Ukraine Day 837: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
- READ OUR SPECIAL REPORT:
As we reported yesterday, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) lost its last long-range UAV over separatist-held Gorlovka.
Today the OCSE released more details on the incident, indicating that the drone had been fired on.
From the official report:
While flying 2km south of Korsun village, 12.5km south-east of the contact line, the UAV experienced dual jamming of its Global Positioning System, causing loss of all communications and the video link. Seconds later, it experienced simultaneous system failures. At approximately 18:44 the Ukrainian Armed Forces liaison officer reported that they had lost the UAV from their radar, approximately 2km south of Korsun at the same time when the SMM had also lost communication with the UAV. The SMM informed the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC), who, as per established procedure, had been informed in advance of the UAV flight plan.
Simultaneous loss of all communication with the UAV strongly suggests that it was caused by an impact to the tail section of the UAV, where the anti-jamming system and the antennas are located, which in turn triggered the other system failures. According to the SMM’s preliminary assessment, these events likely caused the UAV to crash. At the time of reporting, the SMM, together with the JCCC, is going to the presumed crash site to recover possible UAV debris and the anti-jamming device in the tail section, and collect any other relevant information.
On 1 June 2016 the SMM UAV had spotted a surface-to-air missile launcher (9K33 Osa, 210mm) and an anti-aircraft gun (ZU-23) in Korsun, within the security zone, (see SMM Daily Report 2 June 2016).
The OSCE has released a map, detailing the exact location of the drone when it was lost, south of Gorlovka and west of Yenakievo:
Here is a photo of an Osa purportedly taken in Donetsk in April:
When, a week earlier, another long-range OSCE drone was downed in this same area, the SMM reported that they had spotted a Russian 9K35 Strela-10 surface-to-air missile system just before contact was lost.
In addition, the SMM reported that another, smaller UAV was lost yesterday on the front line near Stanitsa Luganskaya, on the Seversky Donets river northeast of Lugansk city:
An SMM mini unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) suffered signal errors, lost control and crashed 600m south of Stanytsia Luhanska bridge (11 km north-east of Luhansk). The reason for the malfunction remains unknown. The SMM did not recover the UAV due to security reasons (the area is potentially UXO contaminated).
The report confirms heavy fighting yesterday to the northeast and west of Donetsk city, although the worst shelling reported by locals on social media took place later on at night, after the cut-off for the report (at 19:30 Kiev time).
Positioned at the “DPR”-controlled Donetsk central railway station (6km north-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM observed two undetermined explosions (impacts), and heard 94 undetermined explosions, ten bursts (outgoing) and eight explosions (impacts) assessed as caused by automatic grenade launcher, as well as multiple bursts of heavy machine-gun and bursts and single shots of small arms fire 2-8km north, north-east, north-north-east and north-north-west of its position.
Whilst in “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard 53 undetermined explosions and more than 200 bursts and single shots of small-arms fire 1-8km west, west-north-west, north-west, north-north-west, north, south-east and east-south-east of its position.
Positioned in and near government-controlled Marinka, the SMM heard four explosions (impacts) assessed as caused by anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade-launcher rounds, four explosions (impacts) of automatic-grenade-launcher rounds, four explosions (impacts) of 30mm automatic cannon, nine undetermined explosions, as well as 194 bursts and single shots of small arms fire 1-3km north-east of its locations.
Whilst in government-controlled Avdiivka (17km north of Donetsk), the SMM heard six undetermined explosions, 34 explosions assessed as caused by 82mm mortar rounds, and eight of mortar of unknown calibre, three explosions assessed as caused by automatic grenade launchers, four bursts and four penetrating rounds (impacts) from 23mm anti-aircraft automatic cannon, as well as ten bursts of heavy-machine-gun and 31 bursts and single shots of small-arms fire 2-8km south-east, south-south-east, south and south-south-west of its position.
The SMM also reported on the build-up of artillery near the front line in government-controlled territory near:
In violation of respective withdrawal lines, the SMM observed in government-controlled areas: three anti-tank guns (MT-12 Rapira, 100mm) in Vodiane (42km south-west of Donetsk); five self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm) in Tarasivka (41km north-west of Donetsk); 18 towed howitzers (D-20, 152mm) in Zelene Pole (42km north-west of Donetsk).
— Pierre Vaux
President Petro Poroshenko has just finished answering journalists’ questions at an special press conference, one of two a year he conducts.
Poroshenko hailed yesterday’s passage of judicial reforms by the Rada as a victory in the battle of against corruption.
Though as we noted yesterday, the bill has been opposed by the Samopomich and Radical parties, in addition to Nadiya Savchenko:
Halya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group explains, in a piece for the Atlantic Council, the issues with the reforms:
Regarding Savchenko herself, Poroshenko was asked about the process of her release.
Notably he denied that Viktor Medvedchuk, a close friend of President Vladimir Putin and powerful agent of influence in Ukraine, had played a key role in Savchenko’s release, despite reports as such from the Kremlin and even Nadiya’s sister, Vira.
However this was followed by an suggestion that journalists refrain from negative coverage of Ukraine – a comment that was hardly likely to be well received.
That said, the adversarial nature of the press conference indicates, as Hromadske’s Maxim Eristavi notes, that despite a recent New York Times headline, Ukrainian media is not on lock-down:
The Lugansk Military-Civil Regional Administration claims that Ukrainian soldiers shot down an enemy drone last night near Severodonetsk, well behind the front line.
According to the report, the so-far unidentified UAV was shot down over the village of Smolyaninovo, around 17 kilometres east of Severodonetsk, at around midnight.
Governor Yuriy Harbuz reported that the the drone had been headed towards the city, which serves as the acting administrative center of the region while Lugansk city remains under occupation.
Harbuz said that it was not yet known what payload the UAV was carrying.
The most commonly-downed Russian UAV in Ukraine is the Orlan-10, a medium sized drone that carries reconnaissance equipment.
However the Ukrainian military has also claimed several recent incidents of drones dropping explosive devices on Ukrainian rear positions.
So far, the Ukrainian military has yet to release any documentary evidence or further details of the drone reportedly downed last night.
— Pierre Vaux
Last night saw heavy fighting in the Donbass, with the western and intense shelling near both Donetsk and Mariupol.
Eight Ukrainian soldiers were wounded, Colonel Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration told reporters today. The casualties were incurred near Avdeyevka and Novoselovka Vtoraya, north of Donetsk, and Zaytsevo, north of Gorlovka.
One soldier, either one of the eight or a ninth, yet to be added to the official tally, was wounded by enemy fire in Stanitsa Luganskaya, the Lugansk Administration reports.
In addition, the press office of the Administration reports that a house caught fire as a result of the grenade-launcher fire that poured on the town, northeast of the separatist-held regional capital.
The heaviest shelling was seen around Donetsk city. Colonel Lysenko claimed today that Russian-backed forces fired more than 250 mortar rounds in this area.
This video, uploaded on the separatist “dispatches from the militia” account, records the sound of Russian-backed fighters shelling Ukrainian positions from Donetsk. Outbound artillery fire is clearly audible, along with car alarms triggered by the noise.
There are numerous reports from residents of Donetsk itself and the surrounding, Ukrainian-controlled suburbs, of shelling throughout the night.
Shells fell on Peski and Avdeyevka, to the north, and Krasnogorovka and Maryinka, to the west. The fire on the western suburbs reportedly came from the Petrovsky district (“Petrovka”) in the southwest of the separatist-held city.
Here are some of the tweets, translated by @loogunda and @guderian_xaba:
Vladimir Moroz, head of the Maryinka district administration, reported on his Facebook page that the area had come under fire from small arms, grenade launchers and heavy weapons.
Moroz said that several residential buildings had been struck by shells, destroying at least one and severing power lines. Fortunately, he writes, there were no casualties.
According to the ATO Press Center, Russian-backed fighters used 82 mm mortars and 122 mm artillery in the attack.
But the ‘defense ministry’ of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) claimed this morning that Ukrainian forces had in fact shelled the Petrovsky district with 122 mm artillery.
The pro-separatist Donetsk News Agency ran several photos of damaged buildings. The photos do appear to be new, but there is no telling whether the damage to the buildings is new or simply remains from previous rounds of shelling over the last two years.
Across the whole front, the Ukrainian ATO Press Center claims that Russian-backed fighters conducted more than 49 attacks yesterday.
To the north of Donetsk, Ukrainian positions near Avdeyevka and Opytnoye were reportedly attacked with small arms, heavy machine guns and grenade launchers, while those at the Butovka mine, an exposed position east of Donetsk Airport, were shelled with 82 and 120 mm mortars.
In the Gorlovka area, Russian-backed fighters used BMP infantry fighting vehicle cannons, 82 mm mortars and heavy machine guns to attack positions near Zaytsevo, Luganskoye and Troitskoye.
In the south of the Donetsk region, the ATO Press Center reported an intensification of attacks, totalling 31 over the day.
According to the report, positions near Novotroitskoye, on the highway between Donetsk and Mariupol, were shelled with 120 mm mortars, whole those near Pavlopol, northeast of the port city, were shelled with 82 mm rounds.
Attacks, conducted with small arms, heavy machine guns and grenade launchers, were also reported near Beryozovoye, Gnutovo, Slavnoye, Taramchuk and Shirokino.
One interesting claim on social media is that Russian military trucks are moving around Donetsk city with their tactical markings (which indicate the unit to which they belong) obscured with tape:
If true, this may be a sign of upcoming offensive maneuvers, since Russian regular forces were marked by white circles or squares during previous offensives, or it may be a countermeasure against Ukrainian intelligence assets in separatist-held territory.
— Pierre Vaux