Thought I give a brief summary of the 3 disengagement areas in eastern Ukraine, with all have established in 2019. Within Ukraine there has been a certain amount of disquiet about the withdrawals, with some seeing them as the country having made concessions to Russia. Header pic – Mines and shells removed from Petrivske disengagement area.
First Disengagement area was established at Stanytsia Luhanska.
In Ukraine’s Luhansk Oblast (province), this front line crossing, is only 9km from the occupied city of Luhansk.
In 2015, a section of the raised road leading to the bridge over the Siverskyi Donetsk River was blown up by Russia’s forces. Since then, the thousands of people using the crossing every week, had to negotiate the two flimsy wooden ramps seen below.
Yellow square marks the damaged road section. Russia’s forces control everything back (left) from the damaged section, inc the metal bridge over the Siverskyi Donetsk River.
In June 2019, both sides agreed a localised ceasefire. They’ve since dismantled their military positions on the bridge and pulled back from the immediate area. With the ceasefire having held for a while, Ukraine said it would reconstruct the bridge. As you can see from the below image taken today, the areas been transformed. New bridge is finished and vicinity cleared of vegetation, old bridge remnants and importantly mines and unexploded shells. Once all is finished the new bridge will be opened and temp wooden bridge seen on the left will be dismantled. This is only used as a pedestrian crossing.
Probably because it’s such a busy crossing point, over recent years there’s never been a great deal of firing here. Since the disengagement, none has been reported, but some has been noted a few km away.
2nd Disengagement area is near the group of Zolote settlements.
In contrast to Stanytsia Luhanska, this is very much a front line hot spot. Again located in the Luhansk Oblast, it’s 55km west of Luhansk city. In late Oct, both sides agreed to a local ceasefire and began pulling back their forces approx 1.5km, along a 4km front.
Zolote marked by red square.
Below, I’ve outlined the rough disengagement area in red. The yellow line marks the separation line of each sides territory withing the disengagement area. Zolote is made up of 5 settlements, 4 of which are in Ukrainian held territory. Outlying part of the Zolote-4 (sometimes called Rodina) settlement now finds itself within the disengagement area. On the occupied side, the withdrawal hasn’t made a great deal of difference. Russia’s forces have abandoned their forward trenches and pulled back south, closer the large town of Pervomainsk – east (right) of Molodizhne village.
On the front line, Ukraine holds Zolote, Katerynivka and town of Popasna. Seen below in red, I’ve marked the populated area within the disengagement area. However, it’s not as bad as it looks. The disused rail line (yellow) makes for a convenient stopping point which should help prevent any accidental wanderings into the area by Russia’s forces. The Ukrainian held territory is also on a ridge, so observing Russia’s forces activity is a little easier. Ukrainian police and national guard units are patrolling the disengagement area, but I suspect they’ll keep to the populated areas.
Now the bad news.
Since the withdrawal, there’s been a good deal of firing in the vicinity. Both sides have accused each other of firing and breaking the ceasefire. Majority of firing, which includes a good deal of mortar fire, has been observed just outside the disengagement area, notably near Popasna. With mine clearance and dismantling of military positions still taking place, we can only hope things settle down once all that is finished.
The third Disengagement location is at village of Petrivske.
Some 31km south of the occupied city of Donetsk, the area is somewhat remote. The pull back entailed a simple 1km withdrawal of Ukrainian forces back towards the village of Bohdanivka. For Russia’s forces the distance was shorter, back to outskirts of Petrivske & sm settlement of Viktorivka. There are no populated areas within disengagement zone.
Close-up view of the area. Ukraine holds Bohdanivka.
Withdrawal started Nov 9th. Demining is reported as completed and dismantling of military positions is underway. However, all did not go smoothly. As we’ve seen in Zolote there has been some firing, mostly from heavy and light machine guns, but including some mortar fire.
In addition as seen below, on Nov 10th, Russia’s forces fired two anti-tank rockets at a military truck, just outside Bohdanivka. 4 Ukrainian soldiers were reported wounded in the attack. Read my earlier post on this incident.
Friday Nov 15th, the Ukrainian army again reported more provocation fire from Russia’s forces. Using their below military map, the Red arrows indicate direction of heavy machine fire from occupied Petrivske and Viktorivka. Blue lines mark out the disengagement area. Darker central Red line the overall front line. Green line on right, the former Ukrainian front line trenches. Green line on the left, the new Ukrainian front line positions, nearer Bohdanivka.
Again as with Zolote, we can but hope things eventually settle down. One note of caution. Russia’s Donetsk puppet republic is notorious for its fake news output about the Ukrainian army, far more than in occupied Luhansk. Russia’s forces there are also more prone to firing and launching provocation attacks. So, I suspect they’ll keep up the firing and propaganda output for a while yet.