Ukraine Live Day 675: Russian-Backed Fighters Fake Retreat from Kominternovo to Confuse OSCE

December 24, 2015
Ukrainian soldiers defend a checkpoint near the town of Kominternovo. Screen grab by TSN broadcast, December 23, 2015

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Russian-Backed Fighters Fake Retreat from Kominternovo to Confuse OSCE Monitors, Say Local Sources

Early this morning Interior Minister Arsen Avakov reported that Russian-backed militants from the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR) had left Kominternovo (Komenternove), a town in the “grey zone” — a no-man’s land between Ukraine’s positions near Mariupol and the Russian-backed separatists west of the Russian border.

Translation:  The National Police intelligence has reported: this morning the fighters left Kominternovo.

Yesterday, Avakov had urged the National Security and Defense Council to convene an emergency meeting regarding the situation in three towns near Mariupol. 

2015-12-24 17:41:53

However, the story turned out to be more complicated than this short statement, and other local sources reported that the DNR fighters had faked a withdrawal to fool OSCE observers. reported that heavy weapons were withdrawn, but fighters remained. 

On its Facebook page today, the ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] reported that militants were hiding in the homes of local residents and “preparing the latest provocation” (translation byThe Interpreter):


“According to the latest information from the ATO press center, before OSCE SMM representatives arrived in Kominternovo (Komenternove), the militants hurriedly withdraw all the armor and heavy weaponry from the village deeper into their rear guard. They themselves forced local residents to hide them in their homes, threatening them with physical reprisals, and the criminals are also hiding in abandoned buildings. The exact number of members of the pro-Russian illegal armed formations hiding in the village is not known.”

However, during their stay in Kominternovo, the occupiers managed to thoroughly “work” the local population and prepare the latest information provocation.

The representatives of the Russian terrorist forces are forcing the residents of this village, once again threatening them with reprisals and intimidating them, to make statements addressed to OSCE representatives that supposedly Ukrainian soldiers have recorded to unlawful measures against the residents of Kominternovo, whereas the village is not yet controlled by either side. This absolutely does not correspond to reality; after all, this population center is located in the so-called “grey zone” and the stationing of any armed formations there is not allowed according to the preliminary agreements. By organizing this provocation, the bandits have the purpose of compromising the Ukrainian government and the ATO forces, and also justifying their own unauthorized incursion on the village.

The ATO said this kind of fake reporting was “a systematic phenomenon” and that it was maintaining vigilance in this area.

Yesterday, as we reported, journalist Andriy Tsaplienko reported accounts from villagers that they were visited by “polite people,” the term Russian military have used for their masked troops since the occupation of the Crimea last year.

Today, Tsaplienko had an update two hours ago:

“Fresh conversation with Kominternovo. Amazing things happening in the village. Today, OSCE observers came from the direction of Donetsk and Separ-TV [pro-separatist TV] was on their tail. The purpose of their visit was not difficult to guess: to prove that there were no ‘polite people’ in the village and the DNR was speaking the pure truth when they said they had not occupied the village. But meanwhile, a hundred armed people left Kominternovo. But didn’t go far. The locals even pointed out to OSCE in what direction they had gone. Understandably, the observers wrote in their reports that they had not met any armed persons in the village. And objective Donetsk broadcasters will confirm this today. To be sure, when those for whom the first act of the show was produced had left, the second act immediately ensued. At approximately  14:30, the well-hidden company of the DNR + RF returned riding the armor and once again closed the checkpoint to Mariupol. It’s good that before that, a car managed to slip into the village with groceries. The show called “We’re Not Here” goes on.”

Mariupol city’s website 0629 reported from the ATO:

Translation: the DNR fighters outside Mariupol have forced residents of Kominternovo to compromise the Ukrainian Armed Forces — ATO headquarters.

In addition to the ATO report, 0629 had another report from a local volunteer named Galina Odnorog, who referred to her own sources to claim that the DNR fighters returned to Kominternovo after the OSCE left.

She said an hour after the monitors left the area, heavy vehicles could be heard returning to the village.

“There are a lot of them there, they are going around the houses and asking who cooperated with the Ukrainian army.”

0629 said it was continuing to check the story. 

Yet as of this writing, the ATO is once again reporting that the fighters have left after being exposed in their maskirovka:

To summarize the course of events that have occurred in the last three days around the population center Kominternovo near Mariupol, we can say with confidence that this large-scale provocation by the fighters was finally disrupted by ATO forces….


Thanks to effective cooperation of the ATO leadership and international observers, the timely informing of the public of the course of events and strict observance of Ukrainian divisions of the terms of the ceasefire, the bandit formations controlled by the government of the Russian Federation have retreated.

There was no independent confirmation of the latest retreat. also reported that a Russian drone had been seized over Kominternovo.

The Sever [North] Spetsnaz Battalion reported on its Facebook page that its electronic warfare division had successfully intercepted and knocked down a Russian-made drone.

TSN was able to get some footage of the drone yesterday, and reported intermittent firing. They interviewed the commander of the 32rd Separate Motorized Battalion who goes by the call sign “Spartan” who said yesterday he had seen two tanks and some BTRs and a company of DNR fighters of about 100 people.

Separately,  Aleksandr Motuzyanik, presidential administration spokesman on ATO issues, reported this afternoon on the other two towns reported earlier as occupied by separatist fighters.

According to our information, the population center of Vodyanoye is not controlled by the fighters. They have not occupied it. As for the population center of Zaichenko, it has already been controlled by the illegal armed formations for some time, and we have repeatedly recorded facts of shelling by the militants of our positions precisely from this population center.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick