Ukraine: Fragile Ceasefire Marred by Front Line Skirmishes

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Ukrainian members of the Azov Batallion exchange machine gun fire with pro-Russian separatists on the Shyrokyne front line, near Mariupol in east Ukraine. Despite the recent ceasefire, firefights and shelling resume, amid fears that the fragile ceasefire is on the verge of breaking down. The commander of the battalion says that the situation in Shyrokyne is very unstable, as pro-Russian separatists continue to fire machine guns and mortars towards their positions.


  1. soundbite (Ukrainian)
    "Al", AZOV Battalion Fighter: 00:00-00:32 Today is April 18 [Offscreen: What is going on?] There is fighting, they started to shoot our positions again. We are never first to open fire. They shoot despite the fact that the OSCE is there. You can see; they’re using mortars. [Offscreen: What you are going to do?] What? Respond to them!
  2. soundbite (Ukrainian)
    "Al", AZOV Battalion Fighter: 00:40–00:45 Look! They shoot back. So we are on the right track.
  3. soundbite (Ukrainian)
    Photographer: 03:25-03:31 I want tell you a joke. You know, one guy asks another, ‘Why are you fighting here? Don’t you want to go home?’ ‘Of course,’ the second man answers. ‘Where is your home,’ says the first. ‘In Donetsk.’ (Laughter)
  4. soundbite (Ukrainian)
    "Al", AZOV Battalion Fighter: 03:42 -04:06 Here is Shyrokyne. Over there, in one kilometer is separatists’ position. They shoot every day. There is no ceasefire. That it’s over is clear to everyone. However, they have a lot of casualties. I don’t know exactly how many. After a good fight they suffer dozens of casualties, but they bring more and more people. Apparently their commanders do not regret losing troops.
  5. soundbite (Ukrainian)
    "Al", AZOV Battalion Fighter: 04:29-04:39 Who are they? Russian regular soldiers or Russian mercenaries. There are not a lot of local separatists.
  6. soundbite (Ukrainian)
    "Al", AZOV Battalion Fighter: 05:21-05:36 Russian soldiers use the local separatists as cannon fodder. The village of Shyrokyne is situated in a valley. There is no sense in attacking from this side. Normal military men familiar with military tactics would not attack from there.
  7. soundbite (Ukrainian)
    "Al", AZOV Battalion Fighter: 05:59-06:52 They are shooting almost every day. They use large caliber munitions, self-propelled artillery platforms, tanks, and mortars from Sahanki. They shoot also from Bezimenne, one of their strongholds. There are very few civilians in Shyrokyne. Most of them are hiding in basements.
  8. soundbite (Ukrainian)
    "Al", AZOV Battalion Fighter: 07.01 – 07.12 The OSCE says we have peace here. I don’t know which side they are on.
  9. soundbite (Ukrainian)
    "Twin", AZOV Battalion Fighter: 08:26-08:37 You can take a look. The first houses there are Shyrokyne. It is 400-500 meters from here.
  10. soundbite (Ukrainian)
    "Twin", AZOV Battalion Fighter: 09:27–9:42 When the OSCE arrives, the separatists keep silent. As soon the OSCE will depart, they will start to shoot. Usually they provoke us by shooting before the OSCE arrives.
  11. soundbite (Ukrainian)
    "Sobol", Commander, Ukrainian Armed Forces: 11:22-11:47 The fact is that for the last four or five days, we do not understand the situation around Shyrokyne, because there is a lot of activity on this front. Even with the OSCE monitoring, our headquarters insists on withdrawing artillery systems with calibers of 100mm from the front line. We don’t know what our unit will be tasked with, as we are still order to man the front line.
  12. soundbite (Ukrainian)
    "Sobol", Commander, Ukrainian Armed Forces: 11:48-12:15 Each afternoon, they began shooting with machine guns, while we are only allowed to shoot in response. We can only sit by and watch and do nothing. They also use snipers.
  13. soundbite (Ukrainian)
    "Sobol", Commander, Ukrainian Armed Forces: 12:42-13:06 What also disturbs me is the question about the OSCE. As a commander, I’s supposed to ensure the free passage of OSCE monitors to all our firing positions in the area of Shyrokyno. However, the separatists do not allow them the same. So why should I do this? I also want to state that I will not reveal my firing capabilities.
  14. soundbite (Ukrainian)
    "Sobol", Commander, Ukrainian Armed Forces: 14:20 -14:32 We have a strong position here . We have enough weapons. I don’t think that the main attack will be here. I think they’re just trying distract our attention. The main attack could be in the other direction. They’re just distracting us from gathering weapons on the other side of the front.
  15. soundbite (Ukrainian)
    "Sobol", Commander, Ukrainian Armed Forces: 14:57-15:35 Everyday we can see them resupplying ammunition on the separatist side. We have already destroyed a lot of their ammunition. There were even days when they had nothing to shoot. But now they once again have enough ammunition. They just use the ceasefire for preparations.
  16. soundbite (Ukrainian)
    "Sobol", Commander, Ukrainian Armed Forces: 15:57 (Pointing) Behind me is the village of Bezimenne where the main Russian forces are staying. There are a large number of armed vehicles, and there are no local civilians at all, only the representatives of Russian forces.