President Zelenskyy visiting the front line in Donbas. 2019. Photo: president.gov.ua
The first attack on the Ukrainian positions took place 20 minutes into the ceasefire. However, later the number of violations significantly decreased and there were several days when both OSCE and the Ukrainian military didn’t record a single gunshot. However, this time one a Ukrainian soldier was killed, another wounded.
Despite casualties, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sees the ceasefire violations as provocations and says that the Ukrainian military is going to continue observing the ceasefire regime.
Despite being called a ceasefire, the arrangement is more correctly termed “low-intensity warfare,” as data of ceasefire violations gathered by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project shows:
As well, the OSCE SMM recorded 1,000 violations in the period after 27 July, the organization stated in a report.
Throughout the entire August, the daily communiqués by the press service of the Joint Forces Operation (JFO) that is in command of military, police, and special forces in the Donbas, didn’t mention any Ukrainian battle casualties and claimed that rare attacks of Russian-led forces only accounted for an unaimed fire that never threatened the Ukrainian forces. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy noted in his Independence-Day address that the ceasefire had been observed for a month and no one had died in hostilities.
At least five soldiers died in August to be listed as non-battle casualties with official causes of death such as mishandling firearms or heart attacks.
Now, JFO reported that on 6 September “the armed forces of the Russian Federation violated the agreement reached on 22 July 2020” by conducting at least four fire attacks. In Luhansk Oblast, the enemy killed one Ukrainian soldier with aimed small arms fire. Another serviceman got wounded earlier that day in an attack at the Ukrainian positions that involved a grenade machine gun near Krasnohorivka, the suburb of occupied Donetsk. The next days, 7 and 8 September, passed without casualties and ceasefire violations, according to the JFO.
The Ukrainian delegation to the Minsk group that negotiates peace for the east of Ukraine held a meeting on 6 September before the soldier was killed in the Donbas. The group led by former President Leonid Kravchuk met with Minister for Integration of Occupied Territories Oleksiy Reznikov, Minister of Defense of Ukraine Andriy Taran, and representatives of the General Staff of Ukraine.
Among the incidents they discussed was the fire attack that resulted in wounding a Ukrainian soldier. The official report on the President’s website says that participants decided that the truce wasn’t violated by “single provocations.”
“Taking into account all the circumstances of the incident, the participants of the meeting came to the conclusion that single provocations by the ORDLO (official geographical designation of the occupied territories, – Ed.) cannot and will not be grounds for disrupting the peace process. That is, the Ukrainian party will do everything to prevent the truce in Donbas from being disrupted,” the statement reads.
The Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba, also called the attacks “provocations” and said that Ukraine still adheres to the ceasefire,
Today, in the JFO zone (the warzone in the Donbas, – Ed), illegal armed groups carried out provocations, as a result of which one Ukrainian soldier was killed and one was wounded. These are obvious attempts to disrupt the ceasefire and create significant obstacles to the peace process as a whole. I emphasize that Ukraine favors an unconditional and strict adherence to the ceasefire. The path to peace and de-occupation of our territories is thorny, but it begins when weapons are silent.
The minister also assured that he is going to discuss the death of the Ukrainian soldier with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, at the upcoming talks in the Normandy Four format, which are the negotiations of leaders or foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany on the Donbas peace issues.
President Zelenskyy stated that Ukraine contacted Russia at the foreign ministry level “and not only at this one,” and that the Ukrainian authorities reacted to the “provocations” immediately, but refused to specify to the press what exactly was done. Also, he once again repeated that Ukraine remains committed to the ceasefire and will do its best to observe it,
“To be honest, I don’t see any other option to save people’s lives,” he said claiming that 42 days of non-violation of the ceasefire regime preceded the fatality at the frontline, and no soldier was killed throughout this period.
UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine Osnat Lubrani also urged the parties to observe the ceasefire further on, calling the six-week-long truce “the longest relative calm in eastern Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict.”
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