Ukraine Live Day 413: Four Ukrainian Soldiers Killed In 24 Hours; Daily Death Toll Rising

April 6, 2015
NSDC_ua Tweet on April 6, 2015: "Ukrainian military engineers deactivated more than 40 mines (82-mm to 300-mm calibers)"

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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For the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: Evidence Review: Who Shot Down MH17?

United States Says It Will Train Ukrainian Troops Because Ukraine Has The Right To Defend Itself

The U.S. Mission to NATO sent this tweet today:

The link goes to a website run by the U.S. State Department which highlights a few key aspects to the U.S. mission to train Ukrainian forces. While the article notes that the U.S. does not believe that there is a military solution to the crisis, Ukraine still has a right to defend itself:

About 290 U.S. service members, including paratroopers from the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade based in Vicenza, Italy, will train six Ukraine National Guard companies. The training will take place in western Ukraine near the Polish border. Among the training’s objectives will be improving the soldiers’ ability to conduct route security, protect critical infrastructure and operate in an electronic-warfare environment.

In March, President Obama approved the allocation of $75 million in Department of Defense European Reassurance Initiative funds to provide additional nonlethal equipment to Ukraine. This includes the transfer to Ukraine of 30 armored and up to 200 unarmored Humvees along with other equipment such as small drones, radios and counter-mortar radars. An initial supply of 10 armored vehicles arrived in Ukraine on March 25. 

The report notes that the UK and Poland are also sending military advisors to train the Ukrainian military.  

James Miller

Four Ukrainian Soldiers Killed In 24 Hours; Daily Death Toll Rising
For several days in a row now, the daily death toll in eastern Ukraine is higher than it has been, generally, since the second ceasefire agreement was signed in February. Yesterday we noted that six Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in the previous 24 hours, with a total of 9 having been killed in the previous 48 hours. Today Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council is reporting another 4 deaths:
Mariupol is a key city to watch, as many have speculated that it is in the crosshairs of the Russian military and its proxy fighters. Mariupol, on the coast of the Azov Sea, is a major economic hub, but it is also standing between the Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine and a land bridge to Crimea. If the Russian military is really interested in expanding its campaign in Ukraine, Mariupol seems a likely target. The presence of drones there, a near-daily occurrence, could indicate that even if Moscow is not yet willing to pull the trigger on its assault on Mariupol, it is still interested in what Ukraine is doing there.

Death-by-landmine is increasingly common, it seems. Servicemen were killed over the weekend by landmines, and recently a civilian bus tried to drive around a checkpoint and hit a landmine. The Ukrainian military has been known to place landmines near checkpoints, though those areas are usually well marked with signage. The Ukrainian military also reports widespread use of landmines by the Russian-backed separatists.

Today, 24 Today (via Liveuamap) is reporting that a man was killed by a landmine near the Seversky Donets river, and area of heavy fighting in recent weeks.

We’ve been following fighting over the Seversky Donets river crossing north of Lugansk. This is to the West of much of that fighting. It indicates that the Ukrainian government is not willing to allow the Russian-backed fighters to capture additional territory beyond what was agreed upon at Minsk (the obvious exception to this appears to be Debaltsevo, where the Ukrainian military was dealt a solid defeat).
As we reported yesterday, Dmytro Yarosh, head of the Volunteer Ukrainian Corps, has been given this position after a long period of tension between the volunteer battalions, especially Yarosh’s Right Sector, and the Ukrainian military. The volunteers have often complained that they are being left out of the decision making process and are receiving inferior gear, while the Ukrainian military wants the volunteers to be folded into the regular military.  

For all the recent fighting, just a few months ago the Ukrainian military would not have had time for much training as it was engaged in heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine. The ceasefire may be broken, but it has not (yet) exploded to the level of violence we witnessed before the second Minsk agreement.

James Miller