Kyiv, March 25, 2016. Russia is preparing to restore active hostilities on the occupied territories. “The main goal is to increase pressure on Ukraine, to create conditions for revising the Minsk agreements and changing the negotiations format on Russian conditions,” said Vadym Skybytskyi, Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Chief Intelligence Department, at a briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. According to him, the Russian leadership holds large-scale military operational and strategic measures focusing on the offensive component. On March 22-24, they unexpectedly tested combat readiness of Air-cum-land forces and held command-staff training of the Southern military district. “The check involved units that participated in the annexation of Crimea and hostilities in Donbas. Totally, about 30 thousand servicemen, 3.5 thousand pieces of military equipment and more than 100 aircraft took part in the training exercise,” said Mr. Skybytskyi. He added that while testing the armed forces, the use of attack groups supported by ground attack and bomber aircraft was practiced. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was in Crimean Sevastopol on March 22. Meanwhile, the 1st and 2nd army corps practice offensive operations, including assault river crossing.
According to military intelligence, militants have increased shelling intensity and conduct local assault actions in the vicinity of Avdiyivka and Novotroitske. Their goal is to expand the territory under control. “They conduct redeployment of the 1st and 2nd army corps units at the forefront, and improve engineering equipment along the contact line,” he added. Mr. Skybytskyi noted that over the week militants shelled Ukrainian positions 293 times, using artillery systems, tanks, combat vehicles, 82/120-mm mortars and ZU-23-2. According to military intelligence, militants carry out compulsory evacuation of local people, destroy their homes and try to expand the so-called “gray zone.”
Vadym Skybytskyi informed that six flights of Russian reconnaissance UAVs were recorded over the past week. Besides, along the state border flights of four Su-24MR reconnaissance aircraft of the Armed Forces of Russia were recorded. According to Mr. Skybytskyi militants continue to hold heavy weapons near the boundary line. Over the past week 33 violations of the Minsk agreements were observed. In particular, in the 15-km zone 47 tanks and 3 mortars were found, in the 25-km zone – 61 artillery systems and self-propelled artillery weapons, in the 35-km zone – 21 Grad rocket systems of 122 mm.
The Russian occupation forces continue to destroy the infrastructure and the industrial potential of the temporarily occupied territories. During the week, the terrorists additionally mined the Donetsk filtration plant, railway bridge and adjoining area near Donetske, (Slavyanoserbsky district, Luhansk region). The facts of removing property and equipment of Horlivka machine-building plant named after Kirov, “Komsomolets” mine and the mine named after Lenin” were ascertained. On March 23 this year, militants dismantled equipment of Khartsyzsk machine-building plant for its further removing to Russia. It was ascertained that the direct control over actions of artillery units of the Russian occupation troops in Ukraine is led by Major General Stepan Yaroshchuk, head of missile troops and artillery of Russia’s Southern Military District. He personally decides on the use of artillery by militants against ATO forces and civilians of Donbas. It was also ascertained that the chief of artillery of the 1st Army Corps is Igor Valentynovych Yahelskiy, Lieutenant Colonel, a former officer of the Russian Federation. These persons studied together in Tbilisi High Artillery Command College.