Ukraine Live Day 524: OSCE Mission Fired At In Schastye

July 26, 2015
An OSCE vehicle is vandalized in Donetsk on Thursday. The writing says, "stop moronic war!" | REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

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Ukraine Border Guards Say They’ve Captured Russian Officer Driving Truck Full of Weapons

The Ukrainian border guard says that it has captured a truck full of weapons being driven by a Russian officer. The Associated Press reports:

The border guard service said the truck and its two occupants were intercepted late Saturday at a checkpoint about 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of Donetsk, the main rebel-held city. It said one of the men acknowledged he was a Russian major.

RFE/RL reports that the Ukrainian border guards are now saying that the officer was a major in a Russian rocket-artillery unit:

“He had no documents,” said border guards spokesman Oleksandr Tomchyshyn. “He is responsible for ammunition supply. He said that while delivering the ammunition they had got lost.”

Another man also detained late on July 25 in the truck identified himself as a pro-Russian separatist fighter.

The two men reportedly wore military uniforms without insignia.

The border-guards service said it found nearly 200 cases containing grenades and ammunition, including rocket-propelled shells, in the truck.

That report differs slightly from the AP report, in that it says the truck was captured 45 kilometers south of Donetsk.

The State Border Service of Ukraine has also released video of the truck, the reported contents of the vehicle, and an interrogation of the prisoner.

The vehicle has markings similar to other vehicles belonging to Russian-backed fighters. Lugansk News has provided a transcript of the interrogation.
James Miller
OSCE Monitors Come Under Fire In Schastye

Members of the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) for the OSCE came under fire today in Schastye, north of Lugansk. The OSCE SMM released this statement:

At approximately 12:40hrs on 26 July, an SMM patrol comprised of two vehicles was caught in mortar and automatic grenade launcher fire while trying to cross the contact line from the “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”)-controlled side of Shchastia (20km north of Luhansk) to the government-controlled side. This crossing had been agreed and co-ordinated beforehand with both the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the “LPR”.

The SMM had arrived at 12:00hrs at the last “LPR” checkpoint (2km south of the line of contact) before the Shchastia bridge and had been told by the “LPR” to park their vehicles in cover; according to the “LPR”, “LPR” members who had been removing mine obstacles to allow the SMM through had come under machine-gun and sniper fire at 11:30hrs. At approximately 12:40hrs, the checkpoint and surrounding area came under sustained mortar (assessed to be 82mm) and automatic grenade launcher fire from the north.

The SMM members took cover in the trenches at the “LPR” checkpoint and remained there for approximately 90 minutes. During this time, there was continuous incoming mortar shelling (30-40 rounds) and automatic grenade launcher fire that impacted near the SMM’s position (50-100m). The SMM observed at least one mortar round strike within 40m of a bus carrying civilians from Obozne (“LPR”-controlled, 18km north of Luhansk) towards Luhansk city. In the meantime, other SMM members contacted the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination for a cessation of fire. At 14:20 the shelling ceased and the SMM considered it is sufficiently safe to leave the place shortly after. There were no injuries to SMM members or damages to SMM vehicles. All SMM members returned safely to their base in “LPR”-controlled Luhansk city around 15:00hrs.

The statement makes no mention of which side was responsible for the shelling, but the clues to this question may be within the statement anyway. The convoy was attacked by both automatic grenade launchers and 82mm mortars while approximately 2 kilometers south of the line of demarcation. In absolute ideal circumstances, the maximum effective firing range of the Russian AGS-30 automatic grenade launcher is approximately 2.1 kilometers. The more-commonly used AGS-17 has a maximum effective range of 1.7 kilometers. The SMM’s position was suspiciously close to the maximum range of these weapons, if they were fired from the Ukrainian side of the line of contact.

A pro-Kremlin news website reports that the Ukrainian separatists are blaming the Ukrainian government. Statements from the US Ambassador to the OSCE, however, are not so clear:

Recently, an OSCE convoy in Donetsk was victim to what the OSCE SMM’s lead inspect, Alexander Hug, called “organized vandalism” in Donetsk, and OSCE drones have been jammed both near the line of demarcation and over territory controlled by the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic.”
James Miller