1 Ukrainian Soldier Killed, 2 Wounded; Border Guards Head Says No Build-up of Russian Armor

August 14, 2016
Ukrainian soldiers at the front line on July 22, 2016. Photo by UNIAN

Ukraine Day 908: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.

Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.


An Invasion By Any Other Name: The Kremlin’s Dirty War in Ukraine


Gay Pride March Proceeds in Odessa; Police Arrest 20 Who Attempted Attack

OdessaPride 2016, the first LGBT march in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa, took place peacefully today, although police arrested 10 people who tried to attack it, Hromadske reports.

UPDATE: Ultimately, police arrested 20.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
1 Ukrainian Soldier Killed, 2 Wounded; Ukrainian Officials Say No Unusual Activity on Crimean Border
Aleksandr Motuzyanik, spokesman for the presidential administration on ATO affairs, reported at a briefing today August 13 that one Ukrainian soldier was killed in battle and two were wounded, Unian.net reported.
Russian-backed militants fired 61 times on Ukrainian positions in the Donbass.

In its report at 6:00 am today, August 13, the ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] said on its Facebook page that 31 incidents of shelling were reported in Mariupol, 16 on the Dolnetsk reservoir and 14 on the Luganskoye line.
Fighting was heaviest in the Mariupol area. Militants fired on Vodyanoye, Gnutovo, Starognatovka, Shirokino and Novogrigorivtsi with grenade-launchers, large-caliber machine-guns and firearms. Shell fire targeted Krasnogorovka and Maryintsi.  BMPs were active all along the front from Shirokino to Maryinka and snipers were active as well. Anti-aircraft systems were reported near Maryinka.
On the Donetsk line, 82-mm artillery, large-caliber machine-guns and grenade-launchers were used on Ukrainian positions at Nevelskoye, Mayorsk and Avdeyevka. At Zaytsevo there were grenade-launchers fired and machine-guns in Novoselovka. In Luganskoye, militants fired with grenade-launchers, machine-guns and used a BMP; BMPs were also active in Mayorsk. There was sniper fire in Avdeyevka.
Near Novoaleksandrova, militants used 120-mm artillery banned under the Minsk agreement. Large-caliber machine guns and grenade-launchers were also used near Novozvanovka, Stanitsa Luganskaya and Zheltoye, In Lopaskino and Aydar, militants used grenade-launchers and in Krymskoye, large-caliber machine-guns. BMPs were used in old Aydar. Seven drones were recorded.
In the afternoon, the ATO reported Russian-backed fighters fired 22 more times in violation of the Minsk accords.

On the Mariupol line, militants fired 11 times on ATO positions, three with heavy artillery banned under the Minsk agreement. More than a hundred rounds were fired with 122-mm artillery in Lebedinskoye and Sladkoye; Talakovka also fell under fire from 120-mm artillery. There were constant clashes starting even before dawn in Nikolayevka and Bogdanovka, where militants used grenade-launchers and firearms. An anti-tank missile complex was used in Starognatovka and large-caliber machine-guns in Maryinka.

On the Donetsk line, there was artillery fire on Ukrainian positions in Avdeyevka and Novoselovki and grenade-launchers and machine-gun fire in Novgorodskaya. Large-caliber machine-guns were used in Troitskoye and mortar-launchers were fired on Novotroitskoye. Grenade-launchers were used to attack Zheltoye and sniper activity was recorded. 

In other news:

o ATO Soldiers Says Fighting Reduces When OSCE Monitors Appear 

TSN sent a correspondent to the front to interview ATO soldiers, Unian reported. They said the fighting quieted down for a few days while OSCE Special Monitoring Mission observers were in the area, but as soon as they left, the separatists began firing on them again.
The urged the observers to remain over night to help deter violations of the Minsk accord. “We will accept 90% responsibility for his safety,” the soldiers said about having such an observer embedded at their position.
The ATO soldiers said virtually no neutral ground remains between them and the Russian-backed fighters. “In some strange way, they took over the grey zones and tell us that we’re in violation,” the Ukrainian soldiers said indignantly.
Like everyone else, the soldiers have been hearing rumors of a full-fledged Russian invasion, but they smile at it as they have already long seen it with their own eyes. A soldier with the call sign “Brat” [Brother] said that if all the soldiers every mobilized by the ATO came together, “we would have one of the most combat-capable armies there is.”

o Tuka Says Russia Does Not Have Enough Troops To Invade

Georgiy Tuka, the deputy minister for affairs in the occupied territories told TV 112 Ukraina today that Russia does not have enough troops on the border of Crimea to invade at this time.

“As for Crimea, I fear the most that during such military tense some soldiers’ nerves will give out and a provocation on either side could occur. This could be used as a motive for further actions on the part of the Russian Federation.

Russia is not prepared for full-fledged military operations and has the remnants of common sense not to do this. As for provocative actions, tactical actions for the purpose of seizing such population center, that I think is possible.”

o Head of Ukrainian Border Guards Says No Unusual Activity 

 Oleg Slobodyan, head of the Ukrainian State Border Service says border checkpoints are working in the regular regimen and the amount of Russian army near the administrative border does not seem to be above average, Unian reported, citing TV 112 UA:

“All the entry and exit checkpoints are operating in a regular regimen. Periodically, pauses arise due to the fact that the occupiers are arrhythmically allowing through people and vehicles. They gather about 10-15 men in groups and vet them in detail, finding out a lot of personal information about where they are going, with what purposes, and they check their digital tech. Therefore throughout the day, there are pauses in the operation of the checkpoints but on the whole, the situation is stable, quiet and controlled.”

The border guards say the number of people crossing into occupied Crimea is less, however, except for the Chongar crossing which had about 30-40 cars in line, somewhat more than usual. 

Slobodyan also commented on the activity of Russian armor: 

“We have observed the Russian Federation’s military armor near their positions, but these are small groups of about 5-6 automobiles, this fits into the logic of rotation. If we are to speak about large military divisions, about heavy artillery, about an amassing of the kind of military vehicles that could conduct offensive actions or take part in a wide-scale operation, then we do not observe this on the administrative border itself.”

He said the Russian forces usually conduct reconnaissance with helicopters and drones, and sometimes from speedboats.

The Ukrainian Border Service released a statement today saying they observed 5 Mi-8 helicopters on the administrative border of occupied Crimea, and also a fixed Rys aerostat. They said Russian forces also tried to illuminate Ukrainian positions with signal rockets and a large projector. 

Pro-Russian media said the villages of Rtutny and Stalsbyt (Novaya Uspenka) in the Nikitovsky District of Gorlovka came under Ukrainian Army shell fire today and some homes were damaged.

There was also fighting around Yasinovaya and Avdeyevka.

o Former Ukrainian Army Psychologist Serdyuk Named by FSB Says He Was Never Involved in Intelligence

Vladimir Serdyuk, the former officer of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry who has been accused by Russia of organizing the “sabotage” at the border of Russian-occupied Crimea says he really did serve in the 37th battalion as a psychologist, but that unit was not involved in intelligence. He said his job was to talk to soldiers, fight “avatars” or “500s” as soldiers with alcohol and substance abuse problems are nick-named, and help some apply for leave.

“I have no nothing to do with intelligence or the special services. I haven’t in the past and don’t now. And I don’t want to, as I don’t have the knowledge or the experience. It’s some sort of nonsense. I have never been the head of any intelligence. Only this morning I got on the Internet and read everything they are writing. I am stunned by this. Shocked. I have never organized anything and never sent anyone anywhere. I’m a conscientious person. I’m not a terrorist and I don’t plan anything. I live my life and feed my family. And now this has thundered across the whole country. People call me and I don’t even know what to comment. All of this is alarming.”

Serdyuk said he was demobilized on September 30, 2015 and lives in Kiev now and runs a small architect’s office, a business that he had left when he went to fight in the war.

In a televised confession, Serdyuk was named by Yevhen Panov, a former ATO soldier captured by the FSB, as running the “sabotage” operation at the Crimean border. 

He said he knew Yevhen Panov, whose family says was abducted and the Russian Federal Security Service says was helping saboteurs. They served together although Panov joined the army earlier, and hence left the service earlier. He said Aleksei Sandul, named by the FSB as the organizer of the “sabotage,” was also in his unit but he suffered a shrapnel wound and his arm doesn’t work, so he spends a lot of time in the hospital. As for Oleg Dmitrenko, he was older than 50 years. “What kind of intelligence agent is he?” Serdyuk asked rhetorically. 
He believes Panov was tortured and made to tell a fabricated story. 
“Judging from the video, they treated Zhenya [Yevhen], to put it mildly, not humanely. From the video it is clear that they beat him. His reaction is delayed somehow. There is a clear discrepancy. Even when he says my last name, he does it with pauses. There’s the impression that someone is dictating it to him.  And what they are charging him with — I can’t wrap my head around it. Well, where is Zhenya, and where is what they are incriminating him with? He is patriotically-minded, but his health is weak. When he came to us back them, it was surprising why they let him in the draft board with such health. Well, all efforts must be made to free him.”

o Crimean Tatar Leader Says Address Detainee Gave Doesn’t Exist

Zaid Smedlyayev, head of the Central Elections Committee of the Crimean Tatar Kurultai (community) said that Rydvan Suleimanov gave an address that doesn’t exist. There is such a street which can be found on Google maps, but not the house number. Smedlyayev believes Suleimanov was abducted by Russian forces to fulfill a scenario where a Muslim Crimean Tatar — as has been done with many others — will be accused of terrorism. More than 2,000 Crimean Tatars have been abducted in Crimea, he said, and if people try to find out their fate they themselves then face threats from law-enforcers.

o Aide to Separatist Leader Pavel Dremov Found Dead 

Translation: Media reports the death of the supposed organizer of the assassination attempt on Plotnitsky.

Nikolai Minin, who was “the right-hand man” of Pavel Dremov, the Cossack separatist leader of Stakhanov known for his criticism of the leadership of the self-declared “Lugansk People’s Republic” (LNR) assassinated earlier this year, was found dead in his bed, pro-Russian media reports.

Set as default press image
Pavel Dremov (L) and Nikolai Minin (R)
2016-08-14 19:45:50

Savelyi Vasserman, a comrade-at-arms wrote on Facebook that Minin’s head was cut off.

He is said to have obtained a file of compromising material and organized the assassination attempt on Igor Plotnitsky, the leader of the LNR last week. 

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick