Ukraine 20 Aug 2014 09:31
Since the retreat of the pro-Russian separatist forces from Slaviansk and Kramatorsk last May, the rebels have been losing ground against the Ukrainian army. Pushing deeper into rebel-held territory, the army loyal to Kiev has laid siege to the two last remaining major cities still under separatist control: Lugansk and Donetsk. Recently, the city of Lugansk has been completely surrounded and under intense bombardment, forcing the rebels to renew their demand for help to Russia. Donetsk is the largest city in the Donbass region. Before the war, the city had an estimated 1.2 million souls, but less then half are still present within the city limits. Under daily shelling from Ukrainian forces, the remaining population has been finding shelter in cellars and atomic-proof bunkers, some dating back to WWII. In recent days, the government attacks have been more consistent and deadly, targeting downtown and suburb areas alike to demoralise separatist troops defending their stronghold. Most of the locals who have refused to leave are either old, poor, or hopeful that the war will end soon. However, this is an unlikely case, as the Ukrainian army has adopted a strategy of attrition against the determined rebel forces. It is likely that Donetsk will suffer the same fate as Lugansk, with mounting civilian casualties caught in the middle of a war sponsored by the West and Russia alike.