The controversial Shyrokyne demilitarization: what you need to know

OSCE monitors and Russian-Ukrainian contact group members during a visit to Shyrokyne

OSCE monitors and Russian-Ukrainian contact group members during a visit to Shyrokyne 

2015/08/03 • News

On 3 August 2015, the trilateral contact group consisting of representatives of Ukraine, Russia, and the OSCE in Minsk should produce a blueprint of the plan to demilitarize Shyrokyne. This village on the outskirts of the coastal city of Mariupol has been the epicenter of battles since March 2015, despite the previous Minsk accords. Ukraine’s volunteer battalions and Mariupol residents protest the deal, while Ukraine’s president promises that the Army will stay on the strategic heights of this village. Here are the facts about the troubling arrangement.

Shyrokyne is a strategic village 8 kilometers to the east of Mariupol, a Ukrainian-held city of 450,000 on the coast of the Azov sea.

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Since August last year, the invaders have been probing Mariupol’s defenses. While a key port itself, some suspect Mariupol could be the first step for a land corridor to Crimea.

"Land bridge" scenario of a Russian offensive in Ukraine, image (c) Stratfor

“Land bridge” scenario of a Russian offensive in Ukraine, image (c) Stratfor

In January 2015 Mariupol’s eastern outskirts suffered heavy Russian shelling coming from the East. Losing Shyrokyne would put Mariupol’s residential areas under direct threat of Russian artillery attacks.

Aftermath of the artillery attack on Mariupol in January

Aftermath of the artillery attack on Mariupol in January

Shyrokyne has been a conflict hotspot since March despite the Minsk accord, with both sides taking casualties. According to Azov commander Andriy Biletskyi’s estimate, Ukrainian forces lost about 60 killed and 200 wounded to the enemy’s 800 total casualties.

Fighting in Shyrokyne, video by Azov battalion defending the village

80% of houses in Shyrokyne have been destroyed, all the locals have left the village

OSCE proposed demilitarization of Shyrokyne, mutual withdrawal of troops and weapons up to 23mm in caliber. OSCE monitors would establish a permanent post in Shyrokyne to monitor the ceasefire. There is no clear mechanism to prevent “DNR” troops from seizing Shyrokyne as soon as Ukrainians withdraw.

Locals in Mariupol as well as the volunteer battalion Donbas (defending Shyrokyne along with Azov) oppose the decision, calling it voluntary yielding of Ukrainian territory.

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Mariupol locals sign petition to stop troops withdrawal at an anti-DMZ rally, image via lb.ua

US ambassador to Ukraine has supported the DMZ (demilitarized zone) plan, being in line with Minsk agreement and serving towards establishment of peace.

Some refugees from Shyrokyne support the move, willing to return to normal life. Others believe normal life under Russian tank guns is impossible.

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A DMZ supporter in Mariupol, image via 0629.com.ua

President Poroshenko stated Ukrainian troops would keep strategic heights surrounding Shyrokyne and the DMZ wouldn’t spread to Mariupol itself. The city, he assured, would remain under firm Ukrainian protection.

Ukrainian military analyst Dmytro Tymchuk believes Ukrainian troops would be unable to recapture Shyrokyne, should Russians move in upon breaking the ceasefire. He suggested a DMZ plan failure should bring a new round of sanctions against Russia.

On Tuesday, July 28, Azov and Donbas volunteer battalions (who weren’t eager to leave Shyrokyne) have been withdrawn from the village, replaced by marines.

Ukrainian marines take positions in Shyrokyne

The trilateral contact group is expected to present a more detailed DMZ plan later today after a meeting in Minsk.

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  • Being

    Well, so is it OK there?? And West is surelly ready to put more sanctions to Russia.
    Are you joking really, so you have withdraw from Shyrokyne? Why did you happyly let 60 bravest young patriots to die while defending Shyrokyne than?? For fun? EU will help you to recapture the village with OSCE in front.

  • Nowhere Girl

    Prussian corridor, anyone?… :(
    All these agreements show one thing which should finally be acknowledged: Putler’s Russia only keeps its promises when it’s convenient. If it’s not – they are not going to respect any agreement.

  • Brent

    All the appeasers (OSCE, U.S. Ambassador, Merkl and Hollande) have their hand in this. These are the same stooges who let Russia continue it’s war on Ukraine with little or no response or attempts from them to stop Russia.

    Look at the recent expansion of conquered territory in South Ossetia. Russia cannot be trusted to keep its word.