Russia-Backed Forces Attack 56X; 2 Ukrainian Soldiers Killed, 1 Wounded; Fight Breaks Out at Blockade

February 28, 2017
Screen grab of a video of a fight at the crossroads in Krivoy Torets, Ukraine, where activists have maintained a blockade of trade with the separatist-held territories. Via Ukrainian Interior Minister Aven Avakov, February 28, 2017

Ukraine Day 1107: LIVE UPDATES BELOW. Russia-backed forces attacked 56 times in the previous day; 2 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and one was wounded. Three people participating in a blockade of the separatist-held territories were injured in an attack by masked men at the crossroads.

Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.


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Russia-Backed Forces Attack 56X; 2 Ukrainian Soldiers Killed, 1 Wounded; Fight Breaks Out at Blockade

Assailants in medical masks attacked demonstrators maintaining a blockade of the railroad in Krivoy Torets. Screen grab from video posted by Arsen Avakov.

The ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] posted a dispatch on its Facebook page today saying Russia-backed forces attacked Ukrainian positions 56 times in the past day, reported.

The previous day they noted 86 attacks.
Two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and one was wounded, reported.
On the Mariupol line, militants used 122-mm artillery to fire on Vodyanoe and mortar-launchers on Gnutovo and Shirokino. They used grenade-launchers, heavy machine guns and small arms on Talakovka, Pavlopol, and Gnutovo. A sniper was active near Shirokino and Novotroitskoye.
On the Donetsk line, militants fired on the Butovka coal mine from a tank, and used 82-mm and 120-mm mortars on Zaytsevo, Troitskoye, Novoluganskoye, Kamenka, Avdeyevka and Luganskoye.
Grenade-launchers, heavy machine guns and small arms were fired on Zaytsevo, Verkhnytoretskoye, Nevelske, Bodanovka,. Avdeyevka and Luganskoye.
On the Lugansk like, 152-mm artillery fired on Krymskoye and small arms were fired on Stanitsa Luganskaya and Novoaleksandrovka.
Yesterday, February 27, Aleksandr Hug, head of the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission said in an interview with Radio Svoboda that if heavy armor is not pulled back from the line of contact, and the pile-up conbtinues, a new outbreak of battles is likely.
Three people were injured in the railroad town of Krivoy Torets when a group of masked men attacked participants in a blockade of trade with separatist-held territory, reported.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov published a video uploaded to YouTube of the clash on his Facebook page, reported.

Avakov has been a vocal opponent of the blockade and made a vehement post on his Facebook page (translation by The Interpreter):

“A big request to those blocking trains, deblocking, counterblocking and those who are simply opportunists: stop putting on shows. Hiring titushki and fighters from both sides. Using weapons and chainsaws.”

The video footage shows how the blockaders, who are mainly former ATO veterans, attempt to defend themselves, including with a chainsaw, as the masked attackers hurl stones at them.
He said some of the attackers admitted to police that they had been paid 100 hryvnina to attack the blockaders. 

Avakov said the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers should pass regulations governing trade with the “occupied territories” and advocated a ban on trade except for items of “critical import” that were required for the steel and power industries.

He also called for the energy ministry to develop a plan to diversify energy sources to enable less dependence on the anthracite coal delivered from Russia and the Donbass. Additionally, he proposed that the Anti-Terrorist Center, which governs the operations of the ATO, should establish mechanisms for checkpoints between the territories, and also involve public oversight so that the “titushki and useful idiots,” as he put it, who “feed the conflict” could not overrun the situation. Titushki were the hired thugs who dispersed Maidan demonstrators.

Meanwhile, the self-declared “Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics” have threatened Ukraine that if the blockade continues, they will “introduce a system of external management on all companies registered in Ukraine’s jurisdiction that operate in the DNR and LNR,” Al Jazeera reported.

This sounded like it entailed takeover of any Ukrainian businesses that still run in the DNR/LNR territories, but it was not certain what might be involved. As Al Jazeera reported:

Heorhiy Tuka, Ukraine’s deputy minister for issues relating to rebel territories, dismissed the separatists’ threat to seize the companies.

“It’s an attempt to scare us,” he said in a statement published by website InfoResist, saying the separatists did not have the ability to manage the large industrial companies.

But more relevant was the threat of Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the self-styled prime minister of the DNR, to halt coal deliveries to the rest of Ukraine, which would significantly damage its industries. Al Jazeera reported:

In government-controlled areas, the economic effect of the blockade is already being felt.

The government has warned that low coal stocks in power plants could lead to rolling blackouts, while the central bank has said it could take emergency measures if the supply squeeze hits steelmakers’ export revenue.

 — Catherine A. Fitzpatrick