Ukraine Day 849: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
- READ OUR SPECIAL REPORT:
Ukraine’s Zerkalo Nedeli reports that key advisers from Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany are meeting in Minsk today to discuss security and the implementation of local elections in separatist-held regions of eastern Ukraine.
According to the papers source at the negotiations, Vladislav Surkov — whose nickname is The Grey Cardinal, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most important aides who is suspected of close oversight of the Kremlin’s separatist proxies — is meeting with Konstantin Yeliseyev, deputy head of the Ukrainian Presidential Administration, and representatives from the other members of the so-called Normandy Quartet.
The Presidential Administration itself issued the following statement this afternoon:
Following the last phone conversation of May 24, 2016, the meeting of the foreign policy advisors of the Heads of State of the Normandy format takes place in Minsk.
The attendees discuss the issue of security in Donbas, particularly the deployment of the OSCE police mission.
The agenda also provides for the political settlement of the conflict and preparations to the next phone conversation in the Normandy format.
Meanwhile Novaya Gazeta reports, citing Interfax, that President Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, has told reporters that negotiations between Moscow and Kiev on the return of more Ukrainian prisoners from Russia, in particular film director Oleg Sentsov.
Yesterday saw the release of one of Sentsov’s co-defendants in an internationally-condemned show trial on terrorism charges, Hennadiy Afanasyev, and Yuriy Soloshenko.
According to Peskov, the negotiations are once again being led by Viktor Medvedchuk, a highly controversial figure in Ukraine who is suspected of orchestrating pro-Russian political activities in the past and played a major role in negotiations over the return of Nadiya Savchenko. Putin is godfather to Medvedchuk’s daughter.
— Pierre Vaux
The Ukrainian military reports worsening fighting yesterday, with 58 attacks over 24 hours and both military and civilian casualties.
Colonel Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, announced that two Ukrainian soldiers had been killed near Pavlopol, northeast of Mariupol, yesterday, confirming reports from volunteers last night.
Lysenko said that in addition to the four wounded near Pavlopol, another two had been wounded near Zaytsevo and Maryinka.
According to the Ukrainian military, the attack near Pavlopol was conducted by a group of 12 Russian-backed fighters, suported by 122 mm self-propelled artillery.
Some of the worst shelling was see around Donetsk, with one civilian woman, born in 1961, wounded after shells struck an apartment building in Krasnogorovka, west of the separatist-held city, at around 5 am this morning.
Dramatic photos of the devastation were published on social media:
According to this morning’s ATO Press Center report, Ukrainian positions in this area were shelled at around 22:00 last night by tanks, while those in neighbouring Maryinka came under mortar fire.
To the north of Donetsk city, 152 mm artillery was once again reportedly used to shell the Butovka mine – the exposed position where four Ukrainian volunteer fighters were killed and a dozen wounded at the weekend.
Mortar fire was also directed at defensive positions near Nevelskoye, Peski, Avdeyevka and Verkhnetoretskoye.
To the south, the Ukrainian military reports mortar attacks on Novotroitskoye and Taramchuk, on the Donetsk-Mariupol highway.
There were corresponding reports of such damage on social media:
Closer to Mariupol, the ATO Press Center reports Russian-backed fighters fired five shells from self-propelled artillery at the village of Chermalyk at around noon yesterday.
According to the Donetsk police, a 13-year-old girl was wounded as a result of a direct strike on a house.
Grenade-launcher and machine-gun attacks were also reported near Gnutovo, Talakovka and Shirokino.
— Pierre Vaux