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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukraine Live Day 501

Publication: Ukraine Liveblogs
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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
The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) has confirmed that the Russian-backed separatists have withdrawn from Shirokino, matching reports we've been carrying since yesterday.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They can confirm, however, that not only have the Russian-backed fighters withdrawn from Shirokino, which matches our reports, the positions formerly held by the separatists have been shelled, which also confirms what we have been reporting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

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russia Accuses Ukraine Of Breaking Minsk Agreement

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukraine Confirms Russian-Backed Fighters Have Left Shirokino, Soldiers Report Abandoned Positions Have Been Mined

Donetsk news site reports that one of their correspondents has been told by Ukrainian soldiers in Shirokino that, while Russian-backed fighters have withdrawn from the war-torn village, they have mined their abandoned positions and are targeting them from their new lines.

The commander of the 37th Battalion of the Ukrainian Army, who goes by the call-sign Sobol (sable) told that Russian-backed forces had fallen back 1.5-2 km from their original positions in Shirokino.

Yesterday evening the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence reported that they could confirm that all Russian-backed forces had indeed left the village, following the declaration by the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) on July 1 that they would treat Shirokino as a "demilitarised zone" and conduct a unilateral withdrawal.

Major-General Andriy Taran claimed that the move was a cynical by the DNR to appear to have abided by the Minsk agreements ahead of the next round of talks.

Taran said that the Russian-backed fighters were now in prepared positions near Sakhanka and Bezymyannoye, east of Shirokino.


Sobol told that Ukrainian troops remained in their front-line positions and would not withdraw from the village as leaving it would expose Mariupol to attack.


Yesterday we reported that fighters from the Azov regiment, a group of volunteer fighters, posted this video which they said showed the "terrorists," or Russian-backed fighters, shelling their own positions in Shirokino. However, as you can see from the video, many of the shells appear to have fallen on civilian homes:

Earlier today, Andriy Biletsky, a far-right MP and leader of the Azov regiment, claimed that more than 800 Russian or separatist fighters had been killed, wounded or captured in Shirokino since fighting began there after Ukrainian forces retook the village in February.

Meanwhile, Biletsky claimed, more than 60 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed over the same period.

-- Pierre Vaux, James Miller

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukraine Says Russia Continuing To Build Forces Both Along Border And Inside Occupied Territory

UNIAN reports that Colonel Dmitry Gutsulyak, a press officer for the ATO headquarters, claimed at a briefing this morning that Russia is continuing to reinforce and train units both within Ukraine and along the border.

The Interpreter translates:

According to the ATO headquarters' data, the build-up of militant groups in the depths of occupied territory continues. Active measures are under way to create shock groups whilst at the same time, newly-created units are undergoing combat training.

According to Gutsulyak, there are more than 50 thousand Russian troops along the border with Ukraine and there are more than 30 thousand people within the illegal armed groups.

We have recently been reporting in detail on military deployments and training centres established east of the river Kalmius, north-east of Mariupol, where Ukrainian fighters have documented a newly-constructed base and social media reports demonstrate the existence of training in the surrounding area.

-- Pierre Vaux

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Four Ukrainian Soldiers Wounded Over Last 24 Hours

Leviy Bereg reports that Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the Presidential Administration on the military operation in the south-east, has told reporters at a briefing today that four Ukrainian soldiers have been wounded over the last 24 hours.

Lysenko did not specify where the casualties had occurred.

In addition, Lysenko announced that 12 enemy drone flights had been detected over the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. 

On the border between Russian-occupied Crimea and the mainland of Ukraine, two drones and a Russian Mi-8 helicopter were detected flying along the boundary line.

While the ATO Press Centre usually issues daily reports of military activity for the period from 18:00 to midnight the previous night, today's report only covers the period from midnight to 6:00 today.

The Press Centre claimed that only three attacks had been recorded in this period.

In Rassadky, south-east of Artyomovsk, Ukrainian troops came under small arms fire. 

In the Lugansk region, Russian-backed forces reportedly shelled the outskirts of Tryokhizbenka with 152 mm artillery at around 1 am.

The National Security and Defence Council (NSDC) meanwhile reports attacks in other areas last night:

The governor of the Lugansk region, Hennadiy Moskal, reported in more detail on the attacks in his region.

According to Moskal, under cover of dark, Russian-backed forces attacked Stantisa Luganskaya with mortars, grenade launchers and automatic weapons.

Gas pipes on six streets were ruptured, leaving part of the town without supplies. One shell struck a house on Lomonosov street, setting the roof on fire. There are no reports so far of any casualties.

The Ukrainian State Border Agency (DPSU) reported today that one of their detachments in Stanitsa Luganskaya had been shelled with mortars yesterday. There were no casualties.

Moskal reported that skirmishes, with both grenade launchers and automatic weapons used, had taken place near the 29th checkpoint on the Bakhmutka highway, as well as near Tryokhizbenka, which was shelled with self-propelled 152 mm artillery.

In Mariupol residents in several areas of the city heard powerful artillery blasts yesterday evening, reports.

The first round of salvoes began at around 20:39 and carried on for about 30 minutes. The shelling resumed at 21:17.

OSCE representatives said they had not been present at the scene of any explosions.

Yaroslav Chepurnoy, a Ukrainian military spokesman, claimed that intelligence reports indicated that Russian-backed forces had fired from the village of Oktyabr towards the separatist-held villages of Dzerzhynskoye and Leninskoye. Chepurnoy claimed this was intended as a provocation. He added that the shelling was conducted with 120 and 152 mm artillery.

The press officer noted that no Ukrainian positions had come under fire at this time. 

To the north of Mariupol, on the highway to Donetsk, the DPSU reported that Russian-backed forces had attacked a checkpoint near Beryozovoye with small arms. Ukrainian soldiers returned fire and repelled the attack.

-- Pierre Vaux