Ukraine Live Day 471: Russian-Backed Forces Launch Major Assault Near Donetsk

June 3, 2015
Smoke rising in Marinka this morning.

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 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?

Washington, Moscow Make Counter Condemnations on War’s Escalation; OSCE Calls Out Russian-Backed Separatists

Predictably, the Kremlin blamed the Ukrainian Armed Forces for today’s offensive along the front line in which at least 14 Russian-backed separatists were killed as well as at least 2 Ukrainian soldiers and 2 civilians.

Novaya Gazeta reported  a statement from presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who condemned the Ukrainian forces “provocative forces” (translation by The Interpreter):

“Naturally, Moscow every closely watches and experiences extreme concern in connection with the…actions on the part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine which as far as we can judge, are largely provoking the situation.”

Meanwhile, the State Department’s spokesman as we reported earlier condemned the Russian-backed separatist offensive:

“We’re disturbed by reports, including those by the OSCE, that combined
Russian separatist forces launched coordinated attacks overnight against
Ukrainian positions near Donetsk city and Pisky, Luhansk, and Maryinka.”

This might have remained at the usual stand-off, if it were not for a striking report from the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) today.

After weeks of reporting missing armor unavailable for inspection, essentially, today OSCE SMM watched the Russian-backed separatist offensive unfold, with heavy armor moving West — and then firing missiles near Donetsk and Marinka. During this period, the OSCE SMM tried in vain to reach officials of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republics,” whose titles were all put in “scare quotes.”

The following is the OSCE SMM report:


Fighting erupted around the government-controlled town of Marinka
(23km west-south-west of Donetsk city centre) in the morning of 3 June.
The SMM observed the movement of a large amount of heavy weapons in
“Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled areas – generally in a
westerly direction towards the contact line – close to Marinka,
preceding and during the fighting. Calm was restored by the early


Between 22:30hrs on 2 June and 05:30hrs on 3 June, the SMM –
positioned in the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled
Tekstilshchik area of Donetsk city (14km east-north-east of Marinka) –
made a number of observations. It observed, inter alia, eight
tracked armoured vehicles moving west, four of which were main battle
tanks (MBT) at 22:30hrs; four MBTs at 23:03hrs; a military-type truck
moving west, towing a 122mm artillery piece at 23:45hrs; two T-64 MBTs
moving west at 04:30hrs; and a column of one infantry fighting vehicle
(BMP-2), three military trucks (one carrying an ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft
gun), and two T-72 MBTs, moving west, at 04:50hrs. In addition, the SMM –
at the same location – heard approximately 100 outgoing artillery
rounds fired from a location 1-5km north-north-west of its position
between 04:30 and 04:40hrs; an outgoing salvo of BM-21 multiple launch
rocket system (MLRS) Grad rockets fired from a location 1-5km west of
its position at 04:55hrs; and, 100 outgoing artillery rounds fired from a
location 5km north-north-west of its position.

Between 04:30 and 05:00hrs, the SMM – positioned in Donetsk
city-centre – heard several salvos of outgoing MLRS rockets and
approximately 100 incoming heavy-artillery rounds.

Between 07:00 and 08:00hrs, the SMM – mobile in an area 6-9km east of
Marinka – observed seven T-64 MBTs facing west. In addition, it heard,
on two separate occasions, more than five salvos of outgoing MLRS
(BM-21) rockets and heavy-mortar rounds; and 12 outgoing MLRS Grad
rockets and mortars.

At approximately 06:00hrs, an SMM unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)
observed intense shelling targeting an intersection of the H15 highway
3.5km south-west of Marinka. The UAV spotted four 2S3 Akatsiya 152mm
self-propelled howitzers 9km south-west of the town at 15:30hrs.

The SMM made several attempts between 10:45 and 12:11hrs to contact
high-ranking “DPR” personnel – including the “DPR” “prime minister”,
“parliamentary speaker”, “minister of defence” and “chief of the general
staff” – in order to facilitate a cessation to the fighting around
Marinka. Either they were unavailable or did not wish to speak to the

At 15:00hrs the SMM received a letter from the Ukrainian Ministry of
Defence, saying Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons would be placed on
the contact line in order to deal with the “real threat” posed by the
fighting in Marinka, which they said had started at 06:00hrs that
morning. Ukrainian officials later publicly acknowledged that the
weapons had been used, saying their use was necessary in thwarting a
“DPR” attack.

