Kiev in violation of heavy weaponry clause in E. Ukraine - OSCE

Members of the Ukrainian armed forces fire a grenade launcher.(Reuters / Maksim Levin)
The OSCE has warned that a growing presence of heavy weaponry on the government controlled side of Donbass territory has put Ukrainian security forces in violation of the terms of the demarcation line, according to OSCE Deputy Chief Monitor Alexander Hug.

“We can highlight that the security situation has gotten worse in the Donbass over the past few weeks,” Hug said at a briefing in Mariupol.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Special Monitoring Mission (OSCE SMM) stressed the growing presence of heavy weaponry, and the increased movement and use of military equipment along the demarcation line in the area controlled by Kiev forces.

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“In the last few weeks, our observers as well as drones recorded the presence of heavy weapons in areas controlled by the government, which is a violation of the demarcation line terms regarding the withdrawal of heavy weaponry,” Hug said.

At the same time, he noted that there has been an uptick in military equipment around Komsomolskoe, which is controlled by the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk (DNR).

Hug added that one of the remaining challenges is the difficulty observers face when moving around Ukraine on their monitoring mission. “Our observers are still having trouble with freedom of movement, which makes it difficult to monitor certain areas, in particular the border between Ukraine and Russia.”

OSCE has also documented shelling of the buffer-zone areas in eastern Ukraine. The organization’s latest report, published on Friday, said artillery was coming from the west, which is government controlled territory.

“In the south-eastern part of the village [of Shyrokyne], the SMM saw a crater of 12m (over 39 feet) diameter and 4m (over 13 meters) 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 report said.

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The report added that “SMM did not observe any DPR [Donetsk People’s Republic] presence in Shyrokino,” referring to the village that DPR demilitarized on July 1. OSCE observers visited the area to confirm that claim, which was part of the Minsk withdrawal terms.

The OSCE monitoring mission’s goal is to observe the implementation of the Minsk peace agreements reached by Kiev and pro-independence forces of Donbass in September 2014 and February 2015. The February ceasefire deal called for the creation of a buffer zone and the withdrawal of heavy artillery from the line of contact.

The Ukrainian conflict began last April, when Kiev deployed military and volunteer battalions to the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine to crackdown on local militia, who refused to recognize the country’s coup-imposed authorities.

Over 6,400 people have been killed since the start of Kiev’s “anti-terror operation.” A total of 1.35 million Ukrainians are now designated as internally displaced persons, according to UN estimates.