With the antiterrorist operation having been reformatted into the Joint Forces Operation in eastern Ukraine, the Russian occupation troops have grown significantly more active. Correspondingly, the number of shellings as well as military and civilian fatalities has increased. For example, look at reports from recent days:
“Intense fighting continued in Svitlodarsk, Horlivka, Donetsk, and Mariupol directions. The Russian occupying forces violated the cease-fire regime on 55 occasions, of which 19 occasions saw use of weapons prohibited by the Minsk Agreements. Units of the Joint Forces conducted active defense and gave an adequate response to the enemy,” the Joint Forces (JF) press center said on May 21.
“During the past 24 hours of May 19, the situation in the operational area of the Joint Forces remained difficult. The whole contact line saw ongoing intense battles. The Russian occupying forces violated the cease-fire regime on 58 occasions, of which 22 occasions saw use of 122 millimeter artillery as well as 120 and 82 millimeter mortars. Units of the JF have stood firm, held the line, and kept their positions intact,” reads the JF press center’s Facebook report.
“At about 2 a.m. on May 18, militants fired on Troitske, the Luhansk oblast. According to preliminary data, two civilian residents of Troitske have died, and two more have been injured.” This is reported by the headquarters of the Joint Forces Operation. As a result of this terrorist attack on a peaceful village, a father and his 13-year-old son have been killed, while his wife and eldest son were in grave condition in the hospital.
Two Ukrainian soldiers died in the combat zone in the Donbas on May 16, while four others were injured, the headquarters of the JF Operation reports. According to these data, the situation has worsened, with the Russian occupying forces violating the regime of cease-fire on 66 occasions, of which 25 occasions involved use of mortars, artillery and rocket launchers of the BM-21 Grad type.
In connection with the situation, JF Commander Serhii Naiev has released his statement: “Unfortunately, recent days were full of tragedies. Human lives were cut short, houses were destroyed; the children studying at the Svitlodarsk School have not been harmed, in fact, only thanks to God’s providence. The JF command has made a number of decisions and given the necessary instructions, the implementation of which will improve the security situation and avoid casualties among civilians, both those living in the immediate vicinity of the Ukrainian troops’ positions and in the localities temporarily occupied by the forces of the aggressor country. Ukrainian soldiers have never used civilians as a human shield or considered them as a target of attack.”
Another dangerous signal is sent by the situation in the Azov Sea. On May 20, the Russians closed 2,000 square kilometers of the Azov Sea for Ukrainian shipping in an ultimatum-like manner, the TSN reported. The supposed reason is them holding some test firings. In some forbidden areas, the distance to the Ukrainian coast is no more than 10 miles, which is a violation of the Convention on the Law of the Sea.
What is the reason for the Russian occupation troops growing more active on land and at sea lately?
“THE OCCUPIERS ARE TRYING TO DISCREDIT THE JF OPERATION”
Yurii KLYMENKO, deputy head for security and public order of the Luhansk Regional Military-Civil Administration:
“The worsening situation on the line of contact is, in my opinion, linked to the implementation of the Law on the Beginning of the JF Operation. The enemy is trying to exert pressure on us in this way, I mean by launching more attacks, including against civilian targets. The occupiers are trying to discredit the JF Operation. The details of this operation were revealed by JF Commander Naiev. Now the control over the restoration of the nation’s territorial integrity has shifted from the Security Service of Ukraine to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. But this does not mean that the Ukrainian military will ride on tanks to liberate Luhansk or Donetsk right now. Of course, the main task is the restoration of sovereignty, the de-occupation of Ukrainian territories. But nobody is going to risk the lives of our citizens. Therefore, this should involve a set of measures, of both diplomatic and military nature.
“Recently, I and the JF commander reopened a gas pipeline in the Luhansk oblast, which had been cut by the occupiers’ shells. The rebuilding of a bridge in the village of Troitske, which was also damaged by the enemy back in 2016, is in its final stage as well. All this is done in stages, but as you can see, it is not about developing an offensive, but about consistent actions of a constructive nature. Meanwhile, law-enforcement agencies are collecting evidence of crimes committed by the occupiers, in particular against the civilian population. The regional military-civil administration regularly provides relevant materials to the Prosecutor General’s Office. No such crime will be forgotten. The Prosecutor General’s Office, in turn, is preparing a package of documents proving the crimes that were committed by the Russian occupation troops.”
Admiral Ihor KABANENKO, a defense and security expert, politician:
“Indicators of a maritime crisis are creeping up: on May 18 this year, Russia declared a danger area in the Sea of Azov in connection with military exercises, which intrudes into the territorial sea of Ukraine – an integral part of the territory of Ukraine, the right to which is enshrined in Articles 2 and 3 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and defined by the Decree of the President of Ukraine No. 515, issued in 1999. That is, the area which Russia has closed overlaps with the territory of Ukraine. In essence, this is an intended hybrid military invasion, which needs to be responded to primarily in political and diplomatic ways. Unfortunately, the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine has been silent about it for three days already...
“The second aspect is the practical realization of this intent, which depends on a number of military-political, physical-geographical and other conditions. Russia can begin military exercises in the defined area, including live-fire exercises and maneuvers near the territorial sea of Ukraine, that is, it can carry out provocative actions. Nothing stops it from doing this. This is problematic enough in itself, but there is another, more serious issue. I mean warships crossing the maritime state border of Ukraine. It will become an actual invasion, even if disguised as ‘innocent passage’ (it was a well-known naval tactics in the past). This is a matter of principle, because a passage is not innocent if it is “prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State” (Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea). Do the Kremlin leaders take it into account? Of course they do, and they try to calculate the possible consequences of the actions or inaction of the Ukrainian side as well. With all that diversity, each of the possible scenarios has at least one strategic feature of the crisis response in common, namely, this will be the moment of truth regarding adequateness of Ukraine’s response capability to neutralize the worst scenarios coming from the sea direction...
“I have repeatedly spoken to The Day, providing advice on the protection of Ukraine’s national interests at sea, starting with the necessity of forming appropriate naval groups to conduct sea patrols and other aspects. Unfortunately, my advice has remained unheeded, and as of today, we can rely only on the State Border Guard Service in responding to this activity in the Sea of Azov, since that service alone has a boat force in place capable of patrolling the edge of the territorial sea in the Russian Federation’s exercise area and carrying out other crisis response measures. At the same time, it should be recalled that we have six boats of the Giurza-M class safely anchored at the piers of Odesa, which would be useful in that hot spot. American Island-class boats would help as well, but they have not yet been received because of the Ukrainian side being slow to act...”