The Representative of the Russian Federation Armed Forces to the
Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination told the SMM at 15:00hrs that
a ceasefire around Marinka would take effect at 17:00hrs. He told the
SMM at 21:00hrs that the situation around Marinka was currently calm. At
around 19:00hrs a representative of the Anti-Terrorist Operation
command in Kramatorsk and the “DPR” “ministry of defence” confirmed to
the SMM that Marinka was under government control.

The SMM will follow up on reports of civilian and military casualties in Marinka. 

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Marinka: Reports of 2 Ukrainian Troops Killed, 39 Wounded, 3 Civilians Killed, 4 Wounded

Yuri Biriukov, an adviser to the Presidential Administration, has written on his Facebook page this evening that 39 Ukrainian servicemen were wounded and two killed in today’s fighting in Marinka, as of 23:00 (20:00 GMT).
He broke down the figures for the wounded as follows:

1 – 43rd Independent Motor Rifle Brigade

26 – 28th Independent 
Motor Rifle Brigade

11 – 30th Independent Motor Rifle Brigade

1 – Ukrainian National Guard 

According to the report, three Ukrainian military vehicles, one GAZ-66 truck and 2 UAZ-452 vans, were destroyed.

Biriukov noted that while earlier reports had stated that three Ukrainian soldiers had been killed, one of those listed as such did in fact survive.

The soldier, from the 30th Brigade, pulled through “by a miracle.”

Novosti Donbassa reported earlier this evening that the Interior Ministry had announced the deaths of 3 civilians in Marinka.

Four civilians were reported to have been wounded by shelling.

— Pierre Vaux

Another Summer, Another Russian Offensive In Ukraine
The Interpreter‘s editor-in-chief Michael Weiss writes for The Daily Beast:

Weiss has found confirmation from a high ranking diplomat and a European leader that this is not just a blip on the radar, but rather a significant escalation in fighting:

On Wednesday, Ukrainians awoke to the all-too-predictable news that Moscow-backed separatists—a contingent that consists of quite a lot of Moscow-dispatched Russian soldiers—launched a fresh, multi-pronged assault on Ukrainian-held territory.  The primary targets lie west of a line of the demarcation meant to keep a cease-fire that was over before the ink had dried on the so-called “Minsk II” accords.

“Although we’re still assessing details, this is clearly a major, multi-front escalation that reflects continued non-compliance with Minsk by the combined Russian-separatist forces,” a senior Western diplomat told The Daily Beast.  When asked if this was the start of a big Russian push for more terrain in the Donbas—the name for the regions encompassing Donetsk and Lugansk—one European leader replied: “Sure looks like it.”

Read the entire article here:

Can Anyone Stop Putin's New Blitz?

It looks like Vladimir Putin will spend his second summer in a row going to war. So now the question becomes: What-if anything-will the United States and Europe do in response? On Wednesday, Ukrainians awoke to the all-too-predictable news that Moscow-backed separatists-a contingent that consists of quite a lot of Moscow-dispatched Russian soldiers-launched a fresh, multi-pronged assault on Ukrainian-held territory.

View full page >

Jun 04, 2015 00:39 (GMT)

James Miller
State Department Condemns Marinka Assault, Threatens Russia With “Increased Costs”

U.S. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf addressed today’s fighting in eastern Ukraine at today’s press briefing. RFE/RL reports:

“We’re disturbed by reports, including those by the OSCE, that combined Russian separatist forces launched coordinated attacks overnight against Ukrainian positions near Donetsk city and Pisky, Luhansk, and Maryinka. We’re now seeing unconfirmed reports that the town of Maryinka may have fallen. These attacks are on the Ukrainian side of the cease-fire line. They have reportedly utilized grad-rockets and other heavy weapons that should have been withdrawn under the February Minsk plan.”

“Any new attack and aggressive action by combined Russian separatist forces is unacceptable and contravenes the Minsk agreement. Russia bears direct responsibility for preventing these attacks and implementing a cease-fire. Any attempts to cease additional Ukrainian territory will be met with increased costs.”

It’s not entirely clear what the current status of Marinka is, but it seems, from what we can tell, that Harf’s assessment that Marinka may have fallen to the Russian-backed fighters may be wrong. As we reported below, both the Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian government report that the Russian-backed combatants suffered significant casualties, and it seems Ukraine has, for the time being, retained control of the town.

