Ukraine Live Day 670: Russian-Backed Fighters Step Up Attacks; 1 Ukrainian Soldier Wounded

December 20, 2015
A Ukrainian soldier in Zaitsevo on December 15, 2015. Photo by ATO

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Ukrainian Security Service and Police Detain 17 Right Sector Fighters in Mariupol

News emerged late last night, December 18 about a detention December 17 by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) and police in Mariupol of a group of armed men evidently in the ultranationalist Right Sector, described as “a terrorist group” with a large quantity of weapons and explosives, dressed in uniform, reported, citing the ATO. said there were 17 armed men in the group, and said they had no identification on them.
Law-enforcers disarmed them and Vyacheslav Abroskin, the head of Donetsk Region police said on his Facebook page that they were members of an armed group that was not in any of the Ukrainian volunteer battalions or patriotic associations and were not related to the Ukrainian armed forces or police. A criminal case was opened.

Yegor Previr, a Maidan activist, wrote on his Facebook page that the men were from an armed detachment called Odin (One) which formerly fought with the 7th Separate Battalion of Right Sector’s Volunteer Ukrainian Corps who used to be involved in detaining the Russian-backed militants and diversionary groups.

Right Sector, among the most active participants in the Maidan protests, is an extremist group whose members formed volunteer battalions to fight against the Russian invasion. They have been involved in a number of conflicts with the Ukrainian government, notably in Mukhachevo. Last year, efforts were made to harness the Right Sector fighters by requiring them to join the National Guard.

In July ,Governor Hennadi Moskal accused Right Sector of kidnapping and torture after a shootout in Mukhachevo in which 3 police and 8 civilians were wounded and 2 Right Sector members killed.

Previr posted a video uploaded to YouTube of Ruslan Kachmala, commander of the 7th Separate Battalion, described sa the commander of Odin , who called the SBU “idiots” for arresting his men, and said they had been in the process of joining the National Guard. He said that authorities “all knew” for months that they were armed and had cases of ammunition. He said that despite law-enforcers’ knowledge that they were armed and had explosives, which he said they had retrieved from the Donetsk airport when Ukrainian forces retreated, they decided to make a demonstrative arrest of the Right Sector fighters.

“They wanted to just shoot the guys, but they didn’t put up any resistance, so there was no one to shoot,” Kachmala said in the videotaped statement.

Olga Konovalova, a supporter of this unit who has organized supplies and communications for the fighters, apparently anticipated trouble as she wrote on her Facebook December 15, two days before the round-up of the men, of concern about Odin. She said that while she recognized it may seem odd that they had not registered in the National Guard yet, as had been mandated by the Ukrainian military for all volunteer brigades, she said they did intend to join as quickly as possible. She hinted that there were good reasons for the delay, and implied there were certain people in the Defense Ministry were holding them up.

In July, reported that the Interior Ministry had announced that some 40 fighters, including their commander Kachmala, from Right Sector’s 7th Separate Battalion were going to join the Azov Regiment in the National Guard; 5 were going to remain in Right Sector. At that time Kachamala was reported as saying (translation by The Interpreter):

“The motive is simple: as long as we’ve been fighting, Right Sector has become more corrupt and has gone outside the law. Therefore we decided to have all former divisions leave Right Sector. I long ago left Right Sector but didn’t announce it. Now we will go into the official structures. We are in the same positions where we were before.”

It’s not clear why the fighters didn’t in fact enter the National Guard in the last five  months, or what their current status will be, since they have been detained and disarmed.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russian-Backed Fighters Step Up Attacks; 1 Ukrainian Soldier Wounded
The ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] wrote on their Facebook page this morning Kiev time that the situation remained tense and Russian-backed fighters made 35 armed attacks on Ukrainian positions.  Snipers fired at Ukrainian soldiers in Novgorodskoye and Luganskoye and at the Gorlovsko-Svetlodarsk bulge. In Lugansk Region, militants fired on Nizhnetyoploye, and along this line also fired from 82-mm and 120-mm mortars that were supposed to be withdrawn under the Minsk agreement.
Most activity was directed at Donetsk, with two dozen attempts to fire from large-caliber mortars, firearms and grenade-launchers around Peski, Opytnoye and Avdeyevka.
Fighting also continued near Gorlovka from heavy machine-guns, with strikes on Zaitsevo, Troitskoye and Novgorodskaya.

Then this afternoon, Andrei Lysenko, speaker for the presidential administration on ATO affairs said there had been a total of 59 armed attacks, Novosti Donbass reported.

He said five Ukrainian soldiers had been wounded in the past 24 hours. Yesterday, on December 18, we reported the first four of these soldiers wounded.

The Mariupol city site reported “a sharp increase” in drone activity by Russian-backed militants,  citing the Ukrainian border service. Nine drones were observed over Gorlovka, Mariupol, Yalta and Shirokino.
For their part, the separatist news service Dan News said Ukrainian soldiers renewed firing on the village of Spartak and area around the Volvo Center near the Donetsk airport, using 82-mm mortar-launchers, grenade-launchers and firearms.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick