Further deterioration in Donbass, February 2020

The situation along the contact line in the area affected by the armed conflict in the east of Ukraine remains extremely tense. Numerous violations of ceasefire, also at the  spots of agreed troops withdrawal are being reported.

Both the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine and local sources of the Finnish Peace Committee in the area of the conflict in Donbass state the general worsening of the situation all along the 410 km contact line. The situation has been steadily aggravating since mid-January 2020. There has been reports on serious danger for the lives of civilians in the areas which are under regular shelling.

Thus, on February 6 the Finnish Peace Committee has received a report from local sources in Luhansk Region that on 4th of February the last family residing in the settlement of Artyom located in the precincts of the village of Holubivske by the town of Kirovsk of Lugansk Region (non-controlled part) was evacuated from the settlement for safety reasons. The settlement of Artyom, according to the report, is completely destroyed.

The Finnish Peace Committee also received information from local sources in Donetsk Region of the critical situation with the village by the Mine 6/7 at the outskirts of the city of Gorlovka (non-controlled part). The village was reportedly shelled, at least, three times: on January 31, February 3 and 5.  They also report on the desperate situation of civilians who are trying to save their lives in the shelter which is located in the basement of a local non-functioning school.

Another local source, a resident of the village of Yasnoye located near the town of Dokuchaevsk (non-controlled part), has been sending the Finnish Peace Committee the detailed information on the shellings. The person also sent the appeal to help restore peace for the sake of their children.  The shellings of the Yasnoye village were reported on January 30 and February 4.

On January 29 the Finnish Peace Committee was on phone with the civilian in the village of Zaytsevo who told about regular shellings of the village.

All these reports have been sent to the attention of the international monitoring missions. The OSCE SMM in their daily report 31/2020 confirmed the fact of severe splinter wounds inflicted on a 55-year-old civilian man, a resident of Holubivske village of Luhansk Region. The injuries were caused by splinters from a mortar round.

On January 7th, the Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, Yaşar Halit Çevik, noted in his address to the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna some positive impact of recent disengagement in the three agreed areas and the reconstruction of the bridge near Stanytsa Luhanska although telling that  a comprehensive ceasefire remains an essential element for progress,

At that, on January 21 Andriy Zahorodnuk, the Defense minister of Ukraine, stated in the interview to Ukraine’s INTERFAX, ”We are strongly against withdrawal of troops along the contact line… This approach is a mistake… because it will freeze the conflict”.

At that, on January 15, President Zelensky had a phone conversation with Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel to discuss the situation in Donbass. Vladimir Zelensky said that the Ukrainian side had determined the list of another three sections for disengagement of forces and equipment”. “It is very important for us that these are humanitarian areas. This is important for people,” the president said.

After the agreement had been reached in Minsk on October 1, 2019 the withdrawal of troops was done at three spots, Stanitsa Luhanska, Petrovskoye and Zolote. At that, the OSCE SMM has been fixing regular violations at spots of the accomplished withdrawal throughout the entire period committed by both sides. Such violations are fixed on a daily basis.