Militants are preparing to capture the city of Marinka, which is located on the Western outskirts of the Donetsk region. This was reported by the headquarters of the Anti-terrorist Operation (ATO) on the 18th of February.
Due to the increasing number of attacks and the danger to the lives of civilians, the military has stopped working at the Marinka checkpoint. More than 5 000 people pass this checkpoint every day. The militants have accumulated military equipment and personnel in the Petrovsky district of Donetsk, which borders Marinka. This is proof of an imminent military attack.
On the previous day, separatists fired more than 20 times at Ukrainian military locations near Marinka. These locations were shelled with mortars, grenade launchers and small arms. A sniper and an anti-aircraft gun were firing at the checkpoint.
Soldiers of the 14th separate mechanized brigade, who defend the border, had said that the attack on these locations began in the afternoon and continued for approximately nine hours. Such an attack is unusual in Marinka, as it is located close to military positions. A volunteer, Vitaly Deynega, is constantly receiving information from the front end. He commented to Radio Svoboda that the separatists used armored vehicles during the attack but that there were no casualties.
“Separatist reconnaissance and sabotage groups started to move closer to our positions, but we spotted them and began to fire. Their side tried to extract them from the situation by using two infantry fighting vehicles, which we fired at. One vehicle was damaged, but they did manage to rescue it. This was a very long fight. Usually, there are only a few small attacks,” Deynega said.
According to the ATO headquarters, militants also accumulated Grads (rocket launchers) and tanks for the attack.
It also reported that in the Petrovsky district of Donetsk, separatists are storing multiple Grads and more than 10 tanks in a plan to conduct offensive operations in the future. The militants themselves also gather in this district.
The intensification of the hostilities was also noted by the inhabitants of the city. According to the head of the Marinka district administration, Vladimir Moroz, intense shelling began three weeks ago. Currently, most damages are inflicted by the mortars and although concern is growing, people still remain in their own homes.
“People are definitely worried as they read reports in the news and on social networking sites. They are afraid that the Grads will start firing again. We had already experienced that in 2014. It is a weapon that does not choose. Everyone does want to survive,” Moroz concluded.
The reason for the attention of militants in Marinka, is the city’s location. These thoughts were expressed by experts, as well as by representatives of the ATO headquarters. The city is situated on the western outskirts of Donetsk and the distance between the positions of the parties is sometimes just a few hundred meters.
Military expert, Oleg Zhdanov, noted that it would be strategically beneficial for the militants to remove the Ukrainian military positions near the administrative center as they would then feel safer in the city. This applies not only to Marinka, but also to Peski and Avdeevka. However, he does not believe in the possibility of an attack as reported by the ATO headquarters. According to Zhdanov, the escalation of the conflict could lead to more severe sanctions and would put Russia at a disadvantage. Instead, he offers another reason for the intensification of the fighting near Marinka.
“Evidence found by our intelligence suggests that this is just an exercise. They bring their battalion tactical groups and train them. As a final examination in real combat, they take them to our line of defense. They use the Grads, artillery and mortars. Some units are also exercising with small arms,” Zhdanov said.
According to the terms of the Minsk Agreements, there are to be no heavy weapons at the forefront of the Ukrainian army, including Marinka. The soldiers can defend themselves with anti-tank weapons, anti-aircraft guns and small arms.
The separatists have argued that they have complied with the terms of the ceasefire. They have accused the Ukrainian military of constantly shelling on the outskirts of Donetsk and in other towns under their control.