Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 28.01.2019
As the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine enters its sixth year, Putin’s invasion army in Donbas is planting mines along the battlefront and in civilian areas behind it. In the temporarily occupied territory, the Russians recklessly endanger the lives and health of Ukrainians. Planting landmines and anti-personnel mines where there are non-combatants is a war crime, for which Putin is ultimately responsible.
OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) teams attempt to assess compliance with the Minsk Agreement ceasefire, but they are severely hampered in the temporarily occupied territories of Luhansk and Donetsk regions by Russian occupation troops. Occasionally they are able to take observations before being warned away by members of illegal armed formations.
On January 25, the OSCE SMM observed mine hazard signs in new locations. Their report on the day reads: “About 3km north of Lyse (non-government-controlled, 22km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM observed a mine hazard sign for the first time, written in Russian and placed about 2m north of the road.”
This road north of the village of Lyse is deep in Russian-occupied territory, 16 kilometres beyond the half-destroyed bridge over the Siverskyi Donets River at Stanytsia Luhansk which is the “safe crossing” through the battlefront in this sector. To plant mines in this place shows a callous disregard for human life by the Russian invaders.
In a section of their report on denial of access, the OSCE SMM reports how teams are unable to do their jobs because of all the Russian mines. The bridge over the Siverskyi Donets River at Shchastia is free of mines on the liberated Ukrainian side but lousy with them on the Russian-occupied side. The OSCE SMM report reads: :The SMM did not travel across the bridge in Shchastia (government-controlled, 20km north of Luhansk) due to the presence of mines. A Ukrainian Armed Forces officer of the JCCC said there were mines on the road south of the bridge.” The JCCC is the Joint Center for the Control and Coordination, a military monitoring mission from which the Russians withdrew.
Officers of the Ukrainian military continue to pursue the mandate of the JCCC. They diligently record violations of the Mink Agreement and war crimes. The asymmetry of Russia’s war against Ukraine in Donbas is remarkable. Ukraine observes the ceasefire one-sidedly while the Russian Federation violates it regularly and with impunity. On the liberated, free Ukraine side of the battlefront demining and clearance of unexploded ordnance is being carried out aggressively. On the Russian-occupied side Putin’s army is planting mines and making no effort to demine areas such as the south side of the Shchastia bridge or the south end of the yet-to-be-opened Zolote vehicle crossing.
The Joint Forces Operation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine issued a statement: “The Ukrainian side of the JCCC noted that soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, staff of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine and representatives of the civil and military administrations of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts make every effort to return Donbas to peaceful life. For this purpose, systematic work is carried out on the detection, removal and destruction of explosive ordnance, including artillery shells, mortar mines, grenades, in the area near the line of demarkation of the parties.”
“Unfortunately, peaceful initiatives in this direction are manifested exclusively by the Ukrainian side, while the occupation administration and armed forces of the Russian Federation demonstrate only an interest in further escalating the conflict and worsening the humanitarian situation in Donbas.” This is the state of the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine.