15:23 Apr. 9, 2016
Russian-backed separatists flare up the battles in Avdiivka with 600 ceasefire violations this week
Avdiivka, a town in Donbas under the control of Ukrainian forces has recently seen a major spike in military action. The heavy battles have been going on here since April 2. According to authorities, the town and its surrounding area are currently the most dangerous location in the conflict zone.
Russian-backed separatist forces located in Yasynuvate (neighboring town of Avdiivka) have shelled Ukrainian Army positions 73 times in the last 24 hours which left four soldiers wounded. Overall, the militants have broken ceasefire in this area almost 600 times in the past week. Combatants are using tanks, machine guns, sniper rifles as well as heavy artillery, officially prohibited under the Minsk agreements.
Journalists working in Avdiivka report of casualties among civilians. Ukrainian correspondent Roman Bochkala posted on Facebook, a local woman has been killed by two projectiles in her own garden.
"Valentyna was 71. A month ago she lost her husband, today she lost her life. The first shelling knocked her down, the second one killed her off. The enemy launched fire from Yasynuvata. The situation is as hot as it was in 2014. But OSCE won't come here anymore. Too dangerous," posted Bochkala.
OSCE stresses their monitors continue to observe the situation in the vicinity of Yasynuvate and record the violations of the ceasefire. But they are often blocked by the armed militants, which prevent the observers from freely reaching various locations in the area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces. According to a statement by Alexander Hug, chief of the special monitoring mission in Ukraine, made during a briefing on April 8.
"Vast majority of ceasefire violations are recorded in the surroundings of Avdiivka and Yasynuvate. On Monday (April 4) we recorded nearly 400 explosions, 260 of those in a 30 minutes period," stated Hug. "However, access to Yasynuvate continues to be decided by the armed DPR members. They keep denying us access despite the intervention of the Joint center for coordination and control. On every day of the week, except one, they imposed an escort on the SMM as the condition to patrol in the vicinity of Yasynuvate," explains the chief of the mission.
The Ukrainian side of the joint center for control and coordination, which was created to monitor ceasefire, says joint patrols could help bring the escalation down. The idea is, the observers along with the representatives of both sides will monitor the conflict area to prevent the ceasefire violations.
"Ukraine calls on OSCE to organize four 'mirror' joint patrols, which will work at key points in Avdiivka and Yasynuvate. It would allow for objective control of the situation and immediate reaction to the ceasefire breaches," as stated in the report by the press-center of the Anti-Terrorist Operation.
A similar practice was used in Debaltseve two years ago. However, the town was overwhelmed by the separatists with direct military support from Russian soldiers, in a blow to the Minsk deal in February 2015. So whether the united patrols will be a solution to the problem remains unknown. It doesn't help that Alexander Hug in his briefing called the joint center for coordination and control "neither joint nor coordinated."