Debaltsevo a year after: the departing UAF focused on destroying gas stations and infrastructure

The destruction of the departing Ukrainian forces seemed focused on the gas stations

Laurent BRAYARD in DONiPRESS February 22, 2016

Translated from French by Tom Winter

A year after the battle, Debaltsevo is gradually rebuilding, but the wounds of war are still much in evidence. Many inhabitants have returned on the heels of the liberation of the town by the republican forces which flat-out defeated the reprisal armies of Kiev, but the city is yet to be restored. 

Here and there you see scaffolding, but many homes have been destroyed, others damaged, downtown was not spared, with burned out apartment buildings, roofs open to the sky. 

Amid the mixed background of people strolling about and the destruction, I’ve been struck by the fact that the Ukrainians of the Kiev army focused systematically on the gas stations. An old pyromanic tendency from early childhood? Though I do not know how many gas stations existed before the war,  it can’t be missed that many have been destroyed, others abandoned, others barely function. Slashed fuel lines are common, and diesel fuel is hard to find in the People’s Republic of Donetsk.

So on all the highways, you will see pulverized gas stations, some of them, from naive habit, surrounded by sandbags; many have their glass replaced with plywood. Some have old ads on lighted panels, some letters missing or hanging loose, with their tin roof shot up by mortar shrapnel and bullets. Yet there is more and more vehicle traffic on the streets and roads of the Donbass. 

The people are back, but a car is still a grand luxury, gas is pricey, public transport is working, and many prefer it, or merely go on foot. In these few months the number of vehicles has multiplied though not yet at the pre-war level.  Donetsk was a congested city, just like all the major European cities of over one million. Could we find written orders or traces of the Ukrainian Army that specifically targeted gas stations? 

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Maybe yes. Since war is a matter of strategic targets, destruction of the foe’s fuel stocks stocks seems logical. However much less than the destruction of gas stations, is the destruction of the many civilian homes around: the ATO operation, i.e. the “anti-terrorist” operation orchestrated by Poroshenko and his government, does not consider that the people of Donbass are free — according the laughable rhetoric of Kiev, people would be in the hands of “terrorists” or even in some cases would themselves be “terrorists” or “separatists.” 

This logic complicates things on the field, because Ukraine in fact considers civilians are targets, they are in the sphere of intervention of the ATO. How to recognize a civilian from a terrorist? There is another issue here: the operation is indeed defined as a police action and in no way as a war, which also complicates the future of Ukrainian soldiers who survive this conflict.

Civilians in the occupied area of Donbass and other predominantly Russian-speaking oblasts attest the presence of mobil crematoriums like the Nazis. It is a matter of incinerating the bodies of soldiers and murder victims. For each category alike, they become “disappeared” who can easily be placed on the back of the insurgency — who will check after the war? Simple way to remove opponents without a trace and ensure that no war pension is paid to those who have fought on the Donbass front. 

As for the service stations, the testimonies of the residents of Debaltsevo are unanimous: during the stampeding flight of the Ukrainian soldiers, they proceeded to the maximum of destruction, destroying for destruction’s sake, same as the trees, woods, and forests in the occupied regions. Ukraine has now destroyed the trees en mass, some of it for firewood but mostly for big business, money to benefit western oligarchs. War does not benefit everyone, but for many in Ukraine; not least among the oligarchs who were able to get a return.

The sad result is a wasteland, riddled with mines and explosives, unexploded ordnance, with factories and homes in ruins, cratered roads and other infrastructure, bridges, electricity poles, water treatment plants or the pumping stations annihilated. 

The Ukraine that before the war sucked the resources of Donbass, has now destroyed all that she can destroy. Indeed, it has been understood for over a year, that crushing the “terrorists” would never happen, that defeat is at the end of the road — except to trigger widespread global conflict that thrills many people in the west of Ukraine and even in Europe: Nazism never knew something else, from its inception to the present, but to destroy, exploit, and enslave.

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