Ukraine Day 812: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
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Two Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and four wounded within the last 24 hours, officials say.
According to the Lugansk Regional Military-Civil Administration, one Ukrainian soldier was killed and another two wounded this morning by a tripwire mine outside the front-line village of Krymskoye, in the Lugansk region.
Later today, Colonel Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, told reporters that another soldier had been killed by an unidentified explosive device near Avdeyevka, north of Donetsk.
The Ukrainian military claimed this morning that Russian-backed fighters had conducted 9 attacks in three main areas yesterday.
According to the ATO Press Center report, Ukrainian positions on the outskirts of Avdeyevka were fired on with grenade launchers, heavy machine guns and small arms.
To the west of Donetsk, a Ukrainian defensive position near Maryinka was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades.
In the Gorlovka area, the military reports small-arms and machine-gun attacks on the approach to Luganskoye.
On the coast, Russian-backed fighters reportedly used automatic grenade launchers and machine guns to attack Ukrainian positions in the village of Shirokino, east of Mariupol.
Meanwhile, the ‘defense ministry’ of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) accused Ukrainian forces of stepping up attacks and firing on separatist-controlled territory 163 times over 24 hours.
According to the DNR, 21 82 mm mortar shells, as well as rounds from BMP infantry fighting vehicles, grenade launchers and small arms were fired by Ukrainian forces on the outskirts of Donetsk and Gorlovka, as well as villages in the south of the Donetsk region.
Both the DNR and their sister separatist ‘republic’ in Lugansk, held large military parades today to mark Victory Day, in violation of the Minsk agreements, according to which heavy artillery should be withdrawn from the front.
At both parades, tanks and armoured fighting vehicles were accompanied by self-propelled howitzers, Grad multiple-launch rocket systems, towed artillery pieces and 9K35 Strela-10 surface-to-air missile systems.
A video from the Lugansk parade:
Tensions are heightened in Ukraine today as events are held to commemorate Victory Day, the traditional Soviet celebration on the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany. Victory Day has become heavily politicised in Ukraine as a result of the use of associated symbolism and rhetoric by Russia, particularly with regards to the separatist movement in the Donbass.
In Kharkiv, which lies close to the conflict zone and has itself seen pro-Russian or separatist unrest on multiple occasions, clashes broke out between those commemorating Victory Day and pro-Ukrainian activists, including those from the nationalist Azov Civil Corps.
Translation: Outside Freedom Square, a scuffle took place between pro-Russian activists and Azov Civil Corps activists.
Translation: At the flower-laying in Kharkiv, the flags of the Vitrenko Bloc and balloons with the colors of the flag of the ‘KhNR.’
The ‘KhNR’ here refers to the ‘Kharkiv People’s Republic’ – an abortive attempt in 2014 to create a separatist entity in the region like those that were established by Russian-backed paramilitaries in Donetsk and Lugansk.
The Vitrenko Bloc is a pro-Russian political coalition led by Natalia Vitrenko, formerly of the Progressive Socialist Party, which was involved in early separatist political activities in Slavyansk in 2014. Vitrenko herself has also been associated with both Russian neo-fascist Aleksandr Dugin’s Eurasian People’s Union, and American conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche’s fringe political cult.
In an incident that may or may not be associated with the Victory Day clashes, a motorcyclist was shot and wounded in the legs by men in travelling in two cars. The Kharkiv police have launched a hunt for the attackers.
In Kiev, a fight broke out at a march held by the ‘Immortal Regiment,’ a memorial organisation that was began as a grassroots, activist-led phenomenon, but has since been co-opted by the Russian state.
A 112 channel correspondent reported that a fight broke out at the march, in which more than a hundred people took part, after one man participating in the event told a woman to remove a St George’s ribbon.
The black and orange ribbons, traditionally associated with Soviet Victory Day commemorations, are now associated with the Russian invasion and separatism after they were adopted as symbols by Russian-backed separatists in the Donbass.
As a result, the Ukrainian government last year swapped the ribbon for a red poppy, akin to that used in Britain, as an official symbol for state commemorations.
According to the 112 report, a fight then broke out between the two, with the police removing the man to prevent further clashes. In addition, they seized a red, Soviet flag from the woman.
Another woman at the march, Ukrainska Pravda reports, carried a portrait of Josef Stalin and shoted “glory to the great Stalin.”
Meanwhile another group of activists, carrying the black and red flags of the UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army), which fought against the Soviet Union and sometimes collaborated with German forces, tried to prevent people wearing St George’s ribbons from reaching the Park of Glory, where an eternal flame memorial is located. Some activists attempted to burn the ribbons in front of a memorial stele.
Law enforcement officers broke up the crowd but some managed to evade detention and ran off.
In Slavyansk, which was liberated in July, 2014, by Ukrainian forces after several months under the control of Russian-backed fighters, Opposition Bloc MP Natalia Korolevskaya was doused with green surgical dye (zelyonka) while visiting a memorial event.
A fight then broke out between the former Party of Regions MP’s bodyguards, and activists:
Novosti Donbassa says that, according to initial reports, the activists that attacked Korolevksaya’s group were from the Slovianska Sich group, who demanded that the MP leave town and accused her have having helped incite violence and war.
Meanwhile in Odessa, commemorations have proceeded without incident, most likely due to the massive presence of security forces in the port city.