Violence Escalates Near Mariupol

Berdyanske and Shyrokyne hit with massive artillery attacks

The Ukrainian ATO Press Center has reported that two residential buildings were destroyed and two others damaged on Morska Street in government-controlled Berdyanske, Donetsk Oblast on the evening of May 18.

This incident happened in the MariupolShyrokyne hotspot area after incoming Minsk-proscribed 122mm artillery and 152mm artillery fire hit the area. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine visited the area after the incident and reported four fresh craters (two from 122mm shells and two 152mm) at the site. There were no reported civilian casualties as a result of the attack, largely due to the fact that only a few dozen civilians, at most, still remain in the area due to heavy fighting.

Dramatic footage of the fighting in the area was first shared by Ukrainian Military TV, showing civilian buildings on fire in the seaside town.

The Ukrainian television network 1+1 also provided footage from the scene of the shelling, showing the devastation characteristic of heavy artillery use.

The area around Mariupol and Shyrokyne has regularly recorded high levels of kinetic activity, including a significant number of incidents involving Minsk-proscribed heavy weapons. The OSCE SMM camera in Shyrokyne recorded the incident, including an exchange of tracer fire, one explosion on May 18, three explosions on May 19, the houses engulfed in flames (only 550m SW of the SMM camera’s position), and five people in military-style clothing removing materials from the buildings.

Animation of houses on fire, from a Ukrainian Military TV video (source)
Banner subtitle: Map highlighting location of damaged residential buildings. Left: Google Earth imagery from March 14, 2016; Top Right: ATO Press Center (source); Bottom Right: ATO Press Center (source).

Google Earth satellite imagery revealed possible military positions in and around Berdyanske. The incoming fire was likely targeting these positions, but the use of large caliber indiscriminate artillery caused the damage to the nearby residential areas instead.

Google Earth imagery from March 14, 2016 showing likely military positions in and around Berdyanske.

Photographs published from the site show the craters caused by the heavy artillery. In the four images below, we can see craters reminiscent of the massive ones created by a 203mm 2S7 Pion last week in the Luhansk Oblast, as reported by DFRLab at the time. However, as the OSCE SMM has reported, the craters were likely created by heavy artillery of a lower caliber, specifically 122m and 152mm artillery systems.

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This significant damage in the Mariupol sector represents a further escalation in the area designated as Sector M by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, with frequent shelling between Mariupol and the Russian border. The violence continues, with the OSCE SMM to Ukraine reporting over 200 tracer rounds over the May 20–21 weekend, along with multiple “rocket-assisted projectiles” (possibly rocket-propelled grenades or 122mm multiple rocket-assisted projectile MLRS Grad systems) fired both from west to east and from east to west, representing both sides of the conflict, with the Ukrainian Armed Forces to the west and Russia-backed separatists to the east.


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