Shortly after the separatist-organized elections this weekend in Luhansk and Donetsk, convoys of Russian troops began to arrive in eastern Ukraine, journalist Igor Talo told ETV.
Talo said the negotiated ceasefire in the country is only on paper, and low-level fighting has been going-on since the Minsk Protocol was signed at the beginning of September.
Ukraine needed a temporary halt to hostilities, as it suffered major casualties and its armored vehicles were destroyed, while Russian wanted to legitimize the separatist forces.
He said there are four areas where battles are especially fierce. The town of Shchastya, just north of Luhansk, is one such point. Ukrainian government forces have so far managed to hold on to the town, the highway which passes through it and the bridge to Luhansk, but the major strategic point is a power plant, which supplies a large part of the region.
Russian soldiers have been bombing areas around the city, forcing Ukrainian forces to retreat, Taro said.
The second conflict area is around the village of Debal'tseve, which lies between Luhansk and Donetsk. The highway between the two large cities goes through Debal'tseve, as does the Harkov-to-Rostov highway. The village is also a railway hub. The area is currently controlled by the separatists but the Ukrainian forces have identified it as a possibility to split the separatist forces, he said.
The third hotspot is the Donetsk airport. “The airport is in the city limits on a large plateau, looking over nearby city districts. It is easy to move into the populated areas from the airport, which could be used by Russian transport and military aircraft,” he said, adding that the difference between the Donetsk and Luhansk airports is that the landing strip at the Donetsk airport has not been destroyed and can still be used. The airport falls under Russian attack on average twice each day.
The last conflict area is near Mariupol, which has not seen as much action as the above four areas, but according to Ukrainian sources, Russia has amassed troops near the city and will attack Volnovakha, between Mariupol and Donetsk.
Mariupol is a port city which connects industry with railroad possibilities.
“The massive influx of Russian soldiers and equipment, which have been spotted by people in Donetsk, can only mean that Russia has never been serious about the Minsk Protocol and is waiting for the right moment to restart extensive military operations,” Taro said.