One Ukrainian Soldier Killed, Three Wounded; OSCE Monitors Denied Access to Some Towns on the Front Line

January 11, 2017
An OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) observer talks with a Ukrainian ATO soldier on December 16, 2016. Photo by ATO

Ukraine Day 1059: LIVE UPDATES BELOW. One Ukrainian soldier was killed and three wounded in the last day of battles; one was also “traumatized.” OSCE monitors were denied access to Ukrainian-held areas.

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

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One Ukrainian Soldier Killed, Three Wounded; OSCE Monitors Denied Access to Some Towns on the Front Line

One Ukrainian soldier was killed and three wounded in the last day of battles; one was also “traumatized,” Oleksandr Motuzyanik, spokesman for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry on ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] issues, reported at his briefing today, January 11, Liga.net reported.
On its Facebook page today, the ATO reported 49 attacks.
On the Mariupol line, Russia-backed militants fired on Talakovka and Vodyanoye with mortar-launchers. They used grenade-launchers on Maryinka, Vodyanoye, Talakovka, Gnutovo and Shirokino, and small arms on Pavlopol, Shirokino and Novotroitskoye. A sniper was active around Novotroitskoye and a BMP fired on Shirokino.
There were also clashes at Taramchuk, and Ukrainian forces were reported to repel a separatist attack.
On the Lugansk line, militants fired from mortar-launchers and anti-tank missile systems on Novozvanovka, and used grenade-launchers on Troitskoye.
On the Donetsk line, there was firing with mortar-launchers on Verkhnyetoretskoye, Avdeyevka, Krutaya Balka, Opytnoye, Luganskoye and Zaytsevo. There was firing on Opytnoye from a BMP.
A 24-year-old man who said he had fought with the separatists turned himself over to the local police in Bakhmut (formerly called Artyomovsk), Liga.net reported.
The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) reported today that it had not been able to gain access to the Ukrainian-controlled towns of Stanitsa Luganskaya, Zolotoye and Petrovska — all of which have been under fire by Russia-backed forces. SMM also recorded a higher number of ceasefire violations in the Donetsk Region than in previous days. A number of missiles fired both from and to Avdeyevka were recorded, among others.
The Mariupol city site 0629.com.ua reported that the Ukrainian Armed Forces based near the village of Kasyanovka (22 km to the north of Mariupol) refused to permit access to the SMM to this base. They also refused access to a base near the village of Topolinoye, 19 km to the northwest of Mariupol. The SMM reported this to the Joint Center for Control and Coordination.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry reported that in 2016, out of 256 non-battle fatalities, 63 soldiers committed suicide and 58 died as the result of illnesses.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Journalist Bobrovnikov Flees Ukraine After Threats Related to Investigation of Smuggling by Ukrainian Soldiers
A Ukrainian journalist who reported on deadly smuggling operations by some soldiers in the Ukrainian Armed Forces near the Russian border has been forced to leave Ukraine, Censor.net reported.
Ukrainska Pravda also earlier reported the story, but it is no longer loading on its site, although it is visible in the web cache.
Aleksei Bobrovnikov is a Ukrainian investigative reporter wrote in a lengthy post on his Facebook page that he was forced to leave his homeland a month ago due to threats after he covered the story of the execution of two members of a mobile unit of Ukrainian police and intelligence officers known as the “Andrew Group” which had combated smugglers. Bobrovnikov had reason to believe, based on testimony from survivors of the attack, that they were killed by their fellow Ukrainian soldiers.

He said he delayed a month announcing his departure because he was waiting to obtain further documents regarding a series of deaths related to the anti-smuggling operations he believes are connected.

The Interpreter’s Pierre Vaux wrote about Bobrovnikov’s findings, which involved allegations of corrupt Ukrainian soldiers who killed mobile unit members Andrei Galushchenko and Dmitry Zharuk to hush up their findings of ¬†lucrative smuggling activities near the Russian border known as the “grey zone” between Ukrainian territory and areas controlled by Russia-backed forces.

Bobrovnikov said “from the very first days of the investigation devoted to the ‘grey zone,’ or to be more precise, two days before the murder of Andrei Galushchenok,” he began to receive threats of physical reprisals. As he writes on Facebook (translation by The Interpreter):
“These took place both in a friendly form, with claps on the back, as well as the form of threats with guns in hand. Other people involved in studying the issues of trade with the occupied territories received similar threats.”
He received a total of five warnings after writing about the killing of two anti-smuggling officers and the wounding of four others.
Viktor Nikolyuk, commander of the 92nd Separate Motorized Brigade denied the allegations made about corruption and murder among members of his brigade and said it was a deliberate effort to tarnish the brigade’s reputation.
Last February, the Ukrainian Military prosecutor detained one suspect in the murders near Schastye, Pavel Dolzhenko, whose call sign was “Krym” [Crimea], who was a demobilized former soldier in a reconnaissance company.

Bobrovnikov said he first began investigating the topic of smuggling when Aleksei Venediktov, editor-in-chief of Ekho Moskvy reported in 2015 that drugs were being brought into Ukraine through the “grey zone”. He came to believe that people from all the “power ministries” were involved in the operations — including the border guards, the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) and the GUR or military intelligence.

Bobrovnikov characterized Galushenko as his “main source” for the smuggling story, and said he filmed length interviews with him two days before his death, one of which was published with his Facebook post.

He said the first threat came before the murders of Galushhenko and Zharuk via a man who gave his name only as “Ivan,” with whom he met at the insistence of a female journalist who worked on the Lugansk front. “Ivan” said he was a former member of the 92nd brigade, who told a long-winded story that concluded with an expression of hope that Bobrovnikov would not make “baseless accusations” or he would have to “apologize to the 92nd.” He offered Bobrovnikov to cover anti-smuggling activities at another location near Kharkiv, far from the “grey zone” where Andrei Galushenko, for whom the “Andrew Group” was named, was deployed.

When Galushenko was killed, if anything Bobrovnikov decided to focus even more on the 92nd brigade and the “grey zone” around Schastye. But when he called “Ivan” only a few hours after Galushchenko was killed, he no longer answered his phone.

Bobrovnikov later discovered that the notes Galushchenko had prepared and sent to the Lugansk Region military and civil administration disappeared without explanation. Then-governor Heorgiy Tuka said he does not remember when the documents were received and his office did not find any trace of them moving through official channels.

Bobrovnikov described a number of clues that stood out from the mobile unit members’ murder — a mine that didn’t explode, and a survivor’s eye-witness of seeing a mine before falling unconscious. He also detailed reports of a murder suspect with the nickname Sirota [orphan] and further threats of physical harm he received if he pursued the investigation. At the end of his post, he indicates that he will have more material to come.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick¬†