Donbass: what is the status of the ceasefire on June 2, 2021

If someone asks about the status of the ceasefire in the Donbass in Ukraine, it is possible to give details from different sources: Ukrainian army, separatist armed forces and SMM (Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine).

As a reminder the war started in April 2014. A first ceasefire was declared in September 2014. There have been many other ceasefires that have never been followed by a complete ceasefire without any violations for several days. The ceasefire has always been fictitious, in the form of more or less strong lulls. The best ceasefire is that of July 27, 2020. It gave rise, for a few weeks, to a very low level of violations. This is no longer the case in 2021, and the level of violations is similar to that which preceded the ceasefire of 27 July 2020, although it is a little lower, but with very strong variations and can reach more than 1,000 violations in one day.

In recent weeks, there was no longer a cease-fire or even a serious lull.

If we take here the day of June 2, 2021, it is that there are three reports available but globally inconsistent.

The Ukrainian news agency “Unian” representing the Ukrainian army and the DAN news agency representing the separatist DPR forces both report that there were no cease-fire violations. For once, which is rare, each side agrees that the other respected the ceasefire throughout the day on June 2 (See the articles available at the end of this article)

The SMM published on 3 June 2021 in the evening the report 127/2021 on the day of 2 June 2021. The SMM report mentions 360 violations and 33 explosions (cumulative Donetsk and Luhansk sectors)

How to explain such a gap between 0 violations for combatant representatives and 360 violations for SMM observers?

To the question whether the SMM report is credible and its figures accurate, the answer is YES. There is no doubt that there were this number of violations and 33 explosions, which is a moderately high level in Donbass. However, the SMM day starts at 7:30 pm the day before and ends at 7:30 pm. Some violations and explosions presented by the SMM as belonging to the day of June 2 took place on June 1. Thus, 61 violations and 11 explosions should be removed. But some others should also be added. Even if we take only the violations and explosions of June 2, the numbers are still significant. Why is the SMM not able to provide data on a full day and only on the day? I honestly don’t know, but it gives the impression that the SMM considers everyone to be adapting to the SMM and not the other way around. On all subjects, the SMM is often out of step and has difficulty adapting to reality and to others: they have no problem that their reports are sometimes published 72 hours after the incidents, as if their reports were useless and nobody ever uses them to debrief or to know if the situation is calm or not. But, on the reality of the SMM information, it is not debatable and it is unfortunately the only reliable source of information, even if it is regrettable that this information is only available when those who give it have time (not to disturb on Sundays and holidays and to wait until the end of the day for the data of the day before to be processed)

So why did both the Ukrainian army and the separatists claim that there were no violations?

We are reduced to hypotheses:

  • There may be an agreement in the works that is unknown at this time
  • The term violation means different things to different people. For the SMM, the slightest shot, whether a light or heavy weapon, is considered a violation
  • The fighting forces in the Donbass have no more rigor in reporting than in action. If there is no immediate threat, the incident is minor, it will not be considered an enemy attack or a violation

Unfortunately, it has been like this for a little less than 7 years: the actors of the Ukrainian conflict in Donbass do not speak the same language and the words do not have the same meaning

Conclusion: the cease-fire is not yet effective, but each of the adversaries seems to recognize that there is no immediate danger and progress on the ground that the SMM figures have difficulty in confirming.

Perhaps a hope for a new and lasting lull,even though it is not true that there was no violation on that day. On June 6, a new communiqué of the Ukrainian army states that there was no violation on June 5, 2021, but the SMM report will not be published for more than a day. If the SMM published all these data in the morning like all components on the spot, we could compare. But since the data of the Ukrainian army are not reliable and on Sunday the DAN agency does not publish anything, we can not conclude anything today. The day after tomorrow, perhaps.
Note added on June 7, 2021 : there was almost no violation on June 5, 2021, according to the SMM report published today. Ukrainian army was right.

Information sources:

Ukrainian army: article from UNIAN

DPR new : article from DAN agency

SMM : report from OSCE site

Article written and published on June 6, 2021

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