Day 450: Explosion in Odessa On Railroad Tracks; No Injuries

May 13, 2015
Explosion on railroad tracks on Odessa on night of May 12, 2015. Photo via @tombreadley

Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here. An archive of our liveblogs can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

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For the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: Evidence Review: Who Shot Down MH17?

Pro-Putin Biker Gang, ‘Night Wolves,’ Given Plot Of Land In Crimea as a ‘Gift’

The Night Wolves are an infamous Russian biker gang with close ties to the Russian President. Their leader, Alexander Zaldostanov, AKA “The Surgeon,” plays a key role in a new organization, “Anti-Maidan,” created to suppress any “color revolutions” which might be growing in Russia. Both the Night Wolves and Zaldostanov have been sanctioned by the West for their roles in helping to create the war in eastern Ukraine.

Now, the group has been given an expensive piece of land in Sevastapol, a key port in Russian-occupied Crimea, as a reward, it would seem, for their loyalty to Putin. RFE/RL reports:

According to a document seen by RFE/RL, the Night Wolves were given land in the Crimean peninsula city of Sevastopol to build a “multipurpose patriotic center for extreme sports.”

The document, which bore the official city seal, gave no reason why the land was being gifted.

Russian authorities in Sevastopol have given the bikers six months to draw up plans for their center, and promised that there will be public hearings on the planned construction.

The land in question in the Black Sea port city has a high market value, with a square meter going for 96,000 rubles ($1,960), according to a reporter with the Crimean Desk of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service.

Recently we have been following the story of how the Night wolves are driving across Europe to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis in Germany, a move that several countries tried to block.


Russian President Vladimir Putin ridding next to Night Wolves leader Alexander Zaldostanov in 2011 | Photo by Ivan Sekretarev/AP


James Miller

MPs Draft Resolution Calling For Dismissal Of Interior Minister Avakov After Attack On Journalists

Ukrainska Pravda reports that a group of MPs in the Verkhovna Rada have registered a draft resolution calling for the dismissal of the interior minister, Arseniy Avakov.

The chairman of the anti-corruption committee, Yegor Sobolev, wrote on his Facebook page (translated by The Interpreter):

Ukraine needs a new interior minister. Arsen Avakov has failed the task of cleaning the Interior Ministry of corrupt officials and werewolves. The Chebotar affair was the last straw.

We are registering a draft resolution for the dismissal of Avakov in the Verkhovna Rada.

On April 28, a group of journalists were attacked while filming at a dacha belonging to the daughter of Avakov’s deputy, Sergei Chebotar. The reporters later identified the attacker as Chebotar’s son-in-law and his business partner.

MP Serhiy Leshchenko tweeted that he and several other deputies had already signed the draft resolution:

Translation: Sobolev, Barna, Dobrodomov, I myself, Derevyanko, Mateychenko, Melnychuk, B. Beryoza and Krivokhatko have signed in favour of Avakov’s dismissal.

— Pierre Vaux

Russia Removes “Wanted Poster” After It’s Discovered He’s The Ukrainian Separatist Defense Minister

The Moscow Times reports that the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs has removed a “wanted poster” from their website after the man was identified as the ‘deputy defense minister’ of the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk People’s Republic,’  Sergei Velikorodny.

The wanted poster:


A picture of Sergei Velikorodny taken in Donetsk, via


The names are the same, the age of the man seems to fit, and the faces are very similar. Furthermore, The Moscow Times quotes Novaya Gazeta as saying that one of their sources in the police can confirm that the suspect fled to join the separatists in Ukraine:

An unidentified detective with Moscow law enforcement was quoted by Novaya Gazeta as saying that police “would have gotten this Velikorodny a long time ago, but he first fled to Crimea and then showed up in Strelkov’s entourage.” Igor Strelkov, also known as Girkin, is a Russian citizen who commanded Ukraine’s separatist rebels earlier in the insurgency.

The unidentified detective said that if Russian police went to Donetsk to arrest Valikorodny, “we would all get shot there,” Novaya Gazeta reported.

Earlier this spring, Russian investigators detained former separatist Defense Minister Oleg Bugrov of the neighboring self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, Russia’s Fontanka news portal reported.

Russia’s Federal Security Service accuses Bugrov of supplying “counterfeit” pipes to a firm co-owned by Russian billionaire Gennady Timchenko, Fontaka reported.

James Miller

Ten Ukrainian Soldiers Wounded Over Last 24 Hours

Ukrainska Pravda reports that Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian military’s operations in the south-east, has announced at a briefing today that 10 Ukrainian soldiers have been wounded over the last 24 hours.

Lysenko said that the majority of casualties had been caused by mortar attacks near Luganskoye and Svetlodarsk, north-east of Gorlovka.

Earlier this morning, Novosti Donbassa reported that the ATO press centre claimed that Russian-backed fighters had fired on Ukrainian positions last night with every weapon in their arsenal.

The press centre stated that the most intense fighting had occurred in the Peski area, north-west of Donetsk.

The nearby village of Opytnoye was, the press centre claimed, fired on with heavy-calibre machine guns and anti-aircraft artillery. 

Ukrainian positions in Druzhba, north-west of Gorlovka, were reportedly shelled with 152 mm artillery while 120 mm mortars and tanks were used against Leninskoye and Kirovo. 



The press office of the governor of the Lugansk region, Hennadiy Moskal, reported that Stanitsa Luganskaya was attacked several times last night with mortars and automatic weapons. 

Direct mortar strikes and shrapnel damaged seven homes and ruptured a gas pipe, the governor’s office said.

The ATO press centre also reported that a sniper had fired on Ukrainian positions near Schastye, west along the Seversky Donets river.

In Mariupol, the military headquarters announced today that there had been a reduction in the number of attacks on Ukrainian positions in Shirokino over the last day.

The headquarters reported three attacks so far today: a mortar attack at around 5 am, followed by small arms fire at 7:40 and 8:05.

Yesterday, the report claimed, there were five attacks on Shirokino positions and another near Pishchevik, to the north.

According to the report, Russian-backed forces have used both 120 and 82 mm mortars.

Artillery fire was also heard by residents of the Ilychevsky district of Mariupol at around 7:40, coming from the direction of occupied Sakhanka and Dzerzhynskoye. However no impacts were recorded. The report notes that it is possible that Russian-backed forces were conducting an exercise or were even fighting amongst themselves.

Meanwhile a spokesman for the ‘defence ministry’ of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic claimed that Ukrainian forces had conducted 41 attacks over the last 24 hours.

Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency reports:

“Over the last 24 hours, the self-defense forces registered 41 shellings on the republic’s territory. The enemy continues to use heavy weaponry,” the Donetsk News Agency quoted a DPR defense ministry spokesman as saying.

According to the DPR defense ministry, the Ukrainian forces shelled Donetsk, including the Oktyabrsky settlement, Oktyabrskaya mine, airport and Volvo Center, Gorlovka, Yasinovataya. The villages of Spartak, Zhabichevo, Logvinovo and Kalinovka also came under fire. The information about casualties among civilians and self-defense forces is currently being verified.

— Pierre Vaux


Separatist Proposals For Ukrainian Constitution Include Non-Aligned Status And Locally Controlled ‘Militia’

Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency reports that representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DNR and LNR) have submitted proposals for amendments to the Ukrainian constitution to the tripartite Contact Group and Voloymyr Groysman, speaker of the Verkhovna Rada and head of the Ukrainian Constitutional Commission.

Denis Pushilin and Vladislav Deinego, representatives for the DNR and LNR respectively, released a joint statement today. The proposals “provide for the inclusion in the Constitution of Ukraine of an additional section, fixing the special legal status of the separate districts of Donbass.”

TASS reports:

The proposed draft envisages, in particular, “the creation of people’s militia units controlled by the local authorities, the Russian language official status, a special economic regime and other rights.” They also provide for the possibility of concluding a set of treaties and agreements between Ukraine’s central authorities and Donbass. It is also proposed to introduce amendments to the constitution’s articles on the judicial system, on the local self-government and administrative-territorial organisation of Ukraine.

In addition, the text of the draft provides for constitutional recognition of non-aligned status of Ukraine.

Pushilin said that the Russian-backed separatists from both self-proclaimed entities had repeatedly addressed both the Constitutional Commission and Groysman personally, but had not received any response. 

The Constitutional Commission is due to meet on May 13. Pushilin said that the DNR and LNR would introduce corresponding amendments to their own ‘constitutions’ if Ukraine introduced their proposed amendments.

TASS reports that Deinego said that (translated by The Interpreter):

“Synchronised and harmonised constitutional reform of Ukraine, the DNR and the LNR is the only possible modle for rebuilding a single political space and fulfilling the Minsk agreements.”

Yesterday, the two representatives outlined proposals for the holding of local elections in the occupied territories that would bar any pro-Ukrainian parties from running.

The proposals contradict amendments to the Special Status law passed by the Rada on March 17 this year that said that local elections must be held in accordance with Ukrainian law before the self-governing status for the occupied territories could come into effect. 

Pushilin said that these amendments must be withdrawn for the peace process to continue.

— Pierre Vaux

Explosion in Odessa on the Railroad; No Injuries

There was an explosion late last night in Odessa on the railroad tracks, social media and local press report.

The Anti-Terrorism Operation (ATO) reported:

Translation: @SputnikATO At the 1310 km mark on the Odessa-Peresyp-Odessa-Zastava-2 line, an explosion occurred at 23:55 on Tuesday, May 12.

Translation: Odessa: Explosion of the R/R. Bridge is intact. Train breaked right before the damaged track.

Translation: in Odessa, at about midnight in the district of Balkovskaya, a explosion thundered (updated).

There have been at least a half dozen explosions in Odessa, railroad, the most recently on April 28.

Catherine A. Fitzpatrick