Alarming Escalation As Russian-Backed fighters Launch New Offensive In Ukraine

January 30, 2017

Ukraine Day 1078: 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


Heavy Fighting Around Avdeyevka Continues With Rising Military And Civilian Casualties

Heavy fighting around Avdeyevka, north of Donetsk, has entered a second day. The Ukrainian military reported this morning that two soldiers had been killed and five wounded.

This means that at least seven Ukrainian servicemen have been killed and 17 injured since Russia-backed forces launched an assault yesterday morning.

Four of the Ukrainian soldiers killed have been named, all of them serving in the 72nd Independent Mechanized Brigade:

Andriy Kyzylo (born in 1993)

Volodymyr Balchenko (born in 1992)

Dmytro Overchenko (born in 1989)

Volodymyr Kryzhanskiy (born in 1982) 

Three civilians were also wounded when, the Donetsk Regional Prosecutor’s Office reports, Russia-backed forces shelled residential areas of Avdeyevka yesterday.

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the civilians suffered blast and shrapnel injuries and are now receiving medical treatment.

Colonel Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, spokesman for the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, told reporters at noon today that Russia-backed forces had mounted multiple attacks on positions surrounding Avdeyevka, first assaulting the Ukrainian lines near the villages of Kamenka and Krutaya Balka on Sunday morning, under cover of mortar fire.

Several hours later, Ukrainian troops at the Butovka mine, an exposed position southeast of Avdeyevka, were attacked from the direction of the Donetsk suburb of Spartak. 

Meanwhile the epicenter of the fighting was the Avdeyevka industrial park, known as the promzona, which saw continuous fighting, Motuzyanyk claimed, for 19 hours, with several hundred shells and mortar rounds fired by Russia-backed forces. 

The following video, uploaded today, appears to capture the sound of outgoing artillery fire from separatist-held Donetsk:

The Ukrainian defense minister, Stepan Poltorak, claimed yesterday evening that Ukrainian troops had managed to retake a strategically important position near Avdeyevka during a counterattack.

At 11:28 (Kiev time) this morning, Ihor Medelyan, correspondent for the 112 news channel, reported that the sound of artillery fire was constantly audible in the outskirts of Avdeyevka. 

This is reflected in reports on social media from the area (selected and translated here by English Lugansk): 

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2017-01-30 14:27:45

Speaking in Berlin today at a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko claimed that Russia-backed fighters were shelling Avdeyevka from positions in residential areas of Donetsk city and the northeastern suburb of Yasinovataya.

Poroshenko said that this was preventing Ukrainian troops from returning fire to neutralize the artillery positions, calling the practice “barbarous.” 

However the Russia-backed separatists in Donetsk claim that Ukrainian forces did shell residential areas of Makeyevka, killing two civilians.

Eduard Basurin, deputy commander of the armed forces of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), claimed today that Ukrainian shelling had killed two and wounded three in the last 24 hours. Basurin also reported that three Russia-backed fighters had been killed by Ukrainian fire.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claims that 15 Russia-backed fighters were killed and 24 wounded, while Yelena Mokrinchuk, press officer for the 72nd Brigade, told Ukrainska Pravda this morning that, based on their own observations and data recovered from the opposing side, nine Russia-backed fighters had been killed and 24 wounded, seven of them seriously.

Mokrinchuk claimed that three Russia-backed fighters had been captured, but that two had died from injuries sustained in battle. 

Among the dead confirmed by both sides is Ivan Balakay, known by his call-sign of Grek (Greek), commander of a unit in the Russia-backed Vostok Battalion.

Yuriy Butusov, editor at Censor.NET, reports that Balakay was one of the most experienced field commanders among the Donetsk separatists, having fought in battles near Slavyansk, Yasinovataya and the successful Russia-backed campaign in the summer of 2014 to push Ukrainian forces out of the swath of territory adjacent to the Russian border in what was then known as Sector D

A TV crew from Russia’s pro-Kremlin NTV channel claimed to have come under fire from Ukrainian forces while filming in Makeyevka yesterday.

NTV reported that several shells had exploded nearby, but while the footage broadcast captures a sound, perhaps a blast or gunshot, as the camera crew falls to the floor, no visible sign of a blast can be seen.

Photos that appear to be new are indeed circulating of shell damage in Makeyevka:  

Translation: #Makeyevka “nighttime surprise in the garden between Repin and Cherepanovy streets”

Beyond Avdeyevka, the Ukrainian military reports that Russia-backed forces continued offensive operations with the use of heavy weaponry across the rest of the front yesterday.

In the south, the military claimed that Russia-backed forces had used Grad rockets, fired from both truck-based multiple-launch systems, near Talakovka, just outside Mariupol, and portable Grad-P single-fire launchers, in conjunction with 122-mm artillery, near Vodyanoye.

Mortar shelling was reported across much of the front line, including the Mariupol area, the west of Donetsk, the Gorlovka and Svetlodarsk areas, and west of the Lugansk region.

Overall, the military reported 56 attacks by Russia-backed forces yesterday:

This high level of violence began in earnest a the end of last week and marks a disconcerting certain shift from the regular cycle of ebbs and flows in fighting. 

— Pierre Vaux