Ukraine Live Day 307: Despite Little International Attention, Ceasefire Is Not Holding

December 21, 2014
Russian-backed militants in the town of Nikishino | @Borisich_glass

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?

Newly-Available Photos of MH17 Shoot-Down, and Interview with Eyewitness by Olaf Koens of RTL Nieuws

The blogger@DajeyPetros from Ukraine@War has translated from the Dutch original the interview by Olaf  Koens we reported on earlier today:

Interview with Eyewitness Who Made Photo of Buk Trail

He also found a video of the first minutes of Koens’ video published on

Dec 23, 2014 07:11 (GMT)

The Interpreter has a translation from the Russian, combined from part of the interview posted at, and part from

“When I photographed that white streak, I didn’t attach any significance to all of that right away, for me it was, well, just a white streak, going from the horizon upwards there, and then it breaks up in the clouds. It was only a little bit later that it became clear what that was.”

“At 16:20 that is, 20 minutes after 4:00 pm, we heard an explosion. At first there was one explosion, well, one that wasn’t very strong, big. Then about 15 seconds or so later, there was a second explosion, such an explosion that oh, the windows rattled.”

The man is giving the Kiev time, which is one hour earlier than Moscow time. (Col. Igor Strelkov’s dispatch was at 17:50, Moscow time).

The article has an additional photo that has been made available by the photographer, which has been enhanced to make the plume of smoke stand out:


The photo is very similar to the photo circulated after the July 17 crash which was geolocated by Ukraine@War at the time:


In November, we analyzed a video that was found by Komsomolskaya Pravda and a longer video published by AP,
and reviewed two other videos showing the plumes of smoke after the
crash, and found that villagers mentioned that “a rockets was fired,”
and that “a guy had launched a rocket.”

Did Those Who Took First Videos Of MH17 Wreckage Know The Plane Was Hit By Anti-Aircraft Missiles?

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko To Meet Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko is in Kiev today and is scheduled to meet with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Lukashenko has previously been employed to help broker a lasting peace, and this development has many questioning thy Lukashenko is in Kiev today just as peace talks are supposed to be taking place at Minsk. Reuters reports:

A spokesman for Poroshenko the meeting between the two men in Kiev “was entirely unrelated” to the international contact group seeking to resolve the separatist conflict in east Ukraine.

Belarus is a close ally of Russia but also has a solid relationship with Ukraine. It hosted a round of peace talks in September of the contact group of envoys from Russia, Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Meanwhile, Lukashenko has released a statement saying that he is ‘always ready to help Ukraine,’ Belarussian news outlet BelTA reports:

“I would like a good state of affairs in Ukraine. Many perceive it as some kind of game and so on. I know that you don’t view it like that. You are the president and you feel hurt. I feel hurt, too. And I act with this in mind,” noted the Belarusian leader.

“Therefore, if need be, I’ve told you earlier: if you want something from Belarus, tell us, we will do whatever you ask of us within 24 hours. I say it publicly that we have always done whatever the president of Ukraine has asked us to do. And we will continue doing so in the future,” stressed the Belarus President.

“It is not a game for us. Not only due to trade considerations but because we are neighbors, we live nearby, we are not strangers,” he added.

“They tell me that Lukashenko is afraid of something. I am not,” stressed the Belarusian head of state. “We could do it out of the public view. We could choose not to tell anyone anything. We could do everything in secret only for the sake of making progress in this direction”.

But RFE/RL adds another level of analysis —  Lukashenko’s outreach to Ukraine is also an outreach to Europe. While Belarus is a staging ground for Russian military forces which threaten Ukraine, Belarus is also increasingly weary of its ties to the increasingly-isolated Russia:

A senior Ukranian government source told AFP that both Lukashenka and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev — due in Kiev on Monday — were now trying to make amends for deciding to join a political and economic union led by Moscow.

Russia is lurching through a financial crisis sparked by a plunge in the price of its oil exports and a punitive freeze on its firms’ ability to raise money on US and EU markets.

But Lukashenka in particular has been shunned by the West for his intolerance of dissent and establishment of what Washington once dubbed “the last dictatorship in Europe”.
Lukashenka and Nazarbaev “have sensed that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is weak,” the senior Ukrainian source said.

“They would like to see Ukraine help them improve relations with Europe.”

Government To Increase Military Spending, Reinstate Mandatory Military Service

New York Times reports on the measures announced by the Ukrainian government to significantly ramp up the size and scale of the military:

Ukraine plans to spend five percent of its budget or 86 billion hryvnia ($5.5 billion) on the army and on law enforcement in 2015 and to reintroduce compulsory military service, a top security official said on Saturday…

It is not known how much Ukraine spent on defense and security this year, but [secretary of the National Security and Defence Council Oleksander Turchynov] said the plans for 2015 represent a “colossal” increase.

He said Ukrainians between the ages of 20 and 27 would be called up for 18 months of military service. President Petro Poroshenko earlier stressed that these recruits would not have to serve on the frontline.

Kyiv Post reports that the military spending could amount to nearly 5% of Ukraine’s GDP for 2015, an increase which, while perhaps necessary, is not improving economic forecasts for the war-torn country:

On Dec. 19, London-based Standard & Poor’s ratings agency downgraded its long-term foreign currency sovereign credit rating on Ukraine to ‘CCC-‘ from ‘CCC’ with negative outlook.

Ukraine’s foreign currency reserves dropped from $16.3 billion in May 2014 to just over $9 billion at the end of November 2014. The fiscal deficit will reach 8.5% of GDP in 2015, while the current account deficit, which has narrowed to an estimated 4% of GDP in 2014, will continue declining next year. the agency said in a report.

Ukraine Reports More Ceasefire Violations
Here are the latest reports from Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council. Over the last several days or so there has been an uptick in violence in eastern Ukraine. Though it’s receiving little media attention, there are signs that the ceasefire, which has always been strained and periodically broken, is less intact today than it was just a week ago:
On December 18th, five Ukrainian soldiers were killed. Yesterday fighting was reported across large parts of the front lines.