Ukraine Live Day 430: Fighting Returns To Pre-Ceasefire Levels

April 23, 2015
Wounded Ukrainian soldier being evacuated in Peski yesterday. Photo: Yashka Tsyagnkov, via

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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Update On Clashes in Kiev – All Quiet Now

In our last update we reported on two stories — a series of protests led by Ukrainian miners (who have ties to one of Ukraine’s richest oligarchs) and clashes outside a construction site in Kiev.

While initial indications suggested that these stories were linked (we said we could not confirm those links) it appears that the stories may be separate.

Several news outlets, including Hromadske, suggest that the clashes were between activists and “titushki,” or street thugs, and concerned an illegal construction site.

Udar, or the  Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform party, is a political part associated with Vitali Klitschko, now mayor of Kiev.

We have not confirmed this news, but LiveUAMap is an organization based in Ukraine and is very reliable.

A police report says that”aggressively minded citizens” broke down the fence in the area, which was next to the Osokorki metro station, clashed with workers, and burned two utility trailers. Some threw stones at police, and two people have been arrested. Three policemen reportedly were looked at by doctors after the incident.

Journalist Oliver Carroll is now on the scene of the riots:

There were reports a policeman had been shot, but reports that the police have denied that report.

It seems that the situation is now calm. also reports on the other story — the miner protests. According to Unian, while the miners did protest near the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) all is now calm.

James Miller, Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Clashes in Kiev After Miners Tied To Oligarch Protest Against The Government
UPDATED: There is a story developing out of Kiev — we’re trying to piece together the pieces now but it appears that there have been clashes and fires have been lit.

Earlier Kyiv Post ran a story on a group of coal miners who have traveled to Kiev to demand more money and the resignation of the energy minister. According to Kyiv Post’s Olena Goncharova, the miners broke through police cordons and are refusing to leave the capital unless they get what they want.

But Kyiv Post also adds that there is likely a political connection to this story — many of the miners work for Rinat Akhmetov, one of the country’s richest oligarchs:

Some experts, however, believe the rally is not only economic in nature, but also has political coloring.

Political analyst Vitaly Bala, who heads the Situation Modeling Agency, believes such rally is yet another signal for the president to take a hard line against country’s oligarchs as they don’t want to lose their monopolies.

“Why they (the protesters) were rallying near the presidential administration while it’s the government who’s about to close the mines.” Bala says. “There was someone who coordinated them – and there is one person behind the back of many of those protesters – Rinat Akhmetov who doesn’t want the government to break oligarchs’ hold of economy. And the protesters need to address Akhmetov about their salaries.”

Akhmetov’s DTEK denied organizing protests.

“We can’t say that we have organized and brought our miners to Kyiv,” a DTEK spokeswoman said in a phone conversation with the Kyiv Post.

“There were not only miners from DTEK mines, but also people from Lviv-Volyn coal basin who took part in the protests and we don’t have our mines there,” the spokesperson added.

Akhmetov has been locked in a battle with the energy minister and the Ukrainian government over new regulations that are seen by many as attempts to curb the power of oligarchs and energy barons. As journalist Ollie Carroll hints, the claims that the rallies of the miners were spontaneous and not organized by Akhmetov are, perhaps, suspect:

UPDATE: We believe, though cannot yet confirm, that these events are related to the clashes tonight in Kiev. There are conflicting claims about this, however.

Hromadske TV writes that there was a demonstration near a construction
site in the city (some have suggested an illegal construction site), and protesters, called “titushki,” or street thugs, by
Hromadske, tore down the fences surrounding the site — we’re not sure, yet, about the significance of this location.

Fires have been
lit and smoke grenades thrown.

At least one person has reportedly been injured:

According to journalists David Patrikarakos (who helped with this story) and Oliver Carroll these are not large or widespread events, and it does not appear that these events are happening in the center of the city, but we will continue to watch this story to see if it develops further.

James Miller

Pentagon Calls Latest Kremlin Accusation About US Troops In Ukraine “Ridiculous”

Earlier we reported that amid escalating fighting, and heavy Russian armor movement on both sides of the border, Russia has accused the U.S. of sending its soldiers into eastern Ukraine to train the Ukrainian military. While the U.S. does have soldiers in Ukraine, they are training Ukrainian troops in western Ukraine, according to the U.S. government. As we reported, Alec Luhn has recently been to Mariupol and Artemivsk and saw no sign of U.S. troops.

RFE/RL now reports that the U.S. Pentagon spokesperson has called the allegations a “ridiculous attempt to shift the focus” from Russian military escalation in the area which is currently ongoing:

Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said on April 23: “Russia continues to supply lethal weapons, training, and command and control support for armed separatists in eastern Ukraine in blatant violation of Moscow’s Minsk commitments and Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

James Miller

Major Russian Military Movement Spotted On Both Sides of the Russia-Ukraine Border

As we have been reporting, the last 24 hours have seen more ceasefire violations than we have seen since major fighting ended after the battle of Debaltsevo in February. But there are more signs that things may be heating up, and rapidly, in Ukraine.

First, in diplomatic news, the Russian Defence Ministry has directly accused U.S. troops of training Ukrainian soldiers in eastern Ukraine, not just in western Ukraine. Reuters reports:

Igor Konashenkov was quoted as saying that U.S. troops were training Ukrainian forces not only in western Ukraine “as Ukrainian TV channels show, but directly in the combat zone in the area of Mariupol, Severodonetsk, Artyomovsk and Volnovakha”.

Journalists see no sign of U.S. trainers near the combat zone, however:

Just yesterday the U.S. warned that Russia was moving more air
defense equipment into Ukraine than has been seen on the Ukrainian side
of the border since the ‘Russian invasion’ in the fall. Again, Reuters reports:

“This is the highest amount of Russian air defense equipment in
eastern Ukraine since August,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf
said in a statement.

She said the increasingly complex nature of the training exercises “leaves no doubt that Russia is involved.”

training has also incorporated Russian UAV’s (unmanned aerial
vehicles), an unmistakable sign of Russian presence,” Harf added…

“After maintaining a relatively steady presence along the border,
Russia is sending additional units there,” she said, adding that the
increase marked the largest presence of Russian troops on the border
since October.

Is it a coincidence that one day after these warnings were given the ceasefire looks so shattered?

Also yesterday, large-scale troop movement was definitively geolocated inside Russia but near the Ukrainian border:

There was also a major violation of Ukraine’s airspace reported by the Ukrainian military:
Russia is also holding extensive shows of force in the form of training missions for the May 9th Victory Day celebrations marking the end of WWII, but could some of these training missions also be related to the Ukraine conflict?
Today, heavy fighting is reported in Shirokino and elsewhere:
Significant troop and armor movement has also been spotted. Petr Shelomovskiy is a photojournalist on the ground near Donetsk. Enakievo is northeast of Donetsk and southeast of Gorlivka… very close to the demarcation zone if not beyond it.
There are a series of videos and pictures, posted in the last 24-48 hours, which claim to show significant movement of Russian armor near the border. These pictures were reportedly taken somewhere near Kamensk-Shakhtinsky. We believe, based on the topography, the proximity of the railroad to the road, and both the small posts by the railway and the light poles, that these were taken somewhere along a highway which runs parallel to the Ukraine border, perhaps only about 20 kilometers from the Izvarino border crossing often used by Russian armor, but we have not definitively geolocated the pictures yet:
There are many videos which reportedly show armor moving here. This one is dated April 19:

Reportedly from April 20:

Reportedly taken yesterday, April 22, definitively geolocated by The Interpreter:

We have not geolocated this picture either, but it was reportedly taken near the same location, and the tweet was retweeted by the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt:

The point is that at the exact same time that violence is escalating, so is rhetoric, the U.S. is once again sounding the alarm about increased Russian troop movement, and citizens in both Ukraine and Russia are posting additional videos which claims to show that movement.

All indications, therefore, suggest that things are escalating rapidly in Ukraine.

James Miller, Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Ukrainians Claim Russian-Backed Fighters Have Attacked 62 Times Over 24-Hour Period

The Ukrainian military’s ATO press center claims today that Russian-backed forces committed 30 violations of the ceasefire between 18:00 and midnight yesterday.

Yesterday evening the Ukrainians claimed that there had been 32 attacks between 00:00 and 18:00 that day, bringing the total number of reported attacks over the 24-hour period to 62, the highest seen since the ceasefire nominally came into effect after the fall of Debaltsevo.

According to today’s statement, Russian-backed forces fired on Ukrainian positions in the Shirokino area seven times, using tanks, mortars, 122 mm self-propelled artillery, anti-aircraft guns, automatic grenade launchers and small arms.

The Interpreter translates from the Novosti Donbassa report:

“In addition, ATO forces’ positions were subjected to fire from mortars, automatic grenade launchers, machine guns and small arms near the settlements of Opytnoye, Peski, Mayorsk, Leninskoye, Avdeyevka, Kirovo and Marinka. Overall, the enemy opened fire on our position in these areas 19 times. 

Ukrainian troops conducted fire with 82 mm mortars and small arms,” reports the press centre.

Leviy Bereg reported last night that Ukrainian soldiers had been wounded as a result of mortar attacks in Peski.

Citing a volunteer assisting Ukrainian troops on the front line, Olga Golubeva, Leviy Bereg reported that the attacks were conducted with 120 mm mortars.

In one attack, a soldier from the 7th company of the 93rd brigade sustained shrapnel wounds on his legs and face. Ten minutes later, Golubeva said, another two soldiers were wounded in a neighbouring position. 

According to a report, Hromadske TV cited troops from the 93rd brigade as saying that four troops had been wounded by shelling. One of the wounded is being operated on.

The Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council (NSDC) reported today that a total of seven troops had been wounded over the last 24 hours:

The press office of the governor of the Lugansk region, Hennadiy Moskal, claimed that Russian-backed fighters had shelled the Luganskaya power station in Schastye.

Ukrainska Pravda reports that, according to Moskal’s office, militants in Vesyolaya Gora fired on the power station with automatic grenade launchers.

The plant remains in operation and there were no reported casualties.

The plant was routinely shelled last year but this is the first time since the ceasefire that strategic infrastructure, rather than military positions, has been targeted.

The governor’s office also reported that skirmishes broke out last night near Stanitsa Luganskaya, in the villages of Nizhneye Tyoploye and Artyoma, and also on the outskirts of the Katerinovka and Popasnaya districts.

Dmytro Tymchuk of Information Resistance claimed on his Facebook page that there had been “fire contact” between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed fighters near the Bakhmutka highway between Novotoshkovka and Krymskoye. He also reported a skirmish near Mironovsky, north of Debaltsevo.

The military analyst reported significant movements of enemy armor in various areas of the front line.

— Pierre Vaux