As Europe and the US debate whether or not to arm the Ukrainian military, the situation on the ground in eastern Ukraine is degenerating with astounding speed as Russian-backed separatists push their gains.
As the rebels continue to push the Ukrainian military back, Russia has taken less precaution in maintaining its cover story that it is not providing material and personnel support in the conflict. According to Ukraine military spokesman Andrily Lysensko 1,500 Russian soldiers and 300 pieces of military equipment crossed into Ukraine from Russia on Feb. 7 and 8.
The upsurge in Russian support has led to the separatists being able to launch artillery barrages on the key Ukrainian city of Mariupol. The Ukrainian military has responded in kind with heavy weaponry and artillery, leading to a perilous situation for civilians caught on the ground.
With both sides using heavy artillery, large portions of cities throughout eastern Ukraine have been damaged, especially around the city of Donetsk.
The shelling in Donetsk has led to the destruction of residential blocks, leading residents to flee the area.
Here, a woman in Donetsk reacts as her home burns following an artillery strike.
The destruction has led to a number of internally displaced people (IDP) seeking shelter wherever possible. In this photo, a young IDP adjusts to makeshift life in a train cabin close to the city of Slaviansk.
As Ukrainians are forced to flee their homes, the separatists are making gains due in large part to significant Russian backing. The Ukrainian military has struck back with the use of artillery and GRAD rockets.
Near the town of Debaltseve, Ukrainian troops are bracing for a major tactical battle.
The city functions as a major rail hub that brings in coal to the rest of Ukraine.
The fall of the city would place major strain on Ukraine’s already failing electrical grid.
The city also serves as a bulwark against the separatist’s taking control of the town of Artemivsk, the site of a major Ukrainian arms depot.
But holding the city is not guaranteed. Ukraine is reportedly sending between 30 and 50 wounded soldiers to a field hospital in Artemivsk on a daily basis.
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