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.
- READ OUR SPECIAL REPORT:
Nadezhda Savchenko, a Ukrainian prisoner of war on trial in Russia after being illegally transported from separatist captivity in Lugansk, has vowed to go on a “dry” hunger strike – that is to refuse fluids – from tomorrow after she was prevented from finishing her final speech to the court.
Savchenko has not eaten solid food for 77 days already, but has received glucose injections and, her lawyer Mark Feygin says, is drinking an “organic mixture.”
Savchenko was addressing the court in the Russian border town of Donetsk, when she was told to stop. The judge announced that, despite there being over an hour of process time remaining, the trial would not resume again until March 9.
Tomorrow I’m going to see Nadezhda in jail, I will try to persuade her to abandon her hunger strike
According to Randall K. Packer, a professor of biology at George Washington University, an adult “in comfortable surroundings, in contrast, can survive for a week or more with no, or very limited, water intake.”
But for Savchenko, having damaged her health through repeated, long fasts, sometimes without glucose, and living in Russian jail conditions that probably do not amount to “comfortable surroundings,” she is likely taking a great risk in refusing water for the next five days.
Savchenko had already begun her impassioned, final comments to the court yesterday:
Speaking from the cage in which defendants are traditionally kept in Russian courts, Savchenko vowed to begin a dry hunger strike if the Russian court sentence takes two weeks to issue her sentence — she noted that it had already been decided — and fails to extradite her to Ukraine.
Because the Russian court would not provide a Ukrainian translator, Savchenko gave her speech in Russian, laying out the facts of the case which had repeatedly been suppressed or even lied about by Russian authorities.
The Interpreter has also concluded that the two Russian state journalists killed at a Russian-backed separatist checkpoint were not wearing protective gear or following safety precautions when they were struck by a shell. No evidence has been provided for the claim that Savchenko served as a spotter for the Ukrainian army, as she was taken into custody before the shell hit.
As Savchenko recounted:
Now, regarding the debate. During this long and tedious six-month trial we learned that guilt was proven in the course of the judicial process. That guilt is of the Russian journalists [Savchenko is accused of involvement in the deaths of two Russian journalists]. They are guilty of lying and of providing false, distorted information regarding events in Ukraine, the world, and in Russia. They are to blame for neglecting their own security. If they had worn body armour, they would have survived. If they had not hung around where they shouldn’t have, they would have stayed alive.
Russian TV channels were also found guilty. Channels, their owners and their editors are guilty for sending their people – unprepared, unprotected – to their certain death, just for the sake of spreading pretty pictures and false information. They wanted to boost their ratings and made a quick buck. But they absolutely do not care about their journalists. They are the ones who are above all responsible for the deaths of Korneliuk and Voloshin [the two Russian journalists whose deaths Savchenko is accused of involvement in].
We watched here a video of Russia’s Channel 5, in which a reporter said Ukrainian media were lying and Korneliuk and Voloshiin fact were wearing helmets and body armour. But even in this very courtroom it has been proven they had neither helmets nor body armour. We can arrive at that conclusion that Russian TV channels are telling lies.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Ukrainian journalist Mariya Varfolomeyeva was released from captivity by Russian-backed militants, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced on his Facebook page.
“I am proud of her courage and strength of spirit!,” he wrote. On his Twitter account, he said “a lot had to be done to free her. Thanks to Irina Gerashchenko and all those who helped.”
Gerashchenko is the Ukrainian ombudsperson for peaceful settlement of the situation in Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
Last week during exchanges of POWs, Varfolomeyeva’s name was mentioned but then she wasn’t released immediately. The Ukrainian government made a special plea for her release as she had been held for more than a year.
Varfolomeyeva was arrested by forces of the self-proclaimed “Lugansk People’s Republic” on January 9, 2015 and was accused of “espionage” and “membership in Right Sector,” the ultranationalist group, Unian reported.
Amb. Geoffrey Pyatt, US envoy to Ukraine, called on Russia to urge the militants to release all the Ukrainian hostages, in compliance with the Minsk agreement, Unian reported.
