Lavrov Says Arrest Of Ukrainian Deserters Who Had Joined Russian Army After Invasion Of Crimea A ‘Provocation’

November 22, 2016
Moment of the arrest on a video released by the SBU.

Ukraine Day 1009: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.

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


An Invasion By Any Other Name: The Kremlin’s Dirty War in Ukraine


Ukraine Reports 17 Attacks Yesterday, With More Shelling And Rocket Use Reported Today

The Ukrainian military claims that Russia-backed forces conducted 17 attacks yesterday, with further shelling reported this morning and afternoon.

According to this morning’s ATO Press Center report, attacks took place across most of the front line, with the heaviest bombardment occurring in the south, near Mariupol.

The military reports that 152 mm artillery was used to shell the village of Gnutovo, northeast of Mariupol, while Russia-backed forces used mortars, grenade launchers and BTR armored personnel carriers to fire on positions near Shirokino, Gnutovo and Slavnoye, which lies near the Donetsk-Mariupol highway.

To the west of Donetsk, Krasnogorovka was reportedly shelled by tanks, while, to the north, troops in Avdeyevka were attacked with grenade launchers and small arms. 

These weapons were also used near Zaytsevo, north of Gorlovka, the military claims.

In the Lugansk region, mortar and grenade-launcher attacks were reported near the village of Krymskoye.

This morning Ivan Krivoy, a military press officer, told the 112 news channel that positions outside Avdeyevka had come under fire from 120 mm mortars from 6:26 today for more than an hour.

Colonel Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, spokesman for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, also reported that Grad-P single-fire, 122 mm rockets had been used by Russia-backed forces against Krasnogorovka this morning. According to Motuzyanyk, four rockets were fired today.

No Ukrainian soldiers were reported wounded or killed.

Meanwhile, the Russia-backed separatists in Donetsk today accused Ukrainian forces of opening fire 519 times over the past 24 hours, shelling the outskirts of Donetsk and Gorlovka, as well as Dokuchaevsk, on the Donetsk-Mariupol highway, and the villages of Leninskoye and Sakhanka, east of Mariupol, with artillery and mortars.

This afternoon, there have been more reports of fighting near Donetsk and Mariupol: 

— Pierre Vaux
Lavrov Says Arrest Of Ukrainian Deserters Who Had Joined Russian Army After Invasion Of Crimea A ‘Provocation’

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, claimed today that the Ukrainian security forces had staged a “provocation” by arresting two Ukrainian citizens who were serving in the Russian armed forces on the frontier with occupied Crimea.

Russia’s state-owned RIA Novosti news agency named the detainees as Praporshchik Maksim Odintsov and Junior Sergeant Aleksandr Baranov. The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that the men were “illegally detained and taken from Crimea to the Mykolaiv region.”

According to the Ukrainian government, the two men had been serving in the Ukrainian army, deployed in Crimea, at the time of the Russian invasion and annexation of the peninsula. The two failed to return to mainland Ukraine after troops were withdrawn and went over to the Russian side.

Yelena Gitlayanskaya, official spokesperson for the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) told Mediazona last night that two Ukrainian deserters had been arrested after they crossed into Ukrainian-controlled territory at the Chongar frontier checkpoint, north of the Russian-occupied town of Dzhankoy.

Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Oleksandr Motuzyanyk told reporters today that Odintsov and Baranov had been identified while their papers were being checked after having entered Ukrainian-controlled territory. 

RIA Novosti reported that a “source in the security forces in Crimea” had told them that the men were called to the checkpoint to receive certificates of higher education from Ukrainian institutions.

Meanwhile Vasyl Hrytsak, head of the SBU, claimed that Baranov and Odintsov had arranged to buy the documents, which were not related to their own education, in order to fraudulently gain the necessary accreditation to become officers in the Russian armed forces.

The SBU has now released footage of the arrests: 

The video makes it clear that the men were detained on the northern side of the frontier.

Compare the bridges visible in this screenshot from the video with a geotagged photo on Panoramio

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2016-11-22 14:03:11

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The men appear to have been attempting to cross the bridge back into Russian-occupied territory when Ukrainian guards arrested them.

One of the detainees, possibly Odintsov, if photos published by the controversial Myrotvorets website are accurate, appears at the end of the video, giving an apparently prepared confession.

He says: “I realize and admit that I committed state treason, as designated in the Ukrainian criminal code.”

The man appears to be bruised, though whether this was as a result of the scuffle during his arrest or mistreatment afterwards is unknown. He may well be speaking under duress. 

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The Central District Court in Mykolaiv today ordered that Odintsov and Baranov be placed under arrest for two months, setting, setting their bail at 250,000 and 350,000 hryvnia ($9,731 and $13,624) respectively.

The SBU’s chief Hrytsak has expressed his dissatisfaction with the fact the court offered the men bail. 

This afternoon Sergei Lavrov said:

“We consider this an illegal provocation, conducted by the Ukrainian security forces on the territory of the Russian Federation against Russian citizens. Our law enforcement agencies are working on this.” 

Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, has declined to comment on questions from reporters on whether Russia would be willing to arrange a prisoner exchange deal for Odintsov and Baranov, in exchange for Ukrainian citizens arrested earlier this month and in August, allegedly having plotted to conduct terror attacks in occupied Crimea.

— Pierre Vaux