2020 Summary of Fighting on Europe’s Front Line in Ukraine

To give you a handle on how 2020 is going so far, here’s my summary.

Starting with 2019.
Dec 9th saw a Normandy Format Summit in Paris. As the below picture shows, it was attended by Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy, Germany’s Chancellor Merkel, France’s President Macron & Putin. Although I’d like to say something positive about the event, it was as most people predicated, a damp squib. The whole event was high on French pomp and ceremony, but zero substance. The only plus point, was Zelenskyy & Putin meeting for the first time.

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We got:

1: All Sides committed to a full ceasefire before the end of 2019.
But, like all previously agreed ceasefires, this one was immediately broken by Russia-led forces in Ukraine.

2: A new demining plan is to be created.
Ukraine has been demining and clearing rear areas, but along the roughly 500km front line, both sides continue to lay mines & explosive devices and the OSCE routinely report seeing large numbers of new mines. Eastern Ukraine now has the unenviable label of having become one of the most mine invested regions in the world. So until the conflict stops, no significant demining and clearing of unexploded ordnance can take place.

3: A new prisoner swap was agreed on by the end of 2019.
Although prisoner exchanges are welcome, they achieve little in terms of resolving the conflict. Russia agreeing to release a few prisoners is seen as a cheap gesture to appease France and Germany, to give those countries at least one successful outcome to point too.

4: Ukraine and Russia agreed to increase the mandate of the OSCE’s monitoring mission, and allow it to monitor the conflict zone 24/7.
Like the ceasefire agreement, this is another meaningless agreement that Putin has already shown he has no intention of keeping. As seen below, every single day, Russian-led forces in Ukraine block, hinder and harass OSCE monitors. And since Dec 9th, they’ve carried on doing it.

5: New front line civilian crossing points were discussed to ease the humanitarian situation in the east of Ukraine. Nice, but wont happen anytime soon.

For more info on the Summit, check out this Forbes article.

The Conflict.
Here I’ve used the OSCE fortnightly reports.
The good news is, there has been a welcome drop off in the level of firing, but there is undoubtedly no ceasefire. There is however, a widely held belief that the Kremlin keeps the firing/conflict ticking over, but never with enough intensity to attract any significant media coverage. Worth noting that wintertime and the arrival of heavy snow usually brings a reduction in the overall firing, so we must be cautious into reading too much into this firing reduction. One thing we have seen this year, is a significant increase in the use of mortar fire by Russia-led forces. This increase has inflicted a high level of Ukrainian military casualties.

January/Feb 2020: Total of 1 civilian killed and 9 injured. 
January/Feb 2020: At least 12 Ukrainian soldiers killed & 42 wounded.

Dec 9th 2019 to Jan 12th 2020.
Ceasefire violations: 16,000 (incidents of firing and explosions).
Weapons Violations: 87 by Ukrainian military & 24 by Russia-led forces.
These violations are either heavy weapons seen on/near the front line, or military vehicles seen parked near civilian property.
Civilian Casualties: 2 killed and 3 injured.
OSCE Movement Restrictions: 103 times, with 100 of them by Russian-led forces.
These restrictions usually occur at checkpoints when soldiers refuse to let OSCE patrols pass or when Russia-backed forces order OSCE monitors to leave an area, usually when on/near the Ukrainian/Russian border.
UAV Interference: 62 incidents of firing at or jamming of OSCE UAV.

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Jan 13th to 26th.
Ceasefire violations: 8,800.
Weapons Violations: 11 by Ukrainian military & 62 in Russian-led forces.
Civilian Casualties: 1 killed and 6 injured. All from mines and explosive devices.
Two elderly people died of natural causes whilst waiting to cross through front line checkpoints. Sadly such deaths are a regular occurrence.
OSCE Movement Restrictions: 56 times. All by Russia-led forces.
OSCE reference 6 incidents when Russia-led forces stopped them gaining access to the Petrivske disengagement area and their static camera there.
UAV Interference: 48 incidents of firing at or jamming.

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And bringing us up to date, Jan 27th to Feb 9th.
Ceasefire violations: 8,500.
Weapons Violations: 3 in Ukraine held territory & 23 in Russian-backed territory.
Civilian Casualties: 3 injured.
OSCE Movement Restrictions: 55 times. 50 of them by Russia-backed forces.
UAV Interference: 47 incidents of firing at or jamming.

OSCE report Jan 2020

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