Ukraine Day 922: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
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Today, August 27, although no Ukrainian soldiers were killed, 4 were wounded and there were several signs of worse fighting and military build-up than usual in southeastern Ukraine, with social media reports of Russian armor heading toward Russian-occupied Crimea; Russian-backed militants firing Grad missiles on Krasnogorovka near Maryinka, which is often under attack; heavy artillery attacks on Peski and Avdeyevka; militant shelling that knocked out power for 12,000 people in Stanitsa Luganskaya; and other attacks along the front line.
Pro-Russian media reported yesterday that on August 25, the Russian-backed separatist leader known by his call sign “Givi” (Mikhail Tolstykh) landed paratroopers on the beach from amphibious vehicles near the line of contact in Shirokino; today the Russian Black Sea fleet also conducted exercises with amphibious ships, landing paratroopers.
Grad Missiles Near Maryinka
Artillery, machine guns and other weapons were also used in the attack, said TSN. There were 8 Grad missiles; fortunately none fell on any homes and there were no injuries.
While there was no footage of the Grads firing, a TSN reporter accompanied soldiers around fields where they pointed out craters evidently from Grads.
The location is near Maryinka, which has been under constant fire in recent days.
Russian Armor Headed Toward Crimea
A number of eye witnesses have reported that Russian military armor is being brought to Crimea, Unian reports.
Translation: Crimea. Occupation. “Resort-area” Feodosiya today.
Russian Fighter Jets Relocated and Black Sea Fleet Exercises
Today in Russian-occupied Crimea, the Black Sea Fleet conducted an exercise in loading paratroopers and army on large amphibious ships and then landing them on the coast at the Opuk training ground, Unian reported.
The Russian Defense Ministry said this was part of an unscheduled test of combat readiness begun August 25 to run until August 31. Ukrainian military intelligence says that 100,000 soldiers are involved in the exercise. Two diesel-electric submarines covered the landing.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) issued a statement warning of the danger that the Russian military exercises could pose for Ukraine, Unian reported.
“On September 5-10, the active phase of the Kavkaz-2016 exercises will take place, with improvement of the practice operations of the inter-service united shock troops created at the southwest strategic line, which, upon Putin’s personal decision, can be used to expand the scale of armed aggression against Ukraine.”
The GUR believes the exercises are being used to cover an expansion of forces in the Southern Military District of Russia, adjacent to Ukraine, and bring in ground and air troops from the Western and Central Military Districts.
There were also reports on social media that Russian troops were leaving Crimea for the Kavkaz-2016 exercises.
On August 25, Putin also brought the troops on the border with Ukraine to full combat alert “for localizing crisis situations,” said the GUR.
Yesterday, August 26, military transport planes were reported to relocate divisions from the northwest of Russia to the Southern MIlitary District; 20 Il-76s were involved. At the same time, 15 Black Sea Fleet ships and 10 Caspian Sea Fleet ships went out to sea to test their combat readiness.
Power Out in Stanitsa Luganskoye
Militants shelled the town, their frequent target, from 82-mm artillery, BMPs and grenade-launches.
To make the situation more difficult, the main line is located in a “grey zone” which is mined. Some temporary electrical generators have been brought in and 12 repair crews have head out to the area.
Peski was also heavily shelled today 14 times with 122-mm artillery, Unian.net reports, citing the ATO press center.
On the Donetsk line, 82-mm and 120-mm artillery was used as well as firearms on Avdeyevka, Peski and Mironovskoye.
On the Mariupol line, Krasnogorovka, “traditionally hot” was under attack from artillery and heavy machine guns, as was Novogrigorovka.
In Lugansk Region, 82-mm artillery, grenade-launchers and firearms were fired at Ukrainian positions in Novoaleksandrovka.
Givi is Back
After months out of the news, with rumors even that he was removed from command, “Givi” (the nom de guerre of Somali Battalion commander Mikhail Tolstykh) was back in the media, and still identified as Somali’s commander.
On August 25, the pro-Russian News Front featured an exclusive report of Givi and his troops landing on the beach “near Shirokino”. The video is made in the usual demonstrative war propaganda style, with the flag of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” waving in the breeze, numerous troops and armor, and Givi talking tough. Ruvesna said the exercises continued August 26.
Shirokino, (Shyrokine), a nearly-obliterated town about 24 kilometers east of Mariupol, is controlled by Ukrainian forces and is constantly shelled by militants; a volunteer was killed by a sniper there yesterday.
Bezymyannoye (Bezimenne) is under separatist control and is about 11 kilometers to the east of Shirokino and 34 kilometers from Mariupol.
Examining the coastline, we would say it is likely Givi’s troops landed in Bezymyannoye, roughly half-way from the Russian border and Mariupol.
The pro-Russian Military Maps shows the line of contact, where Shirokino is to the west and Bezymyannoye is to the east.
The angle of the coast and the little jetty, the buildings and the tree in the video at 1:44 as the amphibious vehicle comes out of the sea appear to match this location on Google Maps in Bezymyannoye.
Other areas along the coast don’t have buildings in this configuration or a jetty.
Russian and separatist media all faithfully ran the video and one pull quote from Givi about how prepared and united his men were after receiving this assignment — not the usual task for a battalion associated mainly with the land battle of Ilovaisk and the battle at the Donetsk Airport, where the militants occupied an apartment building with people still living in it and fired on the Ukrainian “Cyborgs.”
Most notably Givi was quoted as saying the purpose of the exercise, implying a storming of Mariupol:
“The assignment was given: landing the naval infantry from boats, disembarking from the sea to the coast, and disembarking BTRs with the support of amphibious armor. Everything turned out just wonderfully.
This can be practiced all along the coast of former Ukraine. This can be practiced both on Mariupol as well as on Shirokino.”
But what Givi says that is not in the pull quote is more disturbing. Even given the difficulty in understanding him because of his heavy lisp, unmistakably he says the exercise was for the purpose of “developing an offensive” including a “break through the enemy’s echeloned defense,” as tvoygorodpskov reported.
Combined with the Russian exercises of the Black Sea Fleet and the accumulation of more armor in Crimea, Givi’s landing on the beach is meant to be ominous “message-sending.”
But Dmytro Tymchuk, an MP and military analyst, scoffed at the Somali landing, saying that the DNR’s naval infantry was “only capable of storming gophers in the steppe,” Mediafox.ua reported. Tymchuk retorted:
“‘Givi’s announcement that he is prepared to advance on Mariupol can be seen as a wonderful way to very beautifully end his meaningless life with suicide.”
An English-language Twitter account under the name of “Givi” which is not verified as his, and gives his location as “MilitaryMaps” reported a similar amphibious exercise in the self-proclaimed “Lugansk People’s Republic” July 20.
The current location of the Somali battalion now two days since the landing on the beach “near Shirokino” is not known.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick