Ukraine Day 826: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
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As we have previously reported would likely happen, the Russian-backed separatist leadership in Donetsk has announced that contentious local elections are to be delayed once more, potentially into next year.
Aleksandr Zakharchenko, leader of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) today declared that the elections, which he has repeatedly stated would not be held in accordance with Ukrainian law, thereby violating the Minsk agreements, will be held either this winter, or in the first half of next year.
This buys more space for the beleaguered negotiations in Minsk, which would be derailed completely if such an election took place without Ukrainian assent and OSCE oversight.
The elections, which had originally been scheduled for April 20, but were postponed by both the DNR and their Lugansk counterparts until July 24.
Zakharchenko said that the local elections would be preceded by a series of public “primaries” akin to those that take place in the United States.
The pro-separatist Donetsk News Agency (DAN) reported, citing an unnamed source close to Zakharchenko, that the DNR leader had last night met with Vladislav Surkov, a key adviser to President Vladimir Putin.
The source said that the meeting had taken place in Donetsk, but did not specify, as DAN notes, whether this meant the Ukrainian city or the Russian border town in the Rostov region – a regular transit point for entering and leaving the separatist-held regions.
According to the source, the primaries were Zakharchenko’s idea. Surkov reportedly approved of the proposal and said that he will recommend the same to the Lugansk separatist leadership.
Zakharchenko himself said that the primaries will take place in either September or October this year.
While Denis Pushilin, chairman of the DNR ‘People’s Soviet’ and lead representative at the Minsk talks, claimed that the primaries would be an open and democratic procedure, Zakharchenko repeated his opposition to the introduction of an armed OSCE police mission to ensure security during the elections.
— Pierre Vaux
Colonel Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, told reporters that one Ukrainian soldier had been killed and three wounded during mortar attacks on the Avdeyevka industrial park, northeast of Donetsk.
According to this morning’s ATO Press Center report, Russian-backed fighters attacked Ukrainian positions in this area with 82 mm mortars, grenade launchers and heavy machine guns.
Lysenko claimed that 240 mortar shells were fired on positions near Avdeyevka over the course of an hour.
Another soldier died, the Lugansk Regional Military-Civil Administration reports, from wounds sustained during a grenade-launcher and small-arms attack near Schastye yesterday.
According to the report, Russian-backed fighters also conducted attacks near the villages of Krymskoye and Novozvanovka.
Meanwhile the Donetsk Regional Administration reports that three civilians were wounded over the weekend: one near Bakhmut (formerly Artyomovsk), and two in Avdeyevka.
Avdeyevka was not the only suburb of Donetsk to be targeted. Military press officer Vladislav Voloshin told the 112 television channel this morning that positions near Nevelskoye, northwest of the separatist-held regional capital, were shelled last night with 120 mm mortars.
Moving anti-clockwise around the city, the ATO Press Center reports that 82 mm mortars and anti-aircraft artillery were used to shell Ukrainian troops outside Krasnogorovka.
Fighting was also reported in Zaytsevo, north of Gorlovka.
But the worst fighting, the ATO Press Center claims, was seen in the south of the Donetsk region.
On the highway between Donetsk and Mariupol, Russian-backed fighters reportedly shelled Ukrainian positions near Novotroitskoye with 82 and 120 mm mortars. Fighting was also reported near Taramchuk, a little further up the highway.
Closer to Mariupol, there were multiple attacks, the heaviest of which were directed at Ukrainian marines defending the seaside village of Shirokino.
Here both the ATO Press Center and locals, speaking to 0629.com.ua, report heavy artillery shelling. According to the reports, the Ukrainian troops were shelled by 152 mm self-propelled howitzers, apparently deployed in the nearby village of Sakhanka.
Also in the vicinity of Mariupol, the military reports attacks near Pavlopol and Talakovka, just outside the port city.
In turn, sources in the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) have told reporters that Ukrainian forces last night fired 162 shells at the northern outskirts of Donetsk as well as Sakhanka.
Furthermore, the DNR claims that Ukrainian forces have continued their attacks this morning, firing 104 shells near Donetsk, Dokuchaevsk (near Novotroitskoye) and Nikolaevka (northeast of Mariupol).
— Pierre Vaux