Ukraine Live Day 479: 2 Ukrainian Troops Killed, 6 Wounded; Combat Near Shirokino, Lugansk Region

June 11, 2015
Homes destroyed in Shirokino. Photo by Ukrainian members of JCCC, June 10, 2015

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?

OSCE Sees “Large Concentrations Of Military Hardware In ‘DPR’-Controlled Areas”

The OSCE continues to warn about the movement of a significant amount of armor through the self-delcared “Donetsk People’s Republic.” Their latest report:

Looking at the report, dated last night, June 10, at 19:30 Kiev time, there was fighting witnessed in nearly every direction of the Donetsk airport:

The level of violence in areas in and around the destroyed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (”DPR”)-controlled Donetsk airport (12km north-west of Donetsk) remained high, with the SMM observing 299 explosions[1]. Of those, the SMM – positioned at the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) observation post at “DPR”-controlled Donetsk railway station (8km north-west of Donetsk) between 7:10 and 11:30hrs – heard the sounds of 216 outgoing and incoming artillery rounds, and  the exchange of small-arms (including heavy machinegun) and anti-aircraft fire at locations to its north-west, north-east, north and west. On two separate occasions in the afternoon – over a combined period of two hours – the SMM heard and/or saw 83 explosions, consistent with incoming and outgoing mortar and anti-aircraft fire, 1.8-3km north-north-west and north of its position.

The OSCE saw the damage from shelling northwest of Donetsk as well as north-northeast of the city — in government-controlled areas:

In government-controlled Novokalynove (26km north-west of Donetsk), the SMM observed seven craters, caused by 120mm mortars, and a damaged house. In nearby government-controlled Soloviove (28km north-west of Donetsk), the secretary of the village council told the SMM that a residential house in Novokalynove had been severely damaged by shelling a few days previously. In government-controlled Keramik (27km north-north-west of Donetsk), Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers told the SMM that Novokalynove had been shelled five days previously.

In government-controlled Kurdiumivka (52km north-north-east of Donetsk), the SMM observed two destroyed and three damaged civilian residences. The SMM conducted crater analysis on a number of impact sites in the village, assessing that 122 or 152mm tubed artillery rounds fired from the direction of “DPR”-controlled Holmivskyi (11km south-east of Kurdiumivka; 47km north-north-east of Donetsk) had been responsible. In nearby government-controlled Kodema (55km north-north-east of Donetsk), a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint commander told the SMM that recently the number of “DPR” reconnaissance groups crossing the contact line in the area had noticeably increased.

In Shirokino, east of Mariupol, and in other nearby towns, the OSCE reported violence which corresponds to reports we have been tracking for about 24 hours:

An SMM unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) observed an explosion and a burning building in Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol). The SMM – stationary in Mariupol – also heard a number of explosions, assessed to have emanated from the Shyrokyne area.

In government-controlled Lebedynske (16km east-north-east of Mariupol), the SMM observed a number of shell-damaged houses and craters. The commander of the Kryvbas volunteer battalion serving under the Ministry of Internal Affairs told the SMM that the village had been shelled on 2 June, with approximately 60 heavy artillery rounds impacting in the village in the space of 40 minutes.

Another area of focus, however, which is grabbing few headlines is the area between Mariupol and Donetsk there the OSCE has spotted a significant amount of armor on the move in the last week.

Near “DPR”-controlled Sontseve (57km south-south-east of Donetsk), the SMM UAV spotted a large concentration of military hardware, including, inter alia, a SHORAD (short range air defence) tracked vehicle, nine military-type trucks, an anti-aircraft system (SA-8), eight main battle tanks (MBT), and 20 armoured personnel carriers. In “DPR”-controlled Ilovaisk (31km south-east of Donetsk) an SMM UAV saw 32 military trucks. The SMM observed one T-64 MBT in a government-controlled area.

This convoy spotted by the OSCE is significant in size, but it has hallmarks of a Russian military assault convoy. It’s standard practice in the Russian military for a mixture of attack and support vehicles to travel together in convoys such as this, and such a convoy would need protection from airstrikes. The SA-8 can carry missiles capable of hitting targets as high as 12,000 meters (39,000 feet) within 15 kilometers of the weapon. The OSCE does not identify the “SHORAD (short range air defence) tracked vehicle” but it is likely a Strela-10, a weapon designed to shoot down fast-moving low-flying enemy aircraft, which are now regularly spotted in this area. The combination of the Strela and the SA-8 work together to provide highly effective short-range anti-aircraft support, even against multiple military targets. As we have been writing for nearly a year now, these weapons require sophisticated training and it is unlikely that amateur fighters could operate such weapons. Furthermore there is no evidence of the Russian-backed fighters ever capturing a Strela-10 nor an SA-8 in combat. In other words, both the presence of these weapons and the fact that they are operating in configurations similar to the Russian military’s indicates two things: 1) these fighters may be Russian troops or may have been trained by the Russian military and 2) this convoy is very important to the Russian-backed fighters.

See yesterday’s analysis of the area that this equipment was spotted in:

The OSCE continues to see evidence of Russian-backed separatist attacks on Schastye, north of Lugansk:

On 9 June, at the bridge in government-controlled Shchastya (20km north of Luhansk), the SMM conducted crater analysis on two impacts, both of which held mortar shell tails. The SMM assessed that 120mm mortars – fired from the direction of “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”)-controlled Vesela Hora and Obozne (16 and 18km north of Luhansk, respectively) – had been responsible.

Read the entire OSCE report here.

James Miller

Sky News Confirms Graves of 3 Russian Soldiers Said to Have Been Killed in Combat in Ukraine

Sky News recently traveled to Russia to investigate claims that three Russian military men had been killed in combat in Ukraine.

On June 8, reported that Sky News was cancelling the show, due to President Vladimir Putin’s recent decree banning reports of deaths of Russian military during “special operations.”

But Sky News told The Interpreter that it hadn’t postponed the report was just “carrying out its usual editorial process.”

Sky News was following up on investigations made by Russian bloggers into recent deaths of Russia’s GRU Spetsnaz forces.

Yesterday, June 10, Sky News published the story.


Our team travelled to remote villages in central and southern Russia to find the freshly dug graves of three young men, each bearing a wreath from Russia’s ministry of defence.

Anton Savelyev, Timur Mamayusupov and Ivan Kardapolov died on the same day – 5 May, 2015.

Social media activists connected their deaths through tributes posted online, and identified the locations of their graves.

found references to the elite 16th Brigade Spetsnaz, but when Sky News
asked at the base they denied having heard of any of the men.

Nevertheless, the Sky News crew found all three graves.

See Russian Soldiers’ Deaths Raise Ukraine Questions

in these cases there is a claim that either the soldiers were
volunteers or on contracts. Sky News asked why then the Ministry of
Defense was sending identical wreaths to all their funerals.

for the decree that supposedly applied to them or their sources
discussing deaths during “special operations,” Sky News had a simple
response: “no such operations have yet been announced.”

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

OSCE Reports Fighting Heavy Around Donetsk Airport, But Excludes Gorlovka & Starognatovka
The spokesperson for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in Ukraine has given a press conference in Kiev at the media crisis center. They have tweeted out a summary and below are a few highlights:
Besides one battle at Marinka earlier in the week, that matches what the Ukrainian military has reported.
Areas north and west of Donetsk have been the focal-point of fighting for weeks, and in the last week areas north of Donetsk and near Gorlovka have seen the most fighting.
This tracks closely with our own observations.
At the height of the fighting on June 3 in Marinka, the Ukrainian General staff said that it was moving its heavy weapons back into the field — weapons which had been largely withdrawn to correspond to the Minsk agreement — in order to beat back the Russian-backed-separatist attack. The OSCE, then, is perhaps the only party operating in eastern Ukraine who thinks the Minsk agreement is still relevant.
484 monitors may sound like a lot, but this is a large amount of area, with tens of thousands of combatants.
The above map is from the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council. Note that while the NSDC’s map does correspond with the OSCE’s descriptions, the fighting is more widespread than the OSCE describes. Note, for instance, the OSCE makes no mention of Gorlovka, and yet heavy fighting is reported there — and not just by the Ukrainian military. Also note that there is significant fighting reported by the NSDC east of Ukrainian-held Starognatovka, between Ukrainian-held Volnovakha and separatist-held Telmanovo, on the road from Donetsk to Mariupol. This matches a pattern The Interpreter has been predicting — in part by using the OSCE’s observations of tank and armor movements within the DNR to guess where fighting will be heaviest.
James Miller
There Was No Buk, There Were No Ukrainian Soldiers — Holes In the Story of the “Russian Engineers”

A group of Russian engineers, employees of the Russian defense corporation Almaz-Antey, made waves recently when they released a report saying that a Ukrainian Buk anti-aircraft weapon, not a Russian one, shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 last summer. Their report also said that the missile had been fired from Zaroshchenskoye, controlled by the Ukrainian military at the time, not near Torez which was controlled by the separatists.

A large body of evidence said that they were wrong, and that body of evidence keeps growing. In our investigation The Interpreter determined that Ukraine did not control Zaroshchenskoye at the time. Furthermore, a significant amount of available evidence contradicts the Russian engineers’ story and places the Buk in a field near Torez.

But the Russian independent news agency Novaya Gazeta wanted to test the theory, so they sent a reporter to Zaroshchenskoye and to the area around Torez. Residents told him that the Ukrainian military did not control Zaroshchenskoye, nor was there a Buk there. On the other hand, residents near Torez did say that they heard a missile fired from the ground before MH17 was shot down.

The Russian government and state-controlled media keep switching their narrative on MH17: the first theory was that a Ukrainian Buk shot down the plane, then there was a debunked theory about an Su-25. Now the Kremlin theory is back to a missile fired by the Ukrainian military. Interestingly, some of the residents Novaya Gazeta spoke to claim that there were other planes in the area where MH17 was shot down, which would correspond to one of the Kremlin’s discarded theories. However, testimony on this point is inconsistent.

Read the entire article here, translated by The Interpreter.

'There Was No Buk in Our Field'

Russian state media has given saturation coverage to the report by engineers from the Russian defense corporation Almaz-Antey which claims that while a Buk-M1 was used to shoot down MH17, it was launched not from the area near Torez but further south in Zaroshchenskoye, ostensibly under Ukrainian control at the time.

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Jun 11, 2015 18:08 (GMT)

James Miller
Two Ukrainian Troops Killed, Six Wounded With Combat Near Shirokino And In The Lugansk Region

Ukraine suffered military casualties as result of three attacks yesterday: one outside Shirokino, east of Mariupol; one on the Bakhmutka highway in the Lugansk region; and another outside Krymskoye, to the north of the highway.

The Azov regiment announced last night that one of their fighters had died from from wounds sustained during the fighting outside Shirokino. 

Earlier that evening, the regiment had reported that Russian-backed fighters had been firing their positions in the village for more than two hours, using 82 and 120 mm mortars, grenade launchers and heavy machine guns.

By 20:00 last night, the bombardment had ceased but small arms exchanges continued. 

Mariupol news site reported that the shelling could be heard all across the port city, which lies around 10 kilometres to the west of Shirokino.

The office of the governor of the Lugansk region, Hennadiy Moskal, announced today that one Ukrainian soldier had been killed and six wounded yesterday evening.

According to Moskal’s office, Russian-backed forces had begun firing on the 29th checkpoint on the Bakhmutka highway, west of the Russian-occupied village of Zholobok, in the afternoon, using grenade launchers and automatic weapons. By 18:00, they had begun using 80 and 120 mm mortars. This carried on for around two hours.

The fire came from the direction of Zholobok and Donetskiy. The report claims that while Zholobok is held by Russian regular forces, Donetskiy is occupied by militants of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LNR).

One soldier was killed and four wounded during the mortar bombardment.


To the north-west of the 29th checkpoint, Ukrainian troops were engaged in a skirmish with Russian-backed forces outside Krymskoye.

According to Moskal’s office, the fire-fight lasted between 16:00 and 21:00 and took place near the tuberculosis clinic on the eastern outskirts of the village.

A 44-year-old Ukrainian soldier was wounded during the clash. He has been taken to hospital and the report claims that there is no threat to his life.

Meanwhile Russian-backed forces shelled the outskirts of Troitskoye, to the north of Debaltsevo.

Moskal’s office reported that the shelling had been conducted with mortars from the direction of occupied Pervomaysk. 

While the village itself was spared any destruction, one Ukrainian soldier was wounded and a BMP was damaged.

The governor’s office also reported that attacks had taken place by the bridge over the Seversky Donets river outside Schastye, and near Katerinovka.

In addition, Ukrainian troops engaged a diversionary group of fighters near Sizoye. This village lies near to the Russian border on the northern side of the Seversky Donets. There are no river crossings in this area so it is likely the diversionary group entered from the Russian Federation rather than separatist-held territory on the southern banks of the river. 

— Pierre Vaux