Police Shoot Over Heads of Protesters; NSDC Supports Poroshenko’s Call for Freight Ban on Russia-Backed Separatist Territories

March 15, 2017
National Guardsman fires a warning shot over the heads of protesters storming a checkpoint in Konstantinovka. Screen grab from video by 112 TV

Ukraine Day 1122: LIVE UPDATES BELOW. Police fired over the heads of protesters crashing a checkpoint in Konstantinovka today as clashes between blockaders and law-enforcers resumed. The National Council on Defense and Security supported President Petro Poroshenko’s own proposal of a ban on freight traffic from the Russia-backed separatist-held territories of the Donbass.

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


6 Ukrainian Soldiers Wounded; Homes Damaged by Russia-Backed Shelling Near Mariupol

Home damaged in Mariupol area. Photo by 0629.com.ua.

Russia-backed militants attacked Ukrainian positions 46 times in the past day, Liga.net reported, citing the ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] evening dispatch. No casualties were reported throughout the day.

Earlier in its morning dispatch, the ATO cited 106 attacks; 6 soldiers wounded, and one soldier concussed.

Avdeyevka remained under intense attack over night with grenade-launchers, mortars and a tank. Grenade-launchers and mortars were fired on Zaytsevo, Opytnoye, the Butovka mine, Luganskoye, Troitskoye and Kamenki; 122-mm mortars were fired on Luganskoye. 

Throughout the day on the Donetsk line, mortar-launchers, grenade-launchers and small arms were used to attack Avdeyevka, Troitskoye and Luganskoye. A tank also fired on Avdeyevka as did snipers.

In Peski, a BMP was used and near Kamenki, Troitskoye and the Butovka mine, 120-mm mortars.

On the Lugansk line, militants used grenade-launchers near Novozvanovka. 

The Mariupuol line was most attacked overnight, with mortar fire on Vodyanoye, Pavlopol and Gnutovo. A tank fired on Maryinka, and BMPs fired on Vodyanoye, Shirokino and Beryozovoye. Snipers were active near Gnutovo, Novomikhailovka and Shirokino. 

During the day on the Mariupol line, most shelling was on Shirokino and Vodyanoye, where militants used machine guns, a BMP and anti-aircraft systems.

Near Gnutovo, militants used grenade-launchers and a BMP near Novogrigoryevka. Heavy machine guns were fired on Maryinka.
The Mariupol city cite reported that four private homes on Vinogradnaya street were damaged in shelling from Russia-backed militants, and shells fell in their gardens.
A major fire also broke out at a styrofoam factory in Mariupol; the cause was not yet determined.
Protesters lead by Andrei Dyakonov, an equipment supplier at the Mariupol port  have demonstrated against the blockade, which is harming business as pre-payments for deliveries are not being made, 0629.com.ua, the Mariupol city site reports. The protesters have scuffled with blockade supporters. 0629.com.ua reports that Dyakonov has a past criminal conviction.

The Joint Command and Coordination Center (JCCC) reported that in the last 48 hours, Russia-backed forces have fired 22 82-mm shells, 77 120-mm shells and 77 125-mm shells, using artillery banned by the Minsk agreements.

This caused damage to the Makeyevka-Avdeyevka Coke Factory power line and left Avdeyevka without electricity again as we reported yesterday.

The Donetsk Filter Station, which supplies water to Avdeyevka, Yasinovataya and Donetsk was forced to halt again. The JCCC urged its Russian counterparts in the JCCC to put pressure on separatists to ensure the power and water supply for civilians in the Donbass. Authorities hope to begin repairs March 16.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

Police Shoot Over Heads of Protesters; NSDC Supports Poroshenko’s Call for Freight Ban from Russia-Backed Separatist Territories

National Guard Col. Yuriy Holuban makes an unauthorized speech in parliament March 15. Screen grab of video by 112 TV. 

Police opened fire over the heads of about 50 protesters in an auto convoy at a checkpoint in the town of Konstantinovka (Kostiantynivka) as clashes broke out again today between law-enforcers and activists who want to stop trade with the Russia-backed separatist-controlled territories, Gordonua.com reported.

The confrontation in Konstantinovka, about 73 kilometers to the north of Donetsk began at about 14:30 when the protesters refused to submit to a document check, Liga.net reported.

Чергова провокація блокувальників_блокпост Костянтинівка

Details… →

Mar 16, 2017 08:08 (GMT)

Police had not wanted to allow the activists into the ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] or war zone as they did not have local license plates, said Gordonua.com.
Activist Dmytro Kravchenko uploaded a video to his Facebook page showing a soldier facing an angry, shouting mob and then firing a warning shot.
Laura Litvineko, a blockade supporter posted on her Facebook page (translation by The Interpreter):

“They opened fire on us!!!

At the Konstantinovka Checkpoint!!!

Deputy Taras Pastukh has been registered. They are shooting in the air, and shooting through tires.”


But as the police were outnumbered and were unwilling to use more force as an MP was present, activists were able to push aside a police car and pass through the checkpoint.

Zoryan Shkiryak, advisor to the Interior Ministry, accused the blockaders of a “provocation” in Konstantinovka and of using swear language and attacking police with tear gas who were just doing their job, Gordonua.com reported.
Yesterday, as we reported, police arrested 45 blockaders in Slavyansk and on March 13, they Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) and Special Weapons and Tactics troops broke up the blockade at the Krivoy Torets (Kryvy Torets) railway station in the village of Scherbynivka, Interfax reported.

Activists said the troops arrived in transport carriers, checked documents and took pictures of the blockaders. Forces also went to the Zaporozhia checkpoint in Bakhmut.




Poroshenko Gets Support for Proposal to Impose Blockade on Donbass 

While police were breaking up the blockades, in fact, the government was essentially making them official policy.
The Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) held an emergency session today to support President Petro Poroshenko’s proposal to halt temporarily all trains and trucks, except humanitarian vehicles, from passage through the line of contact between Ukrainian-controlled territory and the territory currently occupied by Russia-backed separatists, Gordonua.com reported in extensive coverage of the decision.
In a speech at the NSDC, Poroshenko explained the reasoning behind his decision:
“To blockade or not to blockade? To support at least minimal economic relations with the occupied districts or cut off everything? These questions can be answered in different ways. It depends on what kind of strategy we maintain. Our goal is obvious. Restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine through the political and diplomatic route; the reintegration of the non-controlled territories within the Ukrainian state; the reunification of their residents with the Ukrainian family.”


Until a few weeks ago, many plants in the separatist-occupied areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions had continued to pay their taxes on profits to Ukraine, not to separatist coffers, and had continued to deliver raw material and goods to the rest of Ukraine, said Poroshenko. Now those links are broken as the separatists have responded to the unofficial blockade begun by ATO veterans, which cost them revenue, by seizing the remaining Ukrainian plants and selling their coal to Russia, not Ukraine.

Said Poroshenko, regarding the coal mines and plants in the Donbass: 

“These were like little islands of Ukraine. The anchor, on which this territory was held for Ukraine. And undoubtedly, we intended to use them for reintegration, for returning Ukraine to the Donbass, and returning Donbass to Ukraine. These were basic place d’armes.”


For this reason, Kiev maintained economic ties with the Donbass and officially condemned and discouraged the blockade informally put into effect by ATO veterans in December 2016.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister said the blockade had already cost Ukraine $3.5 billion, that plants were forced to buy coal from Russia, and 75,000 people in the mining industry could lose their jobs, Liga.net reported. Reserves of anthracite coal were dwindling and could not be replaced quickly with imports.

In an exclusive interview with Gordonua.com, Poroshenko explained that the blockaders actually made things worse for Ukraine because they  and cut off the last links Ukraine was hoping to use as a basis to eventually restore the territory. He blamed the protesters from leaving talks which the government had tried to conduct with them, and implied Russia had exploited them: 

“They needed PR, needed a conflict, needed destabilization of the internal political situation in Ukraine. And that is yet another evidence of the fact that this entire scenario was written not in Ukraine. The sentiments of the volunteers [fighters], of all those who sincerely supported these actions, they were simply exploited.”


The radicalism of the blockaders alienated both local residents and Ukraine’s European partners, Poroshenko added.

But now Poroshenko is essentially forced to put a blockade not only of railroads but of truck routes into effect until the separatists relinquish the factories they’ve seized. 
Sanctions against Russian banks are now also being contemplated, Gordonua.com reported; the National Bank and the SBU were assigned to do a feasibility study and within a day, Ekaterina Rozhkova, deputy head of the National Bank proposed a ban on any financial operations with Russian capital and said she hoped that “financial institutions with Russian capital will be removed from the Ukrainian market in a ‘civilized fashion'”.
Oleksandr Turchynov, secretary of the NSDC, told the press after the meeting that the blockade was being instituted “until implementation of points 1 and 2 of the complex of measures to fulfill the Minsk agreements of February 12, 2015, and until the return of the seized factories to Ukrainian jurisdiction.”
Turchynov referenced the ceasefires under the Minsk accords and efforts to pull back heavy armor and weapons which have failed with the escalation of fighting in recent weeks.
Arsen Avakov, Interior Minister, said the ban on trade would not affect private trips of individuals between the territories, but only freight.


Police Brought into Parliament to Speak About Clashes with Blockaders; Deputy Speaker Closes Session 

The clash of blockaders with police and the disputes around them led to an incident in the Ukrainska Rada or national parliament today when Vice Speaker Oskana Syroid closed the session after some MPS brought in police chiefs who are not MPs to speak about the arrests of 45 protesters at the checkpoint in Slavyansk.
While Yury Bereza from the Popular Front was speaking, people in camouflage uniforms arrived and “took over the parliament” as some witnesses claimed. 

Полковник Нацполиции рассказал об инциденте с Парасюком

Details… →

Mar 16, 2017 03:02 (GMT)

Yuriy Holuban, a colonel in the National Police, was brought to the podium to recount the incident that led to the arrest of the 45 demonstrators, including MP Volodymyr Parsyuk in Slavyansk.

Speaking at first in broken Ukrainian and then in Russian, he complained about Parasyuk’s actions at the checkpoint, noting that he and his fellow police were following orders not to allow people into the ATO zone, and in the clashes, some of his men were wounded, including some seriously.

Volodymyr Parasyuk, who is an MP but not a member of any faction, was accused by police of pushing law-enforcers, insulting them, and tearing the masks off some officers who refused to allow activists to pass through a checkpoint.

President Petro Poroshenko condemned Parasyuk’s actions, captured in a video, as “disgraceful”.

A video was also uploaded of police opening fire. Parasyuk said seven of his supporters were detained, his sister was beaten, and his father was hospitalized due to the use of tear gas by police.

He later said Gerashchenko, an MP from the Popular Front and former Interior Ministry advisor had invited him to speak.
But Vice Speaker Syroid based her decision to cut off the debate on a parliamentary regulation that requires a vote of 150 or more deputies to allow a non-MP like Holuban to speak at a session.
Aleksandr Khodakovsky, head of the Russia-backed separatist Vostok Battalion added fat to the fire regarding this incident by telling the press that Holuban, the police colonel brought in to speak in parliament, was a former fighter in his battalion who had fought against Ukraine, but then had taken a job in a commercial enterprise, ultimately winding up working in the police.
“And now he fights with [former Donbas Battalion head and blockade supporter Semyon] Semyonchenko” and is “dispersing his ‘brothers’ now already in the ranks of the Ukrainian police,” he said.
“We’ll figure he’s been sent in for diversionary work to the ranks of the enemy,” added Khodakovsky, implying that Holuban was working for Moscow — the side he himself is on.

But Anton Gerashchenko said that Holuban had in fact fought on the side of Ukraine for the last three years and had been wounded at Maryinka.

The NSDC’s decision to support President Poroshenko’s call for an official blockade should likely see the end of protests in recent months that have been among the most severe clashes between police and demonstrators since the Maidan protests in 2014. 

But extent of the damage for Ukraine of the forcing of Poroshenko’s hand in this manner and the loss of the Donbas industries for Ukraine have yet to be seen. 

Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, who owns a number of coal mines and plants in the Donbass, says he has lost control of his companies in the region.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick