Ukraine Day 868: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
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Le Figaro reports that Grégoire Moutaux, the Frenchman arrested in Ukraine in a sting operation while allegedly trying to transport a huge cache of weapons and explosives across the border with Poland in May, has refused to speak with French investigators.
A French magistrate and two investigators travelled to Kiev on May 29 to interview the suspect, but were met with silence.
Having returned to France on July 1, the magistrate from Nancy told Le Figaro that Moutaux would only state that he “had nothing to declare.”
“I thought that he would talk, but I found myself faced with a very stubborn man who seemed to me to be extremely obstinate.”
While the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has stated, releasing audio tapes made while Moutaux was under surveillance, that he planned on conducting a series of terrorist attacks in France, targeting a mosque and a tax office among other sites, with a group of co-conspirators, the case is still being handled in France as one of arms trafficking rather than terrorism.
Le Figaro was told by the magistrate that French investigators were still awaiting the delivery of all the relevant case materials from the Ukrainians before making any further conclusions. The complete case files should be delivered within a month, he said.
Last month a farmer, reported to have had close contact with Moutaux, was taken in by French police for a long interrogation, but was released without charge.
— Pierre Vaux
Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of the State Duma’s Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations With Compatriots, has told reporters in Moscow today that a group of French politicians are planning another visit to Russian-occupied Crimea.
The state-owned TASS news agency reports:
“We are preparing another visit of a large delegation of French deputies and senators on Navy Day to Sevastopol at the invitation of the city leadership and command of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. The delegation will again be headed by Russia’s friend Thierry Mariani – France’s former transport minister,” Slutsky said.
Thierry Mariani is an MP and member of the conservative Républicains, the main opposition party in France.
Almost a year ago, Mariani led a delegation of French politicians to occupied Crimea, prompting outrage from the French and Ukrainian governments:
While the Socialist government remains committed to supporting the EU sanctions effort against Russia, the outcome of the votes shows that not all of their deputies are so steadfast.
Les Républicains are much more sympathetic, as clearly demonstrated by their president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who dedicated much gushing praise to his host at the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum last month.
President François Hollande is set to fight a gruelling electoral battle next year, having had to pass a number of deeply unpopular labour reforms amidst the ongoing economic slowdown in Europe.
Les Républicains, whether headed by Sarkozy, or perhaps as some suggest is more likely, the former prime minister, Alain Juppé, stand a good chance of unseating the Socialists.
— Pierre Vaux
The Ukrainian government has announced that it is prepared to implement retaliatory measures after the Kremlin imposed further restrictions on the transit of Ukrainian goods through the Russian Federation.
The decree blocks movement of Ukrainian goods by road or rail from Russian territory into Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
In response, Stepan Kubiv, the first deputy prime minister of Ukraine, said today that Ukraine will enact a mirror response.
“First we will impose retaliatory sanctions against Russia’s actions regarding Ukrainian goods and transit to other countries. This is the absolutely clear position that meets international law, WTO and the EU. Secondly, we will increase the customs duty on Russian goods imported to Ukraine tit for tat. Everything will take effect when the president’s decree takes effect.”
UNIAN reports that the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers issued a statement in response to the Russian move in which they decried the new legislation as a “manifestation of Russian aggression.”
“This is a politically motivated act of the Russian Federation, which is another manifestation of Russian aggression toward Ukraine. We demand that Russia immediately lift the restrictive measures against the Ukrainian export to other countries.”
— Pierre Vaux
Colonel Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, briefed reporters in Kiev today:
According to Lysenko, fighting near Mayorsk and Avdeyevka, to the north of Gorlovka (Horlivka) and Donetsk respectively, was “exceptionally heavy.”
Just west of Mayorsk, shells reportedly fell on residential areas of government-controlled Toretsk.
Vyacheslav Abroskin, the chief of the Donetsk regional police, reported that shells had damaged homes on two streets in Toretsk at around 22:00 last night.
The police later reported that a second round of shelling had taken place at around 3 am today, damaging a workshop area of a penal colony:
Vitaliy Kirillov, a military press officer responsible for the Mariupol sector, told local news site 0629.com.ua that Russian-backed forces had used 122 mm self-propelled artillery and both 120 and 82 mm mortars.
The heaviest shelling was directed at the village of Shirokino, once a seaside resort, now devastated as one of Ukraine’s most fiercely contested battlefields.
From 19:05 until 19:30 militants shelled the village with 82 mm mortars, from 22:25 until 00:30 the militants fired 20 rounds from self-propelled artillery, 25 from 120 mm mortars, and 37 from 82 mm mortars.
The last attack lasted from 00:40 until 01:15. The militants fired on the village with small arms and 120 mm mortars.
Kirllov’s counterpart in the Lugansk region, Volodymyr Korniyak, told the 112 television channel that Ukrainian positions near Kalinovo and Troitskoye had been shelled with 120 mm mortars.
Colonel Lysenko reported a sniper attack on the Bakhmutka highway.
An interesting detail claimed by Lysenko, was that one of the four drone flights detected over the Donbass yesterday, had been launched from Russian territory:
Attacks continued this morning, with Oleg Sushinsky, a spokesman for the ATO Press Center, claiming that there had been another 18 attacks in the Donetsk region between midnight and 8 am.
According to Sushinsky, Ukrainian positions near Zaytsevo, Novgorodskoye, Troitskoye, Kirovo, Troitskoye, Shirokino and Krasnogorovka were all shelled with 120 mm mortars.
In turn, the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) has accused Ukrainian forces of firing on separatist-held territory 345 times over 24 hours.
According to the DNR, Ukrainian forces fired 146 120 mm and 148 82 mm mortar rounds, in addition to using BMP infantry fighting vehicle cannons, grenade launchers and small arms.
The Russian-backed separatists claim that Ukrainian attacks were directed at the northern outskirts of both Donetsk and Gorlovka.
— Pierre Vaux