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?
As Radio Svoboda,the Ukrainian service of the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported today, heavy fighting continues around the area of Shirokino, a village on the road to the strategic port of Mariupol.
Svoboda published a video of a location where Russian-backed separatists are firing artillery, which they have called “Mayak” (Beacon). This is a elevated area above Shirokino. The Ukrainian Donbass Battalion fighters say this is a convenient spot for monitoring the separatists’ positions. The fighters explain that it would be very difficult to storm this elevated area, therefore the separatists methodically blanket it with artillery fire.
At the time this was filmed, the separatists were firing with 120 and 150 mm mortars. This account says one Donbass Battalion soldier was wounded during the shelling, and another died of shrapnel wounds.
A Ukrainian soldier at 4:26 says that when new troops rotated in they requested more ammunition, and were told by headquarters that “we have no combat actions going on” as it is a ceasefire.
“My God, what do you mean, ‘no’?! I said, ‘Come out here, sit here, look there, see what is in fact happening here,” the soldier says, gesturing toward the window where gunfire aimed at the Ukrainian position can be heard outside.
At the end of this video, another soldier tells the journalist that the battle of Shirokino is like a continuation of the battles of Ilovaisk and Debaltsevo.
Another account says two were wounded and one killed on May 25 — it appears to have been the same battle.
Translation: During shelling of Shirokino, one Donbass fighter was killed and two were wounded.
This video was taken by the Republic Guard of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR). A fighter says that while OSCE monitors were in the area and a “European commission,” it was quiet for a few days, then fighting resumed.
Informat.lg.ua also reported today that
in the village of Razdol’noye in the Starobeshevsky District of Donetsk
Region, separatist armor has been spotted by a building. One of the
Russian-backed fighters is standing before 5 BMPs and some mortar
launchers covered with tarps.
The militants were said to have set up a base in this town last fall, as ATOWaronDonbass reported in February 2015 (the video was said to be taken in the previous fall).
Razdol’noye (Rozdol’ne) is also a town to the north on the road to Mariupol.
This area is important to watch in terms of battles that may be staged in order to control the movement toward Mariupol.
Starobeshevo is on the crossroads from Amvrosievka, where there have been transfers of Russian armor in the past, and Matveyev
Kurgan to Donetsk, the Dokuchayevsk junction with the Donetsk-Volnovakha
highway, and Telmanovo, all areas which have seen battles.
Matveyev Kurgan is where the military convoy was spotted yesterday as we reported earlier.
It’s the rail town where the wounded Buryat tank driver Dorzhi Batomunkuyev disembarked on his way to Debaltsevo.
Here’s a map showing these locations:
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, Pierre Vaux
The OSCE continues to see examples of a broken ceasefire. Here are some excerpts from their latest report, dated yesterday, May 25, at 19:30 Kiev time:
The SMM, based on its monitoring – which was restricted by third parties and by security considerations* – observed ongoing fighting in and around Donetsk airport. Security concerns prevented the SMM from monitoring in the Shyrokyne area and in Avdiivka, both thought to be highly kinetic. The SMM observed military movements and presence on both sides of the contact line, and the construction of defensive fortifications in various locations in government-controlled areas.
The SMM observed that fighting continued in and around the destroyed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled Donetsk airport, noting over 170 explosions during the reporting period. Because of security restrictions, the SMM was unable to patrol in either the Shyrokyne area (20km east of Mariupol) or government-controlled Avdiivka (15km north of Donetsk).
The Ukrainian government also reported fighting which shut down a coke factory:
Ukrainian Armed Forces representatives in Avdiivka told the SMM over the phone that crater analysis conducted by them on 45 impact sites – following the shelling of the coke and chemical plant in Avdiivka (see SMM Daily Reports published on 23 and 25 May, and respectively) – indicated that 122mm artillery rounds, fired from “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (12km north of Donetsk), had been used in the attack.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces commander for government-controlled Dzerzhynsk (42km north of Donetsk) told the SMM in Dzerzhynsk that Ukrainian Armed Forces positions in and around Avdiivka had been shelled by “DPR” forces in “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (12km north-north-east of Donetsk). He said that four Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel had been injured in government-controlled Novohorodske (35km north-north-east of Donetsk) on 23 May. He added that Ukrainian Armed Forces commanders were under increasing pressure from frontline personnel to bring forward heavy caliber artillery systems because the “DPR” were, he said, using such systems with impunity.
At the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) headquarters in government-controlled Soledar (77km north-north-east of Donetsk), the Ukrainian Armed Forces Major-General, head of the Ukrainian side to the JCCC, told the SMM that two days of calm in Shyrokyne on 22 and 23 May had ended when a “DPR” vehicle in Shyrokyne had hit a mine, killing the four occupants. He dismissed claims by the “DPR” that Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel had fired on the vehicle.
The OSCE also continues to see fighting near Schastye, north of Lugansk:
The Luhansk region remained relatively calm. In government-controlled Shchastya (20km north of Luhansk), the SMM, however, heard what it assessed to be outgoing small-arms and heavy-machinegun fire emanating from the Ukrainian Armed Forces positions near Shchastya bridge. Later – whilst at a “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) checkpoint 2km south of the bridge – the SMM heard 17 explosions, which it assessed to have been incoming artillery rounds impacting in or around “LPR”-controlled Kruta Hora (16km north-west of Luhansk). In government-controlled Troitske (69km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard small-arms fire and six explosions.
Another trend spotted by the OSCE — the continued movement of heavy weapons within the line of demarcation, and government plans to set up defensive positions to prevent the advance of the Russian-backed separatists:
The SMM noted the construction of defensive fortifications in government-controlled areas to the south, west and north-west of Donetsk city.
The SMM re-visited three “DPR” and eight Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons holding areas, observing that the majority of weapons previously recorded were in situ, and that their locations comply with the respective withdrawal lines. At four of the Ukrainian Armed Forces holding areas, however, the SMM noted that a total of 15 artillery pieces and six multiple rocket launcher systems were missing.
Despite claims that withdrawal of heavy weapons was complete, the SMM observed the following weapons’ movements or presence in areas that are non-compliant with the Minsk withdrawal lines: (i) in “DPR”-controlled areas, three T-64 main battle tanks (MBT); and, in government-controlled areas, one T-64 MBT.
— James Miller
That picture appears to show a BM-27 Uragan MLRS. Below, for comparison, is a picture of an Uragan from Military Today:
The pictures did not seem to be on the Reuters web site but were used on a number of web sites such as this one, which ran the following description:
A multiple launch rocket system is seen on a freight train platform as a
woman and a dog pass by in the Russian southern town of Matveev Kurgan,
near the Russian-Ukrainian border in Rostov region, Russia, May 23,
2015. A train with about 20 multiple launch rocket systems and dozens of
military trucks, accompanied by Russian servicemen, arrived on May 23
in Matveev Kurgan, according to a Reuters journalist. REUTERS/Stringer
TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Then the Ukrainian TSN published more photos of what appeared to be a related Russian military convoy and said they were from “Reuters,” but Reuters itself again did not appear to publish the photos immediately.
TSN said the trucks had no license plates, and contained Uragan systems and BTRs. They said the convoy passed through Matveyev Kurgan, then went off the road and headed through the fields toward the Ukrainian border.
The blogger Antoine Sans then found the same photos used in a Yahoo news story on May 24 labelled as taken from “Reuters Stringer.”
The photo was labelled as follows:
Military vehicles drive along a road at the Russian southern town of Matveev Kurgan, near the Russian-Ukrainian border in Rostov region, Russia, May 24, 2015. The convoy of dozens military vehicles including Uragan multiple rocket launchers, military trucks without license plates and few armoured personnel carriers (APC) crossed the southern Russian town of Matveyev Kurgan on May 24 and turned to the fields from the road near the border with Ukraine, according to a Reuters journalist. REUTERS/Stringer.
Another photo reported to be in this series reprinted by TSN had a sign in the foreground that said in Russian (translation by The Interpreter): “Stop, They Shoot! Car or pedestrian passage prohibited!
A video was uploaded today May 26 to YouTube by Lenta Novostei labelled
“Large convoy with tanks heading toward Ukraine 12:25 Rostov-na-Don,”
also showing a military convoy on the rail, labeled as in the Russian
city of Rostov, along Nansen Street. The meta data shows the date to be May 26, 2015 and reverse image search does not show copies before today.
The scene in the video of the railroad, power lines and poles and a fence with both round and square elements is consistent with what we can find in Google Street View on Nansen Street here.
Google Street View, which appears to be the only section of the street with round sections:
However, we could not narrow down the exact location, and the fence and bushes could have changed in the years since Google took the pictures in August 2012.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, James Miller, Pierre Vaux
Pogrebskiy wrote that the soldier lost both her legs after a shell struck, dying from her injuries.
We have yet to see further reports of the incident from either the Ukrainian media or military.
UPDATE – May 27
It has since been reported that the woman, a combat medic named Irina, actually survived the attack. Read more here:
This weekend a separatist leader, the commander of the Prizrak (Ghost) brigade, Aleksei Mozgovoy, was assassinated along with those traveling in three cars with him — his bodyguards, driver, press secretary, and the pregnant Anna Avseyeva who was the mother of three children.
But who killed the separatist leader? Many theories have been posted. Despite being killed deep in separatist territory, one theory is that a Ukrainian volunteer group conducted the attack. Other theories — he was killed by Moscow, mobsters, or others within the separatist chain of command.
We analyze all of the theories in a separate analysis:
A hostage drama yesterday in the village of Korotich in Kharkiv Region ended with the hostage-taker shot dead by police and three hostages rescued, Unian.net reported.
About 20:30 on the night of May 25, a police source told Unian, “We have a capture. The hostages have not suffered. The criminal is liquidated.”
Journalists waiting near the gas station on the highway to Kiev heard at least three shots, then ambulances and fire trucks raced to the scene. Law-enforcement sources said they “chose the most convenient moment” to shoot dead the man who had earlier shot dead two people himself and then seized three more people and held them at a gas station.
The road was closed more than an hour and a half but then opened up against last night.
Anton Gerashchenko said in a post on his Facebook that the hostage-taker was a man whose house was being inventoried under a court order, evidently due to a debt.
The 47-year-old man grew extremely upset when a bailiff and a witness came to take inventory of his home. He opened fire at the bailiff and the witness accompanying him. Then he got into a car and drove to the highway, where he seized three gas station attendants. The gunman had a permit for his hunting carbine rifle. Gerashchenko said police would review their procedures and plans for such hostage-taking incidents to see if they could improve their performance.
Gerashchenko said an investigation would also be made to understand why a man with no previous criminal record could be motivated to kill. He asked if the court proceeding was fair, and whether loan terms were fair. While noting that no murder could be justified, he asked “in whose interests the property was confiscated.”
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Ukrainska Pravda reports that Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the Presidential Administration on the military operation in the south-east, has announced that one Ukrainian soldier has been killed and 12 wounded over the last 24 hours.
The majority of casualties, Lysenko said, were incurred near Pervomaysk in the Lugansk region.
Earlier today we reported on both a Grad MLRS attack on Rodina, north of Pervomaysk, and an attack on a checkpoint on the outskirts of Popasnaya, to the west of the separatist-held town.
Lysenko also claimed that 9 drone flights had been detected over the Donbass yesterday.
— Pierre Vaux
Yesterday saw numerous attacks across the front line, resulting in numerous Ukrainian military casualties, especially in the Lugansk region.
Amongst the worst incidents to be reported was an attack on a military ambulance which left one 46-year-old soldier dead and another severely wounded.
The press office of the governor of the Lugansk region, Hennadiy Moskal, reported that the UAZ ‘tabletka’ vehicle, owned by the Ukrainian Armed Forces and marked as an ambulance, was travelling from Komishnoye to Sizoye, parallel to the Russian border, when it came under automatic gunfire at around noon.
As Moskal notes, the area around Sizoye has seen several attacks before, which almost certainly originated in Russian territory, rather than separatist-held areas of the Lugansk region, south of the Seversky Donets river.
As the map below makes clear, there are no river crossings east of those at Stanitsa Luganskaya.
Today’s ATO Press Centre report claimed that Sizoye itself had been fired on three times by tanks.
Moskal’s office also reported that four Ukrainian soldiers had been wounded at around 16:00 when the village of Rodina, south-east of Zolotoye, was shelled by Russian-backed forces.
The soldiers, members of the Aidar Battalion, were wounded by shrapnel from a round fired from an automatic grenade launcher. They have all been taken to a hospital in Severodonetsk.
According to the report, the shelling stopped several minutes before the arrival of Moskal and Pilar Bonet, a reporter for Spain’s El País. The governor’s office claimed that checkpoints along the way back were fired on as the pair’s car stopped.
Moskal said that the front-line checkpoint at Rodina, which is currently the only checkpoint allowing passage between government and separatist-held territory in the Lugansk region, may now be closed too if attacks on the village continue.
According to the governor, there were other attacks in the region later in the evening.
At around 20:00, a group of Russian-backed fighters attacked a checkpoint on the eastern entrance to Popasnaya, in what Moskal’s office described as an attempt to break through into the town. The attack was successfully repelled.
Near Schastye, Russian-backed forces used a Vasilyok automatic mortar against Ukrainian positions. One mortar shell reportedly fell in the separatist-held territory and severed a water main.
One should note that while Moskal claims that the Vasilyok is only used by Russian regular forces, the mortar is in fact used by the Ukrainian armed forces too.
The ATO Press Centre claimed that nearby Stariy Aidar and the village of Zhyoltoye, south of the Seversky Donets, had also been fired on with mortars, anti-aircraft artillery and machine guns.
The governor’s office reported skirmishes on the outskirts of Krymskoye and Popasnaya, as well as shelling attacks on Olkhove and Stanitsa Luganskaya. As a result of the attack on Olkhove, gas supplies were disrupted to several neighbouring villages after a pipeline was damaged.
Beyond the Lugansk region, Russian-backed forces reportedly attacked settlements around Donetsk, firing on Opytnoye, Peski, Krasnogorovka, Novomikhailovka, Vodyanoye and Avdeyevka with grenade launchers, mortars, anti-aircraft artillery and machine guns. The village of Petrovskoye, just north-east of Avdeyevka, was reportedly shelled with Grad MLRS.
To the south, the northern outskirts of Granitnoye, a front-line village east of Volnovakha, were shelled today by Russian-backed forces.
According to Leviy Bereg, the village was shelled first at around 3:55 this morning with 122 mm self-propelled artillery, and then again at around 4:10, with Grad MLRS.
There are no reports of casualties as of yet.
The ATO Press Centre also reported attacks on Ukrainian positions in Mirnoye, around 8 km west of Granitnoye.
According to another report from the Press Centre, a mobile patrol of Ukrainian members of the Joint Centre for Control And Coordination (JCCC) came under fire yesterday in the Volnovakha district, around 8 km from the demarcation line.
On the Azov coast, the Ukrainian military reported continued attacks on their positions in Shirokino.
Elsewhere, Kirovo, outside Gorlovka, was fired on with grenade launchers, machine guns and small arms.
— Pierre Vaux