Ukraine Liveblog Day 261: Poroshenko Proposes Delaying Elections In Occupied Territories

November 5, 2014
President Poroshenko chairs a meeting of the NSDC last night in Kiev. Photo: Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko

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.

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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.

Rocket That Killed 2 Teens in Donetsk May Not Have Come from Ukrainian Forces

Earlier today we reported that two children were killed and four were wounded at School No. 63 in Donetsk when a rocket hit the soccer field where they were playing.

Daniil Kuznetsov, 14, an 8th grader, and Andrei Yeliseyev, a graduate of the school, were killed by the shrapnel. The school was closed due to shelling, but the children had gathered to play soccer.

The Russian state media and YouTube channels of the Russian-backed separatist fighters rushed to blame the Ukrainian military for the tragedy.

St. Petersburg’s Channel 5 was among the first to the scene within 10 minutes and broadcast this news report, “Donetsk School No. 63 Under Fire.”

At 0:35, damage to the soccer field’s fence is visible, and the victims’ bodies, covered in a tarp:


School No. 63 is located at 10 Stepanenka Avenue in the Kuybyshevsky District of Donetsk, which is located here on Google Maps and is visible in Google Street View here.

This scene with the school and two playing fields, one to the north and the second to the south matches up on Google Maps as follows:


The southern soccer field is where the shells hit.

The soccer fields and fences were not yet built in 2011, when Google Street View filmed the scene

But the position of the salmon-colored school building in relationship to the  soccer field and fence built later can still be seen.


The Ukrainian news site had a picture of the field after it was built and fenced. It shows the northern playing field, but not the southern field where the rockets struck.

Segodnya said after the first strike, children went and hid in a bomb shelter because shells continue to hit the area.


Natalya Yemenchenko, director of communications of System Capital Management (SCM), the company headed by Ukrainian businessman Rinat Akhmetov, published photos on her Facebook page made by Pomozhem (“We’ll Help”), the humanitarian organization funded by Akhmetov. Earlier, Akhmetov, a graduate of School No. 63 himself, had funded the renovation of the school and installation of the playing fields and fences.

One photo shows a reporter from Russian state TV’s Channel 1 standing in front of the fence to the soccer field at the north end. The fence is dented in one direction from the racket, so it may have come from the left or east.


Channel 1’s news report has a close-up of the fence and victims (warning: graphic).

In this screenshot from the video, the reporter is standing by the salmon building with the white pillars in a recessed entrance, facing south from Mirogorodskaya Street toward a group of houses. The shell appears to have hit the north end of the soccer field:


Then there is a view on to the soccer field, facing south with the sidewalk on the right and the fence on the right with the houses in the background:


This appears to match the view in Google Street View (2013) before the turf was laid and fence built, looking south from Mirogorodskaya Street toward Stepanenka Street:


Another photo taken by Pomozhem appears to show damage to the east side of the building, although more photos showing the whole building would be needed to make further confirmation. The damage is minor and may have been made by shrapnel flying up, so it is difficult to determine something about the direction of the missile from this damage.


The Channel 5 video also shows how the fence is dented and damaged.


Eye-witness reports also spoke of an “explosion at the stadium”. By this they do not mean the Donetsk Stadium which is not near here, they mean the playing field of the school which is also called stadion or stadium.

Vitaly Skraganyuk, one of the boys injured by shrapnel filmed by LifeNews said that first a shell “fell on his school” which he didn’t see, then a second one landed by the soccer field’s fence and exploded, killing killed two of his classmates (Warning: Graphic).

The Interpreter has translated his account:

We were playing soccer near School No. 63. At first everything was quiet. Then a shell suddenly fell right on the school. We tried to run away, there were 9 of us, and there at the exit, near the fence on the field, a shell landed. Three guys managed to run away, it killed two of my friends, and four others, including me, were injured.

The eldest who was hit was 21. The youngest was about 10-11 years old. He’s a little boy still. The boy killed was 14 years old. The second [killed] was 17.

The first shell landed — I didn’t see it exactly — I was too distracted when it fell. But the second fell right under the playing field, not going into it, but under the fence, under the barrier. The fence exploded, so it turned out I didn’t manage to run up to it, and it [the shell] caught me.

I suffered three shrapnel wounds to the leg, a fracture, and a shrapnel wound in the groin, then it flew into my thigh. Then also one guy had his knee cap knocked out completely, [shrapnel landed on another guy on his arm and leg, and to the back of his neck a bit. One kid, the youngest who was 11, it hit him either in the stomach or the back, I don’t know exactly, and it flew into his leg. But he somehow managed to run out. He was already on the way out when he was caught from behind. So it was okay.

Novorossiya TV, a video channel supporting the Russian-backed separatists, uploaded a video with a reporter who said that the missiles were fired “from Peski,” a position the Ukrainian military’s forces to the northwest of the Donetsk Airport. The video contains graphic footage of the explosion area and the victims’ remains, but it is very close-up and difficult to determine anything about the scene, which was filmed in the dark.

We showed these videos and pictures to our colleague @djp3tros of Ukraine@War and asked him to analyze the direction of the shells.

He noted the damage from the explosion at the fence:


The red arrow notes the direction from which the shell likely came, as the fence is bent on the left side, and still straight on the right side:

Therefore it is possible that the rocket came from the east, from firing positions in territory controlled by the Russian-backed separatists there, rather than from the north (the Donetsk Airport) or northwest (Peski):


We’re waiting to get more confirmations from the scene, but there appears to be enough evidence to question the narrative that the shell came from known Ukrainian positions, and further investigation should be made of positions controlled by the separatists.

Note: we changed the word “missile” which appeared in the first version of this article to “rocket” to make it clear that the school was struck by artillery fire. The Russian term raketa can be used for either “missile” or “rocket.”

Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russian Human Rights Activist Barred From Entry to Ukraine

A prominent Russian human rights activist, Vitaly Ponomaryov, has been stopped at the border by Ukrainian border services. From our report on Russia This Week:

Could this be a name mix-up as occurred last month between TV director Dmitry Kiselyev and TV host Yevgeny Kiselyov?

There’s Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the “people’s mayor of Slavyansk” who was part of the Russian-backed separatist leadership, rumored to have been executed by his fellow leaders in July, although there have been some sightings of him since then.

See coverage of this incident on our Russia This Week column.

Men Who Killed Moscow Policemen May Have Fought In Ukraine

Two policemen have been murdered in the Moscow region. Below is an excerpt from our Russia This Week column:

The two policemen on patrol were found dead the night of November 2 on the highway in Perepechino, a suburb of Moscow. Their colleagues noticed they had stopped responding to radio calls and went to look for them.

The cops were in the middle of writing up a ticket on the drivers of a UAZ for driving while intoxicated when they were shot; one was found dead still clutching the ticket. The other was found to have a bullet missing from his gun, and may have tried to shoot back.

But as we point out, there is a body of evidence that suggests that these men were on leave from fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Read our entire update here.

‘Human Barbie’ Attacked In Odessa
A woman was reportedly beaten in Odessa. That probably would not be a headline in the international press, except for the fact that the victim was the world-famous “human barbie” Valeria Lukyanova, and the incident does not appear to be a robbery:

Al Arabiya reports:

“I came back home from a shop with bags and entered the door code when two men rushed from the dark and attacked me,” she said, adding that the attackers did not say anything and did not try to rob her.

“It happened in a flash: they hit me on the head, several times on my jaw, then one of them began strangling me,” she said.

The assault continued until one of her neighbors appeared, prompting the attackers to flee, Lukyanova said.

The model had to be hospitalized and was only released on Tuesday.

For more details of the attack and for pictures of Lukyanova’s injuries, see Al Arabiya.

Heavy Fighting In Donetsk As Two Teens Killed Near School
The fighting in Donetsk has grown significantly more intense over the last 24 hours:

The BBC has added some details about a story we covered earlier — the deaths of two teenage school students outside of a school near the airport:

The shell landed close to Donetsk airport at a school which was rebuilt by one of Ukraine’s richest men, steel billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, and reopened last year.

The head of Mr Akhmetov’s humanitarian fund, Rimma Fil, told the BBC that the children had been playing football after lunch when the shell exploded on the pitch.

The four wounded teenagers were being treated in intensive care, she said. Mr Akhmetov described the attack as a terrible tragedy and appealed for an end to the violence.

Shelling in Donetsk intensified on Tuesday night and there were reports earlier on Wednesday of one civilian killed and several others wounded in mortar attacks.

As shelling has increased dramatically in Donetsk, it’s not clear yet who fired the shell that hit the school — the Ukrainian military soldiers who are surrounded and trapped inside Donetsk airport, or the Russian-backed insurgents who are attacking that airport. The Guardian’s Alex Luhn, however, is reporting that the shell that hit the school did come from the airport:

We asked The Wall Street Journal’s Paul Sonne for more information on whether the artillery fire was incoming or outgoing, and whether he knew who fired the shell that hit the school:
We have not seen any comment from the Ukrainian government on this matter.
Aleksei Devotchenko, Russian Actor, Critic Of Putin and Russian Intervention In Ukraine, Found Murdered

In a disturbing development, a famed film and theater actor who was also a vocal critic of Putin and Russia’s intervention in Ukraine has been found dead, murdered and lying “in a pool of his own blood.”

This was the second time he has been attacked. In 2012 he was beaten, he says “almost killed,” in a metro station in Moscow.

For more information on this incident read our full write up in our Russia This Week column.


Savchenko Names Two Of Her Separatist Captors

Lawyers defending Nadezhda Savchenko, a Ukrainian military officer who was captured by separatist militants, illegally transported to Russia, and is now on trial for the alleged murder of two Russian journalists, have said that she has named two of her captors in Ukraine.

Nikolai Polozov tweeted:

Translation: Nadezhda has given the names of another two individuals who participated in her abduction. A certain businessman – Karyakin – and Vladimir Gromov.

Twitter user @AlyaFlo pointed out that Karyakin is the chairman of the ‘People’s Soviet’ of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic, Aleksei Karyakin.

Another of Savchenko’s lawyers, Mark Feygin, tweeted that she had signed the final documents for receiving the status of an MP, having been elected to parliament on the list for Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna party (we initially made a mistake and said she ran as a member of the Popular Front – thanks to Devin Ackles for pointing this out).

School Sports Ground Shelled in Donetsk, Killing 2

There are reports that both a kindergarten and the grounds of a school have been struck by shells today.

The website of the mayor of Donetsk, Oleksandr Lukyanchenko, reportsthat a shell fell on a school sports-ground, killing 2 teenagers and wounding another 3, who have now been hospitalised.

AFP reported from the scene:

Two civilians including a teenage boy were killed on Wednesday when shelling hit a school playing field in east Ukraine’s rebel-held Donetsk, an AFP journalist said.

Journalists saw two corpses covered by tarpaulin in the location close to the disputed airport in the city and witnesses said that at least four more people were wounded.

Donetsk news site reports that a kindergarten was also struck, though there are no details regarding casualties yet. The site gives the location of this Kindergarten as being Ostapenko prospekt, however we cannot any street of this name in the city.

The site says that there have been numerous shell impacts across the Kuybyshevsky district, leaving both dead and wounded, though without exact figures at this time.

President Poroshenko Preparing Ukraine To Become a Defense State

When The Interpreter‘s editors James Miller and Michael Weiss visited Kiev, there was one theme that permeated every conversation with Ukraine’s officials — they need to shift the mentality of the country in order to become a defense state, a state under constant threat, just like Israel, Taiwan, or South Korea. Poroshenko himself has made many overtures to this effect over the last few months.

Today, however, Poroshenko published a statement on his official website which details some of the ways which he wants to prepare Ukraine for conflict — frozen or otherwise — against Russia:

By his Decree, President Petro Poroshenko has put into force the NSDC decision of September 12 “On a complex of measures aimed at enhancing the defense capacity of the state and on the proposals to the Law of Ukraine “On the State Budget of Ukraine for 2015″ regarding the articles related to the guarantees of national security and defense of Ukraine”.

Under the NSDC decision, the Cabinet of Ministers must immediately revise the order of providing soldiers-volunteers to the Armed Forces and other military formations created in accordance with the laws of Ukraine by concluding short-term contracts for military service.

Also, the Governmnet must take measures to restore the initial military training in secondary schools.

The Cabinet of Ministers shall also form an optimal model of ensuring the security of Ukraine in a month, particularly in the context of concluding multilateral international treaty or bilateral international treaties between Ukraine and other states on the provision of efficient guarantees of security of Ukraine, protection of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In the sphere of financial provision of defense and security sector, the Government must immediately finalize the draft State Budget of Ukraine for 2015, taking into account the priority of defense programs funding. It is planned to maintain the funding of the national defense needs at the level of at least 3% of GDP per year.

The Government shall also broaden the production of military goods in order to modernize defense-industrial complex.

The National Security And Defense Council reports that it is already implementing some of these strategies:

Interesting (But Flawed) OSCE Report Suggests Fighting Increasing In Eastern Ukraine

The latest OSCE report is interesting for several reasons.

One part of the report highlights an under-reported story — the state of internally displaced persons, refugees who fled one part of the country to another. Note, for instance, that in Markivka only 120 out of the approximately 7,000 IDPs have been employed according to the OSCE:

The SMM visited the IDP (internally displaced person) transit centre in Lysychansk, controlled by Ukrainian forces (90km NW of Luhansk) and spoke with a group of IDPs, who said that since 1 November they only receive bread distributed by the Ukrainian Red Cross and no additional food is provided to them. Some of them said that they are now struggling to feed their families. According to one IDP interlocutor the district administration had advised him to find accommodation, as the government-paid transit centre is meant to be a temporary solution. By renting an apartment IDPs are eligible for state assistance, as foreseen by the recently passed Cabinet of Ministers Resolution No. 505 which anticipates monthly targeted support for basic living needs.

The SMM visited the district of Markivka, territory controlled by Ukrainian forces (150km N of Luhansk), located 14km west of the border between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. The head of the district administration informed the SMM that the situation at the border remains calm and no incidents were reported. The interlocutor said that currently there are 2,000 registered IDPs in the district with 340 school-aged children. According to the interlocutor’s estimation, there are approximately 5,000 unregistered IDPs living in the Markivka district. Around 120 IDPs have been employed, the majority in the agriculture industry and as school teachers.

The OSCE and a group of Dutch investigators are now working to remove human remains at the MH17 crash site:

In Hrabove, controlled by the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”), (80km E of Donetsk) the SMM accompanied the Dutch MH17 crash site recovery team to the aircraft crash location. The purpose of the team’s visit was to recover human remains. The SMM and the Dutch teams remained on site for approximately three hours. Periodic heavy shelling was heard to the NW at a distance of 15km.

The next part of the OSCE report, however, is deeply problematic:

In Stepnoe, in the Ukrainian-controlled Marynski district (30km SW of Donetsk), the SMM heard heavy incoming artillery shelling from the east at an unspecified distance. The SMM spoke to locals who said that, according to them, shelling occurred near the village of Taramchuk (7km NE of the village of Stepnoe). According to the local inhabitants, Ukrainian military units from the National Guard are stationed in the vicinity of that village.

According to LiveUAMap, Taramchuk is indeed in control of the Ukrainian military, but it is very close to territory controlled by the Russian-backed rebels. Ukraine has repeatedly maintained that they have pulled their artillery back 15 kilometers from the front lines — well beyond Taramchuk. While we can’t confirm that there is no Ukrainian artillery here, we are not aware of any evidence that suggests that Ukraine has any artillery within the 15 kilometer buffer zone.

Here is a screenshot from LiveUAMap:


Even if Ukraine does have artillery in Taramchuk, why would it be firing artillery to the southwest towards its own positions?

Meanwhile, it’s actually not clear who controls Taramchuk. The blogger “Dragon” (drakon_first_1) who supports the Russian-backed separatists also creates a daily map. While Tarmchuk is not on this map it is within the “narrow passage in dispute” highlighted by a red box — within the control of the Russian-backed separatists:


The map published by the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council (see earlier update below) is not detailed enough to give us a clear understanding of who controls Taramchuk, but clearly there is heavy fighting near here.

If the OSCE has enough observers on the ground they would be better able to detect outgoing and incoming artillery fire. With modern technology, and given enough information, it is possible to figure out who is firing artillery towards which direction. However, this OSCE update could be read as having implicated the Ukrainian military in this incident, based solely on hearsay of people who are not actual witnesses, despite  seemingly contradicting available evidence.

Elsewhere across the country a large amount of shelling was reported by the OSCE. Note that this does indicate an escalation in violence over OSCE reports in recent weeks:

In the vicinity of “DPR”-controlled Olenivka (30km S of Donetsk), the SMM heard the sound of multiple rounds and observed traces of anti-aircraft fire in the sky. Upon arrival in town, the SMM saw one BMP-2 and one Kraz truck fitted with anti-aerial 30mm automatic cannon, both with soldiers in position. In the southern outskirts of the town, the SMM observed a “DPR” checkpoint with around 10 members who were in combat mode, equipped with self-propelled anti-tank grenades AG-7 and light anti-tank weapons (LAWs).

In the vicinity of Hranitne, controlled by Ukrainian forces (57km S of Donetsk), the SMM heard unspecified artillery shelling at 15:00hrs from an eastern direction. In Hranitne the SMM monitored the distribution of humanitarian aid at a local school. The SMM found the process to be well organized. According to the Hranitne village representative, who was overseeing the aid distribution, local volunteers were also delivering assistance to pensioners.

In Debaltseve (73km NE of Donetsk) at 11:20hrs the SMM heard sounds of explosions at an unspecified distance and direction. The SMM spoke to the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) operations room which suggested that the explosions were the result of a BM-21 (Grad) attack hitting the area between Debaltseve and Chernukhyne where a Ukrainian supply convoy was located. No casualties or material damages were reported.

The rest of the OSCE report focuses on the “Russian March,” which, as we are reporting on our Russia This Week column, has had low turnout in Russia as well as Ukraine. The OSCE reports:

In Odesa the SMM monitored the “Russian March” which was due to start at 16:00hrs at Cathedral Square and end at the statue of Catherine II. The “Russian March” was to take place on the Day of National Unity, celebrated in Russia with “Russian Marches”. At 15:45hrs about 25 “Svoboda” supporters hooded in balaclavas arrived at the square. They were vocal and chanted abusive slogans, but left after 30 minutes. At both ends of the square about 50 riot police officers were standing in rows. There were another 100 uniformed police officers in the area. The SMM observed three additional buses of riot police parked in one corner of the square. The SMM saw that there were over 100 Euromaidan activists and only a few people came to participate in the “Russian March” (the participants were mainly female and elderly).

In Kyiv the SMM intended to observe the “Russian March” planned to commence at Independence Square and end at Sofiyivski Square. About 50-70 people, including a large number of journalists gathered on Independence Square when the SMM arrived at 12:00hrs. The gathering was mainly made up of young people and predominantly male participants. However, there was no indication that the “Russian March” would take place. The gathering was peaceful and no incidents were noted while the SMM was present. Approximately 10-15 uniformed police officers were present at Independence Square.

The entire OSCE report can be read here.

Ukrainian Military Reporting Intensifying Shelling By Russian-Backed Militants
Those have been following Ukraine closely by now know the trend — in the run-up to Ukraine’s parliamentary elections violence decreased in eastern Ukraine. Since then the Russian-backed separatists, and the Russia military, have been increasingly aggressive. According to the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, that trend has continued in the last 24 hours:
Merkel Rules Out Lifting Sanctions On Russia. New Sanctions Could Target DPR/LPR Leaders

Angela Merkel’s statement on Wednesday clearly rules out removing sanctions that were levied against Russia for its actions in Ukraine. In fact, Merkel suggested that new sanctions could target the Russian-backed separatist leadership in eastern Ukraine. RFE/RL reports:

“There is no possibility of alleviating or lifting sanctions that have been imposed,” she said, urging respect for the Minsk ceasefire agreement reached in September, which Berlin says was violated by the elections in rebel-held eastern Ukraine.

