Ukraine Live Day 338: Ukraine Agrees To New Withdrawal After Donetsk Airport Captured

January 21, 2015
Aftermath of shelling in Donetsk yesterday. Photo via @666_mancer

Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here. An archive of our liveblogs can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

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US Army’s Top Commander In Europe Says Russia Has Doubled Support For Separatists Since December

The Hill reports that Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the commander of the US army’s Allied Land Command, making him the top US Army commander in Europe, has told reporters in Ukraine today that Russia doubled its material support for separatist fighters since December.

“When you look at the amount of Russian equipment that the proxies were using prior to the Minsk agreements, that amount has doubled beginning in December into the hundreds,” he told reporters on his first visit to Ukraine as U.S. Army Europe commander.

Hodges said Russia was sending surveillance drones to the rebels to help provide intelligence, as well as artillery.

“Those are not the types of things you would find in a militia. They clearly are coming from a modern military force coming from Russia,” he said.#

Hodges also said that four companies of the Ukrainian National Guard would receive training from US soldiers “on medical care, protecting themselves from artillery and attempts to jam Russian communications systems.”

— Pierre Vaux

A Possible Chemical Weapons Attack At Donetsk Airport?
Last week, on January 16, the Russian state-controlled media reported a possible chemical weapons attack at Donetsk airport. However, Ukrainian soldiers reported the use of a smoke screen, and we were satisfied that the use of smoke grenades accurately matched the reports of the smell of the gas and the symptoms. It seemed like a “non-story.”

However, in the latest spot report by the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission (SMM), a Ukrainian soldier reported a possible chemical weapons attack on January 19, and the symptoms described are very different than what was described on the 16th:

A Ukrainian soldier in a hospital in government-controlled Konstantinovka (56km north of Donetsk) told the SMM that he was being treated for injuries sustained at the Donetsk airport on 19 January. He said 80 Ukrainian soldiers in total had suffered the same injuries, manifested in uncontrollable muscle spasms, vomiting and difficult breathing. Some, he said, had become unconscious. Eleven of the soldiers had been transferred to a hospital in Dnepropetrovsk, he said.

Muscle spasms, vomiting, difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness… these sound like the results of an actual chemical weapons attack, perhaps even the use of nerve gas. But what’s odd is that this is the first time we have been made aware of any possible chemical weapons attack in Donetsk on January 19.

We don’t know what to make of this report, but we’ll add more details if we find them.

James Miller

Reports That NSDC Secretary And Former President Turchynov Fired On Near Donetsk

Around two hours ago, Ukrainian blogger Sergii Ivanov wrote on his Facebook page that Oleksandr Turchynov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council (NSDC), and former acting president, came under fire from Russian-backed fighters while visiting front-line positions near Donetsk Airport today.

Ivanov wrote that Turchynov was travelling in an armoured personnel carrier (APC), inspecting positions near the settlements of Tonenkoye, Vodyane and Opytnoye, when Russian or separatist forces opened fire, specifically targeting his vehicle rather than the whole convoy.

According to Ivanov, the APC was damaged, but Turchynov was unscathed.

Ivanov claimed that discussion of the incident had been banned in Ukrainian media, but a short while ago Ukrainska Pravda ran a report on the subject, citing a source in the NSDC.

According to the source, Turchynov came under fire on the road to the airport near the village of Opytnoye.

The source claimed that a tyre on the Tuchynov’s Cougar APC was punctured during the attack, and that it was replaced under fire.

There has not yet been any official comment from the NSDC or any other Ukrainian government body.

— Pierre Vaux

Russia And Ukraine Agree On Artillery Pull-Back

News is breaking that the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has announced that Russia and Ukraine have agreed to pull back heavy weaponry from the front line.


The plan strongly resembles one agreed upon back in September last year, a plan that was never really committed to and saw daily artillery and Grad rocket barrages back and forth at several strategic points along the front line since the very declaration of the ‘ceasefire.’ 

Of course this is the key. The September agreement and ceasefire followed a massive military intervention by regular Russian forces, pushing Ukrainian forces out of the south of the Lugansk region and capturing a large swath of southern Donetsk.

Today, Russian-backed fighters appear to have established control over Donetsk Airport, and the collapse of this position now leaves Ukrainian forces to the west and north of the separatist-held city, where huge quantities of the enemy’s forces had been tied up in repeated assaults, vulnerable to attack by a more manoeuvrable force.

This news follows reports tonight of a flanking attack on Netaylovo, to the west of Peski. 

In addition, according to Igor Sutyagin, senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, who spoke in London on January 13,  it may take as little as a week for Russian military engineers to make the ruined airport operable for Russian Air Force Su-25 attack jets, which has recently been presented by pro-separatist and Russian media as the “Novorossiyan Air Force,” purportedly established in occupied Lugansk.

Precedent suggests that Russian-backed forces will pay only lip service if anything to this agreement. Furthermore, even in the event of a reduction in fighting, such a period of calm would only allow Russia to consolidate control of Donetsk and prepare for further potential hostilities, with Ukrainian forces stretched thin to cover such a wide front.

— Pierre Vaux

Among Reports That Donetsk Airport Has Fallen To Russian-Backed Fighters, New Reports Of A Flank Attack On Pisky
There is yet another report that suggests that Donetsk Airport has fallen to Russian-backed militants:

Espreso TV reports that “terrorists [the Russian-backed fighters — The Interpreter ] blew up the roof of the new terminal of the [Donetsk] airport.”

“Ukrainian forces remain in the buildings, however and on the
airport grounds and outposts. However, as the Defense Ministry has
confirmed, a group of Ukrainian soldiers have been taken prisoner.”

The report also says that Russian tanks may be flanking Pisky (Peski) and have advanced on Netaylovo. not from Pisky and Karlovka in
the east but from the west. Ukraine at War , which is also asking whether Donetsk Airport has fallen, illustrates exactly what this means:

It has earlier been reported that the Terminal has fallen and Ukraine said it would launch a counterattack to take it back.

the high number of casualties that is now reported and the video
showing the Russians all over the place, it looks like that
counterattack has failed…

Already the Russian tanks are trying to surround Pisky
now… if true, that is REALLY bad news… It means they have broken
through the front line at Nevelske.


James Miller

Russia And NATO: A Comparison of Forces In Eastern Europe
Ukraine May Have Lost At Least Part of Donetsk Airport — And Many Soldiers In The Process

A Ukrainian blogger, Vladimir Sergeev, has posted a message on Facebook which says that 37 Ukrainian soldiers (translated by The Interpreter):

“I don’t want to post anything today and I won’t. 37 heroes were killed at the airport today. More were finished off by the Chechen *******! Forgive us brothers! We tried the best we could! Heroes never die!”

This report is unverified, but more footage reportedly shows the Russian-backed militants in charge of part or all of the new terminal of Donetsk airport:

The headline of the video: “Militia helps forces get out from under the rubble.” “Forces,” here, means the Ukrainian military’s soldiers. In the video, Semyon Pegov of LifeNews is reporting that the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ fighters (DNR) are clearing mines. Pegov says 18 Ukrainian soldiers have been freed from underneath the rubble and are injured, but many more are dead.

“They waited for Ukrainian help, and that help didn’t come,” says Motorola, the commander of the Russian-backed fighters.

The video shows Ukrainian armor — MTLBs and a tank – destroyed in the fight. RPGs and ammunition have been found and are being detonated.

The video is additional evidence that Motorola’s fighters control at least part of the new terminal, but as we’ve been reporting the battle does not appear to be over.

Another video:

– James Miller, Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, Pierre Vaux
Ukrainian Journalist Reports on Continued Fighting Around the Airport

Petro Shuklinov (Peter Shuklinov), a reporter for, has posted an update about the situation on the Donetsk Airport on his Facebook page (translated by The Interpreter):

Once again, we have “choked.” Once again we’ve “circled the drain.”  And once again “all is lost.” How many times has this happened? This is war. There is always death and danger here. It’s just that our Internet and media aren’t shut off, and thus we discuss it. But words don’t have meaning. You have to take up arms and defend your home.

Donetsk Airport: The battle for the Donetsk Airport has not ended. Here it is in principle: Battles are underway all along the route from Pisky to Avdeyevka and further on. And below. And above. If you can’t help win, then there is no point in getting nervous.

Everyone at the front wanted to go ahead. There will be dead. There will be POWs. There will be new battle tactical groups from the Russian Federation. This is war, and it will never change. War always looks repulsive. There are victories in it, and there are defeats in it. There is never only one or the other.

War will continue the next several weeks. Russia’s main purpose is to disrupt the mobilization, to show up the Ukrainians as cowards. There will be dumps of disinformation, there will be fakes There will be anything, just so that you reconcile yourself to defeat.

But here, all the guys are ready to go into battle. There are no cowards. Here everybody is ready to die for his home. Are there exceptions? Yes. Are there mistakes? Lots. But there is no time. Everything is happening now.

It was the same on Grushevskogo. It was the same on Institutskaya. But we believed that the dictatorship is in agony. And we just made our victory, Dill-weeds. This is right time to remember this and repeat it.

The last references is to streets in Kiev where the Maidan demonstrators stood their ground when attacked by government troops last year. “Dill-weeds” [ukropy] is the name that the Russian-backed separatists have given the Ukrainians.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

It’s Not Clear Who Controls Donetsk Airport, But The Destruction There Is Shocking
Despite the Ukrainian government counter-attack which was supposed to have secured the Donetsk International Airport, it is no longer clear who controls the area. This 360-degree panorama , taken by a Russian reporter, shows the outside of the new terminal. It’s not clear who controls the inside of the building, but it seems the Russian-backed militants have at least partial control of the outside:
The amount of damage to the building is shocking:

We’ve been unable to determine what’s going on at the airport. Even some pro-separatist social media accounts say that nobody is in full control of the airport. And there are still plenty of reports of fighting in the area.

Making matters worse, Ukrainian journalist Roman Bochkala has suffered a minor injury today (see below), meaning that even fewer updates about the situation at the airport have been published. Furthermore, the live video feeds facing the airport, hosted by the Russian state news agency RT, are no longer operational. Some have questioned whether the cameras have been damaged, or whether the Russian government simply no longer wants us to be able to see what is happening there.

One thing is clear — the amount of damage to the building is shocking, made even more shocking by the realization that Ukraine’s “Cyborgs” have been inside that building for most of the shelling. RFE/RL has posted a picture gallery of before and after shots of the airport. Here’s one example:


Last week, this video from a drone was released showing the damage to the airport on January 15. Every day since then fighting has continued to rage:

Ukraine has identified the defends of this building, it’s “Cyborgs,” as national heroes. Looking at the damage to the building, it’s hard to believe those soldiers have survived this long. while we don’t know who controls the airport, what we do know is that the fight for this location is far from over.

James Miller

Ukrainian Journalist Bochkala Wounded; Recovering in Hospital

Some have wondered why Ukrainian journalist Roman Bochkala had no updates today after his last comment on the regrouping of Ukrainian forces near Checkpoint No. 31. His Facebook was not updated in over 20 hours.

Now he has posted the reason on his Facebook page: he was wounded at Pisky, a town near the Donetsk Airport, and is in the hospital.

The Interpreter has a translation:

Today is my birthday. I am accepting good wishes )  Pisky will be remembered…Three meters away, a 120-mm shell exploded, and there are a few scratches on me. Well, and a slight concussion…I will remain in the hospital until morning, and once again will be back in battle!

Bochkala, a Ukrainian military analyst and writer who works for InterTV, has supplied a lot of a first-hand reports from the war in Ukraine, specifically regarding Checkpoint No. 31 in recent days.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russian-Backed Fighters Claim to Take Over Checkpoint No. 31
Ukrainian forces have been battling Russian-backed separatist fighters at Checkpoint No. 31 for days, and it seemed in the last hours that they might succeed. This tweet was sent about four hours ago:

Translation: The ATO forces have taken back checkpoints No. 29 and 31.

It was based on a report from the Ukrainian Defense Ministry at 15:18 claiming to have taken back the checkpoints.

But now about four hours later after 19:00 pm Kiev time, reports indicate that the Russian-reinforced militants have taken over the checkpoint.

Translation: The wounded from checkpoint no. 31 are already in the hospital. Checkpoint 29 was holding out, but Krymskoye is in flames – Moskal.

The reference is to a statement about the town Krymskoye by Governor Moskal.

Translation: the militia have seized Checkpoint No. 31.

The “militia” are the Russian-backed rebels.

Ukrainian sources are disputing that there has been a takeover, however.

Translation: The 31st Checkpoint is not surrendered. Our soldiers have regrouped and are giving a worthy rebuff to the Russian terrorists – Bochkala.

Bochkala has not updated his Facebook since yesterday, 19 hours ago, however.

A video has been uploaded to YouTube showing the takeover of Checkpoint No. 31 by the Russian-backed separatists.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Poroshenko Addresses Davos Before Heading Back to Ukraine

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko addressed the Davos econonmic forum in Switzerland before leaving early to cope with the crisis at home, where fighting has escalated.

Translation: Poroshenko showed a piece of the bus from Volnovakha at Davos.

The bus waiting at a checkpoint in Volnovakha was struck on January 13, when Grad missiles set off a minefield. A total of 13 citizens were killed and 17 wounded. The attack likely came from Russian-backed separatists who launched the Grads from nearby Dokuchayevsk.

As Ukraine Says It’s Lost 500 Square Kilometers of Territory, AP Reporters See Russian Armor Moving To Attack

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Yevhen Perebyinis has told Ukraine’s Channel 5 that the Russian-backed fighters have gained over 500 square kilometers of territory from Ukraine since the ceasefire was agreed upon in September. UNIAN reports:

“Russia is destabilizing the situation in Ukraine to shift as much as possible the line of demarcation in its own interests, and then to fix these positions at the talks in Berlin,” he said.

Today that number could expand significantly. AP reporters have spotted a large military convoy, controlled by the Russian-backed separatists, headed toward Perevalsk, a key area between Lugansk and Debaltsevo (map) on the Bakhmutka Highway west of Lugansk, an area we’ve reported on already today.

Around midday, an AP reporter saw nine Gvozdika self-propelled howitzers and six anti-tank cannons moving near the eastern Ukrainian town of Perevalsk. A militiaman with the convoy, who declined to provide his name, said the armament heading in the direction of checkpoint 31.

In another place along the same road, the AP saw four Grad multiple rockets launchers accompanied by four trucks carrying ammunition and 15 pristine-looking tanks, also heading toward the area of the checkpoint.

Claimed pictures of the convoy:

Ukraine’s government is already trying to explain today the tight spot they are in. Business Insider reports:

In a closed session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, a high-ranking Ukrainian official just shared the Ukrainian government’s current view of the conflict with Russia…

Russia now has 9,500 troops in Ukraine and occupies 7% of Ukraine terrain. This 7% encompasses 20% of Ukraine’s population. This control of a fifth of the population is putting further pressure on Ukraine’s economy and finances. The most pressing problem is the need to refinance debt to cover the budget deficit.

BI also posted this map, created by Reuters from information given to them by the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council. But fighting, ongoing since the ceasefire, suggests that the white area, east of Volnovakha, is less than securely in Ukrainian hands.


The bottom line — the Ukrainian government is trying to get the world’s attention today to let them know that they are engaged in a serious fight with Russia and Russian-backed militants. Evidence suggests that not only is Ukraine not exaggerating, they may be putting a positive spin on the true extent of the crisis.

James Miller

Video Shows Russian State Journalist Holding Gun, Saluting Separatist Fighters
By now, long-time readers of The Interpreter have probably seen a lot of material discrediting journalist Graham Phillips, who works for several Russian state run propaganda news outlets. Phillips has repeatedly been seen firing a gun and engaging in behavior not-becoming of a journalist. Now, another video has emerged which adds to his legacy of inappropriate behavior.
Poroshenko Warns Of ‘Very Grave Danger’ As Conflict Escalates

Ukrainian President Poroshenko has given an interview to Bloomberg TV, warning that a significant escalation of direct Russian military involvement in this crisis is leading to an escalation in violence. Bloomberg reports:

Additional Russian fighters and equipment crossing the border are putting pressure on Ukraine’s army, which is “defending democracy and freedom,” Poroshenko said in an interview with Bloomberg TV in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin has consistently denied giving military support to the separatists.

“The situation is getting worse, because we now have information about more than 2,000 additional Russian troops crossing our border, together with 200 tanks and armed personnel carriers,” said Poroshenko, who will cut short his visit to the World Economic Forum. “The situation can get worse in days.”

James Miller

Fighting Continues Near Bakhmutka Highway

Yesterday, it was reported that Ukrainian forces had lost control of their foremost position, checkpoint 31, on the strategically important Bakhmutka highway, in the west of the Lugansk region, after an assault by Russian tanks.

The commander of the volunteer-based Donbass battalion, Semyon Semyonchenko, announced today that one Ukrainian soldier was killed and seven wounded during the attack which, he said, had practically destroyed the 31st checkpoint. One Russian tank was reportedly destroyed in the battle. The 29th checkpoint also came under artillery fire.

UNIAN reported:

“At around 1900, January 20, seven people were reported wounded and one dead,” Semyonchenko said.

“Less than a kilometer away from checkpoint No. 29, in the village of Zholobok, the intelligence services spotted Russian military, that is, the Russian army personnel,” Semyonchenko said.

In addition, according to him, there are reports of the movement of armored vehicles from the Luhansk area towards checkpoint No. 29.

Semyonchenko also said that civilian settlements, namely, Trekhizbenka, Shchastia, Stanitsa- Luganska, Krymske had been badly hit by the fighting.

According to him, Ukrainian reinforcements have arrived. Communications in the area have been severely disrupted, and the situation is made more difficult by poor weather conditions and intense shelling.

The press office of the governor of the Lugansk region, Hennadiy Moskal, announced that the wounded from the 31st checkpoint had been taken to a hospital in Lysychansk, to the north.

Today, Ukrainian government and military sources reported that fighting continues in the area.

Censor.NET reports that Andriy Lysenko, the spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council (NSDC), told reporters at a briefing today in Kiev that the offensive by Russian and separatist fighters in the area had been stopped. 

Lysenko said that after the battle at the 31st checkpoint, Ukrainian troops had retreated to a defensive position and, having received reinforcements and ammunition, returned to fight to retake the territory lost.

UNIAN reported that the secretary of the NSDC, Oleksandr Turchynov, had told journalists that “the situation in the combat zone is very difficult,” but that the 29th checkpoint remains under Ukrainian control.

Turchynov claimed that the ongoing combat in the area meant that the attack on the 31st checkpoint had “failed.”

“At the same time, last night’s attempted attacks on the positions of the Ukrainian military on the checkpoints No. 31 and 29 failed. Checkpoint No. 29 is fully controlled by Ukraine, and fighting is under way in the area of checkpoint No. 31.”

The spokesman for the Ukrainian military’s ATO, Leonid Matyukhin, described the withdrawal from the 31st checkpoint in somewhat franker terms, saying that the decision had been made by commanders on the ground so as to save the lives of their soldiers.

— Pierre Vaux

Five Civilians Reported Killed, 29 Wounded In Donetsk

Donetsk news site reports that the separatist-backed city administration of Igor Martynov has announced that five civilians have been killed and 29 wounded by shelling over the night.

Shells struck the Kievsky, Kuybyshevsky and Petrovsky districts of the separatist-held city, destroying “dozens of homes.”

While reported that, as of 9:30 (7:30 GMT), combat operations had not ceased in the city, and that heavy weapons could be heard firing across the city, by 12:03 (10:03 GMT), freelance journalist Oliver Carroll reported that the situation was much calmer:

— Pierre Vaux
Key Bridge To Stanitsa Luganskaya Blown, Heavy Shelling Across Region Reported

Novosti Donbassa reports that the press office of the governor of the Lugansk region, Hennadiy Moskal, has announced the destruction of the one bridge linking the Ukrainian-held town of Stanitsa Luganskaya to the southern shore of the Seversky Donets river, which is occupied by Russian-backed forces.

According to the report, the bridge was under the control of separatist fighters, who laid explosives and destroyed it.

Transport links between the government-held town and separatist-held Lugansk city are severed.

Moskal said (translated by The Interpreter):

“The aim in blowing up the bridge is unclear. This was most likely caused by panic and fear that Ukrainian soldiers may go on the offensive against the terrorists.” 

While Moskal blamed Russian-backed forces, the destruction of the bridge may, however, be of greater tactical benefit for the Ukrainian forces defending Stanitsa Luganskaya, which has seen intense fighting over recent weeks, both in the form of daily shelling, and close combat in the woods just north of the river crossing.

Earlier, Moskal’s office had announced that a school, in Stanitsa Luganskaya, and a hospital in Chernukhino, to the south-west near Debaltsevo, had been damaged by shelling.

Novotoshkovka, two kilometres from the 29th Ukrainian checkpoint on the Bakhmutka highway, south-west of Schastye, had been shelled with artillery and Grads throughout the night, Moskal said. Residential areas were struck and electricity line severed, but there were no reported civilian casualties.

Other targets of shelling included Nizhneye, Artyoma and Plotina. 

The governor also announced that he had ordered the closing of a border checkpoint near Shirokoye for the safety of residents.

— Pierre Vaux

Shelling Reported In Mariupol

Video has been uploaded today which purportedly records the sounds of shelling in the Vostochny area, on the eastern fringes of Mariupol.

The video certainly appears to have been shot relatively recently given the snow on the ground, and we have not found matching returns searching for frames on Google image search.

The Ukrainian military headquarters in Mariupol reported at 9:58 GMT that there had been ten shelling attacks in the area this morning.

Russian-backed forces had, the military said, shelled Talakovka, Gnutovo, Chermalyk, Pavlopol and Vinogradnoye with mortars, artillery, Grad rockets and tanks.

No Ukrainian military casualties were reported. 

Early this morning, Dmytro Tymchuk of Information Resistance reported on his Facebook page that Russian-backed forces had conducted “massive fire strikes on the forward positions of the Ukrainian army,” to the north-east of the port city, near the settlements of Talakovka, Pavlopol and Sartana.

The Interpreter translates:

These strikes were carried out with the aim of covering the regrouping of Russo-terrorist units in the Mariupol area. The foremost enemy units have been significantly strengthened in terms of both manpower and military hardware. At least 10 of the militants’ tanks are registered operating in that area, directly on the front-line positions. The advance of enemy armoured vehicles to the first line continues.

— Pierre Vaux

Avdeyevka Under Heavy Bombardment, Children To Be Evacuated

Vyacheslav Abroskin, the head of the Donetsk regional branch of the Interior Ministry, has written on his Facebook page that Ukrainian-held Avdeyevka, to the north of Donetsk Airport, is in a “critical situation.”

The Interpreter translates:

I’m travelling to Avdeyevka.

The town is in a critical situation. Incessant shelling. No electricity, no heating and no water. The head of the town, Yuri Cherkasov, has made an appeal with a literal “cry for help.”

He reported to the Ukrainian minister for internal affairs, Arsen Avakov. The reaction was instantaneous. We are already working now, with the Ministry for Emergency Situations and other agencies, not just from our region, to provide the necessary help for the citizens of the town.

An appeal has been made for help from the leadership of the Dnipropetrovsk region in placing Avdeyevka children in the regions sanatoriums. Hennadiy Korban has reacted with understanding and is ready to provide the necessary assistance. We will arrange their transportation.

— Pierre Vaux

Praviy Sektor Leader Dmytro Yarosh Reported Wounded At Donetsk Airport

Yuri Butusov, editor at Ukraine’s Censor.NET, reports on his Facebook page that Dmytro Yarosh, Rada MP and leader of Ukraine’s ultra-nationalist Praviy Sektor paramilitary group, has been wounded in combat at Donetsk Airport.

The Interpreter translates:

People’s deputy Dmytro Yarosh has been wounded in battle at the airport. He has been evacuated from the battlefield. His wounds appear to have been light, he was showered by a nearby exploding shell.

UPDATE: The doctor examined him and made a preliminary diagnosis – comminuted open fracture of the lower third of the arm (down to the elbow). Hand serious damaged, light wound to his head – saved by his helmet, tangentially grazed.

— Pierre Vaux

Ukraine Claims Build-Up Of Russian Forces In Donbass

The spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, Andriy Lysenko, has told reporters at a briefing in Kiev today that Russia was building up forces in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

Russian soldiers, stripped of identifying insignia, as we have seen previously in the Donbass and Crimea, were, Lysenko said, spotted in the Lugansk area.

Censor.NET reports that Lysenko announced the detection of a large quantity of Russian military vehicles in the Ukrainian border town of Krasnodon: around 50 BMPs and BTRs and around 100 Tigr armoured cars.

Lysenko claimed that separatist units in Gorlovka were being replaced by regular Russian army troops. To the south-east of Donetsk, around Shakhtyorsk and Torez, Lysenko said that around 100 Russian army tanks had been deployed.

Ukrainksa Pravda also reports that Lysenko discussed the movements of three Russian battalion tactical groups near the border.

The Interpreter translates:

“Yesterday the approach was recorded of three battalion tactical groups near Kamensk-Shakhtinsky and 1 artillery division near the settlement of Mirny.

There is no information on whether they crossed the border or not. But we understand that the 2 battalion tactical groups that crossed the border the day before yesterday caused the battle that we have under way at the 31st checkpoint.”

Yesterday we reported on the movement of another convoy of Russian military vehicles, near Ryasnoye, headed towards the Ukrainian border.

— Pierre Vaux