Arkivfoto: Emil Filtenborg.

Yesterday, 4 Ukrainian soldiers were killed by the Russian backed separatists fighting in Donbas. The escalation raises fear of a return to war. 

Four Ukrainian soldiers were killed in action yesterday, as separatists backed by Russia bombarded Ukrainian positions with artillery. It is the biggest one time loss for Ukraine since the ceasefire from last year.

But even looking past the personal tragedy of the families of the killed, the recent escalations including this raises fear, that the frozen conflict in Eastern Ukraine might be thawing.

“Chances are high that a Russian assault might follow in Shymy to seize Ukraine’s front defenses,” said Ukrainian journalist Yuriy Butusov, who specializes in war coverage, according to Kyiv Post.

“Following the turnover of the 503rd Marine Battalion, the Russian forces have been active in the area. The situation can’t help but give causes for concern, since this is one of the spots where the enemy constantly opens fire with howitzers, mortars, and firearms. It is in Shymy that the Russian command demanded an “inspection” of Ukrainian defenses in November 2020.”

It is important to remember, that escalations in the east have been seen before. At the same time, the distance between the conflict in the east and a city like Lviv is the same as the distance from Lviv to somewhere in the middle of Denmark.

A frozen conflict is the only place not looking forward for spring

The war in Eastern Ukraine occupies a big spot in the public mindset of Ukrainians, but in daily life it is not a very visible part of society – at least not in cities like Kyiv, Lviv or Ivano-Frankivsk.

In March a number of escalations have been recorded in Eastern Ukraine, where a total of 9 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed despite a ceasefire signed in the summer last year. This is raising concerns, that the so called frozen conflict might thaw.

A frozen conflict is a military conflict that have officially been ended without any agreement reached by the combatants, meaning that it can always break out again, creating an environment of instability.

Luhansk, Donetsk and Crimea are all considered frozen conflict areas similar to South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia, Transnistria in Moldova, and the more recent Nagorno-Karabakh or Artsakh, a disputed mountain region between Armenia and Azerbaijan.