Ukraine Live Day 280: 3 Ukrainian Soldiers Killed Over Last 24 Hours

November 24, 2014
Wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is loaded onto a truck to be taken to Kharkiv yesteday. Photo: Reuters

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.
Please help The Interpreter to continue providing this valuable information service by making a donation towards our costs.

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.

Mounting Political Problems For President Poroshenko

Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko, has had to confront internal and external problems while juggling a number of competing interests. For instance, in light of recent elections it has taken Poroshenko weeks to for a new coalition government. Reuters reports:

Ukraine will take the first steps this week towards forming a new government, President Petro Poroshenko said on Monday, seeking to assuage concern among his Western allies that the delay is holding up reform and imperiling Western assistance.

The U.S. and other Western governments are criticizing Kiev’s tardiness in putting together a government following October elections – with suspicions that the delay is due to rivalry between Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk over control of key portfolios.

“We hope that the process (of forming a government) will begin this week,” Poroshenko said at a news conference with visiting Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, apparently referring to the first session of the new parliament on Thursday.

One reason for the delay — Poroshenko has been conscious of potentially alienating any members of the top five political parties which won parliamentary elections.

Poroshenko has also had to avoid alienating his police force, most of which is held over from the previous administration. Perhaps as a result, Poroshenko is now under fire from some of the supporters of the Euromaidan protests who are angry that the government has not made arrests for the murders of the “heavenly hundred.” Last week, on the one-year anniversary of the start of protests, Poroshenko was heckled by angry family members who believe that in many ways Poroshenkos’ promises have been broken:

Meanwhile, the people of Ukraine are suffering from rising prices and lack of foreign investment. Kyiv Weekly recently ran an article accusing the Yantsenyuk government of closing its budgetary holes by cutting services to the poor. The article opens with a brief snapshot of the economic realities in Ukraine:

The prices for food products increased compared to October of last year by 19.6%, alcoholic beverages and tobacco products – 24.8%, clothing and footwear – 10.9%, housing, water supply, electricity and other types of fuel – 27%, household goods – 19.4%, healthcare – 24%, transport – 34.2%. At that the leaders in the hike of prices compared with last October are sewerage (+69.3%), natural gas (+62.8), water supply – 44.4%. Among food products prices grew most for fruits – 54.1%, sugar – 52.8%, fish and fish products – 27.5%, meat and meat products – 23.4%

But the Ukrainian government has to fight a war while still going through with plans to cut spending, a key condition of the loan from the International Monetary Fund.

The Ukrainian government is engaged in a balancing act, with competing interests and problems threatening to drag it down. So far, it has surprised many critics in how well it has been able to walk that line, but a year after the start of Euromaidan, with the economy on the ropes, the Russian military again threatening all-out war, and with frustration growing, Friday’s protests are a reminder that the government is still fledgling and still fragile.

Shelling Reported In Donetsk

There are reports of shelling in Donetsk tonight:

Translation: #Donetsk Grad launch from Kalinovka, landing at the airport.

Translation: Also salvoes from Topaz, impacts can’t be heard, headed far away

Regular deep thuds have been audible on the Ruptly live stream from a camera facing Donetsk airport

— Pierre Vaux

Renewed Cross-Border Shelling From Russia Reported By Ukrainian Military

The ATO Press Centre has announced that Ukrainian positions have come under fire from the Russian side of the border. This incident is the first in many weeks, since the nominal ceasefire was announced in early September.

In the past it has been repeatedly documented (and verified by The Interpreter and the US government) that Russian rocket and artillery units have repeatedly shelled Ukrainian territory across the border.

At the moment, the Ukrainian military’s claims about new incidents are unverified.

According to the announcement on the ATO Press Centre’s Facebook page, Ukrainian positions in Stanitsa-Luganskaya and Verkhnaya Olkhovaya (Stanychno-Luhanske and Verkhyna Vilkhova in Ukrainian).

The shelling was reported as coming from locations near the Russian settlements of Mozhaevka and Patronovka, just over the border.

