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?
The newest report from the OSCE SMM is dated July 23 at 19:30 Kiev time. In the report they describe, in great detail, the incident.
From its location in the “DPR”-controlled city centre at approximately 7:45hrs, the SMM observed about 300 people, mainly women and children, walking past the parking lot and gathering in front of the SMM’s location. The SMM also observed a large civilian bus and two vehicles blocking the parking lot, thus preventing OSCE vehicles from leaving the area. About six men in civilian clothing were standing in front of an OSCE vehicle and preventing it from leaving the parking lot. The SMM called “DPR” “police” for assistance at approximately 8:30hrs – after the crowd had grown and become more vocal. About two dozen “DPR” armed men and as many as eight “DPR” “police” members – standing in groups of two or three – moving around the SMM’s location, were observed. “DPR” members did not prevent the crowd from gathering, nor did they deal with the blocked parking lot entrances. The “DPR” “deputy minister of defence” stayed at the gathering for five minutes, but did not address the crowd. Some of the protesters entered the hotel lobby, shouting. The SMM met with 11 representatives of the protesters, led by Donetsk “mayor”, and explained the SMM’s mandate. Signs with messages directed towards the SMM and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were displayed by the crowd in front of the location. The signs showed closed eyes and/or had slogans such as “Peace to Donbas” or “Time to open your eyes” in Russian and “Open your eyes!” in English. The SMM saw people spray-paint 30 SMM and 11 ICRC vehicles. The graffiti on OSCE vehicles also included painted eyes, slogans such as “Peace Donetsk”. The crowd dispersed at approximately 11:30hrs.
It’s also worth noting that yesterday the OSCE was complaining that their drones were being jammed in Donetsk region, resulting in the crashing of one of the vehicles.
Are these incidents having an impact? It’s hard to say, but the OSCE reported fewer ceasefire violations near Donetsk. In Lugansk region the OSCE observed no ceasefire violations but their own report recognizes that they also witnessed proof that ceasefire violations were continuing unobserved.
The SMM visited the last “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”)-controlled checkpoint before the government-controlled Shchastia (20km north of Luhansk) bridge. The SMM spoke with the “LPR” “commander”, who said the “LPR” checkpoint had been shelled with 82mm calibre mortars three times around 12:30hrs that day, prior to the SMM’s arrival. The SMM saw one armed “LPR” member wearing a bandage, with small shrapnel wounds bleeding on his back. In addition, the SMM saw one unexploded mortar and what “LPR” members identified as three impact craters.
Generally, our own perception is that this latest OSCE SMM report includes far fewer locations and observations than most of their reports. The incident above is the only incident described by the OSCE in any detail, besides the protest.
The OSCE report does, however, make mention of weapons holding areas that were inspected. Once again the OSCE saw T-72 main battle tanks in territory controlled by the Russian-backed fighters, tanks which Ukraine maintains the Russian-backed fighters have not seized from the Ukrainian military:
The SMM visited for the first time one “LPR” heavy weapon holding area. At the location, the SMM saw seven main battle tanks (MBT) (T-64), one MBT (T-72), three armoured personal carriers (BTR-8) and eight military-type transport trucks. The location visited by the SMM complies with the respective withdrawal lines. The SMM revisited one Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapon holding area which was in compliance with respective withdrawal lines. The SMM observed that ten self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm) and two self-propelled guns (2S3 Akatsyia, 152mm) previously recorded were missing.
In a Ukrainian Armed Forces training field located in a government-controlled area 32km from the line of contact, the SMM observed from a distance 14 towed howitzers (S21, Gvozdivka, 122mm), and five mortars (2S12, SANI 120mm). Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel said that due to security reasons the SMM could not take the serial numbers of the weapons*.
The SMM continued to observe heavy weapons in areas proscribed by the Minsk arrangements. In areas controlled by “LPR”, the SMM saw at one place four self-propelled howitzers. In government-controlled areas the SMM observed at one place one anti-tank gun (MT-12, Rapira 100mm). In addition, an SMM unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) spotted a total of 11 MBTs and 21 armoured personnel carriers (APC) near “DPR”-controlled Sontseve (59km north-east of Mariupol) and Krasnyi Oktiabr (55km north-east of Mariupol). In government-controlled Bila Kamianka (51km north-east of Mariupol), near “DPR”-controlled Novolaspa (49km south of Donetsk), the UAV spotted three MBTs and four APCs. Near government-controlled Hranitne (63 km south of Donetsk), the UAV spotted one MBT.
The OSCE clarified two incidents where it was blocked from observing Ukrainian weapons:
- The SMM was denied access to a Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapon holding area, where it saw from a far distance several anti-tank guns (Rapira 100mm). The Ukrainian Armed Forces cited the absence of his commander as the reason for the access denial.
- In a Ukrainian Armed Forces training field, 32km from the contact line, where the SMM saw from a distance 14 towed howitzers (S21, Gvozdivka, 122mm), and five mortars (2S12, SANI 120mm). The SMM was told by the Ukrainian Armed Forces that it could not take serial number of the weapons due to security reasons.
— James Miller
Hey, Putin, have you seen how much China is investing in Ukraine?
On July 6, the Financial Times reported that Ukraine has become the largest corn exporter to China, surpassing the United States. This was surprising, as America has historically possessed a near-monopoly on corn exports to China. Ukraine's increased role in providing food for China also extends beyond corn.
On July 11, gunmen with the ultranationalist group Right Sector (Pravyi Sektor) got into a shootout with men who reportedly represent Mikhail Lano, a Ukrainian member of parliament who is a member of the political party of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych.
The Right Sector gunmen then got into a shootout with local police and have been on the run ever since. Read about it here:
Today there are reports that Lano has fled across Ukraine’s border. TSN.UA, citing Channel 5, says Lano crossed the southeast border today (the border with Russia). The Channel 5 journalist cited in the article, however, says Lano escaped through the southwest border, which would probably place Lano in the Transnistria region of Moldova, an unrecognized breakaway region of the country which is occupied by Russian soldiers. Either way, Channel 5 reports that Lano is no longer in Ukraine.
UA Press and several other local outlets are also carrying the news.
Lano recently tried to escape Ukraine but was reportedly turned back at the border. At the time he said that he had no intention of fleeing.
The shootout between Right Sector and the police has raised many questions about all of the participants in the incident. Was Right Sector operating as vigilantes, or are they engaged in the same black market trade that they accuse Lano of running and this was a business dispute? Can Right Sector be trusted? How much power do oligarchs like Lano who have ties to the former government really wield? Are the police working for Lano? We’ve investigated some of these questions in a separate analysis:
The Zakarpattia regional branch of the Interior Ministry reports that an RPG was fired at a shop in in the village of Zaluzhye, near Mukachevo, last night.
The police say that they received a report from a security guard at the Ryba (fish) shop last night, telling them that an unidentified individual had damaged the shops windows.
At the scene, investigators found the tail-piece of an RPG round:
No-one was harmed by the attack. Police have now opened a criminal investigation into the incident.
Tensions remain high in the Mukachevo area after Pravyi Sektor (Right Sector) members opened fire on security guards for local MP Mikhail Lanio and police on July 11.
The new governor of Zakarpattia, Hennadyi Moskal, who was brought in to take control of the situation, said this week that 13 Pravyi Sektor members are still on the loose in the forests of the region.
— Pierre Vaux
The Élysée Palace has issued a statement on a telephone conversation between President François Hollande, Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Petro Poroshenko and President Vladimir Putin yesterday.
According to the press release, the conversation, held in the ‘Normandy Format,’ focused on finding solutions to security, humanitarian and political issues in implementing the Minsk agreements, negotiated by the four leaders in February this year.
The most notable point agreed upon during the discussion is that Ukraine must withdraw its armed forces from the village of Shirokino, 10 kilometres east of Mariupol.
The Interpreter translates:
With regards to Shirokino, the four leaders noted the withdrawal of separatist forces and asked the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) and experts from the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination (JCCC) to find practical solutions by August 3 for the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops and the installation of the SMM.
However Ukrainian troops have remained in their positions in the west of Shirokino.
Both volunteer fighters and civilian activists have declared their public opposition to any Ukrainian withdrawal from the village, claiming that abandoning the strategic heights would expose Mariupol to bombardment.
While the Ukrainian military reported this morning that, for the first time in months, there has been no fighting over the last 24 hours in the Mariupol area, the situation to the north, near Donetsk, Gorlovka and Lugansk, remains dire.
According to Yaroslav Chepurnoy, press officer for the military headquarters in Mariupol, not a single shelling or confrontation took place in “Sector M” over the last 24 hours. The only recorded military activity were three reconnaissance drone flights.
However, military and civilian casualties continue to gather elsewhere in the Donbass.
Colonel Andriy Lysenko, a military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, told reporters today that one Ukrainian soldier had been killed and two wounded over the last 24 hours.
According to the report, the town was subjected to intense fire last night, with Russian-backed forces using grenade launchers, mortars and heavy machine guns.
The soldier from the 128th Mechanised Brigade was killed, the Regional Administration claims, by a round from an RPG-26 rocket launcher.
In addition, a civilian man, born in 1951, was wounded outside his home after an automatic grenade round exploded nearby.
Donetsk news site 62.ua reports that the Donetsk Regional Administration has announced that a civilian was wounded yesterday in Dzerzhynsk, north of Gorlovka, as result of shelling by Russian-backed forces.
Over yesterday, the Ukrainian military’s ATO Press Centre claims, Russian-backed forces conducted 78 attacks on Ukrainian positions and settlements. 35 of these occurred between 18:00 and midnight.
“At 21:30 Kyiv time, the Russian terrorists fired from a tank on residential areas of the village of Novgorodskoye from the occupied town of Gorlovka. From 20:30 to 23:30, they were firing 152mm and 122mm artillery on ATO forces near the villages of Opytnoye and Beryozovoye, and the town of Avdeyevka. At 21:00 Kiev time, they were firing 120mm mortars on Ukrainian army positions near the village of Peski for more than an hour,” the press center said.
Russian proxies also repeatedly fired on ATO forces near the villages of Novgorodskoye, Rassadky, Kirovo, Stanitsa Luganskaya, Sanzharovka, Luganskoye, Lozovoye, Opytnoye, and the towns of Avdeyevka and Marinka.
According to the press center, as of 06:00 Kiev time on July 24, the shelling continued.
“From 02:45 Kiev time, Russian-terrorist troops were firing tank shells on the positions of the Ukrainian armed forces near the village of Peski for more than an hour. From 04:30 Kiev time, they were firing 120mm mortars on our positions near the town of Krasnogorovka for more than an hour. In addition, they fired small arms on our troops near the towns of Marinka and Popasnaya, and the villages of Peski, Kryakovka, Luganskoye, and Lozovoye,” the press center said.
— Pierre Vaux
Translation: Two explosions on Voznesensky Spusk.
According to initial reports, a mortar or grenade launcher was used in the attack on a branch of Ukrinbank at 10B Vozesensky Spusk,
Translation: Here is the tail-piece
Translation: Most likely they ****** the building with an RPG.
Ukrainska Pravda reports that the blasts were heard in several districts of the capital.
No casualties have been reported. UNIAN reports that the police have yet to issue any confirmation of the details of the incident.
As Ukrainska Pravda notes, there were explosions outside two Kiev branches of Russia’s Sberbank on June 22 this year.
— Pierre Vaux