Ukraine Live Day 639: Three Ukrainian Soldiers Wounded With Fighting In Lugansk Region

November 18, 2015

Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.

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Ukraine Estimates $600 Million Loss from Russia’s Food Embargo

Ukraine estimates that its losses from Russia’s food embargo, announced today (see update below), could be $600 million for 2016, TASS reports:

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said on Wednesday.

“We are preparing for Russia’s introduction of trade restrictions against Ukraine. Ukraine performed its assessment of potential losses from embargo, at least for 2016. We will lose about $600 mln of export to Russia,” he said.

Ukraine’s dependence on Russia declined threefold, Yatsenyuk said at the same time. “If our dependence was 35% earlier, it is at the level of 12.5% now,” he added.

But Alexei Ulyukayev, the economic development minister, said the embargo could deal a considerable blow to the economy of Ukraine, still facing the challenge of the Russian-backed separatists, AP reported.

Russia imports mainly sunflower oil, corn and dairy products from Ukraine as well as canned fruit.

Russia earlier banned food imports from Europe, cutting itself off from dairy, sausage, wine and other imports that were not only luxuries but in some cases a source in Russians’ regular diets as they have increasingly shopped at foreign supermarkets.

President Vladimir Putin has instituted an “import substitution” program to stimulate Russian farmers to introduce products to take the place of foreign imports but it has been slow-moving. The embargo only created a black market in foreign food, and the government has made demonstrable raids and destruction of deliveries, to the chagrin of some Russians who say that the banned food should at least be turned over to orphanages and senior homes.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

Russia To Ban Food Imports From Ukraine From January 1

The Russian economic development minister, Alexei Ulyukayev, has announced that an embargo on all Ukrainian food imports will be introduced from January 1, 2016.

The state-owned TASS news agency reports:

“Since Ukraine joined anti-Russia sanctions – economic, financial – we’ve decided to impose … protective measures in the form of food embargo,” he said, adding that the decision is “postponed till January 1.”

“Most likely we’ll have to protect our market on a unilateral basis from unattended access of goods through Ukraine’s customs territory, those being goods from third countries, first of all from the states of the European Union. The protection will mainly concern introduction of most favored nation regime. In a situation like that we won’t have reasons for keeping zero rate of customs tariff with Ukraine,” the Minister said.

Reuters notes that the Russian prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, said in August that Ukrainian food imports would be banned if the economic association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union came into force.

Corn, wheat, sugar, and rapeseed and sunflower oil are some of Ukraine’s most important exports, with Russia traditionally the country’s largest buyer. Despite the war, exports to Russia have continued.

With Ukraine’s largest industry, metallurgy, damaged by the occupation of coal mines and steel plants in the Donbass, a Russian embargo on food exports will only worsen the country’s fragile economic situation.

— Pierre Vaux

LNR Leader Plotnitsky Gives Evidence In Savchenko Trial, But Defence Banned From Reporting His Words

The leader of the self-declared Lugansk People’s Republic (LNR), Igor Plotnitsky, has appeared in the Russian border town of Donetsk today to give evidence in the trial of Nadezhda Savchenko.

Savchenko, a Ukrainian military officer, was captured by separatist fighters in the Lugansk region last summer before being illegally transported to Russia, where she is on trial for the murder of two Russian journalists. She and her lawyers deny both the charges and the legality of the entire process.

Translation: Plotnitsky

Plotnitsky’s testimony is being given in a closed hearing, with all spectators and journalists ordered out of the room.

Furthermore, Savchenko’s defence team were banned from reporting on Plotnitsky’s statements by the court.

Translation: Well then, we have been banned from retelling Plotnitsky’s testimony! They’ve forbidden us from reciting it verbatim!

Translation: The court is banning the defence from commenting on Plotnitsky’s examination. We’re trying to understand the permissible scope of Plotnitsky’s examination.

— Pierre Vaux

Three Ukrainian Soldiers Wounded With Fighting In Lugansk Region

Three Ukrainian soldiers have been wounded within the last 24 hours in the Lugansk region, officials say.

The regional police announced today that two soldiers, born in 1984 and 1991, were wounded by an explosive device in the Stanitsa Luganskaya area, northeast of the separatist held city of Lugansk.

Colonel Andriy Lysenko, a military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, said the blast was triggered by a tripwire.

At around 23:00, another Ukrainian soldier was wounded during fighting with an enemy diversionary and reconnaissance group near the village of Kryakovka, near Tryokhizbenka, which has seen several recent attacks.

Military press officer Anatoly Proshin told Ukrainska Pravda that there were 10 Russian-backed fighters split into two groups and attacked a Ukrainian defensive position. The assault was conducted with grenade launchers, machine guns and small arms, lasting for around 45 minutes.

Elsewhere in the region, Proshin said, Ukrainian positions near the Bakhmutka highway were shelled twice last night, with one attack lasting up to 50 minutes. On the second occasion, Ukrainian troops returned fire. 

Ukrainian military intelligence today reported that there had also been a skirmish yesterday between another enemy scouting party and Ukrainian troops near Novotoshkovka, just west of the foremost Ukrainian position on the Bakhmutka highway. 

In addition, the military reports the presence of tanks and artillery in separatist-held Alchevsk, in violation of the latest weapons withdrawal agreement.


In the Donetsk area, military intellifence reported attacks with 82 mm mortars, grenade launchers and BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles on Krasnogorovka, Marinka, Opytnoye, and Peski.

Overall, the report claims, Russian-backed fighters violated the ceasefire 22 times yesterday.

Meanwhile the ‘defence ministry’ of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) claimed today that Ukrainian forces had violated the ceasefire 10 times over the last 24 hours.

— Pierre Vaux