Ukraine Day 807: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
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“Usually there’s two days out of every week when no one gets hit, then it kicks off again,” said the section commander, who asked not to give his full name. “But there hasn’t been a single day since we arrived when we haven’t been shot at, shelled, or mortared.”
Dug into a warren of trenches, machine-gun nests, and bombed out houses on the outskirts of Avdiivka, an industrial town just north of the city of Donetsk, Sgt Roman’s 20 man section and the Russian backed separatists 300 yards to the east are locked in a violent attritional battle in what officials in Kiev, Moscow, and Western capitals still insist is a “ceasefire.”
The strain on their faces and voices is palpable, as is a weary frustration at fighting a war that they say has been forgotten both at home and abroad. “Even when we go home, no one wants to talk about it. They’re sick of it. The world’s sick of it,” he said, to murmurs of agreement from his men. “The Russians did their pre-planned move to distract attention in Syria, and the world bought it.”
Read the entire dispatch here:
Two years after war broke out in Ukraine, the death toll continues to mount
For two and a half months Roman, a sergeant in Ukraine's 58th mechanised brigade, has been counting the days that his section gets away without taking casualties. It's not many, he says. "Usually there's two days out of every week when no one gets hit, then it kicks off again," said the section commander, who asked not to give his full name.
The Ukrainian military warned today that, should heavy weaponry brought into the separatist-controlled cities of Donetsk and Lugansk, ostensibly for the May 9 Victory Day parades, is put into use, it will be destroyed.
As we have been reporting recently, significant quantities of armor, artillery and surface-to-air missile systems have been documented in the cities in recent days:
Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, told reporters today that the weaponry represented a major threat and that the parades may only be serving as cover for an escalation.
OstroV reports that Lysenko said:
“If this hardware is used, then we will be forced to destroy it. We have all the reserves and necessary armored vehicles and weaponry for this.”
At the same briefing, Lysenko announced that one Ukrainian soldier had been wounded by enemy fire yesterday near Maryinka, west of Donetsk.
This morning, the ATO Press Center claimed that Russian-backed forces had conducted only six attacks yesterday.
According to the report, Russian-backed fighters used grenade launchers and small arms in attacks on positions near Zaytsevo and Luganskoye, in the Gorlovka area, as well as Avdeyevka, where BMP infantry fighting vehicles were also used.
In the south of the Donetsk region, the ATO Press Center said that Ukrainian positions near Gnutovo, northeast of Mariupol, had been come under sniper and grenade launcher fire.
In addition, the military reported further attacks, again with small arms and grenade launchers, near Novotroitskoye, south of Donetsk, and Luganskoye.
Meanwhile the pro-separatist Donetsk News Agency (DAN) reported this afternoon that Ukrainian troops had used mortars and BMPs to bombard the village of Kominternovo, east of Mariupol.
According to the DAN report, the attack at 14:40 Kiev time came from the direction of the Ukrainian lines outside Gnutovo.
— Pierre Vaux
One coal miner has been killed while another nine are missing after a methane blast at a mine in separatist-held territory near the Lugansk town of Perevalsk.
The chief health official of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic [LNR] said 20 workers were inside the mine when the blast occurred Tuesday in an area some 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of the Russian border.
“Four are in hospital getting treatment for burns. We recovered one body and nine are still under the rubble,” Larisa Airapetyan told the official Lugansk separatists’ news site.
“The chances of finding them alive are slim — the gas accumulation is very high.”
She did not say how or when the other six miners were rescued.
According to lug-info.com an official outlet for the Russian-backed separatist leadership in Lugansk, the blast occurred yesterday evening in the Maloivanovskaya mine at a depth of 210 mm metres, causing rockfalls.
Igor Plotnitsky, the leader of the LNR, claimed this morning that the mine had been operating illegally.
At the time of an April 2015 article, the mine employed around 200 people, producing 200-300 tonnes of coal a day.
— Pierre Vaux
Vedomosti reports today, citing Interfax, that the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) has stated that Nadiya Savchenko can only be extradited to Ukraine if guarantees are made that she will continue to serve her 22-year prison sentence in her home country.
The FSIN says that it is currently collecting the necessary material for an extradition procedure, including a statement from Savchenko that she wants to serve out her further term of imprisonment in Ukraine. Once complete, the documentation will be delivered to the Russian Justice Ministry.
But Nikolai Polozov, a lawyer defending Savchenko, has warned that the extradition process, if agreed, may take six months, and that his client may resume her hunger strike in protest:
Savchenko has confirmed in writing that she will pay a fine for the alleged border violation in order to progress with extradition to Ukraine but is furious at Russian attempts to get her to ‘admit’ to having crossed the border rather than having been abducted.
Last week her sister Vira and lawyer Mark Feygin told reporters that she had agreed to pay a 30,000 ruble (around $450) fine for the alleged border violation as a condition of her return to Ukraine.
A handwritten letter from Savchenko was published on Facebook last night. She says that she was brought by officials to answer questions on her alleged border violation for the extradition process.
“I am utterly outraged! They take me to complete a pack of documents for extradition to Ukraine. The question that I read there draws wild laughter from me. The question: ‘To what end did you cross the Russian border?’ Well, can you imagine such a question?! I reply ‘I was abducted by the Russian security services!’ Right there they note down my response with their own, liberal interpretation: ‘Illegally crossed the border.’ Uh no! I say that will not do!”
While saying that she would pay the fine, which she described as surreal, Savchenko wrote that she would not sign any documents which contained any ‘admission’ of guilt.
However Vira Savchenko confirmed on Facebook last night that her sister had eventually signed the documents with Polozov in attendance.
Savchenko, a military officer, was captured by militants in the Lugansk region of Ukraine in June, 2014. She was interrogated and interviewed while in separatist detention by several Russian media outlets, before reappearing several days later in a jail in the Russian city of Voronezh. She and her legal team maintain that she was driven to Russia by an associate of Vladislav Surkov, one of President Vladimir Putin’s key advisers.
The Russian claim, that she was released from captivity in Lugansk and then attempted to cross the border posing as a refugee, bears little scrutiny.