Ukraine Live Day 449: Three Ukrainian Soldiers Killed, One Wounded Over Last 24 Hours

May 12, 2015
Ilya Yashin presenting a Boris Nemtsov's report on Russian involvement in the Ukrainian conflict today. Screenshot from live stream on

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?

Kremlin Interpreter Omits The Word “Criminal” From Transcript of Merkel’s Remarks on Crimea Annexation

As we reported, at a joint press conference between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, Merkel did not have kind things to say about Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Specifically, she called Russia’s annexation of Crimea “criminal.”

Or at least that’s what those watching the press conference or those reading the German transcript of Merkel’s remarks heard. However, the Russian translator, and the Kremlin’s  website, seem to have omitted the word “criminal” entirely. RFE/RL reports:

Standing next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a May 10 press conference in Moscow, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made clear her views of the Kremlin’s seizure of Crimea.

“We achieved cooperation between NATO and Russia,” Merkel said. “Due to the criminal and illegal, under international law, annexation of Crimea and the military conflicts in eastern Ukraine, this cooperation has suffered a serious setback.”

The word “criminal,” however, was excised in real-time by the Russian-language interpreter at the press conference. Those listening exclusively to the interpreter were given the impression that Merkel considers the takeover of Crimea only a “violation of international law.”

It is unclear whether the interpreter made a conscious call to soft-pedal Merkel’s rebuke, or simply missed the word.

RFE/RL notes, however, that whether or not the word was deliberately withheld as the interpreter translated the comments live, the word was also absent in the Kremlin’s official transcription of the press conference, published on the Kremlin’s website.  

The Kremlin may be more than willing to promote the idea that the annexation of Crimea is a violation of international law since it is a key part of the Kremlin’s own narrative — that Russia is standing against the international community which they have branded as corrupt and anti-Russian. Criminal, however, is a word that the Russian government might be more interested in avoiding.

James Miller

Separatists Make Proposals For Elections, Effectively Barring Pro-Ukrainian Parties

The pro-separatist Donetsk News Agency (DAN) reports that the representatives for the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DNR and LNR) to the tripartite Contact Group, Denis Pushilin and Vladislav Deynevo, have presented their proposals for the holding of local elections in separatist-controlled territory.

The local elections are a key component of the Minsk agreement and are mandated under the so-called Special Status law on self-governance passed by the Verkhovna Rada.

The separatist representatives today laid out their conditions for such elections, and they appear to exclude any pro-Ukrainian parties from participating.

The Interpreter translates:

“Ukrainian parties, whose representatives participated in the administration of the ATO regime, the economic blockade, in stirring up militaristic propaganda and social and ethnic hatred, will not be allowed in the elections,” emphasises the statement by Pushilin and Deynevo. The elections must be observed by international organisations, including the ODIHR and the ASCE.

Readers should note that the ASCE must not be confused with the OSCE.

The ASCE – the Association for Security and Cooperation in Europe – was first reported on in November last year when journalists were invited to a press conference in Donetsk.

The apparently intentionally misleadingly named body is a sham monitoring body formed by members of Europe’s extreme-right and left. Members include Jean-Luc Schaffhauser, a member of France’s Rassemblement Blue Marine who was in Donetsk yesterday, Austrian Ewald Stadler, Marton Gyongyosi of Jobbik and Frank Creyelman of Vlaams Belang.

One question raised by today’s statement is whether the Opposition Bloc, the Ukrainian political party formed out of the remnants of Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, will be allowed to take part.

Pushilin also said that amendments made to the Special Status Law on March 17 this year would have to be removed for the peace process to progress. 

According to the amendment, elections must be held in accordance with Ukrainian law in the occupied territories before the Special Status can come into effect

— Pierre Vaux

Shkiryak Resigns As Acting Head Of State Emergencies Service

Ukrainska Pravda reports that Zoryan Shkiryak, the acting head of the State Service for Emergency Situations (GosChS), has resigned.

At a briefing today Shkiryak announced that the time had come to “give way to professionals,” saying that a fully-qualified candidate for the permanent post had been found.

He said that he was tendering his resignation to the interior minister, Arseniy Avakov.

Shkiryak noted that his appointment had always been a temporary measure. He was placed in charge of the GosChS after his predecessor, Sergei Bochkovskiy was arrested, along with his deputy, Vasiliy Stoitskiy, at a cabinet meeting on March 25.

Shkiryak’s time in office has been challenging, with GosChS having to deal with forest fires around the Chernobyl nuclear plant and the evacuation of Ukrainian citizens from Nepal, in addition to their regular duties and increased demands from the war in the south-east.

— Pierre Vaux

OSCE Sees Long Period Of Calm Shattered By Intense Fighting

There’s a theme in the latest OSCE report on the situation in Ukraine, dated May 11 at 19:30 Kiev time — a long period of calm, shattered by heavy fighting:

The SMM noted long periods of calm – followed by intense fighting – in areas in and around the destroyed Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled Donetsk airport (8km north-west of Donetsk) and Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol).
At the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) observation post at “DPR”-controlled Donetsk railway station (8km north-west of Donetsk), JCCC representatives told the SMM that there had been no shelling in the area on the night of 10-11 May.

However, whilst at the observation post from 08:05 to 17:00hrs, the SMM heard a total of 105 explosions, and sporadic small arms and heavy machine gun fire.
The SMM noted a calm situation in areas around government-controlled Berdianske (1.5km west of Shyrokyne) in the morning of 11 May. At a regular SMM observation post on the eastern outskirts of the village, however, it observed numerous fresh craters – one just metres from the actual observation post. The SMM observed an additional eight craters in residential areas in the village – caused by 122mm artillery rounds – and a further two, caused by 152mm artillery rounds. Local people told the SMM that the shelling had occurred the previous night.

In nearby Shyrokyne village, the SMM noted that a calm situation prevailed. It observed, however, a crater, which, after analysis, it concluded had been caused by an 82mm mortar. According to local people, the round had killed a 47-year-old man on 29 April. The SMM assessed that the round had been fired from a position to the west. As the SMM was leaving the village at 16.15hrs, it heard small-arms and mortar fire in the north-west of the village.

The general calm in the Berdianske-Shyrokyne area came to an end at 16:30hrs, when an intensive exchange of tank, mortar and anti-aircraft rounds began, which continued even as the SMM left the area at 19.20hrs.   

In Lugansk region things have been relatively calm.

Here are several observations by the OSCE about Right Sector:

In government-controlled Pervomaiske (16km north-west of Donetsk), Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers told the SMM that a Pravyy Sektor (Right Sector) medical unit in the area had been replaced by a Ukrainian Armed Forces medical unit.

Also in Kyiv, the spokesperson for the Pravyy Sektor (Right Sector) told the SMM that the Pravyy Sektor volunteer battalion had not integrated into regular Ukrainian military structures. He said one proposal – placing the battalion under the control of the National Guard – had been rejected because the National Guard is under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which the interlocutor said had still to be “lustrated”. A subsequent proposal – allowing individual Pravyy Sektor members to enlist in the Armed Forces – was also unacceptable, according to the interlocutor, as it would have entailed the dissolution of the battalion. 

The OSCE continues to see other ceasefire violations:

In government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk), the SMM noted two houses next to a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint, one destroyed and the other damaged. Checkpoint personnel and local residents told the SMM that a barrage of small arms, anti-aircraft, and automatic grenade launcher fire – emanating from across the bridge in “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”)-controlled territory – had been directed towards the checkpoint for four hours in the evening of 10 May. Interlocutors explained that a gas explosion had resulted, causing the damage to the houses. A fire brigade was on the scene.

