Krasny Liman, Ukraine – The Ukrainian army is carrying out a clean-up operation in parts of Krasny Liman near the embattled city of Slovyansk a day after shelling rocked the town in the east of the country.
While government troops refused to clarify who they were fighting in the town, more than 50 pro-Russian rebels were stationed in the woods nearby on Wednesday, reportedly manning positions on the edge of the town.
Though townspeople said that shelling – which began on Tuesday morning – claimed several victims, a nurse was only able to confirm that two civilians were wounded during an army attack on a nearby rebel checkpoint along a road heading through heavy forest into Slovyansk, about 18km southeast of Krasny Liman.
On Wednesday, the northern section of Krasny Liman was quiet despite a growing sense of dread among the residents. A group of men outside a grocery expressed shock and anger, saying they could not understand why the army had shelled their town.
‘Brother against brother’
“This is brother against brother,” said Dima, who had bought bread and was heading home to prepare his basement as a shelter for his wife and three young children.
“It doesn’t make any sense. Why would they shoot into a town full of civilians?” he said, adding that the pro-Russian rebels had only set up barricades a little more than a week ago in the town.
The town bore tell-tale signs of the shelling. A bread factory had a large hole blasted through its front wall. Nearby, a house was still smoldering after a direct artillery hit. The family had left just hours before to stay with relatives.
Around the corner, Krasny Liman resident Igor Chugay was preparing his basement as a bunker. Last night he drove his wife and children to Svyatagorsk to escape the fighting.
Although the Ukrainian army would not let journalists into the southern section of town, a road leading away from the centre towards Slovyansk showed the carnage wrought after the Ukrainian army rolled through a rebel checkpoint on Tuesday.
Half a dozen burnt-out vehicles were scattered along the road. Tanks or armoured personnel carriers had rolled through the series of checkpoints, shooting as they went. Thousands of brass casings littered the road ranging from 30mm light canon to heavy machine-gun and assault rifle ammunition.
Trees along the roadside in this no man’s land had been splintered and knocked down by the heavy fire and the two-storey train station of Brusinye in the forest had a gaping hole blown in its centre, caused by an air strike.
Down the road through the woods, the heavy thump of continuous and heavy artillery fire could be heard coming from the direction of Slovyansk about 10km away.
The pro-Russian rebels continued to man a large checkpoint on the forest road between Slovyansk and Krasny Liman. Many of them were heavily armed with anti-tank missiles and assault rifles, though some carried shotguns.
Acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on his Facebook page on Tuesday that government troops had broken through rebel positions around the village of Semenovka on the southeastern edge of Slovyansk.
“An active offensive stage of the counterterrorist operation is underway in Slovyansk,” he wrote.