: Dispatch From Avdiivka: Hottest point of fighting on Ukraine's front line
Politics13:54 Mar. 20, 2016

Dispatch From Avdiivka: Hottest point of fighting on Ukraine's front line

Ukraine Today reporter discovers life in the warzone is far from peaceful

The hottest point of fighting on the frontline in eastern Ukraine is the village of Avdiivka and its surrounding area.

Once seen as a ghost town, now the village, which is located just north of the militant stronghold of Donetsk, is under Ukrainian military control. All of the infrastructure is either damaged or completely destroyed.

Our correspondent on the scene describes the village as desolate, stressing that fighting is intensifying and turning into close quarters combat. Sometimes a distance of just 100 meters separates government troops and Russian-backed separatist forces. Ukrainian reconnaissance units report the militants suffering significant losses, with 80 men killed over the past week.

Read also Russian-separatist forces attack Ukrainian positions 54 times last night

One Ukrainian soldier says: "The situation has intensified because there's a panic on their side. They think we're trying to take control of the grey zone but we're not. In reality we're just fortifying our positions."

The servicemen say the situation is hanging by a thread, with one soldier comparing it to the start of the Debaltseve battle last year. That was one of the fiercest episodes in the two-year war. It resulted in a stinging defeat for Ukraine.

Watch also Fighting continues along line of demarcation in east Ukraine

Volodymyr Demchynko, serviceman from 74th reconassaince unit: "Now we are expecting a huge battle and it can become very dangerous situation because I'm sure the pro-Russian forces will not leave this situation like it is now."

Avdiivka is just north of occupied Donetsk. In the past few days government soldiers managed to take control of the main road leading from the village to the separatist forces' stronghold. Ukrainian servicemen say the nights are long and difficult, with almost constant sounds of mortar shells hitting in the vicinity of their positions.

The militants' strategy is aimed at shelling what's left of the buildings in an effort to destroy any sort of place where Ukrainian troops can entrench and fortify their positions.

The situation also remains tense on the outskirts of Avdiivka at the Donetsk Filtration station, a plant which provides water for nearly 400,000 residents in eastern Ukraine. Heavy shelling near the facility forced workers to evacuate. The destruction of the station could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe. It's currently under the control of the Russian-backed separatist forces.

The OSCE, Europe's watchdog on the ground in eastern Ukraine, is stressing the need for the station to resume work.

Alexandr Hug, Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine: "They need at least 6 hours to restart work of the filtration stations."

The Ukrainian military says a warehouse located near the facility is used by the militants to store their heavy caliber weaponry. This is why keeping the water plant under their control is key. The OSCE have reported seeing fresh craters at Ukrainian positions left by heavy caliber shells.

Read also OSCE mission continues to observe numerous ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine

Fighting in eastern Ukraine has raged for nearly two years. Over 9000 people have been killed and more than a million displaced since the war began. In spite of a ceasefire deal, both sides of the conflict accuse each other of violations.

With reporting by Andriy Tsaplienko in eastern Ukraine, and Tamara Rozouvan in Kyiv.

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