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By Chris Covert
Rantburg.com

Russian backed rebels temporarily rejected proposals on Monday for a local ceasefire to allow the restarting of a water filtration plant. The water plant is now under fire because of fighting near Yasinovataya, according to Russian language news accounts.

The water plant, which serves more than 440,000 residences, has been shut down for two days because the plant came under mortar fire. According to data supplied by regnum.ru Russian language news outlet, among the towns in rebel territory affected by the shutdown are Donetsk city, Yasinovataya, Vasilevka and Spartak. Towns in Ukrainian held territory affected by the shutdown include Advievka, Krasnogolovka and Verhnetoretskoe.

The rebels say the mortar fire is coming from the Ukrainian side, while the Ukrainians say it was rebel mortar fire which forced the plant to shut down.

Proposals coming from Ukrainian and Russian military observers with the Joint Center for Coordination and Control, an organization set up by the September, 2014 ceasefire, had been rejected by rebel officials without explanation. The problem with the proposed ceasefire, according to a news account which appeared in tsensor.net, was rebel guarantees for the safety of inspectors for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to come to the area.

Ukrainian media charged that rebels had rejected a local ceasefire in the area so they can buy time to hide heavy weapons the Ukrainians say are in the area including 122mm artillery, as well as 82mm and 120mm mortars. All of those weapons are forbidden in the line of contact.

The latest report is that the OSCE have received their safety guarantees and will appear in the area first thing Tuesday morning.

An informal account posted on reserve FSB Colonel Igor Girkin's VKontakte page by a Russian writer identified as Egor Zemtsov tells of Ukrainian attempts to penetrate zones held by rebel troops around Yasinovataya. Artillery duels between the two combatants continue with rebel artillery firing in a counterbattery role. Rebel reports say Ukrainian artillery sited at Opytnoye, Peski and Avdievka are doing most of the firing at Yasinovataya as well as in Donetsk city.

The report says that losses on both sides are increasing. "There are dead and wounded," Zemtsov wrote.

Another report by an unidentified resident, presumably with some military experience said that Ukrainians are jamming rebel radio communications.

A Live Journal account posted by an individual identified as Kharkova said that the Ukrainians have thrown into operations one battalion of the Ukrainian 25th Airmobile Brigade, including one six gun battery of 122mm artillery. The artillery unit, said the report, is expected to go into action on the night of March 13th to March 14th, to support attacks on rebel positions at Yasinovataya.

The battle in Yasinovataya had been running for more than a week when Ukrainian forces, part of the Ukrainian 58th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade moved three rifle companies (about 350 effectives) and their heavy vehicles into a neutral zone between Gorlovka, which is to the northeast, and Advievka, which is to the southwest, and, according to rebel media, started firing on rebel troops.

Rebel officials have characterized the move as a "creeping offensive", a slow moving operation meant to apply pressure on rebel forces to back away from their positions.

As rebel reports previously established, rebel forces held a line along a road junction which splits into two roads: highway E50, which runs into Gorlovka, and H20, which communicates to points northwest, including into Ukrainian held territory. The result has been massive auto and foot traffic tie ups in rebel held territory.

The rebels have held a checkpoint near the road junction which has been under mortar and direct gun fire since last week. That checkpoint was shut down several days ago. Now, local residents have no road to travel into Gorlovka, and those who wish to travel to Konstantinovka, which is northwest of Gorlovka, must take a longer, more circuitous route.

According to a news account in Gorlovka Pravda, automobile traffic between Donetsk city and Gorlovka is severely restricted, while foot traffic to Gorlovka, which has to go around from the contested E50/H20 road junction, involves more delays. The report says that people traveling by road are being forced to travel into Lugansk which entails further delays through more rebel checkpoints.

Ukrainian Ceasefire Violations

Rebel military officials say that Ukrainian forces have fired on rebel troops nearly 300 times in the last 24 hours, with nearly all the activity concentrated in Yasinovataya and in western Doentsk city. According to official rebel reports, Ukrainian forces fired on rebel positions near Yasinovataya using mortar and tank gunfire.

According to a separate rebel defense ministry news release, Ukrainian forces fired into the northern village of Zaistevo, which is a suburb of Gorlovka, using 82mm mortars and small arms fire. According to Gorlovka Pravda, a total of 10 residences were damaged by the nighttime shelling, with two destroyed. The firing came from three directions, according to the Gorlovka Pravda news report.

Two unidentified rebel soldiers were wounded in the shelling, according to Donetsk ministry of defense officials.

Rebel officials charged the the Ukrainian ministry of defense is deliberately falsely stated casualties in the fighting at Yasinovataya, now standing, according to rebel estimates, at 31 dead and 72 wounded.

Although officially, rebel military officials have not admitted to any combat deaths, unofficially rebel troops are suffering from mortar and sniper fire, with at least two dead and three wounded in Yasinovataya alone on Monday, with hints of more.

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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