Here is a map from Euromaidan PR highlighting the four locations:

— Pierre Vaux
Donetsk Governor Says Russian-Backed Forces Destroyed Homes In Debaltsevo Over Weekend

The governor of the Donetsk region, Aleksandr Kikhtenko, has said at a press conference that Russian forces, under the guise of a “humanitiarian” convoy, shelled and destroyed 20 civilian sites in the Ukrainian town of Debaltsevo two days ago.

According to Kikhtenko, residential buildings were destroyed.

He said (translated by The Interpreter):

“As soon as another “humanitarian convoy” enters Ukraine, the shelling of not only our army’s positions but also residential areas intensifies.”

On November 23, the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) published video footage which showed white trucks and artillery on the move in Donetsk:

We are however, unsure whether this footage has been associated with Russia’s “humanitarian convoys,” purely due to the appearance of the one truck.

On November 22, Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency reported that Vladimir Stepanov, the deputy head of the Russian Emergencies Ministry, had announced that another convoy would be sent to eastern Ukraine “as soon as possible.” There was, however, no announcement of any convoy arriving over the weekend. 

White articulated trucks have become associated with the Russian “humanitarian convoys,” but they have also been seen on a number of occasions, well before the arrival of the first “humanitarian convoy,” as part of military convoys made up of tanks and artillery. In this context, they are presumably transporting munitions or field equipment. 

Here are two videos showing a white articulated lorry travelling as part of a military convoy, first in Yenakievo on July 15, then in Nizhnaya Krynka on August 1.

— Pierre Vaux
Further Photos Show Graham Phillips Was Wounded While Fully Dressed In Camouflaged Fatigues, No Press Markings

Komsolskaya Pravda, the Russian newspaper whose reporter, Viktor Guseynov, was with the British freelancer Graham Phillips when he was wounded earlier today, has published more photos showing that Phillips was not wearing any press markings when he was injured.


The photos, taken by Guseynov, show Phillips immediately after he was wounded by shrapnel near Peski.


It is clear that he was fully dressed in camouflaged combat fatigues and lacked any press insignia.


— Pierre Vaux

Lithuania To Supply Military Equipment To Ukraine – Poroshenko

Interfax-Ukraine reports that Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko has said, at a joint press conference with the Lithuanian President, Dalia Grybauskaitė, that Lithuania has agreed to supply Ukraine with military equipment:

“We arranged about the military-technical cooperation, definite supplies of the definite military equipment for Ukraine Armed Forces. I think that this is a specific demonstration of the support,” the president said during the joint press conference with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė in Kyiv on Monday.

In their report, Interfax-Ukraine report that the deal regards “supplies of arms to Ukrainian soldiers.”

Earlier today, ahead of the press conference, was however, somewhat more ambiguous with regards to the meaning of military-technical cooperation between the two states.

They report on a press release from President Grybauskaitė’s office:

In Grybauskaitė’s words, in the light of ongoing military attacks against Ukraine security and defence cooperation is especially important. Lithuania receives injured Ukrainian soldiers for rehabilitation, provides food, clothes and medical aid, and is ready to increase its assistance in the near future, reads the press release.

To impart Lithuania’s accumulated experience in building modern armed forces, it is planned to invite more Ukrainian soldiers to study at the Military Academy of Lithuania, conduct joint military exercises, and to complete the formation of the trilateral brigade of Lithuania, Ukraine and Poland, the President’s Office said.

Grybauskaitė, who recently described Russia as a “terrorist state,” said that Lithuania can and must help Ukraine:

“Today Ukraine is facing huge challenges – part of its territory is torn off, soldiers and civilians are being killed in the war in its eastern region. At the same time, this country has to implement difficult but necessary reforms. This is a difficult time for Ukraine. And we must and can help it.”

UNIAN reports that Grybauskaitė told Ukraine’s TSN that some elements of Lithuania’s support for Ukraine could not be discussed publicly:

“I will discuss it with your government and the [Ukrainian] president on Monday,” Grybauskaite said.

