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The Ukrainian volunteer-based Azov regiment has announced that it is opposed to proposals to establish a demilitarised zone in the village of Shirokino, east of Mariupol, which has been the scene of intense fighting since February.
UNIAN reports on a statement made on the Azov regiment’s Facebook page.
The Interpreter translates:
“Shirokino is a strategic height and firing position, from which the enemy has regularly conducted artillery bombardments of civilian Mariupol. It was from this very place that, on January 24, a strike was conducted on the Vostochny neighbourhood (according to a report by the OSCE SMM, the shelling was conducted from the settlements of Zaichenko and Oktyabr, located several kilomtres to the north-east of Shirokino – UNIAN), as a result of which, 31 civilians were killed, 120 wounded and dozens of homes were destroyed. The enemy committed this crime in a period of so-called ceasefire,” says the statement.
The statement says that the retaking of the village by the Azov regiment and the Ukrainian army on February 10 this year has prevented further artillery attacks on Mariupol and created a bulwark against any offensive move on the city.
“This success has been watered with the blood of our brethren. The withdrawal of Ukrainian soldiers and the organisation of a post for monitoring the ceasefire in Shirokino means the loss of this Ukrainian territory, even under the condition of the presence of the OSCE mission there. And to give up Shirokino would be to voluntarily open the gates to Mariupol. Almost half a million of its residents will be under threat. The state is risking losing important, strategic industrial facilities in the city.”
As we reported earlier, the OSCE reported today that both the Russian and Ukrainian delegations at the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination (JCCC) had proposed plans for demilitarising the village:
The senior Ukrainian and Russian representatives at the JCCC came with separate proposals for a ceasefire regime, based on the demilitarisation of Shyrokyne village. This included the withdrawal of all mortars, tanks, and artillery to locations preventing their engagement, as well as the removal of all armed formations to a distance of five to eight kilometres from the village.
— Pierre Vaux
The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (OSCE SMM) appears to be increasingly frustrated at the situation in Shirokino (Shyrokyne). In yesterday’s report (dated the evening before and analysed here) the monitors say that they installed a water cistern for residents on the outskirts of the town. On face value, the OSCE does conduct some humanitarian work of this nature, but the incident lies outside the parameters of their main objective — to monitor the ceasefire. Also, while installing the cistern, an explosive was detonated only 50 meters from the five OSCE monitors who were working on the project.
Today, amid reports of continuing hostilities in the area, the OSCE SMM is considering spending the night in the town — effectively making themselves into human shields:
Their frustration over the broken ceasefire and their concern for local civilians comes across in their latest report:
Following the escalation of violence in Shyrokyne (22km east of Mariupol) over the Orthodox Easter weekend, SMM Deputy Chief Monitor Alexander Hug and his team travelled to Mariupol on 13 April to spearhead efforts for a localised ceasefire. Since 13 April the SMM has visited Shyrokyne on a daily basis, engaging the two sides in a dialogue aiming at the cessation of hostilities. The SMM directly negotiated with the actors on the ground in an effort to gain unrestricted access to the village. Consequently, the SMM conducted a humanitarian assessment of the location, which included personal interaction with over 35 of the civilians left in the conflict-torn village.
On 15 April the SMM discussed in Shyrokyne with the senior Ukrainian and Russian Federation Armed Forces representatives at the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) strategies for establishing a sustainable ceasefire regime in the area. This meeting was a follow-up to a discussion held on 9 April with the two senior officers. The senior Ukrainian and Russian representatives at the JCCC came with separate proposals for a ceasefire regime, based on the demilitarisation of Shyrokyne village. This included the withdrawal of all mortars, tanks, and artillery to locations preventing their engagement, as well as the removal of all armed formations to a distance of five to eight kilometres from the village.
The SMM intends to capitalise on the emerging momentum for a sustainable ceasefire, while at the same time reducing the security dilemma of the parties by diminishing their uncertainty about each other’s intentions. Also, it aims at establishing solid ground for confidence building measures.
The SMM is currently looking at the security considerations and logistical requirements involved in maintaining an overnight static presence in Shyrokyne, one that would demonstrate the SMM’s commitment to the process, and instil confidence in the ceasefire amongst the sides and the local population.
The SMM hopes its efforts and initiatives in Shyrokyne can be replicated in other key hotspots and so may contribute to securing a more viable and tenable generalised ceasefire throughout the conflict zone.
An “overnight static presence” could help broker the ceasefire — or it could give the OSCE monitors a front-row seat to the fighting. Either way it is clear that the OSCE is increasingly dissatisfied with the status quo and is growing impatient — even bold — in their efforts to establish peace.
— James Miller
The Basmanny Court in Moscow has rejected a complaint by Nadezhda Savchenko’s defence team for the case against her to be dismissed in light of her diplomatic immunity as a member of the Parliamentary Association of the Council of Europe (PACE).
UNIAN reports that Ilya Novikov, one of Savchenko’s lawyers, commented that the Russian investigative authorities pursuing the case consider that although Savchenko is a PACE delegate, “her immunity is not mandatory for Russia.”
Novikov noted that PACE regulations state that no European Council member can prosecute a delegate, regardless of their alleged crime, unless they have been caught in the act of committing a crime.
However, he says, the Russian Foreign Ministry considers that the PACE immunity only applies to prosecutions initiated after becoming a delegate.
“Such a statement is not based anything other than the fact that the Russian Foreign Ministry wants it to be so. There is no such thing in the documents (of the Council of Europe – UNIAN).”
Another of Savchenko’s lawyers, Nikolai Polozov, reiterating that the Russian Investigative Committee’s refusal to suspend the case against Savchenko is illegal, told UNIAN that the investigators had not given any reason for their decision – “we are refusing, because we want to.”
Savchenko, a Ukrainian military officer, was elected on a Batkivshchyna party list in the Ukrainian parliamentary elections in November last year, but was captured by separatist militants in the Lugansk region on June 18.
She was subsequently illegally transported to Russia where she is charged with the murder of two Russian journalists in a mortar attack that same day.
However her lawyers say that mobile phone records indicate that she was captured before the mortar attack took place. Separatist fighters also uploaded a time-stamped video of her interrogation which indicated a time prior to the attack. The video, which was widely disseminated at the time, renders the Russian authorities’ claim, that Savchenko crossed into Russian territory of her own will before being arrested, null.
The Basmanny Court had gone ahead with the hearing of the defence team’s complaint despite a request from the defence for a postponement. Having not been given enough notice, one of Savchenko’s lawyers, Mark Feygin, who is currently in the US was unable to make the hearing.
290 Paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade of the US Army have arrived at Lviv international airport to conduct training for Ukraine’s National Guard as part of Operation Fearless Guardian.
UNIAN reports that 900 National Guard servicemen, in three waves, will receive training from April 20th at a military camp near Yavoriv, in the Lviv region.
The interior minister, Arsen Avakov, told UNIAN that among the National Guard units participating in the exercise would be the Azov regiment, “the Kulchyntsky battalion, Jaguar, Omega and other units from Kiev, Kharkiv, Zaporozhye, Odessa, Lviv, Ivano Frankivsk and Vinnytsia.”
Avakov said that the US would provide “special ammunition and communications equipment” to the National Guard units on completing the exercises.
A ground convoy of US support and logistics vehicles reached Yavoriv on April 10.
Captain P.J. Hartman, the transportation planner for the 173 Airborne Brigade Support Battalion, said that the convoys cargo was for the brigade’s assistance, rather than equipment to be granted to Ukrainian troops.
— Pierre Vaux
Ukrainska Pravda reports that the governor of the Lugansk region, Hennadiy Moskal, has announced that a statue of Lenin has been torn down in the frontline town of Stanitsa Luganskaya last night.
Moskal said that the statue, “one of, if not the only object in the town centre not damaged” as a result of the months of intense shelling directed at Stanitsa Luganskaya, was given a yellow and blue “mask” and then “handed” a Ukrainian flag by activists on April 16.
Moskal then writes (translated by The Interpreter):
“Evidently, the leader of the global proletariat could not stand the ‘desecration’ of the national symbols of Ukraine and decided to abandon his pedestal as a sign of protest but stumbled and fell to the ground. Law enforcers are ascertaining the details of the incident.”
Meanwhile, to the south, Mariupol news site 0629.com.ua reports that Andriy Dzyndzya, a fighter in the Ukrainian volunteer-based Azov regiment, has claimed, citing his own sources in the occupied town of Novoazovsk, east along the coast from Mariupol, that a recently restored statue of Lenin was attacked last night.
The statue, in front of the district administration, had only been restored this week, having been torn down by activists last year, 0629 notes.
Yesterday, the site reported that residents of Novoazovsk were questioning the appropriateness of replacing the statue of the Bolshevik leader. There were also complaints that the statue lay close to the location of a church demolished by the Communists in 1937.
A celebration, a brass band concert, had been planned for today.
The DNR authorities are searching for the culprits for what they regard as an act of “vandalism.”
— Pierre Vaux
Ukrainska Pravda reports that the ATO press centre has claimed that Russian-backed fighters carried out 15 attacks between 18:00 and midnight yesterday. Two of these attacks were directed, the Ukrainian military claim, against settlements.
The Interpreter translates:
Furthermore, along the demarcation line, illegal armed groups used 120 mm mortars 4 times, which constitutes a grave violation of the Minsk agreements.
In the Peski area, militants twice opened fire on ATO forces’ defensive positions with 120 mm mortars.
At around 23:00 in the Mariupol area, militants shelled a Ukrainian military defensive position near Talakovka with 120 mm mortars.
In addition, bandit groups carried out attacks on Ukrainian positions near Avdeyevka, Popasnaya and Opytnoye with automatic grenade launchers and machine guns.
In the Lugansk region, enemies of Ukraine shelled ATO forces’ positions not far from the village of Sizoye, in the Stanitsa Luganskaya district, with mortars.
“Attacks on settlements have become more frequent. From 21:00 to 21:50, bandit groups twice fired on Peski with machine guns and 120 mm mortars,” reports the ATO press centre.
The headquarters pointed out that during the day on April 16, the militants shelled town of Avdeyevka with 120 mm mortars.
Over this same time period, Ukrainian troops in the Lugansk region and near Mariupol recorded 5 reconnaissance drone flights.
One of the drones was destroyed near Butovka in the Strarobelsk district.
The Mariupol Defence Headquarters reported on Facebook that, in addition to the attack near Talakovka described above, there had been two attacks yesterday on Ukrainian positions in Shirokino, conducted with assault rifles, machine guns and sniper fire.
The National Security and Defence Council (NSDC) reported one Ukrainian serviceman had been wounded over the last 24 hours: