Ukraine Live Day 604: 1 Ukrainian Soldier Killed And 2 Wounded In Attack Near Donetsk Last Night

October 14, 2015
President Poroshenko visiting a military training centre in Kremennaya, Lugansk region, today to mark the Day of the Defenders of Ukraine. Photo: Mykola Lazarenko / UNIAN

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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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: How We Know Russia Shot Down MH17.

Five Russian Contract Soldiers Sentenced to Prison for Refusing to Deploy to Ukraine

Halya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group reports that
five Russian contract soldiers who refused to fight in Ukraine have
been sentenced to prison, the most vocal among them to the longest term,
according to a Novaya Gazeta article.

Translation by Coynash: 

Novaya Gazeta reports that five men from the No. 22179
Military Reconnaissance Brigade in Maikop, have thus far been sentenced
to real terms of imprisonment, rather than the suspended sentences their
families were hoping for.  Anatoly Kudrin had already received a six
month sentence back in July when first reported the cases
Now four others –  Alexander Yevenko; Ivan Shevkunkov; Alexander
Yenenko and Pavel Tynchenko – have each received a year sentence,
although Novaya reports that the longest was that passed on Yenenko, the
soldier who was most active in speaking with the press.  During the
investigation, Yenenko had repeatedly informed Novaya of unlawful
methods used by the investigators, of psychological pressure and threats
against them.  Novaya made a formal request for information from the
relevant department of the Russian Investigative Committee and was told
only that “it is not possible to provide comment”.

All of the soldiers had last names which indicate a Ukrainian heritage.

In July, Paul Goble reported on the increasing desertion of Russian soldiers faced with deployment in Ukraine; reported then that the number of such cases increased from 35 in 2014 to 65 in the first half of 2015 alone.

we documented in our report on the Russian military presence in
Ukraine, soldiers and their families are heavily discouraged from
discussing their deployment in the Donbass. A Russian law passed in May
also makes it a crime to divulge casualties from “special operations.”

A Russian Cover Up Or A Translation Error? More On MH17

Yesterday the Dutch Safety Board released its official report on the downing of MH17 in Ukraine. The forensic and highly detailed report detailed how a Russian-made Buk anti-aircraft missile fired from territory which we know was controlled by the Russian-backed fighters blew the airliner out of the sky.

The report’s findings largely confirmed what we already knew. But in a report yesterday in The Guardian entitled “MH17 report suggests efforts were made to cover up causes of disaster,” cited by The Interpreter, several additional details were highlighted. The first is that chairman of the safety board, Tjibbe Joustra, made statements to reporters that were more definitive than the report — the missile came from rebel-held territory. The report specified the area from where the Buk was launched but made no claim as to who fired it. Joustra was taking that extra step.

But perhaps the most lurid and shocking detail was that the bodies of some of the victims may have been tampered with by the Russian-backed militants who possessed the bodies for weeks. This is the portion of the article we quoted yesterday:

The report by the Dutch safety board said that more than 120 objects, “mostly metal fragments”, were found in the body of the first officer, who had sustained “multiple fractures”.. When Dutch experts identified the captain’s body they found it had already “undergone an external and internal examination to remove foreign objects”.

Despite apparent attempts to remove shrapnel, “hundreds of metal objects were found”, the report said, as well as bone fractures and other injuries.

Among the fragments of missile shrapnel examined, two were in the shape of a bow tie, which the Dutch board found to be characteristic of a particular type of Buk missile warhead. However, the Russian manufacturer had earlier denied that any such fragments were found, and insisted an older Buk model was used, one that was no longer in service in the Russian armed forces.

Today, however, The Guardian walked back some of these claims.

The section now reads:

The report by the Dutch safety board said that more than 120 objects, “mostly metal fragments”, were found in the body of the first officer, who had sustained “multiple fractures”. Dutch experts performed an “external and internal examination on the the captain’s body” and removed “hundreds of metal fragments”. They also observed bone fractures and other injuries.

On page 85 of the Dutch Safety Board report it reads:

2015-10-14 16:34:13

The Guardian’s initial report is unclear whether the report itself suggested there was tampering, or the experts The Guardian consulted said this. Either way, the mistake has now been corrected.

However, there are other details in The Guardian’s article of evidence tampering:

The report noted that some “aeroplane parts and cargo”
photographed immediately after the crash vanished. “Avionics units” from
the cockpit disappeared too. Other pieces of wreckage, filmed by
investigators and showing perforation and soot, had gone by the time
they came to take them away.

Also, as we have documented over the last year, Russian-backed
militants interfered with the crash site, and the Russian government has
repeatedly spread easily-debunked and constantly-changing lies about
what really happened that day. BBC’s Jonny Hallam was there and saw the
tampering with his own eyes:

James Miller
Interpreter Podcast – Dutch Safety Board Releases Report On MH17

The Interpreter Podcast returns! This week, Boston College Professor Dr. Matt Sienkiewicz and Interpreter’s managing editor James Miller discuss the Dutch Safety Board report on the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine.

Bonus conversation: the first Democratic Presidential debate will be
held tonight. Will Bernie Sanders become the front runner, will Hillary
Clinton speak to her critics, and will foreign policy even come up?

One Ukrainian Soldier Killed And Two Wounded In Attack Near Donetsk Last Night

The Ukrainian military has confirmed reports that a Ukrainian soldier was killed and two wounded after an attack near Donetsk last night.

Mykola Kokhanivsky, commander of the nationalist OUN volunteer battalion, told Ukraine’s 112 television channel last night that Ukrainian troops at the Butovka mine, on the fringes of separatist-held Donetsk, south of Avdeyevka, had been attacked with grenade launchers..

The commander of a volunteer unit was killed and two other soldiers were severely wounded, he said.

This morning the Ukrainian military’s ATO Press Centre confirmed the casualties, reporting that both automatic and under-barrel grenade launchers had been used in the attack.

The report claimed that the situation elsewhere on the front line had remained calm overnight.

Stepan Poltorak, the Ukrainian defence minister, was asked by Ukrainski Novyny today to comment on the casualties.

He replied (translated by The Interpreter):

“We’re investigating what happened now. It’s possible that this was a chance event, as there are people on that side who are not controlled by the authorities of the so-called DNR and LNR. Therefore our representatives, together with Russian generals and other representatives are now reviewing this information to determine the cause. A that, a decision on what to do will be taken,” he said.

Meanwhile he did not specify what Ukraine’s next steps would be if it was found that the attack was premeditated. 

It is interesting to note that only minutes before Kokhanivsky went on the air, Yevhen Deidei, commander of the Kyiv-1 Battalion, told 112 by phone that Ukrainian troops were bracing themselves for attack.

Rumours had been circulating that Russian-backed forces were going to begin shelling the Ukrainian lineswith artillery last night. In anticipation of this, Ukrainian troops were preparing and reinforcing positions.

Deidei thought the rumours were a provocation, but believes that Russian-backed forces may well be preparing for an attack at some point soon. 

The Interpreter translates:

“A provocation, this is clearly a provocation, but I think they’re preparing for something. Why? Because just a few days ago it was rare to hear automatic gunfire there, but now, little by little, it’s building up there. Sometimes a mortar flies in, you can already see a tank operating in the open today. That is to say, it’s beginning to get heavier in the day, more and more, and we don’t know whether it’ll be tomorrow or whether it’ll be tonight.”

Deidei told the channel that Russian-backed fighters had fired on Ukrainian-held Krasnogorovka, to the west of Donetsk, during the day. According to the commander, 8-10 rounds were fired, most from tank guns. He reported no casualties.

— Pierre Vaux