Ukraine Live Day 496: Russian-Backed Militants Shell Water Pumps Supplying Front Line Town

June 28, 2015
In this photo taken June 23, 2015 Ukrainian servicemen from the Kiev-2 volunteer battalion carry a box of ammunition at the frontline in the village of Krymske (Krymskaya), east Ukraine. Photo: Evgeniy Maloletka/AP

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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?


Military Times on Ukrainian Army in Krymske

Russian-Backed Militants Shell Water Pumps Supplying Front Line Towns

Russian-backed militants made a massive artillery attack on Popasnaya from their position in Pervomaisk, 0642.ua reported, citing the office of Governor Hennadiy Moskal.

Popasnaya is on the line of contact and has frequently come under attack. According to preliminary reports, howitzers and large-caliber self-propelled artillery were used in the attacks. Shells exploded on the outskirts of town, although there were no reports of injuries. Druzhba, a suburb of Popasnaya, as well as the 16th district lost power.

Fighters from the self-proclaimed “Lugansk People’s Republic” (LNR) also shelled the pump station at the village of Svetlichnoye in the Popasnaya District, the governor’s office said. The station controls the water to a number of towns along the front in Lugansk Region.

Governor Hennadiy Moskal stated (translation by The Interpreter):

“This is already the second deliberate shelling in recent days of the water supply system on the line of contect. Early last week, the militants struck the pump station at Karbonit with Grads and artillery, which we were able to quickly repair, and now they’ve shelled and damaged the pump station in Svetlichnoye. After such swinishness, we don’t plan to supply water to occupied territory.”

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russia Rejects UN Tribunal for MH17; Dutch Investigators Researching Cell Towers Blocked from Lugansk Region

As the New York Times reported yesterday June 27, Russia has indicated that it would reject a UN tribunal on the shooting down of Malaysian Airline flight MH17, widely believed on the base of ample evidence to have been shot down by Russian-backed separatists.

A good question to ask about Russia’s position is this one from a Columbia University professor:

Russia isn’t being singled out here in some special way — the UN has set up a number of tribunals in the past to deal with mass crimes against humanity which violate UN conventions or other violations of its charter.

Russia has worked overtime to claim that the downing of MH17 is all
Ukraine’s fault, first claiming that a Ukrainian plane shot a missile at
the Malaysian Boeing, then advancing other variations of these air
missile claims that were easily disproved.

When it was clear no one but Russia’s state media would believe
them, recently Russia began to publish expert hypotheses to concede that
while yes, the plane was shot down by a Buk, it had to have been owned
by Ukraine as it was ostensibly in Ukrainian-controlled territory —
another contention debunked by the Russian independent media.

Whatever its changing story, Russia has always claimed to have
proof that Ukraine was to blame, and contended that the US and EU had no
satellite or forensic evidence as they would have published this by now
to prove its point.

Numerous pieces of evidence against a Ukrainian perpetrator and
leaning toward Russia and its supported separatists have been found in
social media by citizen reporters and by mainstream media reporters.

If Russia believes its own stories, why wouldn’t it be happy to have them put to test by an international tribunal?

Meanwhile. there was a report June 27 that a Dutch investigation team has
completed its investigation at the site of the crash and has recorded
information about the cell towers in the area.

The text shown in the tweet can be found in another New York Times article and says in part:

The most important goals of the mission were in this region. “Ground samples have been taken at
various locations and technical research has been conducted to locate
cell towers and check the working of the Eastern-Ukrainian telephone
network. The information that has been collected during the mission,
will be examined and analyzed in the Netherlands.”

No Access Lugansk

“The mission was also aimed at technical
research into cell towers and telephone network in the Luhansk area.
This has until now not succeeded, as representatives of the
self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic in talks with the OSCE until
now have refused access to the Luhansk area.”

While this was not stated and the Dutch researchers may have been investigating some other aspect of the crash, what this could indicate is an effort to find from the ground up in
real life — as distinct from the Internet — how accurate the
geotagging of social media created from camera phones and other devices
that take pictures. These depend on Ukrainian cell towers.

One of the most important pieces of social media evidence comes
from a tweet of a photo made from a local photographer who took this picture from his room using
his camera, as has been recounted by Dutch journalist Olaf Koens, with
further detail by Sergei Parkhomenko was covered in the report by the
colleagues of Boris Nemtsov.

MH17-4.jpg

He turned over his camera to the Dutch investigation team so they can verify all the metadata.

Another key video was this one, actually taken by a Ukrainian Interior Ministry intelligence officer, first publicized on July 18, 2014 by Interior Minister Aven Avakov, who said the truck had passed through Krasnodon on its way out of Ukraine to Russia and the “GPS coordinates” were known. The video was taken with a zoom lens, not a dashboard camera.

Avakov didn’t reveal its coordinates on the day he posted it, July 18,
setting swarms of bloggers to hunt for it. They came close, and we were
able to debunk the Russian Defense Ministry’s disinformation
about it with a fake geolocation. On July 19, he clarified that the video was taken in Lugansk, but said he could not cite the coordinates for security reason. Ultimately, no one could pinpoint the video’s geolocation exactly until Avakov revealed the
coordinates on July 22, 2014
. Then bloggers corroborated the location
from other photographic clues, including the billboard displayed on the
scene.

A picture snapped of a Buk in Stary Oskol posted by Twitter blogger @5urpher later verified as in Ukraine
by Bellingcat
has a geotag on it as seen originally on VKontakte which
enabled it to be verified using Google Street View.

In these and numerous other photos and videos, either the geotag is
known or is displayed showing the location of the scene, or has been
described by citizen reporters finding matches of scenes with known
pictures on Google or Panoramio or other services.

But are those geotags accurate? There have been claims that the
cell towers in Ukraine and Russia do not not render precise geotags for
various reasons.  We have seen this ourselves in researching some stories. This issue came up on a story involving claims
regarding a Russian soldier operating a Buk near the Ukrainian border.
That may be what the Dutch investigators hope to find, but they’ve been
blocked from Lugansk, where some of the most important evidence has come
from.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick