Ukraine Day 864: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
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The Ukrainian military claimed today that eleven soldiers were wounded and one killed yesterday in heavy fighting near separatist-held Debaltsevo.
As we reported last night, separatist sources claim that Ukrainian troops went on the offensive in the early hours of yesterday morning, while the Ukrainian military says that their troops advanced only in a counter-attack after a failed assault by Russian-backed fighters.
Both sides, however, report that Ukrainian forces advanced at least one and a half kilometres into separatist-held territory, coming close to Logvinovo on the highway between government-held Luganskoye and Debaltsevo.
From what we can gather, either Ukrainian troops pulled back under orders, or they were repelled by Russian-backed forces.
Of the casualties declared today by Colonel Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Ukrainian Presidential Administration, one – Paris Opera singer Vasyl Slipak, was killed and two wounded early yesterday morning.
The other nine casualties were likely incurred later in the day.
At 19:30 Kiev time, TSN’s Yevgeny Agarkov relayed reports of “more than a dozen” wounded from three Ukrainian battalions.
Meanwhile Eduard Basurin, deputy commander of the armed forces of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) claimed that Ukrainian troops had lost two BMP infantry fighting vehicles and one BTR armoured personnel carriers.
Yesterday afternoon there were also reports from separatist sources that two Ukrainian T-64 tanks had been knocked out.
A video uploaded yesterday afternoon shows a Russian-backed fighter in front of a burnt-out T-64, but it is unclear which side it belonged to (both sides use T-64s), nor how long it has been there.
Basurin claimed that no Russian-backed fighters had been killed, with the only injuries being “light concussions.”
But Igor Girkin, known by his nom de guerre of Strelkov, the former chief commander of Russian-backed militants in the Donetsk region, posted on his VKontakte page yesterday afternoon that six Russian-backed fighters had already been killed. Girkin drily noted that DNR officials would ascribe the deaths to “a road accident.”
Another former leading DNR commander, Igor Bezler, posted (via his wife’s VKontakte account) details of the areas seized by Ukrainian troops by 10:46 Moscow time yesterday.
According to Bezler, in addition to the two hilltops near Logvinovo, the Ukrainian military had advanced to within 2.5-3 kilometers of separatist-held Uglegorsk.
Bezler updated the post to report that separatist commanders Mikhail Tolstykh (aka Givi) and ‘Miner’ had repelled Ukrainian troops from the hills near Logvinovo.
Crimean pro-separatist blogger Colonel Cassad also relayed photos, purportedly taken yesterday evening by members of the Givi’s Somali Battalion, showing what can be recognised as the Debaltsevo-Luganskoye road near Logvinovo, indicating that Ukrainian troops had indeed withdrawn one way or another.
It remains to be seen whether the fighting between Debaltsevo and Luganskoye marks the beginning of a new, more dynamic phase in the war, or is just a local flare-up.
According to the Ukrainian military’s ATO Press Center, there were 66 attacks by Russian-backed fighters across the whole front line yesterday.
The report claims that, in addition to the fighting and intense shelling seen in the Luganskoye area, there were attacks around Donetsk, Mariupol and the west of the Lugansk region.
To the north of Donetsk, Russian-backed fighters reportedly used heavy mortars to shell Ukrainian positions near Novoselovka Vtoraya, 122 mm against those near Troitskoye, anti-aircraft guns near Kamenka, and automatic grenade launchers and machine guns near Avdeyevka and the Butovka mine.
To the south, Ukrainian troops near Beryozovoye and Novotroitskoye, on the Donetsk-Mariupol highway, were attacked with heavy mortars. Those near Starognatovka, Pavlopol, Talakovka and Shirokino were attacked with grenade launchers and small arms.
Finally, in the Lugansk region, positions near Novozvanovka were attacked with heavy mortars and automatic grenade launchers.
Fighting was reportedly continuing near Avdeyevka this morning:
Translation: Avdeyevka: Since the very morning have heard inbound and gunfire. Not close.
— Pierre Vaux