Ukraine Live Day 274: Having Sent Tanks To Donetsk, Moscow Accuses Kiev Of Strangling Donbass

November 18, 2014
Foreign Minister of Russia Sergei Lavrov. Photo: AP

Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here. An archive of our liveblogs can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.
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View Ukraine: April, 2014 in a larger map
For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.

For the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: Evidence Review: Who Shot Down MH17?

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

Is The Russian Government Making Changes To Wikipedia?

Wikipedia has often been a battleground for information wars. When the Russian government released their report on the shooting down of civilian airliner MH17, they accused the Ukrainian government of using an SU-25 to shoot down the aircraft. As experts pointed out, there were huge technological holes in that theory, and so Russians took to the internet to edit the Wikipedia entry for the SU-25. 

Wikipedia tracks changes to its pages, however, and the IP address of anyone who makes changes but does not register with them is visible. As we reported in July:

One such IP address that made such a change appears to use the “ROSNIIROS” ISP (Russian Institute for Public Networks) and, according to one IP tracking service, is associated with an organization called “JSK IT. Information Technologies Co.”

Another address that made this change is also from Moscow and was tracked back to the “Closed joint-stock company Telecommunication company.”

Today there are new allegations to people within the government are making changes to Wikipedia:

In one entry on this page, the IP address made changes marked below in bold:

In April 2014, most of Donbass was plunged into civil war through the Ukrainian government trying to reassert its authority in the region through force against Seperatists that held a referendum in support of independence from the Ukraine.

Using, we see the following information and map:

ISP: Rosniiros Russian Institute For Public Networks

Organization: Research Centre For Computer Science At The Russia


The point on the map is right near the Kremlin in Moscow. While the organization is not fully listed, several other IP locating websites indicate that this IP address belongs to the “Research Centre for Computer Science at the Russian Foreign Ministry.”

Also note that “Rosniiros” — a similar IP address made some changes to the Su-25 page back in July. It’s also worth noting that this address has made changes to the Wikipedia pages on Syria’s chemical weapons attack, and on Slavyansk.

Here you can see the results for 6 different IP tracking websites simultaneously, and many list similar results. While they don’t all agree, all of them appear to suggest that this IP address is used by the Russian government. There are outliers, however.

So, if the Russian government changing Wikipedia pages? We’d assume that if there was a concerted effort by either the Kremlin or the Foreign Ministry, they would use stealthier means. Could someone inside these buildings be making changes on their own? That’s possible. Could someone be trying to frame the Kremlin? That’s also possible.

This episode does show, however, that information and disinformation is an important part of what’s happening in Ukraine and Russia, and places like Wikipedia have become ideological battlegrounds.

This debate may soon be irrelevant since Russia wants to create its own version of Wikipedia anyway.

Ukrainian General Accused Of Breach Of Duty Leading To Il-76 Deaths Hospitalised

Major-General Viktor Nazarov, a member of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces whom the prosecutor-general, Vitaliy Yarema, has announced is suspected of a breach in his duties that led to the deaths of 49 Ukrainian servicemen when an Il-76 transport plane was shot down in June, has been hospitalized.

On the night of June 13-14, a Ukrainian Il-76 carrying paratroopers was shot down by Russian-backed fighters using MANPADS while preparing to land at Lugansk airport. All 49 servicemen aboard died.

The launch of the missile that downed the transport plane is visible to the left of the centre of the screen at around 1:10 in the following video:

Ukrainska Pravda reports that Yarema said (translated by The Interpreter):

“Today, an investigator announced the suspicion of Major-General Viktor Nikolaevich Nazarov, deputy head of the anti-terrorism operation.

After the announcement that he was under suspicion, Viktor Nikolaevich became ill – he had a hypertensive episode.”

Nazarov was hospitalised. Yarema said that he has not been placed under restraint. 

On June 18, Ukrainska Pravda notes, the prosecutor-general’s office had announced that negligence on the part of military commanders could have played a role in the deaths in Lugansk.

According to the prosecutor’s office, military officials had ignored reports of militants operating near the airport and failed to take tactical precautions against the possible use of MANPADS, which were known to be in the hands of Russian-backed fighters in the area.

— Pierre Vaux

‘Russia May Understand Propaganda, But It Still Ignores The Truth’

Earlier this week there was a controversy which we did not cover. The Russian state TV Channel One released satellite photos which they say show a Ukrainian air force jet shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. Despite the fact that there is an extremely conclusive — and growing — body of evidence that suggests a Buk anti-aircraft missile controlled by Russian-backed militants shot down the airliner, there were obvious problems with the claim. Within 10-15 minutes experts and bloggers were pointing out obvious signs that the pictures were photoshopped. The airline’s logo was in the wrong place, the area shown on the photos did not match the area where the aircraft was shot down, and the type of fighter jet shown in the pictures did not even match Russia’s earlier (and unsubstantiated) claims. A more thorough analysis showed that one picture, minus the aircraft, matches exactly another picture which is unrelated to flight MH17.That’s just a few of the problems with the report.

We did not cover this story for a few reasons. First of all, the claims were quickly debunked, leaving little doubt that these were fakes. Second, they were released months after the fact by a  media outlet controlled by the Kremlin — so why did they wait that long? The third reason we did not cover that story relates to the question we just asked — there are so many other stories to report which are true.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine has been heating up for weeks, the Russian economy is tumbling, the pressure on independent media outlets in Russia is growing — and the Russian report came out the day before the G20 conference was due to start. Clearly, this was designed to be a distraction from the real news.

Considering all the factors mentioned about, we were a bit surprised that these claims received so much media attention.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, had this to say about the incident.

The BBC article linked to by Power takes a firm and well-supported position that the story is simply false and has been completely debunked. The article lists and links to many of the people who debunked it. Other media outlets, on the other hand, simple restated the claims made by Russia’s Channel One, and while most at least mentioned that the claims had been challenged, most news outlets were unwilling to take this kind of clear (and obvious) position.

Power has a point — Russia is more interested in propaganda than truth. But what Power, and too many members of the Western press, may not understand is that too often the claims made by Russia’s propaganda outlets are simply repeated by the Western press.

James Miller

5 Ukrainian Soldiers Killed, 8 Wounded Over Past 24 Hours

Vladislav Seleznyov, the spokesman for the Ukrainian government’s Anti-Terrorism Operation, has written on his Facebook page that 5 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and another 8 wounded over the past 24 hours.

Interfax-Ukraine reports that Seleznyov described shelling attacks on:

Donetsk airport and ATO positions near Orlovo-Ivanivka, Komyshuvakha, Trekhizbenka and Sokolnyky, and Luhansk thermal power plant near the village of Schastia.

Ukrainian military returned fire and suppressed the fire nests of the militants, Selezniov said.

“Five Ukrainian soldiers were killed and eight suffered injuries of varying degrees in shelling incidents and booby traps over the past day,” he added.

— Pierre Vaux

Lavrov Accuses Kiev Of ‘Socio-Economic Strangulation’ Of Donbass

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has said that the Ukrainian government is set on a course that will lead to the “socio-economic strangulation” of the occupied areas of the Donbass. Furthermore, despite the recent upsurge in arrivals of military convoys in the Donetsk region, Lavrov accused Ukraine of threatening to resolve the conflict by force.

RFE/RL reports:

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov repeated Moscow’s calls for the Ukrainian government to hold talks with the pro-Russian separatists who have seized parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces in a war that has killed more than 4,100 people since April.

Instead, Lavrov said, “Kyiv has set a course for the socioeconomic strangulation of southeastern Ukraine and is threatening to revive (efforts to) resolve the conflict by force.”

Kyiv’s moves are a response to elections held by the separatists on November 2, which Ukraine and the West condemned as an illegal violation of a September 5 peace plan, and what Kyiv says are Russian-supported military buildup by the rebels.

Lavrov, speaking at a meeting with his Belarusian counterpart in Minsk, also said Russia has always seen the European Union as a “big, important economic partner” and hopes the point of no return in ties with the EU has not been reached.

In contrast, Ukraine’s foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin, said on November 14 that Kiev was not planning to return the occupied regions by force.

Interfax-Ukraine reported on Klimkin’s interview with Germany’s Rheinische Post:

“The issue concerns a political solution. Such a military operation would also affect the civilian population, our Ukrainian citizens,” he said in an interview with German newspaper Rheinische Post.

Klimkin said that the Ukrainian government planned to continue to comply with the ceasefire and continue the search for a political solution.

He said that the economic situation in Luhansk and Donetsk was bad and would continue to worsen.

“We are trying to provide as much humanitarian aid as possible. We made a difficult decision to continue to supply electricity and gas, although these supplies are not paid for. We cannot just leave people alone,” Klimkin said.

Lavrov’s statement comes after large columns of Russian troops, tanks, artillery, fuel trucks, and advanced air defence and artillery radar systems have been documented in eastern Ukraine.

Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency reports that Lavrov was referring to President Poroshenko’s announcement on November 15 that the government would shut off all state services, including banking, to occupied regions of the Donbass. 

Meanwhile, private investors are also withdrawing from the region.  

This afternoon, the German HeidelbergCement firm announced that it was ceasing operations in Donetsk.

— Pierre Vaux