Ukraine Live Day 401: Poroshenko Dismisses Kolomoiskiy

March 25, 2015
Screenshot from Radio Svoboda video

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 the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: Evidence Review: Who Shot Down MH17?

Passenger Bus Runs Over Mine Near Artyomovsk; At Least 4 Dead, 11 Wounded

The Donetsk Regional State Administration (OGA) reports that t least 4
people have been killed and 11 wounded after a bus traveling from
Gorlovka to Artyomovsk (Artemivsk) hit a mine this evening,  reports. reports that at 20:30 Kiev time, a report came into
the duty officer at the Artyomovsk City Police Department that a
passenger bus had exploded on a mine in a field in the district of

From preliminary reports, it appears that the driver had made
the decision to go around a checkpoint and driven along a dirt road
toward Gorlovka. As he crossed a field, the rear wheel of the bus hit a mine.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

OSCE SMM Reports ‘Small Arm’s Shot’ Re: Alleged Firing on Gen. Lentsov’s Convoy Yesterday

An incident on the road to Shirokino (Shyrokine) yesterday in which a joint mission of ceasefire monitors allegedly came under fire has been interpreted differently by Russian state TV and pro-Russian separatist versus pro-Kiev bloggers — with the much-anticipated OSCE SMM report just released late today not completely helping to resolve the dispute.

According to a LifeNews video, a convoy carrying Russian Maj. General Aleksandr Lentsov, assigned to the
Joint Coordination and Control Center  (JCCC) to monitor the ceasefire agreed at
the Minsk talks, appears to come under fire.  (Lentsov is the Russian general who has come under great scrutiny, notably when for a time it was believed he appeared in disguise with the forces of the self-declared “Donetsk People’s Republic; this was later proven untrue.)

The JCCC was created by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry and is itself observed by the OSCE monitors; some have pointed out that obvious conflict of interest involved in having a general from Russia — which is instigator and party to the conflict and supplier of the militants — to monitor the ceasefire.

LifeNews, a pro-Kremlin TV station close to Russian intelligence and law-enforcement, released a clip yesterday purporting to show the incident near Shirokino and it was also covered by TASS.

In the video at 0:17 a brief shot can be heard, possibly with a silencer.

video has been translated by Kazzura, which has consistently supported
the pro-separatist fighters and has often published on the pro-Russian Vineyard of
the Saker blog.

We listened to the translation, and in
one part, at 1:24 the translator includes in the sub-titles the phrase:  “”I can’t make it out, sound quality is
too low”. 

We agree the sound quality at that point on the videotape, which involves speech not of speakers
on the scene, but of a man calling in on the radio, is not very
distinct. It sounds as if the man on the radio is saying “Just now the
assault group did not let through [a patronymic?]” but this is not definitive.

that indistinct phrase, the man on the radio says “because a sniper is striking at 1,300
meters” — which is how Kazzura also translated this line.  Because the speaker says “at 1,300 meters” rather than “from 1,300 away,” this line might also be understood as “at the 1,300-meter mark.”

point here is not that Maj. Gen. Lentsov and his party, which includes a
man speaking in with a Baltic accent in Russian (who could be an observer from the Baltic states
or Poland), are saying they themselves heard a sniper shot. They are
reporting what another military man said over the radio.

 OSCE’s spokesman for the SMM had this to say yesterday:

A journalist covering fighting in the area reported as follows:

That suggested that the incident may have been staged for Russian state media.

A number of commenters on Twitter said they believed the incident was faked, especially as the SMM spokesman himself had said the convoy wasn’t shot at.

One blogger said he believed there was firing at the convoy:

The geolocation indicated in this tweet, based on the visibility of a silo through the trees, would place the alleged firing incident just at the eastern approach to Shirokino here.

The incident is reminiscent of the firing near a BBC crew at
the Donetsk Airport while they were interiewing the “Donetsk People’s
Republic” defense minister — artillery fire seemed to come just in time
to establish the DNR’s claim that the Ukrainians were breaking the
ceasefire, although the defense minister concedes there was both
outgoing and incoming fire.

The SMM report released today then says the following, with emphasis added:

In order to monitor a planned meeting between the Russian
Federation Major-General, Representative of the Armed Forces of the
Russian Federation to the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination
(JCCC) and the Ukrainian Major-General, Head of the Ukrainian side to
the JCCC, the SMM went separately to Shyrokyne (“DPR”-controlled, 20km
east of Mariupol, 102km south of Donetsk). At 16.30hrs the SMM
observed one small arm’s shot fired closely missing one of the JCCC
vehicles. The SMM could not ascertain the direction or origin of the
. Furthermore, the SMM heard heavy machine gun fire from the
vicinity of Shyrokyne. Subsequently the entire convoy did not proceed
further to Shyrokyne.

In the area of Shyrokyne at
07:15hrs, the SMM heard and saw two tank shell impacts (125mm)
originating from the eastern outskirts of the village and targeting a
Ukrainian Armed Forces positions, located 500m from the SMM’s location.
These were followed by 18 outgoing mortars shells (82mm) being fired
from two Ukrainian Armed Forces positions, one located 400m north-west
and the other 400m south-east of the SMM’s position. The SMM could see
the equipment and observe the smoke coming out of the barrels. At
10:23hrs, the SMM heard sounds consistent with two incoming tank shells
(125mm) in the vicinity of a position of the Ukrainian Armed Forces
located 500m east of SMM’s location. The SMM saw the impacts from a
distance but could not ascertain the distance or direction from where
the shells were fired.

At a position between Sopyne
(government-controlled, 15km east of Mariupol, 4km north-west of
Shyrokyne) and Lebedynske (government-controlled, 8km east of Mariupol,
7,5km north-west of Shyrokyne) between 12:47 and 14:45hrs the SMM heard
small-arms and machine-gun fire in the vicinity of government-controlled
Berdianske (18km east of Mariupol, 3km west of Shyrokyne). Between
15:45 and 15:50hrs, the SMM observed three incoming and outgoing 82mm
shells most likely originating two kilometres north of SMM’s location
and impacting four kilometres east of SMM’s position.

SMM unarmed/unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) monitored both sides of the
contact line east of Mariupol. In “DPR”-controlled Shyrokyne the UAV
observed eight main battle tanks (MBT). In Bezimenne (“DPR”-controlled,
18km east of Mariupol) the UAV saw 10 MBTs and in Michurine
(“DPR-controlled, 50km north of Shyrokyne) seven MBTs. In
government-controlled Starohnativka (48km south of Donetsk) the UAV
observed one MBT and one anti-tank gun (100mm). Furthermore, in Sopyne
the UAV observed 3 MBTs.

So it seems as if for the OSCE SMM, the story went from “no fire” even as journalists were blocked from the area so they couldn’t see what was happening and Russian state TV cameras were brought in to cover “an outrage” — to “one small arm’s
shot fired closely missing one of the JCCC

It’s not clear what process led to this difference — disagreement
within the delegation? further eyewitness reports? — but nothing about
any “snipers” is mentioned in SMM’s report.

Meanwhile, reports continued today of the shelling of Shirokino, with Ukrainian spokesmen complaining about violations of the ceasefire.

 — Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

US Delivers Humvees To Ukraine

The first batch of ten HMMWV all-terrain armoured cars (commonly referred to as Humvees) has arrived on a US military flight in Boryspil, Ukraine.

The United States will supply another 20 Humvees as part of a total of 230 armoured cars to be delivered to Ukraine.

Leviy Bereg reports that President Poroshenko has said that all these vehicles will be delivered within the next 45 days.

The first Humvees will be received by the 95th independent air-mobile brigade and the SBU.

Yuriy Biryukov, an adviser to the president, posted photos of the delivery on his Facebook page:



— Pierre Vaux

Reports Of Fighting Near Mariupol

Novosti Donbassa reported this morning that Oleg Sushinsky, a press officer for the Ukrainian military headquarters in Mariupol claimed that Russian-backed fighters had repeatedly violated the ceasefire in the area during the night.

Sushinsky told Novosti Donbassa that there had been 11 violations of the ceasefire near Mariupol over the previous day.

The Interpreter translates:

In particular, according to him, the village of Shirokino was shelled from midnight until 4 am. The separatists used mortars with 82 and 120 mm calibres. 

“The Minsk agreements have been violated due to the use of 120 mm calibre weapons, which, according to the agreements, must be withdrawn from the demarcation line,” noted Sushinsky in his comments.

He also said that during yesterday’s fighting, which lasted almost the entire day, one serviceman in the Ukrainian armed forces had been wounded; he received medical treatment.

Sushinsky also said that enemy reconnaissance efforts were continuing, with a drone spotted above the village of Pionerskoye.

Later today, Mariupol news site reported that they had received reports from residents of an unidentified flying object over the city. Witnesses described it as resembling a balloon or blimp.

Civil defence chief Sergei Litvinenko said the authorities had received no such reports themselves and insisted that, were such reports true, the military would have tracked and reported it.

0629 published a photo of the allegedly sighted object:


Meanwhile, 0629 was told by the press office of the Donbass volunteer battalion that they, along with fighters from Praviy (Right) Sector, had conducted a sweep around Shirokino, engaging and killing a large number of Russian fighters.

According to the Donbass press office, the Ukrainian troops killed 29 Russian spetsnaz soldiers who made up two diversionary groups.

The Ukrainian volunteer battalion claimed that they had performed the operation without any losses. 

— Pierre Vaux

Railway Blast In Dnipropetrovsk Region Reported

Interfax-Ukraine reports that there has been a blast on a railway line in the Dnipropetrovsk region today.

A “source in law enforcement” told Interfax-Ukraine that the explosion went off on a section of track between Demurino and Prosyanaya, in the east of the region.

A train carrying coal from Donetsk to Dnipropetrovsk was passing over the section of track as the blast went off.

No wagons were derailed and there were, the source said, no casualties. 


— Pierre Vaux

Lugansk Administration Reports Multiple Attacks By Russian-Backed Fighters

Novosti Donbassa reports that the press office of the Lugansk Regional State Administration (OGA) has announced that Russian-backed fighters carried out multiple attacks in the north of the region of the last 24 hours.

The Interpreter translates:

“In Stanitsa Luganskaya, militants periodically opened fire with assault rifles and machine guns on Ukrainian soldiers’ positions, located in the Staraya and Novaya Kondrashovka neighbourhoods.

On the outskirts of Krymskoye yesterday evening and into the night, there were repeated skirmishes between our security forces and the so-called ‘Cossacks’ dug-in in Sokolniki.

The outskirts of Troitskoye (in the Popasnaya district), where Ukrainian military defensive positions are located, were shelled with mortars.  

In addition, blasts from mortar and artillery shells were heard on the Bakhmutka highway near to the 29th checkpoint, and the echo from the artillery barrage could be heard as far away as Popasnaya. 

In all the incidents, there were no civilian casualties or destroyed infrastructure. There are no reports of injuured or dead Ukrainian soldiers.” 


— Pierre Vaux

4 Ukrainian Soldiers Wounded In Last 24 Hours
Avakov Says Arrested Officials Used British Tax Haven To Embezzle State Funds

Ukrainska Pravda reports
that the interior minister, Arsen Avakov, has commented further on the arrest of Sergei Bochkovskiy and Vasiliy Stoitskiy, the head and first deputy of the State Service for Emergency Situations (GosChs) today.

As an Interior Ministry investigator told journalists, the leadership of the GosChS are suspected of embezzling funds.

The officials allegedly purchased fuel from two firms without accepting tenders from other suppliers. 15% of the money for the fuel purchases was then, the investigator said, passed on to accounts outside Ukraine, and from those accounts, back to the GosChS managers.

Avakov now goes into further detail on the alleged use of tax havens and offshore accounts.

The Interpreter translates:

According to him, the purchase of fuel products for the GosChS was conducted through a private company, which in turn, transferred funds to the island of Jersey, and from there, to the accounts of the arrested officials. There the money was transferred to Bochkovskiy and Stoitskiy’s personal deposit accounts at the Bank of Cyprus.

— Pierre Vaux

Heads Of State Emergencies Service Arrested At Cabinet Meeting

Sergei Bochkovskiy, chairman of the State Service for Emergency Situations (GosChS), and Vasiliy Stoitskiy, his first deputy, have been placed under arrest at a cabinet meeting in Kiev today.

The arrest was conducted right in front of live-broadcast television cameras: reports that the Interior Ministry (MVD) investigator, who led the arrest, told journalists that the GosChS leadership had purchased fuel from the Alliance and Lukoil companies without allowing tenders from other suppliers.

The Interpreter translates:

At a later stage, the GosChS transferred money to these companies for the fuel, after which 15% of those funds were transferred into the accounts of non-residents and other foreign companies. These, in turn, transferred funds to the GosChS managers’ own accounts, said the MVD investigator.

— Pierre Vaux

Poroshenko Dismisses Kolomoiskiy

As we reported late last night, President Petro Poroshenko has dismissed Ihor Kolomoiskiy, the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region.

Ukrainska Pravda reports that, on accepting and signing Kolomoiskiy’s letter of resignation, the president said (translated by The Interpreter):

“We have to ensure peace, harmony, stability and calm,” said Poroshenko, sitting at the table with the head of the Dnipropetrovsk region.

“We have done much together to ensure Ukraine remained defended. The conclusion has been reached that the integrity of Ukraine and unity…” said President Poroshenko, without finishing his sentence.

“Thank you,” said the president, signing the document.

Kolomoiskiy replied: “And thank you for your partnership.”

“I am sure that you remain a patriot of Ukraine, a patriot of Dnipropetrovsk,” added Poroshenko.

“The Dnipropetrovsk region must remain a bastion of Ukraine in the east, to defend the citizens’ peace and tranquility.”

Here is a YouTube copy of the Radio Svoboda (RFE/RL) video of the meeting:

— Pierre Vaux