Introduction by New Cold War.org, August 18, 2015
The following is a compilation of eleven news reports that provide some overview of the scale of the recent escalation of shelling and other military activity by the Ukrainian armed forces and the extremist paramilitary forces allied with it in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
Below those news reports is the daily report for August 16, 2015 of the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in Ukraine of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). This typical, daily report is especially lengthy.
The New Cold War.org website does not provide daily reports of the military situation in Donbas. Given the scale of Ukrainian violations of the Minsk-2 ceasefire agreement of Feb. 15, 2015, this would be a task beyond our means. We do report on the overall political and military situation. Readers who wish to read or research the situation day by day are recommended to go to the news sources cited below, among others.
As for relying on Western media sources, there are none which report in any detail on the ongoing situation in eastern Ukraine. A reader of Western media would be hard-pressed to know or learn that a ceasefire agreement is supposed to be in place, still less what are the terms and conditions of that agreement and who is living, and not living, up to them.
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1. Seventeen people killed in shellings by Ukrainian forces over last week — DPR
Seventeen people were killed in shellings by Ukrainian forces over last week, and 45 more were injured, the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) defense ministry spokesman Eduard Basurin said on Tuesday. “The total number of victims in bloody shellings over the last week is as follows – 17 civilians were killed, 45 people were wounded,” Donetsk News Agency quoted Basurin as saying.
Last week, the office of the human rights ombudsperson for the DPR said that almost 1,300 people have been killed in shellings by Ukraine forces in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) since the beginning of 2015.
“Since the start of 2015, 1,287 people have died – 1,088 men and 199 women,” the office said. More than 1,100 people have been injured in DPR since the start of the year, DPR human rights office said citing reports by the DPR Center of urgent medical assistance. Since the start of the armed conflict with Ukrainian forces, 5,061 people have been killed and 6,100 more injured. Minsk agreements on Ukraine
A ceasefire is envisaged by the Minsk agreements on the settlements of the situation in Ukraine. The Minsk-2 accords were signed on February 12 in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, after negotiations involving the so-called “Normandy format”. That brings together Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
The Minsk-2 accord also envisage weaponry withdrawal, prisoner exchange, local elections in Donbas, constitutional reform in Ukraine and establishing working sub-groups on security, political, economy and humanitarian components of the Minsk accords.
[The 13-point text of the Minsk-2 accord is here.]
Three houses destroyed in Dokuchaevsk after the shelling by Kiev neo-Nazi forces
Three inhabited houses in Dokuchaevsk were partially destroyed as a result of shelling by Ukrainian fighters and utility lines were broken near Gorlovka, local authorities have reported to Donetsk News Agency (DAN).
‘Three houses were destroyed in the village of Yasnoe. Fortunately, there were no casualties’, the mayor of Dokuchaevsk Evgeniy Buniyo said. In regard to his words, Ukrainian fighters shelled the village from the settlement of Berezovoe. The type of weapon has being identified’, Bunyo added.
2. One person wounded in Donetsk by Ukrainian fighters on August 17
A Donetsk dweller has been injured in shelling by Ukrainian forces, the head of the local administration, Ivan Prikhodko, said on Tuesday.
“One man aged of 37 was injured on Stratonavtov Street,” Donetsk News Agency quoted Prikhodko as saying. The administration head added that Ukrainian forces shelled the Kievsky district in Donetsk in the night of August 18.
No information is yet available on damages in the shellings.
3. Two residents of Donetsk killed and three wounded overnight on Aug. 16 by Ukraine shelling
The Ukrainian military shelled four districts of Donetsk overnight on August 16-17. Three of them came under massive fire, two civilians were killed, 42 houses destroyed or damaged, Donetsk City Hall told Donetsk News Agency on Monday.
“Overnight on August 17, the city’s Kuibyshevsky, Petrovsky and Kirovsky districts came under massive artillery bombardments from the Ukrainian Armed Forces. According to the available information, they have left 2 people dead, 3 others were wounded. Information about other possible casualties and destruction is being ascertained,” the news reports said.
In addition to that, multiple destruction and damage to homes were registered. In Kuibyshevsky district, electricity and gas supply systems were damaged. In the village of Staromikhaiilovka (Kirovsky district), the direct hits destroyed three houses and damaged 22.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces also shelled the central Leninsky district of Donetsk. According to local residents, several shells exploded near the television center. The Ukrainian army used heavy artillery, with blast waves shattering the windows in some houses.
4. One civilian killed in shelling in DPR’s Gorlovka on August 14, 2015
A civilian was killed during the night shelling of Gorlovka by Kiev’s military, the city’s administration told the Donetsk News Agency on Friday.
“A man, born in 1938, died as a shell stroke his house,” the city administration said, adding the shelling had been delivered from heavy weapons, namely, Grad rockets and a self-propelled gun).”
Lately, Gorlovka has become the hottest point at the front line in Donbas. From January 2015, the city administration says, 164 civilians have been killed, including 16 children. Another 501 people have been injured. About 2,000 houses have been ruined. The local authorities say the city has been shelled daily, mostly at night times.
5. Three casualties, four wounded in Gorlovka due to nighttime shelling by Kiev forces, 16th August
At least three civilians died and four were wounded as a result of overnight shelling of Gorovka, reports DAN News, citing the head of Gorlovka administration, Roman Hramenkov.
‘We have 3 casualties, men aged 84, 73 and 47. Four more people received different wounds and were delivered to the hospital’, he said. Eleven inhabited houses and a childrens’ social center were destroyed.
6. 11,000 civilians of the DPR live close to the frontline
11,000 residents of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) living on the disengagement line between militiamen and Ukrainian troops daily risk their lives due to massive shelling by the Ukrainian army, the head of the administration of the Petrovsky District of the city of Donetsk, Maxim Zhukovsky said on Monday.
“On average, 11,500 people reside along the disengagement line,” the Donetsk News Agency quoted Zhukovsky as saying. “Over the past three days, 60 people wishing to resettle from shelled districts to a safer place have turned to us,” the official said.
The head of the Kuibyshevskiy district administration of Donetsk, Ivan Prikhodko, said the district authorities are preparing to resettle about 2,000 people due to incessant shelling on the part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (VSU).
Massive shelling of residential neighborhoods, including with the use of aviation, has killed thousands and led to a humanitarian disaster in Donbass since April 2014 when Kiev announced the start of an “antiterrorism operation” involving the Armed Forces, the Interior Ministry’s National Guard and volunteer battalions made up of Euromaidan activists, many of whom hold far-right and neo-Nazi views.
7. Kiev reserves right to return guns over 100mm calibre to front line
Ukraine’s authorities reserve the right “in case of a threat” to return to the front line weapons of calibre over 100mm, speaker of the Ukrainian presidential administration operation in Donbass Alexander Motuzyanik told a briefing on Sunday.
He said Kiev had fulfilled the provision of the Minsk agreements on withdrawal of the weapons of the calibre, which, he said, the militia had not done. “Thus, we reserve the right in case of threat to lives and health of our military to return without delays those weapons and use them.”
On Friday, August 14, the head of Ukraine’s National Security Council, Alexander Turchinov, said Ukraine will impose the martial law if the situation in Donbass aggravates.
Regular talks of the participants in the Trilateral Contact Group on the east Ukrainian settlement comprising representatives of Russia, Ukraine and the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) were held in the Belarusian capital city of Minsk on February 10-12. Talks of the Normandy Four (Russia, Germany, France, and Ukraine) leaders on the Ukrainian issue also ended February 12 in Minsk.
A 13-point Package of Measures on implementation of the September 2014 Minsk agreements was adopted at the February talks. The package in particular included an agreement on cessation of fire from February 15, withdrawal of heavy armaments as well as measures on long-term political settlement of the situation in Ukraine, including enforcement of a special self-rule status for certain districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. The ceasefire has been repeatedly violated since.
8. German experts to visit damaged Donetsk republic facilities — source
MOSCOW, August 18. /TASS/. German experts are planning to visit two damaged water supply facilities in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), which pump water to both sides of the line of contact, a well-informed source told Donetsk News Agency on Tuesday.
“The German experts are due to arrive at the end of August. They are planning to visit the Donetsk filtration plant and Seversky Donets-Donbas Canal in Gorlovka regularly shelled by the Ukrainian army,” the source said.
The agreement on the visit of foreign experts was reached on August 3 in Minsk during the latest meeting of the economic subgroup of the Contact Group on Ukraine.
Seversky Donets-Donbas Canal is the only source of drinking water for residents of the Donetsk republic. The canal was severely damaged by the Ukrainian Army’s artillery bombardments last August.
9. Ukraine’s first president calls to isolate Donbass from rest of country
Ukraine must cut the Donbas territories uncontrolled by Kiev until their return, severing all relations with them, Ukraine’s first President Leonid Kravchuk told the Novoye Vremya magazine.
“We have to cut this territory [the part of the Donbass region not controlled by Kiev] until we can liberate it,” Kravchuk noted, adding that “we must stop economic, political and other relations with them.”
According to the former Ukrainian president, Kiev has to put up with the current line of demarcation that exists in the Donbass region and cease any attempts to take care of the population living there. ” “We perceive this line [of demarcation] as a status quo, as a temporary line of demarcation and cease to speak empty words, such as ‘humanism, ‘our people live there, ‘they need help’, ‘we must collect taxes here and help them, because they are in a difficult position,” Kravchuk said.
In his opinion, Kiev should not recover the lost territories of Donbass now. “The time has not come yet to liberate [them]. The time will come, and we will liberate [them],” he added.
10. DPR Defense Ministry disproves US reports of militia attack on Mariupol
The Defense Ministry of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) has denied statements by the U.S. State Department that its forces attacked the northern and eastern parts of the city of Mariupol in east Ukraine.
“The DPR troops are at their positions and are not making any attacks. By far-fetched accusations, the official is trying to divert the public’s attention from preparation of aggression by the Ukrainian army, as well as justify the blame of the Kiev regime for massive shelling of the DPR inhabited localities in which women, children and old people are killed,” the Donetsk News Agency quoted a ministry spokesman as saying.
The ministry said the militia does not react to provocations on the part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and adheres in full to the Minsk Agreements.
On Monday, the U.S. State Department accused militiamen of making attacks in the north and east of Mariupol. The United States claims that Kiev violates the ceasefire in Donbas for self-defense purposes only..
The DPR Defense Ministry said on Monday that the situation in Donbas has acquired “a crisis nature.” As a result of a nighttime shelling of the republic’s territory from the positions of the Ukrainian army, five civilians were killed and 14 wounded.
Massive shelling of residential neighborhoods, including with the use of aviation, has killed thousands and led to a humanitarian disaster in east Ukraine since Kiev announced the start of an “antiterrorism operation” there in April 2014. That has involved the Armed Forces, the Interior Ministry’s National Guard and volunteer battalions made up of Euromaidan activists, many of whom hold far-right and neo-Nazi views.
The situation in eastern Ukraine has deteriorated in recent weeks, with the number of reports on shelling and civilian deaths increasing. The DPR and the Lugansk People’s Republic have repeatedly said that violations of the ceasefire that took effect February 15, 2014 are occuring solely on the Ukrainian side.
11. Russian President: Kiev, not militias is to blame for escalating violence in Ukraine
Russian side has evidence that the Ukrainian army is amassing troops and military equipment in Donbas, Russian president says
SEVASTOPOL, Crimea–Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he hopes that the situation in the Donbas region will not amount to open large-scale clashes between the militias and the Ukrainian army and that he believes there is no alternative to Minsk-2. “I hope that it will not come to direct large-scale clashes,” he told reporters.
“As for the Minsk-2 agreement, I believe there is no other alternative for resolving the situation and that peace will prevail in the long run. Our task is to minimize the losses, with which we will come to this peace,” he added.
The Russian leader also noted that the blame for the current escalation of violence in Ukraine rested with Kiev rather than the amred forces of the Donbas republics. “Unfortunately, today we see the escalation, and the blame for this rests not with the militias, it rests with the opposite side,” he told reporters.
Meanwhile, the Russian side has evidence that the Ukrainian army is amassing troops and military equipment in Donbas. “It was the Donbas militias that suggested withdrawing all military equipment with caliber over 100 mm. Unfortunately, the opposite side didn’t do that. On the contrary, according to the available data, it is concentrating its units there, including those reinforced with military hardware,” Putin said.
Putin declined to comment on remarks by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko regarding the Russian president’s trip to Crimea.* In response to a request to comment on these statements, Putin recalled that Crimeans closed the chapter on the issue of the future of the peninsula during their March 2014 referendum.
* News report on UPI: “The arrival by Putin in Crimea without the authorization of the Ukrainian authorities is a challenge to the civilized world and part of the scenario to exacerbate the situation which is being implemented by the Russian military and their mercenaries in Donbas,” said a statement posted on [President Poroshenko’s] official Facebook page Monday, as translated by Interfax-Ukraine.
Putin visited Yalta in Crimea to promote tourism in the peninsula, the Kremlin reported. The Russian leader said that the Kremlin will consider simplifying visa rules for foreign tourists from countries including Brazil, India and China in order to provide a much needed boost to the industry.
Daily report on August 16, 2015 of the Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine of the Organisation for Secruity and Cooperation in Europe
The following is the lengthy, daily report for August 16, 2015 of the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in Ukraine of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The OSCE does not recognize the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk; thus, its reports place “quotation marks” around any mention of those names. The Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) named in the OSCE reports is an observation body of the Russian and Ukrainian military commands. It functions in coordination with the OSCE.
The SMM monitored the implementation of the “Package of measures for the implementation of the Minsk agreements”. Its monitoring was restricted by the parties and security considerations*. Ceasefire violations were recorded by the SMM in numerous locations, especially at and around Donetsk airport. A significant increase in ceasefire violations was observed in government-controlled areas north-west of Luhansk. The SMM observed damage caused by shelling and conducted several crater analyses in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
The overall security situation at and around “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled Donetsk airport (9km north-west of Donetsk) remained tense. Between 08:15 and 17:50hrs on 15 August, from the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) observation point at Donetsk railway station (“DPR”-controlled, 8km north-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM recorded a total of 184 explosions mostly consistent with mortar at distances ranging between 1.5 and 20km south-west, west, north-west, and south-east of its position. This constitutes a significant increase in comparison with the previous day. At the same position on 16 August, the SMM heard a total of 21 explosions consistent with mortar or artillery and 10 bursts of heavy machine guns (HMG) 2.5-16 km north, north-east, and west of its position.
On 16 August in the residential Kirovskyi district on the south-western outskirts of Donetsk city, the SMM visited 9 sites to follow up on information about shelling on 15 August. The SMM conducted six crater analyses in one site and assessed them to have been caused by 120mm calibre originating from the west and west-south-west. The SMM observed impacts in houses and apartment buildings including their yards, fences, and walls.
On 16 August in government-controlled Verkhnotoretske (22km north-north-east of Donetsk), the SMM followed up on information received from a Ukrainian Armed Forces officer of heavy shelling at their base 1km south-west of the village on 8 August. The SMM saw at least four 2m deep craters in the asphalt assessed to have been caused by special ammunition capable of penetrating bunkers.
On 16 August in “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (38km north-north-east of Donetsk), some male residents told the SMM that shelling had taken place during the previous night. The SMM observed three destroyed houses with fresh marks of recent shelling. Proper crater analysis was not possible as the scene had already been altered when the SMM arrived. At the scene, three middle-aged women aggressed the monitors verbally and physically, criticizing the SMM activities and expressing frustration about the shelling. When a “DPR” member present strongly recommended the SMM to leave due to the volatile situation, the SMM decided to depart.
On 16 August, the SMM was stopped at a “DPR” checkpoint in Olenivka, (“DPR”-controlled, 23km south-west of Donetsk) by “DPR” member who approached the SMM holding an unexploded shell in his hands. According to the interlocutor it had been fired at them the previous night. During a short conversation, one of the “DPR” members present started criticizing the SMM for its activities and another one threw the shell into the SMM vehicle. After the SMM insisted, the “DPR” member took the shell out of the vehicle. Later, when analysing photo evidence of the shell, the SMM assessed that it had been a 122mm artillery shell.
On 15 August in “DPR”-controlled Krasnoarmiiske (33km north-east of Mariupol), the SMM conducted crater analyses of eight fresh craters. According to a “DPR” member present, the shelling took place on 14 August. The SMM concluded that they were all caused by Grad multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS, 122mm) originating from a westerly direction. Between 13:25 and 14:10hrs, the SMM heard seven explosions at an undetermined distance south of the village.
