Ukraine Live Day 690: Kiev Claims Russian-Backed Fighters Used Heavy Mortars And Tanks In Attacks Yesterday

January 8, 2016

The Ukrainian military claims that Russian-backed fighters used mortars and tanks in attacks yesterday, Orthodox Christmas.

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

Please help The Interpreter to continue providing this valuable information service by making a donation towards our costs.

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.

Permanent Arbitration Court in Hague Accepts Lawsuit Against Russia By Ukrainian Oligarch Igor Kolomoyskyi

A year ago, Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoiskyi filed suit against
Russia for $15 million losses he says he incurred when Russian occupied
and annexed Ukraine and nationalized the Belbek airport in Sevastopol, reported. Yesterday, January 7, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague accepted the suit.

Kolomoyski maintains that he had a contract through 2020 for the
Belbek Airport, which has been used as a Russian military airfield since
2007, when civilian flights were suspended. Plans to resume civilian
flights in 2009 never materialized.

Kolomoyskyi says Russia should
compensate him for his losses in potential revenue from the terminal.

Russia had already announced it would refuse to take part in the
hearings since it believes the Hague does not have jurisdiction over
such disputes.
In 2014, Kolomoyski tried unsuccessfully to resolve the issue personally with Prime Ministry Dmitry Medvedev.
He is also suing Russia for his losses in Privatbank, another suit Moscow refuses to acknowledge.
In Russia, Kolomoysky is among those charged with use of unlawful
weapons in a case involving 1,420 alleged victims, which is Moscow’s
way of attempting to prosecute Ukraine for the war which it launched
itself. Basmanny Court has ordered Kolomoyskyi’s arrest in absentia.
After annexation of the Crimea, Russia nationalized a total of 87
properties belonging to Kolomoyski, arguing that this was justified
because of his alleged failure to maintain savings accounts at
Kirill Moskalenko, press secretary of Sergei Menyailo, governor of Sevastopol said
the oligarch was “modestly remaining silent about the fact that when he
left Crimea, his Privatbank seized the accounts of more than a million
of our citizens.”
Despite indications from Aleksei Chaly,
who resigned from his position as chair of the legislative assembly of
Sevastopol, that Menyailo may also resign, he appears to remain in his

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Kiev Reports 14 Attacks So Far Today

The Ukrainian military claims this evening that Russian-backed fighters conducted 14 attacks so far today, as of 18:00 local time.

According to the ATO Press Centre report, 11 of the attacks were “untargeted.”

In the Golovka area, Ukrainian troops near Novgorodskoye, to the west of the separatist-held town, came under sniper fire twice. To the north and east, there were attacks on Ukrainian defensive positions near Mayorsk, and positions outside Luganskoye, on the Artyomovsk-Debaltsevo highway. 

On the border between the Donetsk and Lugansk region, a Ukrainian position near Troitskoye was attacked.

Meanwhile Russian-backed fighters at Donetsk Airport fired on the villages of Opytnoye and Peski.

According to the report, all attacks were carried out with either small arms, grenade launchers or heavy machine guns. There were no reports today of mortar or artillery use.

— Pierre Vaux

OSCE Observers ‘Forced To The Ground’ And Briefly Detained By Russian-Backed Fighters; Barred Access To Kominternovo

OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) observers were forced to the ground and briefly detained by Russian-backed fighters yesterday.

According to the SMM’s latest report, published this afternoon, incident occurred in Gorlovka (Horlivka in Ukrainian):

In Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk) armed “DPR” members stopped an SMM patrol and forced the SMM monitors to the ground. The SMM vehicle was searched for video material and SMM monitors were taken to a “military-type building”. Upon arrival of a “DPR” “commander”, who apologized for the situation, the monitors were released after 35 minutes. 

In the south of the Donetsk region, the SMM was barred from reaching Kominternovo on three occasions. The village was seized by Russian-backed forces in December. The SMM was allowed into the village on December 28, but were only allowed access to one street.

On January 4, the SMM were able to approach the village from the west, they reported seeing Russian-backed fighters and armoured vehicles:

The SMM observed that the explosive devices which had been placed at the south-western entrance to the village – near a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint – had been removed (see: SMM Daily Report 23 December 2015) and therefore it could approach the village from the west. In Kominternove, the SMM observed a calm situation, and noted the presence of approximately 15 armed “DPR” members and several armed vehicles (BMP-2 and BTR). Meanwhile, the SMM could not reach the village from the east, as armed “DPR” members denied the SMM access to the village* at a checkpoint near “DPR”-controlled Zaichenko (26km north-east of Mariupol). The SMM also visited Vodiane (19km north-west of Mariupol, 4km south-east of Kominternove) where it did not see any armed persons or any civilians. The SMM noted one Ukrainian national flag hung on a small residential house. Whilst in the areas around Kominternove, the SMM did not record any ceasefire violations.

Yesterday, both the eastern and western approaches were blocked. From today’s SMM report:

Armed “DPR” members at a checkpoint in the vicinity of Kominternove (23km north-east of Mariupol) stopped the SMM and denied access, citing security reasons due to alleged sniper activity in the area.

A “DPR” member, who presented himself as the checkpoint “commander”, at the western entrance to Kominternove stopped the SMM and denied access referring to orders he had received from his superior.

At a checkpoint in Zaichenko (25km north-east of Mariupol, 4km east of Kominternove), five “DPR” members denied the SMM access to Kominternove.

It is in this area that the Ukrainian military reported mortar attacks last night:


Elsewhere, the SMM observed a T-72 tank on a flatbed truck in separatist-held Donetsk city and, in the Lugansk region, the SMM was barred access to the Krasnopartizansk border crossing.

— Pierre Vaux

Crimean Drivers Reportedly Forced To Leave Vehicles At Frontier Due To ‘Legal Trap’

RFE/RL’s Crimean Service reports that residents of the Russian-occupied peninsula have told the news agency that they are unable to travel by car across the frontier with mainland Ukraine, despite claims to the contrary from the Ukrainian government.

While goods vehicles have been barred from crossing the frontier, initially by a blockade established by activists, and soon by legislation, private vehicles are supposed to be allowed through. On December 16 the Ukrainian government passed a resolution restricting goods exports to Crimea. The decision is due to enter force 30 days after passage.

However motorists report that they have fallen into a “legal trap,” as the occupying authorities demand that all drivers in Crimea obtain Russian registration numbers and documentation. Since Kiev does not recognise the peninsula as Russian territory, the drivers are unable to pass customs stops on the way to the mainland.

One driver told RFE/RL that they had been forced to leave their car at the frontier and travel to Kiev by taxi before returning and driving back south in their own vehicle. 

The State Fiscal Service of Ukraine denied this, claiming that there were no restrictions on private motor vehicle movement on the frontier.

— Pierre Vaux

Ukraine Claims Russian-Backed Fighters Used Heavy Mortars And Tanks In Attacks Yesterday

The Ukrainian military claims that Russian-backed fighters conducted 24 attacks yesterday, using mortars in two areas of the front line.

On the Azov coast, Ukrainian positions on the northern outskirts of the village of Lebedinskoye, less than five kilometres outside Mariupol, were reportedly shelled no less than 12 82 mm mortar rounds.

Eduard Basurin, deputy commander of the armed forces of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), claimed however that separatist fighters could not have carried out the attack as their nearest positions were out of range.

The 2B14 82 mm mortar used by both sides has a maximum range of just under 4.3 kilometres, but Basurin says that the nearest DNR positions are more than 6 kilometres away.

Indeed the nearest separatist-held village to Lebedinskoye is Kominternovo. Between the fringes of either village lies a little less than 6 kilometres. However there seems little reason to assume that a mortar team (the 2B14 is easily portable) could not move out a few hundred metres down the road west out of Kominternovo or into the village of Vodyanoye, which was reportedly briefly occupied by Russian-backed fighters last month and now sits in the “grey zone.”


Instead, Basurin claimed that there had been a shoot-out near Lebedinskoye between Ukrainian marines and members of the ultra-nationalist Praviy Sektor paramilitary group. 

Colonel Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, announced later today that one Ukrainian serviceman had received shrapnel wounds after a defensive position near Zaytsevo, north of Gorlovka, was shelled with both 82 and 120 mm mortars.

In the Donetsk area, Lysenko claimed that Ukrainian positions near the village of Nevelskoye, northwest of the separatist-held city, had come under fire from tanks and BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles.


According to the ATO Press Centre, Ukrainian troops near Peski, Opytnoye and Novgorodskoye were attacked last night with small arms, grenade launchers and heavy machine guns.

At around 1 am today, a Ukrainian unit came under intense fire for around 15 minutes from Russian-backed fighters at Donetsk Airport.

Lysenko also reported Russian reconnaissance flights along the frontier with occupied Crimea: 

Meanwhile the ‘defence ministry’ of the DNR claimed at noon that Ukrainian forces had violated the ceasefire six times over the past 24 hours.

According to the DNR, Ukrainian troops used 82 mm mortars, grenade launchers and infantry fighting vehicles to shell the Donetsk suburbs of Spartak and Staromikhailovka, as well as separatist-held areas of southern Zaytsevo. 

— Pierre Vaux