Tragedy in Avdiivka: Violence Tearing Through Eastern Ukraine

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The town of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine is preparing for evacuation this week as the town has lost electricity and water. After clashes between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russia rebels, at least ten people are dead and dozens have been wounded.

Reports conflict on the exact death toll and more than twenty civilians and soldiers may have died in the past several days. Heavy shelling has decimated the region, with more than 2,300 explosions taking place in a 24-hour period. Both sides have claimed the other has been using Grad rocket systems, an imprecise weapon which disperses multiple rockets across a broad area. This shelling is a blatant violation of the Minsk agreements of 2014, which halted war in the Donbass region (adjacent to Avdiivka), as well as the ceasefire declared earlier this year by Russian separatists.

As temperatures plummet below zero, the citizens of Avdiivka are trapped in homes without any heat supply, unsure if the shelling will begin again during the week. A state of emergency has been declared across the region and unless utilities are restored to the town immediately, the government will evacuate thousands from their homes.

Avdiivka is a somber reminder of the daily struggle for peace in Ukraine, an ongoing battle that many fear will crumble under the Trump administration. If Trump cuts Kiev out of peace negotiations with Russia in order to bolster his own relationship with the Russian establishment, he could undo years of the Ukrainian government’s efforts to unify and stabilize the country. Tenuous connections are being made between the phone call with Trump and Putin the day before the shelling in Avdiivka and a sense of Russian support for escalating violence in Ukraine.

With Trump seemingly positioning himself as friendly to Russia, Putin will likely not feel the same sting that he felt under the Obama Administration, which leveled multiple economic sanctions against Russia in an attempt to dissuade further military action in Ukraine. President Obama also stationed U.S. troops in Poland before leaving office, citing Russian expansionist doctrine as a threat to Polish autonomy.

There have been no indications that the Trump Administration plans to enact sanctions against Russia or to provide military support for the Ukrainian military as it battles against the pro-Russia rebel forces. The White House has not issued a formal statement but instead directed a request for comment toward the State Department, which cited the Minsk agreements and called for a ceasefire. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg appealed to Russia to exert its influence over the rebels and to request a return to the ceasefire. The UN Security Council has also called for the reinstatement of the ceasefire. However, reports that the rebels are setting up artillery positions in the city center of Donetsk and a significant spike in the amount of shelling in Donetsk this week suggest that the Minsk agreements may already be in tatters. If the Trump Administration continues to turn a blind eye to the crisis, Avdiivka may be just the beginning of the darkest chapter of the Ukrainian war.

Jillian Sequeira
Jillian Sequeira was a member of the College of William and Mary Class of 2016, with a double major in Government and Italian. When she’s not blogging, she’s photographing graffiti around the world and worshiping at the altar of Elon Musk and all things Tesla. Contact Jillian at



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