Ukraine Live Day 659: Biden Urges Ukraine To Enact Reforms

December 8, 2015
Hromadske TV screenshot via Maxim Eristavi

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

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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.

Viktor Yanukovych Says He Wants To Return To Politics

Former President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled Ukraine at the height of the EuroMaidan protests after demonstrators were shot dead, has told Russian state media that he plans to return to politics. 

Yanukovych has maintained a low profile while living in self-imposed exile in Russia. He was notably absent from the ‘alternative government’ proposed by several of his former ministers in July.

Yanukovych told RIA Novosti (translated by The Interpreter):

“I want to return to politics. Today I’m doing everything in my powers to do so. Firstly, I’m giving a lot of help to people being persecuted in Ukraine.”

The former president said that he was also in contact with current Ukrainian politicians, claiming that:

“Many of them are less hesitant and afraid today than they were, relatively speaking, a year ago. They already feel comfortable when we meet and discuss issues.”

The full interview and transcript will be published over the next two days.

— Pierre Vaux

Heavy Fighting Reported In Donetsk This Afternoon

There are reports of audible fighting in the Donetsk area.

This video, uploaded today, purportedly filmed on Bakinskikh Komissarov Street, captures the sound of gunfire:

Translation: Noisy in the northwest. Lots of different bangs.
Translation: #Donetsk Airport, Peski, Spartak – heavy fighting under way: artillery (tank or self-propelled guns), heavy machine guns, small arms. Very loud…

Translation: BMP started up, machine guns, tank continues. Donetsk 15:05

Translation: #Donetsk loud…

This morning, the Ukrainian military claimed that Russian-backed fighters had conducted attacks across the front line over the last 24 hours, using 82 mm mortars to shell Krasnogorovka, west of Donetsk, as well as Leninskoye and Luganskoye near Gorlovka.

According to the ATO Press Centre, the settlements of Peski, Avdeyevka, Novgorodskoye and Novoselovka, all near Donetsk, were attacked with grenade launchers, heavy machine guns and small arms.

In the Gorlovka area, the Ukrainians report attacks on Mayorsk, Zaytsevo, Kirovoye and Luganskoye.

At around 18:00, a group of up to 10 Russian-backed fighters reportedly attacked a Ukrainian defensive position but were repelled. 

To the south, the village of Starognatovka, east of Volnovakha, came under heavy machine gun and small arms fire.

On the coast, Colonel Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, reported attacks near Shirokino.

In the Lugansk region, the ATO Press Centre reports a grenade launcher attack on Tryokhizbenka. 

Colonel Lysenko announced at noon today that two Ukrainian soldiers had been wounded in combat and another two wounded by tripwire mines.

The self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) claimed meanwhile that Ukrainian troops had violated the ceasefire 15 times over the last 24 hours, shelling the outskirts of Donetsk and Gorlovka with heavy mortars and tanks.

— Pierre Vaux

Electricity Supplies From Mainland Ukraine To Occupied Crimea Partially Restored

The Russian Ministry of Energy announced today that electricity supplies from mainland Ukraine to Russian-occupied Crimea have been partially restored, TV Rain reports.

According to the Ministry, one of the four power lines severed on November 22 has been brought back online.

The single 220 kV line can carry around 160 MW. Three 330 kV lines are still down.

RFE/RL reported that Igor Boska, regional head of the state electrical company Ukrenergo, said today that engineers were “in the process of resuming energy supplies.”

While the utility appeared close to restoring functioning of the Kakhovskaya power substation, which supplies much of the Kherson and Mykolayiv regions. three other damaged power transmission lines remain offline. 

This morning the ultra-nationalist paramilitary and political group Pravyi Sektor (Right Sector), which has participated in protests around the site of the destroyed pylons, announced that they were abandoning the “energy blockade.”

According to the statement, the Crimean Tatar Mejlis issued a statement on the future of the blockade without consulting with Pravyi Sektor and other volunteer groups on the border.

UNIAN translates:

“The latest statement of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, which was not coordinated with us and other representatives of public organizations, volunteer battalions and patriotic movements, who are members of the Crimean Maidan led by Lenur Islyamov, is directed to concessions to both external and internal enemies of Ukraine.”

Yesterday, Ukrenergo revealed that the Mejlis had agreed on the restoration of the 220 kV line.

Pravyi Sektor claimed that the line was in fact being restored so as to serve a factory owned by pro-Russian oligarch Dmytro Firtash.  

Instead of continuing their efforts on the blockade, Pravyi Sektor will now dispatch fighters to reinforce Ukrainian regulars along the frontier. 

— Pierre Vaux

US Vice President Joe Biden Addresses Rada

The US Vice President, Joe Biden, addressed the Verkhovna Rada this morning: