Ukraine Live Day 689: As Ukraine Celebrates Christmas, Fighting Dramatically Escalates

January 7, 2016
Fishermen on a frozen reservoir today near Karlovka, 15 kilometres outside Donetsk. Photo: Alina Mykhailova - @AMykhailova

While Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas today, the Ukrainian military reported this morning that Russian-backed fighters had conducted 51 attacks overnight.

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

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Prosecutor-General’s Office Threatens To Sue US Research Fellow For Calling For Shokin’s Dismissal

Last night the Ukrainian Prosecutor-General’s office launched an unusual direct attack on a US researcher and journalist for criticising the beleaguered Viktor Shokin.

Vladislav Kutsenko, an aide to the Prosecutor-General, told the 112 television channel that the office was prepared to pursue legal action through international courts if Hannah Thoburn, a research fellow at the Hudson Institute, could not provide proof of allegations he claimed she had made that Shokin was corrupt.

Kutsenko said that the allegations of corruption were provocations and disinformation aimed at misleading Ukrainian society.

To “defend the honour, dignity and business reputation” of Shokin, Kutsenko said that the Prosecutor-General’s office would “demand a very significant financial sum as compensation, which Shokin will then send on as support for volunteers and the Ukrainian army.”

112 highlighted a response Thoburn gave on Twitter to a question from Voice of America on Tuesday: 

Thoburn responded last night:

Singling out Thoburn in this manner is particularly odd given that criticism of Shokin and his ineffectiveness in tackling corruption has been widespread in both Ukrainian and foreign media for many months now. 

Indeed this author himself made similar statements to Voice of America in November last year.

ГПУ Шокіна займається показухою, а не правосуддям – експерт. Відео

Навіть якщо йдеться про корумпованих осіб, певна процедура все ж таки повинна бути дотримана.

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Jan 07, 2016 14:41 (GMT)

Just yesterday, Halya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group wrote on the Atlantic Council website that Shokin had “sabotaged the latest round of reform.”

How Ukraine's Prosecutor General Sabotaged the Reform Process

The Atlantic Council promotes constructive leadership and engagement in international affairs based on the central role of the Atlantic Community in meeting global challenges. Founded in 1961, the Council provides an essential forum for navigating the dramatic shifts in economic and political influence that are shaping the twenty-first century by educating and galvanizing its uniquely influential, nonpartisan network of international political, business, and intellectual leaders.

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Jan 07, 2016 14:44 (GMT)

Furthermore, at least 100 Ukrainian MPs signed a petition calling for Shokin’s removal in November.

On December 22, MPs began collecting another round of signatures for the same cause after Yegor Sobolev, head of the Rada anti-corruption committee, reported that the original list had been taken from his desk.

112 reports that around 100 signatures have now been gathered.

— Pierre Vaux

As Ukraine Celebrates Christmas, Fighting Dramatically Escalates

The Ukrainian military claimed this morning that Russian-backed fighters conducted 51 attacks last night, marking a dramatic escalation in fighting as Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas today.

According to the ATO Press Centre report, fighting was seen near Donetsk, Gorlovka and Granitnoye, in the south.

To the west of Donetsk, Russian-backed fighters reportedly conducted targeted attacks with automatic grenade launchers on the Marinka suburb. To the north of the separatist-held city, Ukrainian troops near Peski, Opytnoye and Avdeyevka were attacked with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms. To the northwest there were grenade launcher and small arms attacks outside Verkhnetoretskoye.


In the Gorlovka area, the Ukrainian military reports heavy machine gun, grenade launcher and small arms attacks near Mayorsk, Zaytsevo and Novgorodskoye.

Furthermore, after midnight, several 120 mm mortar rounds reportedly exploded near Ukrainian positions outside Zaytsevo.


In the south, Ukrainian positions near Granitnoye, east of Volnovakha, were twice attacked with grenade launchers and small arms.

This is the highest number of nightly (or daily) attacks reported by Ukraine since the beginning of the year.

Colonel Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, told reporters at noon today that one Ukrainian soldier had been wounded within the last 24 hours.

Meanwhile the ‘defence ministry’ of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) claimed today that Ukrainian forces had shelled separatist-held villages on the Azov coast.

According to the report, “fighters from Ukrainian nationalist groups” in the western part of Shirokino shelled DNR positions near Sakhanka and Bezymyonnoye using 82 and 120 mm mortars.


Overall, the DNR says, Ukrainian forces fired more than 10 shells.

Today, there are unconfirmed reports on social media of further gunfire, possibly exercises conducted by Russian-backed fighters:

Translation: Facebook #Donetsk 12:40 “Banging again. Can hear salvoes and impacts right afterwards, kind of in the direction of Obyedinenny. Training or something.”

Translation: VKontakte – Tekstilshchik intense gunfire, small arms. Are the orcs training?

— Pierre Vaux