MOSCOW, October 7 (RIA Novosti) - Graham Phillips, a freelance journalist, spoke with Radio VR live from Donetsk, where the second battle for Donetsk Airport has been taking place over the last 10 days, saying that the city and the airport have turned into a massive battlefield despite the truce concluded earlier in September, with the full-scale war bringing enormous civilian casualties.
“The toll on the civilian population is too heavy”, Graham sounds agitated, his speech frantic, voice quavering time after time.
“Near the airport there was a car in the road that was hit by the shelling and shrapnel, there was blood on the driver’s seat, and there was human brain, and people walking by this, which they are almost used to. First thing that children say to you at school is ‘bombing’, ‘shelling’, ‘war’”.
In Graham’s words, the full-scale hostilities erupted several days ago and are accompanied by sweeping artillery fire and hand-to-hand clashes take place. “I’ve been at the airport yesterday actually, and clashes going on there for months, and the whole area, we’re talking not about the airport, we’re talking the whole town around, is just one massive ongoing ferocious battle. Explosions going off all day, smoke and gunfire are signs of the ferocious clashes”, Graham reports.
“There are heavy losses due to fighting and also shelling from the outside. There heavy losses on both sides. There is ferocious fighting”, Graham says, adding that artillery have been shelling the city’s residential districts. “I haven’t been at that scene today, I’m outside of Donetsk. But there is still a lot going, extremely volatile, hostile war situation at the airport of Donetsk. There is still shelling of the city, there are about 8 people killed yesterday. Today a truck was hit by Ukrainian shelling in the Kievs’ky region of the city of Donetsk, so we have this ongoing war situation which is the battle scene both in the city and the airport. Civilians are being killed”.
While violent fighting and clashes are common in the Donetsk area, there are still some relatively quiet places. “The central area of Donetsk is more or less okay, there is not much bombing or shelling on the Lenin square, and the Kievs’ky region is what the Ukrainians are shelling in. We are talking about some horrific things like when a young girl, about 20 years old, lost her leg blown off due to the Ukrainian shelling hit, and her husband’s grandmother, she is crippled. Residential areas being shelled, so it is a lot of danger in Donetsk”, Graham reports, also saying that there is a murky atmosphere in the entire city of Donetsk. “All of the city is under the war environment, and you can feel it”.
Regarding the political implications, Graham notes a lot of excess in the area as reported by the prople he met. There are multiple reports of “fascists” operating in the area, he adds. “After the Maidan situation certain factions sought to be given more power than the President, and these guys are already here, in Donetsk and Ilovaysk and I was speaking to the people that met the infamous Azov battalion, and they say these people come with the swastikas on their helmets, cars, and that these guys are fighting for more, and this more has nothing to do with whatever Poroshenko is making out to be, and what they tell you in Donetsk, this is pure fascism”.
At the same time Graham describes the total chaos in Donetsk. “There is no such thing as Ukrainian forces, they just put together this amalgam of the battalions and the regular army. But you also have to consider that these misguided young men are affected by Maidan and the polemic of being heroes, are being sent to this war, and this war is something the government does not care about, with all these unmarked graves, and the Ukrainians don’t collect their dead because if they do, they will have to pay their families. On the other side, there are guys who think they are fighting whatever is called ‘fascist’ here in Donetsk, while the civilian population is dying, and Kiev denies they exist in the East of Ukraine”, Graham concludes.
As for the possible reasons for the targeted civilian casualties, Graham says that “not particularly because of the strategic importance of the Donetsk airport the Ukrainian forces are shelling the city. They hit two schools, and as a military man you look at the target, at the Google Maps and the question is why don’t they shell the bases of the Novorossiya militia and whatever is marked with their signs, why don’t they target areas occupied by the Novorossiya forces, and why they target residential areas, and they’re targeting places where there a lot of people can be?”, questions the journalist, without providing any decisive answer.
Graham then goes on to say that “on the other side, I’ll share my own experience, the Ukrainian forces might be spoken of as that they know everyone in Donetsk are separatists and terrorists, and they, under this strong propaganda polemic, see their duty as to kill, to eliminate, to eradicate the civilian population, this is not true. In many cases they’re killing people too vulnerable to leave, too old, people, who don’t have enough money or didn’t want to leave their home. They say, it’s the Ukrainians shelling, who else, it can’t be their compatriots, the Novorossiya forces. No one here buys that, that’s as far from the truth as it can be”.
The journalist then describes some of the atrocities, connected to this war. “There was an 80-years old woman, who survived the WWII, but she hasn’t survived this”, he states as he goes on to look into the possible reasons of the so many dead civilians. “Refugees escorted by the Novorossiya militia were shelled, and there’s remains of children left, the burned black child skeletons”.
In Graham’ words, there are many people unaccounted for, and their origin is unknown. “I never wanted to become immune to things like this. I’ve been to the Donetsk morgue, there was the deathtruck, and I open the door, and it turns out to be a truck full of dead bodies, unclaimed by the families. They are killed here, and their family members do not know what happened to them, so there were just left in a mass burial site here, these people were put in the ground outside of Luhansk. It’s unclear who they are, it’ll never be known”.
“Half of Donetsk population have left the city”, states Graham as one of the first obvious results of the hostilities.
The Second Battle of Donetsk began on 28 September in violation of the truce signed earlier that month. The Ukrainian forces, blockaded in the Donetsk International Airport, are holding the last part of the city. The hostilities have been reported to be extremely violent, with heavy weaponry allegedly being used on both sides.