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This vehicle does indeed looks like the 1RL232, a battlefield surveillance radar system designed to improve artillery fire. We were not initially able to find the original source of this picture. However, now it appears that this was taken by a journalist. Below is a picture of an 1RL232:
In Christopher Miller’s newest report on this crisis, he quotes The Interpreter and he also has more quotes from NATO Commander General Philip Breedlove. More importantly, however, his story has this picture which was taken today in Torez, east of Donetsk, by
AFP/Getty Images’ Mehahem Kahana:
A reverse image search brings us to a VKontakte page of a supporter of the Russian-backed separatists who uses the screen name “anti_maydan.”
The vehicle in question does indeed resemble the 1RL239 “Lynx” also used to assist with the targeting of artillery (the picture below is from Wikipedia):
UPDATE: These pictures were initially taken by journalist Stefan Huijboom (obviously someone uploaded them to VK after he took them), who says the vehicles were headed east, away from Donetsk:
Contributors to the website LostArmour, which records
Ukrainian military equipment that has been destroyed or captured,
believe that this equipment has not been captured by the Ukrainian
Why is this important? These weapons systems are not only used to improve the targeting of weapons systems like Grad rockets and artillery strikes, but they can also be used to monitor troops movement and enemy artillery and air traffic. The addition of these weapons to the arsenals of the Russian-backed separatists will pose a serious threat to the Ukrainian military.
Furthermore, we have not seen these
vehicles before. If they were captured from Ukrainian forces, they would
have had to have been captured before the ceasefire started more than
two months ago. If they are new to Ukraine, they likely came from the
Russian military. The fact that both of these vehicles were pictured in Torez, a
route often used to move military equipment from the Russian border to
Donetsk, by reliable journalists, is compelling evidence that the Russian-backed militants are
being given impressive and powerful new tools by the Russian military.
Donetsk news site 62.ua reported today on a shell that struck a building belonging to the AVK confectionery company in the city this morning.
The building is on the 1st Aleksandrovka street in the Leninsky district. This location, as can be seen on Wikimapia is well to the south of the combat zone around the airport. It also lies a good distance to the east of fighting in the Marinka suburb.
Furthermore, the incident is interesting because this is not a mortar or artillery shell, but an armour piercing tank round, which would usually be fired on a direct, rather than ballistic, trajectory.
The projectile is an armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding-sabot round (known as an APFSDS round). It carries no explosive charge and acts as a kinetic energy penetrator. This sort of round is designed to be used against armoured vehicles rather than personnel or buildings.
Compare the round with those from the 3BM series of Soviet 125 mm APFSDS rounds here, and this photo of a Yugoslavian clone of a 3BM-15 in flight (separating from its sabot):
— Pierre Vaux
OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier has said today that he believes that a military offensive against Mariupol, launched by “illegal armed groups,” may be imminent. Interfax reports:
The intensified activity of illegal armed groups in east Ukraine may indicate that a military operation is being prepared, especially in the area of Mariupol, Donetsk region, OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier has said.
While answering questions about the situation in Ukraine during his speech before MEPs and members of the Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, he said that Mariupol was the area where the shelling is the most severe and that this could part of preparations for a military operation.
Zannier also says the Russian-backed rebels are interfering in the monitoring efforts of the OSCE:
Recently the OSCE has been accused of leaking information to the Russian government. Specifically, the Ukrainian government’s charges, which we covered in-depth yesterday, are that “certain representatives” of the OSCE (the subtext here is the Russian representatives) are providing intelligence to foreign countries about the movement of Ukrainian military units.
While we cannot assess these claims at this time, as we’ve pointed out yesterday the OSCE has been criticized by some as too passive, or too polite, to criticize the Russian-backed separatists (or to even call them that) yet some believe the mission has been unfairly critical of the Ukrainian military.
— James Miller
Yesterday NATO Commander General Philip Breedlove warned that Russian equipment was crossing into Ukraine and the Russian military now had forces in Russian-occupied Crimea which were capable of launching nuclear weapons. Today, there are more warnings of Russian troop movement. BBC reports:
“Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defence systems and Russian combat troops” were sighted, US Gen Philip Breedlove said.
Russia’s defence ministry denied that its troops were in eastern Ukraine to help pro-Russian separatists there…
Nato’s Supreme Commander in Europe General Philip Breedlove has confirmed that over the past two days, Nato has seen columns of Russian armour, artillery and crucially – combat troops – entering Ukraine.
General Breedlove also confirmed that Nato believes Russia is deploying nuclear-capable weapons to Crimea – a reference to reports that Russia is deploying short-range Iskander ballistic missiles there that could potentially be equipped with nuclear warheads.
There is now a scheduled emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council at 14:30 New York time (19:30 GMT) to address Ukraine. Expect fiery exchanges and no substance.
The BBC reports that General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, has said today that NATO officials have observed Russian troops and military hardware entering Ukraine this week.
Breedlove said that sightings included Russian tanks, artillery, air defence systems and combat troops.
In recent days there have been numerous sightings of large columns of unmarked military vehicles and tanks on the move in the Donetsk region.
Here, for example is footage (dated November 9 and uploaded on the 10th) showing a number of tanks on the move somewhere in Donetsk.
While it is hard to make out much in the footage to carry out an exact geolocation, the following phone number is visible on a fence at the start of the video:
This number is for a Donetsk-based fencing business – Yevrozabory (Eurofences), which suggests that this cannot have been filmed far from the city.
At least five tanks are seen, though it is hard, given the murky view through the windscreen, to say what model they are.
Other footage uploaded yesterday November 11 by Erich Hartmann and labeled “Ukraine. Convoy of Russian Tanks T-72B in Donetsk” shows a large column of unmarked military vehicles on the move.
We did not find this video appeared previously in Google Images search.
This video is divided into three segments or “takes.”
In the first segment, we see the military convoy moving past an OKKO gas station.
According to the company directory, OKKO has a gas station at 9a Generala Danilova Avenue, a road from Makeyevka toward Donetsk, which has been used often for convoys.
Yandex Maps Panorama shows another company’s gas station, TNK, at that location because the pictures were taken some time ago.
An old TNK company directory online confirms that there used to be a gas station at 9a Generala Danilova. Yandex
The trees and pole with a triangular sign appear to be the same in the video at the location on Yandex Panorama.
For additional confirmation, we can go up the road about a block east from the gas station toward Donetsk and find another pair of buildings, a restaurant with the red awning and the blue house in the video. These are in the third segment of the video.
This pair of buildings can be found at 19/1 Generala Danilova Avenue on Yandex Maps Panorama.
They are located here on General Danilov Avenue in Makeyevka. The convoy is headed west, towards Donetsk — the first and third segments of the video places them in reverse order.
The mid section of the video appears to be cut from separate footage. It shows a large column of T-72 tanks, fitted with explosive reactive armor. Here is a screen grab of one of the tanks on the highway:
Because the video is divided up into three segments, even though the first and third segment show scenes just a block from each other on the highway, we cannot confirm that this second segment of the video is related to the other two. It’s not possible to geolocate that segment of the video. However, the trees have no leaves on them, indicating that it was taken recently.
While we cannot verify the location of this section of footage, the tanks are identical in appearance to ones photographed by AFP, as seen in the BBC report linked above.
The T-72 is not in service with the Ukrainian armed forces, although a large number remain in storage. It is, however, widely used by the Russian army. Advanced T-72BM or B3 models have been seen on a number of occasions. These models have not been exported to any foreign state by Russia, making it impossible to attribute their origin elsewhere.
Furthermore, the T-72 is a late addition to the arsenal of the
Russian-backed separatists. On June 12 the Ukrainian military first reported that T-72s were seen entering Ukraine (and that claim was disputed). The first T-72 of the war (to our knowledge) was spotted on August 18th,
in possession of the separatist ‘Vostok Battalion’ during the buildup
to the “Russian invasion” which forces Kiev to sign a ceasefire in the
last hours of August. On August 26th, at the height of the fighting, the
first large convoy of military equipment, including 4 T-72s, was spotted by videos and reporters on the Ukrainian side of the Russian border. Those tanks were actually a variant of the T-72, the T-72 BM, which is not used in Ukraine and therefore had to come from the Russian military.
More recently, T-72 B1 tanks were seen moving through eastern Ukraine as part of large military convoys on November 10.
If this video was indeed taken in Ukraine, it suggests that these are Russian tanks.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick/Pierre Vaux/James Miller
The official website of the mayor of Donetsk, Oleksandr Lukyanchenko, has gone offline, leaving on the separatist controlled alternative site available.
Meanwhile the separatists’ alternative council website, bearing the name of their designated mayor, Igor Martynov, remains online at gorod-donetsk.com.
It is unclear how many of the staff who managed Lukyanchenko’s site are now working for Martynov’s. The DNR’s mayoral site still posts daily updates on shelling and repairs in the city, in much the same style and format as those posted on Lukyanchenko’s.
— Pierre Vaux
Another soldier was wounded and is now in hospital.
Novomikhailovka lies around 10 km to the northwest of Beryozovoye, which was attacked yesterday. These attacks suggest a move to push Ukrainian forces back from their positions to the west of the Donetsk-Mariupol highway. The loss of this territory would enable Russian-backed forces to flank Ukrainian troops to the north in the Marinka suburb of Donetsk, and to move on Mariupol to the south.
Meanwhile Ukrainska Pravda also reports that Ukrainian-held Dzerzhinsk, to the northwest of Gorlovka, was shelled last night.
According to the deputy commander of the 34th battalion, Volodymyr Semenchuk, told the Ukrainskie Novosti news agency that the town was shelled with both Grad and Smerch rockets.
Here is a map from Ukrainska Pravda, indicating the proximity of Dzerzhinsk to separatist-held Gorlovka:
According to Semenchuk, around 6 houses were destroyed by the shelling. He added that the separatists have already accused Ukrainian forces of conducting the shelling.
However he claimed that the rockets had, in fact, been fired from Jubilee Park in Gorlovka.
Other soldiers, interviewed by Ukrainska Pravda supported this claim.
One soldier told the online paper (translated by The Interpreter):
At around 5:30-6 am there were three explosions. They fired on Dzerzhinsk from Gorlovka. Tanks then fired on our positions.”
Elsewhere, the battle for Donetsk Airport continues.
According to the ATO Press Centre, one Ukrainian soldier was wounded during shelling this morning. “We’re returning fire and destroying enemy firing positions,” they said.
— Pierre Vaux
Mariupol news site 0629.com.ua reports that there has been an attack on a Ukrainian checkpoint to the northwest of Mariupol. One border guard was wounded. This is the first attack from the northwest since the liberation of the city by Ukrainian forces. Russian and separatist troops hold Novoazovsk, to the east, and Telmanovo, to the northeast, but the western hinterland and northern area up to Volnovakha and Olhynka had been assumed to be under Ukrainian control.
0629 reports that Roman Sokolov, the deputy chief of the Mariupol Defence Headquarters, announced that the attack took place at 8:48 (6:48 GMT) this morning. The attack was conducted with small arms and was, Sokolov says, repelled.
The Interpreter translates:
“As a result, 1 border guard received light wounds. He is now in a medical emergency hospital. There is no threat to his life.”
Yesterday the National Security and Defence Council announced that there ha an attack on a defensive position near Beryozovoye, to the west of the highway linking Donetsk and Mariupol. 3 Ukrainian soldiers were killed.
The attack on Ukrainian forces to the west of this route, and today’s incident raise the possibility of an imminent drive on Mariupol, with an attempt to push Ukrainian forces off the highway and encircle the city.
— Pierre Vaux