“We should look once again at the list of people who now have positions of responsibility in eastern Ukraine thanks to those illegitimate elections,” she said. “Apart from that, we should maintain the sanctions that we have.”

Kiev To Cut Subsidies For Occupied Regions, Gas And Electricity Supplies To Remain

Ukrainska Pravda reports that the Ukrainian prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, has announced that the government is cutting subsidies for areas occupied by Russian-backed separatists.

At a meeting of the cabinet of ministers, Yatsenyuk said (translated by The Interpreter):

“The government will not provide subsidies for territory while it is under the control of the imposters.”

According to Yatsenyuk, the total value of subsidies for the Donetsk region is 37 billion hryvnia, while for Lugansk it is 19.8 billion.

Out of these budgets, the amount currently allocated for areas under separatist control is 19.6 billion hryvnia for Donetsk and 14.6 for Lugansk.

The total amount to be cut is 34.2 billion hryvnia or just over 2.6 billion dollars.

Yatsenyuk said that subsidies and social benefits will be restored promptly once the separatists were driven out of the area.

At the moment, the prime minister said, any subsidies paid to the occupied regions will reach not the populace, but the militants themselves.

“This would be direct support for Russian terrorism.” 

Yatsenyuk made it clear however, that supplies of gas and electricity to the occupied areas would not be cut.  

“Those are our citizens there. The government will not let these people freeze… We will sort things out with the terrorists separately.”

Last night, Oleksandr Lytvynenko, the deputy secretary of the National Security and Defence Council, told reporters that humanitarian aid for occupied areas would continue.

Interfax-Ukraine translates his statement

“The Ukrainian state will ensure the supply of humanitarian aid to Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The people who live there and haven’t yet managed to leave are not to blame for having found themselves in such a situation. At the same time, Ukraine won’t provide the financing of these self-proclaimed formations.”

Shells Fall On Chermalyk, Near Mariupol, Following Day Of Attacks Leaving 1 Soldier Dead

UNIAN reports that the Mariupol Defence Headquarters have announced that Ukrainian positions near the village of Chermalyk, to the north-east of the city, have been shelled at 7:30 (5:30 GMT) this morning.

The mortar attack, the military claims, left no casualties and did not destroy any military hardware.

According to the Defence Headquarters, the attack follows a day of attacks on the Mariupol area. One Ukrainian soldier was killed and another wounded after mortar and tank shelling of positions in villages to the east of the city.

The military claim that shelling was, on several occasions, directed not at military targets, but residential areas of these villages. 

Poroshenko Proposes Delaying Elections In Occupied Territories

Interfax-Ukraine reports that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told a session of the National Security and Defence Council last night that he is ready to set a new date for local elections in the occupied areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

The elections had originally been scheduled for December 7 this year but, following the separatist ‘elections’ on November 2, which were declared valid by Moscow, and a wider failure of the ceasefire, with regular attacks on Donetsk airport, Debaltsevo, Mariupol and the Bakhmutka highway area, are now to be put back.

Interfax-Ukraine reports:

Ukraine will not be able to properly organize and hold such elections before December 7, the date for which local elections in certain parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions had been scheduled in line with this law, he said.

A new law on holding elections in these areas should be adopted when the Ukrainian authorities see a durable ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, when the troops are withdrawn, when the contact line indicated in the Minsk agreements is clearly demarcated, when resolute steps are taken toward freeing all captives, including those held in Russia, and when Ukraine sees that the effects of the November 2 elections in the DPR and LPR are annulled.

Poroshenko also said:

“We are ready to clearly outline the territory where, in line with Ukrainian law, these elections will be held and where special local government procedures will be in effect. Moreover, we are ready to ensure a special free economic area regime where businesses registered in these territories would have a special regime of economic relations with the EU and a special regime of economic relations with Russia.”

This would finally address the question of which settlements would be affected by the special status law, an issue which has created confusion about Kiev’s intentions regarding front-line settlements liberated from separatist control earlier this year.