Ukraine Day 856: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
- READ OUR SPECIAL REPORT:
The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) reports that one of their teams was caught in a mortar attack on government-controlled Vodyanoye, east of Mariupol, this morning.
Here is the full report released by the OSCE tonight:
The SMM travelled to government-controlled Vodiane (94km south of Donetsk) in a visit that had been co-ordinated with representatives of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC). At 11:18 the SMM was conducting a foot patrol and speaking with a couple at their house when the village was hit by seven mortar rounds assessed as 82mm calibre.
The SMM and Ukrainian Armed Forces, including a Ukrainian representative from the JCCC, took cover in a house. The SMM immediately contacted members of an SMM mirror patrol in “DPR”-controlled Kominternove (23km north-east of Mariupol), which was escorted by a Russian Federation Armed Forces representative to the JCCC, to try to facilitate a ceasefire. After 15 minutes, when the situation was assessed as safe, the patrol members left the house and proceeded to the two SMM armoured vehicles, parked approximately 70 metres west of the house. At this time, the patrol heard two more explosions assessed as mortar rounds impacting in the village, which caused the patrol members to lie on the ground before reaching the vehicles safely.
During the entire time the SMM patrol drivers remained in the vehicles. From there, they observed one impact at an approximate distance of 100-150 metres north and another at a similar distance to the south-east. One round caused a house in the south-west part of the village to catch fire; the house was burning fiercely when the patrol left the village. The patrol returned safely to its base in Mariupol at approximately 13:00.
Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian pilot who was formerly a political prisoner in Russia until she was released recently, continues to make somewhat-controversial statements in her new role as a member of Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada.
In an interview with Voice of America, Savchenko said that she was not sure whether Western governments should supply Ukraine with weapons to fight back against Russian invaders. Ukraine Today reports:
“Should the West help Ukraine with weapons? It depends on the determination of the Western powers. Giving weapons to Ukraine can lead the world into the World War III. If we look at the current situation, it should be a consistent assistance. Firstly, it is an economic and political aid with sanctions against Russia. Because the country [Russia] should understand that it did wrong, and such actions should not exist in the modern world. More personal sanctions should be imposed to lessen the suffering of people,” Savchenko stated in an interview to the Voice of America.
Savchenko appears to have been trying to hammer out some middle ground in the Ukrainian political dialogue somewhere between advocating for de-escalation and pushing for more war with Russia. Savchenko recently told The Telegraph that Russia needs to be stopped or it will continue to invade countries, but she also warned against steps which could lead to a “big war.”
“It might be uncomfortable for Europe or even America for some time. But they need to understand that if they don’t stop Russia on the border of Ukraine, next time it will be on the border with Poland or the border with Germany.”
“You should be very careful with [arming Ukraine] because if you make some sharp steps it could lead to a big war,” she said. “Of course, help is required – but we need to do it some kind of partnership and cooperation, for example with Nato support, using existing tools. Maybe we will die, yes, but if you don’t want us to die and to stand up and stop it, then you should provide us with the means.”
Stop Vladimir Putin now or Russia will advance to 'border with Poland or Germany' says Nadia Savchenko
Ms Savchenko said the West should only provide "defensive" weapons, like anti-aircraft systems. "If we are talking about other ground equipment, then you might get involved in this war and nobody wants a Third World War," she added.
Ukraine’s volunteer-based Azov and Donbass National Guard units are returning to the front line, nearly a year after they were withdrawn from the Mariupol area at the end of last summer.
Zoryan Shkiryak, an adviser to the interior minister, announced today that both units will be deployed to the front along with a rapid response brigade of National Guardsmen to “carry out their inherent function of direct contact with the enemy.”
The announcement comes as Ukraine reports 28 attacks by Russian-backed fighters yesterday – somewhat of a drop in numbers from that seen over recent days.
In addition, for the first time in many weeks, Colonel Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, announced today that the Ukrainian military had suffered no casualties over the previous 24 hours.
Nevertheless, according to this morning’s ATO Press Center report, Russian-backed fighters continued to use heavy weaponry, shelling Ukrainian positions near Avdeyevka and the Butovka mine, north of Donetsk, with 152 mm artillery and 82 mm mortars.
Meanwhile 122 mm self-propelled artillery was used to shell Ukrainian positions near Mayotsk and Nikolaevka Vtoraya, both north of Gorlovka, while those near Troitskoye came under mortar fire.
In addition, the Ukrainian military reports grenade-launcher attacks near Verkhnetoretskoye and Luganskoye.
To the west of Donetsk, snipers fired on Ukrainian troops in Krasnogorovka and Maryinka, while those near Novotroitskoye, Vodyanoye, Talakovka and Taramchuk, all to the south, were attacked with grenade launchers.
In the Lugansk region, the military reports that positions near Novozvanovka came under fire from BMP infantry fighting vehicles, grenade launchers and heavy machine guns.
In turn, the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) accused Ukrainian forces of firing on separatist-held territory 412 times over 24 hours, using mortars, grenade launchers and BMP cannons.
Eduard Basurin, the deputy commander of the armed forces of the DNR, told reporters this afternoon that one Russian-backed fighter had been wounded within the last 24 hours.
— Pierre Vaux
Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the leader of the Russian-backed, self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) has given the Ukrainian government an ultimatum on local elections in the occupied territories.
As the pro-separatist Donetsk News Agency reported yesterday afternoon, Zakharchenko said that if Kiev failed to pass the controversial law on local elections by July 14, then the DNR would unilaterally move to hold elections.
“Ukraine has until July 14 this year to pass a law on local elections, which will either be acceptable to us or not. This law must necessarily be agreed with representatives from the Donbass. If such a law is not passed, we will take the decision on holding local elections ourselves.”
Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, is due to review the bill on local elections on July 14, but parliament will be on a summer break from the following day until September.
However last year saw the parliamentary session extended throughout the summer due to the political and military crisis. It remains to be seen whether this will be repeated.
But earlier yesterday, President Petro Poroshenko told France’s iTELE that the so-called “special status” bill and constitutional changes required for the local elections could only be implemented after the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from the Donbass.
“In my opinion this is all very obvious and based upon the logic of the Minsk agreements, namely it consists of several parts. The first priority is security. This means that we have to have a real ceasefire. Unfortunately this is not the situation on the ground.
Ukraine has withdrawn some of its weaponry and is cooperating with the OSCE SMM, which has repeatedly stressed that Ukrainian is fulfilling its obligations. At the same time, Russia continues to supply weapons and ammunition through uncontrolled sections of the border, ferrying their troops around with one single aim – to ensure the continued escalation of the situation.”
Poroshenko said that “it is obvious” that the constitutional changes can not take place until Russian troops are withdrawn and the OSCE is granted complete access to the entire border with Russia.
“And only after the fulfilment of these prerequisites can we go to work on organising the elections. The other issue is that these elections must be free, democratic and fair, but in the current situation this seems impossible.”
Indeed Zakharchenko has repeatedly stated that he does not want the DNR to hold local elections in accordance with Ukrainian law – a stipulation of the Minsk agreements.
It is also hard to take Zakharchenko’s ultimatum too seriously given that the Russian-backed leader has repeatedly postponed the official date for these unilateral ‘elections.’
The Ukrainian authorities appear confident of this, with Vadim Skibitskiy, spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence directorate, telling the 112 news channel yesterday that according to intelligence sources, both the DNR and their fellow separatists in Lugansk were expected to delay the ‘elections’ until the end of this year.
— Pierre Vaux