These separatists are now busy falling back towards Russia and are truculently regrouping in Donetsk.
No doubt the destruction will intensify if they decide to make a stand there.
The key features of the situation are these.
First and foremost, Russia’s justification for its whole Ukraine policy has turned on the specious but strident claim that Kiev is being run by "fascists", bundled illegitimately into power by the European Union and with direct links to the Nazis and their methods.
Yes, there are some extremist tendencies in Ukraine.
Part of that extremism is an extreme wish that Ukrainians at last be recognised as a free European people, not a nation dominated or colonised by Russians (or indeed by Poles).
Given the horrors of Soviet rule in Ukraine including Stalin-inspired genocide, is that not an unreasonable position?
A very small proportion of hardcore Ukrainian nationalists probably can be counted as conventional fascists.
But they are not a dominant force.
And they are far less prominent and influential than Russia’s own fascist-like political blocs, not least the party led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky that has been a significant force in the Russian parliament for over a decade.
Here in the UK we humble, demoralised voters at least retain some pride: we take a dim view of politicians who shoot from a passing train at our chickens and pets.
In 2011 seven million Russians voted for Zhirinovsky’s fanaticism.
A further 12 million Russians voted for the Communist Party, the political heirs of the villains who murdered those same Russian voters’ relatives.
Ukraine "extreme"? I think not.
The election of Petro Poroshenko as Ukraine’s new president with an unambiguous "pro-Ukraine" mandate demolished a large part of the Russian position.
He is not a "fascist".
And he has a clear popular mandate to defend Ukraine.
This he is doing by the only way that counts in this existential negotiation between Kiev and Moscow: showing a willingness to take and inflict pain.
Poroshenko’s bold approach creates a dilemma for Moscow.
How to square those ringing declarations of eternal fraternal solidarity between Russians and Ukrainians with the fact that Russia’s policies of destabilising Ukraine are making millions of Ukrainians hate Russia as never before?
Moscow could of course pour in weapons and even its own troops to defend … what exactly?
A full-scale military intervention by Russia to partition Ukraine would be a startling breach of international law, and could work only by launching ethnic cleansing of Ukrainians from the captured territory on a Hitler/Stalin scale.
Not that such insanity can be ruled out these days.
Yet it would have dismal economic and reputational consequences for Russia, perhaps even leading to the 2018 World Cup in Russia being cancelled.
Yes, it could be that bad.
Moscow’s claims that Russians in Ukraine are subject to mass persecution is getting weary as it is trivially untrue.
Kiev is doing a far worse job of killing Russians than Moscow has done.
The casualties on the "pro-Russia" side in Ukraine so far are puny compared to the tens of thousands of Russia’s own citizens who have died since 1991 in Russia’s own civil wars in and around Chechnya.
In short, the awful events on the ground in Ukraine are a key part of the negotiation between Kiev and Moscow.
Poroshenko means to show that he can’t be pushed around.
Russia is watching his progress with keen interest, perhaps even supercilious admiration.
Meanwhile diplomatic manoeuvres continue to set up a mediation of some sort between Moscow, Kiev and the European Union.
There is a deal to be done.
It involves Ukraine embarking at long last on far-reaching economic reforms and associated transparency, as part of its long march towards some sort of EU membership.
Ukraine need not renounce any ideas it has of joining NATO, and NATO need not renounce the possibility of Ukraine eventually joining.
But it fact it is left understood by all sides that Ukraine will be a militarily "neutral" state for well into the foreseeable future.
Arrangements can be found for giving the Russian language improved status.
Russia keeps Crimea but no one else recognises the illegal annexation, and the issue lingers on unhappily as a diplomatic anomaly (and expensively for Moscow).
And so on.
We are busy remembering the origins of the First World War.
Many European empires entered that disaster.
Some crashed immediately.
Others crumbled later.
Only one lingers on, still held in place by force and willpower – the sprawling, unfeasibly large and complex Russian Empire.
The conflict in Ukraine is really all about Vladimir Putin’s determination to show that that Empire is still in business, by "punishing" Ukraine for its disloyal pro-Europe inclinations.
Millions of Ukrainians (NB including plenty of Russian-speaking Ukrainians) are insisting that Putin’s whole approach is precisely why they are choosing something different.
Source: The Telegraph