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 are reports on social media of shelling and fighting north and west of Donetsk this afternoon:
Heavy fighting is under way outside Avdeyevka.
Heavy fighting under way in the Krasnogorovka area. There was an explosion, possibly near Vodyanoye.
More blasts in the Peski area
— Pierre Vaux
Two years ago last month, then-President Viktor Yanukovych fled his office and official residence to Rostov-on-Don, a restive town in southern Russia. Surveillance cameras showed Yanukovych and his allies grabbing valuables and suitcases full of potentially incriminating documents in the early morning hours of February 22, 2014, as the fires of Maidan Square burned low after his Berkut riot police failed to destroy the protest camps after nearly four full days of battle.
Months later, when elections were held, Yanukovych’s party was soundly trounced. There simply was very little appetite left in even eastern Ukraine for the party of Yanukovych.
Ukraine’s ousted president has been relatively quiet since he left, but today he has reiterated that he still considers himself the legitimate president of Ukraine, and plans on returning to his home country. RFE/RL reports:
Speaking in an interview with the Glavkom newspaper, lawyer Vitaly Sergyuk said Yanukovych intends “to return to Ukraine” from his exile in Russia and that “legal steps will be taken for this.”
Sergyuk maintains that Yanukovych did not relieve himself of his duties as president and opt out of ruling Ukraine.
The lawyer also maintains that the procedure to dismiss Yanukovych from office violated Ukraine’s constitution.
If Yanukovych were to return to Ukraine now, however, he would likely be arrested and prosecuted, so why is this important?
It’s important because Russia maintains that the current Ukrainian government was installed by a foreign coup, orchestrated by the United States. Russia has also repeatedly said that the current Ukrainian government is a threat to regional security, and since February 2014 Russia has also maintained that they have the right to protect ethnic Russians living beyond its borders. If Russia is looking for a way to legitimize its intervention in Ukraine, it may need Yanukovych’s support to do so.
Does this mean that Russia is planning on installing a new government in Kiev soon? Russia has not yet made any moves to make that happen. But in 2014 Russia did invade, through hybrid warfare, eastern Ukraine. We are currently seeing an upswell in violence in eastern Ukraine, and Russian involvement in the violence there appears to be on the rise. The Kremlin would also rejoice if the current Ukrainian government collapsed, and convincing European governments that are increasingly pro-Russian to abandon their support for Ukraine appears to be one of Russia’s missions in the diplomatic sphere.
Russia could also easily choice other Ukrainian expatriates, like former Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, to lead a kind of government in exile, if they wanted to take this route.
— James Miller
Yesterday we reported that Andrei Mamalyga, lawyer for Stanislav Krasnov, a former Azov regiment fighter and activist who was arrested at the weekend, had accused the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) of torturing his client.
Krasnov is accused of working for the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and possessing explosives.
Today, Ihor Mosiychuk an MP in Oleh Lyashko’s Radical Party and former deputy commander of the Azov Battalion, published photos on his Facebook page of Krasnov after his arrest, making it clear that the detainee had been severely beaten:
Mosiychuk also published a photo of a letter from the Human Rights Ombudsman, Valeria Lutkovska, to the Prosecutor General, demanding an official investigation into the apparent torture.
Lutkovska cites a report from a doctor who examined Krasnov after his detention, who diagnosed him with “blunt trauma to the chest, multiple bruises to his soft tissues, a haematoma in the area of of his outer ankle.”
Krasnov’s girlfriend and fellow activist, Oksana Shelest, who was also arrested, had bruises on the soft tissue of her right thigh and right shin.
Halya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group writes on allegations made by Krasnov himself, and gives more background on his previous activities and harassment by the occupying Russian authorities in Crimea:
As mentioned, Krasnov asserts that he was held outside and subjected to beating and torture for around 7 hours. He says that he lay in the dirt and mud in sub-zero conditions, and periodically lost consciousness. “They didn’t ask any questions about any crimes, just said that they would kill me, that because of our Maidan they had only problems, that all volunteers, in particular the OUN [Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists] Battalion are thieves and looters, that they didn’t fight, and that they should all be eliminated”. He says he was then taken to the SBU where they continued to beat and torture him until a lawyer arrived.
Krasnov asserts that all of this is part of repressive measures against volunteers and Maidan supporters and that a direct commission from Russia to remove him is being carried out.
Krasnov, together with Oleksandr Kostenko, first attracted public attention in September 2013. The two Crimean police officers publicly stated that the Simferopol police management were putting pressure on them and trying to cover up the abduction and sale into sexual slavery in Moscow of two Crimean women.
Both men were driven out of the police force and it seems likely that this incident contributed to the choice of Kostenko as target for a politically motivated prosecution. Kostenko and Krasnov were both active supporters of Euromaidan in Kyiv, and the main charge brought against Kostenko in Feb – March 2015 pertained to an alleged incident on Maidan on Feb 18, 2014. This was before Russia invaded Crimea and unequivocally on Ukrainian territory and under Ukrainian law, yet Kostenko was sentenced on that charge and another, no less fabricated, to 4.2 years imprisonment. This has just been reduced to 3.5 years, yet the court upheld the legally nihilistic charges and also ignored compelling evidence of the use of severe torture (see: Crimean Maidan activist’s insane conviction upheld, sentence reduced).
Worth noting that Kostenko’s lawyer Dmitry Sotnikov has reported that during this extraordinary trial, Natalya Poklonskaya, installed as prosecutor by the occupation authorities, claimed that Kostenko and Krasnov had tortured ‘Berkut’ officers and burned their bodies in a crematorium established in the basement of the Kyiv City Administration (occupied at that time by some Euromaidan activists). No proof was provided.
Kostenko was sentenced in May 2015. Then in June 2015 Russia’s Investigative Committee initiated criminal proceedings against Krasnov, accusing him of “inciting enmity or hatred towards people of a certain social group, with the use of the media” (article 282 § 1 of the Russian criminal code). He was supposed to have made public statements on two TV channels from April 2014 to Jan 2015 which ‘incited enmity’ towards former Ukrainian citizens who had expressed the wish to take on Russian citizenship. Since Krasnov was at the time out of reach, fighting Kremlin-backed militants in Donbas, the de facto authorities harassed his mother (details here).
Russia has reportedly initiated four criminal prosecutions against Krasnov so far. Now Ukraine is charging him with having been a Russian FSB officer since 2014.
The Ukrainian military claimed this morning that Russian-backed fighters had conducted 54 attacks over the last 24 hours.
According to the ATO Press Centre report, 35 attacks were recorded in the Donetsk area and 19 near Mariupol.
The Donetsk Regional Military-Civil Administration announced that three civilians had been wounded over that time period.
Two were wounded west of Donetsk, one receiving blast trauma injuries and another a gunshot wound.
Another civilian with gunshot wounds was admitted to hospital in Mariupol.
Colonel Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, a military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, told reporters at noon today that three Ukrainian soldiers had been wounded over the last 24 hours.
The casualties were incurred by enemy fire in Krasnogorovka and Marinka, as well as a tripwire mine near Kamenka.
The military reports that at 19:00 120 mm mortars were used to shell Ukrainian positions close to the village of Nevelskoye, northwest of Donetsk city, while Krasnogorovka was shelled an hour earlier with 82 mm mortars.
North of Donetsk, grenade launchers, heavy machine guns and small arms were used in attacks near Marinka, Krasnogorovka, Peski, Vodyanoye, Novoselovka Vtoraya and Troitskoye, as well as Novgorodskoye, towards Gorlovka.
Military spokesman Sergei Zhmurko told the 112 television channel that the last small-arms attack near Krasnogorovka took place after midnight.
Meanwhile the pro-separatist Donetsk News Agency reports, citing a source in the security forces of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), that Ukrainian troops shelled the Donetsk Airport area with 82 mm mortars.
The separatist-backed head of the Petrovsky district administration, Maksim Zhukovsky, told the news site that a civilian woman as well as two Russian-backed fighters had been wounded by Ukrainian fire in the west of the Donetsk.
Ukrainian military spokesman Aleksandr Kindsfater told 0629.com.ua that in the south of the Donetsk region, Russian-backed fighters had shelled positions near Gnutovo with 82 mm mortars at around 18:00.
According to Sergei Zhmurko, Ukrainian positions near Shirokino last came under fire at 4:30 this morning.
— Pierre Vaux