Sunday, August 6, 2017

People Power: Donbass Locals Take Up Shovels, Confront Ukrainian Troops Building Dugout

Sputnik | Aug 6, 2017

© Sputnik/ STR
Observers of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine recently witnessed a conflict between Donbass local residents and Ukrainian forces involved in a military operation in eastern Ukraine.

"In government-controlled Sopyne the SMM observed about 40-50 residents (of various ages, over half of whom were women) angrily confront 10 Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers," the SMM said in a report on August 3.

Residents told the observers that they were angry that soldiers were building a dugout on the territory of their village.

"The SMM saw a fresh 2m-deep dugout about 20m from the nearest house. After the soldiers withdrew from the area the SMM observed some residents filling it in with shovels," the report added.

Commenting on the incident, the Ukrainian military said that its personnel had to stop the construction of fortifications in Sopyne due to the resistance of locals.

"Local residents were outraged that Ukrainian forces were building fortifications there. Understanding their unwillingness to be near the defense line, our personnel decided to stop the works," the command of Kiev’s military operation in Donbass said in a statement on Facebook.

 In an interview with Radio Sputnik, Miroslav Rudenko, a lawmaker of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), commented on the situation.

"This incident is yet another proof that the current Ukrainian government has no moral limits. The military wanted to set up fortifications in an area where civilians live," Rudenko said.

At the same time, according to the lawmaker, it was "surprising" that the SMM registered the incident and included it in a report.

"Its previous reports show OSCE observers’ reluctance to report on any violations by Ukrainian forces. Possibly, this is a sign of some progress. Maybe, the SMM will stop turning a blind eye on war crimes committed by Ukrainian troops. We hope that the situation will change and Western moral and information support for the Ukrainian government will decrease and an adequate approach will prevail, including towards those crimes," Rudenko said.

The cease-fire regime in Donbass has seen numerous violations in recent weeks. DPR and Kiev forces have repeatedly accused each of breaching the cease-fire. Amid the growing number of cease-fire violations, experts warn about a possible escalation in the region.

The Donbass conflict erupted in April 2014 as a local counter-reaction to the Maidan coup in Kiev that had toppled President Viktor Yanukovych in February. Residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions held independence referendums and proclaimed the People's Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. Kiev has since been conducting a military operation, encountering stiff local resistance.

In February 2015, Kiev forces and Donbass independence supporters signed a peace agreement in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. The deal stipulates a full cease-fire, weapons withdrawal from the line of contact in Donbass, as well as constitutional reforms that would give a special status to the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics. Despite the agreement brokered by the Normandy Four states (Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine), the cease-fire regime is regularly violated.

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