Ukraine Claims Capture Of Russian Missile Launcher As Heavy Fighting Continues Across Front Line

May 31, 2016
The MRO-A therombaric missile system Ukrainian troops reportedly captured yesterday. Photo: ATO Press Center

Ukraine Day 834: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.

Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.


An Invasion By Any Other Name: The Kremlin’s Dirty War in Ukraine


The ‘Black Ledger’ – How Yanukovych’s Party Of Regions Rigged Ukrainian Politics By Bribery

Documents covering the payment of bribes from ousted President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions to Ukrainian officials and politicians were released today, revealing a massive network of bribery, amounting up to $66 million.

MP Serhiy Leshchenko and Ukrainska Pravda editor-in-chief Sevğil Musayeva-Borovyk presented the documents, which have become known as the “black ledger” in Ukrainian media, at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center this morning:

The title of the presentation is a reference to Woland’s famous line in Bugakov’s Master and Margarita.

Leshechenko said that the documents contained records of payments made to members of Ukraine’s Central Election Commission (CIK) and MPs from other parties who cast votes in favour of Yanukovych’s party.

Musayeva-Borovyk and Leshchenko said that the most likely source of the funds was embezzlement from the state budget. They money was also used to buy sympathetic media coverage.

According to Sevgil Musayeva-Borovyk, chief curators of the Party of Regions in the parliament were former head of the budget committee Yevhen Genner and MP Vitaliy Kalyuzhny. “They were receiving large sums of money to carry out activities of the party. […] This money had its source – mostly likely it was obtained from the state budget through corrupt schemes. It demonstrates how important is to change the legislation on transparent financing of parties,” Musayeva-Borovyk is convinced.

According to Leshchenko, the documents also disclose the information on political PR on TV channels Inter and ICTV. “This money was used to pay for editorial materials in media and for preparation of loyal materials. These expenses account for USD one million monthly. […] It took place in the most active period of the election campaign. The money was used not to place political advertising that was legally processed through a foundation and monitored by designated observers, the money was used to place paid editorial materials,” the MP explained.

A third figure involved in the release of the documents was Viktor Trepak, former deputy head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), who resigned in protest at obstruction from then-Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin in November last year.

The Kyiv Post reported on Trepak’s allegations two days ago:

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Ex-official says he filed documents on Party of Regions' $2 billion graft scheme

Ex-President Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions paid about $2 billion in cash to bribe both former and incumbent top officials, Viktor Trepak, an ex-deputy head of the Security Service of Ukraine, said in a May 28 interview with the Dzerkalo Tyzhnya newspaper. He said he had submitted documents confirming the payments to the National Anti-Coruption Bureau.

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May 31, 2016 13:55 (GMT)

Trepak said that the documents redraw the history of the last decade of Ukrainian government:

According to Trepak, the Party of Regions allocated “colossal” under-the-table payments to buy the loyalty of law enforcment agencies, including the infamous Berkut riot police.

Trepak said the materials would also help to clarify the circumstances of the murders and suicides of Party of Regions officials following the 2013-2014 EuroMaidan Revolution.

The evidence may breathe new life into the investigations into Yanukovych’s usurpation of power, Trepak said, adding that now the investigations have subsided and may even have been buried.

The documents prove that “Yanukovych came to power unlawfully and was not the legitimate president of Ukraine,” Trepak said, arguing that the 2010 presidential election was rigged in a way similar to the 2004 one.

Moreover, the materials show that then-President Viktor Yushchenko helped Yanukovych come to power, according to Trepak. 

The evidence casts doubt on the legitimacy of the authorities during the period that they concern, he said.

“The materials prove that the authorities remained corrupt all the way through as presidents, cabinets and parliaments replaced each other,” Trepak argued. “The methods of obtaining power also remained the same: bribery, deception, rigging and intimidation.”

Specifically, similar corrupt and manipulative tools were used during parliamentary elections in 2007 under Yushchenko and in 2012 under Yanukovych, he added.

Ukrainska Pravda has published an interactive guide to the documents (in Russian) , detailing those individuals who received bribes from the Party of Regions, from the remants of which today’s Opposition Bloc party was formed.

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Черная бухгалтерия Партии регионов

Фамилии, даты, суммы

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May 31, 2016 14:00 (GMT)

— Pierre Vaux

German Foreign Minister Suggests EU Sanctions Against Russia May Not Necessarily Be Extended

Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has told journalists that there is a possibility that the European Council will not extend sanctions against Russia for another six months.

The comments are starkly different to those made by Council President Donald Tusk in Japan last week, who said that the EU did not see that conditions for reducing sanctions had been met.

Reuters reports that Steinmeier said that it was “no secret” that some EU states were unenthusiastic about extending sanctions.

“The sanctions are there to ensure a political solution. I don’t know what the European Council will decide on Russia sanctions,” Steinmeier told reporters.

As has been suggested since her release last week, Steinmeier said that he hoped the return of Nadiya Savchenko would “bring a new dynamic into the talks between Russia and Ukraine.”

