Ukraine Live Day 695: Savchenko Returns To Court On 27th Day Of Hunger Strike

January 13, 2016
Photo: Elena Romanova - @elenabliznetc

Nadezhda Savchenko has returned to court today while on the 27th day of her renewed hunger strike. The court has once again rejected defence submissions.

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

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For the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: How We Know Russia Shot Down MH17.

First Minsk Talks with Participation of Gryzlov Take Place With Only Modest Results

Agreement has been reached in the Minsk talks for another “quiet regimen,” an exchange of POWs, starting with those who are wounded, and renewal of water supply to Lugansk, reported.
The meeting today was the first in which Boris Gryzlov, former speaker of the State Duma and newly-appointed as Russia’s negotiator in the Trilateral Contact Group took part. Azamat Kulmukhametov, the previous main negotiator, was not present, Interfax reported.
Gryzlov’s appointment was announced with great fanfare in the Russian media and some experts wondered whether the significant increase in level of negotiation meant that Russia had gotten more serious about the Minsk talks — even as fighting escalated in recent weeks.
This week Ukrainian authorities temporarily lifted their ban on Russian flights in a reciprocity trade war to admit Gryzlov, who met with former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, Kiev’s representative at the talks. Gryzlov was also rumored to have met with President Petro Poroshenko, but there was no confirmation of the meeting from the administration.

Kuchma’s assistant Darka Olifer wrote an account of the meeting on her Facebook page.
She noted that the International Committee of the Red Cross must be allowed to visit prisoners in the occupied regions of the Donbass. “Representatives of certain districts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions have repeatedly promised to do so, but have not fulfilled their pledges,” she said, referring to the so-called “Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.”
She also reiterated that previous Minsk pledges had to be fulfilled, namely elections in the Donbass under Ukrainian laws and according to OSCE standards, with the participation of Ukrainian parties and the media. Currently such parties are banned and journalists are obstructed.
The most concrete achievement of the talks was the agreement by Russia to pay the outstanding water bill to Lugansk Region, so that Kiev can turn the water back on, which was shut off two weeks ago. credited Gryzlov with the proposal for a “quiet regimen” to begin January 14.
But in fact, negotiators imposed such a regimen back on December 23, supposedly to enable people to celebrate the winter holidays, but it did no good. There were daily attacks by Russian-backed separatists on Ukrainian positions, and pro-Russian media reported Ukrainians had also fired on the militants. 

At least one civilian was killed and at least 5 Ukrainian soldiers were reported killed during this period although in once case, officials said a volunteer Ukrainian fighter killed outside of Mariupol did not die in battle and an investigation is still pending. 

OSCE monitors also faced obstruction in their mission, as they were blocked from entering Kominternovo, a town near Mariupol where there were reports that militants had deployed.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Ukraine Reports 37 Attacks Today, Separatists Claim Donetsk Airport Shelled With Mortars

The Ukrainian military claims that Russian-backed fighters have, as of 18:00, conducted 37 attacks today.

According to this evening’s ATO Press Centre report, Attacks were concentrated in the Donetsk and Gorlovka areas.

To the north of Donetsk, Ukrainian defensive positions near Opytnoye, Avdeyevka and Peski came under small-arms and grenade launcher fire from the ruins of Donetsk Airport and the outskirts of the separatist-held city.

In the Gorlovka area, Russian-backed fighters reportedly attacked Ukrainian positions near Novgorodskoye and Zaytsevo.

To the northeast, positions outside Luganskoye were attacked several times with grenade launchers and heavy machine guns. The report claims that a brief skirmish took place in this same area, with Ukrainian troops repelling a group of Russian-backed fighters.

The military also reports attacks near Troitskoye, on the border between the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, and Novoselovka.

Meanwhile the pro-separatist Donetsk News Agency (DAN) reports, citing a DNR security source, that Ukrainian troops have tonight shelled the Donetsk Airport area with 120 mm mortars.

According to DAN, the attack took place at around 19:45 and lasted for half an hour.

— Pierre Vaux

Le Pen Ally Offers Russian-Backed Separatists Help With War Crimes Charges Against Ukraine

Yesterday, Jacques Clostermann, president of the far-right Mon Pays la France movement, which is part of the Front National-led Rassemblement bleu Marine (RBM) coalition, visited the ruins of Donetsk Airport with Russian-backed fighters to see “evidence of Ukrainian war crimes.”

Today Clostermann claimed that after seeing the destruction in the Oktyabrsky neighbourhood of northern Donetsk, Ukraine’s military actions “cannot be called anything by terrorist attacks.” He added that “this is not the work of an army, but bandits.”

Vyacheslav Stolyarenko, the ‘information minister’ of the self-declared Lugansk People’s Republic (LNR), said today that he will deliver evidence, consisting of interrogation transcripts, eyewitness accounts and forensic reports of Ukrainian war crimes to the French delegation at a round table discussion this evening. 

Clostermann is travelling with two lawyers, Josy-Jean Bousquet and Hanane Mashoud. Bousquet said today that he wanted to help the Donetsk separatists make a case before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).


“I am a lawyer and this is why I have come here. I am also planning to work with other lawyers from Germany, Italy, France and so on to draw up a case for the European Court of Human Rights, so that the rights of people are victorious everywhere. And I am beginning work on this today.”

— Pierre Vaux

Fighting Reported Near Donetsk And Gorlovka

The Ukrainian military claimed that Russian-backed fighters conducted 24 attacks over the past 24 hours, with further fighting reported today.

Yevgeny Romanov, a press officer for the Ukrainian military’s operations in the Donetsk area, told the 112 television channel today that there had been six attacks near the separatist-held regional capital between 18:00 and midnight, with another four recorded before 8:00 today.

According to Romanov, Ukrainian positions near Verkhnetoretskoye, Novgorodskoye, Avdeyevka and Peski were attacked with automatic grenade launchers and small arms.

The ATO Press Centre earlier reported that there had also been “systematic” attacks on Ukrainian defensive positions near Troitskoye, north of Verkhetoretskoye.

The pro-separatist Donetsk News Agency (DAN) reported meanwhile that Ukrainian forces had attacked the Spartak suburb, as well as Donetsk Airport and the Volvo Centre – a front-line position near Peski, with mortars, tanks and anti-aircraft artillery.


To the north of Gorlovka, there were attacks near Zaytsevo and Mayorsk, while in the Lugansk region, the ATO Press Centre reported that Ukrainian positions near Krymskoye and Tryokhizbenka had been attacked with automatic grenade launchers.

Colonel Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, said today that there had been no Ukrainian military casualties over the last day.

There are reports on social media this afternoon of continued fighting near Donetsk and Gorlovka:

Translation: Facebook 11:32 #Donetsk : “In Putilovka it’s VERY loud again and somehow very close!!!”
Translation: I can hear noise from the direction of the airport. Reminded that it was a year ago that they knocked down the control tower.
— Pierre Vaux
Savchenko Returns To Court On 27th Day Of Hunger Strike

Nadezhda Savchenko has returned to court today after being on hunger strike since December 17 last year.


Translation: Nadiya Savchenko today. She’s continuing her hunger strike from 17/12 in protest of the court’s ruling, which isn’t accepting her defence team’s arguments.

Savchenko’s lawyers report that she was in poor health.

Yesterday Nikolai Polozov tweeted:

Translation: I’ve been visiting Nadiya in pre-trial detention. Today is the 26th day of her hunger strike, she has lost more than 15 kg of weight, it’s visible that it’s hard for her, but she’s holding up.

Today Ilya Novikov posted a photo of Savchenko “on the 27th day of her hunger strike” on his Facebook page:


Savchenko is a military officer (and now MP) who was captured by separatist fighters near Lugansk in June, 2014. She was subsequently taken across the border to Russia where she has been jailed and charged with the murder of two Russian journalists, Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin, during a mortar attack on a checkpoint. reports that the court has today refused a request from the defence team to enter transcripts with certain witnesses upon the records.

According to the defence team, these transcripts indicate that there was indeed a battle between separatist fighters and Ukrainian troops on the day Savchenko was captured.

Novikov told Grani:

“The fire was directed not at civilians, as the investigators claim, but in accordance with law – in the sense of the Geneva Convention, on military targets. On a group of armed combatants, separatists, amongst whom were Kornelyuk and Voloshin. This is an important circumstance in establishing the truth in the case.”

Grani also reports that the court refused to file materials gathered by the Ukrainian Security Service investigation into Savchenko’s abduction.

— Pierre Vaux