Ukraine Day 830: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
- READ OUR SPECIAL REPORT:
The official report from Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan, the Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, has published this statement:
The Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) Ertugrul Apakan today expressed his dismay at two violent incidents putting SMM members in danger and preventing the Mission from effectively monitoring the situation in the conflict-affected east of Ukraine. An SMM patrol came under small-arms fire during a foot patrol in Avdiivka-Yasynuvata area in Donetsk region on 27 May; none of the patrol members was injured. Also today, the SMM’s long-range unmanned aerial vehicle was downed while flying near “DPR”-controlled Horlivka.
The Chief Monitor Apakan said: “I strongly condemn violence against our people and assets, serving to provide objective and impartial information on the situation in Ukraine. The SMM’s freedom of movement is guaranteed by its mandate and reiterated by the Minsk Package of Measures, and interference with the work of the Mission constitutes a gross violation of both.”
Apakan called on the sides to follow-up on both incidents and hold those responsible to account.
“This violence against the SMM is unacceptable. Impunity for people who threaten, violently mistreat or attack the SMM, or who violate its freedom of movement, must end,” said the Chief Monitor.
Both Avdeyevka (Avdiivka) and Gorlovka (Horlivka) are on the front lines of fighting between Ukrainian forces and the Russian-backed separatist fighters. As is often the case, the OSCE has not pointed a finger at possible culprits for either incident, beyond noting that the drone that was downed was flying “near ‘DPR’-controlled Horlivka,” DPR being short for the separatist self-declared Donetsk Peoples’ Republic.
Earlier today representatives of the DPR blamed Ukrainian soldiers for firing on the OSCE monitors.
— James Miller
Kremenets is east of Lviv (map).
Vashchenko was attacked by two people at around 23:00 yesterday, suffering “head wounds, traumatic brain injury and multiple chest traumas.” He died in intensive care.
He was found outside a property he used for business purposes.
Oleksandr Bohomol, the chief of the Ternopil regional police force, said that while investigators were not ruling out robbery yet, they considered this an unlikely scenario as the attackers did not steal any of the victim’s money or valuables, which were found on his person by the police.
As such, the police are reviewing motives related to Vashchenko’s political and social activities.
— Pierre Vaux
Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian military officer who was released on Wednesday after spending nearly two years in Russian captivity after her abduction and a show trial on false charges, has spoken to journalists about her future plans in politics.
One notable statement was that, given popular support in Ukraine, she would be willing to run for president.
At her first news conference upon her return, the 35-year-old told reporters Friday in Kiev that what she would like best is to return to her job as a military pilot. But she said she is willing to launch a political career if this could help Ukraine deal with the separatist war and snap out of political and economic turmoil.
When asked if she was willing to run for president, she replied: “Ukrainians, if you want me to become president, I will become president.”
Despite fears that Savchenko, an ardent nationalist, will use her popularity to pursue a populist agenda that could undermine peace accords for eastern Ukraine, the pilot sounded moderate when asked about the conflict in the east. She said talks with Russia-backed rebels are necessary in order to reach a settlement but added this does not mean that Ukraine should grant them broad autonomy.
Savchenko was elected to Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, on the Batkivshchyna party list while in Russian captivity in 2014.
As Vasilyeva writes, Savchenko said that she would remain with the party:
Savchenko rejected suggestions that she should ditch the party of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko — which made her a lawmaker in the 2014 parliamentary election while she was in a Russian jail — because of the party’s reputation of favoring Ukraine’s oligarchs. She said she would stick with that party and was anxious to come to work at parliament next week.
Savchenko spent several hours, taking breaks for cigarettes, answering journalists’ questions at a press conference today in Kiev, alongside her sister Vira and two of her Russian defense lawyers, Mark Feygin and Nikolai Polozov.
Ukrainska Pravda‘s Tatiana Kusok reports that Savchenko said that, having been contacted by many international politicians during her captivity, she would like to maintain and use those contacts to form an international committee aimed at freeing political prisoners and returning occupied territories of Ukraine.
Savchenko said that she still anticipates the outbreak of a “third world war” with Russia, but expects the eventual return of Crimea even if such a conflict does not break out.
With regards to her aims in parliamentary politics, Savchenko said that she would initiate the creation of a special committee or commission on fighting corruption and strengthening order within the Ukrainian armed forces.
Savchenko also visited the Rada today, where she said she would take down the banner calling for her freedom.
Her fellow Batkivshchyna MP Ivan Krulko tweeted:
Translation: Historic moment. Nadiya Savchenko in the session hall of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
— Pierre Vaux
Colonel Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, has told reporters that 14 Ukrainian soldiers were wounded yesterday.
Eight were wounded after an armoured personnel carrier struck a landmine near the village of Starognatovka, southeast of Donetsk.
The other six, Liga.net reports Lysenko as saying, were wounded by enemy fire in the Donetsk area.
— Pierre Vaux
Eight Ukrainian soldiers were wounded last night when their armoured personnel carrier struck a landmine near the village of Starognatovka, just west of the river Kalmius southeast of Donetsk.
This morning the Ukrainian military ATO Press Center claimed that Russian-backed fighters had conducted 30 attacks yesterday, using mortars to shell Ukrainian positions near Donetsk and Mariupol.
According to the report, the heaviest fighting was seen to the north of the separatist-held regional capital. Ukrainian positions near Avdeyevka and Opytnoye were attacked with mortars, both 120 and 82 mm, as well as grenade launchers and heavy machine guns.
The BBC’s Tom Burridge reported from the front-line industrial park, or promzona, on the southeastern edge of Avdeyevka:
Meanwhile Ukraine’s TSN channel recorded shelling yesterday afternoon at the Butovka mine, just south of Avdeyevka. According to the report, 120 mm mortars, SPG-9 recoilless rifles and grenade launchers were fired on Ukrainian positions here.
As an example of the daily rate of fire in this area, here is the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) report of what they observed over several hours on Wednesday in both Avdeyevka itself and the separatist-held town of Yasinovataya, on the other side of the highway beyond the promzona:
In Avdiivka (government-controlled, 17km north of Donetsk), the SMM heard one undetermined explosion 5-6km east of its position and four explosions assessed as impacts of SPG recoilless gun rounds 5km east of its position. The SMM heard three explosions assessed as impacts of 82mm mortar rounds at a location 5km south-east of its position, two explosions assessed as rounds of 82mm mortar, approximately three-five rounds of heavy machine-gun, and four-five rounds of light machine-gun at a location 2-3km east-south-east of its position.
Whilst in Yasynuvata (“DPR”-controlled, 16km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM heard 76 undetermined explosions, two bursts of heavy-machine-gun fire, at least 30 single shots and 23 bursts of small-arms fire 1-15km west and east-north-east of its position.
The Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk claim today that SMM members came under fire from Ukrainian snipers outside Avdeyevka.
According to the ‘defense ministry’ of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), the OSCE group was travelling with representatives from the Joint Center for Control and Coordination – a group of Russian and Ukrainian military delegates tasked with overseeing ceasefire implementation, DNR officials and television crews from RT and Zvezda – a channel owned by the Russian Ministry of Defense.
According to the DNR, the group was accompanying Russian-backed fighters who were attempting to retrieve the body of one of their comrades killed in a clash yesterday.
None of the other parties reportedly present at the time has so far made statements on such an incident. We are awaiting a response from the OSCE press office.
To the west of Donetsk yesterday, the Ukrainian military reports that Ukrainian positions in Krasnogorovka came under automatic-grenade-launcher, anti-aircraft-artillery and sniper fire.
Moving south, Russian-backed fighters reportedly opened fire with anti-aircraft artillery near Novotroitskoye, on the highway to Mariupol.
Just east of this city, along the coast, Ukrainian positions near Shirokino were shelled with 82 mm mortars, while those close to Gnutovo were fired on with grenade launchers.
Fighting was also reported in the Zaytsevo area, north of Gorlovka, where Ukrainian troops came under fire from BMP infantry fighting vehicle cannons, RPGs and small arms.
In the Lugansk region, Russian-backed fighters fired on Stanitsa Luganskaya with grenade launchers and heavy machine guns.
In addition, the ATO Press Center reported, as of 6 am local time, that there had been eight further attacks since midnight.
— Pierre Vaux