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Ukraine's Separatists Target Infrastructure Around Strongholds

3 MINS READJun 27, 2014 | 19:41 GMT
Ukraine's Separatists Target Infrastructure Around Strongholds
An armed pro-Russian militant stands guard in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on June 27.
Alexander KHUDOTEPLY/AFP/Getty Images
Summary

On June 27, two explosions took place on a railroad bridge north of the Ukrainian city of Luhansk, a separatist stronghold. Though separatists blew up a modest number of bridges and railway lines in May and early June, they have undertaken a new and more ambitious campaign of demolition; in the past five days alone, they have conducted more than a dozen bombings against railways. The separatists are taking advantage of the temporary cease-fire to target strategic infrastructure and isolate their strongholds in case hostilities resume.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko declared a temporary cease-fire June 20, ordering Ukrainian forces to act only in self-defense in eastern Ukraine as a part of his broad peace plan. On June 23, following informal consultations in Donetsk, the prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, Alexander Borodai, agreed to a weeklong cease-fire. Despite the agreements, fighting continued in the region, especially in areas surrounding Slovyansk and near some sections of Ukraine's porous border with Russia. On June 24, separatists shot down an Mi-8 military helicopter near Slovyansk, and between June 26 and June 27 armed separatists reportedly belonging to the Russia-backed Vostok Battalion took over an Interior Troops base in Donetsk.

Amid these diplomatic efforts and attacks on Ukrainian forces, unidentified separatists have taken advantage of the temporary truce to disrupt strategic infrastructure around separatist strongholds. On June 22, two days after Poroshenko's formal cease-fire began, explosions occurred on two railway tracks southeast of the city of Donetsk. On June 24, an explosion targeted the supporting structure under a railway bridge near Orikhiv in Zaporizhzhia province, west of Donestk province. On the same day, two explosions took place on railway tracks north of the city of Luhansk. Similarly, on June 24 and 25, seven blasts occurred on railway lines inside and around the separatist stronghold of Horlivka, Donetsk province. These bombings, coupled with the June 27 explosions in Luhansk, point to a coordinated campaign targeting infrastructure around the centers of separatist activity.

Separatist Strongholds in Eastern Ukraine

Separatist Strongholds in Eastern Ukraine

While the Donetsk People's Republic has officially denied any involvement in the bombings, there are reports that Ukraine's military has used some railway lines in the region to transport troops, equipment and supplies. So far, the bombings have resulted in limited damage to train tracks and minor delays throughout the region. Nevertheless, a continued campaign targeting railways and bridges could delay a potential military advance in the region and disrupt transportation and commercial activities in eastern Ukraine.

Despite the ongoing diplomatic talks and formal cease-fires, the Kremlin is continuing to support separatist activity in eastern Ukraine to pressure the government in Kiev as it continues to integrate with the West. Ukraine signed the European Union's association and free trade agreements June 27, but the agreements are only one step in a long-term process of European integration — a process that could be stalled or potentially even reversed. Russia's main goals in Ukraine remain the neutralization and decentralization of the country. By targeting infrastructure, the separatists are working to isolate their strongholds from the Ukrainian military and enhance their ability to continue challenging Kiev.

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