Ukraine Live Day 467: President Poroshenko Confirms Saakashvili as Governor of Odessa Region

May 30, 2015
President Petro Poroshenko swearing in former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili as governor of Odessa Region on May 30, 2015. Photo by

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OSCE Monitors Barred Access to Heavy Weapons Holding Areas by ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’

The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission report from yesterday May 29 complains about the failure of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” to provide access to monitors so they can check compliance with the Minsk ceasefire agreement.

They also found previously-observed heavy weapons missing at 3 Ukrainian sites and all Grad systems missing from the sites of the ‘Lugansk People’s Republic.

The following is the report:

The SMM monitored the
implementation of the “Package of measures for the Implementation of the
Minsk agreements”. Its monitoring was restricted by third parties and
security considerations.* The SMM observed a continuing increase in the
number of ceasefire violations in and around Donetsk airport. The SMM
remained unable to travel to Shyrokyne due to security considerations.
The SMM observed discrepancies of recorded heavy weapons at a number of
Ukrainian Armed Forces, “DPR” and “LPR” holding areas.

see the section at the end of this report entitled “Restrictions on SMM
access and freedom of movement” for further information.

The number of ceasefire violations observed by the SMM in and around “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled Donetsk
airport (10km north-west of Donetsk city centre) remained at the same
level as the previous day, following a brief two-day decrease in
observed ceasefire violations earlier in the week. Over a seven-hour
period from an observation point at the city’s central railway station
(8km north-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM heard a total of 179
explosions on 29 May (compared to 150 on 28 May, 13 on 27 May, and 73 on
26 May and 170 on 25 May).

While at the railway
observation point, operated by the Joint Centre for Control and
Co-ordination (JCCC), the SMM was informed that 12 JCCC representatives –
six from the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and six from the Russian
Federation Armed Forces – who had been monitoring ceasefire violations
in the airport area for the previous three days, had since returned to
JCCC Headquarters in Soledar (government-controlled, 77km
north-north-east of Donetsk). The SMM had previously been told by the
Ukrainian Armed Forces representative at the JCCC observation point that
the presence of the JCCC monitors on the ground was expected to result
in a temporary decrease in ceasefire violations (see SMM Daily Report 27

The 179 explosions1
that the SMM heard during the reporting period were consistent with
munitions including mortar (82mm and 120mm) and automatic grenade
launcher fire. The explosions were heard mainly in the direction of
government-controlled areas to the west and north-west of the SMM’s
position, including Pisky and Vodyane, and in the direction of
“DPR”-controlled areas to the north-east, south and south-west of the
SMM’s position, including Spartak and the Kyivskyi district of Donetsk

The SMM observed that the overall security situation in Luhansk
region remained calm. The SMM heard one explosion in the morning around
Kapitanove (government-controlled, 50km north-west of Luhansk) and
heard several bursts of small-arms and light-weapons fire in the late
afternoon around Shchastia (government-controlled, 20km north-west of
Luhansk). The SMM also heard reports by civilians about fighting,
including by staff at a power plant in Shchastia who said heavy-machine
gun fire on 28 May had damaged equipment and caused a temporary blackout
in the area.

SMM visited a total of 14 heavy weapons holding areas. These included
five “DPR” sites – three where the SMM observed weapons to be missing
and two where the SMM was denied access. The 14 holding areas also
included seven Ukrainian Armed Forces sites, where the SMM also observed
some weapons to be missing at three sites. The 14 holding areas also
included two “LPR” sites – including one where the SMM observed all the
weapons to be missing.

The SMM experienced a variety of challenges trying to monitor the five “DPR” heavy weapons holding areas. At
one revisited “DPR” site, the SMM observed four self-propelled
howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm), as had previously been recorded – but
because their serial numbers were in poor condition and unreadable, the
SMM was not able to conclude if they were the same weapons previously
recorded. The SMM found another revisited “DPR” area, unguarded. There,
the SMM observed that while two previously recorded anti-tank guns
(Rapira, 100mm) were in situ,
six previously recorded self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm)
were missing. The SMM found yet another revisited “DPR” area also
unguarded and observed that two previously recorded D-30 towed howitzers
(122mm) were missing. “DPR” members nearby told the SMM that the
weapons had temporarily been moved to a training area south of Ternove
(“DPR”-controlled, 54km east of Donetsk), which does not comply with the
Minsk withdrawal lines. The SMM was denied entry to another “DPR”
holding area – and the SMM was denied close-up access and was thus
unable to record details at another “DPR” holding area.*

SMM visited seven Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons holding areas –
revisiting five sites and visiting two others for the first time. Of the
five revisited sites, the SMM observed previously recorded weapons to
be missing at three sites – specifically, seven 2A65 towed howitzers
(MSTA-B, 152mm) from one site, five multiple launch rocket systems MLRS
(BM-21 Grad, 122mm) from another site, and one MLRS (BM 21-1 Grad,
122mm) from another site. Of the two sites the SMM visited for the first
time, the SMM observed and recorded six towed artillery (2A36 Giatsint-B, 152mm) at one site and eight MLRS (BM21-1 Grad) at the other site. The SMM concluded that the distances of the site locations comply with the respective withdrawal lines.

SMM visited two “LPR” heavy weapons holding areas. At one site, the SMM
observed that all nine previously recorded MLRS (BM-21 Grad, 122mm)
were missing. “LPR” members present at the site said the weapons had all
been redeployed to a training area, close to the contact line, near
Debaltseve (“DPR”-controlled, 71km south-west of Luhansk and 57km
north-east of Donetsk). The SMM visited the other “LPR” heavy weapons
holding area for the first time – observing six MLRS (BM-21 Grad, 122mm)
and concluding they were the same weapons the SMM had observed being
withdrawn from the contact line in March. The SMM concluded that the distances of the site locations comply with the respective withdrawal lines.

the claims that the withdrawal of heavy weapons was completed, the SMM
observed the following movement or presence of weapons in areas that are
non-compliant with the Minsk withdrawal lines. In “DPR”-controlled
areas, the SMM observed approximately 20 main battle tanks (MBTs, mainly
T-72 and several T-64) at a known “DPR”-training base near Ternove
(“DPR”-controlled, 54km east of Donetsk) and one MBT (T-64) being
transported on a flatbed truck heading east
on highway H-21 between Zuhres and Shakhtarsk (“DPR”-controlled, 33km
and 50km east of Donetsk, respectively). In terms of other military
movements, in “DPR”-controlled areas the SMM observed one infantry
fighting vehicle (BMP-2) near Donetsk airport and eight military-type
trucks near Makiivka (10km east of Donetsk). Two infantry fighting
vehicles (a BMP-1 and a BMP-2) were also stationary in the same area. In
government-controlled Donetsk region, the SMM observed two
self-propelled anti-aircraft guns (ZSU-23-4 Shilka) moving

The SMM in Kyiv
attended the Second All-Ukrainian Congress of Internally Displaced
Persons (IDPs) from Crimea, organised by the Coordination Council of
Organizations of IDPs from Crimea. The Congress was attended by
approximately 100 people, including public servants, representatives of
non-governmental organizations and activists, as well as IDPs from
Crimea, both men and women between approximately 25 and 60 years old.
Issues discussed included restrictions on the transport of goods from
mainland Ukraine to Crimea, and restrictions on civilians’ freedom of
movement to and from Crimea. Some participants welcomed the recent
establishment of the Ukraine State Service on Crimean Issues, which
started work 18 May.

The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kharkiv, Kherson, Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv.

* Restrictions on SMM access and freedom of movement:

The SMM is
restrained in fulfilling its monitoring functions by restrictions
imposed by third parties and security considerations including the lack
of information on whereabouts of landmines.

The security situation in Donbas is fluid and unpredictable and the cease-fire does not hold everywhere.

  • A
    local “DPR” military commander in the Kirovskyi district of
    “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city (10km south-west of Donetsk city centre)
    said the SMM had no authorization to be in the area or to speak to
    residents, and he requested that the SMM leave the area immediately. The
    SMM left the area.

  • The
    SMM was denied entry to a “DPR” heavy weapons holding area by a “DPR”
    member who said the site commander was not present and the SMM had not
    been expected.

  • The SMM was denied access at another “DPR” heavy weapons holding area. The SMM observed six D-30 howitzers (122mm) and two MT-12 anti-tank guns (100mm), but was not able to record details, including serial numbers.

  • At three Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoints in the government-controlled towns of Krasne
    (47km west of Donetsk), Kramatorsk (80km north-north-west of Donetsk)
    and Volnovakha (50km south-south-west of Donetsk), personnel requested
    to check SMM monitors’ IDs and nationalities. The SMM was allowed to
    proceed after 15-20 minutes.

The annex with the table of ceasefire violations referenced is viewable here.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

President Poroshenko Grants Citizenship to Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Appoints Him Governor

As we reported yesterday, former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was nominated as governor of Odessa.

Today President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree that gave Ukrainian citizenship to Saakashvili and made him governor of Odessa Region.

Police placed a cordon around the Region State Administration (OGA) building during President Petroshenko’s visit.

In another decree, Poroshenko relieved the current governor Ihor Palitsa of his duties.

Palitsa had been appointed May 6, 2014 right after the Odessa clashes by then-acting president Oleksandr Turchynov. Palitsa is said to be close to oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, who was removed from his post as governor of Dnepropetrovsk Region.

Translation: we are united by our love for Odessa and Ukraine.
With my whole heart I wish success to the new head of the Regional Head of Administration [governor] Mikheil Saakasvile. Good luck!

The movie clip he links to is a famous Soviet-era song about Odessa, Shalandy Polny Kefali, which uses terms from the Odessa dialect, shalanda, a type of fishing boat, and kefali, a type of fish.

The appointment of Saakashvili is sure to be seen as controversial
and draw the ire of the Kremlin. But Poroshenko is not only bringing in
an outsider to address the issues of corruption and divisions between
pro-Russian and pro-Kiev forces, he is showing Moscow that the
“Russophobes” as they are dubbed by Russian propagandists will disregard
Russia’s claims and threats and instead band together. The appointment
is made in recognition of Saakashvili’s enthusiastic support for the
Maidan movement.

Already Russia’s lead propaganda arm for foreigners is fuming, highlighting the claimed criminal charges
against Saakashvili for “exceeding the powers of office”. According to
Wikipedia, these include suppression of an opposition rally in 2007 and
“seizure” of Imedi TV and other assets owned by the late tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili
in what he characterized as a anti-corruption crackdown. Saakashvili
left Georgia in 2012 and has not returned, prompting always to
call him “fugitive.”

For his part, Saakashvili has called the prosecution an
“appeasement of Russia” and “police settling scores.” Both the US and
the EU have expressed concern about the legality of the prosecution; the US stated that “the legal system should not be used as a tool of political retribution.”

Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian human rights commissioner complained on Twitter:

Translation: Saakashvili, accused of numerous crimes against the Georgian people, has been appointed governor of Odessa, where neo-Nazis burned people with impunity.

This is a reference to the exaggerated claims made by the Kremlin
regarding clashes during a pro-Kiev march and a fire in the Trade Unions Building in Odessa in
which 46 people lost their lives. Russian disinformation never
acknowledges that first pro-Russian forces shot dead Ukrainian
demonstrators, and then when they were chased by Ukrainian
ultrarightists, took refuge in the Trade Unions Building where they had
already previously stockpiled food, medical supplies and fuel, expecting a fight.

The Ukrainians didn’t “burn them alive” but they did throw Molotov
cocktails and did beat some of those who fled the building. But other
Ukrainian activists helped their enemies to escape, using the very
Anti-Maidan scaffolding of their protest camp to reach the windows. The
pro-Russian activists barricaded the door with desks and scrap wood
which hindered their escape.

Odessa authorities opened an investigation and made some arrests
but to this day they have not completed the investigation or brought any
perpetrators to trial, nor released important information about the case. This hasn’t inspired any confidence in the government, as police were widely seen as doing nothing to stop the violence. Among the issues the
international community will be watching is whether Saakashvili is able
to use this position to complete the investigation and find justice for
the victims. Yet he may not even consider this part of his job duties as technically the prosecutor’s office and courts must handle the case.

Another issue to be watched will be whether terrorist bombings of
Odessa will increase or be stopped — and how, in terms of due process.

While a recent announcement by a Russian-backed separatist leader indicating that claims on Odessa were being suspended, in fact the ongoing bombings and provocations there have indicated continued determination to destabilize the region.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick