Ukrainian commanders reject joint patrols of Shirokin subject logo: DONBASWAR
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By Chris Covert

A suggestion by a Ukrainian general for joint patrols of Shirokino was rejected by Ukrainian ministry of defense officials, according to Russian language news accounts.

Deputy commander of the Ukrainian Anti Terrorist Operation (ATO) in southeastern Ukraine, General Major Aleksandr Rozmaznin suggested on Tuesday in a television interview the possibility of joint patrols of Shirokino after a similar suggestion was made by negotiators in Minsk last month.

But according to a news report which appeared in, Ukrainian ATO commanders say the demilitarization of Shirokino only applied to heavy weapons, not to troops, a suggestion which could have implications for further combat in southern Donetsk.

The original proposal to demilitarize Shirokino was made in June during discussions between Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, when agreement was reached for an August 3rd deadline to demilitarize Shirokino. Shirokino has been a focus of combat between the Ukrainians and rebel forces since last February. Rebel forces controlled 90 percent of the former resort town on the Sea of Azov until Ukrainian forces, mainly elements of the volunteer "Azov" battalion took over western sectors. Shirokino rests in a hollow with hills to the north, east and west overlooking the town, useful for artillery observers for both sides. Since February Shirokino had been under near constant artillery fire, including tank gun fire from both sides.

Ukrainian commanders expressed worries that Shirokino would be used as a springboard to take the much larger city of Mariupol to the west. Mariupol is now heavily fortified by Ukrainian forces.

Rebel commanders unilaterally withdrew their forces from Shirokino July 2nd, moving those forces into other locations to the east including Sahanka, which recently has been fired on by Ukrainian artillery. Since then both sides have stayed away from the location, though both sides have accused the other of having forces in the town.

On Monday an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observer was wounded, reported at the time as a rifle/grenade attack. Now rebel media is claiming that the OSCE observer was struck by Ukrainian artillery, a charge that the Ukrainians have yet to address.

According to data supplied by the Donetsk ministry of defense, Lt. Colonel Eduard Basurin said Wednesday that Ukrainian mortar fire struck the observer in an attempt to mask the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces in the town. Although neither side has agreed to anything regarding Shirokino, rebels expected the town to remain clear of all Ukrainian forces, even police presence, which was reported only hours after rebel forces had withdrawn.

Now, according to Lt. Colonel Dmitry Gutsulyak, a staff officer with the Ukrainian main command for combat operations in Donetsk and Lugansk, the naval infantry unit which arrived in Mariupol July 27th will be deployed in Shirokino.

Lt. Colonel Gutsulyak said, according to a news account in, that the naval infantry unit would be defending Shirokino along with a "permanent OSCE observation post" and "joint center for control and coordination of the cease-fire."

The naval infantry unit near Shirokino could be a problem for rebel commanders. Last February, only two weeks before the second iteration of the Minsk ceasefire took place, rebels began a defensive operation which eventually led to the capture of Debaltsevo. Though that operation extended beyond the February 15th activation date of the ceasefire, now called Minsk II, rebel forces continued fighting until Debaltsevo fell into rebel hands, with resulting heavy losses for both sides.

Fighting in Donetsk

Artillery fire and direct fire incidents halved Tuesday with artillery fire reported in western suburbs of Donetsk, Spartak and at the airport.

According to data supplied by the Donetsk ministry of defense, western sectors of Gorlovka were struck by artillery fire originating in Dzherzinsk Wednesday. The mayor of Gorlovka, Anatoly Kopylov, was quoted in the official news release suggesting structures were set afire by the latest attack, and that there may be more civilian casualties.

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

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