Residents of the town of Avdiivka, near Donetsk, are skeptical about the new ceasefire in eastern Ukraine that began on Thursday. Shortly after going into effect, it was broken at least twice.
“Last night was hot,” a Ukrainian serviceman at a military base near Avdiivka told DW on Thursday morning. Avdiivka is a government-controlled town in eastern Ukraine, a stone’s throw from the pro-Russian separatist city of Donetsk. A day earlier, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his Ukrainian and French counterparts Pavlo Klimkin and Jean-Marc Ayrault announced that a ceasefire in Donbass would go into effect starting at midnight on Thursday.
The ceasefire is set to last for a week, but Ukrainian soldiers are skeptical. “Which one is that in a row of recent ceasefires?” asked a serviceman who was deployed to the base several months ago. “None of the previous ceasefires has borne any fruit,” he said. During the past few nights, the serviceman said shells had been collected from all kinds of weapons, including those believed to have been pulled back.
Ceasefire violated at least twice
Over the last month, Avdiivka, which had a pre-war population of 35,000 people, has remained a hot spot, with both the Ukrainian army and rebels using large-caliber weapons in daily fighting. Just two days before the ceasefire, the militants were using 122mm and 152mm artillery. Implementation of large-caliber weapons is a violation of the Minsk Protocol of September 2014, which was signed by Ukrainian, Russian and rebel representatives and called for the end of fighting in eastern Ukraine. Aside from small arms, grenade launchers and mortars, militants have also used tanks. The shelling hit many houses and ruined numerous monuments at the Avdiivka cemetery.
At 11 p.m. on September 14, an hour before the ceasefire went into effect, it was not yet quiet around the town, Ukrainian servicemen said. This information was also confirmed by the rebel-controlled Donetsk media.
After a short break at midnight, the shelling resumed, Ukrainian media reported Thursday morning. According to different reports, two to four shellings were recorded in Avdiivka after the start of the ceasefire.
Like many other servicemen at the Avdiivka military base, Alexander, who volunteered for the Ukrainian army, doesn’t believe that the ceasefire will hold. “There is an OSCE surveillance camera on the roof of our base that must record shellings. But during the most severe fighting it stops working for some reason or turns in an opposite direction,” he told DW.
Avdiivka residents are also pessimistic. Elena and her family live in an apartment block on the outskirts of town. Only one section in their house has remained undamaged, other apartments are missing windows and walls as a result of shellings and are unfit for living. “Another ceasefire? This is already laughable,” the woman said. She has every reason to be skeptical. The previous ceasefire in Donbass was announced on September 1, but failed to hold even a few days.