Ukraine Day 912: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
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For the second day in a row, the Ukrainian military reports that eight of their soldiers were wounded in the Donbass yesterday.
According to this morning’s ATO Press Center report, Russian-backed forces conducted 52 attacks yesterday, using heavy artillery in the south of the Donetsk region.
The military claims that, just like on Monday, Russian-backed forces shelled the village of Rybinskoye, east of Volnovakha, with 152 mm artillery. The village is some distance from the front line.
Military press officer Ivan Chmil reported that 122 mm self-propelled artillery was used to shell positions near Novoselovka and the village of Chermalyk itself, where 60 shells fell, damaging 34 buildings, including granaries storing the recently gathered harvest.
RFE/RL’s Ukrainian service, Radio Svoboda, filmed the aftermath:
Photos from the ATO Press Center:
It was in Chermalyk that a Ukrainian volunteer was killed in the early hours of Tuesday morning, when Russian-backed forces shelled the village.
The Donetsk police reported that soldiers had found the body of a resident of Berdyansk, born in 1954, who had worked repairing military vehicles.
According to the ATO Press Center, mortars were used in attacks near several other settlements in the south yesterday: Slavnoye, Lebedinskoye and Shirokino.
In the Donetsk area, Russian-backed forces shelled Krasnogorovka, to the west of the separatist-held regional capital, and Avdeyevka, to the north with mortars.
These weapons were also reportedly used in the Gorlovka area, near Mayorsk, Zaytsevo and Luganskoye.
In the Lugansk region, the ATO Press Center reports that positions near Vrubovka, north of Popasnaya, were shelled with 122 mm artillery.
This evening, the ATO Press Center has reported further use of heavy artillery throughout the day, with 152 mm artillery used against positions near Sionitnoye and 122 mm artillery shells falling on Maryinka, west of Donetsk, Peski, to the north, and Novoaleksandrovka in the Lugansk region.
Mortars shelling continued across the front line in the Donetsk region.
— Pierre Vaux
The relationship between Paul Manafort, chairman of US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s electoral campaign, and former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions is again in the spotlight.
The Associated Press reported this morning that they received information on the secret payment of at least $2.2 million from Yanukovych’s Party of Regions (which survives in post-Maidan Ukraine as the Opposition Bloc) to lobbying firms in Washington, with Manafort’s assistance.
Manafort and Rick Gates, his business associate and another strategist in the Trump campaign, helped bring a Ukrainian non-profit organization together with two US lobbying firms while they both worked for the Party of Regions.
People with direct knowledge of Gates’ work said that, during the period when Gates and Manafort were consultants to the Ukraine president’s political party, Gates was also helping steer the advocacy work done by a pro-Yanukovych nonprofit that hired a pair of Washington lobbying firms, Podesta Group Inc. and Mercury LLC.
The nonprofit, the newly created European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, was governed by a board that initially included parliament members from Yanukovych’s party. The nonprofit subsequently paid at least $2.2 million to the lobbying firms to advocate positions generally in line with those of Yanukovych’s government.
That lobbying included downplaying the necessity of a congressional resolution meant to pressure the Ukrainian leader to release an imprisoned political rival.
The lobbying firms continued the work until shortly after Yanukovych fled the country in February 2014, during a popular revolt prompted in part by his government’s crackdown on protesters and close ties to Russia.
Among those who described Manafort’s and Gates’s relationship with the nonprofit are current and former employees of the Podesta Group. Some of them spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to reveal details about the work and because they remain subject to non-disclosure agreements.
Among other things, Mercury LLC lobbied in opposition to US congressional efforts to apply pressure on the Yanukovych government to release Yulia Tymoshenko, former prime minister and leader of the Batkivshchyna party who led the country after Viktor Yanukovych was removed from power in 2004’s Orange Revolution.
The Podesta Group told the AP that the lobbying efforts on behalf of the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine had been considered legal (and not actions on behalf of a foreign government) as they were supposedly unaware of any link between the Centre and the Ukrainian government.
“I was never given any reason to believe Rick was a Party of Regions consultant,” said John Ward Anderson, a current Podesta employee who attended the meeting, in a statement provided by his firm. “My assumption was that he was working for the Centre, as we were.”
Gates, in contrast, told AP he was working with Manafort and that both he and Manafort were working for Yanukovych’s party.
Pointing to Manafort’s involvement, Weber told AP that Manafort discussed the project before it began in a conference call with Podesta and himself.
As AP notes, the European Centre has long declined to reveal details of its funding, which, given its shared personnel with the Party of Regions, is strongly suspected of acting as a front for Yanukovych’s party.
Rosie Gray at BuzzFeed reported on the murky activities of the Centre several times in 2013 and 2014:
Writing for The Times today, Maxim Tucker reports that detectives at the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) believes that Manafort himself received $12.7 million in secret payments from the Party of Regions between 2007 and 2012.
The evidence for the payments comes from the infamous “Black Ledger” of Party of Regions off-the-books payments to consultants, MPs, judges and journalists during Yanukovych’s rule. The ledger was seized by activists when they broke into the party’s offices during the Maidan revolution in February 2014.
Tucker obtained access to entries from the ledger that totalled $7.61, detailing 12 payments billed as expenses or contract payments for Manafort.
Lacking corresponding bank records to check against the ledger, NABU has approached the US FBI for assistance.
— Pierre Vaux