On the same day in government-controlled Andriivka (41km north-north-east of Mariupol), the SMM conducted crater analysis of eleven fresh craters caused by shelling on the previous day, according to information received from a resident. The SMM assessed that the impacts have been caused by 152mm artillery incoming from a north-easterly direction. Three residential houses were severely damaged and others slightly. The SMM was told by the residents that five civilians had been injured due to the shelling.
On 16 August, the SMM visited “DPR”-controlled Telmanove (50km north-east of Mariupol) to follow up on reports by representatives of the Ukrainian Armed Forces at the JCCC that the village had been shelled in the early morning. The SMM analysed 16 craters and concluded that they were caused by MLRS (122mm BM-21 Grad) fired from a west-south-westerly direction. The SMM observed that some houses were heavily damaged and a transformer providing electricity to the village was destroyed.
The overall situation in Luhansk remained relatively tense with a significant increase in ceasefire violations observed in areas north-west of Luhansk, particularly in the wider area of Krymske (government-controlled, 43km north-west of Luhansk) including in the vicinity of government-controlled Novotoshkivske (53km north-west of Luhansk), government-controlled Muratove (50km north-west of Luhansk) and in vicinity of government-controlled Orikhove Donetske (44km north-west of Luhansk). In Muratove, between 14:56 to 15:35hrs on 15 August, the SMM heard a total number of 98 bursts of small-arms fire, including rounds of anti-aircraft guns (AAG) and HMG originated 8-10km west of its position as well as 12 incoming explosions 10km south-east of its position. On 16 August, between 10:39-11:21hrs, 2km east of “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”)-controlled Vesela Hora (16km north of Luhansk), the SMM heard a total number of 37 explosions at a location 15km south-west and south-east of its position.
On 15 August in government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk), the SMM visited three sites that according to a report from a Ukrainian Armed Forces representative at the JCCC had been shelled on 14 August. All three sites were located near Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoints or military unit locations in residential areas. No injuries were reported. The SMM observed shell impacts including four severely damaged houses and analysed craters in three sites. The SMM assessed that the craters were caused by fire originating from the south.
On 15 August in “LPR”-controlled Lomuvatka (57km south-west of Luhansk), the SMM followed up on information received from residents of a neighbouring village about shelling during the night of 15 August. The SMM visited five sites in residential areas of the village and observed damage to windows and walls of a house, and downed power lines. The SMM analysed craters at one site, and assessed that they had been caused by howitzer (D30 122mm).
On the same day at the “LPR”- controlled area 500m south-east of the bridge near Stanytsia Luhanska, the SMM conducted crater analysis and assessed that 26 craters had been caused by 82mm mortar (14 of them had unexploded ordnances (UXO) in them), two impacts caused by an armour-piercing projectile fired from an infantry fighting vehicle (BMP-1), 11 impacts caused by automatic grenade launcher (AGS), one crater caused by rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) (with UXO in it) and one crater caused by self-propelled-guns (SPG) originating from northerly and north-easterly directions. An “LPR” member told the SMM that shelling, including from tanks, had taken place at night on 14 August approximately 400m west of the bridge, in total four rounds of incoming fire from a northerly direction.
On 15 August, the SMM unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) observed in DPR-controlled areas: one ‘R-330ZH Zhitel’ jamming communication station and one main battle tank (MBT) in Michurine (54km east of Mariupol), one MBT in Starolaspa (60km north-east of Mariupol) and one MBT in the east of Novotroitske (36km south-west of Donetsk). In government-controlled areas the SMM UAVs observed: one MBT in Starohnativka (54km east of Mariupol), five 122mm self-propelled howitzers 2S1 “Gvozdik” in Orlivske (20km north-east of Mariupol) and one MBT in Hranitne (48km north-east of Mariupol). On 15 August while flying over government-controlled Aslanove (17km east of Mariupol) the SMM UAV was jammed.
On 15 and 16 August, the SMM visited one and revisited another three Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons holding areas whose locations comply with the respective withdrawal lines. In two areas a total of eight MLRS (122mm BM-21 Grad) previously recorded were absent (see SMM Daily Report, 10 August 2015). In one area the SMM verified that all previously registered weapons were present and recorded additional weapons.
On 15 August, the SMM also revisited three “DPR” heavy weapons holding areas whose locations comply with the Minsk withdrawal lines. At two areas the SMM verified that all previously registered weapons were present.