Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.
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.
- READ OUR SPECIAL REPORT: An Invasion By Any Other Name: The Kremlinâs Dirty War in Ukraine
Colonel Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, announced at noon today that one Ukrainian soldier had been killed and another wounded over the past 24 hours.
Both casualties occurred when a military truck struck a landmine near the front-line village of Granitnoye, east of Volnovakha.
According to Lysenko, fighting over the last day was concentrated around the Donetsk area, with “17 provocations” recorded over 24 hours.
The ‘defence ministry’ of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) meanwhile reports 9 Ukrainian attacks over the same period.
This indicates a marked reduction in the level of fighting.
The Ukrainian military’s ATO Press Centre reported earlier today that Russian-backed fighters had fired on Peski, Marinka, Krasnogorovka and Adeyevka with grenade launchers and small arms. Another small-arms attack was reported yesterday evening in Mayorsk, north of Gorlovka.
Between 23:40 and 6 am, the Ukrainian military reports no attacks.
— Pierre Vaux
Ukraine has released a Russian military officer, captured in July this year, in exchange for the release of a Ukrainian ‘cyborg’ soldier captured by Russian-backed fighters at Donetsk Airport in January.
An announcement of the swap was made on the official website of the Ukrainian Presidential Administration.
Ukrainian Andriy Hrechanov, known by his call-sign of Rakhman, was chief of the 81st Airborne Brigade’s reconnaissance unit at the time of the fall of Donetsk Airport.
The Russian officer released in the exchange is Major Vladimir Starkov.
Starkov was captured by Ukrainian border guards on July 25 after he was stopped, driving a truck laden with weapons and ammunition, at a checkpoint on the Donetsk-Mariupol highway near Beryozovoye.
The detainee stated that he was an active member of the Russian armed forces, operating in Ukraine under orders, in video interrogations released by the Ukrainian security forces, as well as during an interview with Euronews in August. However the Russian government has never made any comment on his detention, unlike in other cases.
In September he was convicted by a Ukrainian court of “waging aggressive war against Ukraine” on the orders of Russian commanders, and sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Starkov was released after President Petro Poroshenko signed a pardon decree last night.
Andriy Hrechanov was received by Poroshenko at 2:30 this morning.
From the official statement:
“Today is a true holiday not only for your mother and wife, but also for all of us. Welcome home, warrior,” the President said. The Head of State reminded that in the course of the meeting in the Normandy format, he had adressed Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel and President of France Francois Hollande to put pressure on Putin in order to liberate the cyborg.
Petro Poroshenko thanked everyone involved in the liberation of the Ukrainian defender. “I know how hard it was and how many people were involved,” Petro Poroshenko said.
The President phoned Rakhman’s wife and mother to expressed gratitude for such a great son and husband. “I would like to thank you for raising such sons – true heroes of Ukraine who do everything for the territory of our country to be liberated and who are an example of how one should love and fight for Ukraine. We fight until the end for such people like Andriy. We tried to set him free 18 times. And today is a bright day, because he has finally come home,” Petro Poroshenko said to Rakhman’s mother.
Petro Poroshenko informed that for the liberation of Ukrainian, he had signed a Decree of pardon for Russian major Starkov. The Head of State added that the day before in Paris, he had talked to Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu and they had been discussing, inter alia, the issue of cyborg’s liberation. “He gave an example when they released one thousand terrorists in exchange for the corporal of the Israeli army. And they believe they’ve done the right thing,” the President noted.
The Head of State thanked the cyborg for his courage and power of spirit: “You demonstrated true will power of Ukrainian warriors while being in captivity”.
The details of the negotiation and exchange are yet to be revealed. Poroshenko said that he had put pressure on President Vladimir Putin to achieve Hrechanov’s release, but we do not yet know if Starkov was released to Russia or separatist-held Donetsk.
In fact there was speculation this autumn that Starkov had already been released in secret.
On October 24, Novaya Gazeta‘s Pavel Kanygin spoke to Konstantin Kravchuk, who had served as a defence lawyer for both Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Aleksandr Aleksandrov – two Russian spetsnaz soldiers captured in Ukraine earlier this year.
Kravchuk said that, while he could not prove it, he suspected that Starkov had already been released from the prison colony in the Kharkiv region where he was placed after sentencing.
The Interpreter translates:
Kravchuk: Have you made an inquiry with this Kharkiv colony? No? So go and find out if he’s being held there.
Kanygin: He’s not being held?
Kravchuk: Well go and find out where he is. I think you’ll be surprised when you find out. An all because both sides have decided to keep quiet and not advertise it.
Kanygin: You want to say that he has been exchanged and is now in Russia? Can you substantiate this?
Kravchuk: I haven’t got anything. I’m just saying something to you for you to check. Have you had any contact with his family? What have they said?
Kanygin: His relatives have admitted, they said that he served in the Far East and then headed to the Donbass.
Kravchuk: But now, I think, he’s already all good.
— Pierre Vaux