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Published in Stream:
Ukraine Live Day 477
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
OSCE Spots More Armour East Of Volnovakha. Preparations For A Pincer North Of Mariupol?
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The last two spot reports from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) have described significant quantities of military hardware in separatist-held territory east of Volnovakha, between Telmanovo and Starobeshevo.

This is of particular note given the recent assaults on Marinka and intensification in attacks on Granitnoye, Novolaspa and Starognatovka, as well as attacks on Ukrainian forces on the Donetsk-Mariupol highway last week.

According to the today's SMM report, based on data received as of 19:30, June 8:

In "DPR"-controlled Rozdolne [Razdolnoye] (47km south-east of Donetsk) an SMM UAV spotted a concentration of nine main battle tanks (MBTs) in a residential area, one self-propelled howitzer (2S1) and 16 armoured personnel carriers (APCs). 

While yesterday, the SMM report, based on data received as of 19:30, June 7, said:
Of particular note - amongst the weapons observed by SMM UAVs was a concentration at a railway station between the "DPR"-controlled Komsomolske [Komsomolskoye] (45km south-east of Donetsk) and Andriivka [Andreyevka] (45km south-east of Donetsk), namely seven MBTs. In the same area, the UAV spotted 35 military trucks and 25 armoured personnel carriers. Also, of note was a concentration around "DPR"-controlled Oktyabr (85km south of Donetsk), namely, three artillery pieces and two MBTs.

The sightings at the railway station south of Komsomolskoye and near Rozdolnoye are indicated by squares.


Furthermore, back on April 27, the OSCE reported that, over the previous three days, their UAV had

"sighted seventeen tanks, three self-propelled howitzers and 60 APCs in a “DPR”-controlled area 50 kilometres north of Shyrokyne."

As we wrote at the time, the area 50 kilometres north of Shirokino once again separatist-held territory north of Granitnoye and Telmanovo.

On May 28, the OSCE SMM had an interesting encounter in Petrovskoye (Petrivske), around 15 kilometres west of both Komsomolskoye and Razdolnoye:

In Petrivske (“DPR”-controlled, 38km south-east of Donetsk) the SMM spoke to a young man who said that the former local holiday camp was currently occupied by an unknown armed group. He could not specify for how long this armed group had been stationed in the village. In the village the SMM spoke to two women, both wearing military uniforms, with caps with Russian Federation Armed Forces insignia. They said that they were from Kramatorsk. During the conversation with the two women a vehicle with Russian Federation number plates stopped next to the OSCE vehicles and two armed men, similarly dressed, exited the car and ordered the women to stop the conversation with the SMM.  Behind a tall fence inside the holiday camp, the SMM observed one infantry fighting vehicle.

What this means is that Russian regular forces are gathering in an area of considerable strategic importance whilst attacks are escalating.

Here is a selection of recent reports of attacks in the area: 

On June 7, there were reports of shelling in Granitnoye from both residents on social media and the Ukrainian military.

According to the reports, Granitnoye was shelled with Grad MLRS while Ukrainian positions near Novolaspa were attacked by tanks and armoured personnel carriers.

On June 6, the Ukrainian military claimed that Granitnoye and Starognatovka had been shelled with Grad MLRS.

On June 5, the Ukrainian military reported that Granitnoye had been shelled the previous night with both 122 mm artillery and Grad MLRS.

Meanwhile, the attacks on Marinka have heralded a new round of attacks on the highway between Donetsk and Mariupol, with Ukrainian positions at Taramchuk and Beryozovoye coming under fire.

The reason this area, between the highway and Granitnoye, is so important is that any serious move against Mariupol, the economic powerhouse of the Donetsk region, would require a pincer strategy - cutting off the Ukrainian supply road from the north by taking Volnovakha.

To the south of Granitnoye, Ukrainian positions are somewhat protected from assault by the Pavlopol reservoir, but the stretch of land between the highway and Granitnoye is open and vulnerable to mechanised forces.

This is where Russia would launch the offensive, and the preparations for it seem to be under way.

-- Pierre Vaux