Ukraine Live Day 660: Ukraine Reports Intense Shelling With Grads, Tanks and Heavy Artillery

December 9, 2015
Members of the Russian-backed Somali Battalion operating a 2B11 120 mm mortar on December 7. Screenshot from YouTube video.

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.

US Vice President Joe Biden: Ukraine Has A Second Chance At Establishing Genuine Democracy

Biden said:

“This is a country that has a second chance at establishing a genuine democracy, something that the young people at the Rada gave their lives for a second chance to establish.

“And as I’ve pointed out, they have two great threats, Russian aggression and endemic corruption. And we’re prepared to help them tackle both. And if they do, I have no doubt that they will go down in history — this, Congress, this “Rada” as they call it — as the founding fathers as the new, first-time ever, genuinely free and democratic Ukraine. That’s my hope, that’s my hope.”

James Miller

Last Night OSCE Witnessed 87 Explosions In Donetsk Alone

The OSCE’s latest field report from Ukraine is dated last night at 19:30 hours, local time. According to the report, excerpted below, a significant amount of explosions were heard in Donetsk:

The SMM recorded ceasefire violations in several areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions[1]. Positioned at “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled Donetsk railway station (6km north-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM heard a total of 87 explosions and multiple bursts of small-arms and light-weapons (SALW) fire, 3-8km to the north, north-north-west, north-west and west. While 81 explosions were undetermined, six of them were assessed as being consistent with the impact of 82mm-calibre mortar fire – weapons that are restricted at this distance to the contact line. Whilst in government-controlled Sopyne (16km east of Mariupol), the SMM also heard multiple bursts and several single shots of small-arms fire, as well as eight undetermined explosions 3-7km north and north-west of its position.

As the text above stresses, that the OSCE detected 82mm mortar fire is particularly concerning, indicating that heavy weapons are being used.

This is consistent with our reporting for the last two days.

In Lugansk, the OSCE’s observations are significantly less alarming. the report says, “All explosions and gunfire heard in Luhansk region were assessed as activities related to training or demining.”

But previous reports of shelling by both government and separatist sources appear to confirm that large-caliber weapons are once again shelling Donetsk region:

The SMM followed up on reports of shelling on both sides of the contact line. In government-controlled Pisky (11km north-west of Donetsk), the SMM saw four relatively fresh craters consistent with 120mm mortar rounds in a garden of the villa occupied by solders and assessed to have been fired from a south-easterly direction. A Ukrainian Armed Forces Commander told the SMM that shelling had occurred during the night of 6 December. In “LPR”-controlled Donetskyi (50km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM saw two relatively fresh craters 70m from a civilian house. The SMM assessed that they had been caused by 120mm calibre mortars fired from a northerly direction. Two armed individuals and one male resident told the SMM that the impacts had occurred during the night of 6 December.

Not all of the OSCE’s observations concern ceasefire violations as such. Some weapons observed by the OSCE were outside of respective ceasefire violations. But as the OSCE has noted in the past, much of this equipment could be repositioned toward the front lines in a matter of hours. Furthermore, the Russian-backed separatists have failed to provide the OSCE with an inventory of weapons and their storage sites, a requirement of the ceasefire agreements:

In areas of beyond the withdrawal lines – but outside storage sites – the SMM observed the following Addendum-related weapons: one tank (T-64) loaded on a flat-bed track heading south in “LPR”-controlled Luhansk city; two tanks at a training ground in “LPR”-controlled Uspenka (23km south-west of Luhansk); four tanks at a training ground in “LPR”-controlled Myrne (28km south-west of Luhansk); 31 tanks at a training ground in “LPR”-controlled Kruhlyk (31km south-west of Luhansk).

The SMM continued to monitor the withdrawal of heavy weapons foreseen in the Minsk Package of measures. “DPR” members have yet to provide the requested inventory of heavy weapons and locations of designated permanent storage sites for these weapons, as requested by the SMM on 16 October. Members of the “LPR” had provided the SMM with an inventory of heavy weapons, their serial numbers and the locations at which they are said to be stored, as requested by the SMM. The Ukrainian military authorities had earlier provided an inventory list of military equipment featuring weapons systems as well as their serial numbers, but not the locations where the weapons are to be permanently withdrawn to.

The OSCE also monitored Ukrainian military positions:

The SMM revisited locations beyond the respective withdrawal lines known to the SMM as heavy weapons holding areas, even though they did not comply with the specific criteria set out in the 16 October notification.

At such Ukrainian Armed Forces holding areas, the SMM observed: 11 multiple launch rocket systems (BM-21 Grad, 12mm), 14 self-propelled howitzers (2S3 Akatsiya, 152mm), and 12 anti-tank guns (D-48, 85mm).

The SMM continued to observe Ukrainian Armed Forces presence in Pavlopil (26km north-east of Mariupol) (see SMM Daily Report 8 December), where it noted a number of military personnel and hardware. Staff of the village council and school teachers whom the SMM spoke to expressed their concern about the current situation, especially the presence of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and stated that since early December they had heard small-arms fire almost on a daily basis. During the night of 7 December they had heard six mortar rounds. The SMM observed that a number of residential houses in the village were occupied by the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

The full report can be read here.

James Miller

AFP: Putin Will Sue Ukraine Over $3 Billion In Unpaid Debt
Some breaking news from AFP:

Earlier in the week, Russia’s finance ministry said that if the debt has not been paid by December 20th Russia would sue. TASS reports:

“Despite the fact that Ukraine had not filed an official request on restructuring of the $3 billion sovereign debt, Russia suggested that Ukraine repay its debt by $1 billion instalments in 2016-2018 given the United States, European Union or any world-class international finance institutions would provide guarantees,” the ministry said underscoring that Russia had offered to Ukraine “the conditions even better than the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had proposed.”

“This week, we received an official refusal from the U.S. government to provide loan guarantees to Ukraine,” the ministry said in a statement. “Therefore, we have nothing to do but to file a lawsuit against Ukraine if the borrower fails to fulfil its liabilities in full on December 20, 2015, which will mean Ukraine’s sovereign default.”

“Besides, now there exist risks that Ukraine will not get another tranche from the IMF as the country’s budget for the year 2016 has not been approved in compliance with the IMF parameters due to the lack of a drafted tax reform and other required structural measures,” the Russian Finance Ministry said.

As it’s only December 9, it’s not clear why Russia would jump early on this announcement, but no further details are yet available via AFP.

James Miller

Ukraine Reports Intense Shelling With Grads, Tanks and Heavy Artillery

The Ukrainian military claims that Russian-backed forces used heavy weaponry, including Grad rockets, 122 mm artillery and 120 mm mortars to attack several locations in eastern Ukraine last night.

According to Colonel Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, a military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, Russian-backed fighters fired towards the village of Zoryanoye three times.

The village lies around 10 kilometres west of the front line:


The ATO Press Centre reported this morning that the outskirts of Krasnogorovka and Verkhnetoretskoye, near Donetsk, as well as Luganskoye and Zaytsevo, in the Gorlovka area, had been shelled with 120 and 82 mm mortars.

The Ukrainian military claims that, in addition to mortars, infantry fighting vehicles and anti-tank missiles were used near Luganskoye, which lies east of Gorlovka, on the highway between Artyomovsk and separatist-held Debaltsevo.

120 mm mortars were also used, in conjunction with automatic grenade launchers, heavy machine guns and small arms, to attack Ukrainian positions in Peski.

Between Donetsk and Gorlovka, Colonel Motuzyanyk reported tank and mortar shelling near Verkhnetoretskoye and Novogorodskoye:

The use of 120 mm mortars by Russian-backed fighters is attested to by video footage uploaded today by a YouTube user who regularly posts footage from the separatist front lines.

This video shows members of the Russian-backed Somali Battalion operating a 2B11 120 mm mortar on December 7. While we have not yet been able to geolocate the footage, the topography suggests that it may have been filmed northeast of Donetsk.

On the coast last night, Ukrainian troops in Shirokino came under fire several times from snipers, grenade launchers and small arms.

In the Lugansk region, Colonel Motuzyanyk reported a grenade launcher attack on Stanitsa Luganskaya, northeast of Lugansk city. 

According to the ATO Press Centre, there 39 attacks in all last night.

Motuzyanyk announced that five Ukrainian soldiers had been wounded within the last 24 hours and that two drone flights had been detected over Ukrainian territory. 

Meanwhile the ‘defence ministry’ of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) claimed that Ukrainian troops had also used 120 and 82 mm mortars within the last 24 hours.

According to the DNR, Ukrainian forces shelled Spartak and Donetsk Airport, to the north of the separatist-held city. 

In the Gorlovka area, Ukrainian troops reportedly shelled Ozeryanovka, on the western outskirts of the town, and separatist-held areas of Zaytsevo, to the north.

On the coast, the DNR claims Ukrainian troops shelled the village of Sakhanka, east of Shirokino.

Overall, the DNR claims that Ukrainian forces conducted 10 attacks over the last 24 hours. 

— Pierre Vaux