Ukraine Live Day 605: Ukraine Expected To Win Seat At UN Security Council Today

October 15, 2015
Russian T-72BM tank near Karlo-Marxovo, outside Yenakievo. Photo via @BuTaJIu4eK

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.

Please help The Interpreter to continue providing this valuable information service by making a donation towards our costs.

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.

United Nations Makes Ukraine a Non-Permanent Member Of The Security Council

Egypt, Japan, Senegal — and Ukraine — have all been voted in as non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The Washington Post reports that no country opposed the election of the new members. This is particularly interesting since both Ukraine and Japan have territorial disputes with Russia, and Japan also has territorial disputes with China.

The UNSC has five permanent members and ten non-permanent members, each of the latter being elected to a term of two years.

James Miller

Why Didn’t Ukraine Close Its Airspace Before MH17 Was Shot Down? Only Russia Knew There Were Buk Missiles In Donbass

Yesterday’s report released by the Dutch Safety Board really leaves
very little doubt — Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down by a
Russian-manufactured missile on July 17, 2014, a missile which was fired
from territory controlled by Russian-backed fighters.

See our analysis of yesterday’s report here.
Also visit the link below to see our report, released in July, on MH17
which analyzes a totally separate data set yet reaches the same

How We Know Russia Shot Down MH17

The Interpreter's James Miller and Michael Weiss report today at The Daily Beast on the overwhelming body of evidence demonstrating that Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down one year ago today by a Russian surface-to-air missile launched from separatist-held territory.

View full page →

Oct 15, 2015 17:34 (GMT)

There is an unresolved question, though — why were civilian aircraft flying over eastern Ukraine in the first place?

Put simply, neither Ukraine nor most of the rest of the world were
aware of any threat to civilian aircraft. The reality is that Malaysian
Airlines was one of dozens of air carriers flying over Ukraine during
this period of time. In fact, over 160 civilian flights were in the
skies of Ukraine the day MH17 was shot down.

As this video put out by the Dutch Safety Board illustrates,
eastern Ukraine was a standard flight path to the Middle East and Asia.
Furthermore, civilian airliners fly over most conflict zones since most
anti-aircraft systems are incapable of firing that high. Only
highly-sophisticated military systems like the Buk pose a threat. Again,
many civilian airliners and international aviation boards chose not to
close Ukraine’s airspace, so the responsibility for this decision is not
just Ukraine’s:

In our latest podcast we mention two incidents where Ukrainian aircraft
were shot down while flying at a higher altitude than normal, indicating
the possible presence of an advanced anti-aircraft system like the Buk.

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.

View full page →

Oct 15, 2015 17:56 (GMT)

Why, then, did Ukraine not make the decision to close the airspace if
they thought that an advanced anti-aircraft system was operating in this

2015-10-15 13:54:04

A screenshot from the video released by the Dutch Safety Board
showing Ukrainian aircraft shot down. Note that the planes shot down on
July 14 and 16 were flying at a much higher altitude than the others.

The answer is that Ukraine appears to have suspected that a different Russian weapon was shooting down its aircraft, not a Buk.

In September The Interpreter released a comprehensive report on the history of the Russian military intervention  (download the PDF here). On page 21 we discuss the Ukrainian military aircraft which were shot down on July 14 and 16, 2014. MH17 was shot down on July 17:

July 14: An Antonov An-26 transport aircraft was shot down over the Izvarino border crossing, in southeastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian government says the aircraft was flying at an altitude of 6,500 meters at the time that it was hit by a missile.44 The maximum range for an Igla is 3,500 meters, with other  MANPADS having similar ranges. The Ukrainian military spokesperson Andriy Lysenko said that the missile that hit the An-26 was either a more sophisticated surface-to-air missile or was fired from a jet fighter, not a shoulder-fired rocket. Lysenko told the press that “the An-26 was struck by other, more powerful weapons, probably from Russian territory.” One theory he circulated was that the plane was hit by a missile fired from a  Pantsir-S1, a truck-mounted advanced medium-range anti-aircraft system that is also equipped with heavy anti-aircraft artillery, making it an effective weapon for operation near the frontlines.45 The Pantsir entered Russian service in 2007 and has never been exported to Ukraine. There are two geolocatable sightings of Pantsirs in Ukraine: a photo, taken in January 2015, in separatist-held Makeyevka, east of Donetsk, and a video, filmed in Lugansk on February 2, 2015.

