War stirs Ukraine’s youth to action

KYIV – While voting statistics show political engagement among youth in Canada, the United States and parts of Europe is declining, the same cannot be said of Ukraine. Maybe what Canada needs is a nasty little foreign invasion on its eastern flank to stir greater interest among its young people in politics and the country’s future. It sure seems to be working in Ukraine.

A rich blend of teens and twenty-somethings assembled with a core group of 40- to 70-year-olds on Maidan or Independence Square in downtown Kyiv last Sunday, as speaker after speaker criticized the government’s handling of the war in the Donbas or exhorted citizens to put their patriotism into action by saving energy and supporting their soldiers with donations of food, clothes and money.

And this happens almost every weekend.

“We are standing on the very place it all began,” an opposition speaker declares, alluding to the revolution last winter that saw the departure of former president Viktor Yanukovich, accused of corruption and close ties to Russia. “Take off your hats and give a minute’s silence for the fallen,” and everyone does, including 15-year old Ihor Dykun and three of his peers.

Dykun says he and his friends are involved because the burden of protecting the state from Russia’s soldiers and the separatist rebels on the eastern border, which lately has exploded into more deadly warfare in places like Debaltese, will fall to them in a few short years. As well, he says, they soon must grapple with the corruption and enormous debt that also threatens the welfare of Ukrainians.

“It’s our country, it’s our life, it’s our soldiers, it’s our brothers,” he says. “We are children but we can also do something – we can write letters to the soldiers, save energy, wear Ukrainian flags and symbols,” as his friends nod in agreement. “I think in Ukraine there are a lot of teenagers like us who really interested in politics.”

Nearby, 21-year-old Helena Vigowskaja, dressed like Bugs Bunny to lure people into paying her for a picture, listens carefully to what the speakers – opposition members, civil society activists, soldiers from the east – say.

Ihor Dykun, 15, right, and his friends at a political rally Sunday in downtown Kyiv.
Ihor Dykun, 15, right, and his friends at a political rally Sunday in downtown Kyiv.

“Every Sunday they talk about the things they want,” she says. “More changes. Our Ukrainian money is down, down, down. The cost of products is up, up, up, and people don’t like this. If we want to integrate with Europe we must have higher wages. It’s bad. People here have a very hard life. And this is only one of a number of problems.”

Other young people have starker links to the war. Eighteen-year-old Andrey Kalinchenko’s father is fighting there and he himself is a “volunteer,” meaning a civilian who devotes many hours to helping accumulate, package and convey food and other materials to the men and women at the front, since the government is unable to supply them sufficiently.

His father, he says, was fighting in Debaltseve but now is in hospital. In recent weeks dozens of soldiers have been injured or killed in intensified fighting which has seen the rebels take additional turf in the oblast of Donetsk.

Katya Konta, 30, married and the mother of a little boy, says that before the war “we weren’t interested” in politics “but today we have war, so we must.” She is also a volunteer who has traveled east more than 10 times.

“Tomorrow we have the funeral of a very, very close friend,” she says, pausing and tearing up. “Ivan was 37. He was killed in Luhansk on 29 of January. A sniper (got him). He was a very good friend, a good man. He had two sons, a wife, and he was very popular in our town, Fastov. Everything I can, I do.”

Stepanivka completely destroyed by Russian 'Grad' rockets

The village of Stepanivka was completely destroyed by rocket salvos originating from beyond the Russian border, reported the press center of the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO).

Stepanivka, in Donetsk oblast, is located roughly 9km from the border. Grad rockets have a launching distance of up to 40km.

According to the report, nearly 1,000 people lived in the village.

Provallia in flames, details on Russian rocket strike

The aftermath of yesterday’s reported hail of Russian rockets into Ukraine is starting reveal itself. Further video footage posted online shows billowing clouds of smoke rising above the Ukrainian town of Provallia, Luhansk region.

While Provallia was mentioned briefly in a government report posted noon yesterday, in an update from the Ministry of Defense, it is now known that two attacks were made on the area of the town, one at 3pm and another from 7-9pm. The Grad rockets were firing on Ukrainian forces.

Street view of the video location
Street view of the video location

The video, which shows definitively that the Russian salvo struck a Ukrainian locale, has been verified for its location. Google Maps provides a Street View of the very hill at the edge of the Russian town of Gukovo where the video was taken. Closer footage of the damage has not yet been presented.

‘Grad’ rocket launchers, which translates literally to “hail,” are a weapon which relies on scorching a given area rather than hitting specific targets. Ruling on quantity of strikes over quality, the volley of unguided rockets from a Grad have been described as a “definite psychological weapon.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrxNvs2K0Ds

Rockets fired from Russia into Ukraine

Video surfaced today showing rocket salvos being fired from Russian territory into Ukraine. The rockets are likely from BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launchers, a common weapon deployed to date by Russian-backed militants and also responsible for various attacks on Ukrainian military positions, as well as civilian areas.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrxNvs2K0Ds

Rocket attack location highlighted in red
Rocket attack location highlighted in red

The Interpreter reported on the ongoing attacks from the Russian border, and was able to geo-locate the videos to the outskirts of Gukovo, in Krasnosulinsky District, Rostov Oblast.

Twitter reports in recent days have indicated that attacks have increasingly originated from Russia. A source recently indicated to Kommersant newspaper that Russia was planning “surgical strikes” into Ukraine, saying “Our patience is not boundless,” stressing that “this means not a massive action but exclusively targeted single strikes on positions from which the Russian territory is fired at.” Sentiment for attacks on Ukraine in response for alleged ‘shelling’ was also reciprocated by deputy speaker of Russia’s upper house, Yevgeniy Bushmin. “We should use precision weapons, like Israel, to destroy those who fired [into Russia],” Bushmin was quoted.

The U.S. Department of State says it is ‘confident’ that the Russian government is mobilizing tanks from old stock to the Rostov region, and that tanks, artillery, and multiple rocket launchers have already been delivered to militants in Ukraine – several of which were transferred this past weekend alone. It also says the number of rocket launchers and other equipment has doubled in recent time on the Russian side of the border.

The Abkhazian Network News Agency (ANNA), a heavily pro-Russian news agency that mostly focuses on anti-Ukrainian propaganda (but also interviews and coverage of the militants themselves) also published video of a GRAD attack today at roughly the same time as the other videos. Though its location could not immediately be verified, it does however provide a more up-close look at how these attacks operate up close.

http://youtu.be/bwTXjouDIvQ?t=14s