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?
This second video is posted by an account used by the Ukrainian ATO – the Anti-Terrorism Operation.
Earlier, Mikael Skillt, a Swedish sniper and member of the Azov regiment who are defending Shirokino, reported that a major offensive by Russian forces was under way.
However, it’s still not clear at this hour exactly who has launched an offensive in the area of Shirokino, nor is the extent of the fighting clear. What is clear, however, is that fighting is intensifying, and heavy weaponry is in place in the area. The stage has been set for a major battle in this town, a battle which could spark even more widespread fighting.
The reports come only a day after Ukrainian fighters reported that a six-hour battle had taken place in the village.
— James Miller
A reverse image search shows that this video was originally posted to the Russian social network Vkontakte only hours ago, an indication that it might be new. The weather also matches today’s weather reports.
The video shows a convoy containing several armored vehicles, tanks, and supply vehicles. We have confirmed that the video was taken in Makeyevka (Makiivka). Using Yandex Maps, we can determine that the video was taken roughly here. Yandex is not detailed enough to match the angles exactly, and there is significantly more vegetation in the Yandex view, but as we see from the comparisons of the pictures below, the location is definitely Makeyevka:
The conclusion, then, is that these vehicles are moving westward down a main road which leads to Donetsk — and the front lines. Also, this area is far inside the 50km demarcation line — a clear violation of the Minsk Agreements.
— James Miller, Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Ukrainska Pravda reports that a Ukrainian fighter has died in hospital today after being wounded in battle on Sunday in Peski, north-west of Donetsk.
Dmytro Afanasyev, who was born in Kramatorsk and went by the call-sign Limon, was a member of the nationalist OUN volunteer battalion.
— Pierre Vaux
Volodymyr Prytula, editor-in-chief of RFE/RL’s Crimean service, announced on his Facebook page this morning that his colleague Hennadiy Mikhailychenko was killed in a “tragic accident” near Kiev yesterday.
The circumstances of Mikhailychenko’s death have not yet been reported.
Mikhailychenko was a journalist and editor at Krym.Realii, the RFE/RL Crimean service website, as well as a scholar of philology.
He is survived by his wife and three children.
— Pierre Vaux
The OSCE’s latest report, dated last night, May 3, at 19:30 Kiev time, foreshadows many of the events we are reporting today — significant escalation of fighting near both Donetsk and Shirokino (Shyrokyne). The report is excerpted below. Here is their summary:
The SMM continued to observe ceasefire violations in and around Donetsk airport, and near Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol). While at the observation post of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) at the Donetsk railway station (“Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled, 8km north-west of Donetsk), the SMM heard over the reporting period a total of 698 explosions reaching a peak on 2 May between 12:45 and 17:00hrs (271 explosions). This represents a small increase in comparison with the number of violations reported on 1 May. The weapons used included heavy mortars and artillery, heavy machineguns, small arms and main battle tanks (MBT). On 2 May, at the JCCC Observation Post (OP), at Donetsk railway station, the SMM was informed that local ceasefires around Donetsk airport were arranged four times during the afternoon by the JCCC, without success. Another attempt by the JCCC OP at Donetsk railway station to reach a ceasefire at Donetsk airport took place on 3 May but also failed. In Luhansk region, the SMM heard on 3 May five outgoing artillery shots in the area of government-controlled Komyshuvakha (62km west of Luhansk).
Perhaps as a sign of the scale of the escalation, the OSCE Special Monitoring Team came under fire three times on May 2 alone:
On 2 May the SMM were involved in three security incidents. While in government-controlled Pisky (13km north-west of Donetsk), four 82mm mortar shells hit a sandy embankment in close proximity to the SMM. The SMM left the site unharmed as soon as the situation allowed it. Shortly afterwards, while at the JCCC base in government-controlled Avdiivka (14km north-west of Donetsk), the same SMM team heard 152mm artillery shelling closing in. The SMM took cover in a nearby underground shelter and was only able to depart from the location following the implementation of a five-minute local ceasefire. The SMM patrol did not sustain casualties. While travelling eastward to Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol), a SMM vehicle was hit by a bullet from a small arms burst originating from the north-west of the SMM’s position. (See SMM Spot Report, 3 May 2015, Four incidents involving the SMM within last 36 hours, http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/154786)
The SMM continues to see the movement of heavy weaponry, often within the demarcation line:
On 2 May, the SMM observed that military exercises are no longer taking place in the vicinity of “LPR”-controlled Uspenka (27km south-west of Luhansk). Apart from two military trucks and one commando tent remaining in the field, the SMM did not observe any military vehicles. (See SMM daily report 28 April 2015, http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/154341).
On 2 and 3 May, the SMM conducted two patrols to check the area where heavy weapons are being prepared (repainted and repaired) for an “LPR” parade to be held on 9 May in Luhansk city. On both patrols, the SMM recorded no changes on the number and type of heavy weapons reported compared to previous reports (see SMM daily reports 27 April 2015).
On 2 and 3 May, the SMM also visited three heavy weapons holding areas on “DPR”-controlled territory at which the SMM observed that the weapons previously recorded remained in situ. On arrival at a fourth “DPR” heavy weapons holding area, there was neither equipment nor “DPR” members present. Two residents who live across the street from the holding area reported that the equipment was moved out around 20 April. The SMM revisited six heavy weapons holding areas on government-controlled territory and observed that in four of them some of the heavy weapons previously recorded were not present. The guards present at these areas informed the SMM that the missing heavy weapons were undergoing maintenance.
Despite claims that withdrawal of heavy weapons was complete, the SMM observed the following weapons in areas non-compliant with the withdrawal lines. On 2 and 3 May the SMM observed, in “DPR”-controlled territory, five Ural trucks towing four 120mm mortars, two Msta-b howitzers (152mm), three D30 howitzers (120mm), three main battle tanks (MBT) T-72 and two MBTs T-64. In government-controlled territory, four stationary MBTs T-64 and two parked 122mm self-propelled guns were seen by the SMM. The SMM Unmanned Aerial vehicle (UAV) team observed on 2 May two MBTs and three unspecified artillery pieces on “DPR”-controlled territory.
The SMM also continues to report that it’s movements are often inhibited by combatants:
– On 3 May, at 10:00hrs, the SMM was denied access to the Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk) bridge by Ukrainian armed forces personnel at the last checkpoint north of the bridge. Soldiers told the SMM that passage was denied due to the security situation in the area. The SMM returned to the area in the afternoon and was granted access to the bridge.
– On 2 May, at the “DPR” checkpoint at the entrance of Debaltseve (56km north-east of Donetsk, “DPR”-controlled), the SMM was ordered to wait for 20 minutes until a “DPR” escort arrived to accompany them. The “DPR”-checkpoint personnel explained the escort was required for the SMM’s own safety given the proximity to the contact line to the west, and sporadic but on-going fighting in the area. The checkpoint personnel said that, with an escort, the SMM was still free to patrol but that the area west of the town towards the contact line was off limits.
– At the “DPR” checkpoint at the entrance of Krasnyi Oktyabr (“DPR”-controlled, 57km south-south-east of Donetsk), the SMM had to wait for 15 minutes and was only allowed to proceed with a “DPR” escort. “DPR” members explained that this policy was for the SMM’s own safety, given the on-going fighting and insecurity in the area.
— James Miller
Skillt said that the assault was on a larger scale than the regular attacks seen over the last few weeks.
Meanwhile Radio Vesti tweeted that Russian-backed fighters had shelled Ukrainian positions near the village of Pavlopol, to the north of Shirokino, with 120 mm mortars.
There have been no announcements from regular military channels on either reported incidents so far.
There are also reports of a major fire in Mariupol itself, however local news site 0629.com.ua reports that the burning building housed a firm “dealing with polystyrene foam,” which seems a plausible source for such a fire in the absence of any reports of shelling in the city.
— Pierre Vaux
As we have been reporting, various leaders of the Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk have continuously expressed doubts about whether peace talks will net any results. Part of the reason — they don’t want to hold elections according to Ukrainian law (a key part of the Minsk agreement) and they do not want to withdraw their heavy equipment from the line of demarcation (another key part of the negotiated ceasefire).
Today, a key separatist leader has made more statements which throw doubt on the prospects of the peace process working. RFE/RL reports:
Head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic Alexander Zakharchenko has doubts about the positive outcome of the Minsk meeting of the contact group scheduled for May 6.
“We – I and [head of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic Igor] Plotnitsky – have sent several proposals, verbalized them to our Ukrainian colleagues. But I don’t think that the results of the meeting in Minsk will be positive,” he said to journalists.
But these comments are gentle in comparison to what Zakharchenko told RIA Novosti last week. He said that his fighters would have to push to Kharkiv in order to ensure the security of Donetsk, and fighting “will go on indefinitely until Ukraine either ceases to exist as a state or understands that fighting us is impossible and futile.” Read those comments here:
Novosti Donbassa reports that the Donetsk regional branch of the Interior Ministry has announced that a 43-year-old man was wounded yesterday in the village of Peski, just outside Donetsk.
According to the report, the man was wounded at around 17:00 after a mortar shell struck his home. He suffered multiple shrapnel wounds to his limbs and has been taken to a hospital in Selidovo.
— Pierre Vaux
The last 24 hours have seen the most intense shelling since the conclusion of the Minsk agreement in February, the Ukrainian military has claimed. Certainly, since Saturday night, there has been a dramatic escalation in the number of artillery bombardments in the Donetsk area. Both sides are trading blame and it has been reported that both Ukrainian and separatist-held areas have been shelled.
According to the Ukrainian military’s ATO press centre, there were 45 attacks by Russian-backed fighters between 18:00 and midnight yesterday, bringing the total number of attacks over the previous 24 hours to 95.
The press centre claimed that Russian-backed fighters had used 122 mm artillery five times, against positions near Avdeyevka, Vodyanoye, Opytnoye, Kamenka and Shirokino. 120 mm mortars were five times against Peski and three times near Avdeyevka.
The Ukrainian military also reported that positions near Avdeyevka had come under tank fire.
At around midnight, the report says, a Ukrainian defensive positions near the village of Novobakhmutkovka was shelled with 152 mm artillery.
At around the same time, Ukrainian forces engaged a reconnaissance group of 10 Russian-backed fighters in combat near the village of Novoselovka. According to the report, the Russian-backed fighters were repelled.
Leviy Bereg‘s Oleksandr Rudomanov reported last night, citing reports from soldiers on the front, that positions near Avdeyevka were being shelled at a rate of one 82 mm mortar round every 5 to 10 minutes. He also reported the use of 122 mm artillery.
Today Novosti Donbassa published photographs of the aftermath of last night’s shelling in the town, which lies just to the north of Donetsk.
Edurard Basurin, a defence spokesman for the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), claimed last night that two civilians had been killed and seven wounded as a result of Ukrainian fire.
This afternoon, Novosti Donbassa reported that Oleksandr Motuzianik, spokesman for the Presidential Administration on the ATO, reported in further detail on situation on the front line.
The Interpreter translates:
In the Donetsk area the highest number of attacks were recorded in the Donetsk Airport area. The militants are shelling ATO forces close to Avdeyevka, Opytnoye, Peski, Vodyanoye and the Putilovsky mine.
There were also ceasefire violations near Gorlovka and Granitnoye.
The intensity of the militants’ attacks in the Lugansk area has increased somewhat. Militants have also continued to use unmanned aerial vehicles for reconnaissance. 2 UAV flights have been detected in the Lugansk region.
In the Mariupol area the militants continue to shell the village of Shirokino. There have been 10 recorded attacks on Ukrainian troops there.
Yesterday evening, Alex Petrov, a soldier from the 37th independent motorised infantry battalion, reported on his Facebook page that a six-hour battle had taken place in the Shirokino
The Interpreter translates:
All the occupiers attacks were repelled. Ukrainian units from the Donbass, Azov and 37th motorised infantry battalions,the 79th airborne brigade and others inflicted substantial losses on the enemy.
The Donbass battalion have two wounded – lightly, thank God.
In addition to the two wounded in Shirokino, Motuzianik announced that two Ukrainian soldiers had been killed and three wounded after driving over a landmine near the village of Yekaterinovka in the Popasnaya district.
— Pierre Vaux
The shelling that hit Kievsky District in Donetsk is “as intense as it was before the February ceasefire,” citizens report, according to the city news page 062.ua.
The news site 062.ua has published photos of the damaged store and other buildings.
A citizen has made a video of the shell damage to the Zasyadko store, uploaded to YouTube yesterday May 3.
In the video, she says the shelling “came from the direction of Yasinovata (Yasynuvata), Avdeyevka (Avdiivka) and it is visible that it is from that direction.”
Yasinovata is to the northeast of this affected region and under control of Russian-backed militants, and Avdiivka is slightly to the northwest, controlled by Ukrainian forces.
The damage is to the roof and on the northwest face of the building facing Zasyadko Avenue as can be seen from the video, by orienting to the road on Yandex maps.
062.ua also reported damaged buildings on Partizanskaya Street. This is evidently School No. 58.
A citizen’s video was uploaded yesterday labeled “School No. 58 fell under shelling.” She says the roof is now gone. There are two buildings named “School No. 58” in Donetsk, but the one shelled yesterday was in Kievsky District near the Putilovsky Market here on Google Maps.
The roof on School No. 58 was blasted away by a shell in September 2014, and the repairs had just been finished, with a plan to re-open the school today, May 4, the minister of education of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” told reporters.
An citizen who uploaded a picture of the damaged school to LiveLeak said the shelling was done by “the Kiev junta.”
But Bild reporter Julian Roepcke (who was previously known as the blogger @Conflict_Reporter) mapped the damaged building and said it the shelling did not come from Ukrainian-held territory.
There was also shell damage on Chapayeva Street.
There was also damage on Listoprokatchekov Street, which was also hit in September 2014.
According to blogger Bogdan Miroshnikova, the Russian-backed militants shelled Donetsk with 122-mm mortars, self-propelled artillery, and Grad missiles from Yasinovata and Makeyevka, 062.ua reported.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick