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
Interfax reports that Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, has told journalists that Putin did not mean to say yesterday, in remarks that were jumped upon by the press, that Russia had sent soldiers to Ukraine.
Peskov said that news reports that claimed that Putin had admitted to deploying Russian armed forces in Ukraine were “absolutely incorrect.”
The Interpreter translates:
“They have interpreted this incorrectly,” said Peskov.
He stressed that volunteers were being discussed, not Russian military specialists.
“There was a war there. People went there to fight. They shot, they participated in combat. This is the military sphere,” said the president’s press secretary.
He recommended they once again read Vladimir Putin’s comments, in which he “repeatedly spoke of our fellow citizens, citizens of Russia, of citizens of other CIS states, who had gone of their own accord (to Ukraine – Interfax).”
“Someone who doesn’t have a fixed sphere of employment, someone using their vacation, someone who takes unpaid leave. These people people are real and they head there. It is these people, who in their free time expressed solidarity with the Donbass, who considered it impossible to lie down while the armed forces of Ukraine began to destroy settlements in southeastern Ukraine,” said Peskov, referring to the conflict in southeastern Ukraine.
Of course Peskov is lying when he says that Russia did not send regular forces into Ukraine, as has been well documented. But President Putin’s remarks yesterday were carefully vague and, as we discussed on this blog, did not amount to an admission akin to that seen late last year, when he finally stated publicly that Russian special forces had participated in the takeover of Crimea.
— Pierre Vaux
President Petro Poroshenko has announced that the European Commission has confirmed that Ukraine has met all criteria required to enter into a visa-free regime with the European Union:
The European Commission published it’s Sixth Progress Report on the Implementation by Ukraine of the Action Plan on Visa Liberalisation today.
The report states that Ukraine has, in the Commission’s view, achieved several “benchmarks” within four “block” categories:
1 – Document security, including biometrics
2 – Integrated border management, migration management and asylum
3 – Public order and security
4 – External relations on fundamental rights
The report concludes:
The Commission considers that since then Ukraine has made the necessary progress and undertaken all the required reforms and commitments to ensure effective and sustainable achievement of the remaining benchmarks. All the measures identified in the fifth progress report have been addressed in order to ensure that the legislative and policy framework, the institutional and organisational principles, and the implementation of procedures throughout the four blocks comply with European and international standards. The Commission will continue to monitor the implementation of ongoing reforms, in fields such as, anti-corruption, trafficking in human beings and organised crime.
Based on this assessment and the commitments taken, and given the outcome of the continuous monitoring and reporting carried out since the launch of EU-Ukraine Visa Liberalisation Dialogue in October 2008, the Commission considers that Ukraine meets all the benchmarks set in respect of the four blocks of the second phase of the VLAP [Visa Liberalisation Action Plan]. Taking into account overall relations between the EU and Ukraine, the Commission will present, early 2016, a legislative proposal to amend Regulation (EC) No 539/2001.
The Commission will continue actively to monitor Ukraine’s continuous implementation of all benchmarks under the four blocks of the VLAP through the existing association structures and dialogues, and, if necessary, through ad hoc follow-up mechanisms.
The visa-free regime will be amongst the most tangible of benefits to Ukrainians of the EU Association Agreement, demand for which was the initial cause of the EuroMaidan protests that toppled the government of Viktor Yanukovych after he suspended preparations for the Agreement in November, 2013.
The passage of bills required to pass the aforementioned benchmarks was not without difficulty.
It was only in November this year that the Verkhovna Rada finally succeeded in passing all of the requisite legislation in the so-called visa-free package. Perhaps the most contentious element of the package was the introduction of amendments to the Labour Code which forbade discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation.
Vyacheslav Abroskin, chief of the Donetsk branch of the Interior Ministry, has claimed on his Facebook page that Russian-backed fighters bombarded the village of Novgorodskoye today with Grad rockets.
Earlier today, the Ukrainian military reported that the village had been shelled overnight with mortars.
According to Abroskin, a salvo of Grad rockets was fired from the direction of separatist-held Gorlovka at around 12:00.
One rocket struck a house on Komsomolskaya Street while shrapnel damaged the roof of a building housing a primary school and kindergarten on Sovietskaya Street. Fortunately, Abroskin said, there were no casualties.
Investigators from the Dzerzhynsk district police are inspecting the scene.
— Pierre Vaux
Colonel Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, has announced that four Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in the Donbass over the last 24 hours.
Lysenko told reporters at a briefing in Kiev that two servicemen were wounded after Russian-backed fighters fired on the village of Novgorodskoye, west of separatist-held Gorlovka.
The other two injured after setting off a tripwire mine in Beryozovoye, near the Donetsk-Mariupol highway.
Earlier this morning, the Ukrainian military’s ATO Press Centre reported that both Novogorodskoye and Krasnogorovka, a town west of Donetsk, had been shelled with 82 mm mortars last night.
Around an hour ago, the Press Centre posted an update, claiming that Russian-backed fighters had used the same weapons, which should have been withdrawn in accordance with the Minsk process, to bombard Ukrainian positions Troitskoye, northeast of Debaltsevo.
The report says that two attacks took place after 11:00 and was conducted from the separatist-held village of Kalinovo.
According to the Ukrainian military, Russian-backed fighters violated the ceasefire 20 times between 18:00 and 6:00 this morning.
Most attacks were concentrated around Donetsk and Gorlovka, with small arms, heavy machine guns and grenade launchers used near Peski, Marinka, Zaytsevo, Novgorodskoye, Luganskoye and Kodema.
Snipers targeted Ukrainian positions in Novgorodskoye, Luganskoye and Peski.
According to the ATO Press Centre, there was a small fire-fight between Ukrainian and Russian-backed fighters near Luganskoye. The report claims that the Russian-backed fighters were repelled by Ukrainian fire.
Meanwhile Eduard Basurin, a military spokesman for the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), claimed this morning that Ukrainian forces had violated the ceasefire 14 times over 24 hours.
According to Basurin, Ukrainian troops used artillery, tanks, mortars, infantry fighting vehicles and small arms in attacks on not only the outskirts of Donetsk and Gorlovka, but also along the Azov coast.
Basurin said that Ukrainian tanks and artillery had shelled the village of Oktyabr, around 20 kilometres northeast of Mariupol. The separatist spokesman added that the fire had come from the village of Pavlopol, which was entered by Ukrainian forces earlier this year.
Overall, Basurin claimed that 10 122 mm shells, 20 tank rounds, 27 mortar rounds and more than 80 rounds from BMP cannons were fired into separatist-held territory over the past 24 hours.
— Pierre Vaux