Numbers have emerged about the fighting in Ukraine which has raged on since the ceasefire was hammered out in Minsk. The New York Times reports:
…nearly 1,000 soldiers and civilians have died in a grinding conflict with rebel separatists that is being waged largely out of sight. That is almost a quarter of the 4,317 killed since April and an average of 13 a day, the United Nations estimates.
Over the same three-month period, the Ukrainian military says it has recorded 3,412 rebel cease-fire violations, while separatist fighters regularly accuse Ukrainian forces of shelling the region’s biggest city, Donetsk, killing civilians. And Russia has continued to build up the rebel forces, sending in troops, military vehicles and heavy weapons, including what Ukraine says was a convoy of 85 vehicles this week carrying heavy armor, fighters and ammunition.
As the world watches Ukraine try to overcome the huge challenges it now faces in the form of endemic corruption and a massive cash shortage, it’s crucial to remember that not for a moment has the Russia-backed ground war ever truly stopped raging in the east. In fact, the new figures mean that, if anything, the fighting actually worsened and the death rate accelerated after the quasi-peace began.
The rebels and the “little green men” that the Kremlin has been using to stir up trouble since the annexation of Crimea remain a very real threat, and in them Vladimir Putin still has a potent geopolitical weapon for destabilizing Ukraine whenever it wants to. Plus, the rebels aren’t merely Kremlin proxies; many of them feel that they are locked in a genuine existential struggle.