Ukraine Live Day 273: Ukrainian Military Claims To Have Wounded Separatist Militant ‘Motorola’

November 17, 2014
Arsen Pavlov, known as Motorola, at his wedding on July 11 in Donetsk. Igor Girkin, aka. Strelkov, is on his right. Photo: AP

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Below we will be making regular updates so check back often.

Arms Experts Say Weapons Found In Ukraine May Prove Russian Interference

Armament Research Services, ARES, is a group of arms specialists who report on weapons used in conflict zones. Their latest report on Ukraine is entitled ““Raising Red Flags: An Examination of Arms & Munitions in the Ongoing Conflict in Ukraine, 2014.” The report catalogs in exhaustive detail all of the weapons seen used in this conflict, and there are a few notable details. Some of the weapons used in Ukraine are “red flags,” weapons which are not naturally found in Ukraine, could not have come from the Ukrainian government, and thus were likely supplied by an external state (and all evidence suggests that this state is Russia), 

The report is over 100 pages long, but a few things jumped out at us. The first is that there is not a recorded instance of Ukraine using a T-72 main battle tank of any variety in this conflict. This matches the Ukrainian  government’s claim that because it cannot properly maintain these tanks, they are in storage, in reserve, far from the battlefields. The separatists, on the other hand, have been spotted with many varieties of T-72, including ones which were manufactured by Russia and were never exported. 

The T-72s are not alone. In fact there are dozens of examples of weapons and vehicles of nearly every variety which are “red flags.”  Below is just a short sample of ARES’ work on this subject.

All of the vehicles listed in Table 8, above, were produced in the Russian Federation, after the fall of the Soviet Union. None of these were in the Ukrainian government inventory prior to the outbreak of hostilities. In addition to these vehicles, which may be visually distinguished from those expected to be in the possession of Ukrainian security forces, there have been allegations of external supply of older AFVs. At least one 9K51 system captured from separatists by Ukrainian security forces may have originated in Russia (Информационное Сопротивление, 2014). US and NATO officials released intelligence in mid-June which purported to document the crossing of Russian T-64 type MBTs, 9K51 MLRS, and other AFVs into Ukrainian territory (Gordon & Kramer, 2014). The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence later published images of a captured T-64BV main battle tank, which it claimed had come from Russian military stocks (de Larrinaga, 2014). Russia denied the allegations, calling them “another fake piece of information” (BBC, 2014).

Whether or not directly supplied by foreign governments, some arms and munitions have certainly entered Ukraine from foreign states. On July 3, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) reported that a Moldovan criminal figure, Ion Druta, had been involved in supplying the pro-Russian movement with SALW appropriated from Russian military. Druta spoke of being able to supply large quantities of AK type rifles. According to Druta, the weapons came from the Russian 14th Army, based in Transnistria (OCCRP, 2014). The undercover deal arranged by OCCRP reporters was rather more modest, however, consisting of an RPG-18 anti-tank system and a TT-33 pistol (Munteanu,2014). 

T-72s have been spotted with greater frequency lately, and The Interpreter noticed two journalists, Stefan Huijboom and a journalist for the AFP, who had recently photographed the 1RL232 “Leopard” and 1RL239 “Lynx” advanced ground radar systems in eastern Ukraine, and while the 1rL232 is used by the Ukrainian government, there is no sign that any have fallen into enemy hands, and there is no evidence that Ukraine possesses the 1RL239. Read about it here:

Then there are even more advanced systems, like the Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft weapon, which the separatists have been seen operating but which Ukraine does not posses.

Bottom line — there is evidence that Russia has supplied the separatists with some highly sophisticated weapons, and this is even if we discount the evidence that some of the weapons that could have come from Ukrainian stockpiles may not have. 

ATO Headquarters Say Avdeyevka Is Most Strained Front In Donbass

UNIAN reports that the ATO Press Centre has announced that government-held Avdeyevka, to the north-east of Donetsk Airport, is the scene of the highest tensions in the conflict zone today.

According to the report, Russian-backed fighters have opened fire on Ukrainian positions there three times over the course of the day.

On Friday, November 14, both Ukrainian military and separatist sources reported an attempted push on the town.

Nikolay Kolesnik, advisor to Dnepropetrovsk Governor Ihor Kolomayskiy and patron of the Krivbass territorial defence battalion, wrote on his Facebook page:

There are already two soldiers and three civilians killed in Avdeyevka. They’re pummelling the checkpoints and right at the town. Here’s your fucking truce, your ceasefire.

Meanwhile the separatist Strelkov_info VKontakte group posted the following “dispatch”:

The Ukrainians are in Avdeyevka. This morning Givi [a separatist commander] had around a dozen 200s [Soviet military code for fatalities] and another 10 300s [wounded]. All Givi’s losses were at the airport, not Avdeyevka.

Taking Avdeyevka today is unrealistic. 

Meanwhile, the ATO press announcement says that there have also been Grad rocket attacks on Ukrainian positions near Mariupol at Orlovskoye, the Zamozhnoye area of Chermalyk and further north towards separatist-held Telmanovo, at Granitnoye.

All translations by The Interpreter.

— Pierre Vaux

Human Rights Watch Condemns Growing Abuses In Russian-Occupied Crimea

When the world focuses on Ukraine it tends to pay attention to the fighting in the east, Russia’s aggressive actions on and across the border, or the latest developments with the MH17 investigation. A new report by Human Rights Watch highlights that while that is ongoing, Russian law is being applied to the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula, and the Russian government stands accused of a growing list of rights abuses. In particular, the Crimean Tatars, a Muslim minority group, have been severely persecuted. Here is an excerpt from the executive summary:

Russia has violated multiple obligations it has as an occupying power under international humanitarian law – in particular in relation to the protection of civilians’ rights, Human Rights Watch found. 

The 37-page report, “Rights in Retreat: Abuses in Crimea,” and accompanying video document the intimidation and harassment of Crimea residents who oppose Russia’s actions in Crimea, in particular Crimean Tatars, as well as activists and journalists. The authorities have failed to rein in abuses by paramilitary groups implicated in serious human rights abuses, including enforced disappearances of pro-Ukrainian activists and others perceived as critical of Russia. The authorities have compelled Crimea residents who were Ukrainian citizens either to become Russian citizens or, if they reject Russian citizenship, to be deemed foreigners in Crimea, removing any guarantee against any future potential expulsion.

The summary points out that Crimean Tatars were forced to choose between staying in Crimea or leaving to go to mainland Ukraine, but those who stayed are now treated as “foreigners in their own home” and those who decided to leave have faced bureaucratic obstacles. They also had only one month to make the choice. Few left, and those who stayed have seen their rights quickly deteriorate:

Russia, together with the authorities in Crimea, has invoked Russia’s vaguely worded and overly broad anti-extremism legislation to issue multiple “anti-extremist warnings” to the Mejlis, the Crimean Tatar representative body, Human Rights Watch said. Such warnings can be the precursor to shutting down the organization as well as to potential criminal prosecution against its individual members. The authorities have searched dozens of private homes of Crimean Tatars and conducted invasive, and in some cases unwarranted, searches of mosques and Islamic schools to look for “drugs, weapons, and prohibited literature.”

In accordance with Russia’s position of applying its federal laws in Crimea, Russia has set a January 2015 deadline by which media outlets in Crimea must re-register under Russian law. Local authorities have harassed pro-Ukraine and Crimean Tatar media outlets, searched their offices, shut some down, and threatened others with closure. Russia’s Federal Security Service and the Crimea prosecutor’s office have issued warnings to leading Crimean Tatar media outlets not to publish “extremist materials” and threatened editors that the outlets will not be allowed to re-register unless they change their “anti-Russian” editorial line.

The summary of the report and a link of how to download the full report can be found here.

National Guard Officer Killed By Shelling Near Zolotoye

The Ukrainian National Guard has announced that one of their officers had died after being wounded when a checkpoint close to Zolotoye, in the Lugansk region, was attacked yesterday morning.

According to the announcement on the National Guard website, the Ukrainian checkpoint was fired on with rocket-propelled grenades at around 10 am (8:00 GMT). 

2 guardsmen were wounded, one of them, Major Oleksandr Kaplinsky, severely so.

Kaplinsky died in hospital in Lysychansk from shrapnel wounds to his head. 

The attack on Zolotoye is part of a larger pattern of repeated attacks on Ukrainian positions near the Bakhmutka highway over the last month. Earlier today, the ATO Press Centre reported on several shelling attacks in the area over the last 24 hours.

This afternoon, the press centre announced that there had been attacks on the Ukrainian-held town of Debaltsevo, to the south.

According to the announcement, reported on by UNIAN, separatist fighters shelled residential areas of Debaltsevo with Grad rockets and conducted mortar attacks on Ukrainian positions nearby. 

— Pierre Vaux

EU Proposes Sanctions On Separatists, Not Russia

The European Union may be poised to pass more sanctions against the leaders of the self-declared ‘Peoples’ Republics’ of Donetsk and Lugansk in response to their holding of elections which have not been recognized by Kiev. However, it seems like European leadership is shying away from more sanctions against Russia. RFE/RL reports:

European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on November 17 agreed on the need to impose more sanctions on pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The EU foreign ministers asked for proposals to place more Ukrainian separatists on the sanctions list by the end of this month.

The move is intended to show the EU’s rejection of the November 2 elections organized by pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine.

The sanctions are expected to include freezing assets and imposing travel bans.

Heavy Shelling Over Weekend In Donetsk Killed 1 Civilian, Wounded 8

The website for the mayor of Donetsk, Oleksandr Lukyanchenko, reports that one civilian was killed and eight wounded during shelling over the weekend.

According to the announcement, made on the mayor’s official website, the situation in the city was, as of 10 am (8:00 GMT), relatively calm.

A two-storey block of flats on Govorov street, just to the south-east of the airport, was completely destroyed by shelling  

Reuters reported intense artillery fire across the city on Sunday:

Fresh volleys of artillery fire were heard across many parts of the separatist stronghold of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, a Ukrainian government statement said, after Kiev warned again of rebel preparations for a fresh offensive.

A Reuters witness in central Donetsk heard several dozen blasts of artillery fire, although it was unclear who had launched them or what was under attack.

— Pierre Vaux

OSCE – New Fragments Of Plane And More Human Remains Found At MH17 Site

UNIAN reports that Michael Bociurkiw, the spokesman for the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, has told the 112 Ukraine television channel that investigators have discovered both human remains and previously unexamined debris at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

“The investigators have found new fragments of the plane and the remains of victims. After the plane crashed, there was a fierce fire there, that’s why the remains of bodies were only discovered at this time,” Bociurkiw said.

According to the expert, the search operations at the crash site will continue today, on November 17.

“Unfortunately, the work could be complicated by possible fighting or a worsening of weather conditions,” he said.

–Pierre Vaux

6 Ukrainian Soldiers Killed, 9 Wounded Over Last 24 Hours

The ATO Press Centre has announced that 6 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and 9 wounded in the last 24 hours after 39 shelling attacks, two assaults and one ambush by Russian-backed forces.

Ukrainska Pravda reports on some of these incidents (translated by The Interpreter):

“The toughest situation is around the Bakhmutka highway. Day and night, the militants have been indiscriminately firing  with Grads at our units deployed near the settlements of Krymskoye and Tryokhizbenka,” says the ATO Press Centre.

Ukrainian units near the town of Schastye in the Lugansk region also came under fire from Grads.

“A few hours earlier, an Interior Ministry mobile patrol fell into an ambush near Makarovo. Three law enforcement officers were killed and five wounded during the brazen attack with rocket-propelled grenades,” reports the ATO Press Centre.

“On the previous night, our checkpoint near Chеrnenko was fired on with small arms. A battle took place over the course of an hour in the north-eastern outskirts of Chornukhino. The militants’ attack was repelled and there were no losses amongst Ukrainian soldiers,” they announce.

At night, militants shelled Ukrainian units serving near Chernukhino and Mius with artillery.

Here is a map highlighting the locations of some of these attacks near Debaltsevo and the Bakhmutka highway:


— Pierre Vaux

Ukrainian Military Claims To Have Wounded Separatist Militant ‘Motorola’

The ATO Press Centre has announced that Ukrainian forces have killed 23 militants and wounded another 27, among them Arsen Pavlov, known by his call-sign of ‘Motorola,’ at Donetsk Airport.

Ukrainska Pravda reports (translated by The Interpreter):

“The terrorists fired on the defenders of Donetsk Airport twice with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms. ATO artillery was used to destroy the militants’ firing positions,” says the statement.

In addition, Ukrainian artillery targeted the Sparta group near the Putilovskaya junction.

“According to confirmed reports, 23 bandits have been killed and another 27 wounded, among them the militant leader Motorola. His car has been destryoed,” say the ATO Press Centre.

“According to a source, a high-precision weapon, capable of efficiently liquidating specific targets, was used during the artillery strike. After the destruction of the terrorists, shelling ceased in the area, the night passed quietly,” they added.

Arsen Pavlov is the leader of the Sparta battalion, which is often referred to simply as “Motorola’s division.”

Russia’s independent TV Rain (Dozhd) reported that they had succeeded in contacting Pavlov by phone.

They report that he answered, but refused to comment on the reports that he had been wounded, telling them only:

“I’m sleeping, man. Everyone is calling me, but I’m sleeping.” 

— Pierre Vaux