While Ceasefire Largely Holds, Russian-Backed Forces Still Fire on Ukrainian Positions, Block, Threaten OSCE SMM

September 3, 2016
Ukrainian soldier walks on the heights above a destroyed Shirokino in August 2016. Photo by Unian

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An Invasion By Any Other Name: The Kremlin’s Dirty War in Ukraine


While Ceasefire Largely Holds, Russian-Backed Forces Still Fire on Ukrainian Positions; No Casualties

Since the declaration of a ceasefire on September 1 with the start of the school year, fighting has been reduced although attacks have continued in some areas.

No Ukrainian soldiers were killed or wounded today. 

The Ukrainian ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] reported at 6:00 am that Russian-backed forces had fired 11 times on Ukrainian positions: 8 times on the Mariupol line; twice on the Luganskoye line and once on the Donetsk line.
On the Mariupol line, grenade-launchers and heavy machine guns were fired on Shirokino. Firearms were used to shoot on Maryinka, Vodyanoye and Starognatovka. A sniper was active near Maryinka.
On the Lugansk line, grenades were launched on Boguslavskaya and firearms were used on Novoaleksandrovka.
On the Donetsk line, militants fired on Avdeyevka with 120-mm artillery, grenade-launchers and firearms.
Ukrainian forces did not return fire.

Then at 18:00, the ATO reported that the situation was “under control”.

Russian-backed forces fired on Ukrainian positions on the Donetsk line in Verkhnetoretskoye with large-caliber machine guns. Stationary machine-guns and grenade-launchers were used on Avdeyevka and Yasinovataya.

On the Mariupol line, a sniper was active in Maryinka.

On the Lugansk line, the ceasefire held.

The Ukrainian army continued to train and remain combat-ready, increasing combat capacity and improving personnel preparedness.

Ukrainian soldiers together with ADRA, an international humanitarian group, delivered 1,000 liters of bottled water and humanitarian aid to residents in Vodyanoye. Eight families live in homes damaged by shelling without water or electricity.

The news service of the self-proclaimed  “Donetsk People’s Republic” reported that Ukrainian forces fired 9 times today with firearms. Eduard Basurin, defense spokesman for the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” claimed Ukrainian forces were moving their troops around closer to the line of contact.

In other news:

o Special Forces Seize Smugglers’ Cigarettes 

Officers of the Fantom special forces division from the Directorate of Operational Support on Certain Territories in the ATO Zone stopped a car whose driver, a Ukrainian citizen, was attempting to smuggle cigarettes into Ukrainian-controlled territory. A total of 1,070 packs of cigarettes valued at 22,500 hrvynia (US $846) were seized. 

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2016-09-04 04:19:36

o OSCE Monitors Moving Out?

Both Unian and DNR News ran a story, based on a journalist’s report, claiming that the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission was supposedly withdrawing its observers from the Donetsk area in secret.

Andriy Tsaplienko, a Ukrainian journalist for TSN, wrote on his Facebook page that a large truck came to the checkpoint in Novotroitskoye on August 30, accompanied by an OSCE automobile. The truck was headed to Donetsk and attempted to cross the line of contact without inspection and were stopped by Ukrainian soldiers. Two more all-terrain vehicles with the OSCE logo arrived. They finally agreed to open up the truck, and there was nothing inside.

One of the mission members reportedly told soldiers quietly that they were moving out their things. This led to a rumor that OSCE was evacuating their office. Tsaplienko sent a query to OSCE about the trucks and has not received an answer five days later. He added that on September 2, the truck returned to Ukrainian-controlled territory, now loaded, and did not undergo inspection at the same checkpoint.

OSCE SMM also ran a statement on its Facebook page:


In response to claims made on social media, the SMM would like to clarify:

The SMM has a mandate – provided by the 57 OSCE participating States – to monitor in Ukraine, including in the areas currently not under government control in Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

The SMM – in accordance with its mandate – maintains its presence in Donbas.

Movement of personnel and equipment in and out of the conflict zone is a normal operational requirement.

The SMM did evacuate monitors from its Shchastia forward patrol base on Tuesday night because of mortar rounds impacting close to the base. Monitors returned the following morning.

In total, the SMM is present in 14 locations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. It plans to open two new forward patrol bases in the near future

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OSCE vehicles and trucks near Donetsk August 30, 2016
2016-09-04 05:00:12

o Russian-backed Forces Impede, Search at Gunpoint and Threaten OSCE Monitors

Unian reported yesterday, September 2 that the OSCE SMM monitors were held up at gunpoint by Russian-backed militants.

In its report today, September 3 for September 2, OSCE SMM wrote.

The SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations in Donetsk region (three explosions compared with 18) and also in Luhansk region (one explosion compared with eight) compared with the previous reporting period. The SMM followed up on reports of civilian injuries, conducted crater analysis in Shchastia and Kamianka, and observed damage from shelling to civilian infrastructure. The SMM monitored three border crossing areas, in Zhovtneve, Petrivka and Uspenka, and visited schools on both sides of the contact line. The SMM encountered impediments to its freedom of movement, including threats of violence against SMM members, all in areas outside of government control. The SMM continued to monitor a calm situation along the administrative boundary line between the mainland and Crimea. The SMM observed clashes between protestors and the dispersal of a public gathering in Odessa.

On its Twitter account, the OSCE SMM ran a statement from Alexander Hug, Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission.

o LNR Leaders Calls on OSCE and UN to Monitor “Nazism” in Ukrainian Media

Igor Plotnitsky, leader of the self-declared “Lugansk People’s Republic” called on the OSCE and UN to “monitor the Ukrainian media for Nazism”, the pro-Russian DNR News reported.

While this is not part of the OSCE SMM mandate per se, before elections, other observers’ missions will monitor the media in general to determine how free it is. Should they take on this chore, monitoring both the DNR/LNR media and the Russian Federation media for the same type of material would likely turn up more evidence.

o Clash Between Protesters and Vigilantes Broken Up by Riot Police in Odessa

The OSCE SMM writes in its report today: 

On 1 September, the SMM observed a public gathering and the forcible removal of a protest camp outside of city hall in Odessa by other activists. The SMM observed as more than 100 male known activists who identified themselves through matching badges and t-shirts as the Council for Public Security and Odessa Self-Defence, systematically broke up the tents and other structures of a camp erected in front of city hall on 13 April 2016 by protestors in opposition to the Odessa Mayor. The SMM observed as protestors defending the camp fought physically and verbally with the activists clearing the camp, and 15 riot police intervening during the clashes. One protestor was injured and taken away in an ambulance. The SMM also noted 30 patrol police, 18 patrol police cars and an ambulance parked nearby. On 2 September, the SMM observed as 20 protestors attempted to re-assemble at the site but the area was cordoned off and inaccessible. They were met by 30 Odessa municipal guards and 20 patrol policemen. From 17:00-18:00, the SMM observed discussions that were ongoing between police and the protestors, but the scene was calm.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick