Ukraine Liveblog Day 181: Ukraine’s Military Advances Despite Russian Support of Separatists

August 17, 2014
This picture circulated on picture reportedly shows the Ukrainian flag being raised on the outside of the Lugansk police station

Yesterday’s liveblog 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.

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 Armored Vehicle Convoy Seen in Rostov, Novoshakhtynsk

The pro-Kiev Information Resistance has reported earlier today, citing Informator today August 17 that a convoy of 100 Russian tanks is heading toward Izvarino, the border crossing into Ukraine. The report was posted at 18:18 local time.

Information Resistance supported its report with reference to a post from an Instagram user in Rostov who reported the Russian armor going by on train flat-beds:

Translation: I see train cars like these with tanks and armored vehicles out my window. #Rostov-na-Don #railroad #tanks.

Translation: While you’re vacationing, #tanks and #armored vehicles are moving towards the borders on the #railroads #Rostov-on-Don.

A video labeled “Humanitarian column of armored vehicles moving
toward boarder of Ukraine. Novoshakhtinsk, Rostov. 17.08” was also
uploaded today August 17 by Only 24/7.

It appears to have been shot from the complex of these red and white apartment buildings in Novoshakhtinsk, Russia which would place it here on Google Maps.

That would mean it was about two hours’ drive from Lugansk in Ukraine.


Another video was uploaded to August 17 to YouTube labelled “Military vehicles near Rostov-on-Don.”

Rebel Armor Rolls Into Donetsk As Fighting Intensifies
Christopher Miller reports from Donetsk, the fifth largest city in Ukraine, one of the epicenters of the fighting in the east, and the headquarters for the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republics:
Ukraine And Russia Playing A Game Of ‘Chicken’ But Who Will Change Course First?

Yesterday there was a revelation which further proves that the Russian military is directly militarily supporting Ukraine’s separatists.

In a statement by the new head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, he admitted that the separatists have received at least 1,200 Troops, 30 Tanks and 120 armored vehicles from Russia. He called these “heavy reinforcements.” In reality, however, the fact that the separatists are receiving direct military support from Russia does not come as a surprise to those who have been following events in eastern Ukraine (the revelation that the separatists are admitting it is perhaps surprising — more on this later). The reality is that while for the first many months of this conflict Russia tried to hide their operations in eastern Ukraine, their direct involvement in the conflict has been far more obvious since late June. What is alarming is that these 1,200 Troops, 30 Tanks and 120 armored vehicles have likely all come into Ukraine in only the last month and a half, and they may in fact be an under-count. What is further alarming is that the arming of the separatists is speeding up, and that this revelation did not speak to the proven fact that the separatists are receiving direct artillery and rocket support from batteries located on the Russian side of the border.

A second, and more confusing, revelation is that it seems Chechen fighters from the Russian Federation could be playing a key role in a recent separatist victory. Yesterday separatists made key gains near the town of Snezhnoye, a town near the MH17 crash site. This is not a coincidence. The Buk that reportedly shot down MH17 was positioned on one of the most important corridors in all of Ukraine, the one that links the self-proclaimed Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, and the DPR with Russia. Evidence now suggests that well-equipped Chechen fighters may been involved in the fighting there.

But the main headline in Ukraine is that the military’s ‘anti-terror operations (ATO)’ is making significant advances near the important separatist headquarters of Lugansk. Reuters reports:

Ukrainian forces have raised their national flag over a police station in the city of Luhansk which was for months under rebel control, Kiev said on Sunday, in what could be a breakthrough in Ukraine’s efforts to crush pro-Moscow separatists.

Ukrainian officials allege though that the rebels are fighting a desperate rearguard action to hold on to Luhansk — which is their supply route into neighboring Russia — and say the flow of weapons and fighters from Russia has accelerated.

But the separatists are still heavily armed and have shot down a Ukrainian aircraft in this area. And as the fighting in Lugansk intensifies so too are the calls from the Russian government to send aid to the city. In fact, the Russian aid convoy which Ukraine has been warning may be a Trojan Horse campaign is located near the Ukrainian border and is supposed to be headed toward Donetsk. Again, Reuters reports:

After days of wrangling between Kiev and Moscow, there were signs of movement on Sunday.

Sixteen trucks separated from the main convoy and drove into a Russian bus depot near a border crossing into Ukraine, a Reuters cameraman said from the scene.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said in Geneva that Russian and Ukrainian border guards and customs officials had agreed that the cargo could be inspected.

Does the fact that Russia may be closer to allowing Ukraine to inspect these vehicles indicate that Russia is willing to cooperate? Or does the fact that the separatist leaders are now bragging about their military support from Moscow indicate that Russia will be forced to ramp-up its intervention, or perhaps even openly invade, to ensure that its allies in Lugansk and Donetsk don’t collapse?

The answers to these questions may soon be known as both Ukraine’s military offensive and Russia’s military intervention appear to be on a collision course, a proverbial game of chicken. At this point, Ukraine shows no signs of swerving from its course. With tens of thousands of the best Russian troops and armor still gathering on Ukraine’s border, it’s not clear what Russia will do next.