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.
Please help The Interpreter to continue providing this valuable information service by making a donation towards our costs.
For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.
For the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: Evidence Review: Who Shot Down MH17?
— James Miller
RFE/RL reports that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said today that he does not believe that the European Union wants the Minsk agreement to work:
Lavrov, at a news conference in Moscow, accused the EU of turning a blind eye to attacks which have killed civilians in rebel-held areas.
“Judging by certain signs, someone in the European Union wants the EU to allow the Ukrainian government not to implement the Minsk agreements,” he said after talks with Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz.
He also described what he called increased military activity by Ukrainian forces in recent weeks as an attempt to tear up the cease-fire accord.
The EU did not immediately respond to Lavrov’s remarks.
In Kyiv, Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the separatists were building up military equipment for more attacks.
This is an interesting claim since the Ukrainian government, the United States, and many in the West have accused Russia of the same thing, and just today the OSCE Chairperson of the OSCE PA General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions said that Russia is continuing to destabilize the region by militarily supporting the separatists.
— James Miller
Isabel Santos, Chairperson of the OSCE PA General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions, has addressed the OSCE Permanent Council’s Human Dimension Committee today. She referenced, among other things, the conflict in Ukraine:
We have all been engaged in working to find solutions to the crisis in and around Ukraine, where the Russian Federation is occupying the Crimean Peninsula and supporting separatist rebels in the east of the country. These developments – not just in the political-military dimension, but the results in the human dimension – have shaken this organization. I am also deeply disturbed by the actions of the occupying power in Crimea, who have exiled many from the local Crimean Tatar population, and who are shutting down independent media outlets.
The fighting in eastern Ukraine has resulted in over five thousand fatalities, and has generated over one million six hundred thousand displaced persons. One million have sought refuge abroad and six hundred thousand have sought shelter in other regions of Ukraine. Russia’s continued support for separatist rebels perpetuates war and lawlessness, hurting all people in the region. This is a humanitarian crisis that must be addressed here and now.
Political resolution is required, but a solution to the human suffering has to be a priority. In this regard, I also call on the Ukrainian authorities to quickly and transparently investigate the recent cases of extra-judicial killings of people affiliated with the previous government. While we understandably are focused on the fighting in the east of the country, Ukraine must continue to investigate and hold accountable those responsible for such killings and the Odessa tragedy from May last year.
Santos also referenced Russia’s domestic crackdown against non-governmental organizations and activists:
Regrettably, in a number of OSCE countries, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are facing increasing restrictions on their work, or even violence. The trend of labelling groups that receive foreign funding as ‘foreign agents’ – thereby publicly demonizing and attempting to discredit them – must be reversed. I have repeatedly raised my concern about this in Russia, where hundreds of NGOs, from environmental groups to LGBT rights groups to election-monitoring organizations, have been subject to searches by the authorities since the ‘foreign agent’ legislation came into effect in late 2012. I sincerely hope that draft legislation introducing similar provisions in Kyrgyzstan will not be adopted.
— James Miller
The ATO press centre has just published a statement on its Facebook page claiming that Russian-backed fighters have committed 18 violations of the ceasefire between midnight and 18:00 today, bringing the total number of reported attacks over the last 24 hours to 45.
According to the Ukrainian military, Ukrainian positions near Opytnoye were shelled twice with 122 and 152 mm artillery and three times with 120 mm mortars. Positions near Peski were attacked with mortars, automatic grenade launchers and small arms, while the settlements of Avdeyevka and Berdyansk were shelled with 122 mm artillery.
The military also reported attacks near Leninskoye and Klyarinovo. In the Lugansk region, Ukrainian positions near Tryokhizbenka were attacked by a sniper.
— Pierre Vaux
Andriy Tsaplienko, a journalist with Ukraine’s TSN, has reported on his Facebook page that Ukrainian troops were attacked this morning near Artyomovsk, north-west of Debaltsevo, leaving one soldier dead and six wounded.
Tsaplienko wrote that at around 4:35, a sabotage and reconnaissance group of Russian-backed fighters fired at a transport carrying soldiers from the 30th Mechanised Brigade with rocket-propelled grenades. The soldier killed was named as Junior Sergeant Aleksandr Kovalchuk.
Another soldier from the same brigade, the commander of an engineering unit, died after losing both legs in a blast.
According to the report, the 30th Brigade destroyed a transport used by Russian-backed fighters in response.
— Pierre Vaux
Alina Mykhailova, a volunteer with Ukraine’s Armiya SOS group, has tweeted that around 100 cars are queued up at a Ukrainian checkpoint on the outskirts of Marinka.
Marinka is a Ukrainian-held suburb to the west of separatist-held Donetsk. This area saw intense fighting over the weekend. Civilians may be leaving the city both as a result of this resurgence of violence and in fear of the much-discussed possibility of an offensive to follow Victory Day on May 9.
— Pierre Vaux
Ukrainska Pravda reports that Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian military’s Anti-Terrorism Operation (ATO), has announced at a briefing today that three Ukrainian soldiers have been wounded over the last 24 hours.
Lysenko claimed that, in spite of the ongoing use of heavy artillery by Russian-backed fighters, the situation in the Donbass “has been stabilising over the last 24 hours: the enemy has reduced the number of armed provocations against Ukrainian troops.”
Yesterday however, there were reports that attacks by Russian-backed forces in Shirokino, east of Mariupol, were on a greater scale than those seen in recent weeks.
— Pierre Vaux
Nikolai Polozov, a lawyer defending Nadezhda Savchenko, has announced that the Russian Investigative Committee (SK) has extended their investigation into his client until November.
Savchenko’s trial was due to begin this month but the delay means she will face another six months in pre-trial detention (SIZO).
Translation: SK has extended the period of their investigation into Nadezhda Savchenko’s case until 13/11/2015. For 6 months. #FreeSavchenko
Translation: The main objective of the Russian authorities in the Savchenko case is not to investigate the case but to break Nadezhda’s spirit, to break Ukraine’s spirit.
Polozov reported that the Basmanny court in Moscow will conduct hearings on both the extension of Savchenko’s custody for another six months until the SK investigation is concluded, and a complaint from Savchenko’s defence that, as a member of the Parliamentary Association of the Council of Europe, she has immunity from prosecution.
Translation: The Basmanny court will hold two hearings on the Savchenko case tomorrow. The PACE immunity complaint at 11:30, the extension of custody at 14:30.
Nadezhda Savchenko is a Ukrainian military officer and MP who was captured by separatist fighters in the Lugansk region and illegally transported to Russia, where she is on trial for the alleged murder of two Russian journalists.
— Pierre Vaux
The leadership of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LNR) have declared a state of martial law in order to prevent “provocations.”
An decree signed by the head of the LNR, Igor Plotnitsky, was published on the administrative portal of the Russian-backed separatist group yesterday.
The decree states that the state of martial law is being introduced in light of the possibility of “provocations by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, armed groups and Ukrainian irregular forces, and the deaths of people during mass events, which would lead to the breakdown of the work of the trilateral Minsk contact group.”
Plotnitsky decrees that meetings, rallies and demonstrations on LNR territory are only to be allowed with the approval of the authorities.
The decree comes into force today.
The text of the accompanying ‘law’ was published on lug-infor.com yesterday
UNIAN reports, citing Hromadske radio:
According to the militant organization’s document on introducing martial law, the measure is aimed at creating conditions to prevent or repel “aggression” against the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR), Hromadske Radio said.
“Aggression against the LNR is recognized as the use of armed force by a foreign state (group of states) against the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of Luhansk or in any other manner inconsistent with the UN Charter,” the document reads.
The document also reads that “during the period of martial law limitations may be imposed, to the extent necessary, to ensure national defense and state security, on the rights and freedoms of citizens, on the activities of enterprises, institutions, organizations, and on the rights of their officials. Additional duties may be assigned with regard to enterprises, institutions, organizations, their officials and citizens.”
The ‘law’ lists 19 measures to be implemented in accordance with the state of martial law.
Amongst them are a curfew, the prohibition of arms sales, movement controls, the evacuation and resettlement of some civilians, state appropriations for defence needs (to be remunerated), the prohibition of strikes, strict alcohol controls and the suspension of political, social or religious groups’ activities if seen as undermining the security of the LNR.
— Pierre Vaux
The Ukrainian military claims today that Russian-backed fighters conducted 27 attacks on Ukrainian positions between 18:00 and midnight yesterday.
According to the ATO press centre, Russian-backed forces used 120 mm mortars against Ukrainian positions near Shirokino, Peski, Gnutovo and Opytnoye. In addition, Ukrainian positions in Shirokino came under fire from 122 mm artillery and a tank.
Mariupol news site 0629.com.ua reports that Dmitry Gorbunov, press officer for the military operation in the area, announced that attacks on Ukrainian forces in Shirokino had resumed in the early hours of the morning.
At around 3 am, Gorbunov said, Russian-backed fighters opened fire on Ukrainian positions with small arms.
Gorbunov also confirmed reports of the shelling of Pavlopol, to the north of Shirokino, yesterday morning and evening with 120 mm mortars.
One soldier from the Donbass battalion was wounded in his legs during the fighting. Gorbunov reported that doctors had said the serviceman will be able to return to the front within two days.
The ATO press centre also reports that positions near Mayorsk, Leninskoye, Kirovo, Granitnoye, Avdeyevka and Sizoye were attacked.
From 17:30 to 19:00, the report claims, an armed confrontation took place near Zolotoye, to the west of the Bakhmutka highway. The press centre says that Ukrainian troops repelled a group of Russian-backed fighters after an engagement with small arms.
— Pierre Vaux