Humanitarian crisis in Donbass as Washington-Kiev threatens to escalate war

Thirteen. That’s the average daily death toll in the Ukrainian government’s war against the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics since a ceasefire agreement was signed in early September, according to a Nov. 20 report by United Nations monitors. (BBC Nov. 21)

Nearly 1,000 have died since the ceasefire was inked, according to the U.N.

Most of the victims are civilians killed in the continuous shelling of Donetsk city and other sites by the Ukrainian military. The U.N. report expressed concern over Kiev’s use of banned weapons like cluster bombs and white phosphorous.

GRAD missiles launched by Ukrainian forces destroyed homes and set a raging fire in the Kuibyshev district of Donetsk’s capital Nov. 20. (DNR Press Center) This followed a night of non-stop shelling of the city.

The number of internally displaced people — refugees — sharply increased from 275,489 on Sept. 18 to 466,829 on Nov. 19. (TASS, Nov. 20) Many refugees returned to Donetsk and Lugansk immediately after the ceasefire was announced, only to learn their homes were still in a war zone.

The numbers reflect the one-sided character of the ceasefire negotiated in Minsk Sept. 5 under the auspices of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Russian Federation.

Moscow has exerted heavy pressure on the young republics of the Donbass region, which declared independence from Ukraine in May, to hold to the ceasefire terms at any cost. Blockaded Donetsk and Lugansk depend on Russia for badly needed humanitarian assistance.

However, the far-right junta in Kiev, which came to power February 2014 backed by the U.S., NATO and the European Union, faces no such restraint. It has continually violated the Minsk agreement — both militarily and politically.

Kiev has used the two-and-a-half months since the Minsk accords went into effect to rebuild its battered military forces in the region. Ukraine has also fortified its hold on cities like Mariupol, which were close to being liberated by the Donbass people’s militias before Sept. 5.

Ukrainian officials have refused to resume meetings of the Minsk contact group since elections were held in the People’s Republics on Nov. 2.

In mid-November, President Peter Poroshenko authorized the Ukrainian Rada (parliament) to consider scrapping a law granting limited autonomy to Dontesk and Lugansk, a key provision of the Minsk agreement.

Washington pulls the strings

Vice President Joe Biden was scheduled to visit Kiev on Nov. 20. His visit prompted the Russian Foreign Ministry to warn against Washington directly supplying weapons to Ukraine for the war in Donbass. (Reuters, Nov. 20)

Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken said that directly supplying weapons was on the agenda as a way to increase pressure on Russia to abandon the People’s Republics. (

The last two times Biden delivered marching orders, in April and June 2014, Kiev’s Anti-Terrorist Operation escalated immediately afterward. The same thing happened when CIA Director John Brennan visited Kiev in April.

In Latvia before arriving in Kiev, Biden called for more sanctions against Russia.

Accompanying Biden is State Department Undersecretary Victoria Nuland, one of the architects of the coup by the oligarchs, neoliberal politicians and fascists in Kiev in February 2014.

Nuland admitted on CNN that the U.S. pumped at least $5 billion into Ukraine to foment a coup. She and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, in a leaked telephone conversation, even hand-picked current Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Washington pulls the strings in Ukraine’s war crimes against the people of Donbass and its repression of regime opponents throughout the country. Yet there is no letup in the U.S. propaganda war to portray Russia as the aggressor.

With almost weekly baseless claims of a “Russian invasion” and despite encroaching NATO war games and sanctions, the U.S. and its allies used a G20 summit Nov. 15 in Brisbane, Australia, to further beat up on Moscow, forcing President Vladimir Putin to walk out of the meeting. (Reuters, Nov. 15)

Meanwhile, Washington is ratcheting up the pressure in the Czech Republic, Hungary and other Eastern European countries that have shown some friendliness to Moscow. Maidan-style right-wing protest movements have been launched in these countries to further escalate the crisis.

Ukraine’s slow-motion military offensive is a war of attrition meant to wear down the people’s republics and create the opportunity to foment pro-Western, imperialist movements inside Russia. With winter setting in, the humanitarian crisis in these republics — including lack of access to money and constant shelling — will deepen.

The people of Donbass are determined to resist domination by fascist occupation troops and U.S. imperialism. They will need more solidarity from working people around the world in the coming months.