James Miller

Russian-Backed Separatists Confirm Heavy Losses In Today’s Assault on Marinka

In our last update below we noted that, according to the Ukrainian military, 10 Russian-backed troops have been killed, four of which were Russian GRU Spetsnaz (Special Forces) soldiers, and more than 80 separatist fighters were wounded.

Now the separatists themselves are saying that they suffered even higher casualties than this:

RIA Novosti reports (translated by The Interpreter):

Russian-backed separatists have lost 14 fighters and 86 have been wounded in today’s fighting, Eduard Basurin, deputy commander of the forces of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR), RIA Novosti reported.

Baturin told journalists today that 18 of the 86 were “severely wounded.”

100 casualties is a significant number, a clear indication of the scope of today’s fighting. To put things in perspective, on a typical day over the last several months the Ukrainian military reports less than a dozen casualties across the entire country.

James Miller, Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Ukraine Says They’ve Defeated Enemy Offensive; 4 Russian Spetsnaz Reportedly Killed; 10 Separatists KIA, 80+ WIA

Ukrainska Pravda reports that they have been told by the head of the ATO Press Centre, Aleksandr Poronyuk, that the situation in Marinka is, as of 18:20 (15:20 GMT) “stabilising.”

Poronyuk said that the offensive was over and that “clean-ups” were under way to secure control of the territory.

Meanwhile, Markiyan Lubkivsky, an adviser to the head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), said that 10 Russian-backed troops have been killed and more than 80 wounded.

Lubkivsky also claimed that SBU counter-intelligence have also established that at least four Russian GRU Spetsnaz soldiers were killed in the battle.

— Pierre Vaux

Separatists Claim To Have Taken Most Of Marinka, Also Report Artillery Duel On Donetsk-Mariupol Highway

A Facebook page posting reports from Russian-backed fighters that carries the name of Igor Girkin, the former Russian intelligence officer who led the military operation in Slavyansk, has posted a claim that Russian-backed fighters now control the majority of Marinka.

The message, posted at 15:06 GMT, says that Ukrainian troops are leaving the village with the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) taking over, they hope, by the end of the day.

This claim is denied by Ukrainian officials.

There are several other interesting claims in the report, firstly that, during their ‘taking’ of Marinka, a separatist diversion assault and reconnaissance group, named Ryazan, was ambushed. According to the report, the group lost 6 killed and 12 wounded. Two others were captured by Ukrainian forces.

Secondly, the report says that an artillery duel is under way between Ukrainian-held Beryozovoye and separatist-held Dokuchaevsk, on the Donetsk-Mariupol highway, north of Volnovakha.

Finally the report claims that Ukrainian forces are shelling Debaltsevo from the direction of Svetlodarsk, east of Gorlovka.

— Pierre Vaux

Surkov, Kremlin’s ‘Grey Cardinal’ Reportedly Visited Donetsk to Rein in Separatists, Says Strelkov

According to a group on the Russian social media VKontakte called “Svodki Novorossii” (Novorossiya Dispatches, formerly called “Strelkov’s Dispatches”), Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov visited Donetsk to berate the leaders of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR), reported.

The post in the VKontake group, quoting former separatist defense minister Col. Igor Strelkov (Girkin) says Surkov made the trip to tell Aleksandr Zakharchenko to “dump” the republic — an order long feared by the Russian-backed separatists. The Interpreter has a translation:

02.06.15 Commentaries from I.I. Strelkov:

“Yesterday Mr. Dudayev (AKA Vladislav Yuryevich Surkov) [Surkov is a Chechen who changed his name–The Interpreter] deigned to visit Donetsk and personally held a meeting with the leadership of the republic. He yelled a lot and was vile. On the grounds that Zakharchenko did not agree to “dump” the DNR with the same readiness and at the same pace as his colleague Plotnitsky is doing with the LNR [Lugansk People’s Republic]. The results of Surkov’s yelps are not known to me. By the way, V.Yu. [Surkov] dug up Tsarev [deputy and former head of joint “Novorossiya” parliament, now disbanded–The Interpreter] out of non-existence, and shaking the dust from him, brought him with him to Donetsk. To what end?”

– Zakharchenko can’t be removed. He is the living embodiment of Minsk.

I.C.: His health is poor, the wound on his leg is not healing. Why not an excuse for some…


The quote from Strelkov about Surkov was copied directly from the Antikvariat forum where he goes by the user name Kotych.


But Strelkov was even more frank in speaking at a conference recently titled “The Ukrainian Crisis and Global Policy.” , as Russkiy Dialog reported:

“A country that fights without ideology will lose this war anyway. There is no ideology, not only in the DNR and LNR, but there isn’t any in Russia.

The task of this conference is to develop the goals for Russia in the conflict in the Donbass. Therefore the declared goals, the implementation of the Minsk agreements essentially means the complete strategic defeat of Russia. The implementation of these agreements will lead to the liquidation of the LNR and DNR.

The defeats born by the Ukrainian Armed Forces are of a tactical nature and have not led to their annihilation thanks to the positions of Russia, but the armed forces of Novorossiya can in no way consider themselves victors. Thus, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have not suffered the most important thing in civil wars, a moral defeat.”

Strelkov believes that only the West gains from this war, as it weakens Russia the longer it continues and then sparks a domestic political crisis in Russia. He claims Ukraine is exploited as a one-time tool in this alleged endeavor as it will only expend more people and material resources on the fight.

“I believe in victory no matter what, just as the militia and the volunteers from Russia believed in it who are fighting now on the most dangerous sections of the front. Because God is with us and truth is behind us.”

It’s important to remember that Strelkov is a former FSB agent (and by some accounts, a GRU agent) and has made a number of contradictory statements in the past, or been quoted in contradictory ways which suggest that he is a figure used for disinformation campaigns. has quotes from Strelkov today based on an interview he gave to pro-separatist Neyromir-TV regarding the “people’s republics” and volunteers from Russia:

“They [volunteers from] went to defend the Russian World, and were forced to defend regimes implanted clearly with the help of the Kremlin, it is useless to deny that. And it is stupid to deny that, and pretend you’re simply a fool or an idiot, if you think that they were formed themselves.

Strelkov used the term “Makhnovshchina,” which references Nester Makhno, an anarcho-communist who led an independent army in the civil war. His name means rebel commanders who might be on the “right” side but are too independent as the recently-assassinated Aleksei Mozgovoy.

The struggle with Makhnovshchina is officially practically over in the DNR and gradually being wound down in the LNR. But the struggle with the unofficial Makhnoites is over. Unfortunately, there are official Makhnoites who are close to
the leaders of the ‘republics’. These Makhnoites are causing outrages far more than  the non-official ones.”

He also dubbed the governments of the so-called “people’s republics” “an imitation” and a “simulacrum.” He also said the Russian-backed separatists lacked discipline. “They all drink, there is an enormous spread of drug addiction — that’s the truth.”

As often happens, there was immediately a debate over the authenticity of Strelkov’s statement, as this thread indicates:

Ever since the controversy over Strelkov’s post on the downing of MH17 — which he and other Russian-backed separatists thought was a Ukrainian cargo plane —  there has long been a convention in the “Novorossiya Dispatches” group that when they are quoting Strelkov directly (usually from a private forum where he posts) they indicate it with a statement that it is a direct quote. This has proven to be reliable and Strelkov has not denounced the group. From time to time he referenced as a site authorized to release his statements, but since the killing of two of their members near Snezhnoye in crossfire, they have not been active.

The problem with using only Antikvariat as a source is that the search is not open to non-members who have to be approved by a moderator. So unless you are given a current link, you cannot always check posts copied to VKontakte. To be sure, you can try to Google his statements as they appear on VKontakte with “” but that doesn’t always work.

To our knowledge, there has not been a case where Strelkov has disavowed this group’s copies of his statements.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Ukrainian Military Reports Second Wave Of Attacks, Supported By Grads, On Marinka And Krasnogorovka

Donetsk news site reports that Aleksandr Poronyuk, chief of the ATO Press Centre, has announced that Russian-backed fighters have begun a second wave of attacks on Ukrainian positions in Marinka.

The Interpreter translates:

“The situation began to escalate this evening, the enemy has begun shelling our positions with multiple-launch rocket systems. Peski and Vodyanoye have also come under fire. As a result of these shelling attacks Marinka is still engulfed in flames. 20 minutes ago there was an assault by illegal armed groups on Ukrainian military positions in the Marinka and Krasnogorovka areas,” he said.

