Volunteers of the InformNapalm volunteer intelligence community continue to collect data on the operational situation in Donbas, conduct OSINT monitoring of social networks and document numerous proofs of the Russian military personnel and mercenaries participating in the Russian war against Ukraine.
Reports of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in Ukraine are among the most important official sources for analyzing and comparing information. They can be compared with public statements by the Office of the President or with the data from the press service of the Joint Forces Operation (JFO) in Donbas (as we did last year during the previous “ceasefire”). Of course, many questions remain about the OSCE SMM reports, given that there is a stable large number of Russians, as well as citizens of the countries loyal to Russia among the observers of the Mission in Ukraine, which allows the aggressor country to influence the monitoring data. However, so far there is no alternative and there are no other official monitoring organizations to collect data, therefore we have to use this source of information, albeit with a pinch of salt. It is also worth remembering that very often the OSCE international observers themselves become the object of information operations of Russia and their movement in the territory controlled by the Russian occupation forces (1st and 2nd Army Corps of the Russian Armed Forces) are restricted in every possible way. And when visual contact is limited (observation cameras are turned off or disabled, and monitoring UAVs jammed by Russian electronic warfare equipment) observers often have to fully rely on sound information about explosions or small arms fire. This method has material flaws. In the absence of visual contact, the Russian troops also actively use technical assets for deception, for example, the ZS-82 sound broadcasting stations, able to simulate explosions and other sounds that can distort the real situation.
Analysis of the OSCE SMM reports from the second half of August to September 2020
InformNapalm volunteers analyzed 11 OSCE SMM reports with numbers from 199/2020 to 209/2020 for the period from August 21 to September 2, 2020. The list of links to reports is given below:
- Daily Report 199/2020 issued on 21 August 2020
- Daily Report 200/2020 issued on 22 August 2020
- Daily Report 201/2020 issued on 24 August 2020
- Daily Report 202/2020 issued on 25 August 2020
- Daily Report 203/2020 issued on 26 August 2020
- Daily Report 204/2020 issued on 27 August 2020
- Daily Report 205/2020 issued on 28 August 2020
- Daily Report 206/2020 issued on 29 August 2020
- Daily Report 207/2020 issued on 31 August 2020
- Daily Report 208/2020 issued on 1 September 2020
- Daily Report 209/2020 issued on 2 September 2020
During this period, Ukraine celebrated National Flag Day (August 23), Independence Day (August 24) and honored the memory of the fallen servicemen on Remembrance Day (August 29). The purpose of the monitoring was to analyze the key points of the reports, to identify meaningful intelligence indicators for the real current situation in the combat zone.
“Following agreement reached at the meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group on 22 July regarding additional measures to strengthen the ceasefire, from 00:01 on 27 July until the end of the reporting period, the SMM has so far recorded a total of 893 ceasefire violations, both in Donetsk and Luhansk regions (including 149 explosions, two projectiles in flight, 13 illumination flares and 729 bursts and shots)” – OSCE.
The situation in the areas of disengagement of forces and assets
“The SMM continued to monitor the security situation in and around the three pilot disengagement areas. Meanwhile, the Mission constantly recorded the presence of people in former military and military-type positions, as well as near them within the disengagement areas in the Zolote and Petrivske areas, ” – OSCE.
Let us dwell on each of the areas for the disengagement of forces and assets in more detail:
The SMM observed members of the illegal armed formations (wearing armbands with “JCCC” written on them) every day at the southern end of the new bridge span near Stanytsia Luhanska. Only one small arms shot was recorded on the evening of 24 August.
However, residents of Stanytsia Luhanska regularly write on social media about the violation of the “ceasefire regime” by the Russian occupation forces. For example, the well-known volunteer Sveta Svetikova repeatedly wrote about violations on August 27 at 21:23 and on August 30 at 6:07 and 6:40 am .
We also noticed that the OSCE SMM in its reports continues to manipulate sensitive information about the violation of the agreements on the withdrawal of weapons. We wrote about this in January 2020 and we see the same pattern again in the report for September 1, 2020 №208/2020.
It is worth reminding that according to the Minsk protocols, tanks, artillery, MLRS, tactical missiles are subject to withdrawal, whereas anti-aircraft missile systems are not regulated. Any disclosure of such irrelevant data contradicts the principles of neutrality and impartiality, which should guide the OSCE SMM in providing sensitive defense information.
Every day the SMM see members of the illegal armed formations (wearing armbands with “JCCC” written on them), alone or with people in protective gear, going 350 m deep into the disengagement area near the T1316 road.
“On the same day, outside of the disengagement area, about 100m south of its southern edge, the Mission saw 15 workers with three excavators and a truck with a trailer conducting groundworks across and along road T-1316.” – OSCE.
It should be noted that they work non-stop.
“On 26 August, outside the disengagement area, an SMM mid-range UAV spotted for the first time a new L-shaped trench (30m long) about 150m west of the area’s western edge and about 100m north of the railway tracks that pass through the disengagement area, assessed as belonging to the armed formations” – OSCE.
That is, the occupying forces continue to use the “ceasefire” to expand their strongholds and strengthen their offensive capabilities.
While monitoring the disengagement near Petrivske village, members of the Mission’s patrols normally note a calm situation there. However, long-range SMM UAVs spot from 1 to 6 people manning the former position of the illegal armed formations every night.
“On 30 August, inside the disengagement area near Petrivske (non-governmentcontrolled, 41km south of Donetsk), an SMM mini-UAV spotted construction materials with wooden logs and sandbags piled near a position of the armed formations near the area’s south-eastern corner (not seen in imagery from 20 August 2020).”
InformNapalm draws readers’ attention to the fact that during the reporting period, the OSCE SMM cameras did not work from 20 to 24 August in Zolote and from 20 August to 1 September in Petrivske. These bits of data bring us to the conclusion that the SMM has no conclusive information about what is happening in these disengagement areas. Therefore, the situation can be only nominally called “calm”, since, for example, the process of the enemy laying landmines apparently goes unnoticed.
Russian occupation forces continue to mine new areas.
On August 20 The Mission saw for the first time a new mine hazard sign (30x30cm red wooden board with “Stop Mines” in Cyrillic) attached to a tree about 20m north of a road about 1.5km north-east of Raivka (non-government-controlled, 16km north-west of Luhansk).”
On August 28 “on the western outskirts of the Trudovski microdistrict in the Petrovsky district of Donetsk SMM mini-UAV spotted for the first time 10 anti-tank mines placed in 2 rows and blocking the road leading west to Maryinka village”
Russian occupation forces continue engineering work along the entire contact line:
- near the settlement of Styla (Donetsk Oblast), probably a recent fortification of two covered trenches (20 August);
- near the settlement Golubovske (Luhansk Oblast) trench and trench extension about 175 m in length (August 22);
- near the village of Oleksandrivka (Donetsk Oblast), a trench about 25 m long (August 22);
- near the settlement Nyzhnie Lozove (Donetsk Oblast) two trenches with a total length of 170 m (23 August);
- near Pikuzy village (Donetsk Oblast) 50m trench extension (26 August);
- near Vasylivka village (Donetsk Oblast) fortification of a military-type position (August 26);
- near Staromykhaylivka village (Donetsk Oblast) 20 meter trench extension (28 August);
- near the Uzhivka village (ex. Leninske, Donetsk Oblast) 20 and 30 meter trench extension (August 29).
Restriction of freedom of movement
At the beginning of the article, we have already cited examples of constant obstruction of the OSCE SMM’s access to certain facilities or restriction of movement along the roads in the occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. In recent weeks, despite the “ceasefire regime”, the Mission has faced restrictions on freedom of movement in the occupied territory:
- August 24 near the village of Olenivka (Donetsk Oblast), at the border checkpoint near the village of Izvaryne (Luhansk Oblast) and at the border checkpoint near the settlement of Sievernyi (Luhansk Oblast);
- On August 29, at the border checkpoint near the village of Voznesenivka (formerly Chervonopartizansk, Luhansk Oblast);
- August 31 at the border checkpoint near the village of Izvaryne (Lugansk Oblast).
Reinforcement of the occupation forces
According to the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, last week, about 700 tons of fuel and 6 wagons with ammunition were delivered to formations and units of the Russian occupation forces in the occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts.
In addition, Russian mercenaries who have undergone special training in the training camps of the Southern Military District in certain military specialties (snipers, scouts, signalmen), continue to arrive from the territory of the Russian Federation to reinforce the enemy units.
The Ukrainian military men of the 503rd Separate Marine Battalion also report about the rotation in the ranks of the Russian occupation forces.
“Also on the same day, while at the railway station in Voznesenivka (formerly Chervonopartyzansk, 65km south-east of Luhansk) for about ten minutes, the SMM saw between 80 and 100 stationary empty open freight wagons and a chemical/oil rail tanker.” – OSCE.
Ammunition from Russia arrives not only by rail, but also by trucks under the cover of the so-called “humanitarian convoys”. On August 27, the 98th “humanitarian convoy” drove into the occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts.
Also, “On 27 August, the Mission observed a convoy of six covered cargo trucks with Russian Federation licence plates (with “Russian Federation humanitarian aid” written in Russian on the side) escorted by another vehicle (with “MChS” written on the side) driving near a compound in Donetsk city’s Budonivskyi district.”
This correlates well with InformNapalm’s data for August and confirms the conclusions that Russia is using the “ceasefire” to prepare for an escalation of hostilities in Donbas.
InformNapalm volunteers in their investigations have also repeatedly revealed that Russian troops are operating under the guise of “humanitarian convoys”. It was found that the military men of the Russian 108th Air Assault Regiment took part in the operation of “humanitarian convoys” in the Donbas. Also, one of the servicemen of the 22nd Special Forces Brigade of the GRU , who took part in the operation to seize Crimea, was subsequently seen as a participant of “humanitarian convoys” under the cover of the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations.
Withdrawal of weapons
Since 23 August, the OSCE SMM has been recording massive violations in the deployment of heavy weapons in the occupied territory. Large concentrations of military equipment are observed in the territories of the training grounds near the villages of Ternove (Donetsk Oblast), Bugaivka (Luhansk Oblast), Miusinsk (Luhansk Oblast), Boykivske (former Telmanove, Donetsk Oblast), Myrne (Luhansk Oblast), Kruglyk (Luhansk Oblast).
Screenshots from OSCE SMM reports
Russia continues to use the ceasefire to build up the combat capability in Donbas. Engineering work is underway, new areas of the terrain are being mined, and ammunition is constantly being replenished. Against the background of preparations for local elections in Ukraine, some politicians are trying to speculate on the topic of “achieving a consistent ceasefire regime” and “elections in Donbas”, which in fact creates a false impression among Ukrainians about the real state of affairs in the war zone. Russia is not withdrawing its weapons and equipment, it is not withdrawing its hybrid armed formations; on the contrary, it continues to reinforce and build up its forces. Therefore, any speculation about “achieving peace” is dangerous for the national security of Ukraine.
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Translated by Andrii Gryganskyi, edited by Artem Velichko. The monitoring was prepared by Victoria Volska specially for InformNapalm. Distribution and reprint with reference to the source is welcome! (Creative Commons — Attribution 4.0 International — CC BY 4.0) InformNapalm social media pages: Facebook / Twitter / Telegram