Ukraine Live Day 400: Governor Claims Russian Forces Attacked Air Defence Unit Far From Front Line

March 24, 2015
The border runs along the centre of the road in Melovo, with Ukraine on the left and Russia on the right. Photo:

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Poroshenko Accepts Kolomoisky’s Resignation After Week of Conflict; ‘Unity’ Rally Planned in Dnepropetrovsk Saturday

Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky submitted his resignation, which was accepted by President Petro Poroshenko this evening, the presidential web site reported.

Poroshenko also signed amendments to the Law on Shareholder Societies which reduces the quorum for all such organizations including those where the state is the owner of 50% of the founding capital, reported.

The dismissal comes after a tense week when many world headlines spoke of an “oligarchs’ war” in which the future of Ukraine’s reform hung in the balance, following its IMF loan of $17.5 billion and decisions by the US and other Western powers to provide some military assistance and training but not lethal aid.

First, the Verkhovna Rada changed the law to enable the lowering of the quorum for meetings, paving the way for a long-stalled vote to rid Ukrnafta of its director Oleksandr Lazorko, widely seen as a protégé of oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, who owns 43% of the company. Lazorko was forcibly removed from his office last week, which then in turn caused Kolomoisky and a private security group to come and confront managers, with journalists looking on. Kolomoisky challenged a former SBU officer from Lugansk who arrived on the scene to take over the building on behalf of the state, asking him why he didn’t go back and liberate Lugansk Region, then vulgarly insulted reporters from RFE/RL, which earned him a reprimand from Poroshenko.  A fence was put up around the plant.

While there were rumors that the Dnepro-1 Battalion had taken over
Ukrnafta, based on one fighter caught on Hromadske TV admitting he was
from the battalion, Yury Bereza, commander of the battalion denied
involvement in the Ukrnafta events.

Then Russian state media had a field day, watching a clash between two oligarchs, while the liberal Ukrainian media spoke of the need to rein in Kolomoisky and his “private armies,” which only yesterday were the brave volunteer battalions that have fought against the Russian-backed forces of the self-declared “Donetsk People’s Republic,” losing many of their men, with others returning from the front permanently disabled.

Today, some Ukrainian media began reporting that the conflict had “moved into the private domain” as quiet talks were held in person to resolve the situation.

Then late tonight came the announcement that Poroshenko had “accepted Kolomoisky’s resignation” — which obviously came under pressure.

Valentin Reznichenko was appointed acting head of the Dnepropetrovsk Regional State Administration (OGA).

Earlier, four members of Poroshenko’s faction in parliament from Dnepropetrovsk led by Andrei Denisenko announced they were leaving the faction, saying that the governor of their region was being “discredited.” All had been elected by majorities in single-mandate districts from Dnepropetrovsk Region.

To add to the pressure, Valentin Nalivaychenko, head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) claimed officials from the Dnepropetrovsk OGA had colluded with a criminal gang involved in smuggling contraband and were involved in the murder of an SBU officer in Volnovakha, killed as smugglers were stopped by three officers.

Arsen Avakov said in a Facebook post on March 22 that the SBU officer was killed by people who “disguised themselves with the ID of Right Sector and a Dnepropetrovsk security firm” and tried to smuggle contraband “into DNR territory.”

Some additional elements of pressure have been reported on both sides by which says the government removed its accounts from Kolomoisky’s Privatbank. Then authorities in Odessa reported that all the security agencies that had been maintaining order in Ukraine’s third largest city, which has repeatedly been struck by terrorist attacks, were removed and have left town. Russian journalist Pavel Sheremet says he believes this was a means of “blackmailing Kiev,” since the current governor of Odessa, Igor Palitsa, previously worked for Kolomoisky and headed Ukrnafta.

Nikolai Kolesnik, advisor to Kolomoisky and patron of the 40th Battalion known as Krivbass, had a brief message on his Facebook page saying: “Kolomoisky has resigned. Korban has resigned. Oleynik has resigned,” referring to other OGA officials.

The 40th Battalion, whose men come from Krivoy Rog and other towns in Dnepropetrovsk, have been among those who fought and died in the war against Russian-backed fighters. Kolesnik also supported the 20th Battalion, who men were captured and held as POWs after the battle of Krasny Partizan, after some of their men were killed. Some POWs still remain in the hands of the separatists.

Borys Filatov, a journalist, lawyer, and businessman appointed March 4 as deputy chairman of the Dnepropetrovsk OGA for domestic policy had this comment on his Facebook (translation by The Interpreter) an hour ago:

1. The chairman of the Dnepr OGA [Kolomoisky] has submitted his resignation, the President has accepted it.
2. The resignation was polite to the maximum extent.
3. All affairs will be transferred to Valentin Reznichenko in the maximally comfortable regimen.
4. On Saturday, there will be a rally and concert “For a United Ukraine.” The annual report of Kolomoisky’s team will be heard. People’s deputies, leaders of public opinion, volunteers, helpers and the new governor will be present.

We invite people of all sympathies. From all over Ukraine.

Let’s stop drinking valerian and show the whole world that we can be civilized people for whom our country is higher than ambitions.

Let’s not give cause for glee to our enemies, both internal and external.

And now, everyone march to sleep.

Kolomoisky has been credited with directly financing the volunteer brigades Aidar and Azov as well as other battalions, picking up the tab for outfitting and arming troops that were poorly supplied by the formal Ukrainian army procurement system which is riddled with corruption.

Many credit the failure of the separatist movement to take hold in Dnepropetrovsk, a region of 72% Russian speakers, to Kolomoisky’s unabashed resistance, and willingness to swoop down with his own corporate fleet of helicopters as needed to protect the “Kolomoisky People’s Republic” as it has been dubbed. But as the voluntary battalions have increasingly been integrated into the regular army and as the war recedes to some extent after the Minsk-2 peace talks, this regional power base has been seen as a threat to the new Kiev government and its reformers.

While the rally Filatov described sounds like an effort to uniform different factions, and Kolomoisky appears to have gone peacefully, it’s not clear how the rank-and-file of the battalions will feel about a situation that some see as betrayal  — let alone the dismissed officials.

Gennady Korban, Kolomoisky’s deputy, gave an impassioned press conference before his resignation in which he shed light on the problem of the wish for other regions to have more autonomy from Kiev unrelated to the struggles of the Russian-backed separatists in Lugansk and Donetsk.

“In Kiev, which has promised us decentralization, economic independence in some form, that is financial decentralization, and a lot more — and no one has done this — it’s time to bring order. It’s time to stop lying about decentralization, that’s enough lying about the successes of the ATO, about the number of those killed, we have exact information, we have been collecting this all this time, about the situation of the Ukrainian army and its supply. There are thieves sitting in Kiev and it’s time for those thieves to go.”

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Debunking the Kremlin’s Propaganda Film ‘Crimea: The Road to the Homeland’ – And Recurring Faux Memes

The propagandistic video Crimea: The Road to the Homeland released
just as President Vladimir Putin returned after a mysteriously 11-day
disappearance is continuing to get heavy rotation on Russian state media
and Kremlin-supported social media.

As we pointed out, there are some revelations in the video that prove what many were saying all along:

But while the film with faked scenes was covered as a news story, few have more systematically debunked it.

As Lucian Kim explains in Slate, the “faux documentary” rewrites history and serves as a propaganda tool to erase memory.

Broadcast on the state-run Rossiya channel, the docufiction was timed
to the eve of the first anniversary of Crimea’s disputed independence
referendum, held after thousands of Russian troops had seized the
peninsula following the Maidan protest in Kiev. The film has little in
common with journalism so, as a result, offers few new facts. Yet it
provides insight into what makes Kremlin propaganda so effective—and how
Putin is trying to rewrite history.

Russian propaganda has come a long way since the days of the Soviet
Union. If in North Korea petrified announcers shout the day’s patriotic
achievements in sing-song voices, in Russia, the news is presented no
differently than in the West: by plastic anchors in sleek studios aided
by fancy computer graphics. Sunday’s film was professionally made, with
lots of aerial shots and a dramatic soundtrack. No expense was spared
for the most comprehensive account to date of Putin’s great Crimean

The film intersperses snippets of an interview with Putin in a
chronicle featuring Crimea’s leadership, Russia’s top brass, and members
of the “people’s militia” who rose up against the pro-Western
government in Kiev. Documentary footage is mixed with reenactments to
create a collage of fact and fiction whose purpose isn’t to document
what happened, but to hammer home the narrative that Russia’s lightning
covert operation saved Crimea from Ukrainian “fascists,” if not direct
NATO intervention.

Kim himself reported the Crimea takeover on the ground. Read his Kremlin TV: Vladimir Putin’s New Faux Documentary is Trying to Rewrite the History of His Own Aggression

One Kremin-sponsored meme we see repeatedly showing up on Twitter, VKontakte and other social media is a billboard that says “We Will Never Forget, We Will Never Forgive” which was also the slogan for the Anti-Maidan march in Moscow on February 21 and is on billboards.

The picture of a little girl weeping by her dead grandmother in a war scene in fact is fictional, taken from another movie.

 — Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Separatists Stopped BBC Near Shirokino But Allowed Russian Reporters Through Who Then Reported Coming Under Fire
Zakharchenko Claims Russian General Lentsov, OSCE Monitors And Journalists Fired On Near Shirokino

The leader of the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ (DNR), Aleksandr Zakhachenko, has told reporters at a press conference today that Colonel General Aleksandr Lentsov, the leader of the Russian delegation to the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination (JCCC), has been fired on in eastern Ukraine.

Zakharchenko claimed that Lentsov came under fire from Ukrainian forces near Shirokino during a JCCC visit.

The DNR leader claimed that this was the second time that Ukrainian forces had fired on the general, the first time having occurred at Donetsk Airport.

As Russia’s state-owned Sputnik news agency reports, Zakharchenko claimed that OSCE monitors and a group of Russian journalists had also come under fire in the same area:

“While heading for Shirokino [near the city of Mariupol] along with the OSCE monitors to assess the implementation of the ceasefire, our convoy came under fire by Kiev-led forces. A group of Russian journalists also came under fire,” DPR Defense Ministry was quoted as saying by the Donetsk news agency.

No deaths or injuries have been reported as a result of the incident.

The OSCE has so far made no comment regarding any fire towards its monitors today.

— Pierre Vaux

Military Helicopter Crashes South-West Of Kiev, Killing 1, Wounding 2

Interfax-Ukraine reports that a Ukrainian military Mi-24 Hind helicopter has crashed near the village of Hrebinky in the Vasylkiv district, south-west of Kiev, killing one crew member and wounding two.

The Interior Ministry’s press office told Interfax-Ukraine that the crash occurred at around 14:00 (12:00 GMT).

The Kiev regional prosecutor’s office announced (translated by The Interpreter):

“A lieutenant has been killed and a captain and major injured. They have been taken to hospital.”

 The helicopter was assigned to a military unit in the Lviv region and was, according to preliminary reports, flying from Poltava to Zhytomyr.

— Pierre Vaux

Leviy Bereg Reporter Says Fighting In Granitnoye Has Stopped

While the Mariupol Defence headquarters has denied that there is fighting in Granitnoye today. Leviy Bereg‘s Oleksandr Rudomanov has been reporting on events there on his Facebook page.

At 11:47 GMT, Rudomanov wrote that the battle has stopped.

At 9:39 GMT, Rudomanov had written (translated by The Interpreter):

Russian terrorists are attacking the Ukrainian soldiers.

Close combat has been under way for the last 20 minutes with RPGs, recoilless rifles and small arms being used.

At 11:29 GMT, Rudomanov reported that there had been a brief lull in the fighting but that combat had resumed. He said that the Russian-backed fighters had suffered 15 fatalities and lost one armoured vehicle.

— Pierre Vaux

Russian-Backed Forces Reportedly Attacking Granitnoye, East Of Volnovakha; Military HQ Denies

Ukraine’s Leviy Bereg reported at 9:38 GMT that Russian-backed fighters had begun to attack the Ukrainian-held village of Granitnoye, north-east of Mariupol, in the Volnovakha district.


The Interpreter translates:

According to LB’s correspondent, over the last 20 minutes terrorists have been firing on the village with practically every kind of fire arm, save artillery. The militants are also using mortars.

The terrorists are trying to break through into the village.

We recall that, last night, a drone flight was detected over Granitnoye

Meanwhile, Novosti Donbassa reports that the military headquarters in Mariupol has denied these claims, telling their correspondent that “there has been no shelling of Granitnoye today.”

— Pierre Vaux

1 Ukrainian Soldier Killed, 8 Wounded In Last 24 Hours

Interfax-Ukraine reports that Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the National Security and Defence Council (NSDC), has told reporters at a briefing in Kiev that one Ukrainian soldier has been killed and eight wounded over the last 24 hours.

Lysenko claimed that there had been a reduction in the intensity of fire from Russian backed forces over the last few days. However the enemy was, he said, continuing to use mortars and tanks in their attacks.

The worst fighting was still in the Donetsk area, with “more than half of ceasefire violations” occurring there. Meanwhile attacks on Ukrainian positions in Shirokino “are not stopping.”

Censor.NET reports from Mariupol today that the city’s defence headquarters has announced that four National Guard servicemen were wounded during fighting in the villages to the east yesterday. 

According to the report, yesterday, Russian-backed forces carried out 8 attacks on Ukrainian positions around Shirokino and one near Chermalyk, to the north.

The attacks were, the headquarters claimed, conducted with small arms, anti-tank missiles, and 82 and 120 mm mortars. 

Another attack came at 3:15 (1:15 GMT) this morning, when Ukrainian positions in Shirokino were attacked with small arms.

The military announced that, as of 11:00 (9:00 GMT) today, the situation remains quiet in the area. They suggested the possibility that this lull in fighting may be due to the presence today of OSCE monitors in Shirokino.

— Pierre Vaux

Governor Claims Russian Forces Attacked Air Defence Unit Far From Front Line

The press office of the governor of the Lugansk region, Hennadiy Moskal, claims today that Russian special forces have conducted an attack on a Ukrainian air defence unit far to the north of the front line, deep inside Ukrainian-held territory near the Russian border.  reports that Moskal’s office said that, at 3:30 (1:30 GMT) this morning, a mobile radar-location station on the outskirts of Melovo was fired on.

The Interpreter translates:

“Two rounds were fired from an RPG at an army truck, in the back of which was faulty air defence equipment. As a result of the blasts, the vehicle was seriously damaged,” says the statement.

Novosti Donbassa notes that Moskal said:

“Melovo is located in the north of the Lugansk region, approximately 200 kilometres from the contact line. There have been no combat activities here, however the district centre practically lies on the border with the Russian Federation. Obviously, it is from precisely there that a reconnaissance and sabotage group crept in to destroy our military hardware.”



Moskal’s office reported that there had been no casualties. 

Attacking air defence radars could aid the Russian air force in conducting cross-border missions in support of operations in the Lugansk region, where there have been several attacks across the front line at the Seversky Donets river in the last week, suggesting the possibility of a new offensive. 

While Moskal’s office claimed that the radar equipment was already inoperable, the claim seems all too convenient to take at face value.

But it could also serve to force Ukraine to increase defences along the border away from the front line, potentially diverting resources away from the front lines.

— Pierre Vaux