Gerashchenko reported on February 26 that 131 Ukrainians remain in captivity, despite the agreement under the Minsk accords to exchange “one for one.”
In the case of Varfolomeyeva, the Ukrainian side in fact exchanged two people. President Poroshenko pardoned a Russian citizen, Unian.net reported. Later, 112 reported that both an unnamed female Ukrainian citizen who was said to have worked for the separatists as well as a Russian citizen, Ivan Gorbunov, were exchanged. Gorbunov did not admit his guilt.
Varfolomeyeva was said to be the last journalist held in captivity.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Last week the Ukrainian SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) accused Stanislav Krasnov, a volunteer with the Azov regiment, and activist Oksana Shelest of spying for the Russian FSB (Federal Security Service, the successor to the KGB). Both were members of the far-right Azov-Krym, the “civilian corps.”
[SBU chief Oleksandr Tkachuk] said that Krasnov had met with his “Russian curator” in Belarus to discuss plans to carry out sabotage with explosives and had given the FSB lists of Azov Regiment members.
Krasnov and was arrested, with his girlfriend Oksana Shelest, in the early hours of February 28 at a gas station after allegedly depositing explosives at a hiding place on the highway between Kiev and Kharkiv, near the village of Schastlive.
According to Tkachuk, Krasnov attempted to escape arrest and put up resistance.
Plastic explosives, equivalent to 42 kg of TNT, were reportedly found at the hiding place, in addition to seven anti-tank mines, 10 detonators and grenades. According to the SBU, Krasnov had moved the explosives from another location.
Meanwhile Krasnov’s friends and associates believe the SBU is lying about the explosives and one, Tamara Shevchuk, says that he and Shelest appeared to have been beaten when they were glimpsed in the corridor of an SBU building on Volodymyrska Street in Kiev.
Their arrest sparked protests from Azov supporters over the weekend.
We will continue to follow this story.
— James Miller
The Ukrainian military claims that Russian-backed fighters fired Grad rockets from the city of Donetsk last night. The claim is backed up by numerous reports from residents on social media.
According to the ATO Press Centre, Grad batteries in Donetsk and Staromikhailovka opened fire on Nevelskoye and Krasnogorovka, respectively, at around 5:15 (3:15 GMT) this morning.
“In each instance, no fewer than 10 rocket shells were fired towards the Ukrainian army’s defensive positions.”
The report included a video which appears to show rocket launches, though we cannot verify its location:
Reports on Twitter and VKontakte correspond with the time given by the Ukrainian military:
#Donetsk grad went off ten minutes ago.
From VKontakte, asking what just went boom?
From another thread:
“Grad in action just about 15 minutes ago”
“Arisha, I heard it too”
Overall, the Ukrainian military reports 62 attacks in the 24 hours preceding 6:00 today.
According to the ATO Press Centre, grenade launchers and heavy machine guns were used to attack Ukrainian positions around Donetsk and Gorlovka, including Marinka, Krasnogorovka, Opytnoye, Peski, Troitskoye, Zaytsevo and Luganskoye.
To the south of Donetsk, a group of Russian-backed fighters assaulted a Ukrainian checkpoint outside Novotroitskoye, near the highway leading to Mariupol.
According to military spokesman Aleksandr Kindsfater, two BMP infantry fighting vehicles tried to break through the Ukrainian lines under cover of fire from automatic grenade launchers but failed as Ukrainian troops returned fire and brought in their own BMPs.
A similar incident occurred near Granitnoye, the ATO Press Centre said.
Kindsfater told 0629.com.ua that Russian-backed fighters had used both 82 and 120 mm mortars to shell Ukrainian positions near Talakovka, Vodyanoye, Gnutovo and Pavlopol.
In addition, Ukrainian troops near Berdyanskoye and Shirokino were attacked with grenade launchers and heavy machine guns.
Colonel Oleksandr Motuzynayk, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, announced at noon today that within the last 24 hours, one Ukrainian soldier had been shot dead by a sniper near Stanitsa Luganskaya and another wounded by shelling in Peski.
— Pierre Vaux