Ukraine Day 118: Destroying the Village in Order to Save It?

June 15, 2014
Cottage damaged by shelling in Amvrosievka in Donetsk Region. Photo via

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

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Has the ‘People’s Mayor of Slavyansk’ Been Arrested and Executed?

There are reports today that the “people’s mayor” of Slavyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomarev, has been executed by his own “people’s republic” fighters — although details differ regarding the reasons.

There is no official confirmation of his death and we have not been able to confirm either his arrest or execution.

At a press conference on June 10th, Col. Strelkov, the defense minister of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” said that Ponomarev had been removed from office.

As we have reported, Strelkov has claimed executions in the past that turned out to be fake.

According to, a source in the Anti-Terrorist Operation said “a sniper was working.”

Yesterday, there were reports that Ponomarev was arrested on orders of the self-proclaimed leader of the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” GRU Col. Igor Strelkov (Girkin)

Stella Khorosheva, press secretary for Ponomarev — who is now hoping to flee the area — cited other sources close to the “people’s mayor” that he was removed due to drug addiction which had caused him to commit a number of crimes, the worst of which was the rape of an underage girl.

He was also said to have been in critical condition from a drug overdose for several days.

When Russian separatists first reported his arrest, they said he was charged with “activity incompatible with the purposes and tasks of the civilian administration” and was reportedly being held in the former SBU [Ukrainian Security Service] building.

Neither independent or state media in Ukraine or Russia could confirm that he was arrested, and there were some reports that he was held for “misappropriation of funds.”

In case you’ve missed the antics of the colorful “people’s mayor,” who, for example, kept journalists in suspense for days on end at laconic press conferences while Vice journalist Simon Ostrovsky was kidnapped and held by his men,’s Graham Phillips is obliging by promising a blog on Ponomarev soon. He cited a Ukrainian news report of Ponomarev’s execution, but did not confirm it.

Villagers Injured, Lose Homes in Battles in Donetsk Region has a report today of homes destroyed in the village of Amvrosievka, with some persons injured in a battle between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian armed forces.

According to Vladislav Seleznev, spokesman for the Ukrainian Anti-Terror Operation (translation by The Interpreter)

“Last night, trying to fire on the positions of Ukrainian soldiers located in the district of Amvrosievka, [separatist] fighters using likely a BM-21 Grad fired volleys into residential areas of Ambrosievka where there are civilians.”

Seleznev added that some persons were injured and homes destroyed but blamed the separatist fighters:

“I emphasize once again that the ATO forces do not fire on quarters where civilians live, even if the fighters’ positions are located there.”

The local bulletin board reported that the marketplace, bus terminal, hospital and vocational school were damaged in the village.

These videos show destroyed homes and fiercely barking dogs, one set to music, and have 61,000, 67,000 and 25,000 views respectively to date. Like the videos from Lugansk Region, they are also hard to verify and geolocate but are labeled with “Amvrosievka” and one indicates an exact street address. Some show some mortar shells.

The tens of thousands of views for these videos and the those below we reported from Lugansk Region and their re-posting on social media means people are making up their minds about which side is to blame for their loss of shelter and livelihoods — and maybe the side with the most views is winning.
Villagers Lose Homes, Shops in Battles in Lugansk Region

While the larger stories of tanks and the downing of an airplane, killing all 49 soldiers on board, rightly grab the headlines, there are some smaller stories that are changing people’s attitudes towards Kiev or Moscow — or reinforcing attitudes they already had.

These are reports of the smashing of small villages and settlements outside the larger cities in crossfire during battles between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian armed forces.

It is hard to verify these videos because they have few or no markers for geolocation (anyone want to help map the pelmenaya [dumplings shop] in Luganskaya Stanitsa?). The camera rarely pulls back from the immediate scene so it is hard to tell how far the damage extends, or where the location is in relationship to known positions of either separatists or the Ukrainian military. reported on the settlement of Makarovo in Luganskaya Stanitsa [a term that means “Cossack village” and is still used today with or without Cossacks].

Local residents said their village in Lugansk Region was shelled at 4:00 am on the morning of June 12th and that people were “left without windows, doors, electricity, and gas.”

There are two videos with the story. In the first, which jumped from 1,000 to 20,000 to now 89,000 views in a matter of days, the video operator curses vehemently and blames the Ukrainian Army for the demolition of a dozen or so cottages — “look what present Kiev gave us this morning,” he says.

The buildings are not just missing windows or doors, they appear totalled, and several cars also look to be destroyed.

the second video, with 24,000 views, a stunned man walks through the rubble,
making only a few morose comments, and asking his neighbors if they are
all right. also reports on the battle June 12th
near the border with Russia in a village called Nizhnyaya Olkhovaya in
the Stanichno-Lugansky District around Makarevo between the National
Guard and the Lugansk People’s Republic fighters.

this area between two dacha areas. Automatic weapons, mortar launchers
and grenade launchers were used in the battle,” an eyewitness is quoted
as saying.

Mines fell on truck gardens and homes.

This report also spoke of
“about 40 tanks stopped outside of Lugansk”. These were reported to be
Ukrainian military tanks, and a convoy of the tanks on flatbed trucks was shot
outside the store with the pelmeni (dumplings) sign.

The residents of Makarevo were either fleeing or gathering supplies in expectation of another shelling.