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Published in Stream:
Ukraine Live Day 526
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukrainian Troops Withdraw From Shirokino As Military Announces Further Demilitarisation Plans For Mariupol
7 years
OSCE Monitor Injured By Blast In Shirokino Yesterday

Fighters from the Donbass Battalion left the war-torn village of Shirokino (Shyrokyne), east of Mariupol last night:

The Donbass Battalion, along with other volunteer units and local activists, has vigorously opposed the demilitarisation of Shirokino, arguing that withdrawal from the villages heights would leave Mariupol vulnerable to artillery bombardment from the east.

Russian-backed forces withdrew around 2 kilometres back from the village on July 2.

On July 24, the Élysée Palace announced that the Normandy Quartet (formed of the French, German, Ukrainian and Russian leaders) had agreed that Ukrainian forces would indeed withdraw from Shirokino.

TSN's Andriy Tsaplienko reported in the early hours of this morning that naval infantry had rotated with Donbass fighters on their way back from Shirokino. 

Tsaplienko said that the naval infantry were now manning both checkpoints and positions in Shirokino. 

However Andriy Biletsky, MP and founder of the Azov Battalion (now a regiment), told Ukraine's 112 television channel today that the naval infantry were not in Shirokino itself but rear positions around Berdyanskoye, just to the west.


Mariupol news site reported that Azov Regiment fighters are to remain in the city.

Later today, the Ukrainian military announced that all military hardware would be withdrawn from Mariupol itself, leaving only infantry and small arms.

While the withdrawal of forces from Shirokino has been discussed for several weeks now, this announcement is much more surprising.

UNIAN reports that Colonel Dmitry Gutslyak, a press officer for the ATO headquarters, announced at a briefing today that all heavy weaponry, including "armoured vehicles, tanks, mortars, and field guns" were being removed from Mariupol.

The aim of the move is compliance with the Minsk agreement, which stipulates the creation of a 30-kilometre buffer zone, free of heavy weaponry, along the front line. Since the signing of the agreement in February, there has been no such buffer zone in the Mariupol area. Fighting, including the use of heavy weaponry, has continued along most of the front on a daily basis.

Poroshenko announced on July 22 that the tripartite contact group in Minsk had agreed on renewed efforts to create such a buffer zone, this time including tanks, which were not subject to the original Minsk agreement.

Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, said today that the military expected an agreement to be signed on the withdrawal of weaponry with a calibre less than 100 mm, and that the armed forces had pre-emptively complied with the decision.

Lysenko said that troops would remain in Mariupol, but that they would be armed only with small arms and machine guns.

Both military spokesmen claimed that a rapid-reaction reserve force, armed with heavy weaponry, was being created to respond in the event of an offensive by Russian-backed forces.

The decision to withdraw all armour, which serves a primarily defensive purporse, from Mariupol comes as the OSCE observes Russian armour and artillery concentrating near Bezymyannoye, around 7 kilometres east by road from Shirokino.

Furthermore, large groups of armour have been spotted on regular occasions over the last few months along the eastern banks of the river Kalmius, east of Volnovakha - a town which would be a crucial target for any genuine offensive on Mariupol.

Meanwhile, OSCE spokesman Michael Bociurkiw has told 112 that, following the wounding of an OSCE observer yesterday, the organisation will not be stationing monitoring teams in Shirokino itself today.

-- Pierre Vaux