Fighting Rages In Ukraine; Russian-Backed Separatists Blame Kiev For Possible Terror Attack

July 9, 2017

Ukraine Day 1238: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.

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

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


Heavy Fighting Reported Sunday Night

According to the Facebook page of the Ukrainian military’s Anti-Terrorism Operation (ATO), as of 18:00 hours on Sunday, July 9, there had been ten ceasefire violations but no Ukrainian military casualties.

By 6 AM on Monday, however, it was a very different story. Overall fighting had more than doubled, according to the ATO. There had been 38 ceasefire violations and use of heavy artillery and mortars. Despite the spike in fighting, no Ukrainian soldiers were injured or killed. 

Possible Terror Attacks In Lugansk Escalate Tensions

One person was killed and another 5-7 wounded when two bombs exploded in Lugansk, the capital of the self-declared and unrecognized Lugansk Peoples’ Republic (LPR), on July 7. According to TASS, the Russian state-operated news outlet, Russian-backed authorities there claim this was a terrorist attack:

The first blast, which killed a female military medical officer and left five people wounded, was classified by the LPR militia as a terrorist attack.

“A homemade explosive devise seems to have been planted in a garbage can near a grocery store,” Spokesman for the LPR militia Andrei Marochko said at a briefing at the Luganskinfromecetner news agency’s headquarters. “The type and yield of the explosive device are being specified,” he added.

In about an hour, the second blast occurred 30 meters away from the scene of the first explosion.  “The second explosion went off several dozen meters away from the site of the firs blast when law enforcers were working on the site. Two civilians were wounded,” he added.

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One dead, seven wounded in Lugansk terror attacks

LUGANSK, July 7. /TASS/. Two blasts occurred near the Square of Heroes of the Great Patriotic War in central Lugansk, where offices of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People's Republic (LPR) administration are located, on Friday. The blasts occurred within an hour of each other.

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Jul 10, 2017 07:54 (GMT)

A spokesperson for the LPR, Andrei Marochko, also blamed the attacks on either the Ukrainian government or pro-Kiev elements. The Associated Press reports:

Marochko called the blasts terrorist bombings and he blamed them on unspecified “Ukrainian hawks,” according to the rebel Lugansk Information Center. He said the apparent intent was to undermine the possibility of Friday’s meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin making progress toward resolving the Ukraine conflict. 

US Line On Sanctions Not Shifting

According to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, US sanctions against Russia will not be lifted until Russia respects Ukrainian territorial integrity and “reverses the actions” that put sanctions in place to begin with. President Donald Trump used his favorite outlet, Twitter, to make similar statements. 

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Tillerson Says Russia Must Restore Ukraine Territory, or Sanctions Stay

The administration has sought to water down the sanctions bill to give the administration more leeway in dealing with Russia, an effort that was viewed by many Republicans and Democrats as a way to be able to relax sanctions without congressional approval.

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Jul 10, 2017 08:01 (GMT)

So far, then, it seems that the Trump administration is largely holding to US policy which has been in place for years. However, it is worth noting that, in Russia at least, the sanctions are used by the Kremlin as a sign that the West is antagonistic toward Russia. Though the Kremlin would benefit economically from the lifting of sanctions, such a move would also create an atmosphere of detente, and it’s unclear how that would fit into the worldview that has been constructed by Putin over the last decade.

James Miller