In 2016, an agreement on the start of disengagement of forces and means at three sites in Donbas was signed in Minsk. In the same year, the first of disengagement took place in Petrovske and Zolote. Attempts to separate forces and armaments in the area of Stanytsia Luhanska turned out to be unsuccessful until June 26, 2019. Now the ORDLO militants again hinder the disengagement process in Petrovske and Zolote, firing on these settlements.
In addition, the media reported on a new variant of the separation of parties, according to which Shyrokine, Pisky Granitne and a number of other settlements controlled by Kyiv could become “gray”. The implementation of this project can directly affect the interests of people living near the front line.
How it all began
On September 21, 2016, representatives of the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk signed a framework agreement on the separation of forces and means in Donbas. It was noted that the designated three security zones with an area of at least 2 per 2 square km should be created in the area of Zolote, Petrovske and Stanytsia Luhanska settlements. This was an addition to the protocol of September 5, 2014, the memorandum of September 19, 2014 and the package of measures to implement the Minsk agreements of February 12, 2015.
It was noted that the disengagement of the parties begins on the seventh day after peace is maintained on this particular site and there is no shelling.
The document stated that if the OSCE SMM fixes a ceasefire violation in a breeding area lasting more than two hours, or repeated ceasefire violations in the same area recorded during the next day after the noted violation, the process of disengagement of forces and means may be suspended, and parties return to their original positions.
Violations at the disengagement site include:
- advancement of forces and means in separation areas;
- the location of forces and / or means in separation areas;
- shelling or mining of the separation site;
- restriction of the freedom of movement of OSCE SMM observers, including denial of access to separation sites;
- creating interference in order to prevent the use of technical means necessary for monitoring and verification of the separation of forces and means.
In 2016, the first stage of disengagement in Petrovske and Zolote took place. Later, the Ukrainian army and militants returned to their positions in these settlements. Initially, the OSCE was not able to fulfill its duties in the area of Petrovske / Bohdanivka site and assets due to possible mining of the territory, and later the SMM reported restricting access to the separation of forces and means in Donbas.
As for the troops withdrawal in the area of Stanytsia Luhanska , for a long time all attempts at achieve this were unsuccessful: the militants repeatedly fired on the positions of Ukrainian military in the indicated area.
And only on June 26, 2019 the first stage of the withdrawal of troops was implemented in Stanytsia Luhanska.
Troops withdrawal in Stanytsia Luhanska
After the announcement of the start of disangagement process on June 26, the Ukrainian military and militants for several days moved away from their previous positions.
"The Armed Forces of Ukraine carried out work on the dismantling of fortifications and demining of the adjacent territory, and representatives of the militants began to equip a new checkpoint infrastructure outside the breeding site," the OSCE report says.
On 30 June, the OSCE SMM confirmed the withdrawal of forces and means in the area of Stanytsia Luhanska .
The deputy commander of the JFO, Major General Bogdan Bondar, said that breeding is not the detriment, but the benefit of the Ukrainian army.
“We do not withdraw troops from the Stanytsia Luhanska and do not worsen the situation of our units. On the contrary, this movement to better positions allows us to more effectively control this sector. We must understand that this is a semicircle with a radius of 1 km. We often have units on the contact line at a greater distance from each other — 1 km and 400 m, depending on the situation. If we look at the unit that we moved, then the positions there were located 300 meters from the enemy and were constantly fired, one soldier died. Now we have made a semi-circle, which will effectively control the territory,"- Bondar said.
He also explained that the withdrawal comes from the middle of the Siversky Donets River, so the militants are leaving the lane, which, in accordance with the Minsk agreements, should be under the control of Ukraine.
"The enemy was on our side. If we really leave for 250-300 m, then they leave for 1500-1600 m. We throw them out of the bridgehead that they occupied here," said the deputy commander of the JFO.
President of Ukraine Zelensky said that the withdrawal of troops in Stanytsia Luhanska happened due to the unblocking of the Minsk process. The President added that this is the first step towards stabilizing the situation in Donbas and ceasefire. He is convinced that this could be the beginning of the completion of the "hot phase of the war."
Now the first stage of the troop withdrawal is fully completed in the Stanytsia Luhanska. The process of dismantling of engineering structures is still ongoing.
Petrovske and Zolote
At a meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk on October 1, the parties agreed to begin the withdrawal of troops in Zolote and Petrovske. Later, OSCE Special Representative for the Tripartite Contact Group on Ukraine Martin Sajdik said that the separation of forces in Zolote and Petrovske will begin on Monday, October 7. But the disengagement did not start, since the indicated settlements were fired by militants.
The deputy head of the National Police, Vadym Troyan, said that after the disengagement, 122 houses will be in front of the Armed Forces position in Zolote.
The battalion commander from the 93rd brigade, Serhiy Plakhotnyk, stated that the problem of troops withdrawal at the Petrovske site in the Donetsk region is that the Ukrainian military will truly abandon their positions and the militants will supposedly imitate a withdrawal.
In turn, the leader of the National Corps party and the first commander of the Azov regiment, Andriy Biletsky, arrived in Zolote in the Luhansk region, where he announced his readiness to "defend the village" in the event of the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops.
Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Ruslan Khomchak, said that "the new positions of Ukrainian military will be where they were in 2016, when the first separation of forces took place in the said area."
It is noted that mine clearance will be carried out in the indicated territories and the number of shelling will decrease. Disengagement is also aimed at preserving the lives of servicemen, because it significantly reduces the possibility of aimed fire from small arms. Police units remain in the demarcation area. Moreover, number of police units in these areas are increasing.
Also, the Ukrainian composition of the JCCC is being strengthened to monitor the fulfillment of separation conditions together with the OSCE. Civil-military cooperation units will continue to cooperate with local authorities in the framework of ongoing humanitarian projects, so that Ukrainian citizens in the areas have essential items for life.
The project of Radio Liberty, "Donbas.Realities", citing its own sources, reports that there is a draft map of the withdrawal of troops and it can be supplemented or modified. According to this map, the demilitarized zone will fully include, in particular, the following settlements: Shyrokine, Pavlopil, Pisky, Opytne, Svitlodarsk, Krymske, Luhanske, Katerynivka and Granitne. Particularly demilitarized will be, in particular, Talakivka, Berdyanske, Starohnativka and Zaitseve (i.e. the line will go right along them).
The implementation of this project can directly affect the interests of people living near the front line.