Ukraine Day 981: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
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The Ukrainian military claims that Russia-backed forces conducted 40 attacks yesterday in the Donbass.
According to this morning’s ATO Press Center report, Russia-backed forces used heavy artillery and mortars extensively near Mariupol, Gorlovka and Avdeyevka.
Positions in the Avdeyevka industrial park, northeast of separatist-held Donetsk city, were reportedly shelled with both 120 mm mortars and 122 mm artillery.
120 and 82 mm mortars were, the report claims, used in atttacks on positions near Shirokino, east of Mariupol.
That Russia-backed forces are using heavy artillery in this area was confirmed by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) who reported yesterday that their observers had documented 122 mm shell craters in the government-controlled village of Talakovka, just outside Mariupol:
On 23 October, a Ukrainian Armed Forces officer from the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) led the SMM to three impact sites in government-controlled Talakivka (90km south of Donetsk). The first impact site was located in a field on the north-eastern side of the village. The SMM observed that at the second impact site, there was damage to the main gas pipeline and two civilian houses approximately 6m from the impact site. The gas pipeline had large shrapnel holes and both houses had broken window panes. The third impact site was located between a road and a residential house, and the SMM observed shrapnel damage to a nearby gas pipeline and the house, and noted that wires of a nearby electrical pylon were severed. The SMM assessed that all three craters were caused by 122mm artillery round impacts fired from an east-south-easterly direction.
Meanwhile 82 mm mortars and anti-aircraft artillery were reportedly used near Pavlopol, northeast of Mariupol, and Krasngorovka and Maryinka, west of Donetsk.
To the north and east of separatist-held Gorlovka, the military reports that 120 mm mortars, grenade launchers and machine guns were used in attacks near Zaytsevo and Luganskoye.
In the Lugansk region, 82 mm mortars were reportedly used in attacks near Novoaleksandrovka and Stanitsa Luganskaya.
Colonel Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, announced at noon today that six Ukrainian soldiers had been wounded yesterday.
However Lysenko made no mention of the fatality reported yesterday by the Azov Regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard.
According to Lysenko, five of the soldiers were wounded by enemy fire – three of them in Maryinka alone — while the sixth was injured by an explosive device in Vodyanoye, east of Mariupol.
In addition, the governor of the Lugansk region Yuriy Harbuz, reported today that one Ukrainian soldier had been wounded in Stanitsa Luganskaya as a result of enemy fire.
As with the Azov casualty, Lysenko made no mention of this.
Meanwhile Eduard Basurin, deputy commander of the armed forces of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), claimed that one Russia-backed fighter had been killed and another wounded by Ukrainian fire within the last 24 hours.
Basurin also claimed that a civilian had been wounded by Ukrainian shelling in the Trudovskiye neighbourhood of western Donetsk, just east of Maryinka.
Mikhail Tolstykh, aka Givi, the commander of the Russia-backed Somali Battalion, has denied reports that he is fleeing Donetsk.
Yesterday saw reports that Tolstykh was selling up properties in Donetsk and Makeyevka, and was preparing to flee to the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria.
But Russia’s state-owned RT network reported last night that Tolstykh had denied this by phone, saying that he had no conflict with the head of the ‘DNR,’ Aleksandr Zakharchenko, and would remain in command of his unit.
A cache of emails, purportedly hacked from the account of Vladislav Surkov, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most important advisers, has been released by Ukrainian activists.
Of the files released so far, all of the emails are from Surkov’s inbox only, covering the period from September 24, 2013, to November 25, 2014.
Surkov has a dark, enigmatic history of managing political opposition within Russia by means of front groups and provocations, and is also accused by the Ukrainian Security Services of managing the separatist leadership in the Donbass.
In February last year, the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) released a document they claimed had been drafted by Surkov as a memo for the separatist leaders.
Surkov was placed on the United States’ and European Union’s sanctions lists in March, 2014, due to his role in the annexation of Crimea.
Therefore these emails could, if real, be of great interest to observers of the Ukrainian conflict.
But there is a strong possibility that such a leak could be a ‘limited hangout’ – the partial release of sensitive information in order to hide more significant details.
Given Surkov’s history as a master manipulator, it could even be possible that he himself could have deliberately orchestrated the deliberate leaking of a selected cache of emails to (potentially unwitting) activists.
Ukraine’s InformNapalm investigative blog reports that the files were obtained by hackers from four different Ukrainian groups – CyberHunta, FalconsFlame, RUH8 and Trinity. It is certainly feasible that one member or contact of these groups could have been passed the data or the means to access it by someone from within Surkov’s office.
The Interpreter is currently analysing the content of the cache and will report any findings in due course.
— Pierre Vaux