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?
Earlier this week The Washington Post ran an editorial which argued that the West was allowing Russia to slowly infiltrate eastern Ukraine. The editorial, written by Jackson Diehl, says that more action is needed from the West to deter Russia’s aggressive actions and support Ukraine. Diehl cited the work for The Interpreter in documenting new Russian bases in the Donbass, and new drone footage of a base between Donetsk and Mariupol which was built in separatist territory in less than two weeks — footage analyzed by The Interpreter‘s Pierre Vaux for The Daily Beast. Diehl argued that the West has failed to support Ukraine both militarily and financially against these threats:
That leaves Ukraine facing the possibility of default as soon as the end of this month, and no later than September, when a $500 million bond falls due. Anders Aslund, an expert on the Ukrainian economy at the Atlantic Council, thinks Ukraine needs $10 billion in additional financing to survive the next two years. At best, it may get half of that.
Ukrainian leaders, who see themselves fighting in defense of Western democracy against Putin’s imperialist autocracy, increasingly express bewilderment at their inability to attract support. “If we fail,” Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told The Post last month, “this will be a failure for the entire free world.” But the free world, it seems, is otherwise occupied.
Will we let Ukraine die?
A Ukrainian military unit last week released footage from a drone showing a large new Russian military base in eastern Ukraine, equipped with T-72 tanks, barracks, communications equipment and even a parade ground. International observers reported "increased intensity" of fighting in the region, in violation of a cease-fire.
The Nation, an English-language newspaper in Thailand, has published a letter to the editor written by Kirill Barsky, the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Kingdom of Thailand, entitled “Readers robbed of the truth about Ukraine,” which starts with this tagline:
Dear readers! I hate to say this, but when on July 7 you read the article “Will the West let Ukraine die?” by Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post, you got robbed. The author bluntly stole your right to truthful information.
He ruthlessly cleaned you out by his naked lies. You were stripped to the skin in front of the reality, which needs to be faced with at least some elementary knowledge.
The letter, which is riddled with ad hominem attacks and lacks any hyperlinks, directly mentions, though fails to factually address, several key points raised by The Interpreter. There are also several false claims, such as claims that Donetsk and Lugansk are shelled each day by the Ukrainian military (that does not correspond to most OSCE reports, as shelling of Donetsk city is not necessarily a daily occurrence and shelling of Lugansk city is now rare).
But one claim is especially dishonest. Barsky writes:
This new Christopher Columbus [one of Barsky’s derogatory terms for Jackson Diehl, or for our team, it’s not clear – The Interpreter] said he had discovered “a Russian military base” in Eastern Ukraine “equipped with T-72 tanks, barracks, communications equipment and even a parade ground”. Isn’t it strange? A June 30 OSCE press release said no military movement was observed in the conflict zone. Check it out!
There is no link to the OSCE report in order to “check it out!”, but our intrepid team of explorers found the OSCE report in question. The June 30 OSCE report includes descriptions of heavy fighting around Donetsk, northwest of Lugansk and elsewhere, but, sure enough, it makes no mention of separatist armor out of place. However, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) does not inspect the same areas each day. But in their report filed the next day, July 1, the OSCE reports, among other things, seeing artillery in separatist-controlled territory near Mariupol, and Grad launchers which were missing from a separatist holding location. In the report filed on June 29, the day before the report cited by Barsky, the OSCE saw a convoy moving through separatist territory:
At Makiivka (“DPR”-controlled, 7km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM observed a convoy of 25 large (32-ton) civilian trucks escorted by a “DPR” military truck at its end. All vehicles were heading towards Donetsk city. At least two of the trucks had Russian Federation license plates, and the majority of the trucks had their license plates covered. The trucks were moving slowly and their cargo compartments were covered with canvas, therefore they seemed to be carrying heavy loads, but SMM could not see the nature of the cargo.
The OSCE also observed a noteworthy amount of weapons moving through separatist territory:
In “DPR”-controlled areas, the SMM observed a total of five T-72 main battle tanks (MBTs). In the vicinity of an “LPR” training site the SMM observed 18 MBTs (T-64) performing non-live-fire exercises.
The Russian Ambassador, then, found one of the few OSCE reports filed recently which does not mention the movement of weapons through separatist territory. In fact, in the reports liked to by Diehl the OSCE notes significant amounts of armor, vehicles, troops and artillery not only moving through territory controlled by the Russian-backed fighters, but moving or staging in areas close to the aforementioned military bases mentioned in Diehl’s article.
Perhaps it is the Russian Ambassador, then, who is the great explorer, because it does not take Magellan’s navigational skills to find plenty of evidence of Russian activity between Donetsk and Mariupol in recent weeks.
— James Miller
There have been conflicting statements from Ukrainian volunteer fighters and the military leadership in Mariupol today with regards to the possibility of withdrawing troops from the war-torn village of Shirokino, about 10 km east of the port city.
Russian-backed troops withdrew around 2 km east on July 2, but Ukrainian forces have remained in their original positions in the west of the village.
Yesterday, a statement was posted on the Facebook page of the volunteer-based Donbass Battalion, part of the Ukrainian National Guard (NGU). According to the post, there was talk that the Ukrainian military leadership had decided to conduct a withdrawal from Shirokino.
The Donbass Battalion’s post said that any withdrawal of troops from the village would be considered “state treason” by both residents of Mariupol and fighters for abandoning the place that “fighters had lost their brothers and split their blood for peaceful skies above Mariupol.”
This morning, a Twitter user, presenting themselves as company sergeant in the Donbass Battalion, claimed that troops had received the order to withdraw:
Translation: Good morning, timeline. We have just heard that all units in Shirokino must leave their positions. Donbass, Azov, Pravyi Sektor and the 37th battalion said FUCK!!!
Translation: Today the volunteers of Mariupol have decided to hold a protest rally against the surrender of Shirokino. The Donbass Battalion has decided to join it.
However Mariupol news site 0629.com.ua reported that the press office of the Azov Regiment, another volunteer unit of the NGU, said that, while their were rumours of withdrawal, no official order had been received.
Yaroslav Chepurnoy, press officer for the Ukrainian military in Mariupol, said that the claims were rumours intended to spread panic in the city.
A post on the Donbass Battalion page this morning said that the unit had now left the front on rotation.
This afternoon Mariupol and Shirokino residents, backed by members of the Donbass Battalion and Pravyi Sektor, held a meeting in the city, calling on the Ukrainian military leadership not to withdraw from the village.
The commander of the ‘Mariupol Druzhina‘ Viktoriya Pridushchenko, said that she had been informed by sources in the General Staff that Colonel General Hennadiy Vorobyov, first deputy chief of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, was allegedly considering withdrawal from Shirokino and supports the idea of demilitarising the village.
The representatives at the meeting said that such a move would place Mariupol at risk of bombardment from the strategic heights in Shirokino.
Pravyi Sektor and Donbass members at the meeting said that, while they had not received orders to withdraw, they wanted to prevent such an order being given. Their members, they said, would not execute the command.
One representative from Pravyi Sektor said that, starting today, volunteers were arriving in Mariupol in response to a call for mobilisation. A thousand people would, they said, join the ranks of the volunteer brigades to defend the city.
The only circumstances under which the speakers would accept the demilitarisation of Shirokino would be the withdrawal of separatist forces behind the demarcation line established by the September 5 Minsk agreement, and the removal of all Russian troops beyond the border. They added that neither the OSCE or Russia could guarantee the implementation of such an agreement and therefore the withdrawal of troops from the village was impossible.
Activists at the meeting said that, were the order to withdraw Ukrainian troops received under the present circumstances, civilians would drive to the Shriokino and block exit roads to prevent departure.
— Pierre Vaux
Local news sites report that explosives have been planted, and the Novorossiya flag raised at a television antenna tower in the city of Mykolaiv (Nikolaev in Russian).
Nikvesti.com, a regional news site, reports, citing eyewitnesses, that police officers had attempted to remove the separatist flag from the tower when they discovered a tripwire, indicating that explosives had been planted.
Around 100 law enforcement personnel were deployed to the scene, including the head of the regional police, Vitaly Goncharov.
At 13:15, Nikvesti reported that a police lieutenant colonel ordered an activist not to upload a photo they had taken of the flag on the mast.
Here is a photo of a police officer descending the tower, having retrieved the flag:
At 14:40 Izvestia Nikolaevskie wrote that, according to initial reports, the explosive device found was an F1 anti-personnel grenade attached to a tripwire.
— Pierre Vaux
The Ukrainian military’s ATO Press Centre claims that Russian-backed forces conducted numerous attacks across the Donetsk region over last night and into this morning.
According the report, 40 attacks were carried out between 18:00 and midnight.
At 22:00, Ukrainian troops encountered and engaged a “sabotage and reconnaissance group” of Russian-backed fighters near Luganskoye, south-east of Artyomovsk.
The Russian-backed fighters withdrew after a small-arms skirmish.
The military reports that Ukrainian positions near Luganskoye, as well as the nearby settlements of Svetlodarsk and Lozovoye, were attacked with small arms and 82 mm mortars.
Similar attacks were made on positions to the north and west of Gorlovka, near Kirovo, Mayorsk and Novgorodskoye.
In the Donetsk area, the ATO Press Centre reported 82 mm mortar and small-arms attacks on positions near Avdeyevka and Marinka last night.
Peski, to the north-west of Donetsk, was, the report claims, shelled three times with 120 mm mortars – at 20:46, 21:00 and 22:55.
In the early hours of this morning, Ukrainian troops near Opytnoye, Marinka and Peski came under small-arms fire.
There were also reports of heavy artillery fire on Avdeyevka from Donetsk this morning:
Translation: #Donetsk From 3:00 to 3:30, from Yugoslavia street (the Smolyansk Chemical Plant) around 10 shots, 6 from 122 mm pieces, 4 from 152 mm, explosions between 35 and 60 seconds later ~ Avdeyevka.
To the south of Donetsk, the Press Centre reported that Russian-backed forces had shelled Ukrainian positions near the village of Novogrigoryevka, near the front line, north-east of Granitnoye, with 120 mm mortars.
Yaroslav Chepurnoy, press officer for the Ukrainian military operation in the Mariupol area, told 0629.com.ua that, at around 7 am today, Ukrainian troops near Bakhchevik, around 10 kilometres west of Novogrigoryevka, were shelled by 152 mm self-propelled artillery.
Over the course of the previous day, Chepurnoy said, Russian-backed forces had conducted six attacks in the Mariupol area.
Twice against Pavlopol, twice on Novogrigoryevka, once on Granitnoye and once on Shirokino.
While the attacks on other settlements were conducted with mortars, tanks and 122 mm self-propelled artillery, the attack in Shirokino came from a sniper.
Ukrainian military analyst Dmytro Tymchuk makes further claims of attacks in this area.
According to Tymchuk, Russian-backed fighters, supported by 82 mm mortar and heavy machine gun fire, attempted to assault Ukrainian positions near Bogdanovka, east of Volnovakha. The attack reportedly failed and the Russian-backed fighters were forced to retreat.
In the Granitnoye area, mobile groups of Russian-backed fighters used 82 mm mortars and automatic grenade launchers in several attacks throughout the day. 152 mm artillery, fired, Tymchuk claims, from the Michurino area, north of Telmanovo, was also used against Granitnoye.
To the south along the river Kalmius, Tymchuk writes that Russian-backed fighters had conducted 120 mm mortar attacks in the area between Pavlopol and Chermalyk, quickly shifting firing position after each attack.
Later, Tymchuk says, Russian-backed forces deployed a group of three tanks in this area. According to the analyst’s Facebook post, one of these tanks fired five or six rounds on Ukrainian positions while covered by the other two, one of which opened fire with its heavy machine gun.
— Pierre Vaux
The office of the governor of the Lugansk region, Hennadiy Moskal, has announced that one Ukrainian soldier was killed and three wounded when their vehicle was attacked near the village of Lopaskino on the banks of the Seversky Donets river.
According to the governor’s office, the military KamAZ vehicle was fired on with automatic weapons and grenade launchers from the occupied, southern banks of the river. In this area, the river is only around 20 metres wide.
Four soldiers were wounded, one of whom suffered severe shrapnel and bullet wounds. All were evacuated but the most critically wounded died in hospital.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military’s ATO Press Centre reported that Russian-backed forces had last night used 82 mm mortars and small arms to attack Ukrainian positions near Schastye, to the east of Lokaspino, and Troitskoye, on the western fringe of the Lugansk region.
In Stanitsa Luganskaya, north-east of Lugansk, Ukrainian troops were attacked with small arms in the early hours of this morning.
For a sense of the regularity of attacks in just one area of the Lugansk region, read Laura Mills’ report for The Wall Street Journal, published yesterday.
Mills visited Popasnaya (Popasna in Ukrainian), around 10 kilometres north of Troitskoye.
Notably, Mills reports seeing fresh Grad rocket craters in a residential area of the town.
The town has been subjected to what residents describe as nightly shelling.
“The cease-fire was sort of working, so we came back,” said Mrs. Mandrichenko, standing in her apartment 50 yards from a Ukrainian army checkpoint. “Then everything started all over again. There is shelling every night from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m., like it is on a schedule.”
— Pierre Vaux