Ukraine Live Day 295: ‘Day of Silence’

December 9, 2014
Russian vehicles moving through Makeyevka on Monday. Photo: @roman_primorye (via UNIAN)

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?

UPDATE: NATO Says Portuguese F-16s Intercept 6 Russian Nuclear-Capable Bombers

An update on our last report via News24:

Four Tu-95 Bear strategic bombers and two Tu-22M Backfire long-range bombers were intercepted in international airspace by Portuguese F-16 fighter jets assigned to Nato, spokesperson Oana Lungescu said.

Lungescu said that while most intercepts carried out over the Baltic are “routine,” the intercept of the six bombers “represented a significant level of activity by Russia.”

In two other incidents later on Sunday, Nato aircraft intercepted a total of seven Russian military aircraft, including Tu-134s used for training and moving passengers as well as An-72 transport aircraft, Lungescu said.

NATO Intercepts ‘Significant’ Group Of Russian Nuclear-Capable Bombers
Breaking news via BBC’s Kriszta Satori:
We’ll continue to monitor these reports.
Austrian Airline Drops Russian Opera Singer Anna Netrebko After Her Donation to Armed ‘Novorossiya’ Cause

Yesterday, December 9, a hash-tag campaign started on Twitter #BoycottAnnaNetrebko,when the famous Russian operatic soprano, a protege of the Mariinsky Theater Director Valery Gergiev, was shown supporting the Russian-backed armed separatists in southeastern Ukraine.

Netrebko sang the Russian national anthem at the opening of the Sochi Olympics, which was held near her native Krasnodar; she is of Kuban Cossak heritage. She now holds dual Russian and Austrian citizenship and lives in New York City.

The trouble started when Netrebko announced that she was donating one million rubles (about $54,000) to the Donetsk Opera and appeared with Ukrainian politician Oleg Tsaryov, former Party of Regions deputy now wanted by police for violent separatism, and included in the EU’s sanctions list for the war in Ukraine. Tsaryov published pictures on his Facebook page of the two of them holding the Novorossiya banner.

Julia Davis ran a piece in the Examiner noting Anna Netrebko’s own website claiming an Austrian Airlines ad campaign was scheduled to start.

Other journalists picked up the scandal:

Customers immediately began threatening boycotts, but then were pleased with Austrian Air’s rapid response — the airline immediately announced it had already dropped Netrebko when her contract expired in November:

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Stanitsa Luganskaya Shelled This Morning

The governor of the Lugansk region, Hennadiy Moskal, has announced that the government-held town of Stanitsa Luganskaya and the village of Verkhnaya Olkhovaya, to the north-east of the city of Lugansk, have been shelled by Russian-backed forces.


Ukrainska Pravda reports on the Grad attack on Verkhnaya Olkhovaya, conducted just after midnight, (translated by The Interpreter):

A residential building on Parkhomenko street was destroyed by three direct rocket strikes. On neighbouring houses the façades were damaged and windows and doors broken; a car was wrecked. Part of the village has been left without gas due to low pressure after a shell broke a gas pipeline.

Moskal reported that Stanitsa Luganskaya itself had been shelled by mortars and self-propelled artillery at around 6 am. Several buildings, including some residential, were damaged and power lines to the village of Olkhovaya were cut, but there were no casualties.

The attacks were conducted before the official start of today’s ceasefire at 10 am local time.

— Pierre Vaux

Avdeyevka Shelling Last Night Killed 2 Civilians, Wounded 13 Including 4 Children

Vyacheslav Abroskin, head of the Donetsk regional branch of the Interior Ministry, has written on his Facebook page that yesterday’s shelling of the Ukrainian-held town of Avdeyevka, to the north-east of Donetsk Airport, has left two people dead and thirteen, including four children wounded.

Abroskin wrote that the shelling had destroyed residential tower blocks, the buildings of a kindergarten and part of the structure of the town hospital.

Police are combing the debris in the hope of finding other casualties.

In his original post, which was edited around two hours later, Abroskin had written that the two people killed were children. This report was picked up by several Ukrainian media outlets but there is now no specification as to the age of the deceased in Abroskin’s post.

