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By Chris Covert

Ukrainian forces are removing whole families from Ukrainian held Artemovsk who are suspected of being pro rebel, according to official rebel sources.

According to a news report which appeared in Gorlovka-Pravda Tuesday, Donetsk ministry of defense spokesman Lt. Colonel Eduard Basurin said that the Ukrainian SBU police agency were removing families from their homes in nearby Novoluganskoe who were suspected of having ties to the Russian backed separatists.

According to the news report, families are being removed by force under the cover of darkness without warning.

Artemovsk is a critical command and supply node for the Ukrainian effort against rebels in southeastern Ukraine. The town formerly was used as a command and supply center for forces in Debaltsevo, about 15 kilometers south of Artemovsk. The town had fallen to the rebels in February of 2015. Artemovsk is known to be populated by several Russian speaking citizens of Ukraine.

During the spring of 2015, when a drunken armored personnel carrier driver killed two civilians, a riot ensued which resulted in several private vehicles being destroyed by fire.

Ceasefire Violations

According to a report which appeared in the Russian language, pro Ukrainian website censor.net.ua, Lugansk rebels ambushed a Ukrainian army column near the Ukrainian held town of Schastye on Monday using small arms fire and RPG fire. The report characterized the column as a mobile anti-smuggling task force force.

Schastye is located on the left bank, or north side of the Northern Donetsk River, and has been held by Ukrainian forces since the fall of 2014, when the Ukrainians were forced to withdraw from Lugansk city after occupying the Lugansk airport for several days. The town later became a fortified zone for Ukrainian forces.

Since the fall of 2014, rebel forces in the area had tried repeatedly to force a decision at Schastye by gaining bridgeheads on the river to the east and west of Schastye, as a means of blocking any reinforcements to the town in the event of attack, but to little avail.

Since that time until this week, rebel forces have contented themselves with the occasional potshots at Ukrainian forces at Schastye and along other points in northern Lugansk.

According to the report, three Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in the attack.

Donetsk Ceasefire Violations

According to another report in censor.net.ua, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the quasi non government organization monitoring the ceasefire, several violations of the ceasefire were recorded in and near Donetsk city between February 28th and February 29th.

Observers from the OSCE reported from the Donetsk central railway station in Donetsk hearing mortar and artillery fire in several directions, mostly towards the west. The report doesn't make clear whether the detonations were artillery landing or being fired, but it does say that mortar fire as heard well.

The report did not say which side fired the weapons, as both sides usually fire the same weapons at one another, so it is hard to tell.

In western Donetsk, both sides hold positions in adjacent towns in western Donetsk city, and both sides continually fire occasional shots at one another.

According to rebel sources, a total of 186 ceasefire violations in the form of gunfire by the Ukrainians were recorded during the night of February 29th to March 1st.

Even during the height of the war, which has been fought under a ceasefire of one kind or another, 170 ceasefire violations is considered to be a large amount of shooting.

According to reports in the Donetsk ministry of defense website, artillery fire was concentrated in Peski, Avdievka, Opytnoye, Zaistevo, Marinka, Spartak, the airport and at the western outskirts of Donetsk city.

According to the rebels, the Ukrainians fired 82mm and 120mm mortar fire, as well as guns from the BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles and presumably the 23/2mm antiaircraft machine cannon, as well as small arms and RPG fire.

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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