U.S. Mission to OSCE says Russia boosting artillery presence in Donbas

In the past three months, Russian-occupation forces in Donbas have massively deployed heavy artillery banned under the Minsk agreements, according to Kate Byrnes, the U.S. envoy to the OSCE, who addressed the organization`s Permanent Council on Thursday, May 11.

”Despite a deliberate pattern of behavior by Russian-led separatist forces aimed at weakening the SMM [special monitoring mission] and preventing the international community from observing separatist activities, over the last three months the SMM has documented a 750 percent increase in proscribed heavy weapons on territory the separatists control,” said Byrnes.

The diplomat added that last week alone, the SMM observed 44 weapons in violation of the previously agreed withdrawal lines, 42 of which were in areas not controlled by the Ukrainian government.

Byrnes recalled that in the occupied Luhansk, the SMM ”continues to observe the presence of about 30 weapons, including tanks, howitzers, and multiple launch rocket systems.”

”Russian-led separatist forces have used proscribed weapons more than five times as often as Ukrainian forces, according to SMM data. The real numbers are certainly much higher, given the over 250 access restrictions imposed on the SMM by Russian-led separatist forces since January,” said the U.S. envoy.

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