Ukraine Liveblog Day 180: The Battle For Lugansk Begins

August 16, 2014
Russian T-90 tanks being ferried to the south-west by trucks in Novocherkassk, Rostov Region. Screenshot from Instagram video by newchek61

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

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View Ukraine: April, 2014 in a larger map
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?

Below we will be making regular updates so check back often.

Russian Battalion with Chechens Geolocated to Snezhnoye

As we reported earlier on our Ukraine LiveBlog and Russia This Week blog, we’ve been looking to see if a number of videos uploaded today to YouTube, claiming to show a Russian Federation battalion with Chechens or others from the North Caucasus could be geolocated — already inside southeastern Ukraine.

Thanks to  @djp3tros, who runs the Ukraine@War blog, one of the videos has been located here on Google Maps for The Interpreter:


A clump of foliage in the field visible on the map can be seen in the video at 0:19.


The fighters can be heard crying “Allahu Akbar!”

This is a copy of the original video, which was deleted.

The other videos now fall into place as in that area on the road between Dmitrovka (AKA Dmitrievka) and Snezhnoye because they have the same narrator with a Russian southern accent in them, who talks to some people with Caucasian accents:

This is a copy of the original video, which was deleted.

Taken in conjunction with a report from separatists that they received from Russia 1,200 fighters, 30 tanks and 120 armored vehicles (see our story here) and another report from a Ukrainian soldier (since deleted and possibly inaccurate) of 600 fighters with some Chechens captured, it seems quite likely that Russian soldiers, possibly from Special Operations Force (SOF) have invaded Ukraine.

Separatists’ Videos from Break-out of Blockade near Snezhnoye

Earlier today we reported on separatists’ claim of advances near Snezhnoye.

Over on our Russia This Week blog, we also examined reports of Chechens and other fighters from the North Caucasus in the Russian Federation present in this region of Ukraine, based on a number of videos posted today.

So now we are putting them together and seeing if we can geolocate them and find out more about what is happening.

First, it’s helpful to go back to this video uploaded August 15, dated August 13, with the label “This is after nine days of the blockade of Dmitrievka (AKA Dmitrovka) at Snezhnoye 2.”

As a user of VKontakte said about this video, “No one knew there was a blockade of Dmitrievka. There’s a lot they don’t tell us.”

Apparently Ukrainian troops had this village surrounded, but separatists then seemed to have broken out.

This video was geolocated for Interpreter to Snezhnoye by @djp3tros who runs the Ukraine@War blog.

The location is here on Google Maps.

A scene in the video here enabled the location.Monument-in-Snezh.png


So take a look again at the other three videos we found about the mop-up of the highway from Dmitrievka to Snizhnoye — they appear to be in the same location. (For more background, see Russia This Week).

Note: This first video is now deleted from YouTube with a notice that it has been “removed by the user.”

It was widely copied on blogs and VKontakte with the following title (translation from Russian) “”Newest Russian BTR-82A in Snezhnoye. The Kremlin no longer hides its participation in the war.”

Here’s a screenshot of the BTR:


An embedded copy of the deleted video and description of the BTR in Russian can be found here. Another copy is here.

There’s also this video dated August 12 and uploaded today, also with a label about mopping-up or “cleansing” the road from Dmitrievka to Snezhnoye.

Ukraine Claims Retaking Of Zhdanovka While Separatists Claim Advances Near Snezhnoye

The Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, has announced on Twitter that Ukrainian forces have retaken the settlement of Zhdanovka, to the east of Donetsk, Interfax-Ukraine reports:

“The Ukrainian Armed Forces have heroically liberated the town of Zhdanivka in Donetsk region. Glory to Ukraine!” he wrote on his Twitter page on Saturday.

Meanwhile, a video has been uploaded to YouTube today, which purportedly shows separatist fighters advancing behind a BTR-80 armoured personnel carrier along the road between Dmitrovka and Snezhnoye. The description says that the fighters are clearing the road:

We have not been able to geolocate this video.
SBU Suggests MH17 Buk May Have Been Manned By Ukrainian Defectors

UNIAN reports that Viktor Yagun, the deputy head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has told 5 Channel TV that the Buk SAM system, believed to have shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, may have been crewed by Ukrainian defectors.