Another theory quickly emerged when a pro-Kremlin Russian news outlet,, wrote that the An-26 was shot down not by a missile fired from Russia, but by a Buk missile fired from within territory controlled by the Russian-backed fighters. The Buk is the same missile that shot down MH17 just three days later. 

July 16: A Sukhoi Su-25M1 jet fighter was shot down near the Russian border close to Amvrosiyivka, southeast of Ilovaisk. In a detailed report released on July 18, the Ukrainian government claimed that this jet was shot down by a Russian MiG-29, flying on the Russian side of the border. “To destroy the target, the command of the Russian Air Force ordered the pilot of a MiG-29 plane to use an R-27T (AA-10 Alamo-B) medium range Infra Red homing air-to-air missile,” said ATO spokesperson Andriy Lysenko. “This type of missile cannot be detected by the Su-25’s SPO-15 radiation warning receiver, and neither can it be  detected by satellite surveillance systems or post-launch surveillance systems.”

In other words, Ukraine was under the impression that Russian jets, not anti-aircraft weapons, were responsible for the shooting down of these aircraft. Furthermore, both of these aircraft were destroyed very close to the Russia border. While it appears that the Ukrainian government believed there were new threats to its military aircraft they did not believe there was a new threat to civilian aviation.

As our report on the downing of MH17 concludes, Russia, on the other sent this Buk into eastern Ukraine before MH17 was shot down. Russia, therefore, is the only country that knew there was a threat to civilian air traffic because Russia created that threat.

James Miller

Residents Returning To Frontline, But Mine Threat Severe With 2 Civilians Killed And 2 Soldiers Wounded Yesterday

Ukrainska Pravda reports that Michael Bociurkiw, the press secretary for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), told reporters today at a briefing in Kiev that civilians have been returning en-masse to some areas of the Donbass after weeks of comparative calm.

The Interpreter translates:

“People are returning. In Stanitsa Luganskaya (controlled by Ukraine) for instance, 1200 displaced residents have returned over the last two weeks. In (DNR-held) Dokuchaevsk the population has grown from 13 thousand in January, 2015, to 21,000 now,” he said.

At the same time, many families have nowhere to return to, as their homes have been destroyed.

In addition, he stressed, there is a great danger from landmines.

Bociurkiw’s warnings regarding landmines were timely, with news that two civilians have been killed and two soldiers wounded by landmines on the outskirts of Stanitsa Luganskaya.

Hennadiy Moskal, former governor of the Lugansk region (and now governor of Zakarpattia), reported today that two soldiers from the 128th brigade had been wounded by a tripwire mine in woodland on the outskirts of the town yesterday evening.

Both suffered blast injuries but survived and have been taken to hospital.

Later on, Yuri Klimenko, deputy head of the Lugansk Military-Civil Administration, told the 112 television channel that the bodies of two civilian women had been found in the same woodland while the blast that wounded the soldiers was being investigated last night. 

Klimenko said that the women, born in 1968 and 1960, were both residents of occupied Lugansk. It appears that they were also killed by a tripwire mine.

— Pierre Vaux

Ukraine Expected To Win Seat At UN Security Council Today

Ukraine is expected to win election to the United Nations Security Council today (UNSC). 

AFP reports:

Egypt, Japan, Senegal, Ukraine and Uruguay are running unopposed for five non-permanent seats on the 15-member council after regional groupings put them forward as their choice.

Despite the regional backing, the five countries must still lobby hard to garner support, needing two-thirds of votes from the 193-nation General Assembly to win the seat.

Voting gets under way at the General Assembly around 10:00 am (1400 GMT) with results expected later in the day.

Pavlo Klimkin, the Ukrainian foreign minister, told journalists:

“For the first time, we have an absolutely unique, unimaginable situation. A permanent member of the UN Security Council is an aggressor in Ukraine, waging a hybrid war against Ukraine.

But, of course, we will concentrate on our commitment to UN principles.”

RFE/RL reports that Klimkin said that Ukraine intends to gradually limit and finally abolish the veto right held by the five permanent members of the UNSC – Russia, the United States, China, France and the United Kingdom.

President Poroshenko told the UN General Assembly in September that abuse of the UNSC veto right amounted to “a license to kill.”

However the RFE/RL report notes that the Ukrainian seat at the UNSC will not likely dramatically change dynamics. Lithuania, another staunch critic of Russia, currently holds the seat Ukraine is expected to take.

UNSC meetings on the subject of Ukraine have routinely seen harsh criticism from other members of the Council, but Russia has not been moved to respond in any way other than to dismiss criticism as lies.

— Pierre Vaux