Ukraine Reports Massive Shelling Across Front Line With Marked Increase In Lugansk Violence

August 31, 2016
Aftermath of last night's shelling in government-controlled Schastye. Photo: Lugansk Regional Administration

Ukraine Day 926: 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


Poroshenko Says Ceasefire, Due To Come Into Effect At Midnight, Depends On Putin

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who is today visiting Mariupol, near the front line in the Donetsk region, has stated that France and Germany have lent their support to his proposal for a full ceasefire to come into effect from tomorrow.

Ukrainska Pravda reports that an agreement was reached on an indefinite ceasefire at a meeting of the Contact Group in Minsk a few days ago.

Ukrainian military commanders said on Monday that they were prepared to abide by a “regime of silence,” despite continued violations of the Minsk agreements by Russian-backed forces.

Today Poroshenko said, while attending the re-opening of a kindergarten just outside Mariupol:

“Our partners from France and Germany have supported Ukraine’s initiative on a ceasefire from September 1. We await Putin’s decision.”

Meanwhile in Russia’s far-eastern city of Vladivostok, Dmitry Peskov, President Putin’s press secretary, told state media that the Kremlin supported the agreement reached in Minsk but excused Russia from any accountability on its implementation.

According to the Kremlin of course, Russia is not a party to the conflict. Instead, Peskov said that he hoped that Ukraine and the supposedly independent separatists would adhere to the ceasefire.

In another empty gesture, Peskov said that the Kremlin was calling on the OSCE to provide the necessary assistance in monitoring the ceasefire “within the framework of the existing mandate.”

This belies the fact that Russia refuses to grant the OSCE access to almost all of the border area controlled by their troops and proxies, and that several OSCE observation drones have been shot down in recent months by Russian surface-to-air missile systems operating in Ukrainian territory.

Meanwhile, reports from the north Donetsk area this evening indicate that there is certainly no sign of a ceasefire yet, with less than five hours to go until the deadline: 

Translation: From the direction of the highway between Butovka and the Yasinovataya checkpoint can hear small-arms fighting and shots from a tank.
Translation: Can hear explosions from the direction of the airport.
Translation: They began pounding early today. Evidently the evening will not be boring.

Translation: From the north one can hear the sounds of the regime of silence.

— Pierre Vaux

FSB Claims Detained Ukrainian Panov Rejected Lawyer’s Services

Igor Kotelyanets, brother of Yevgeny Panov, the Ukrainian citizen detained by the Russian security services in occupied Crimea earlier this month and accused of terrorism, has told the Crimean Human Rights Group that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) has declared that his brother has refused a lawyer.

Kotelyanets presented the Group with a scan of a letter sent by the FSB to a lawyer (whose name is redacted) who had approached the occupying authorities in order to represent Panov.

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The letter contains no signature or statement from Panov, even though, according to Russian law, a lawyer can only be rejected by a detainee in writing.

The unnamed lawyer, brought in by Panov’s family, intends to appeal as they do not recognise the FSB letter as legal. 

In the opinion of the Crimean Human Rights Group, the occupying authorities are trying to hinder lawyers from having access to Panov, possibly in order to conceal evidence of torture or coercion.

— Pierre Vaux

Ukraine Reports Massive Shelling Across Front Line With Marked Increase In Lugansk Violence

According to this morning’s ATO Press Center report, Russian-backed fighters conducted 75 attacks yesterday, using heavy artillery across the front line.

Notably, the number of attacks in the Lugansk region, which usually sees fewer reported incidents, matched that reported near the traditional hotspots of Donetsk and Mariupol.

Yuri Klimenko, the deputy head of the Lugansk Regional Administration, reported that Russian-backed forces had carried out attacks all along the front line in the region, subjecting residential areas to “massive artillery strikes.”

The worst of the shelling fell overnight on the town of Schastye, where a 31-year-old nurse received severe head injuries from shrapnel. Klimenko said that doctors are currently working to save her life.

According to Klimenko, the town was shelled with 120 mm mortars, burning one house to the ground and leaving several others and a church damaged. 

Some photos from the Administration

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Elsewhere in the region, the ATO Press Center reported that Russian-backed forces used 152 mm artillery to shell Novozvanovka and Novoaleksandrovka, and 122 mm artillery to bombard the outskirts of nearby Popasnaya.

Mortars and grenade launchers were also used in attacks near Stanitsa Luganskaya, northeast of the separatist-held regional captial, while lighter attacks were reported near Krymskoye and Zolotoye.

In the Donetsk region, the ATO Press Center reported continued heavy fighting near Donetsk city, Gorlovka and Mariupol.

Colonel Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, told reporters at a briefing today that one Ukrainian soldier had been wounded by enemy fire near Peski, north of Donetsk.

But while Lysenko claimed that no Ukrainian servicemen had been killed, Dmytro Kotsyubaylo, commander of the first independent assault company of the Pravyi Sektor Volunteer Corps (DUK), reported on Facebook this morning that a member of his unit had died.

According to Kotsyubaylo, Yevhen Voroshilo from Dnipropetrovsk, a veteran Ukrainian soldier who had served on several foreign peacekeeping missions, was killed “on the front line near Donetsk by a sniper’s bullet.”

The Ukrainian military reports mortar shelling across the front line from Peski to Luganskoye, east of Gorlovka.

To the west of Donetsk, Russian-backed forces reportedly fired more than 50 122 mm shells from self-propelled artillery on positions in Krasnogorovka.

Those in neighbouring Maryinka came under fire from BMP infantry fighting vehicles, grenade launchers, heavy machine guns and small arms.

Meanwhile the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR)claims that a civilian male, born in 1986, was killed last night by Ukrainian shelling in Yasinovataya, northeast of Donetsk city.

Four other civilians – two men and two women – were, the DNR says, wounded in Yasinovataya and the southwestern Donetsk suburb of Aleksandrovka.

In the south, Ukrainian military press officer Ivan Chmil told the 112 television channel that marines in the seaside village of Shirokino had come under massive bombardment from 152 mm self-propelled artillery, in addition to 82 mm mortars and BMP cannons.

Just to the west of Shirokino, Chmil reported 120 mm mortar fire on positions in Lebedinskoye and Vodyanoye, with the latter receiving 45 shells over the course of the day. To the northeast of Mariupol, Russian-backed forces reportedly shelled positions near Talakovka 20 times with 82 mm mortars.

On the highway between Mariupol and Donetsk another 20 82 mm mortar shells fell near Taramchuk.

To the east, Chmil reported heavy fighting near Starognatovka, on the front line the River Kalmius.

Against this backdrop, President Petro Poroshenko is visiting Mariupol today. Local media report that security has, as one would expect, been tightened in the port city.

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— Pierre Vaux