UNIAN reports (translated by The Interpreter):

“The personnel, who manned this Buk, could not be local residents, trained up on any courses. People who operate such weapons need not only professional training, but firing experience,” he said.

“We are working on several scenarios, including one, which is that it was our specialists, who remained on the Crimean peninsula and defected to the Russian side,” said Yagun.

Yagun said that there was a training facility near Yevaptoria, where all air defence servicemen underwent firing training.

“The best-trained air defence unit was based there, which had considerable experience in the use of Buks. The possibility cannot be excluded that these specialists could have been the operators,” said the representative of the SBU.

DNR Leader Says They Have Received 1,200 Troops, 30 Tanks And 120 Armoured Vehicles From Russia

The independent Russian radio station Echo Moskvy reports that the new head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, has acknowledged that his fighters have received “heavy reinforcements” from Russia.

They report (translated by The Interpreter):

According to him, the reserves showed up at the most crucial moment. They were made up of 1200 personnel, who had been trained for four months in the Russian Federation. In addition to the troops, the reinforcements, according to Zakharchenko, included 30 tanks and 120 armoured vehicles. A video of the speech by of the head of the government of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic was posted online.

Russia Continues To Send Forces Towards Border

The Russian military build- up at the Ukrainian border continues today.

Tom Barton, a journalist reporting from the Kamensk-Shakhtinsky area of Russia’s Rostov region, right alongside the Ukrainian border, where the Russian aid convoy is currently parked up, has reported seeing Buk SAM systems on the move (the same missile system believed to be have been used to down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17):

Meanwhile, videos and photos have been posted today which show Russian tanks and armoured vehicles headed south-west elsewhere in the Rostov region, travelling in the direction of the Ukrainian border.

This Instagram video shows Russian T-90 tanks being transported by truck in the town of Novocherkassk.

We have geolocated it here:


The tanks are headed south-west, which would take them towards the build-up of forces at the border. Despite the large numbers of forces already at the border, and the claims yesterday that Russia may be seeking to de-escalate the situation (a confusing claim given their observed military intrusion into Ukrainian territory), it appears that reinforcements are continuing to be shipped to the west.

Other photos, purportedly taken in the Rostov region, but not, so far, geolocated show other T-90s, armoured personnel carriers and military convoys on the move:

Ukrainian Forces Enter Lugansk Suburb

Troops have raised the Ukrainian flag at a police station in а north-western suburb of Lugansk.

The Lugansk News Today Twitter account posted photos of the flag outside the police station on Vokzalnaya street, in the Vergunsky Razyezd area of the Zhovtnevyi district, on the north-western outskirts of the city.

Heavy shelling was reported last night, with the city council reporting the breakout of numerous fires. The Epicentre supermarket in the east of the city was reportedly burnt down.

This video purportedly shows flames and shelling in the city last night (note that the preview image is unrelated to the video footage):

According to the text description of the video, Ukrainian forces are fighting to secure control of the M4 highway, which runs to the south of the city to Krasnodon, along which Russian armour columns have been seen moving on a number of occasions, en-route to separatists fighting to the west. 

The description also claims that a Russian armoured column entered the city last night. We have not been able to find evidence to verify these claims, though the column spotted on the evening of August 14, crossing the Izvarino border, could easily be in Lugansk by now. 

Translation: 5 Karl Marx street. The office of the gas company Kub-Gaz, in which the Canadian has a controlling stake, has been burnt out.

Translation: Destruction on Lenin street.

The humanitarian situation in the city also continues to deteriorate, with the council reporting shortages of medicine and fuel. Mobile and land-line communications are reportedly failing. All banks are now closed and salaries, pensions and benefits are no longer being paid by the authorities.

These photos purportedly show people queuing for bread and water today: