Russian-backed militants attacked Ukrainian military formations near the front-line town of Zolote in Luhansk Oblast, some 600 kilometers southeast of Kyiv, the Ukrainian military reported early on Feb. 18.
The affected area includes the towns of Novotoshkivske, Orikhove and Khutir Vilniy, according to the military.
“The occupants are targeting our defenders with weapons banned by the Minsk agreements,” the military said. “The enemy is using 120-millimeter mortars… and also delivering fire from various grenade launchers and large-caliber machine guns. Under the covering fire, the Russian occupants launched an offensive and made an attempt to advance across the separation line.”
The affected front-line area is currently defended by Ukraine’s 72nd and 93rd Mechanized Infantry Brigades.
Vitaliy Shvedov, the head of Ukraine’s military-civilian administration in the areas of Troitske and Lysychansk, also noted on Facebook early on Feb. 18 that the “intense fighting has continued since nearly 5 a.m.” near Orikhove and Novotoshkivske, as well as near the Rodina coal pit in the city of Zolote – in close proximity to the demilitarized zone of Zolote-4 that saw the disengagement operation between Ukrainian and Russian-backed forces in November.
The sounds of heavy fighting could be heard in the city of Lysychansk, the local official added, with the intensity of shelling reaching the level of the peak of fighting in 2015. The opposing forces engage artillery of 120 millimeters caliber and larger.
“Bullets are reaching Zolote, a residential complex has been targeted in Novotoshkivske,” Shvedov also said.
Maryna Ustenko, a local civilian living in the town of Popasna close to the zone of hostilities, posted a Facebook video in which the sounds of distant combat could be heard on the morning of Feb. 18.
At 10:17 a.m. local time, Ukraine’s Joint Forces contingent in the Donbas said the fighting was over, with the Ukrainian formations successfully “upholding full control of the situation.”
The military reported that one Ukrainian soldier was killed and four sustained light wounds, while the enemy reportedly lost one fighter killed in action and five were heavily injured.
Following the clash, the enemy requested a ceasefire.
At the same time, the TSN news media outlet associated with the 1+1 TV channel said the militants’ offensive resulted in combat formations of Ukraine’s 72nd Mechanized Brigade reportedly losing a small front-line area near Zolote.
“The military admits that the outbreak of all-out shelling looks (as heavy as) in 2015, when artillery was barraging whole area sectors rather than point-targeting certain defended posts,” TSN reported.
Kyiv Post sources in the 72nd Mechanized Brigade also reported at least two combat strongpoints lost in action.
However, in the latest communique, the Joint Forces headquarters denied having withdrawn from any front-line positions.
Later in the day, the Presidential Office announced a 12.00 p.m. briefing following a National Security and Defense Council meeting with the country’s military, security services and law enforcement leadership present.