Five years ago, on August 10, 2015, residents in a village located halfway between Donetsk and Mariupol reported exchanges of heavy mortar and rocket fire that had not stopped for several days. The clashes focused on a highway that connects Mariupol with Donetsk, and the majority of the road was under the control of the government forces.
Also on August 10, the Ukrainian military reported the heaviest shelling by Russia-backed militants since the Minsk truce was signed in February 2015.
On August 12, a Ukrainian military spokesman said that the clashes in the north of the strategic city of Mariupol had killed one soldier and injured three.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on August 7 reported a “significant increase” in ceasefire violations in areas east and north of Mariupol and near the Donetsk airport. On August 9, four armored vehicles of the Special Monitoring Mission of the OSCE (which is charged with overseeing the implementation of the 2015 Minsk agreements) were “destroyed overnight in [an] apparent arson attack” near the city of Donetsk at the mission’s residence. Three of the vehicles were completely destroyed, while one was heavily damaged and three others were partially damaged. There were no reported injuries.
SMM deputy head Alexander Hug called the incident an example of “intimidation aimed at stopping the OSCE from reporting what is going on in the area.”
On August 9, there was shelling of the town of Horlivka, northeast of Donetsk, with both parties accusing each other of the action. The Russia-backed side reported that one civilian was killed, while the Ukrainian military said the Russia-backed side had shelled the positions of government troops nearby. One Ukrainian serviceman was killed, while 10 other servicemen, a civilian woman and two children were wounded during the past 24 hours.
Ukraine and Russia-backed forces traded accusations of attempting to break a ceasefire deal that was agreed upon in Minsk in February 2015. Artillery fire exchanges intensified through August 17, which residents described as the heaviest fighting they had seen in three months. In the village of Sartana, 20 kilometers east of Mariupol, houses were destroyed as a result of the fighting; in Horlivka, at least three people were killed. In Donetsk, city officials under the control of Russia-backed forces, said at least two people were killed by shells.
On August 15, Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said, “Over the past 24 hours we recorded the highest level of firing by the illegal armed groups for the past six months.”
Mariupol remains a strategic port city, linking parts of eastern Ukraine controlled by the militants and Russia-annexed Crimea.
Source: “Ukraine reports intense battles near Mariupol,” RFE/RL, The Ukrainian Weekly, August 16, 2015.