“I’m also accompanied by three ministers – the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Defence and the Minister of Energy. These portfolios should tell you something,” said Grybauskaite.

She also noted that she supports the idea of the EU providing  military assistance to Ukraine.

“I think that there should be a lot of initiatives [regarding EU assistance] today, especially when it comes to military assistance to Ukraine,” Grybauskaite said, saying that such assistance should come in both economic and financial forms.

— Pierre Vaux

British Freelancer Wounded Near Peski

Graham Phillips, a British freelancer and stringer for RT, who has also recorded for Zvezda (a TV channel owned by the Russian Ministry of Defence), has been wounded by shrapnel near the Ukrainian government-held village of Peski, to the north-west of Donetsk.

Yevgeny Poddubnyy, a reporter for Rossiya 24, tweeted:

Translation: Graham Phillips has received shrapnel wounds in Peski. Lightly wounded. A piece of shrapnel from a 120 mm mortar flew into his back and pierced his flak jacket.

Viktor Guseynov, a reporter for Komsomolskaya Pravda tweeted a photo of Phillips in hospital:

Translation: Wounded Graham in hospital

According to Guseynov, a surgeon at the hospital, on seeing the injury, reassured them that everything would be fine.

Phillips’ wounding comes after he uploaded numerous photos of himself wearing both camouflage fatigues and the St. George’s ribbon, the de-facto emblem of the Russian-backed separatist fighters. A practice he defended on his Facebook page.

Many, however, would point out that journalists in military outfits can no longer be distinguished from combatants, and are therefore making themselves into legitimate targets on the battlefield.

It is noteworthy that Phillips appears to be wearing camouflaged combat trousers in the photo from the hospital above.

— Pierre Vaux
Two Drones Shot Down By Ukrainian Anti-Aircraft Artillery Near Mariupol

Mariupol news site reports that the military headquarters in the city have announced the downing of of 2 unmanned aerial vehicles.

According to the report, Ukrainian anti-aircraft artillery located and shot down the first drone at around midnight. The second was shot down at around 5 am.

— Pierre Vaux

MH17 Wreckage Transported To Kharkiv

A large proportion of the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was transported to Kharkiv yesterday. The wreckage was transported by both road and train, but a number of larger fragments remain onsite.

These are tweets from the Dutch Safety Board, which is leading the investigation:

Translation (rough): An image from earlier today: train with wreckage from #MH17 under way near to Kharkiv.

The wreckage will now be prepared in Kharkiv for transportation to the Netherlands for examination. 

The BBC reports that investigators are concentrating on specific areas of wreckage:

The Dutch experts have said they do not intend to recover all of the wreckage, concentrating, instead, on the wheels, wings and fuel tanks – the area of the plane where most of the unidentified passengers were seated.

Nine of the victims are still unaccounted for.

A spokesman for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) mission in Ukraine, Michael Bociurkiw, told the BBC there was a lot of relief now the train was out of rebel-help areas – “the result of quite complex negotiations with rebel groups”.

Mr Bociurkiw said there were pieces of fuselage that had been left behind.

“This is an active conflict zone, the operation was very complex, very difficult, so we have good days and bad days in terms of being able to get people in there and wreckage and human remains and personal belongings out.”

— Pierre Vaux

3 Ukrainian Soldiers Killed Over Last 24 Hours

Ukrainska Pravda reports that the ATO Press Centre has announced the deaths of 3 Ukrainian soldiers over the last 24 hours, as of 7 am (5:00 GMT).

According to the report, 56 attacks on Ukrainian positions by Russian-backed forces have been recorded over the same time period.

The Interpreter translates:

“Activity by illegal armed groups continues in three strategic areas: Lugansk, Debaltsevo and Donetsk,” says the report.

In particular, Ukrainian positions have been shelled 40 times with artillery and mortars, 5 times with small arms and the militants used MLRS 9 times. One one occasion there was fire contact with a tank.

— Pierre Vaux