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By Chris Covert
Rantburg.com

Shelling and direct gunfire continued between Ukrainian forces and Russian backed separatists, mainly in western and northern Donetsk. The nearly constant exchange of gunfire has wounded three Ukrainian soldiers and one rebel soldier, according to Russian language news accounts.

However, the Russian operative who helped begin the civil war between Russian speaking Ukrainians and the newly formed Ukrainian government said on Sunday that both sides are lying about the casualties, saying the total wounded and killed is on a scale much high than is being reported.

According to a news account in lb.ua, on Monday morning rebel artillery hit Ukrainian positions mainly in the industrial zone known as Staraya Avdievka, the Donetsk airport area and in Gorlovka. In Staraya Avdievka, rebels hit targets for a total of 30 minutes using 82mm mortars.

In southern Donetsk rebels hit Shirokino with 82mm mortar fire.

On Monday afternoon, rebel artillery pounded Ukrainian positions once again in Staraya Avdievka and in Shirokino.

Ukrainian military officials refuse to say where the three Ukrainians were wounded.

Another report which appeared in lb.ua said that rebel hit Staraya Avidevka with mortar fire on Sunday.

Military officials wth the Donetsk ministry of defense said that Ukrainian artillery pounded their positions at Spartak Sunday night for a total of 20 minutes using 82mm and 120mm mortar fire.

Rebel forces at Yasinovataya exchanged gunfire with Ukrainian forces overnight.

A separate rebel report said that Ukrainian artillery struck rebel positions at Spartak, the Trudovskoy district of Donetsk city, the airport and at Yasinovataya.

In southern Donetsk Ukrainian artillery hit rebel positions at Kominternovo, Sahanka and Dokuchaevsk.

A third rebel news account said that one rebel soldier was killed in the shelling, but failed to disclose where the death occurred.

Yasinovataya

According to a news report posted at novorusinform.org, retired reserve FSB Colonel Igor Girkin was reported as saying that the casualty figures being reported by informal sources -- not the even lower official sources -- are an order of magnitude higher, and have already reached levels recorded during the Battle of Debaltsevo a little more than a year ago.

The writer, identified as Alexei Toporov, quoted Girkin as saying that the leadership in Donetsk, mainly Donetsk president Aleksandr Zakharchenko and Donetsk defense ministry Vladimir Kononov "could possibly recognize the scale of the losses, but can not do so due to pressure from Moscow."

Accoridng to the report, a militia officer identified as Aleksandr Varyag said that the Ukrainian attack on Yasinovataya in early March was "not a provocation, but a full scale attack."

The report quotes Varyag as saying the losses, dead and wounded civilians and soldiers are clogging hospitals on both sides of the line. Rebel military officials said just says ago that Ukrainian officials are deliberately under reporting losses, keeping them to five dead total per day.

According to Toporov's report, much of the artillery coming from the rebel side is characterized as counterbattery fire, artillery attacks specifically directed against opposing artillery with the intent of suppressing artillery fire.

Aleksandr Zhuchkovsky, who has been a leading figure bringing supplies to rebels since the start of the war, said he has not heard of such intense artillery fire for many months, and all of it concentrated.

Rebel reports are constantly charging Ukrainians with running artillery down to the line of contact, then instantly displacing them back to their positions away from the line of contact.

Girkin said the reports that he trusts are the informal casualty reports, far more than the official reports.

Girkin was Moscow's main operative in the Russian takeover of Crimea two springs ago, and in fomenting the Ukrainian civil war in the southeast beginning in June, 2014.

Chris Covert writes about foreign military issues for Rantburg.com. He can be reached at grurkka@gmail.com and on Twitter. You can read past articles about the 2014 war in southeastern Ukraine by clicking here.


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