— Pierre Vaux

Russia Resumes Gas Supplies To Ukraine

Reuters reports that Maxim Belyavsky, a spokesman for the Ukrainian gas transport monopoly Ukrtransgaz, has announced that Russia has resumed supplying gas after Ukraine made a prepayment of $378 million for 1 billion cubic metres of gas.

Supplies had been halted for the past six months.

Reuters reports:

Without Russian gas and short of coal because separatist violence has disrupted domestic coal mining, Ukraine has been forced to introduce widespread power cuts.

With relations poor because of the fighting in Ukraine’s east, Russia had insisted that Ukraine pay upfront for renewed supplies over the winter, under an interim agreement in October.

Cash-strapped Ukraine delayed for as long as possible but after a cold snap that sent temperatures plummeting below freezing, Ukrainian state energy firm Naftogaz transferred a $378 million prepayment to Russia’s Gazprom to buy 1 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Russian gas in December.

Ukraine’s gas reserves have fallen by more than 20 percent since October to 13.3 bcm as of Dec. 6.

Gazprom confirmed in a statement that gas shipments had resumed to Ukraine from 0700 GMT.

Armed Men Enter Mariupol Port Administration Building – Possible Interior Ministry Operation

Mariupol news site reports on strange events today that are, in appearance at least, worryingly reminiscent of the seizure of administrative buildings during the separatist takeover. However this time it appears to have been an operation conducted by Ukrainian special forces.

At around 10:30 (8:30 GMT) armed men in camouflaged combat gear entered the port administration building. The men entered the offices of the chief of the port. A journalist for the news site was prevented from entering by police and port security.

0629 reported (translated by The Interpreter):

According to the press office of the Mariupol police, the security services are currently conducting an operation on the grounds of the port administration. The police are not involved.

Some sources told 0629 that personnel from the Interior Ministry’s Department for Fighting against Economic Crimes were on the scene.

At 11:51 (9:51 GMT) six camouflaged men left a aide exit and left in two cars.


Security guards then opened the front doors of the building and allowed those who had been locked in to leave. 

Employees told 0629 that the armed men had forbidden them to leave their offices for around two hours.

The chief of the port has promised to comment on the situation later on. 

— Pierre Vaux

Continued Fighting At Donetsk Airport

Translation: Donetsk – loud bangs, sounds like a howitzer, the Leninsky district has said goodbye to [the day of] silence.

Denis Pushilin, the representative of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ at the Minsk negotiations, has accused Ukraine of breaking the truce:

— Pierre Vaux
Ukraine Suspends Combat Operations On Day Of Silence
The Ukrainian military has suspended combat operations in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in compliance with a “Day of Silence” ceasefire announced last week by President Petro Poroshenko.

Peter Leonard reports for AP that fighting had continued up until the moment the ceasefire was to come into effect:

Separatist rebel leaders have stated their support for the truce, which appeared to be holding around the main rebel-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk early Tuesday.

Intense shelling continued right up until the eve of the cut-off period for hostilities, claiming multiple casualties.

Ukrainian officials said Tuesday that government-controlled residential areas and armed positions had come under rocket fire more than 60 times over the previous 24-hour period. Two civilians were killed and another 10 injured as a result of artillery attacks, the officials said.

Meanwhile, local authorities in the main separatist stronghold of Donetsk said two civilians were killed in the rebel-controlled city. The city hall said more than 20 residential buildings were damaged by rockets.

However despite separatist leaders’ apparent support for the truce, General Muzhenko claimed that the ceasefire had been broken by “another party” near Debaltsevo:

There have been almost daily attacks in the area for the last two months. But it is unclear who, if Muzhenko’s claims are true, conducted the attacks. In addition to fighters for the Donetsk and Lugansk ‘People’s Republics’ and Russian forces, there are also several semi-autonomous military forces operating in the area, such as Pavel Dremov’s ‘Army of the Don Cossack’ to the north-east in Stakhanov and other Cossack forces under Nikolai Kozitsyn to the east in Perevalsk.

The “Day of Silence” had been intended to coincide with another round of peace talks in Minsk, however on December 7 Denis Pushilin, the representative of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ at the negotiations, announced that his side were demanding a date of December 12, claiming that they did not have time to prepare for talks today. The Ukrainian government has stated that the separatists are uninterested in peace and were given due notice of the date

It appears however, that the Ukrainians have agreed on the later date:

— Pierre Vaux