Ukraine readies for possible Russian-backed attack

Ukraine’s military is preparing to repel a possible assault by Russian-backed rebels in the east following reports of Russian military reinforcements crossing the border.

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko said Monday in an interview with the German daily Bild that the country is ready for total war.

Ukraine’s military is beefing up its defenses just a few kilometers from rebel-held territory in the Luhansk region.

Private Sergei Eava with the 39th battalion says the Ukraine soldiers have to be prepared.

“We received information that our guys were being shelled … yesterday with artillery and grads [rockets],” Eava said.

The captain and commander of the new checkpoint, who asked to be called Andriy, says they have plenty of ammunition but could use more men.

“We came here two days ago. We didn’t have any conflicts here with the other side yet, but they say that there are small groups working here, about 10 people in a group,” Captain Andriy said. “We received this intelligence information.”

A Ukrainian soldier suddenly fires his machine gun toward rebel positions in front of a group of journalists, saying, “Warning shots.”

Frequent target of rebel fire

The post comes under frequent rebel fire and was hit by a grad rocket the day before, although no one was injured.

Senior Mortar Gunner Vyachelav says they are ready to fight off an assault.

“Yes, they’ve strengthened us and strengthened us quite well. They are hardening everything. So, if there is an attack, we will be prepared to repel it,” he said.

Captain Andriy Slota, squad commander, says they have new munitions, but the men are tired.

“It’s time to end this singing and dancing and decide whether to move forward [militarily] or solve this on some legal level to let people go [demobilize soldiers]. Or, just return our country to us and let people go,” Slota said. “Enough is enough. The time has come.”

Moscow has repeatedly denied directly supporting the rebellion in eastern Ukraine, and has described Russian troops seen fighting alongside pro-Russian separatists in the east as volunteers.

The rebels, fighting against the pro-Western government in Kyiv, said they fear it is the Ukrainian forces who are planning an offensive.