On Thursday, Ukraine and separatists in the eastern Donbas region traded accusations of ceasefire violations.
The Donbas war has been essentially at a stalemate since 2015, but there are frequent ceasefire violations recorded by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Sometimes, hundreds of violations are recorded in one day.
The two sides often blame each other for flare-ups, but amid heightened tensions with Russia, there is more Western media attention on the conflict.
The Ukrainian military alleged forces of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) fired artillery at the village of Stanytsia-Luhansk and said some shells hit a kindergarten, wounding two civilians. For their part, the LPR and the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) said they were barraged with artillery by the Ukrainian military.
The DPR said they opened retaliatory fire in response to a Ukrainian bombardment to protect civilians. “In order to protect civilians, our defenders had to open retaliatory fire to suppress the enemy’s weapons,” a DPR spokesman said.
Even though ceasefire violations and conflicting accounts from the two sides are common, Western officials are trying to fit the latest flare-up into the narrative that Russia might be planning a “false flag” in the Donbas to justify an invasion.
“Reports of alleged abnormal military activity by Ukraine in Donbas are a blatant attempt by the Russian government to fabricate pretexts for invasion. This is straight out of the Kremlin playbook,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss wrote on Twitter.
There is always a chance of the Donbas spiraling into a wider conflict, especially if Ukraine launches an offensive and Russia decides to intervene to protect the Russian-speaking population in the region. No matter who escalates the war, the US and its allies are ready to blame Russia.