Ukraine Live Day 504: Despite Shirokino Withdrawal, Attacks Spread Near Mariupol

July 6, 2015
Ukrainian soldier in June 2015. Photo by Evgeniy Maloletka/TASS

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OSCE Finds Right Sector Fighters Who Refuse To Follow Orders; DNR Admits They Have Drone-Jamming Gear

The latest OSCE report from Ukraine is dated July 5 at 19:30 GMT. The first observation — they saw less fighting than in recent days:

The SMM observed a lower number of ceasefire violations at and around the Donetsk airport on 5 July, as compared to previous days. At the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) observation point at Donetsk central railway station (“Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled, 8km north-west of Donetsk city centre), on 4 July, the SMM heard, and in some cases saw, a total of 124 explosions, as compared to 27 explosions on 5 July. On 4 July, in the SMM’s presence, the JCCC representatives at the observation point at Donetsk railway station negotiated a ceasefire, which lasted for 40 minutes. In the area of Berdianske (government-controlled, 1.5km west of Shyrokyne, 18.5km east of Mariupol) and Sopyne (government-controlled, 16km east of Mariupol) the SMM observed movement of military trucks and vehicles; however, three male and two female residents told the SMM that there had been no shelling.

At the JCCC headquarters in Soledar (government-controlled, 75km north of Donetsk), the SMM was presented with two logbooks, compiled independently by the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the Russian Federation Armed Forces representatives at the JCCC. For 3 July, 53 ceasefire violations were indicated in the Ukrainian Armed Forces logbook, out of which 15 were attributed to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and 38 to the “DPR” and the “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”). According to Russian Federation Armed Forces logbook, there had been 63 violations over the same time period, out of which 27 were attributed to the Ukrainian Armed Forces and 36 to the “DPR” and the “LPR”.

The next noteworthy observation is not related directly to the situation on the field. The OSCE SMM says that they encountered a group of fighters from Right Sector, a far right volunteer group, who refused to take orders from the Ukrainian military:

In Avdiivka (government-controlled, 15km north-west of Donetsk), the SMM was stopped by armed members of the Right Sector, who did not allow it to proceed further to a JCCC observation post*. Despite calls to the Ukrainian Armed Forces Major General, head of the Ukrainian side to the JCCC, and to the command of the Anti-Terrorism Operation (ATO), the armed men continued refusing access. They insisted that they had their own orders and did not fall under the command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Right Sector (Pravyi Sektor)) is supposed to report to the command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (VSU).

Interestingly, this weekend there was also a rally in Kiev of Right Sector supporters which was observed by the OSCE:

On 3 July, in Kyiv, the SMM monitored a march, which gathered around 700 participants, including members of the Right Sector (Pravyi Sektor), volunteer battalions and Automaidan. The participants gathered on Maidan square, and proceeded along Instytutska and Hrushevskoho Streets, passing by the buildings of the Presidential Administration, the Parliament (Verkhovna Rada), the Cabinet of Ministers, and ended at European Square, where members of the Right Sector and volunteer battalions held speeches. The participants called on the government to declare the current conflict as a war, to reject the Minsk arrangements, and to break-off diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation. They also called for the release of members of volunteer battalions who have been detained by Ukrainian law enforcement, and the fulfilment of the demands of the “Maidan revolution”. The SMM observed that some of the participants carried flags of the Right Sector and of the Aidar volunteer battalion under the Ministry of Defence, as well as other flags, and, in the case of one group, torches. At the end of the event, some of the protesters burned tires. The SMM observed that the police maintained significant presence in front of the Presidential Administration, while fewer law enforcement officers were also present elsewhere along the route of the march.

Another interesting observation made by the OSCE, however, had to do with the Russian-backed separatists:

In a meeting with the SMM Deputy Chief Monitor in Donetsk on 4 July, the “DPR” “minister of defence” admitted that the “DPR” had at their disposal sophisticated equipment for jamming unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). He claimed that “DPR” were not always able to distinguish between UAVs of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and those of the SMM.  

Many times during the course of this conflict the OSCE has complained that their drones were being jammed while flying over the DNR (DPR). But the obvious question then becomes how the separatists obtained such sophisticated equipment (the answer, to many readers, may be equally obvious). 

One possible reason why fighting lessened over the weekend — the OSCE negotiated a ceasefire in order to repair key water infrastructure, and it seems both sides will benefit:

On 4 and 5 July, the SMM facilitated a ceasefire and monitored the process of demining, in preparation for repairs of a major water pipeline leading north-south along the line of contact, between Maiorsk (government-controlled, 45km north of Donetsk) and Horlivka (“DPR”-controlled, 29km north-east of Donetsk). The pipeline had been damaged by shelling on 29 December. The SMM was told that demining was completed on a 500m-long stretch of the pipeline and repair works had begun. The SMM was informed that the repair works would take up to two weeks and would benefit more than 2.5 million people in Donetsk region, including the residents of Mariupol.

The OSCE also reported on the situation in Shirokino, where the Russian-backed fighters have recently withdrawn, though reportedly not before they shelled the town and mined the area. Still, the fighting in Shirokino has been heavy for weeks, and the damage was obvious to the OSCE SMM:

On 3 July, in Mariupol (government-controlled, 102km south of Donetsk), the SMM met with two elderly women with disabilities displaced from the southern part of Shyrokyne. They described in detail how, at the end of May (see SMM Daily Report 2 June 2015), the remaining civilians in their neighbourhood had been targeted by sniper fire from the direction of the Kramatorsk pension building in the south-western part of the village (several were injured and one killed). They also said that in the last days before they were evacuated from the village by “DPR” on 5 June, their area had been shelled from the west, north, and north-east. Their house burnt down as a result of shelling on 3 June, and they had to spend two nights in their summer kitchen, they said.

On 4 July, the SMM conducted a two-hour foot patrol in Shyrokyne (“DPR”-controlled, 20km north-east of Mariupol), together with the Ukrainian Major-General, head of the Ukrainian side to the JCCC, the Russian Federation Lieutenant-General – head of the Russian Federation side to the JCCC, as well as unarmed “DPR” members. The SMM once again confirmed that there were no remaining “DPR” members in the village. The SMM observed abandoned “DPR” positions, including command posts, bunkers, and military equipment and ammunition left behind by “DPR”. The SMM did not see any civilians and observed that approximately 80% of infrastructure and most of the houses in the southern part of the village had been destroyed beyond repair, including the house belonging to the two elderly women interviewed by the SMM on the previous day.

The OSCE also saw signs of new fighting in the Lugansk region:

On 4 July, in Shchastia (government-controlled, 20km north of Luhansk), the SMM observed ceasefire violations. Following up on a JCCC report that the Shchastia power station had been subjected to heavy weapons fire the previous evening, the SMM visited the site on 5 July and analysed five fresh craters, estimating that four had been caused by 82mm mortar and one – by a 122mm howitzer, originating from an easterly direction. At the hospital in Shchastia, the SMM was told that two workers of the power plant, wounded by shell fragments, had been brought in on the evening of 4 July and received first medical aid, prior to being transferred to a hospital in Novoaidar.

On 4 July, a representative of the Ukrainian Armed Forces informed the SMM that on the evening of 3-4 July, a government-controlled checkpoint (53km north-west of Luhansk) was heavily shelled. The SMM observed seven fresh craters, all of them at the transformer field of the power plant, identifying three of these as caused by 120mm and 80mm mortar fire. Based on the angle of the impact, the SMM estimated that the shells came from 1-2km south.

The OSCE also witnessed more heavy weaponry out of place, and for the third time in a month has reported seeing T-72s in government-controlled territory. The Ukrainian military has not been documented as having used T-72s in this conflict, so it’s unclear if that policy has changed, these tanks belong to the Russian-backed fighters, or the OSCE misidentified the weapon:

The SMM visited five “DPR” heavy weapons holding areas*, the locations of which are in compliance with the weapons’ respective withdrawal lines. At one site, the SMM noticed discrepancies in the heavy weapons serial numbers and found that one previously recorded 152mm artillery piece was missing, while, at another, one previously-recorded self-propelled howitzer (2S1 Gvozdika) was missing.

Despite claims by all sides that the withdrawal of heavy weapons was complete, the SMM observed weapons’ movement/presence in areas that are not compliant with the respective withdrawal lines. In government-controlled areas, the SMM observed one main battle tank (MBT) (T-72). Upon visiting an “LPR” training site near Uspenka (23km south-west of Luhansk), the SMM observed ten MBTs (T64), three armoured personnel carriers (APC) and eight military trucks, performing non-live fire exercises.

The SMM UAVs continued observing heavy military hardware in areas that are not compliant with the respective withdrawal lines. On 4 July, five MBTs were spotted in “DPR”-controlled areas east of Shyrokyne. Also in “DPR”-controlled areas, two MBTs were observed near Michurine (55km north-east of Mariupol), a concentration of ten MBTs and eight APCs near Sontseve (61km north-east of Mariupol), four self-propelled howitzers also in the same sector and a concentration of seven MBTs, 23 APCs, two pontoon bridge layers, as well as one 240mm mortar (Tyulpan) near Komsomolske (44km south-east of Donetsk). On the same day, the UAV also observed two MBTs in government-controlled area east of Mariupol. The following day, in “DPR”-controlled areas, the UAV spotted a self-propelled howitzer near Petrivske (77km north-east of Mariupol), a concentration of eight MBTs, 24 APCs in Komsomolske, and ten MBTs near Sontseve.

The full report can be read here.

James Miller

What We Have Learned In 500+ Days of the Crisis In Ukraine

What 500 Days Of The Ukraine Crisis Have Taught Us

Please help The Interpreter to continue providing this valuable information service by making a donation towards our costs. Today is the 500th day of The Interpreter's live coverage of Ukraine (read that coverage here). While the day is not an anniversary in the traditional sense, it is a milestone which marks two events – the […]

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Jul 06, 2015 20:05 (GMT)

Was A Russian Naval Intelligence Commander Assassinated In Novoazovsk?

Two Ukrainian news site, Obozrevatel and, report that a Russian military commander was killed in Novoazovsk on July 3. However the identity of the individual killed and the circumstances of their death are unclear.

According to both sources, the officer killed was the chief of staff of Russian naval intelligence.

However both reports also cite a post by Russian blogger Oleg Yarchuk, who claims that the deceased was the chief of staff of a unit, suggesting someone of far lower significance than the head of an entire military department.

Yarchuk claimed that the officer was the head of the Delfin special group, a combined special intelligence detachment formed of personnel from both the Northern and Pacific fleets,

A special forces diving group called Delfin (dolphin) is described in this Russian Wikipedia article as existing during the days of the Soviet Union. However, beyond Yarchuk’s repeated mentions of a current unit under that name, we have not found any evidence that it still exists.

The blog post stated that the officer was reportedly killed by a sniper while training in the waters off occupied Novoazovsk, around 35 kilometres east of Mariupol.

Yaroslav Chepurnoy, a Ukrainian military press officer, did tell Obozrevatel that the officer, (whom they describe as chief of staff of the Russian naval intelligence) was indeed killed in Novoazovsk. However he did not comment on the circumstances of the death, nor did he comment on whether any Ukrainian units had been involved.

The press office of the Azov regiment told 0629 that they had not carried out the killing, but stated that they did not comment on other units’ operations.

However, while these reports have been widely repeated by Ukrainian and sympathetic foreign media, no mention of the incident can be found in Russian or pro-separatist media as of now.

— Pierre Vaux

Heavy Shelling, Including Grads, Reported In North Of Donetsk

There are reports this afternoon of artillery exchanges in the north-west of Donetsk, near Ukrainian-held Peski and the separatist-held airport.

Freelance journalist Paul Gogo reports that Grad MLRSs are being used:

Translation: Shelling continues in the area of the airport, heavy artillery fire. There one shot approximately every 30 seconds. Usage of Grads.

Translation: Methodically pounding outbound in the north of the city. Falling on Avdeyevka or Peski.

— Pierre Vaux

LNR Leader Plotnitsky Announces Elections For November 1

Following the announcement on July 2 that the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) would hold local elections on October 18, without the consent of the Ukrainian government, the separatist leadership in the Lugansk region has announced elections will be held there on November 1.

Igor Plotnitsky, leader of the self-declared Lugansk People’s Republic (LNR), said, in a statement published today, that the Ukrainian government is not adhering to the Minsk agreements.

The Interpreter translates:

“In recent time we have become convinced that Ukraine does not intend to comply with the obligations they have undertaken. Kiev either violates or imitates compliance with the Minsk agreements. Draft texts introduced to the Verkhovna Rada have not been agreed with us. They directly affect the situation in the Donbass. So far, the special status of the LNR has not been defined, nor has the the implementation of the special status law begun. With each passing day, Kiev’s blockade of the LNR strengthens.

The Lugansk People’s Republic is committed to the rigorous implementation of the Minsk agreements. Ukraine unilaterally passes a law on “local elections,” without the agreement of the LNR and DNR, the content of which is contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Minsk agreements.

It is against this background that we are beginning the unilateral realisation of the Minsk agreements with regards to the holding of local elections in the LNR.

I am scheduling elections for the leadership of the towns and districts of the Lugansk People’s Republic on November 1, 2015.

I instruct all responsible authorities to begin preparations for the elections in accordance with the laws of the LNR.

I am asking for access to be provided and for every opportunity to be created for international observers to operate.”

As we have reported before, the Russian-backed separatists dispute a bill passed by the Verkhovna Rada in March this year which ordered any local elections held in occupied territory (as part of the ‘special status law’ designed to implement the Minsk agreement) to be conducted according to Ukrainian law.

The separatists meanwhile, have made their own proposals for elections, which would bar any party or candidate that was seen as supportive of the Ukrainian government’s military response to the Russian-backed takeover.

— Pierre Vaux
Ukraine Reports 3 Soldiers, 2 Civilians Wounded By Attacks

Ukrainska Pravda reports that Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the Presidential Administration on the military operation in the south-east, has announced that three Ukrainian soldiers and two civilians have been wounded as a result of attacks over the last 24 hours.

This comes a day after Ukraine reported that five soldiers had been killed and three wounded after their vehicle struck a landmine in the Lugansk region.

According to Lysenko, the civilians were wounded in Schastye, north-west of Lugansk.

The spokesman said that Russian-backed forces had engaged Ukrainian forces in fire-fights along the front line between Stanitsa Luganskaya and Schastye “practically throughout the day.”

Lysenko said that Zolotoye and Krymskoye, where the ATO Press Centre reported small-arms attacks this morning, remained “hot spots.”

The Press Centre reported that Stanitsa Luganskaya, Schastye, Sizoye, Bolotennoye, Krymskoye, Zolotoye and Troitskoye had all been attacked yesterday.

Alexander Hug, deputy chief of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), said today that the situation along the front line in Lugansk “remains tense.”

Russia’s state-owned RIA Novosti news agency reports that Hug said that armed confrontations continued to take place, with the most intense fighting seen near Stanitsa Luganskaya, Tryokhizbenka, Sokolniki and checkpoint number nine, near Pervomaysk.

To the west of the Lugansk region, east of Gorlovka, the ATO Press Centre reported attacks on Ukrainian positions near Lozovoye and Luganskoye, while Lysenko reported that positions south of Svetlodarsk had been harassed with fire.

Donetsk news site reported, citing reports from social media, that 10 tanks and armoured personnel carriers had been seen moving towards Gorlovka through the Yenakievo suburb of Verovka.

To the north, the report claims that a company from the Russian-backed 3rd motor-rifle brigade was redeployed near Ukrainian-held Zaytsevo late at night.

While Lysenko said today that there had been no attacks recorded north or west of Gorlovka, cites a social media report claiming that Russian-backed forces had fired artillery towards Novgorodskoye, to the north-west, and Dzerzhynsk and Konstantinovka, to the north, from a position on the grounds of a former textiles factory on the south-western fringes of the town.

According to the report, more than 100 rounds were fired, with some also directed towards Avdeyevka, north of Donetsk.

Lysenko reported that Avdeyevka and Marinka, south-west of the separatist-held city, had both been shelled with heavy weapons.

The ATO Press Centre reported in further detail on attacks in this area.

The Interpreter translates:

Militants twice used weapons prohibited under the Minsk agreements. This took place at 21:10 near the village of Pervomayskoye, where, over the course of half an hours, pro-Russian bandits pounded with 122 mm artillery and tanks. Not far from Peski, from 21:15 to 21:40, the militants shelled ATO forces’ positions with 122 mm artillery. While from 22:00 attacks started up again in Peski with tanks and small arms.

— Pierre Vaux

Despite Shirokino Withdrawal, Attacks Spread Near Mariupol

Ukrainian military sources are reporting an intensification in fighting to the east of Mariupol, despite the recent withdrawal of Russian-backed forces from the war-torn village of Shirokino.

Mariupol news site reports that Yaroslav Chepurnoy, a press officer for the military operation in the area, has told them that Russian-backed forces conducted 10 attacks yesterday.

Six attacks were directed at Nikolaevka, two at Chermalyk and two other attacks were made, one striking Ukrainian positions near Gnutovo, the other near Starognatovka.

82 and 120 mm mortars were used in the attacks against Nikolaevka, Gnutovo and Starognatovka. The Ukrainian military reports no casualties.

Chepurnoy reported explosions of an unknown origin in separatist-held territory.

Ukrainian intelligence reported tank and mortar shelling near separatist-held Oktyabr. 0629 described this as “provocative” fire.

Chepurnoy told 0629 that there had been an explosion in Shirokino yesterday morning. The news site reported that soldiers had suggested the blast was caused by a tripwire going off.

The Ukrainian military’s ATO Press Centre reported that, in addition to the attacks described by Chepurnoy, the village of Bakhchevik, about 17 kilometres south-east of Volnovakha, had been attacked overnight.


Chepurnoy also claimed today that a “large unmanned aerial vehicle” was shot down over the sea near Mariupol last night. 

The press officer said that the drone had been struck, caught fire and crashed into the water. Efforts are currently under way to recover the wreckage. 

Novosti Donbassa reports that an blast occurred in the early hours of this morning in Mariupol itself.

According to Natalya Shiman, head of public relations at the Donetsk regional branch of the Interior Ministry, two men, born in 1992 and 1992, were wounded after a grenade exploded near number 3, Kievskaya street in the Ordzhonikidze district.

Investigators are working to determine the cause of the incident, both men have been hospitalised. 

— Pierre Vaux