Despite claims that withdrawal of heavy weapons was complete, the SMM observed the following weapons’ movement/presence in areas that are in violation of the Minsk withdrawal lines: (i) in “LPR”-controlled areas, three artillery pieces (122mm D-30); and, (ii) in government-controlled areas, six tanks (T-64).

The entire report can be read here.

James Miller

What We Know About Boris Nemtsov’s Last Report

When Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov wrote a detailed report on the Sochi Winter Olympics, which was translated by The Interpreter, it was important not only because of its substance — though the waste of $50 billion and the astonishing level of corruption makes the report important on its own — but the fact that the report worked to undermine Putin’s narrative.

Nemtsov methodically documented the corruption, the cronyism, and the theft of taxpayer funds, thus souring an event which was designed to be Putin’s triumph.

At the time of his murder, Nemtsov was working on a new report, “Putin. War.” which was to detail the Russian military intervention in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. 

That report was released today. We have already discussed some of the most important elements of the report here:

James Miller
Savchenko Reported To Be Eating And ‘Preparing For Trial’

Russia’s state-owned RIA Novosti news agency reports that Mikhail Fedotov, head of the Presidential Council on Human Rights, has visited Nadezhda Savchenko in jail.

Fedotov told RIA Novosti (translated by The Interpreter):

“There are no complaints about her from the doctors, she is accepting food, she weighs 60 kilograms. She ended her hunger strike as soon as she was brought back from the hospital. She is preparing for her trial, meeting with investigators, studying the materials.”

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. 

Numerous protests were held yesterday to mark her 34th birthday. At one protest in Moscow, three journalists were detained by police. They were released several hours later but had their camera flash cards erased.

— Pierre Vaux

Three Ukrainian Soldiers Killed, One Wounded Over Last 24 Hours

Ukrainska Pravda reports that Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the Presidential Administration on the military operation in the south-east, has told reporters at a briefing today that three Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and one wounded over the last 24 hours.

Lysenko said that the losses had occurred both near Donetsk and Stanitsa Luganskaya.

An announcement on the official website of the governor of the Lugansk region, Hennadiy Moskal, claimed that a 28-year-old serviceman was wounded during an attack on a defensive position on the outskirts of Schastye. They have now been hospitalised. 

The governor’s office also reported attacks on Stanitsa Luganskaya and Troitskoye. 

Earlier, Novosti Donbassa reported that another military spokesman, Eduard Matyukhin, had claimed that Russian-backed forces had continued to attack Ukrainian positions yesterday evening with heavy artillery.

The Interpreter translates:

“In the Donetsk area the occupiers pounded Opytnoye, Vodyanoye and Peski with 120 mm mortars. The Dutovka mine was fired on by an anti-aircraft gun and a tank. Tank rounds, 152 mm shells and mortar rounds, launched by the bandits, fell on the settlement of Avdeyevka. A sniper fired on Marinka,” said Matyukhin.

According to him, there was a brief lull in the fighting in the Mariupol area. Here, the members of illegal armed groups have used almost all of their arsenal up.

“They pounded with self-propelled artillery systems and 120 and 82 mm mortars, used grenade launchers and small arms. Having received an adequate response, they asked for a ceasefire five times. Neither was there any quiet in the Lugansk area. The criminals fired on Stanitsa Luganskaya and Schastye with heavy-calibre mortars, grenade launchers and small arms. The occupiers fired on Leninskoye and Lozovoye [near Gorlovka] with heavy-calibre machine guns,” stressed the spokesman.

The military headquarters in Mariupol published their own report today on the fighting in the area.

According to the headquarters, Russian-backed focres conducted around half as many attacks on Ukrainian positions as they had the day before, fitting in-line with Matyukhin’s claim that they were exhausting their supplies of ordnance. On May 10, the headquarters claimed, there were 21 attacks, while yesterday saw 13.

12 of the attacks were directed at positions in and around Shirokino, around 10 kilometres east of Mariupol. There was lso one attack with a rocket-propelled grenade near Chermalyk, to the north.

— Pierre Vaux