The highest number of ceasefire violations committed by Russia-backed militants was 115 on Friday, February 3 and the lowest – 51 – the next day, on Saturday, February 4.
“Previous week was marked with the increased enemy activity across the entire frontline”, stated Vilyen Pidgornyy, Ministry of Defense spokesperson at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. On February 2, the number of enemy shellings of Ukrainian positions exceeded one hundred – this happened for the first time in last 9 months – since April 2016. “Often, Russian proxies opened fire at residential areas in front-line towns which resulted in new damages of infrastructure, deaths and injuries among civilians. Avdiyivka, Krasnohorivka, Maryinka and smaller villages neighboring with them were mostly under such enemy shellings which could not be but classified as violations of the laws and customs of war by Russia-backed militants”, Mr. Pidgornyy added.
Overall, during the week, the number of shells fired by the enemy at Ukrainian positions in Avdiyivka exceeded the “1,000” mark. During previous 7 days, enemy troops performed 7 assaults of ATO positions – but all in vain.
Most strained military situation remained throughout the week in Avidyivka industrial area and its flanks. There, militants applied all weapons available, including tanks, cannons and rocket artillery, which was often leading to huge infrastructural damages. Direct hits of enemy shells, including MLRS “Hrad” projectiles, ruined gas and electricity supplies in several areas of the town. The largest in Europe Avdiyivka Coke plant was on the brink of shutdown due to enemy shellings. This enterprise is the backbone for the town giving work places to major part of its inhabitants and producing thermal energy for the residential sector.
Late at night on February 2, Russia-backed militants performed yet another war crime having shelled humanitarian encampment. Due to late hour, no locals were present on the spot. However, one Ukraine State Emergency Service officer was killed under enemy fire, another his colleague was wounded. Around the same time, British photographer Christopher Nunn was wounded in enemy mortar attack.
Local and central authorities, Ukrainian Armed Forces, the police, international and domestic volunteers make every effort to help locals to survive the disaster caused by the barbaric actions of Russian occupational forces. Thanks to efforts of the helpers, tons of humanitarian aid were delivered to the town of Avdiyivka; field kitchens and tents for heating were lodged. Military psychologists provide their help to the distressed. Law enforcement officers patrol the city day and night. Over 240 people, including 114 children, were evacuated from the city due to the danger of enemy shellings. As of now, gas, heating and electricity supplies were restored in town`s apartments and plants.
By the end of the week, military situation in Avdiyivka experienced some de-escalation – the number of enemy attacks significantly decreased. However, there is still a long haul ahead to complete truce – militants continue actively using all available range of weapons across the front line occasionally performing assault attempts at Ukrainian positions in this area.
In the Donetsk sector, in addition to active hostilities in the town of Avdiyivka described before, restless situation remained in the right flank of the town. “On January 30, the enemy moved a tank unit in the area of Donetsk airport. That day, Ukrainian positions there experienced most powerful tank shelling since the battle for Donetsk airport in January 2015”, MoD spokesperson stated. Militants intensified their combat actions at Svitlodarsk and Horlivka perimeter where enemy artillery units were trying to dissipate Ukrainian Armed Forces defense. However, these aggressive assaults were unsuccessful – instead, the enemy were only carrying heavy losses. Ukrainian defense line remains unbreakable. In addition to active hostilities at the front line, on Friday, February 3, militants shelled with MLRS “Hrad” Ukrainian rear area – Halytsynivka village which is 15 km west of the contact line.
In the Luhansk sector, enemy concentrated its combat activity in Popasna area where Russian-occupational forces massively used mortars and occasionally cannons and rocket artillery. Often, shells, fired by militants were landing on civilian buildings leading to new grave infrastructural damages. In Stanytsia Luhanska, heavy weapons were applied less frequently. Among all enemy cease-fire violations recorded there, few were with sniper rifles.
In the Mariupol sector, Russian proxies opened fire at Ukrainian defenders with mortars and artillery almost along the entire contact line, both day and night. Most alarming situation remained in Maryinka district and along the front line area stretching from Pavlopil to Shyrokyne. There, militants widely applied mortars, artillery and MLRS BM-21 “Hrad”.
Over the week, Ukrainian troops registered 36 episodes of hostile drones conducting aerial reconnaissance in the ATO area, mainly in Popasna, Horlivka, Avdiyivka, western outskirts of Donetsk and Shyrokyne areas. It was established that UAVs were used not only to spy on Ukrainian military, but also to direct artillery and mortar systems with further shellings of examined areas. In addition to this, it was found that, near Avdiyivka, the enemy lodged means of electronic warfare and actively used them during the entire week.
Last week, 14 Ukrainian servicemen were killed in action and 94 servicemen were wounded in action. Among them, one Ukraine State Emergency Service (USES) officer was killed and one more USES officer – wounded in action.
In the Ukrainian government-controlled territories, during previous week, 2 women were killed during enemy shellings of residential areas of Avdiyivka. Seven civilians were wounded, two of which were women in Maryinka, one woman and four men – in Avdiyivka. One of the injured was British photographer.
Damage to civilian infrastructure
According to Vilyen Pidgornyy, buildings located close to the front line incurred unprecedented damages during previous week. In the Luhansk region, in addition to 6 private houses, a building of a school in Triohizbenka and medical clinic in Troitske were damaged due to direct hits of enemy mortar bombs. In the Donetsk region, 97 residential and 10 non-residential buildings were shelled by the enemy. Also, heavy enemy shellings deprived the town of Avdiyivka from water, heat, gas and electricity supply which put the whole town on the verge of humanitarian catastrophe. Moreover, massive damages to gas pipelines and electricity supply lines occurred along the entire front line.