— Pierre Vaux

Heavy Fighting In Marinka, But What Is The Significance Of This Battle?
There is still heavy fighting in Marinka, southwest of Donetsk. At this hour there are reports of a new offensive being launched by Russian-backed fighters against the city:

Translation: Enemy has launched massive attack on Marinka. That’s not enough for them…We are holding positions. A fierce battle under way. Details later.

Other tweets from @UAForces, which we think may be a semi-official Twitter account, says that their reserves are in place and their lines are holding, but there are still conflicting reports about who has the upper hand in this fight. What we do know is that this is the heaviest fighting in Ukraine since the battle for Debaltsevo ended in February.

But to understand why Marinka is important and to predict the strategy of the Russian-backed separatists, it’s best to consult a map.

We have created a new layer to our conflict map which shows, roughly, the front lines of fighting, summarized and simplified to highlight the key fronts of conflict. Below is a screenshot:


The capture of Marinka, southwest of Donetsk, would advance the goals of the Russian-backed fighters in several ways. The first and most obvious is that it would help secure Donetsk. The second, though, is that it would put the Russian-backed fighters one step closer to cutting off Mariupol, to the south.

But across all of the front lines — near Mariupol, Donetsk, Gorlovka, and Schastye — we see a similar pattern emerge. The Russian-backed fighters are advancing in what could be described as “fingers,” narrow points of focus which are fairly evenly spaced. The pattern is that regular, but not constant, fighting is reported at alternating fingers on different days. This has several effects — it tests Ukraine’s lines and keeps them guessing where the next attack will come. As a result, the Russian-backed forces have been able to advance in narrow “spiky” channels, and each advance carries with it a new threat — encirclement. As two or more neighboring fingers advance deeper into Ukrainian territory, the Ukrainian military is in danger of being trapped in a pincer between two fronts, a strategy that has proven to be highly effective in the conflict, most notably at Ilovaisk and Debaltsevo.

Near Donetsk, the attacks push southwest and north into Ukrainian territory, endangering the Ukrainian artillery positions northwest of the city which have played a key role since the battle for the Donetsk International Airport. By pressing north and northeast from Gorlovka, the Russian-backed fighters threaten to surround those same positions on the other side. By attacking Ukrainian positions near Troitskoye and Popasnaya, and from other positions in the northwest of the Lugansk region, the separatists threaten to flank those who are trying to stop the advance north from Gorlovka and towards Artyomovsk. Meanwhile, east of Stanitsa Luganskaya, there have been cross-border raids from Russian territory into Ukrainian-held land north of the Seversky Donets river.

This can also be seen playing out at Mariupol, the crucial port city on the Azov Sea. Mariupol is the largest economic prize near the front lines, but it is also the key line of defense on the coast between Russia and the annexed Crimean peninsula. Ukraine has no choice but to keep significant amounts of troops and firepower dug in there. By pushing the fight at Shirokino, nearly due-east from Mariupol, the Russian-backed fighters keep the pressure on Mariupol, but by advancing north of Mariupol they are also inching closer to encircling the coastal city.

Details are still sketchy, but it is clear that a major offensive have been launched against Marinka today, and it’s also clear that Ukraine has dispatched a significant amount of resources to stop that advance. Even if Marinka holds, that development may have negative consequences for fighting elsewhere in Ukraine.

One look at the map of the fighting tweeted out by the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council earlier today seems to confirm that the pattern of heavy fighting along spiky “fingers” seems to continue today:

James Miller
576 Miners Trapped As Heavy Shelling Cuts Power To Two Mines Near Donetsk

Reuters reports that two mines in the Donetsk region, Zasyadko and Skochinsky, have both had their power cut by heavy shelling. While the Russian-backed separatists said that they were evacuating 350 trapped miners in Skochinsky, they also report that 576 miners are trapped without light in the Zasyadko mine.

Mining is dangerous, but mining in Ukraine is particularly dangerous due to poor regulation and the extreme depth of the mines, a phenomemon which has only gotten worse due to the occupation of the Russian-backed separatists, and the shelling which can cut power and strand miners.

