Ukraine Live Day 567: Low Level Fighting Around Donetsk And Gorlovka Continues

September 7, 2015

Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here. An archive of our liveblogs can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

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Russia Detained 3 Ukrainian Soldiers Who Vanished Near Crimean Frontier On Saturday

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) says that it has detained three Ukrainian servicemen who went missing while swimming near the border with Russian-occupied Crimea on September 5.

As we reported yesterday, the three servicemen, from the 79th Independent Airborne Brigade, went missing while swimming in the Syvash, a chain of shallow lagoons that stretch along most of the northern frontier of the Crimean peninsular. 

Both the initial Ukrainian reports and the FSB say that the men were swimming near a dike over the water near the border with Russian-occupied Crimea when they were last seen. Neither set of reports specify the exact location of the incident and there are several dikes and causeways in this area:


Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency reports that staff from the FSB border department have told the agency that the three men had swum across to “fraternise” with Russian marines on the southern shore of the Syvash, taking a watermelon, a piece of salo and a bottle of spirits.

According to the border staff, the men had decided to pay the Russians a visit while drunk on the night before their swim.

The FSB border service told TASS (translated by The Interpreter):

“This fact objectively demonstrates the pointlessness of deploying Ukrainian army units on the border with Crimea, and the lack of order on the Ukrainian border, which increases the responsibilities of the Russian border services and other security agencies in ensuring the border security of the Crimean Federal District of the Russian Federation.”

Of course the maintenance of Ukrainian forces along the Crimean frontier has been a necessity since Russian troops took over the peninsula and annexed it in February last year. Ukrainian fears of further border incursions were validated by Russia’s subsequent invasion of the Donbass.

The Russian border agency said that it had decided to “hold the Ukrainian servicemen responsible for their violation of the state border regime” and intends to hand them over to the Ukrainian border authorities. 

TASS claims that the soldiers want to go home as soon as possible but fear serious punishment on their return.

So far only the Russian state claims that the men went swimming with the aim of greeting Russian troops on the southern side of the frontier.

— Pierre Vaux

Video Shows DNR Fighters Forcibly Dispersing Pro-Purgin Protest On Saturday

Donetsk news site reports on video footage purportedly showing separatist security forces aggressively dispersing protesters who came out on Saturday, September 5, in opposition to the replacement and arrest of Andrei Purgin.

Purgin was, until Friday evening, the chairman of the ‘People’s Soviet’ of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR). 

At an extraordinary session of the ‘Soviet,’ Purgin was dismissed and replaced with Denis Pushilin, who has been the DNR’s envoy at the Minsk peace talks.

His arrest was subsequently announced by DNR officials. He is accused of plotting a coup.

The video shows uniformed men, some armed, putting their hands over the mouth of one protester and removing the most active.

— Pierre Vaux
President Hollande Proposes Leaders’ Summit In Paris This Month And Says He Will Support Lifting Of Sanctions If Peace Is Achieved

Reuters reports that the French President, Francois Hollande, has told reporters today that he is proposing a summit of the ‘Normandy Quartet,’ made up of the French, Ukrainian, Russian and German leaders, in Paris later this month.

“The process has moved forward. There has been progress in the last few weeks. The ceasefire has almost been respected,” Hollande told a news conference.

“The foreign ministers will speak in the coming days, and I propose a meeting (of leaders) in Paris before the U.N. General Assembly (on Sept. 28) so that we can evaluate the process and lead it to its end.”

Notably, Hollande said that he would support the lifting of sanctions against Russia if the peace process succeeds.

While EU sanctions against Russia were significantly expanded following Russia’s intervention and subsequent invasion of the Donbass, they were first introduced in response to the occupation and annexation of Crimea.

Hollande made no mention of the occupation of the peninsular.

— Pierre Vaux
5 Russian-Backed Fighters Found Dead In Woods Near Stanitsa Luganskaya

The government authorities in the Lugansk region have announced today that the bodies of five Russian or separatist fighters have been in the woods near the banks of Seversky Donets river.

According to the Lugansk Regional Military-Civil Administration’s Facebook post, soldiers from Ukraine’s 128th Brigade made the discovery at around 16:00 yesterday.

The bodies were found in woodland between the villages of Bolotennoye and Nikolaevka, near Stanitsa Luganskaya.



The condition of the bodies indicated that they had been dead for around two weeks. They have been identified as male but their age cannot yet be estimated.

All were wearing camouflage uniforms and carrying automatic weapons and ammunition. None had any personal identification documents.

One of the dead men wore a patch with the Russian tricolour and the emblem with the initials GBR and a bat.

This is the insignia of the now-disbanded Batman Rapid Response Group, whose leader, Aleksandr Bednov, was killed in an apparent ambush by forces loyal to the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic in January this year.


Some members of Bednov’s old unit have continued fighting, as the Rusich assault group, operating in the south of the Donetsk region.

The Lugansk Administration suggests that the dead fighters had been killed by a mine while attempting to enter Ukrainian territory, having crossed the river.

One Ukrainian soldier was wounded by a tripwire mine while investigating the bodies. They were taken to hospital and have received medical treatment.

— Pierre Vaux




Ukrainian Soldier Shoots 2 Members Of His Own Unit Dead In Volnovakha

The Donetsk Regional Prosecutor’s Office has announced that a Ukrainian soldier has been arrested after shooting two of his comrades dead in Volnovakha, north of Mariupol.

According to the announcement, two scouts, both born in 1993, from the 72nd Independent Mechanised Brigade were shot dead by another member of the same unit with a Kalashnikov assault rifle yesterday.

The alleged killer, born in 1987, was captured after attempting to hide following the shooting.

— Pierre Vaux

Low Level Fighting Continues, One Civilian Wounded By Mine Outside Donetsk

The Ukrainian military’s ATO Press Centre claimed this morning that Russian-backed forces had conducted 12 attacks over the last 24 hours.

According to the Press Centre, a Ukrainian defensive position in Marinka, west of Donetsk, came under fire at around 21:00 last night from infantry fighting vehicles and small arms.

In Avdeyevka, to the north of Donetsk, Ukrainian positions came under attack from infantry fighting vehicles, small arms and grenade launchers. at 23:00. 

There are unconfirmed reports today of shelling heard in Donetsk and Makeyevka: 


Necro Mancer: FB 10:45 “At the Botanic Gardens, can hear very distant bangs (audible only outside) from various directions.” #Makeyevka 

kdn: At the railway station you can hear bangs every 10 minutes, seems like the airport or Peski.

To the east, there was fighting north of separatist-held Gorlovka.

The ATO Press Centre reports small arms attacks on Ukrainian troops in Kirovo and sniper fire directed at troops in Zaytsevo.

Colonel Andriy Lysenko, a military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, claimed that Russian-backed forces had mounted attacks near Svetlodarsk, north-east of Gorlovka:

Ruslan Tkachuk, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military operation in the Lugansk region, reported today that Ukrainian positions on the outskirts of Schastye were attacked with automatic grenade launchers, fired from the direction of occupied Vesyolaya Gora, yesterday afternoon.

Meanwhile the pro-separatist Donetsk News Agency (DAN) reports that the separatist-backed administrative heads of occupied settlements along the front line in Donetsk have told the news site that last night passed without fire from Ukrainian forces.

Colonel Lysenko announced at noon today that two Ukrainian servicemen had been wounded over the last 24 hours: 

Donetsk news site reports that a civilian was seriously wounded this morning near a Ukrainian checkpoint outside Beryozovoye, on the Donetsk-Mariupol highway, south of the separatist-held city.

According to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, the woman, born in 1980, set off tripwire-triggered mine at around 7 am today and received shrapnel wounds. She has been taken to hospital in Volnovakha.

Earlier today, the press office of the Donetsk Regional Military-Civil Administration announced that two citizens had been killed in the Volnovakha area between September 4 and 6.


— Pierre Vaux