Ukraine Live Day 494: Putin And Obama Discuss Minsk

June 26, 2015
Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting with high-ranked officials representing Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and the European Union in Minsk, August 26, 2014. Photo: REUTERS/Alexei Druzhinin

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“I was not a terrorist, I was fulfilling orders. I am a military serviceman”

1 Ukrainian Soldier Killed, 3 Wounded; 2 Civilians Injured in Fighting Near Donetsk

Russian-backed  militants shelled the villages of Berdyanskoye and Sopino near Mariupol this morning Novosti Donbassa reports, citing local police.

Vyacheslav Abroskin, head of the police for Donetsk Region, said only 60 people remain in Berdyanskoye, but they had to be protected; not all were able to leave.

Police and special forces were sent to Berdyanskoye to work along side the National Guard.

A severe storm in Lugansk has done more damage than regular fighting today, with 140 homes destroyed and about 400 trees felled, reports.

But despite rains LNR fighters shelled the town of Schastye, wounding a 62-year-old resident and a priest, reported.

The militants have occupied nearby Vesyolaya Gora and continue to pound Schastye with mortar-launchers, grenade-launchers and firearms, targeting Ukrainian positions near the bridge over the Severodonetsk River. The civilians wounded were in or near a house on Gagarina St. struck by shells about a kilometer from the bridge.

Andrei Lysenko, spokesman for the ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] said there were battles round-the-clock in Shirokino, and militants were firing Grads on the town. Snipers were also firing on Ukrainian positions.

Fighting continues uninterrupted around the Donetsk Airport and Marinka, although the situation has been more stable in Gorlovka. “Despite a number of hostile provocations, the use of heavy weapons by the NVF [Novorossiya Army Forces] was not recorded,” he said.

He noted shelling in Schastye, Popasnaya, Novotoshkovskaya and Stanitsa Luganskaya.

One Ukrainian soldier was killed and 3 wounded in the last 24 hours.

Residents of Dokuchayevsk organized a rally on June 23 to express their outrage at an incident where a Russian-backed fighter shot a local resident in the head at a checkpoint. The demonstrators demanded an end to the shelling of Ukrainian positions from residential complexes.

Militants are now threatening participants of a rally in the center of Minsk on June 15, where people have called for an end of placement of heavy artillery and armed personnel in residential quarters as this threatens their lives.

The Ukrainian Security Service detained a man and a woman who served as DNR informers who said they were recruited by a Russian GRU agent whose call sign was “Starshina” [Master Sergeant] who was said to coordinate DNR diversionary groups. He was also said to run an agents’ network of civilians in Donetsk, Vinnitsa, and Lvov regions.

Regional press indicates that even when fighting subsides in some area, armed militants still continue to shoot civilians, their fellow officers, or themselves.

In Krasnaya Lucha, militants fired at a passenger car who refused to stop at their demand, killing the driver. says
there have been a number of suicides recently among LNR fighters: one fighter who was on guard shot himself in the head in Sabovka, and a drunken policeman who had defected from Ukrainian police to the LNR committed suicide. In  May another leader of the militia also shot himself in the mouth while intoxicated.

The details of recent murders have also come out, reports.

The body of an unidentified man with two gunshot wounds has been found in an elevator shaft in Lugansk. An agent of the LNR Ministry of Security in Lugansk was also murdered, and one suspected detained was discovered to have an “impressive” arsenal of 26 RPGs, 7 F1 grenades, 5 RGD 5 grenades, 6 TNT blocks, 2 machine guns and a large quantity of ammunition, reported.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Putin Calls Obama To Discuss Ukraine And Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called U.S. President Barack Obama today in order to discuss Ukraine, Syria, and other major world events. Here is the White House readout of the phone call:

President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation called President Obama today. They discussed the necessity of countering ISIL and developments in the Middle East, as well as the situation in Ukraine. President Obama reiterated the need for Russia to fulfill its commitments under the Minsk agreements, including the removal of all Russian troops and equipment from Ukrainian territory. The leaders discussed the increasingly dangerous situation in Syria, and underscored the importance of continued P5+1 unity in ongoing negotiations to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

The Kremlin readout of the conversation reads as follows:

In particular, the two leaders discussed the Ukrainian crisis and the fulfilment of the Minsk Agreements. The Presidents agreed that US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin will be in contact to discuss implementation of these agreements.

Significant attention was given to a set of issues pertaining to counter-terrorism efforts, particularly the spread of the Islamic State’s influence in the Middle East. Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama agreed to instruct Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry to hold a meeting to discuss this issue.

In addition, the presidents of Russia and the United States had an extensive discussion of current issues in bilateral relations. They also engaged in a detailed exchange of opinions concerning the situation in Syria and touched on settling the issue of the Iranian nuclear programme.

The (very short) White House statement did take a shot at Russia for its role in Ukraine, while the Kremlin statement was surprisingly free of any particular barbs against the United States. Tone is important — perhaps the goal of the statement was to signal that Russia is interested in being a cooperative member of the international community on key issues like Iran, Ukraine and Syria.

The timing is also interesting — ISIS continues to grow in strength while Russia’s key ally in Syria, Bashar al Assad, is weakening. In Ukraine the situation is increasingly tense, but the Ukrainian military has not suffered any significant defeats recently. 

But, as always, actions speak louder than words, and so it will be interesting to see if there is a significant policy shift in Russia in the coming days and weeks.

James Miller