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?
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has addressed the National Security and Defense Council and has warned that a large-scale enemy offensive could be in the making, according to a statement published on the President’s website:
Opening the session, the President has emphasized that the threat of large-scale hostilities by the Russian-terrorist groups had been increased requiring additional measures to ensure the defense of the state. “From operative regrouping of troops, specification of tasks on the fifth wave of mobilization, improvement of antiairborne and countersabotage defense of Mariupol, Berdyansk and the entire Azov coast to the National Security Strategy,” the President has emphasized.
The Head of State has noted that the draft Strategy should provide for the achievement of Ukraine’s defense and security sector’s compatibility with respective structures of NATO member-states. The President has reminded that Russia had significantly changed the strategy at the session of its Security Council trying to use the experience of aggression and war.
“Our Strategy must ensure the opportunity of NATO membership in the future. We must finally return this important component to the given document,” the Head of State has emphasized. According to him, it is made to receive effective guarantees of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. “Cooperation with NATO and commitment to the common security and defense policy of the EU the main idea of this document,” Petro Poroshenko said.
It is also necessary to enhance defense capacity and create modern Armed Forces, as stated by the President. Due to the efforts of servicemen and volunteers, Ukraine has a professional and disciplined army, which stops the aggression of the enemy. According to the President, total enemy force in Donbas, including illegal armed groups, exceeds 40,000 people. Russian military groups near the state border exceed 50,000 servicemen. It is almost a half times more than in July 2014.
“Rosvoyentorg” continues regular shipment of armament, military equipment, ammunition and fuel for militants. A rifle hanging on the wall will go off sooner or later. This applies not only to the conventional theater, but also to the theater of war,” the President said.
The Head of State has emphasized that Ukraine strictly fulfilled the Minsk agreements. “There is a convincing evidence that Ukraine strictly complies with the Minsk agreements and militants constantly violate them,” Petro Poroshenko noted. Militants do not allow international observers to verify their withdrawal of heavy weaponry. “Militants regularly shoot Ukrainian positions, engage in reconnaissance and subversive activity and provoke armed confrontations in order to disrupt peaceful settlement of the conflict,” the President said.
— James Miller
Earlier we reported that, according to a new list published by Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers, 28 towns or villages have fallen into the hands of Russian-backed forces since February 18. We have now found, translated, and mapped the list of towns which Ukraine says are no longer in its control, and the result is the most detailed map of the front lines we’ve seen to date (download the data sheet here).
Below the towns which Ukraine said it had lost before November 7, 2014, are highlighted in orange:
Marked in red are the towns which Ukraine now says are in separatist hands, as of May 5.
There are several things which can be learned from this data. As you can see the November data was extremely incomplete, so the expansion of the list by more than 80 towns is not all due to new separatist advances, but more complete data. And as we point out in the data sheet, there are some confusing inclusions/exclusions from both November’s data and May’s. Furthermore, the extremely limited data for the Lugansk region shows no change between November and May despite the loss of several settlements such as Zholobok and Sokolniki.
Still, the Ukrainian government’s list places the Russian-backed separatists much farther west of Donetsk than previously thought. The map also makes clear that the Russian-backed forces want to expand the area of control to secure Donetsk and to further pressure Mariupol, which matches our own map. Near Mariupol, despite the focus on Shirokino (marked) the area north of there is also clearly a priority for Russian-backed forces.
— James Miller, Pierre Vaux
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė has come out swinging at Russia, telling news agencies that the Minsk peace agreement is over.
“The ceasefire no longer exists,” Grybauskaitė said in an interview to Reuters news agency.
“The situation is changing of course every day, but we are relying on NATO information, and NATO information is such that, really, the Minsk agreement is over,” she said in an interview in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.
Lithuania is not pulling any punches, either. The Twitter account for the Strategic Communication Group of the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. sent this tweet earlier today, effectively arguing that despite Russia’s claims that there are Nazis in Europe, Russia is the real hotbed of Nazism — both now and historically:
The tweet was retweeted by Lithuania’s mission to NATO.
Lithuania is also holding war games to plan its defense against “little green men,” Russian provocateurs masquerading as local civilians, a tactic employed in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Daily Mail reports:
Lithuania launched a military exercise on Wednesday to simulate an attack on its new gas terminal, a move its strongly anti-Moscow president said was intended to show the Kremlin that the tiny country would defend itself.
The scenario is modelled on last year’s capture of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula by Russian soldiers in unmarked uniforms and civilian clothes, who came to be known as the “little green men” when Moscow initially denied their identity.
“We will not allow ourselves to be taken easily,” President Dalia Grybauskaite told Reuters. “We try to learn from the Ukrainian and Crimean situation … We’re not fearing anybody.”
Some 3,000 troops will be involved in this week’s “Lightning Strike” exercise, simulating a response to armed groups seizing local government buildings, weapons stockpiles and airports to form a separatist government, as happened in Crimea and other parts of Ukraine.
“The exercise will involve dealing with what can be generally called the ‘little green men’,” Donatas Suchockis, spokesman for Lithuanian Army’s Joint Staff, told Reuters.
Lithuania is also currently frustrated at Russia for using warships to prevent the laying of underwater communication cables. See our coverage of that incident here:
How significant is the fighting in Ukraine? The Ukrainian government has released a set of figures today that are staggering. The Kyiv Post reports:
Kyiv has completely or partially lost control of 28 towns and villages since Feb. 18, three days after the latest cease-fire went into force, according to a Cabinet of Ministers resolution published on May 5 that updated the list. It lost control over 15 towns in Artemivsk and three in Yasuvatsky districts.
Ten additional towns were listed as on the front line and are only partially controlled. Hotspots Shyrokyne, 20 kilometers east of Mariupol, and Avdiivka where Ukraine’s largest coke producer is, are constantly shelled along the 450-kilometer (280-mile) front line.
The article also cites reports from Ukrainian military analyst Dmytro Tymchuk which match what we’ve been seeing — significant increases in armored vehicles and heavy weaponry belonging to Russian-backed forces deployed near the front lines. As we noted yesterday, some of this equipment is being deployed under the guise of the May 9 Victory Day celebrations marking the end of World War II, but much of the equipment is actively engaged in battle, and after May 9th’s parades are over, the Russian-backed separatists will be poised to strike.
Nikolai Polozov, a lawyer for Nadezhda Savchenko, has reported that an ambulance has been called to the Basmanny court in Moscow where his client has two hearings today and has been taken ill.
Translation: An ambulance is being called to the Basmanny court for Nadezhda Savchenko.
A short while earlier, at her first hearing today, the court refused to recognise Savchenko’s immunity from prosecution as a member of the Parliamentary Association of the Council of Europe (PACE). During her captivity Savchenko was elected to the Verkhovna Rada on the Batkivshchyna party list and resigned from the military.
Alex Ryabchyn, another MP from the Batkivshchyna party, tweeted a video of Savchenko being led into court today:
At her second hearing today, the court will decide whether to extend her detention in custody following yesterday’s announcement by the Investigative Committee that their investigation into the case is being extended until November 13.
Nadezhda Savchenko is a Ukrainian military officer and MP who was captured by separatist fighters in the Lugansk region and illegally transported to Russia, where she is on trial for the alleged murder of two Russian journalists.
— Pierre Vaux
Interfax-Belarus reports that the meeting trilateral Contact Group has begun in Minsk.
Recent statements from Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), have indicated that the separatist leadership has little hope or even interest in the Minsk peace negotiations:
However Interfax-Belarus reports that representatives from both the DNR and their fellow separatists in the Lugansk region are present today.
— Pierre Vaux
A conversation on Twitter with journalist Kristina Jovanovski has highlighted problems in reporting on casualties in the conflict from multiple sources.
Earlier, we reported that Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military’s Anti-Terrorism Operation (ATO), announced today that five Ukrainian soldiers had been killed and 12 wounded over the last 24 hours.
We attempted to break down the numbers by detailing reported incidents, three of which occurred yesterday:
An attack on troops of the 30th Mechanised Brigade near Artyomovsk at around 4:35 am that left one dead and six wounded.
The death of another soldier from the same brigade after losing his legs in a blast, reported to be from a landmine.
An ambush on an armoured personnel carrier “outside Gorlovka,” killing two, wounding four.
This brings the total number of casualties yesterday to four dead, ten wounded.
Lysenko also mentioned casualties resulting from an armoured personnel carrier striking a landmine near Avdeyevka.
According to Pyatigorets, the vehicle was a BTR used by the 95th Brigade.
Lysenko’s announcement was first reported at around noon, Kiev time. Therefore the first casualties near Artyomovsk may not have been included in the total.
Excluding this incident we reach a total of 6 killed. The time of the landmine blast near Artyomovsk was not given so it could have occurred before noon, balancing Lysenko’s total of five.
However confusion arises further as AFP have reported that Lysenko specified that the Avdeyevka landmine blast killed four and only one died in the ambush.
UNIAN’s report further confuses by merging descriptions of the two incidents in a run-off sentence.
In this report, Lysenko is quoted as locating the ambush near Svetlodarsk. This is likely the same incident reported “outside Gorlovka.”
Furthermore, there is no detail in any of Lysenko’s reported statements today on the incidents that led to the seven wounded who are left unexplained.
As readers can see, reporting on these figures is a complicated business, especially when attempting to balance official statistics with individual incident reports.
— Pierre Vaux
Yesterday we reported that two soldiers from the 30th Mechanised Brigade had been killed and six wounded near Artyomovsk after a transport was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades and one soldier stepped on a landmine.
Leviy Bereg‘s Oleksandr Rudomanov reported this morning that two soldiers were killed and four wounded after their armoured personnel carrier was ambushed outside separatist-held Gorlovka.
Novosti Donbassa reports that Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the ATO, specified at a briefing today that this attack had occurred near Svetlodarsk, north-east of Gorlovka.
Lysenko said that the majority of the other casualties were the result of an armoured personnel carrier striking a landmine near Avdeyevka, north of Donetsk.
The ATO press centre claims that Russian-backed forces committed 42 violations of the ceasefire between 18:00 and midnight yesterday. Over this period, the report says, Russian-backed forces have intensified their use of heavy artillery.
Combined with yesterday’s report, this brings the total number of claimed attacks over the last 24 hours to 60, representing an escalation in violence since the previous period.
In the Donetsk region Ukrainian positions near Avdeyevka and Shirokino were attacked with 152 mm artillery. Positions in Shirokino also came under 122 mm artillery fire. These same weapons were, the military claims, used against defensive positions near Opytnoye and Vodyanoye, both north of Donetsk Airport.
According to the report, 120 mm mortars were used against positions near Opytnoye, Svernoye, Granitnoye, Shirokino and Peski, while troops near Kirovo were attacked with tanks, mortars and small arms.
In the Lugansk region there was an intensification in attacks near Stanitsa Luganskaya, with the use of anti-aircraft guns, automatic grenade launchers and small arms reported.
Furthermore, the ATO press centre claimed that Russian-backed forces had directly shelled settlements.
From 22:30 to 22:50, mortar shells struck the eastern outskirts of the village of Chermalyk, north-east of Mariupol, while from 23:00 to 23:30 Russian-backed fighters reportedly fired 10 82 mm mortar shells at the village of Leninskoye, north of Gorlovka.
— Pierre Vaux