Every year, the OSCE produce a Trends and Observations report on the conflict in eastern Ukraine. This data is compiled by OSCE patrols, UAV, fixed camera’s located at firing hot spots, and monitors stationed near the front line who observe and hear firing incidents.
So what does the below 2019 report tell us?
Link for OSCE report in English, Ukrainian and Russian.
Ceasefire Violations – That’s incidents of firing to you and me.
Total of 299,633 (2,500 involved live firing exercises behind the front line).
That’s a small 4% reduction compared to 2018 & 25% compared to 2017. So not much of a reduction, but welcome all the same. Around 55% of all violations occur during the night.
Total of 148 casualties: 19 killed and 129 injured.
There has been a steady drop in casualties since 2016; this due to the reduction in use of heavy artillery. Casualties occur due to shelling/firing and explosions from mines and unexploded ordnance. Eastern Ukraine is now ranked as one of the most mine infested areas in the world.
2016: 442 casualties.
Explosions Attributable to Heavy Weapons firing.
This is fire from tanks, heavy artillery and mortars.
Total of 3,373 explosions.
Although you’d be forgiven for thinking that this explosion figure is low, both sides also use Rocket-propelled grenade launchers (anti-tank rockets) and automatic grenade launchers. Used against military vehicles, anti-tank rockets are also the weapon of choice for when targeting bunkers.
Use of such heavy weapons on the front line is banned under the Feb 2015 Minsk II agreement; signed by both Russia and Ukraine, it states… Sides must – Pull-out all heavy weapons to equal distance with the aim of creation of a security zone of minimum 50 kilometres (31 miles) apart for artillery of 100mm calibre or more, and a security zone of 70 kilometres (43 miles) for multiple rocket launchers (MRLS) and 140 kilometres (87 miles) for MLRS Tornado-S, Uragan, Smerch, and Tochka U tactical missile systems.
Weapons in Violation of the Withdrawal Lines.
This refers to the above distances in which heavy weapons are not permitted.
Total of 3,661 weapons violations.
As is now typical, 75% of violations were committed by Russia-led forces.
OSCE Freedom of Movement Restrictions.
This refers to Patrols being stopped/delayed by soldiers, usually at checkpoints.
Total of 1.013 restrictions.
Again, as is now typical, 90% of all restrictions were imposed by Russia-led soldiers.
OSCE stress these are incidents unrelated to any restrictions due to danger from mines etc.
70% outright denials of access.
This is likely to be because military hardware and convoys are nearby, or military forces are in the border area.
13% of patrols were delayed.
Delays usually occur due to hardware and convoys needing to be moved/hidden before OSCE patrols are allowed to proceed.
4% of patrols had their access conditioned.
OSCE routinely report Russia-led soldiers demanding to see OSCE monitors patrol route itinerary, or demand to check the inside of their vehicles. This is probably another form of delaying tactic.
13% is marked as Other.
This 13% may refer to incidents where OSCE monitors are told by Russia-led forces to leave an area, usually on/near the Ukrainian border. Might also refer to the farce where Russia-led soldiers routinely stop OSCE patrols claiming it’s due to “demining activity.” But then the OSCE watch the same soldiers letting civilian vehicles through the same checkpoint.
Lastly, in March and July we had two Ceasefire Re-commitments.
These new ceasefire agreements are considered to be something of a joke, as each year, all get broken after a few weeks. A case in point is the agreement signed in Dec 2019. Thus far 2020 has seen some intense levels of firing, with large scale use of mortar fire.