But the fighting continues, and grows worse, despite a nominal ceasefire. And the onslaught of the elements has helped raise tensions to the point where a new explosion is expected any day. With the coming of winter, the Russians have come as well, as Moscow appears to be intent on shoring up the positions of its allies, while deterring any effort by Kiev to retake lost ground.
Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as well as Ukrainian officials expressed concerns about heavy military equipment supplied by the Russian Federation to the rebels, including tanks and ground-to-air missile systems.
On Monday, Ukraine Defense Ministry Spokesman Andry Lysenko reported that rebels now had the Russian-produced Pantsir anti-aircraft missile system (called the Greyhound SA-22 by NATO) positioned just 500 meters from a rebel checkpoint outside of Novoazovsk. “We stress that such a system, even in theory, is not part of armament of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” said Lysenko.
The context is one that everyone in Kiev and Moscow understands: last summer a Russian-made missile blasted a civilian airliner, Malaysia Airlines MH17, out of the sky over the Ukraine war zone. Everyone aboard was killed. Although most evidence points to the tragedy as an accident by a rebel missile unit, Moscow continues trying to pin the blame on Kiev.
Meanwhile, the local Chas Pik Internet news site posted video footage of what are believed to be Russian tanks arriving to support the rebels in Donetsk. Local reports said that dozens of military vehicles and mobile howitzer artillery arrived in Donetsk on Monday, and there seems to be little inclination to disguise the fact in Moscow.