Ukraine Day 895: LIVE UPDATES BELOW.
Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
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Despite reports of very heavy fighting, the Ukrainian military reported Sunday that it had not suffered any casualties.
According to Unian.info, the Ukrainian military reported 70 ceasefire violations over the previous 24-hour period, including the use of 120mm and 152mm shells by Russian-backed separatist fighters:
The tensest situation is in the Donetsk sector, where large-caliber artillery and mortars are used to shell ATO positions in Avdiyivka and the village of Pisky, near the demolished Donetsk airport.
UNIAN reported earlier that two Russian servicemen from the 15th rifle battalion of the 6th separate motorized rifle regiment of the 2nd Army Corps of the Territorial Forces Center of the Russian Federation Armed Forces were killed in fighting near the village of Novozvanivka in Luhansk region on July 23.
Such specific claims about enemy casualties are not unusual, though it typically proves extremely hard to verify them.
Ukraine Today has a new video interviewing soldiers near the heaviest fighting:
Ukrainian soldiers confront Russia-backed forces almost face-to-face. At some places, just several hundred meters divide their positions. The most tense situation is at the sector near Avdiyivka and on the stretch between Zaytseve and Mayorsk.
These soldiers live and hold the line in a so-called ‘lair’. Their forward position is just several hundred metres from separatist militants. The basement, covered with mildew inside, is hidden in bushes.
“We are a bit concealed here, but there are drones. They can see everything.”
Ukrainian soldiers defend positions just several hundred metres from separatists
Servicemen speak about militants' provocations in eastern Ukraine Ukrainian soldiers confront Russia-backed forces almost face-to-face. At some places, just several hundred meters divide their positions. The most tense situation is at the sector near Avdiyivka and on the stretch between Zaytseve and Mayorsk. These soldiers live and hold the line in a so-called 'lair'.
Meanwhile the fighting in Ukraine, which has long-since slipped from Western headlines, is back in the spotlight due to statements by Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump who told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that “[Putin’s] not going into Ukraine, OK, just so you understand. He’s not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down. You can take it anywhere you want.”
Lest we forget, however, Russia invaded Ukraine twice (at least, depending on how you count). First, Russian troops illegally fanned out and seized control of the Crimean peninsula, even blockading the harbor, and then in the following weeks and months took control of the eastern Ukrainian Donbass region.
An Invasion By Any Other Name: The Kremlin's Dirty War in Ukraine
Today, September 17, at 4:00 pm EST the Institute for Modern Russia and the Atlantic Council will co-host the presentation of a new report from The Interpreter titled An Invasion by Any Other Name: The Kremlin's Dirty War in Ukraine prepared by the Liveblog Team. Livestreaming of the presentation can be seen here.
Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk warned that Mr. Trump’s statements were not made out of ignorance but were a reversal of both Republican and American promises:
“Donald Trump’s recent comments regarding Crimea and Putin during his ABC interview go beyond any form of domestic political campaigning. An official candidate for the United States presidential election has challenged the very values of the free world, civilized world order and international law. It can hardly be called ignorance. This is a breach of moral and civilized principles.”
Yatsenyuk on Trump's Crimea statement: "Breach of moral and civilized principles"
"Donald Trump's recent comments regarding Crimea and Putin during his ABC interview go beyond any form of domestic political campaigning. An official candidate for the United States presidential election has challenged the very values of the free world, civilized world order and international law. It can hardly be called ignorance.
Trump Pushed For New GOP Ukraine Position, Now Claims He Didn't
WASHINGTON ― Both Donald Trump and his campaign chairman said Sunday they had nothing to do with altering the Republican Party's position on Ukraine ― which must have been news to GOP leaders who confirmed last week that Trump's campaign insisted on exactly that change.
This and other controversies surrounding Trump’s statements about Russia were apparently the impetus for a New York Times investigation into ties between Donald Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort and ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych:
Mr. Manafort’s influence in the country was significant, and his political expertise deeply valued, according to Ukrainian politicians and officials who worked with him. He also had a voice in decisions about major American investments in Ukraine, said a former spokesman for Ukraine’s foreign ministry, Oleg Voloshyn, who also ran as a candidate in the new bloc Mr. Manafort helped form.
He persuaded the government to lower grain export tariffs, a change that benefited agribusiness investors like Cargill, and to open negotiations with Chevron and Exxon for oil and natural gas exploration in the country.
Manafort, the article describes, often brokered deals between Ukrainian oligarchs, who had ties to the pro-Russian Party of Regions, and wealthy Russians, including some who had ties to the Kremlin:
A separate deal also funneled Russian-linked oligarchic money into Ukraine. In 2007, Mr. Manafort and two partners, Rick Gates and Rick Davis, set up a private equity company in the Cayman Islands to buy assets in Ukraine, and invited the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to invest, according to a court filing. Mr. Deripaska agreed to pay a 2 percent annual management fee to Mr. Manafort and his partners, and put $100 million into the fund, which bought a cable television station in the Black Sea port of Odessa, Ukraine, before the agreement unraveled in disagreements over auditing and Mr. Deripaska sued Mr. Manafort. The case is still pending.
How Paul Manafort Wielded Power in Ukraine Before Advising Donald Trump
Mr. Manafort had begun working for one of Ukraine's richest men, Rinat Akhmetov, to improve the image of his companies. Mr. Akhmetov was also a prominent sponsor of Mr. Yanukovych's party, the Party of Regions, and he introduced the two men.
While the US political system may once again be discussing Ukraine, the fighting continues between Russian-backed fighters and the Ukrainian military, a reminder that not only are Putin’s soldiers and proxies in Ukraine now, they have not left since March 2014.
— James Miller