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The chief of the Ukrainian Army general staff Lt. General Viktor Muzhenko said that the occupation of the western part of Shirokino starting last spring and ending with the rebel withdrawing from that town was a "publicity stunt and no more", according to a Russian language news account which appeared in 0629.ua.com.

Last winter, western parts of the former resort town were occupied by elements of the "Azov" Regiment in counter to its occupation by rebel forces during the the rebel winter offensives. Reports at the time said that only a tiny part of the town was occupied by Ukrainian forces, and despite near constant artillery attacks from both sides, the battle for Shirokino remained a stalemate until last July when rebel forces, as a gesture of good will, abandoned the town.

Shirokino was a major focus of rebel forces during the winter months as battles raged near Donetsk city and Debaltasevo.

Despite rebels abandoning the town in order to get the Ukrainians to agree to its demilitarization, Ukrainian commanders instead moved parts of a naval infantry regiment in town and reinforced it with tanks and artillery. The marine unit is on a different level than the volunteer Azov regiment, General Muzhenko said.

This writer has since read about only two attempts by rebel forces to fight the marines in the town, but with no apparent effort to actually retake it.

General Muzhenko said that the occupation of Shirokino by Azov "created more problems than positives."

He added that control of the heights around Shirokino has made the defense of Mariupol, which is only a few kilometers to the west, a much easier task.

Chris Covert writes about foreign military issues for Rantburg.com. He can be reached at grurkka@gmail.com and on Twitter. You can read past articles about the 2014 war in southeastern Ukraine by clicking here.

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