Ukraine Day 820: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
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MIL.IN.UA, a Facebook page dedicated to the Ukrainian military and arms industry, has posted several photos that show a Russian T-90 tank, with fighters wearing irregular uniforms, one of them adorned with the St George’s ribbon associated with separatist forces, purportedly near Lugansk airport.
The airport was captured by Russian forces during the invasion of August, 2014. Ukrainian forces battled the Russians and claimed to have knocked out 7 Russian tanks, but then were forced to withdraw from the Lugansk Airport on September 1, even as Ukraine was attacked by Russia at sea.
There have been prior claims of the deployment to the Donbass of T-90s, which are not in the Ukrainian arsenal, but no conclusive evidence.
In this case, the evidence presented is more heavily suggestive, but not 100% conclusive.
Here are the photos:
We are still uncertain of the precise origin of these photos, but two of them (the second and fourth in the order above) appear in an album uploaded to the Russian social network Odnoklassniki in April, 2015, by Sergei Strutinsky, a Ukrainian national fighting on the separatist side in Lugansk.
This page, including the photo of the T-90, has already been flagged by Ukraine’s controversial Peacekeeper site, however the model of the tank appeared to draw little attention.
All four photos were uploaded to Twitter by a separatist account around half an hour before MIL.IN.UA shared them.
Translation: Fighters of the army of the LNR after the storm of Lugansk Airport.
— Pierre Vaux
Five Ukrainian soldiers were wounded yesterday in the Donbass, as Kiev reports 18 attacks by Russian-backed fighters.
Colonel Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, told reporters today that four soldiers had been wounded in the Avdeyevka area, north of Donetsk, and another outside Taramchuk, near the highway between the separatist-held regional capital and Mariupol.
According to this morning’s ATO Press Center report, the worst fighting was seen on the outskirts of Donetsk, with overnight grenade-launcher and small-arms attacks on positions in Avdeyevka, which was shelled heavily on Sunday night and Monday morning with artillery and mortars.
In the south, the report says that Ukrainian positions near Novotroitskoye, on the highway to Mariupol, were shelled with 120 mm mortars, while troops in Shirokino, on the coast, were attacked with small arms and grenade launchers.
In the Lugansk region, the Ukrainian military reports small-arms and machine-gun attacks on positions near Novozvanovka and Tryokhizbenka.
Notably, the Ukrainian military claims that six explosive devices were dropped by an unmanned aerial vehicle on military positions behind the front line.
This is not the first time that Ukraine has accused Russian-backed forces of using drones in a combat role, but Kiev has yet to provide any documentary evidence of such attacks or given any specific details on the types of UAV used.
However in a separate report, the Ukraine’s Military Intelligence Directorate, the GUR, claimed to have recorded the flights of two Russian Orlan-10 drones near Avdeyevka on Sunday night, directing artillery fire at Ukrainian troops in the industrial park on the town’s southeastern edge.
Several of these military reconnaissance UAVs have been shot down by Ukrainian forces during the conflict, most recently at the beginning of last month:
According to the GUR, the Orlan-10s were operating in concert with a Russian RB-314V Leer-3 electronic warfare system, which, the report says, can both suppress GSM mobile communications and locate emitter locations with the aid of signals beamed from drones.
There have been recent sightings that appear to confirm the use of the Leer-3 by Russian troops in the Donetsk area.
On March 29 a short video was uploaded, purportedly showing such a system on the move in Donetsk:
However we have not so far seen any reports indicating that Orlan-10 drones themselves are capable of delivering ordnance, so the two reported incidents may well not be connected.
Meanwhile, the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) has accused Ukrainian forces of carrying out a major attack near the separatist-held town of Dokuchaevsk, northeast of Novotroitskoye.
According to the DNR, more than 100 122 mm artillery and 120 mm mortar rounds were fired overnight, striking a farm and destroying a grain elevator and damaging farm equipment.
The pro-separatist Donetsk News Agency (DAN) was told by granary owner Nikolai Subotin that around 150 tonnes of grain was buried beneath the rubble in the aftermath.
Denis Pushilin, the chairman of the DNR ‘People’s Soviet’ and head of their delegation in peace talks, told DAN that the incident was part of a deliberate pattern of attacks to undermine the peace process.
The DNR has requested that the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission visit the site, but an SMM team has yet to arrive.
— Pierre Vaux