Day 709: Heavy Fighting In Donetsk Last Night

January 27, 2016
Damage to a Lenin monument in separatist-held Donetsk after unidentified individuals set off an explosive device last night. Photo via Novosti Donbassa

Last night saw heavy fighting with multiple reports of mortar and tank shelling. Meanwhile, a monument to Lenin was damaged by explosives in the separatist-held city of Donetsk.

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

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For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.

For the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: How We Know Russia Shot Down MH17.


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


Heavy Fighting Continues This Evening Around Donetsk and Gorlovka

As we reported earlier, fighting has intensified in the Donetsk area overnight and during the day.

The latest Ukrainian ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] report did not appear to make much of the Donetsk attacks, however (translation by The Interpreter):

The day began with a mortar shelling by the terrorists of the positions of the ATO forces near Troitskoye. The enemy used an 82-mm caliber grenade-launcher. The pro-Russian mercenaries shelled our strongholds in the area of the Donetsk Airport 14 times. The enemy fired at Ukrainian fighters in Peski and Opytnoye from small arms, machine guns, grenade-launchers of various systems and a BMP. 

On the Mariupol line, the bulwarks of the Ukrainain Armed Forces near Talakovka were subjected to eney fire from mortars, grenade-launchers and anti-tank missiles.

There was no combat on the Luganskoye line.

All together, there were 23 instances of violations recorded of the ceasefire by the pro-Russian militants.

There were a number of other reports indicating escalation of fighting in Donetsk and Gorlovka., the Donetsk city news site, said the Oktyabrsky District and the North Kuybyshevsky Distrit were shelled, and Luzina and Stratonavtov streets were hit.

Translation: Two neighborhoods felt under shell fire in Donetsk.

Translation: [Born in Gorlovka] The ATO map for 27.01. On the whole, the situation on the front remains tense.
Translation: #Gorlovka . Fighting has broken out in the raea of Shirokaya Balka. At this time there are only small arms and AGS [grenade-launchers].
Translation:  Fighting in the west (approximately in the area of Glubokaya), firing from heavy arms, firearms.
Translation: [Evil Newton] #Gorlovka Shirokaya Balka, machine gun, mortar-launcher?
Translation: Information on the shelling of Donetsk for 27/01/2016.

Translation: Russky armor in Donetsk, 27/01/16 (?).

While the video appears to have been taken in Donetsk, and is consistent with reports we had yesterday of armor moving west, we could not confirm that the tanks were Russian as they appear to be T-64s. 

Translation: Shooting again in the south-west. Two shots from something heavy and firearms.

Translation: #Gorlovka after a short breather, they’re booming again.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

Nadezhda Savchenko Draws Own Maps For Trial As Telecoms Engineer Explains Alibi

Nadezhda Savchenko, a Ukrainian military officer who was captured by separatist fighters in 2014 and illegally transported to Russia where she is now on trial, has been forced to present her own hand-drawn maps as evidence to the court as she is barred from access to maps in jail.

Her lawyer, Nikolai Polozov, posted images of the maps on Twitter:

Translation: Nadezhda is barred from working on maps in pre-trial detention, therefore she has drawn her own for her questioning

Today saw a defence witness giving evidence on the mobile communications array in the area in which Savchenko was captured.

The court ordered that the witness be referred to only as “witness V” as they feared reprisals against their family in Lugansk.

Witness V worked at the Life mobile telecoms company at an engineering level. He said that Mikhail Pomazan, a prosecution witness who worked for the same company, had taken some of his documents and presented them with a false narrative to the court.

As Halya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group wrote yesterday, the court has rejected requests from the defence team for Pomazan to be cross-examined.

Savchenko had already been captured by Kremlin-backed militants in the Luhansk oblast when the two journalists were killed.  The defence is able to prove from mobile telephone records and witness reports that Savchenko was captured at around 10 a.m., around an hour and a half before the two journalists came under fire. 

The defence has, from the outset, publicly spoken of its evidence and the prosecution came up with a ‘witness’ who claimed that there were technical problems on the day in question, and that the evidence from Savchenko’s phone was therefore unreliable. 

The prosecution claimed that this ‘witness’ –  Mikhail Pomazan – was an employee of the Life mobile operator.  The defence investigated and were informed by the company that they had never had an employee of that name.  The lawyers therefore demanded that ‘Pomazan’ be summoned for cross examination.  Despite the obvious validity of such an application,  the judge rejected it, refused to add the letters the defence received to the file, and the written testimony was simply read out. 

Last week the defence questioned Andriy Ivanov, from MTC Ukraine who in 2014 installed and serviced the mobile communication towers in the Luhansk oblast.  Ivanov came vital testimony regarding Savchenko’s location when she made a call at 10.44 on June 17, 2014. 

This confirms Savchenko’s alibi.

The court heard it, but refused to add the testimony to the case, claiming that this was because the evidence had been gathered on Ukrainian territory – the territory on which Savchenko was taken captive by Kremlin-backed militants before being abducted to Russia. 

On Monday, the court also refused to add the letter received from the Lawyers’ Chamber of Moscow confirming that there are no geographical restrictions on where material can be obtained.  

In contrast to Pomazan’s claims, Witness V told the court that all mobile base stations to the north of Lugansk were in working order on June 17, 2014. This means that had Savchenko been in the Metallist area at the time of the attack that killed the journalists, her location would have been recorded by the base stations.

When Witness V presented map data to the court for the defence, the prosecution questioned the use of colour coding to identify the various base stations on the map.

Translation: The prosecutor is looking at Google Earth and asking the witness: height above sea level – what’s that? When did you create the file? Why are the masts different colours?

Incredibly, the following hour and a half saw the judges and prosecution being guided through Google Earth before the maps were finally accepted as evidence.

The trial continues tomorrow.

— Pierre Vaux

Powerful Blast And Intense Fighting Reported In Donetsk This Afternoon

There are reports on social media this afternoon of a powerful explosion and intense fighting in the north of Donetsk.

At around 14:20 Kiev time, Twitter and VKontakte users across the separatist-held city reported a huge blast and shock wave.


Who heard a boom?? — The whole city.


The shock wave was reportedly felt strongest in the north of the city, with windows shaking as far south as Oktyabrsky street in the city centre and audible in the eastern Makeyevka suburb.

Various claims have been circulating on social media as to the cause of the blast, with one “Dispatches from the militia of the Donetsk People’s Republic” page claiming the explosion occurred in Ukrainian-controlled Avdeyevka.

According to the post, the origin of the blast was the Myco-Food plant (a mushroom farming business).  However the Myco-Food site was reportedly burnt down in February, 2015 during a previous round of shelling.

The blast immediately preceded a major escalation in fighting:

Translation: And blasts again. This time seems like 120 mm shells.

Translation: Can hear machine guns, anti-aircraft artillery, automatic grenade launches and assorted other sh*t. Hasn’t been like this for a long time.

Translation: There hasn’t been such heavy fire for a long time, for a second it sounded like Grads far away. Then a series of shells.

Translation: 16:00 #Donetsk From the direction of Peski, heavy shooting battle, heavy [weaponry] periodically thundering. Haven’t head it like this for a long time.

Translation: Yes proper fighting, full-out all kinds of weapons

Translation: Very powerful rumbling, sounds as fierce as if they were storming Donetsk Airport again

— Pierre Vaux

Lenin Statue In Centre Of Separatist-Held Donetsk Damaged By Explosives

A monument to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin in separatist-held Donetsk was damaged in the early hours of this morning by explosives.

While the statue itself remained intact, chunks were blown out of the pedestal

Photos from Novosti Donbassa:



The separatist authorities have begun repairs and launched an investigation into the embarrassing incident, which took place at around 3 am Kiev time on Lenin Square, in the very centre of the city.

— Pierre Vaux
Heavy Fighting In Donetsk Last Night

Last night saw heavy fighting in the Donetsk and Gorlovka areas, with repeated attacks on Ukrainian positions in Marinka and Peski.

This video, uploaded last night records the sound of blasts and machine gun fire in the direction of Ukrainian-held Peski, northwest of Donetsk. The man filming says that the the blasts could be from tank fire or “something heavier.”

There were numerous, similar reports on Twitter:

Translation: #Donetsk , heavy + small arms to the north, fighting at Peski or Donetsk Airport. 20:15

Another Twitter user, in Avdeyevka to the northeast, replied, saying that they too could hear the blasts:

Translation: #Avdeyevka we can hear it. Regularly heavy.
Translation: Judging by everything, it’s a tank. The volleys sound so close to the front, but it’s not mortars. Would be unlikely to be self-propelled guns/howitzers so close.

Translation: #Donetsk something heavy impacting near Peski, the ground is trembling, minimum 120 mm mortar, pounding from approximately the area of Donetsk Airport. 20:20

Translation: On Proletarskaya can hear very distant bangs, have heard them, just about audible, for the last 10 minutes from the north. #Donetsk

Translation: Sounds of fighting, including heavy [weapons], audible from both the northwest and southwest simultaneously.

Translation: Grenade launcher or something #Donetsk #Petrovka

Translation: 21:44 Marinka. Struck!

Translation: Can hear fighting in Marinka. Very loud

Here is a report of fighting in to the north of separatist-held Gorlovka:

Translation: #Gorlovka More than an hour of fighting near Zaytsevo. Glubokaya joined in not long ago. Powerful volleys, firing with heavy [weaponry]

At noon today Colonel Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, confirmed the reports that tanks had fired on Ukrainian positions in Peski:

To the west of Donetsk, a Ukrainian soldier was wounded when Marinka was shelled with mortars. The same weapons were, Lysenko claimed, used against positions near Krasnorogovka, to the northwest.

While Lysenko reported one casualty, Vladimir Moroz, head of the Marinka district administration, wrote on his Facebook page this morning that two more soldiers had been wounded in the village of Dalnye, which lies around 18 kilometres west of the front. 

According to Moroz, one house at 162a Oktyabrskaya Street in Marinka was struck by shells and damaged.

The separatist head of the western Petrovsky district of Donetsk, Maksim Zhukovsky, claimed meanwhile that Ukrainian forces had bombarded his neighbourhood for three hours, wounding one separatist fighter.

Ukrainian military spokesman Andrei Zadubinny confirmed to Ukrainska Pravda that Ukrainian soldiers had returned fire in response to the attacks on Marinka and Krasnogorovka:

“They were using small arms, automatic grenade launchers, RPGs, anti-aircraft artillery. Our forces were forces to open fire in response. The fighting stopped at around 23:00.”

Mortars were also used, the Ukrainian military claims, against positions near Zaytsevo (which corresponds with the Twitter report above) and Troitskoye, east of Artyomovsk.

To the west of Gorlovka, Zadubinny reported that infantry fighting vehicles had fired on Ukrainian positions near Novgorodskoye, in conjunction with automatic grenade launcher fire.

The pro-separatist Donetsk News Agency (DAN) reported that Ukrainian forces had shelled parts of Zaytsevo controlled by Russian-backed fighters, burning two houses to the ground.

Eduard Basurin, deputy commander of the armed forces of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, claimed that, in this same area, two civilians had received multiple shrapnel wounds after setting off a tripwire “set up by Ukrainian saboteurs.” 

Overall, the Ukrainian military reported 66 attacks over 24 hours by 6:00 this morning.

Now, within the last two hours, there are reports of renewed fighting to the north of Donetsk:  

Translation: #Donetsk Fighting has begun at Donetsk Airport: small arms, mortars.

Translation: #Donetsk already scuffling from the direction of Donetsk Airport, something so heavy that the ground is shaking flying in + small arms 11:47

— Pierre Vaux