Ukraine Live Day 653: Akhmetov And Opposition Bloc Winners In Mariupol Elections

December 2, 2015
Declaration of results last night in Mariupol. Photo:

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

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Ukraine To Spend 5% Of GDP On Defense And Security In 2016

RFE/RL reports that Ukraine will spend 5% of its gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016 on defense and security to respond to the crisis in the Donbass and the threat from Russia:

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says his government will spend five percent of gross domestic product on defense and security next year, in a bid to strengthen the army in its fight against pro-Russian separatists in the east.

Poroshenko said on December 2 that his government plans to spend about 14 percent of the government budget, or 100 billion hryvnyas, on defense and security in 2016.

Ukraine spent 90 billion hryvnyas ($3.75 billion) this year.

To put things in perspective, Forbes reports that in 2014 the US only spent 3.5% of its GDP on defense, and China spent 2.1%, but Russia, which is fueling this conflict and is a much larger economy, spent 4.5% of its GDP in 2014, and increased its spending on the military by more than 9% of GDP this year (Forbes calls that level of spending “unsustainable”).

But Ukraine is increasing spending on the military at a time when it needs to cut its debt-to-GDP ratio in order to secure its loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). While few would argue, given Ukraine’s current situation, that the spending on defense is not necessary, it comes with a high price in the form of cuts in other government services.

James Miller

Ukraine Reports Multiple Attacks In Donetsk Region With Mortars Used

The Ukrainian military reports one serviceman dead and three wounded over the last 24 hours, with Russian-backed forces conducting mortar and grenade launcher attacks.

Yesterday saw an elevated level of fighting in the south of the Donetsk region.

Mariupol news site reports, citing military spokesman Aleksandr Kindsfater, that at 15:20, Russian-backed fighters fired more than 100 rounds from automatic grenade launchers on Ukrainian positions near Novotroitskoye, on the Donetsk-Mariupol highway, north of Volnovakha.

At 18:35 Ukrainian troops in Shirokino, east of Mariupol, came under small-arms fire,

The heaviest attacks were directed at the front-line village of Granitnoye, east of Volnovakha.

According to the 0629 report, Russian-backed fighters shelled the village with 82 mm mortars at 19:40. This bombardment was followed up by machine gun and grenade launcher attacks at 20:20 and 22:17.

A post yesterday evening on the Tipichnoye Granitnoye VKontakte group read (translated by The Interpreter):

The end of the ceasefire, hello war. The hill has been struck a couple of times, machine gun fight at the bottom.

A little further up the Donetsk-Mariupol highway from Novotroitskoye, the ATO Press Centre reported grenade launcher and machine gun attacks on Beryozovoye, as well as Marinka southwest of Donetsk.


Last night the ATO Press Centre also reported 82 mm mortar attacks on Krasnogorovka and Nevelskoye. 

Elsewhere in the Donetsk area, the Ukrainians report attacks on Peski, Optnoye and Avdeyevka, where fighting broke out as a group of around 20 Russian-backed fighters engaged Ukrainian positions. According to the ATO Press Centre, the attackers suffered casualties, including fatalities, and withdrew.

Outside separatist-held Gorlovka there were attacks on Novgorodskoye, to the west, Zaytsevo, to the north, and Luganskoye, to the east.

Over all of yesterday, Ukrainian military intelligence claims, Russian-backed fighters conducted 31 attacks. 

The ‘defence ministry’ of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) claims meanwhile that Ukrainian forces violated the ceasefire 12 times over the same period.

According to the DNR, Ukrainian troops fired more than 30 shells from mortars, tanks, grenade launchers and armoured vehicles onto separatist-held territory, hitting the outskirts of Gorlovka and northern areas of Donetsk.

— Pierre Vaux

Akhmetov And Opposition Bloc Winners In Mariupol Elections

The results of the delayed local elections in Mariupol, held on Sunday, are in.

Last night, it was announced that independent candidate Vadim Boychenko had won the vote for city mayor, while today three parties entered the city council: the Opposition Bloc (formed from the remnants of Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions), Sila Lyudey (Force of the People) and Nash Kray (Our Land).

Boychenko is in fact the director of personnel and social issues at the Ilyich Steel and Iron Works, owned by Ukraine’s richest oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, via his Metinvest holding company.

Akhmetov has long been suspected of attempting to play both sides in the conflict that broke out in the Donbass. While Akhmetov eventually came out publicly in favour of the government and deployed his steel workers to patrol Mariupol and apparently prevent separatist fighters regaining control, heis also accused of supporting Aleksandr Khodakovsky, leader of the Russian-backed Vostok Battalion in Donetsk. When pro-separatist protesters attempted to storm Akhmetov’s residential compound in Donetsk last year, Oplot paramilitaries defended the site.

Tim Judah described the significance of the Ilyich plant and Metinvest in Mariupol in The New York Review of Books this May:

The complexity of the situation is even clearer in Mariupol. Here there are two giant steel plants owned by Akhmetov’s Metinvest company, plus a third business. Together they directly employ 45,000 people. When you take account of how many families that means, plus how many jobs depend on the plants indirectly, from suppliers to port workers and so on, it is no exaggeration to say that Mariupol is a company town. The Ilyich iron and steel plant, which has been operating here since 1897, covers an area that straggles for nine miles from end to end.

Boychenko’s candidacy was endorsed in October by the general directors of both the Ilyich and Azovstal plants.

Boychenko’s win is yet more evidence of the hold Akhmetov has over Mariupol, as not only the city’s biggest employer, but also the owner of numerous media outlets, businesses, public services and now the mayoralty.

In the city council elections, the Opposition Bloc won the most votes, gaining 45 of 54 seats.

Sila Lyudey won five seats while Nash Kray received four, amongst their deputies – the outgoing mayor, Yuriy Khotlubey.

President Petro Poroshenko’s party failed to reach the necessary 5% of votes to enter the council on lists.

— Pierre Vaux