Ukrainian Conflict Sits At Critical Point – Alexandr Hug
6 February, 2017

What You Need To Know:
✅ The escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine began on January 29th;
✅ Since January 29th, 18 military personnel were killed in action and 100 were wounded, says Oleksii Makeiev, Political Director at the MFA of Ukraine;
✅ The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission documented 11,000 ceasefire violations last week;
✅ Over the last 24 hours in the Donetsk region, the OSCE SMM registered over 1300 ceasefire violations.

Violations in and around Avidiivka, Donetsk and Yasiivka have been seen more and more during the day, and were increasing until January 31st, 2017.

The OSCE has recorded over 11,000 ceasefire violations in one day; the highest recorded since the beginning of the Minsk Agreements. Towards the end of the week, they recorded less explosions and less usage of heavy weaponry on the contact line, but they agree that the number of weapons used is still far too high.
Over the past 24 hours in the Donetsk region alone, 1300 ceasefire violations have been recorded in Mariupol, the Donetsk Airport, Avdiivka, and Yasynuvata.

Hromadske spoke to Aleksandr Hug, Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE SMM to Ukraine.

Nataliya Gumenyuk:  You are in Donetsk now. We are trying to summarize this difficult week with numerous reports, quoting some of your reports. What happened this week? How by the end of Sunday would you explain, is the situation calming down or is it still escalated?

Aleksandr Hug: We registered a week ago, on Sunday, in the area of Avdiivka, Donetsk Airport and Yasinyvata. We have seen these violations increasing up to the 31st of January. Our mission registered over 11.000 ceasefire violations on a single day. It’s the highest number we recorded. The ceasefire violations had been reduced and we have seen calmer nights, less explosions. That means less use of heavy weapons. However, the numbers are still too high. Over the past 24 hours in the Donetsk region, we have been registering 13,000 ceasefire violations per day. They are concentrated at three main hotspots, it’s to the south and northeast of Mariupol, in the center around to Donetsk Airport, Avdiivka and Yasinyvata and to the east near Svitlodarsk and Debaltseve.  It’s of course needed that the ceasefire be established in this geographic area. The majority of violations, recorded by our mission, had  occurred.
Christian Borys:  Aleksandr, we talked in Avdiivka two days ago about the intensity of the conflict. At that time, we heard shelling in the background. Two days later, it seems that it got calmer. For the people who don’t follow the conflict closely, how do you explain that type of ability to turn it on and off?
Aleksandr Hug: You are absolutely right that the situation remains high and unpredictable. It’s unpredictable because the rude causes of violence are still present on the contact line. On three hotspots is the presence of heavy weapons on both sides of the conflict. We have seen in our reports, we have seen in the city of Avdiivka and in Donetsk. Just today our patrols were in Kryta Balka near Avdiivka. We have seen T-64 tanks in an area where they shouldn’t be. We have seen a massive amount of these weapons. We see them in the area, where they should have been removed from a long time ago. Furthermore, the proximity of the Ukrainian Armed Forces is far too close and this leads to tension in this area. Numerous battles have been registered and they are still too high.

 Photo credit: OSCE visiting Avdiivka after shelling, Avdiivka, Ukraine. 03/02/2017. 

Christian Borys: Aleksandr, you mentioned that violations become blatant. They used to try to hide violations and equipment. Now it just seems that with violations, everything is open. They really don’t care if OSCE observers will see them. We saw that in Avdiivka this week. Is this new?

Aleksandr Hug: First of all, it’s important to mention that task of the OSCE mission is to monitor and observe those who had committed violations, and to take measures, to react on these reports. When the mission indicates violations of Minsk, we are going to remove them and to bring more stability and normality to the line. For the past week, we see more weapons in the open, more weapons during daytime. It regularly happens that 11,000 violations occur in a single day from the both sides of the conflict. It’s no wonder that the OSCE special monitoring mission sees more hard weapon and fire violations.
Nataliya Gumenyuk: We are extremely curious that you are in Donetsk. Of course it’s very difficult for some correspondents—Ukrainian or foreign to be there. What can you say about the situation currently? Do you hear shooting? How much damage to the civilian population?

Aleksandr Hug:  During the brief discussion we had, I over heard from a room where I am sitting now, that there were three explosions in the city. We have seen for a long time that civilians have been affected by long-lasting fighting. The civilians suffer in both cases. There were two civilians killed in Avdiivka and two killed in the city of Donetsk. Both parts suffer equally, but I also have some good news. 


 Photo credit: Donetsk, Ukraine / Reuters

The OSCE special monitoring mission is set now to gain control of both sides to reestablish and reconnect electricity and to provide it to the residents of Avdiivka including water filtration stations. by mid afternoon today these managed to be repaired. These are the things on which everyone should focus on, the humanitarian agenda came first. Any political agenda should have second seat, but however it’s still important. The civilians in this conflict have been suffering far too much on both sides of the line. The OSCE special monitoring mission focused more attention and we’ll make sure that the suffering of the population has been highlighted. We’ll have to make sure that some of the damages can be remedied, at least on a temporary basis. Once again restoring electricity in Avdiivka is a temporary measure and it may be done quickly. At the moment we have an unstable situation. It needs to be changed and can be changed if the Minsk Agreements will be done without a compromise.