists" – but not determine sepcifically whom they mean. The operator says the shot was taken from very small distance. He just heard the shot from one side and in the instant the mine fell on the household where was just one man and he was lucky to rescue. Than they try to find the water and to save the garage at least.
So gossips about mobile groups shelling the city aren`t fake. But it`s not enough proves to assert who are these groups and what goals do they pursue.
This video shows the shelling of district Solnechniy of Lugansk. Scary footage, only for people 18+
Here`s the video from centre of Donetsk shelling:
Under this video in comments you can find too many people who thinks that "this is Russia bombing us" or "this is Russia`s fault". Somebody appeal to Donetsk city forum, allegedly there is information about implication of separatists or Russian Army to this event, but there is no such information. Also, forums is not the best way to get the truthful information.
So, we have now full-scaled Civil war in Donbass and a very complicated situation around it in media. But the main question "Who is right?" we can answer right here and now: who wins is right.