The Ukrainian military has announced that a Russian anti-tank mine has been found near the Vuhlehirska power station near Gorlovka.
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The Ukrainian military reports 10 attacks between 6 and 18:00 today, with most occurring to the north and west of Donetsk.
According to the ATO Press Centre, Ukrainian positions near Opytnoye came under direct small-arms fire for half an hour starting at around 9 am.
Ukrainian troops returned fire at Russian-backed fighters’ positions and, the report claims, the attacks ceased. Sniper activity was also reported in the same area.
Ukrainian defensive positions near both Opytnoye and Avdeyevka were subjected to “untargeted” fire from automatic grenade launchers throughout the day.
To the southwest, the military reports one targeted small arms attack outside Marinka.
— Pierre Vaux
Russia’s state-owned RIA Novosti news agency reports that Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the leader of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), has told the agency that sending peacekeepers to southeastern Ukraine would be “unacceptable.”
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko most recently called for European Union states to send peacekeepers to Ukraine during a telephone conversation with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Presidents Vladimir Putin and Francois Hollande on December 30.
Today Zakharchenko said (translated by The Interpreter):
“Deploying a peacekeeping mission in the Donbass remains, as before, unacceptable. The presence of a third force would lead to an escalation of the conflict. This is another attempt to drag Europe into the conflict.”
— Pierre Vaux
Fighting continues to rumble along at a somewhat diminished level from that seen in mid-December, with the Ukrainian military reporting 11 attacks yesterday and the self-declared “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR) reporting five.
According to the Ukrainian military’s ATO Press Centre, Ukrainian positions near Shirokino, on the Azov coast east of Mariupol, were attacked twice last night with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.
The DNR ‘defence ministry’ reported Ukrainian attacks on separatist-held villages to the north of Shirokino – Sakhanka and Zaichenko, as well as Petrovskoye, southeast of Donetsk.
Both sides also reported fighting north of Donetsk, with the ATO Press Centre claiming that Ukrainian troops in Avdeyevka had come under untargeted small-arms fire.
To the east, Ukrainian positions near Troitskoye, Svetlodarsk and Luganskoye were reported to have come under small-arms and heavy machine gun fire,
As of 6:00 today, the Ukrainian military reported four small-arms attacks on Ukrainian positions near Novgorodskoye, west of Gorlovka.
Vladislav Seleznyov, spokesman for the Ukrainian General Staff, told the 112 television channel today that the number of attacks had reduced due to severe cold weather.
Seleznyov also denied claims that Ukrainian troops had advanced and taken a “strategic height” near Novotroitskoye, south of Donetsk.
— Pierre Vaux
The Ukrainian military claimed yesterday that Ukrainian bomb disposal engineers had encountered a Russian anti-tank mine near Gorlovka.
Ukrainian MOD-2 remotely operated vehicle
PTM-3 anti-tank mine near the power station
The appearance of the mine above does match that seen in archive photos of the PTM-3.
The power station lies on the northern banks of the Svetlodarsk reservoir, northeast of separatist-held Gorlovka. This means that a sabotage team of Russian-backed fighters must have successfully penetrated the Ukrainian front lines to the southwest or southeast.
We note that while the Ukrainian military claims that the presence of the weapon is further evidence of direct Russian involvement, they do not specifically claim that the PTM-3 is absent from Ukrainian stockpiles.
Instead the report claims that Ukrainian forces “in accordance with the agreements reached in Minsk, do not use” such weapons.
On the one hand, the use of the PTM-3 has not been documented before in the conflict. No mention of the type was made in the Human Rights Watch report on mine use in the Ukrainian conflict published in April last year.
However Ukrainian forces, in addition to Russian-backed forces, have been accused of deploying landmines. The same HRW report referred to above cites several instances of Ukrainian troops planting anti-tank or anti-landing mines during the conflict. Furthermore Armaments Research have identified from video a UMZ mine dispersal system with Ukrainian markings operating near Debaltsevo in March, 2015.
The UMZ system is capable of seeding, amongst other types, the PTM-3.
— Pierre Vaux