Ukraine claims that yesterday saw the highest number of attacks recorded since August, 2015. One Ukrainian soldier has been killed while three others, and a civilian, have been wounded.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
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.
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There were a number of reports today of heavy armor moving from Shakhtyorsk (Shakhtar’sk), a Russian-back separatist controlled town, toward Donetsk.
Shakhtyorsk is marked on the latest map of the battle lines from the Ukrainian ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation].
Semen Kabakaev, coordinator of the group Stop Terror, reported on his Facebook page that a convoy of armor was moving from Shakhtyorsk toward Donetsk; 12 tanks, 3 Ural trucks and 2 KamAZ trucks were counted. He said earlier, about 15 self-propelled artillery (SAUs) were observed, and urged the OSCE to record this report.
Translation: 17 BMPs with MTLBs (light armored multi-purpose tractors) and BTRs went through Shakhtyorsk toward Donetsk. All of them were in white camouflage.
Translation: Judging from the quantity of Russky armor that went through Shakhtyorsk this morning, tonight there will be a break-out. The question is only where. Marinka?
Translation: 43 armored vehicles through Shakhtyorsk this morning, get the party started?
A teenager tweeted:
Translation: Shakhtyorsk one love.
If there will be something again
I don’t want to abandon Shakhtyorsk
I love Shakhtyorsk
I won’t abandon it.
A Twitter user cited several reports from VKontakte’s group “This is Donetsk, Kids! [Typical Ukrainian Town]:
Igor Yevseyenko A friend who is in Zugres writes that since 9:00 am the convoys of armor are going toward Donetsk, everything possible.
Tanks, howitzers, BTRs, BMPs, trucks with soldiers and ammunition. Going through Shakhtyorsk, Ynakiyevo, Makeyevka. Dozens of them.
He said the pro-Russian fighters may “start something” to “demonstrate their strength on the eve of the latest round of talks.” “We are keeping our powder dry,” he said.
The Ukrainian General Staff said the pro-Russian fighters were accumulating armor in three directions in eastern Ukraine.
In Donetsk, there was one report of the MTLBs:
Translation: Donetsk, Feb 5, one of the MTLBs from the convoy of Putin’s orcs entering (they went down Petrovka).
“Orcs” is a nick-name Ukrainians use for the Russian-backed fighters.
Firing also continued on Avdeyevka, Opytnoye and the Butovka coal mine in the Donetsk suburbs
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
There are reports of fighting heard in Donetsk and Mariupol this afternoon.
Aleksandr Kindsfater, military spokesman for the Mariupol area, told 0629.com.ua that Russian-backed fighters had shelled Ukrainian positions near Gnutovo, Kominternovo and Talakovka between 10:00 and 13:30 with 120 and 82 mm mortars.
Kindsfater said that the shelling, conducted from the separatist-held villages of Kominternovo and Sakhanka, was one of the longest seen in the area.
The spokesman’s claims echoed reports on social media:
Translation: Fighting in Kominternovo.
Translation: Oops, it’s started, bangs heard in Mariupol
Translation: The orcs have got spring fever. Can hear artillery again on Kurchatova street in Mariupol.
“Orcs” is a nick-name that Kiev supporters use for the Russian-backed fighters.
Translation: Kominternovo – battle under way. The orcs are using 120 mm mortars. Can be heard in Vostochniy, very loud. But! Our guys are at their positions, they’re in control.
Translation: Update: The enemy is shelling ATO forces’ positions in Talakovka and Gnutovo with mortars from the villages of Kominternovo and Sakhanka.
Translation: The terrorists have banned residents of Kominternovo from speaking on the phone. This is linked to the fact that the orcs are shelling from the settlement.
Fighting is also reported to be continuing in the Donetsk and Gorlovka areas.
Donetsk news site 62.ua cites reports from social media that Avdeyevka is being shelled, with impacts on the southern outskirts of the town.
Shells reportedly fell in a residential area on Nekrasov and Sportivnaya streets, as well as near the Vinogradniki dachas.
Shelling could be heard within the separatist-held city to the south:
Translation: Donetsk 15:00 Kiev time, The city can hear the swelling rumble of battle
Translation: Can occasionally make out bangs from the northwest.
Translation: #Donetsk incessant gunfire from the direction of Donetsk Airport/Spartak with small arms and salvoes/blasts for 50 minutes now
— Pierre Vaux
It’s been an awful week for the Ukrainian government. Earlier in the week, economic minister Aivaras Abromavicius, who is very well respected by the international community, resigned in disgust at the amount of corruption inside the government.
Ambassadors from ten countries, including the United States, wrote a letter in support of Abromavicius and expressing disappointment with his resignation:
We are deeply disappointed by the resignation of Minister for Economic Development and Trade, Aivaras Abromavičius, who has delivered real reform results for Ukraine. During the past year, Abromavičius and his professional team have made important strides — implementing tough but necessary economic reforms to help stabilize Ukraine’s economy, root out endemic corruption, bring Ukraine into compliance with its IMF program obligations, and promote more openness and transparency in government. Ukraine’s stable, secure and prosperous future will require the sustained efforts of a broad and inclusive team of dedicated professionals who put the Ukrainian peoples’ interests above their own. It is important that Ukraine’s leaders set aside their parochial differences, put the vested interests that have hindered the country’s progress for decades squarely in the past, and press forward on vital reforms.
Yesterday, in an attempt to reassure his international allies and donors, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met with the ambassadors from the G7 nations. His message — rapid reform, and a “reboot” of the government, is in the works:
Ukrainian bonds are plummeting in light of the shakeup in Kiev as confidence in the government drops through the floor. Bloomberg reports:
Notes issued in November after a $15 billion restructuring are poised for their worst week in the wake of comments from the parliament speaker that Ukraine is entering a “serious political crisis.” While President Petro Poroshenko is seeking to rally members of the pro-European administration and plans personnel changes this month to ease tensions, the Samopomich coalition party Friday demanded the entire cabinet be fired.
“The coalition is likely to fall apart this year, though not immediately,” Eurasia Group analyst Alex Brideau said in an e-mailed note. Poroshenko “likely prefers maintaining the status quo for the moment. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk will probably stay on to lead a reshuffled cabinet. But any move to address the problem in the coming weeks will only temporarily ease the situation.”
The yield on dollar bonds due September 2019 jumped 26 basis points to 10.21 percent by 12 p.m. in Kiev, the highest level since the new notes were issued on Nov. 17. That takes the weekly increase to 83 basis points. The hryvnia has lost 9.9 percent against the dollar this year, the worst performance among 10 eastern European currencies tracked by Bloomberg. The central bank said it sold dollars Friday as political friction spread to the currency market.
Ukrainian government bonds plunged as efforts faltered to shore up the ruling coalition after a key reformer quit and accused presidential party members of corruption. Notes issued in November after a $15 billion restructuring are poised for their worst week in the wake of comments from the parliament speaker that Ukraine is entering a "serious political crisis."
In other words, the Ukrainian economy was already bad, and confidence low, before the economic minister overturned his desk and stormed out.
Today Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has threatened to quit if the current government coalition cannot find a way to resolve key issues. RFE/RL reports:
“We all came in as one team and we will continue working in the future as one team,” the 41-year-old leader told a televised session of parliament on February 5.
“And if it is decided that this team should be changed, then we will all leave together.”
Yatsenyuk proposed today that Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, take a vote of no-confidence in the cabinet. As BBC reports, however, there are plenty of calls for Yatsenyuk himself to step aside. It’s not clear, then, what the path forward is for Ukraine’s government.
Likely in an attempt to head off the no-confidence vote, President Poroshenko’s advisor Oleh Medvediev has said that there will be a “rapid reload” of the cabinet, scheduled for February 16.
Aivaras Abromavicius told Ukrainska Pravda the conditions that would have to happen in order for him to stay. Unian reports:
“Abromavicius said he could return if things changed dramatically. For example, if Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin is dismissed. We were surprised. What is he to do with all this? How does it concern him? Abromavicius continued: maybe if the prime minister resigns? We asked: Who will be the prime minister then? He said, maybe Natalie Jaresko. She looked stunned, others laughed. After that, he offered to dismiss head of Ukraine’s State Fiscal Service Roman Nasirov,” the source said.
The minister also talked about Ihor Kononenko’s mandate, said the sources who stressed that Aivaras Abromavicius’ statements sounded confusing.
Natalie Jaresko, Ukraine’s Minister of Finance, is a well-respected American-born investment banker. From our perspective, in talking to business and political leaders in Kiev, Jaresko is extremely well respected by many, particularly by foreign diplomats. At the YES conference which I attended in Kiev last September, Jaresko spoke and she got a far better reception than anyone else in government — even better than President Poroshenko, and far better than Prime Minister Yatsenyuk whom many Ukrainian elites, and many international leaders, do not like.
But even in Unian’s article about Abromavicius’s statements, there are clear signs of division within the Ukrainian political class:
“The worst thing is that we were sitting in a small circle asking Aivaras [Abromavicius]: tell us the real reason, what gets in your way, what do you want to achieve? The only thing we clearly heard was that he and his team have small salaries,” said another minister who attended the meeting, adding that Abromavicius was talking about the intervention from the Presidential Administration in his work, saying that President’s Representative in the Cabinet, Oleksandr Danyliuk, used to call meetings on Naftogaz, which was beyond his competence, but it was in Aivaras Abromavicius’ authority.
“Well, it’s like in a kindergarten,” said the source.
According to the newspaper, the conversation lasted for three hours – from 16:00 to 19:00.
“Finally, the ministers were tired of persuading Abromavicius and decided to make a statement without him. From 19:00 to 20:00, in the office of Yatsenyuk, the ministers were agreeing on an algorithm of actions – who will speak, and what to put an emphasis on in a speech,” the report says.
Abromavicius names conditions for his return to Cabinet
"Abromavicius said he could return if things changed dramatically. For example, if Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin is dismissed. We were surprised. What is he to do with all this? How does it concern him? Abromavicius continued: maybe if the prime minister resigns? We asked: Who will be the prime minister then?
Those in Ukraine may be divided and frustrated, but increasingly those outside of Ukraine, fairly or unfairly, are making up their mind. International investors are not interested in charity, the Syrian refugee crisis has contributed to the rise of far-right pro-Putin politicians who have little love for Ukraine, the European Union is now forecasting dismal .5% economic growth in 2016, and the United States is busy with a presidential election in which most candidates favor a more isolationist foreign policy (and the GOP front runner appears both respects the Russian President and has defended him against murder accusations).
As US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt reminded everyone yesterday, in December US Vice President Joe Bidden visited Kiev and told the Rada that this was the country’s last chance to reform. Since Ukraine is reliant on foreign investment, international loans, and, albeit to a lesser degree, military assistance from Western powers, Ukraine may need to placate its allies or risk losing its support.
And the outside world is seeing plenty of other bad news today in Ukraine besides the political crisis. As we’ve been reporting, fighting in the east is ramping up and is back at levels not seen since September’s iteration of the ceasefire. Not only that, but the region is still being ravaged by a terrible outbreak of swine flu:
Flu death toll in Ukraine since outbreak hits 201 people
A woman tests a virus sample in a laboratory of the state sanitary epidemiological service of Ukraine in Kyiv on Jan. 15. (Volodymyr Petrov) Photo by Volodymyr Petrov More than 3.2 million cases of flu and acute respiratory viral infections have been recorded in Ukraine from September 28, 2015 to February 5, 2016, affecting 8.3% of the country's population, and there have also been 201 flu-related deaths, the Ukrainian Health Ministry's press service has reported.
According to Colonel Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, 81 attacks on Ukrainian positions were recorded over 24 hours.
The Donetsk regional police report that a civilian man was wounded in Marinka, west of Donetsk city, by shelling at around 20:00 last night.
The man, born in 1954, suffered multiple shrapnel wounds to his head and limbs, losing fingers as a result of the blast.
According to this morning’s ATO Press Centre report, Ukrainian positions near Marinka, along with the Peski, Opytnoye, Avdeyevka and Verkhnetoretskoye, to the north of Donetsk, were attacked with grenade launchers, heavy machine guns and small arms.
Krasnogorovka, northwest of Marinka, was reportedly shelled with mortars.
Meanwhile, the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) claims that Ukrainian forces shelled separatist-held western suburbs of Donetsk, including Staromikhailovka, Aleksandrovka and the Trudovskiye neighbourhood.
In Trodovskiye, the separatist-backed head of the Petrvosky district, Maksim Zhukovsky, claims, shells ruptured a gas main and damaged electricity lines. No casualties were reported.
The Gorlovka area saw, Lysenko claimed, the most intense fighting, with more than 160 mortar rounds fired by Russian-backed fighters on Ukrainian positions in Mayorsk and Zaytsevo.
The shelling here carried on at the same pace through both day and night, Lysenko said.
To the east of Gorlovka, the ATO Press Centre reports attacks on positions in Luganskoye and Troitskoye.
In the south, Ukrainian positions in Talakovka, a village just outside Mariupol, were shelled with mortars.
Further northeast of Mariupol, the Ukrainian State Border Service reports that a skirmish took place near the village of Pishchevik at around 21:00.
According to the report, a group of up to five Russian-backed fighters approached a Ukrainian position but were repelled by small-arms fire.
This morning there are reports on social media of further fighting both north of Donetsk and near Volnovakha, on the highway between the separatist-held city and Mariupol:
Translation: #Donetsk from the direction of the airport, automatic grenade launcher, rocket-propelled grenade, mortar 12:59
Translation: Volnovakha, just now several muffled blasts…
Armour was also reported to be on the move in separatist-held Shakhtyorsk: