BBC reporter films Kiev tanks in residential area on E. Ukraine frontline (VIDEO)
“We met Ukrainian troops and tanks in Avdiivka [sic] who seemed ready for action – and we could hear that there is no ceasefire here,” BBC correspondent Tom Burridge tweeted along with the video.
The video shows soldiers in Ukrainian military uniforms crowding around at least two tanks among high-rise apartment buildings in what appears to be a residential district. The 13-second-video also shows an OSCE car nearby.
A picture posted on Twitter by a Komsomolskaya Pravda correspondent Aleksandr Kots a little earlier appears to show the tanks in the same Avdeevka residential neighborhood on Wednesday, February 1.
Official representative of the press center for the Ukrainian military in Donbass, Leonid Matyuhin, denied any Ukrainian tanks were in Avdeevka.
“I’ve been in Avdeevka the whole day today. I have not seen a single tank, I saw one police CRV [combat reconnaissance vehicle] with large letters on it saying ‘Police’,” Matyuhin told RIA Novosti.
Yet, on Tuesday, the OSCE special monitoring mission (SMM) reported that Kiev’s tanks were spotted in the vicinity of Avdeevka, close to the disengagement line between pro-Kiev forces and the rebels in the east.
“In violation of withdrawal lines, the SMM observed ... two tanks (T-64) between government-controlled Orlivka (22km northwest of Donetsk) and Avdiivka (17km north of Donetsk),” the report says, stating also that Kiev’s military equipment, from howitzers to Grad rocket launcher systems, has been spotted in Kiev-controlled Talakovka, Ivanovka and Aslanovo, along with troops and “stacks of what appeared to be ammunition boxes.”
In their Thursday report, the OSCE finally spotted Kiev's tanks “parked” right beside the missions’ vehicles in Avdeevka. The mission also noted the movement of rocket launchers by government troops in the area.
“In violation of the respective withdrawal lines, in government-controlled areas the SMM observed: two MLRS (BM-21) moving east on the M04 road in Netailove (22km north-west of Donetsk), two MLRS (BM-21) accompanied by a truck with a covered cargo-bay travelling north on the H-20 road 3km south-east of Volnovakha (53km south of Donetsk), four tanks (T-64) parked behind a building in Avdiivka,” SMM report stated.
The mission also noted a significant increase in ceasefire violations recorded in both the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. The OSCE also documented the widespread use of multiple-launch-rocket systems in Avdeevka, Yasynuvata and Horlivka, with over 10,330 explosions recorded within the past three days alone.
“On 30 January, positioned in government-controlled Avdiivka, the SMM heard 1,224 undetermined explosions and about 1,400 bursts of heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire 2-5km east-southeast, 1,635 undetermined explosions and over 200 bursts of heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire 2-7km east-southeast, south-southeast, and 22 outgoing explosions 1-2km north,” the OSCE claimed.
Avdeevka has been suffering intense hostilities for days, with the spike of violence being the largest in months. Earlier this week, Ukraine officially acknowledged that its troops began a slow advance on rebel positions in eastern Ukraine. Igor Pavlovsky, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, however told the Ukrainian media that the step was provoked by actions from anti-Kiev forces.
“As of today, despite everything, meter by meter, step by step, whenever possible our boys have been advancing,” Pavlovsky said on Wednesday. He justified the advancement, saying that the “entire Donbass is Ukrainian territory.”
The conflict in eastern Ukraine began back in 2014, when the people in Donetsk and Lugansk regions rejected the armed coup in Kiev, which saw the then-President Viktor Yanukovich ousted and what later became President Petro Poroshenko's government installed. The new authorities launched a military crackdown, which led to a bloody conflict that has claimed over 10,000 lives to date.
A ceasefire and roadmap for reconciliation were negotiated in 2015 with the help of Russia, France and Germany, dubbed the so-called Minsk Accords. It imposed an OSCE-monitored withdrawal of heavy weapons, which was supposed to be followed by other measures, including greater autonomy for the regions.
The deal, however, stalled at the withdrawal of heavy weapons, with violence still breaking out. OSCE monitors regularly report violations of the truce by both sides of the conflict.