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Command of military operation in Donbass handed over to Ukrainian army

The Ukrainian Security Service will continue to participate in the operation

KIEV, March 24. /TASS/. The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has handed the command of the military operation in Donbass to the army, SBU deputy chief Viktor Kononenko said.

"Nothing has actually changed, we just handed the command over to the military," the UNN news agency quoted him as saying. At the same time, Kononenko pointed out that the SBU would continue to participate in the Donbass operation.

The operation was launched in the spring of 2014 after the region’s residents had refused to recognize a coup government. Kiev claimed it to be an antiterrorist operation, though massive shelling of residential areas led to a large-scale humanitarian crisis. According to the United Nations, the armed conflict has claimed the lives of around 10,000 people, while more than 20,000 have been wounded.

In February 2016, a law dubbed "On certain aspects of state policy aimed at ensuring Ukraine’s state sovereignty over temporarily occupied areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions" was adopted, known as the Donbass reintegration law. The document claims the areas not controlled by Kiev to be "temporarily occupied" and gives the president the right to use the armed forces inside the country without the parliament's consent. It also provides for setting up joint operational command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to control all military units and military-civil administrations in the conflict zone.

The joint operational command is headed by Deputy Chief of the General Staff Sergei Nayev. According to the Ukrainian president, the joint operational command is tasked with "strengthening the armed forces and making them capable of liberating the occupied territories".