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Published in Stream:
Ukraine Live Day 501
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
OSCE Says Donetsk "Tense" But Confirms Separatist Withdrawal From Shirokino
7 years
Russia Accuses Ukraine Of Breaking Minsk Agreement
The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) has confirmed that the Russian-backed separatists have withdrawn from Shirokino, matching reports we've been carrying since yesterday. 

Their latest report is dated last night, June 2, at 19:30 Kiev time

Right now things are arguably more quiet than they have been in weeks, but the OSCE is careful to stress that the situation is still "tense" and heavy violence could still break out. They had this to say about the situation in Donetsk:

The situation at and around Donetsk airport was tense. Between 08:00 and 18:00hrs, at the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) observation point at Donetsk central railway station (“Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled, 8km north-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM observed a total of 114 explosions, consistent with incoming and outgoing mortar fire, as well as bursts consistent with automatic grenade launcher, heavy machine-gun and small-arms and light-weapons (SALW) fire. The SMM assessed that the explosions occurred at locations to the north, north-east, west and north-west at distances between 3 and 8km from its position.

They can confirm, however, that not only have the Russian-backed fighters withdrawn from Shirokino, which matches our reports, the positions formerly held by the separatists have been shelled, which also confirms what we have been reporting since yesterday:

In Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol), the SMM observed that a “DPR” bunker complex at the northern entrance of the village was vacant and that a nearby building previously used as a “DPR” strongpoint was on fire. In the village, the SMM observed that all positions and bunkers previously occupied by “DPR” members, including command posts and billets were also vacant. The SMM observed significant amounts of small-arms ammunition, grenades, rocket-propelled grenade warheads and other military equipment throughout the village. In the south-eastern part of the village, the SMM saw a crater of 12m diameter and 4m deep, many 82mm mortar shells, the remnants of ammunition crates and numerous impacts of 152mm artillery strikes, which based on their location, the SMM assessed to have been fired from the west. The SMM observed no armed formation in the village, except for some Ukrainian Armed Forces positions at the village’s south-western edge.  

From its observation points located 1.5km and 3.5km west of Shyrokyne, the SMM heard, between 12:20 and 13:30hrs, 31 explosions in the distance, north of its position.

The OSCE reports fighting, however, along the entire western front, from the Donetsk area down to areas north of Mariupol. But also note that there are areas that have not seen fighting over this period:

At the JCCC headquarters in Soledar (government-controlled, 75km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM was presented with two logbooks in the period of 1 July, compiled independently by the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the Russian Federation Armed Forces representatives to the JCCC. The Ukrainian Armed Forces logbook recorded 66 ceasefire violations, 12 attributed to the Ukrainian Armed Forces and 54 to “DPR” and “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”). The Russian Federation Armed Forces logbook contained 98 ceasefire violations; 50 attributed to the Ukrainian Armed Forces and 48 to “DPR” and “LPR”.

The representative of the Ukrainian Armed Forces at the JCCC office in Donetsk city told the SMM that on 2 July, in Horlivka (“DPR”-controlled, 36km north-east of Donetsk), there was an exchange of artillery fire between 03:20 and 04:20hrs.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces representative at the JCCC office in Avdiivka (government-controlled, 14km north-west of Donetsk) told the SMM via phone that the area had been calm for the last 24 hours. The deputy mayor of Avdiivka told the SMM that there was no water in the town due to shelling on 29 June and that repair works of the water supply system were underway. Part of the town has been without electricity, he added.

The SMM visited Sakhanka (“DPR”-controlled, 24km north-east of Mariupol), where local residents said that the village had been shelled on 30 June and 1 July. The SMM observed five fresh craters and damage on 15 houses and assessed that the fire originated from the south-west. The interlocutors also said they experienced difficulties including long waiting time and redirection of traffic while crossing Ukrainian Armed Forces and “DPR” checkpoints to and from Mariupol, and could therefore not access their pensions.

At a location south of Sontseve (“DPR”-controlled, 62km north-east of Mariupol) the SMM unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) spotted ten main battle tanks (MBTs) during the night between 1 and 2 July. During the day on 2 July, an SMM ground patrol dispatched to the same area did not hear or see any tanks, heavy weapons or armed personnel. Of note, the patrol had only limited access to that area*. It observed recent tracks from tracked vehicles on a dirt road, which led to an area south of the village to what appeared to be a military training area.

The OSCE also reports that the situation in the Lugansk region also remains tense:

In Stanytsia Luhanska (government-controlled, 16km north-east of Luhansk), the SMM met a Ukrainian Armed Forces colonel, who was assessing the impact of shelling on 1 July north-west of the bridge. He said the situation in the town remained tense, with periodic exchange of fire and that on 1 July, between 21:00 to 22:20hrs, the shelling of the government-controlled areas had resulted in the burning of two houses. The SMM saw that the two houses had been burnt.

The OSCE also spotted more armor and heavy weaponry out of position and in violation of the Minsk agreement, though it should be noted that in the middle of the Russian-backed offensive in Marinka one month ago the Ukrainian military said that it would have to deploy its weapons toward the front in order to hold its territory. In other words, beyond the words of diplomats, it's not clear if anyone is even pretending to abide by the Minsk ceasefire agreement.

The SMM revisited two “DPR” heavy weapons holding areas, the location of which complied with the respective withdrawal lines. At one site the SMM verified that all nine previously-recorded multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS, BM-21 Grad) were in situ. At the other site, the SMM observed that three self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm) were missing, and it was not permitted* to verify the serial numbers on three self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm). The SMM also visited, for the first time, a Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons holding area and observed 12 MLRS.

Despite claims by all sides that the withdrawal of heavy weapons was complete, the SMM observed one main battle tank (MBT) (T-64) in “DPR”-controlled area and one MBT (T-72) in government-controlled area. The SMM unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) spotted in “DPR”-controlled areas a total number of 14 main battle tanks (MBTs) in the areas of Sontseve (59km north-east of Mariupol) and Bezimmene (30km north-east of Mariupol).

This report is interesting.  This is the second time in the last month that the OSCE SMM reports the presence of T-72s in government-controlled areas. It's not clear who controls these tanks, but so far the Ukrainian military has not been documented as using the T-72 in this conflict.

The entire OSCE report can be read here.

-- James Miller