Ukraine Live Day 385: Heavy Fighting Reported In Shirokino

March 9, 2015
Smoke rising above Shirokino on March 9. Photo: Alina Mykhailova (@AMykhailova)

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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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?

13-Year-Old Boy Severely Wounded By Exploding Ammunition

Novosti Donbassa reports that the press office of the governor of the Lugansk region, Hennadiy Moskal, has announced that a 13-year-old boy has been taken to hospital in Lysychansk after being severely wounded by ammunition.

According to Moskal’s office, the boy, from the village of Ustinovka in the Popasnaya district, had found some ammunition lying on the banks of the Seversky Donets river.

The ammunition detonated when he took it home and attempted to disassemble it, leaving him with blast trauma wounds to his chest and abdomen.

— Pierre Vaux

Battle Continues In Shirokino

Mariupol news site reports that the city’s military headquarters has announced that, as of 14:30 GMT, combat is still under way in the village of Shirokino, around 10 kilometres to the east.


At 12:30 GMT, 0629 reported that Oleg Sushinsky, press officer for the Mariupol headquarters, had announced that, in violation of the terms of the Minsk agreement regarding the use and withdrawal of heavy weaponry, the Russian-backed fighters were using 120 mm mortars to attack Shirokino, along with tanks and infantry.

This was also reported by the ATO Press Centre at 14:21 GMT.

According to Sushinsky, four Ukrainian soldiers had been wounded but there were no fatalities.

At 13:42 GMT, 0629 reported that Ukrainian troops were repelling attacks by ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ fighters and were maintaining their positions. 

— Pierre Vaux

Ukraine Says It Will Not Withdraw All Military Hardware Without Proof Russian-Backed Fighters Have Done So Too

Ukrainska Pravda reports that Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council, has told reporters that Ukraine has executed the fourth stage of the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the front line, but that there will not be a full withdrawal of military hardware until there is confirmation that Russian-backed forces are doing the same.

The Interpreter translates:

“We are now waiting for the enemy to also prove that they have really withdrawn their heavy weaponry from certain areas.”

The ATO headquarters claimed that Russian-backed fighters were moving weaponry to the rear during the day but returning it to the front during the night, faking a withdrawal.

The Ukrainian military claimed that the fourth stage of artillery withdrawal had been completed yesterday, with the withdrawal of Grad and Uragan MLRS as well as 100 mm anti-tank guns.

— Pierre Vaux

Occupying Authorities Detain Three Participants At Shevchenko Celebrations In Crimea

RFE/RL’s Crimean service reports that three participants in a rally to celebrate the birthday of the Ukrainian poet, Taras Shevchenko, were detained earlier today by the occupying Russian authorities in Simferopol.

The group were later released but the organiser of the event, Leonid Kuzmin, has been informed by the police that he will face a district court tomorrow morning on the grounds that the event allegedly violated Article 20 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation, which pertains to disrupting public order or political protest rules.



Kuzmin said that he assumed one of the reasons for their arrest was their use of Ukrainian national symbols. RFE/RL reported that this had been confirmed by the police.

— Pierre Vaux

Putin Says He Needed to Save Yanukovych’s Life “By Land, By Sea, By Air”
A teaser has been released today for a documentary, “Homeward Bound – Crimea. The Road to the Motherland,” which will be released on Rossiya 1 TV, a state-owned television station. In it, Russian President Vladimir Putin makes two claims — that  Russia felt it needed to “save the life” of the Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, and that it was at this time that the Russian government decided to annex Crimea.

The teaser can be watched here. In the video below, Christo Grozev has already put English subtitles which look to be accurate. According to that translation, Putin says:

I invited to the Kremlin the heads of our secret services and the Ministry of Defense and gave them the task to save the life of the Ukrainian president [Viktor Yanukovych]. Otherwise they were going to destroy him…

Putin is referencing the Euromaidan Revolution in Kiev. Putin goes on:

So, large-caliber machine guns were set up there… so to avoid any lengthy discussions.

We prepared to salvage him straight from Donetsk. By land, by sea, or by air.

It was between the 22nd or the 23rd… we spoke until 7 in the morning. And when they were leaving, I told the colleagues:

We must start the process of bringing Crimea back to Russia.

These statements are curious. The deploying of the “little green men” in Crimea came after Yanukovych left Ukraine and fled to Russia, and the insurgency and Russian invasion of the Donbass came after that. So it’s not clear what “large-caliber machine guns” are being referenced here.

What is interesting is that back on February 21, 2014, Viktor Yanukovych met with leaders of the political opposition, including Vitali Klitschko, Arseny Yatsenyuk, and Oleg Tyagnibok. Those three negotiated a settlement to the crisis, but since they were not directly elected by the protesters in Maidan Square, and since the terms of the deal were largely unacceptable to the protesters, Klitschko was booed off the stage in Maidan when he explained the deal to the crowds below.

But in descriptions of that meeting, Yanukovych was called out the the meeting to have a phone call with Putin. At the conclusion of that phone call, Yanukovych seemed eager to sign a deal. But after the deal was signed Yanukovych immediately fled to Kharkiv, where he then fled to Russia.

Similarly,  before making the decision to ultimately not sign the European Union association agreement in November 2013, Yanukovych met with Putin in Russia. However, he appeared to try to avoid the meeting altogether, since his limo got “lost en route” to the meeting. Speculation at the time was that Yanukovych was being pressured by the Ukrainian people to sign the EU agreement and was simultaneously pushed by his powerful neighbor, Russia, to not sign the deal. When Yanukovych first spoke after leaving Ukraine, he said that initially he was interested in pursuing the deal with the EU but his trip to Moscow showed him the true “costs” of such a move.

James Miller
Ukraine Reports 16 Attacks Overnight, Concentrated North Of Donetsk And Near Bakhmutka Highway

UNIAN reports that the Ukrainian military has reported 16 attacks by Russian-backed fighters between 20:00 (18:00 GMT) last night and 6:00 (4:00 GMT) this morning.

According to the ATO press centre, the majority of attacks were conducted with mortars and grenade launchers.

Positions and settlements to the north of Donetsk were targeted, with the heaviest attacks made on Peski, north-west of the separatist-held city. Attacks were also made on Avdeyevka, which was shelled twice at 4:15 and 4:35 this morning with artillery, Opytnoye, Krasnogorovka and Vodyanoye.

While “several” small arms attacks were reported in the Lugansk region, the town of Troitskoye, north-east of Debaltsevo, was shelled with heavier weaponry. 

The ATO press centre claimed that Troitskoye was shelled twice with 120 mm mortars and anti-aircraft artillery. 

Novosti Donbassa reports that the press office of the governor of the Lugansk region, Hennadiy Moskal, reported that there had been no civilian casualties in Troitskoye. 

The shelling had been aimed at Ukrainian military checkpoints on the outskirts of the town.

Moskal’s office also reported on attacks north of the Bakhmutka highway.

The Interpreter translates:

There was no quiet on the Bakhmutka highway, near Krymskoye and Novotoshkovka. Here shelling (judging from the nature of the explosions, including artillery) periodically started up, the last of which lasted from 6 until 8 this morning. There have been no reports of civilian or military casualties.


— Pierre Vaux

4 Ukrainian Servicemen Wounded Over Last 24 Hours
Heavy Fighting Reported In Shirokino

The military headquarters for the defence of Mariupol has announced that Russian-backed fighters are assaulting Ukrainian troops in the village of Shirokino, just east of the port city, this morning.

Mariupol news site reports that Oleg Sushinsky, the press officer for the headquarters, said that the assault began at 9:30 (7:30 GMT) this morning and was still under way as of 11:23 (9:23 GMT).

According to the report, Russian-backed forces have used small arms, mortars and a tank in their attack.

The report was echoed by the Azov regiment’s press office.

Another post on the Azov Facebook page, made at 10:51 GMT, claimed that residents in the Oktrabrsky and Primorsky districts could hear shelling.

One resident of the city centre is quoted as saying she could hear “powerful blasts, possibly mortars.” 

Translation: Mariupol: continuous distant gunfire.

Translation: Shirokino. Now being shelled with mortars. Houses are burning. Pounding since the early hours. Soldiers say shelling and Grads.

The military headquarters in Mariupol noted that the assault had been preceded at 7:10 (5:10 GMT) by small arms fire and sniper attacks. Ukrainian positions in Shirokino had been attacked 6 times over the previous day.

The headquarters also reported that 10 drone flights had been detected over the last 24 hours, with sightings over Shirokino, Mirnoye, Volodarskoye, Nikolaevka, Grigorevka and Berdyanskoye.


— Pierre Vaux