Ukraine Live Day 488: Shelling of Marinka; Ukrainian Forces Repel Militants Near Mariupol

June 20, 2015
Shelling of Ukrainian positions near Donetsk Airport. Photo via @GirkinGirkin

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.

Please help The Interpreter to continue providing this valuable information service by making a donation towards our costs.

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?

Militants Blow Up Bridge Near Troitskoye in Lugansk Region

Russian-backed separatists blew up a bridge in Lugansk Region last night, blocking traffic from the area, Ukrainska Pravda reported.

The web site of Governor Hennadiy Moskal reported that due to the destruction of the bridge on the outskirts of Troitskoye (near Debaltsevo), passage of traffic to the frontline village is now blocked, said Governor Hennadiy Moskal. He said (translation by The Interpreter):

On June 20, a diversionary reconnaissance group of militants blew up the concrete bridge across the Lugan River, through which humanitarian cargo was brought to Troitskoye, and also food and first aid deliveries.

There are two other bridges in the area near Mironovskoye and Kalinovaya, but the latter is occupied by forces from the self-proclaimed “Lugansk People’s Republic” and it is dangerous on both bridges due to constant shelling.

Moskal added:

“Now only an all-terrain military vehicle could get across the river in the village. The regional authority is looking at the possibility of rapidly establishing an alternative crossing so as to restore Troitskoye to a safe transport connection.”

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Sen. McCain, on Visit to Ukraine, Urges ‘Arming without Delay’

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) visited Ukraine yesterday, June 19.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Conservative Heritage Foundation Has Kiev Correspondent for Its News Site


— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Third Suspect Arrested in Buzina Murder Released; Two Held on ‘Direct Evidence’ of Involvement

Yesterday June 19, a third suspect in the murder of journalist Oles Buzina, was released for lack of evidence, reported, citing the Facebook page of Artem Shevchenko, Ukrainian Interior Ministry. Suspicions that he had been involved although not had perpetrated the murder were not confirmed.

Buzina,  editor-in-chief of Segodnya was killed by unidentified drive-by gunmen on April 16 in the
doorway of his own home on Degtyarevskaya Street in Kiev.

On June 18, Andrei Medvedko and Denis Polishchuk were detained on suspicion of involvement in the murder.

Levy Bereg reported

that Medvedko, 25, is an activist of a nationalists’ group called S14
that was active in the Maidan protests. He ran in elections to the Kiev
City Council in a single-mandate district from the Svaboda party. For a
brief time he served in the Interior Ministry’s Kiev 2 Battalion in the
ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation].

Denis Polishchuk, 25, is another
Kiev activist who took part in actions against illegal construction
sites in Kiev. He also fought in the ATO; he was head of a platoon in
the 54th Reconnaissance Brigade.

In a statement on Facebook, Interior Minister Aven Avakov said (translation by The Interpreter):

“The criminal search and investigation of the Interior
Ministry, for two months, has been conducting an investigation into this
murder. Facts were established and direct evidence was obtained about
the participation in this crime of a group of persons, including the
immediate perpetrators of the murder.


We have
established when, where and from whom these individuals acquire the
automobile on which they then tracked Buzina. It was on this automobile
that the criminals fled from the scene of the murder. Subsequently the
identifiers for the automobile were established and material evidence
was taken. According to the results of police forensics, there is direct
evidence of the involvement of these individuals in the commission of
this murder.

When I say DIRECT evidence, that includes DNA
analysis from clothing abandoned by the criminals from the scene of the
crime, analysis of traces in the automobile, the direct identification
of witnesses, materials from covert surveillance which detectives from
the criminal investigation department of the Interior Ministry conducted
regarding the suspects of the crime.

After conducting all the
necessary public and classified investigative operations, and collecting
all the necessary direct evidence and proof, the suspects were detained
on the morning of July 18.”

Butuzina’s murder was characterized as a “provocation” by President
Petro Poroshenko. The news of the murder came during President Vladimir
Putin’s live televised call-in show, and he characterized the
assassination as motivated by Butuza’s pro-Russian views. 

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

USA Today Features Lugansk Region Governor Hennadiy Moskal

USA Today featured Lugansk Regional Governor Hannadiy Moskal, the pro-Kiev official who is working to keep the Lugansk Region from being entirely taken over by combined Russian and separatist forces.

The husky, well-armed guards stood powerless as the agitated
64-year-old paced back and forth, spewing a stream of obscenities while
inspecting a cargo truck full of food.

They’d fumbled their task —
to block shipments of goods to Ukraine’s separatist insurgents — and
now they had to face the man himself: Hennadiy Moskal, the feisty
governor of the Luhansk region.

One of the guards attempted to explain. But he might as well have stayed quiet.

don’t you (expletive) allow people to deliver bread to the [local]
stores?” Gov. Moskal shouted. “This (expletive) is just (expletive)
rolling along (to the separatists).”

The whole scene was typical Moskal.

foul-mouthed boss rarely makes international headlines, even though his
region has been gripped by a yearlong war between government forces and
Russia-backed rebels.

But within Ukraine, he has long been known for his salty language and prickly attitude. And for getting things done.

attracts both criticism and praise for his tough management style —
and, more recently, his uncompromising stance against the Moscow-backed
insurgency on his doorstep.

“Maybe it doesn’t fit into the
generally acceptable norms of communication,” he told GlobalPost of his
infamous flair, “but nevertheless, it brings results.”

The Interpreter frequently quotes his office’s reports because he and his staff document reports of fighting, shelling, casualties and damage every day.

Read here: Feisty Ukraine Governor Holds War-torn East Together

USA Today is the top circulation American newspaper by total average daily circulation, which includes digital readers; the Wall Street Journal continues to have the largest print circulation.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Popasnaya Struck by Grad Missiles

Russian-backed militants shelled the town of Popasnaya (Popasna) in Lugansk Region, about an 83-kilometer drive from Lugansk.

This is one of the towns near the line of contact that is frequently attacked.

Here is the map provided by the Ukrainian government’s News and Analysis Center today, where Popasnaya is marked:


The Ukrainian side of the Joint Center for  Control and Coordination published a series of photos today showing evidence of shelling in Popasnya today.






— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

OSCE Monitors Report ‘Uptick in Violence’

In its report for today, the OSCE Special Observation Mission in the Donbass said there was an “uptick in violence” in recent days. In particular, they noted areas where the self-proclaimed “Lugansk People’s Republic” fighters would not allow them to inspect areas.

The report corroborated what the Ukrainian side of the JCCC reported:

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*. In the area
around Donetsk airport, the SMM observed more ceasefire violations than
in recent days.  A fuel shortage was observed in and around Donetsk

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

Donetsk airport and its environs saw an uptick in violence from
recent days. Both Ukrainian Armed Forces and Russian Federation Armed
Forces personnel at the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination
(JCCC) observation post at the “Donetsk People’s Republic”
(“DPR”)-controlled Donetsk railway station (8km north-west of Donetsk
city) told the SMM that there had been no ceasefire violations during
the night of 18-19 June and until 13:00hrs on 19 June. Starting at
13:00hrs, the SMM observed during a four-and-a-half-hour period 144
incoming and outgoing explosions, consistent with mortar and artillery
fire, whilst at the Donetsk railway station.         

At the JCCC headquarters in Soledar (government-controlled, 75km
north-east of Donetsk) the SMM was presented with two ceasefire
violation logbooks for 18 June, compiled independently by the Ukrainian
Armed Forces and the Russian Federation Armed Forces representatives at
the JCCC. The Ukrainian Armed Forces logbook recorded 113 ceasefire
violations, 23 of which were attributed to the Ukrainian Armed Forces
and 90 to “DPR” and/or “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”). The Russian
Federation Armed Forces logbook recorded 71 ceasefire violations, of
which 15 were attributed to the Ukrainian Armed Forces and 56 to “DPR”
and/or “LPR”.

The security situation was tense in Shyrokyne (20km east of
Mariupol). From observation points just west of the town, the SMM saw
and heard various explosions, outgoing and incoming mortar fire, as well
as small-arms fire in the Shyrokyne area.

The SMM observed a fuel shortage in Donetsk city, with many fuel
stations closed due to a lack of supply, as well as queues at stations
that still have a supply. In Khartsyzk (“DPR”-controlled, 26km east of
Donetsk), Makiivka (“DPR”-controlled, 14km north-east of Donetsk) and
Donetsk, none of 15 gas stations checked had diesel fuel available.

In Luhansk, the SMM visited the bridge in Stanytsia
Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk) and spoke with three “LPR” armed
members, who informed SMM that the bridge was closed to traffic. The SMM
were allowed to cross to the Ukrainian Armed Forces-controlled north
side of the bridge, where they also spoke with the Ukrainian Armed
Forces commander of the checkpoint, who stated that the bridge remained
closed in accordance with a decree issued on 26 May 2015 by the head of
the Luhansk regional administration. The SMM talked to a number of
people from a crowd of approximately 50 travellers of various ages and
genders seeking to cross the bridge on foot from the “LPR”-controlled
side who had been stopped at the Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint.

In government-controlled Popasna (69km north-west of Luhansk), the
SMM observed five fresh craters, which it assessed to have been caused
by impacts from multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS) fire (122mm BM-21

The SMM revisited multiple Ukrainian Armed Forces and “DPR” heavy
weapons holding areas, and visited one new Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy
weapons holding area, the locations of which are in compliance with the
withdrawal lines according to the Minsk Package. One Ukrainian Armed
Forces site, which previously held six 122mm howitzers, had no weapons
present. The SMM was led to a new site containing two batteries of
anti-tank guns (100mm MT-12 Rapira) and recorded the serial numbers of
12 guns, all previously unrecorded. The SMM visited six “DPR” heavy
weapons holding areas. At four sites, all weapons previously observed
were in situ. At one site “DPR” members requested to write the
monitors’ names down and did not allow the SMM to inspect weapons on the
site*, but only to count them from a distance of 20m. At one “DPR”
site, six out of twelve towed howitzers and four out of nine 120mm
mortars previously recorded were missing.

Despite claims that the withdrawal of heavy weapons was complete, the
SMM observed the following weapons movements in areas that are in
violation of the withdrawal lines according to the Minsk Package: two
main battle tanks (MBT) (T-72) on a flat-bed truck travelling west
through Shakhtarsk (“DPR”-controlled, 50km east of Donetsk); a convoy of
four armoured vehicles and 11 MBTs (T-72) proceeding east through
Zuhres (“DPR”-controlled, 36km east of Donetsk). An SMM unmanned aerial
vehicle (UAV) detected a concentration of ten MBTs (unknown type) and 27
armoured vehicles in Komsomolske (“DPR”-controlled, 43km south of
Donetsk), as well as four self-propelled artillery pieces (likely 122mm
2S1 Gvozdika) approximately 1km west-south-west of Vasylivka
(“DPR”-controlled, 50km south-south-east of Donetsk).

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

* Restrictions on SMM monitoring, 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 presence of mines, the lack of information on whereabouts
of landmines, as well as damaged infrastructure. The security situation
in Donbas is fluid and unpredictable and the ceasefire does not hold
everywhere. Self-imposed restrictions on movement into high risk areas
have impinged on SMM patrolling activities, particularly in areas not
controlled by the government.


  • The SMM was stopped at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint near
    Minkivka (76km north of Donetsk). Checkpoint personnel said they were
    waiting for authorization from their commander. The SMM was allowed to
    proceed after 35 minutes.

Prevented access:

  • The SMM was stopped at an “LPR” checkpoint between Irmino (54km
    west of Luhansk) and Pervomaisk (57km west of Luhansk) and was not
    permitted to proceed further despite the fact that the SMM’s patrol
    route was co-ordinated with the JCCC in advance. The SMM established
    telephone contact with the JCCC, but as the JCCC could not facilitate
    passage for the SMM in a timely manner, the SMM, after waiting for 30
    minutes, returned to base.
  • The SMM spoke with the Krasnodon “command” located in
    “LPR”-controlled Molodohvardiisk (35km south-east of Luhansk) about
    visiting the railway station and yard located 1km north of Krasnodon
    (43km south-east of Luhansk), having earlier been informed that it is
    required to receive permission from the Krasnodon “command” for any
    future visits there. The SMM told the commander the patrol’s purpose,
    but he also asked for a copy of the SMM patrol plan.  The SMM was then
    escorted out of Krasnodon/Molodohvardiisk by an “LPR” vehicle.
  • At the railroad bridge 1km north of Molodohvardiisk, the SMM
    was intercepted by an armed group of three individuals in a minivan.
    These were the same individuals who accosted the SMM in “LPR”-controlled
    Pionerske (19km east of Luhansk) on 29 May (see
    SMM Daily Report of 1 June 2015 ).
    Their leader, who identified himself as a Cossack, was very aggressive,
    and demanded that the SMM cease its monitoring of the railroad and
    leave immediately. They refused to identify themselves by name and said
    that they would shoot out the tires of the SMM vehicles. The SMM
    departed in the direction of Luhansk city.  
  • At a “DPR” heavy weapons holding area, SMM monitors’ names were
    written down and the SMM was not allowed to inspect the weapons but
    only to count them from a distance of 20m.

Interference with UAV:

  • The SMM UAV experienced video signal jamming in the vicinity of
    “DPR”-controlled Oktiabr (85km south of Donetsk), Mytkovo-Kachkari
    (90km south of Donetsk), and Samsonove (80km south-south-east of

For a complete breakdown of the ceasefire violations, please see the annexed table.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Shelling of Avdeyevka, Marinka; Ukrainian Forces Repel Russian-Backed Militants Near Mariupol

Russian-backed separatists shelled Ukrainian positions 37 times, said a spokesman of the ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation], reported.

Most shelling was from 120-mm artillery not allowed under the Minsk agreement.

The worst shelling was near Donetsk in Peski, Avdeyevka and Marinka which were struck 17.

Gnutovo, near Mariupol was shelled as well as Zolotoe near Avdeyevka.

A group of fighters approached Mariupol near the village of Lebedinsky but were repelled by Ukrainian forces.

The towns of Kurdyumovka, Mayorsk, Kirovo, Leninsky and Zaitsevo near Artyomovsk were shelled from 152-mm Howitzers.

Russian-backed separatists continued to shell Ukrainian positions near Donetsk, reported

Translation: On June 19, shell fell on positions of the [Ukrainian] 93rd Brigade near the Donetsk Airport (video by I. Gofman)

In today’s briefing, Col. Andrei Lysenko of the Ukrainian presidential administration stated:

There have been less armed provocations from the Russian-backed militants around Mariupol, although there was one shelling and also a sniper firing in this area.

Militants are not ceasing their attempts to penetrate deep into the territory of Ukraine outside Marinka — there were two battles in this area. Militants are actively using heavy weapons, above all 120-mm mortar-launching and 122-mm artillery and armored vehicles. Firing from BMPs was recorded near Marinka. Tanks were used at Berezovoye, Avdeyevka and Opytnoye. There were seven tank shellings by the militants in all in this direction.  There was also shooting from the town of Novgorodskoye, where militants used 120-mm and 122-mm artillery.

In the Lugansk direction, militants have activated in the area of Sokolniki and Zolotoye, where a wide range of armaments were used, including 120-mm mortar launchers and 122- and 152-mmm mortar launchers. They encountered first battles — Ukrainian soldiers gave a worthy rebuff to enemy diversionary and reconnaissance grops at Lopaskino and in a clash at Schastye. About 4:50 at night yesterday, militants boldly shelled Popasnaya from Grad missile systems.

The city was shelled form two sides — from the towns of Pervomaysk and Klinovo. About 20 mortars were released from each position. The Ukrainian members of the JCCC documented the fact of the shelling — several shells landed in the residential quarter, destryoing two apartments. Fortunately, there were no casualties and our military efficiently helped the local residents. This shelling is not only the latest egregious violation of the ceasefire but a demonstration of how the fighters disregard the lifes of civilians and subject them to greater danger.

According to the Ukrainian State Border Service, 4 flights of enemy drones were recorded which militants were using for air reconnaissance.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick