There is tense quiet hanging over Eastern Ukraine. Shelling is continuing, however at a reduced rate since the rout of Ukrainian troops at Debaltseve. The firing hasn’t ceased, but it has definitely been ‘quieter’ in recent days in Ukraine. But is this simply the calm before the storm? Indeed there is one place which could shatter this almost-ceasefire: Mariupol.
This city, which lies on the Azov Sea is the largest urban area between Russian-backed separatist territory and the Russian-annexed region of Crimea. Many have speculated that the Russian Army is planning to capture this city as part of an attempt to form a so-called ‘land bridge’ to the economically isolated Crimean Peninsula. Unfortunately, in recent days these predictions have begun to carry more and more weight. While the separatist troops of the DNR and LNR have reportedly begun withdrawing their artillery and heavy weapons from the frontline, many reports have emerged that they are merely relocating them further south, and regrouping to prepare an attack against Mariupol. Tellingly, the heaviest ongoing battle has been taking place just to the east of Mariupol, in the small (and now mostly destroyed) town of Shyrokyne.