Why Ukraine's mines are so dangerous – In 90 seconds – BBC News

Media playback is unsupported on your device A suspected gas blast at a coal mine in a rebel-held region of east Ukraine is believed to have killed some 30 miners. It's the latest in a string of mining disasters to hit the country. But why are Ukraine's mines so dangerous?

View full page >

Jun 03, 2015 17:55 (GMT)

James Miller
Minsk Agreement Officially Over? Ukraine’s General Staff Says They Are Redeploying Heavy Weapons To The Front
Mashable’s Christopher Miller has this important report:

Under the Minsk agreement both sides agreed to withdraw heavy weaponry such as artillery and tanks to positions at least 50 kilometers from the front lines. According to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) which has been inspecting holding areas where this equipment was kept, the Ukrainian military has fairly consistently kept their end of the deal, and the Russian-backed fighters have often broken the deal, particularly lately, though certainly both sides have deployed heavy weaponry within that demarcation line.

It now sounds like, in light of this new fighting north and southwest of Donetsk, the Ukrainian military has no intention of being the only side in this conflict which is pretending that there is a ceasefire.

James Miller

Video Reportedly Shows Heavy Shelling In Marinka, Some Of Which Nearly Hits Cameraman

This video reportedly shows a man filming a smoking building in Marinka when an incoming shell nearly hits him. Though we can’t guarantee that the video is what it says it is, here is what we know about the video:

– Reverse-image searches of frames from the video do not net any results, a good indicator that the video is new.

– It does not look familiar to us, as if we had seen it uploaded previously.

– It matches what we know — there is heavy fighting in Marinka and damage to civilian buildings.

James Miller
Ukraine Says Russian-Backed Troops Launch Major Offensive But Military “Holding Off All Attacks”

RFE/RL provides a summary of statements from both Ukrainian and separatist leaders, both of whom report major fighting around Marinka (Maryinka), south-west of Donetsk:

Army spokesman Andriy Lysenko said on June 3 that the rebels launched “a massive bombardment on our positions near Maryinka and Krasnogorivka including from heavy weapons.”

Ukrainian forces are “holding off all the attacks,” he added.

Maryinka is located 15 kilometers west of Donetsk.

Senior separatist commander Eduard Basurin was quoted as saying clashes were still going on in that area as of 1.45 p.m. local time, and accused government troops of firing artillery at rebel forces.

Meanwhile, rebel officials said shooting cut off electricity at the Skochinsky mine in the Donetsk region, trapping more than 350 miners underground. One official said the miners were being evacuated.

This matches our earlier reporting below, though this is the first time today we have seen comments from the Ukrainian military spokesman.

There are still conflicting reports about who holds Marinka.

James Miller

Ukraine Claims To Have Captured Russian Soldier, Only For Them To Be Killed By Shelling

This afternoon reported, citing Ukrainian soldiers, that a Russian fighter had been captured in Marinka.

According to the report, the captive said that there were around 500 Russian soldiers involved in today’s attack on Marinka.

These claims were repeated by the Peacekeeper Centre, founded by interior ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko.

However only a short while later, as Ukrainska Pravda reports, Herashchenko himself claimed that the Russian soldier had been killed by a shell strike.

— Pierre Vaux

Conflicting Reports On Situation In Marinka. Claim Of 32 Wounded Ukrainian Soldiers, One Killed

Hromadske TV reports on a Facebook post, made at 10:03 by volunteer activist Vitaliy Deynega, claiming that some Ukrainian positions in Marinka have fallen to Russian-backed forces.

Deynega wrote that the battle was “not just at our front-line defensive positions,” and that Russian-backed fighters were already at abandoned Ukrainian positions in the town itself.

Hromadske notes that the Ukrainian military has not commented on these claims.

Meanwhile, Igor Savchuk, a soldier in the Kyiv 2 Battalion, wrote on his Facebook page at 10:47 GMT that the situation was more stable.

The Interpreter translates:

Marinka 13:30. There is no encirclement, the wounded have been evacuated. Reinforcements have been brought up. Everything is being held. There is no panic. The separatists are conducting heavy shelling, but no more.

The ‘defence minister’ of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), Vladimir Kononov, told journalists this afternoon that his forces had lost at least 15 people, including both Russian-backed fighters and civilians, had been killed in today’s fighting.

Kononov claimed that the fighting was caused by a Ukrainian “provocation” this morning.

Yulia Smirnova, a Ukrainian volunteer activist, wrote on her Facebook page at 11:32 GMT that one Ukrainian soldier had been killed and 32 wounded, one of them critically.

— Pierre Vaux

Fire At Sokol Market In Donetsk

A photo posted to VKontakte indicates that a fire has broken out at the Sokol market in western Donetsk.

Translation: #Donetsk Sokol market (photo from VK)

The given location corresponds with satellite imagery of the site:


This suggests Ukrainian return fire on the area.

Earlier this morning, a YouTube video showed outbound artillery fire from the Petrovsky district, west of the market. According to the videos description, Russian-backed fighters were firing from positions in the “immediate vicinity” of residential high-rises. 

— Pierre Vaux

Ukrainian Forces Reportedly Withdraw From Highway South Of Marinka

Novosti Donbassa reports that Ukrainian troops have conducted an organised withdrawal from checkpoint ‘zero’ on the Zaporozhye-Mariupol highway, south of Marinka, and moved into the suburb itself.

According to the report, the checkpoint was at a significant distance from the main body of Ukrainian forces and therefore exposed to attack.

Russian-backed forces are attempting to outflank Ukrainian troops in Marinka. 


— Pierre Vaux

Explosions In Kievsky District Of Donetsk
28th Brigade Say They Are Not Surrounded In Marinka

Donetsk news site reports that the press officer of the 28th Brigade, which is defending Marinka, has said that Ukrainian troops are not surrounded.

Russian-backed forces are attempting to encircle Ukrainian troops in a massive assault launched in the early hours of this morning.

A column of Ukrainian armour and personnel has been dispatched to Marinka to reinforce the 28th Brigade.

The report quotes a soldier as saying (translated by The Interpreter):

“The 28th Brigade has knocked the enemy for six, and this with less than their full strength. The enemy’s tanks, BMPs and Urals are burning. Quite a few torn up and killed enemy.”

Meanwhile, the Russian-backed separatists are claiming that Marinka is under their control and that the flag of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic has been raised over the suburb.

— Pierre Vaux

Yatsenyuk Says Russia Has Ordered Offensive As A ‘Challenge To The International Community’

Ukrainska Pravda reports that Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the Ukrainian prime minister, has claimed that Russia gave the order for their proxy forces in Donetsk to launch today’s offensive as a challenge to world leaders meeting on June 7 for the G7 summit in Germany.

The Interpreter translates:

“Yesterday Russia scuppered the meeting of the trilateral contact group, and today gave the order to their terrorists to begin a military operation,” said Yatsenyuk.

In his words, this took place on the even of the G7 summit and he expects that at this summit, “the international community will give a proper assessment of Russia’s aggression.”

“This is one more challenge to the international community… I expect that the international community will produce a proper and adequate response to Russian aggression at the G7 summit,” said the prime minister.

Yatsenyuk said that at this time American soldiers and units of the Ukrainian National Guard are conducting exercises on a training range. Also, according to him, British instructors are on the ground and, at the end of August 2015, instructors from the Canadian armed forces will come to the Yaroviv training range.

“We expect that other EU countries will also join this important mission, because this it is the mission to protect security in Europe. We are defending our country and defending European borders,” said Yatsenyuk.

— Pierre Vaux

Reports Of 4 Civilians And 12 Soldiers Wounded In Marinka And Krasnogorovka reports, citing the Donetsk Regional State Television and Radio Company (OGTRK) that four civilians and 12 Ukrainian soldiers have been wounded as a result of the shelling of Marinka and Krasnogorovka.

Earlier today, Armen Nikogosian, a volunteer medic, said that 25 Ukrainian soldiers had been wounded in Marinka. 

With heavy fighting still under way we expect reported casualty figures to vary in the meantime.

According to the Ostro report,  representatives of the Donetsk Regional State Administration have told journalists that a shell has struck the central district hospital in Krasnogorovka. Fortunately no-one was wounded, the report claims.

— Pierre Vaux

Three Civilians Killed In Fighting

Peter Leonard reports for the Associated Press that three civilians have been killed amidst the current intensification in violence.

The head of the government-controlled part of Luhansk region, Hennadiy Moskal, said in a statement on his official website that an elderly couple died when their car was struck by mortar fire Wednesday morning. The statement said the strike occurred 20 kilometers (12 miles) into government-held territory.

Russia’s Interfax news agency cited a rebel representative as saying that one resident in the town of Yenakieve was killed near a waste treatment plant during a 20-minute barrage.

The war has killed more than 6,400 people since April 2014.

Ukrainian Positions On Donetsk-Mariupol Highway Attacked

There are reports this morning that, as Russian-backed forces mount heavy attacks around the city of Donetsk, there is a wider escalation in attacks elsewhere on the front lines.

To the south of the separatist-held city, Ukrainian positions on the strategically important Donetsk-Mariupol highway have come under attack.

The highway is Ukrainian controlled to the immediate south-east of Marinka, then separatist-held from Dokuchaevsk until it comes under Ukrainian control once again from Bugas to Mariupol.

Pushing the Ukrainians off this highway would, to the north, enable a flanking move on Marinka, and to the south, a pincer move on Mariupol.

Today the State Border Guard Service reported that Bugas had been shelled. To the north, positions of the Ukrainian 28th Brigade near Beryozovoye came under attack. 

Translation: Shelling has begun again on the positions of the 28th Brigade near Beryozovoye. From the sound of it, artillery is being used… Possibly 120 mm mortars.

According to the SBGS, one border guard received light wounds to their hands after their checkpoint in Beryozovoye was attacked with small arms. The SBGS claim that Ukrainian return fire repelled the Russian-backed forces.


Near Mariupol, a checkpoint in Gnutovo was shelled with mortars this morning, the SBGS report.

The Mariupol Defence Headquarters claimed this morning that five attacks had been conducted against Ukrainian positions in Shirokino since midnight, with 122 mm self-propelled guns, 120 mm mortars and small arms used.

— Pierre Vaux

Russian-Backed Forces Launch Major Assaults North And South-West Of Donetsk

Donetsk awoke in the early hours of this morning to intense artillery and Grad rocket fire as Russian-backed forces launched a major new offensive, assaulting both to the north of the separatist-held city, striking Avdeyevka, and to the south-west, pounding Marinka and shelling Ukrainian positions on the Donetsk-Mariupol highway.

Novosti Donbassa reports, citing Hromadske TV, that fighting began at around 4 am (1:00 GMT), with fire towards Marinka and Krasnogorovka from Grad MLRS and tanks.

According to Armen Nikogosian, a volunteer medic, around 25 Ukrainian soldiers have been wounded.  

Ukraine has sent tanks and armoured personnel carriers to reinforce the 28th Brigade defending Marinka.

Yevgeny Deydey, commander of the Kyiv-1 Battalion, wrote on his Facebook page at 3:22 GMT (translated by The Interpreter):

Heavy artillery shelling began at 4:50. There are wounded. Krasnogorovka and Marinka are burning.

Across the whole line violent close-quarters battles are under way.

The militants are heading for a breakthrough.

We’re praying for our guys. 

This video, uploaded today, purportedly records shelling in the Petrovsky district of Donetsk, just east of Marinka. From the sound of the blasts, the shelling is outbound from this separatist-held area of Donetsk. 

The description of the video claims that Russian-backed fighters are firing from positions in the immediate vicinity of residential high-rises.

Translation: Graaaaad from Donetsk to Marinka. 10:50

Residents having been photos to a Marinka VKontakte group:


Fire near the Equicentre (the Chertkov stables). View from Marinka.



Translation: #Marinka battle under way between units of the ‘Fifteenth’ (DNR) and the 28th Brigade (Ukrainian Armed Forces). Distance between their positions is no more than 400 metres. Automatic grenade launchers, anti-aircraft guns, artillery.

To the north, Peski, Avdeyevka and Krasnogorovka are under attack.

Translation: #Avdeyevka at around 8 there was a full salvo of Grads from the direction of Yakovlevka. Fell near Avdeyevka

TranslationAt 8:00 there were columns of smoke: At the Airport, at Peski, in the direction of Krasnogorovka. Now only in the direction of Krasnogorovka.

Translation: “My father’s now walking from the 29th to Aleksandrovka. Under the bridge near the 29th mine there are Grads and from there to Petrovka, tanks everywhere.

Translation: Tanks, self-propelled guns, APC and more. They were rolling in that direction yesterday throughout the evening and the night.

It appears that a major offensive is now under way. We will report next on other worrying developments elsewhere along the front line.

— Pierre Vaux