At the same time, Ukrinform reports that Steinmeier said that Germany will never recognise Russia’s rule over Crimea.

“We cannot ignore, nor accept the flagrant trampling over international law through the annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine… 

It was clear before and is now that there can be no discussion of the recognition of the annexation. As it is also clear that there cannot be a military solution to the conflict in Ukraine.” 

— Pierre Vaux

Nadiya Savchenko Makes First Address To Rada As She Is Sworn In As MP

Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian military officer who was released from Russian captivity last week, has been sworn in today as an MP in Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada.

Savchenko was elected on the Batkivshchyna party’s list while in a Russian prison in 2014.

As she had promised last week, she removed a poster calling for her release from the rostrum, replacing it with one calling for the release of all Ukrainian prisoners.

UNIAN reports that Savchenko said that she would “not allow” MPs to forget Ukraine’s dead.

“Nothing is forgotten, no one is forgotten and nothing is forgiven,” she said.

According to her, “the people of Ukraine will not let us occupy these seats if we betray them. Ukraine is above all else. And for us, who are sitting in this session hall, Ukraine is above the life of each of us.”

Savchenko also apologized to the mother of a Ukrainian soldier, Vadym Puhachiov, who was reported to have been killed by Russian GRU officers Alexander Alexandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev (the two were later swapped for Savchenko). “I’m sorry that I’m alive and your son is dead,” Savchenko said.

In addition, she begged forgiveness from all those whose relatives were killed, defending the sovereignty of Ukraine.

At the end of her speech, Savchenko sang the national anthem together with other MPs.

Interfax-Ukraine reports that Savchenko told journalists that her “first impression” was that Ukraine’s MPs work “as if in a bazaar” and that they reminded her of “lazy schoolchildren.”

Video of Savchenko’s address:

— Pierre Vaux
Ukraine Claims Capture Of Russian Missile Launcher As Heavy Fighting Continues Across Front Line

The Ukrainian military claims this morning that Russian-backed fighters conducted 21 attacks in the Donbass yesterday. As a result of one of those clashes, Ukrainian troops captured a Russian thermobaric missile system from enemy attackers.

According to the ATO Press Center, the MRO-A disposable missile launcher was seized after Ukrainian troops repelled an attack by an enemy assault and reconnaissance team. The location of the incident has not yet been announced.

Photos of the weapon have been released by the press center:

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2016-05-31 09:51:07

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2016-05-31 09:51:07

This is not the first time such weapons have been documented in Ukraine, as Armaments Research (ARES) reported back in June, 2014.

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Russian MRO-A Rocket Launchers in Ukraine

Images emerging from Ukraine following fighting in Ukraine's Donetsk region on the 25 th of May show alleged pro-Russian Ukrainian separatist fighters in possession of Russian-made MRO-A rocket launchers. The MRO is a self-contained, disposable single shot 72.5 mm rocket launcher, sharing similarities with the larger, 93 mm RPO family to provide a lighter alternative.

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May 31, 2016 08:53 (GMT)

The MRO-A is not known to be in the Ukrainian arsenal, which makes its discovery in Ukraine yet further proof of direct Russian military support for proxy fighters in the Donbass.

Later today, Colonel Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, announced that one Ukrainian soldier had been killed and two wounded yesterday.

All casualties were incurred, Motuzyanyk said, in the Donetsk area.

According to the ATO Press Center, Russian-backed fighters shelled Ukrainian positions to both the north and west of the separatist-held city.

120 mm mortars were reportedly used in attacks near Verkhnetoretskoye, Novobakhmutovka, Opytnoye and Krasnogorovka, while 82 mm mortar shells fell on positions in Avdeyevka and Nevelskoye.

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2016-05-31 10:20:15

In turn, the pro-separatist Donetsk News Agency (DAN) reports that Ukrainian troops last night shelled a section of highway between Avdeyevka and separatist-held Yasinovataya, in addition to the northwestern outskirts of Donetsk city, with 82 and 120 mm mortars.

To the south, the Ukrainian military reports that positions near Novotroitskoye, on the highway between Donetsk and Mariupol, were attacked with automatic grenade launchers, machine guns and small arms.

These same weapons were reportedly also used in attacks near Talakovka, just northeast of Mariupol.

Ukrainian positions in Zaytsevo, north of separatist-held Gorlovka, came under fire, the report says, from BMP infantry fighting vehicle cannons and 82 mm mortars. 

Meanwhile, in the Lugansk region, Russian-backed fighters reportedly shelled positions near Novotoshkovksoye, on the Bakhmutka highway, with mortars, while Stanitsa Luganskaya, northeast of the separatist-held regional capital, came under fire from BMP cannons, automatic grenade launchers, machine guns and small arms.

As a result of last night’s attacks, the Lugansk Regional Military-Civil Administration reports that 30,000 households have been left without electricity. A gas pipeline was also ruptured but engineers managed to complete repairs on it by this morning.

Ivan Šimonović, an aide to the the UN Secretary General, is, the Administration says, is due to visit Stanitsa Luganskaya today, 

— Pierre Vaux