Ukraine Live Day 645: Russia Ramps Up Offensive Group in North Crimea; Brings Tanks, Grads to Border

November 24, 2015
Damaged pylon in Ukraine's Kherson Region. Photo by Varvara Chernovianenko

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Power to Be Restored to Crimea Tomorrow: Ukrenergo

Ukrenergo, the Ukrainian power company, says that power will be restored to the Crimea tomorrow, Hromadske TV reported.

The power supply to Russian-occupied Crimea has been significantly reduced in recent days after this weekend’s explosions damaged two of the pylons in Kherson Region that provide support to power lines into the Crimea. 

—  Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

Russian-Backed Forces Blasting ‘From All Directions’ in Ukraine: ATO

Russian-backed forces are blasting at Ukrainian positions from all
directions with a variety of weapons that were supposedly withdrawn
under the Minsk agreement, reports, citing the Facebook page of the ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] (translation by The Interpreter).

Along the Donetsk line, the occupiers are aiming
provocative fire in the direction of Krasnogorovka from 120-mm
mortar-launchers, anti-aircraft systems and grenade-launchers and with
firearms and grenade-launchers on Peski, Optynoye, Novgorodskaya and

On the Artyomsk line, according to
information from headquarters, the enemy pounded Zaitsevo, Luganskaya
and Mayorsk from grenade-launchers, large-caliber machine guns and
firearms. Beginning about 13:00, the occupiers aimed fire on our
positions in Avdeyevka, Opytnoye, Pervomaskaya, Peski and Pavlov Gorge.

Ukrainian troops are continuing to de-mine Svatovo, site of an
explosion last month, and has destroyed 30,000 explosives and cleared 67
hectares of land.

The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission has noted a sharp increase in shelling in Donbass, reported,
citing Darya Olifer, press secretary for former president Leonid
Kuchma, who has participated in the Minsk negotiations for a ceasefire.

Olifer took part in a trilateral contact group video conference today and wrote on her Facebook page (translation by The Interpreter) :

Representatives of the OSCE SMM and officers of the
JCCC [Joint Center for Control and Coordination] note in their reports a
sharp increase in the number of shellings and cases of violation of the
ceasefire in the past 10 days.

Participants in
the conference stressed the importance of gaining access to the border
of Russia which has been taken over by combined Russian and separatist
troops, and called for an increase in drones and video surveillance
equipment for the monitors’ use.

The report filed November 22 and released yesterday, November 23 by
the OSCE SMM mentions hearing a number of explosions in the Donetsk
area. Elsewhere, the monitors found heavy weapons in place, yet neither
side in the conflict provided the requested inventory lists. The reports
of 120-mm shelling is not yet confirmed:

The SMM continued to monitor the withdrawal and
movement of heavy weapons. Neither “DPR” nor “LPR” members have yet
provided inventories or locations of designated permanent storage sites
for these weapons as requested by the SMM on 16 October. The Ukrainian
military authorities have also as of yet to provide such information.
Nonetheless, the SMM revisited locations beyond the respective
withdrawal lines known to the SMM as heavy weapons holding areas, even
though these did not comply with the specific criteria set out in the 16
October notification.

At Ukrainian Armed
Forces holding areas, the SMM observed in total 43 anti-tank guns (MT-12
Rapira, 100mm) and 12 towed howitzers (265A Msta-B,152mm). At one area,
the SMM was denied access*.

The SMM also
revisited “DPR” holding areas that complied with the criteria outlined
in the 16 October notification. At these permanent weapons storage
sites, the SMM recorded weapons withdrawn.

On 22 November, in violation of the respective
withdrawal line,  the SMM observed one self-propelled howitzer (2S1
Gvozdika, 122mm) near “DPR”-controlled Makiivka (12km north-east of

The SMM monitored the
presence of other hardware: on 21 November, one anti-tank gun (MT-12
Rapira, 100mm) near government-controlled Oleksiivka (48km north of
Luhansk), which is beyond the withdrawal lines.

As the Trilateral Conference participants noted, the OSCE SMM only
monitors a small portion of the border; there are no permanent monitors
at the border of Kherson Region and Crimea. Nevertheless, the OSCE SMM
traveled to the site of the damaged pylons:

The SMM followed up on media reports of explosions
damaging power supply pylons and subsequent disruption of power supply
across the administrative boundary line (ABL) between Kherson region and
Crimea (see SMM Daily Report 21 November). On 21 November, in Chonhar
(161km south-east of Kherson), the SMM saw a toppled pylon and a tent of
“Crimea blockade” activists (represented by Crimean Tatars and Right
Sector) set up some 100m from the pylon. Six-seven “Crimea blockade”
activists present told the SMM that they were there to prevent attempts
to repair the transmission line unless their de
were met. On 22 November, the SMM revisited Chaplynka (70km south-east
of Kherson) and saw one of the damaged pylons that had been standing
during the previous observation was now lying on the ground. It also
noted 30 “Crimea blockade” activists and multiple media representatives
present. The SMM did not observe any police presence at the scene with
the exception of a van marked as explosive ordnance unit parked on the
main road some 500m from the spot.

The report from the Trilateral Group goes further than the OSCE SMM
reports of recent days in calling out a sharp increase of
Russian-backed shelling, but we will have to see the report produced
yesterday and today.

Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russia Ramps Up Offensive Group in North Crimea; Brings Tanks, Grads to Border of Kherson Region

Evidently in response to the Russian plane downed in Turkey and an ongoing halt of power supply by Ukraine to the Crimea, Russia is reinforcing its offensive group on an emergency basis in the north of occupied Crimea, reports, citing the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council (NSDC)(translation by The Interpreter):

On November 24, 2015, 5 Russian IL-76 military transport planes deployed two battle tactical groups of paratroopers from the 98th Guards Airborne Division from their base in Ivanovo to the Dzhankoy airfield [in Crimea].

The press service also noted that 3 kilometers northwest of Dzhankoy at the town of Kalinovka, the 97th Assault Guards of the 7th Guards Airborne Division (Mountain) from Novorossiysk are also deploying now.

The NSDC said that “the powerful offensive potential for Russian forces in occupied Crimea has significantly increased through more trained divisions prepared for assault.”

Russia has also placed tanks and Grad systems along the line demarcating Crimea from Kherson Region in Ukraine, according to Ilya Kiva, governor of the region.

Kiva told Ukraine’s TV station (translation by The Interpreter):

“We have reinforced patrolling, the watches are reinforced, this is related to the fact that during the loss of power and the explosion of [pylons supporting power lines], Russian forces have come right up to the line of demarcation. They have brought there rad systems and that is virtually in all three directions.

We are trying to be prepared…We know that Russian troops have already brought tanks — about 12 tanks have come up right to the line of demarcation.”

As we reported, explosions were set off November 20 in Kherson Region near the site of a “citizens’ blockade” protest camp which has blocked truck traffic into occupied Crimea. Police clashed with protesters who eventually allowed in a repair crew to the area. But when they arrived, another explosion occurred, and since then repair crews, despite claims that they are prepared to fix the damage, have not acted.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick