Ukraine Live Day 696: Despite New Ceasefire Agreement, Fighting Escalates Sharply

January 14, 2016
The Ukrainian Security Service conducts a raid in Popasnaya, Lugansk region, today. Screenshot from SBU video.

While delegates in Minsk agreed on Russian delegate Boris Gryzlov’s call for a new ceasefire, which was to come into effect at midnight, fighting has sharply escalated, with attacks reported throughout the night and today.

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.

Documentary On Euromaidan Protests Nominated For Academy Award

“Winter On Fire,” a documentary by director Evgeny Afineevsky on the events of the Euromaidan Revolution in Ukraine, has been nominated for an Oscar for best documentary feature.

Film critic Godfrey Cheshire reviewed the film for

The film emphasizes the diversity of the protestors, which include people from all over Ukraine and many different walks of life, from professionals to students to laborers to clergy. Additionally, many different faiths are united with non-believers, while Ukrainian nationalism and pro-European, anti-Russian sentiment form the common thread. The frequently used interview segments not only help chronicle and explain the revolt as it unfolded, they also give us a sense of who these protestors were, as well as their sincerity and dedication to their cause.

The dedication leads to displays of courage that sometimes are quite astonishing and form the film’s fiery emotional core. Refusing to back down or flee no matter how many merciless troops and deadly bullets come flying at them, many protestors deliberately put themselves in harm’s way, and some pay the ultimate price for helping wounded friends. Finally, some 125 die and hundreds are wounded before Vanukovych buckles from the turmoil and flees the country.

Seeing people putting their lives on the line for “freedom” can’t help but be powerful and inspiring, and the film emphasizes how much of this commitment came from the generation of the ’90s, who came of age after the yoke of Soviet domination had been removed. Once people have tasted freedom, Afineevsky suggests, it’s hard to get them to return to tyranny.

The documentary, a Netflix Original, is available for streaming. Here is the trailer:

Read an interview with Afineevsky here:

'Winter on Fire' Director Talks Risking Life to Shoot Ukraine Revolt

TheWrap Screening Series: Evgeny Afineevsky explains how he captured the 2013-14 Kiev uprising with help from a million protesters with cellphones The cinematographers of Evgeny Afineevsky's Netflix documentary "Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom," documenting Kiev's 2013-14 Maidan Square uprising, would never fit on the Oscar stage.

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Jan 14, 2016 22:11 (GMT)

James Miller
Ukrainian President Vows To Restore Order To Eastern Ukraine This Year

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is giving his annual press conference today, and he has made a huge promise — to restore order to eastern Ukraine by the end of the year. RFE/RL reports:

“Ukrainian sovereignty over the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions must be restored,” Poroshenko told journalists on January 14.

He added that securing Crimea’s return from Russian control was the priority, saying “de-occupation” of the peninsula that was annexed by Russia in March 2014 must be implemented via international mechanisms and with EU and U.S. help.

“We — the society, the army, the government — have largely strengthened our country’s defense,” the Ukrainian leader also said. “This is reflected by the fact that our enemy is losing its willingness to continue its offensive against Ukraine.”

“In January 2015 we had a goal to survive, and in January 2016 we have a goal to succeed,” he added. “I hope everyone understands the difference.”

Poroshenko also said that there will be no revision of the Minsk Accords which were supposed to bring an end to this conflict. Those accords clearly spell out a path forward which includes Ukraine regaining military control of both the borders and the territory currently controlled by the Russian-backed fighters, as well as the holding of elections in the Donbass under Ukrainian law. In effect, Poroshenko is vowing to fulfill these parts of Minsk in the next year.

But the question remains whether Poroshenko will renew a military offensive to restore order to the east if the Russian-backed separatists do not comply with Minsk. So far, there is no sign that the self-declared “People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk” are taking any steps to implement these portions of the Minsk agreements.

Then there is a political question — if the Minsk accords are not fulfilled, what will the political fallout be?

James Miller

Poroshenko Says No Need To Replace Prosecutor-General Shokin

During his annual press conference today, President Petro Poroshenko claimed that there was no need to replace the much-criticised Prosecutor-General, Viktor Shokin, as he would rather proceed with reforms of the Prosecutor’s office itself.

Ukrainska Pravda reports that Poroshenko said that all corruption investigations were now being handled by the new Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), assisted by specialised anti-corruption prosecutors.

To underscore the independence of the NABU, Poroshenko said:

“When we watched the election of the chairman of the NABU [Artyom Sytnyk], everyone applauded, everyone was convinced that we had chosen an independent person. At the same time, there were rumours that someone had been chosen who Poroshenko didn’t like, because there were reports, possibly partially correct, that I had proposed the candidacy of Davit Sakvarelidze.”

Furthermore, the President claimed that the forthcoming State Bureau of Investigations, the foundation of which has been approved by the Rada, will take away even more investigative functions from the Prosecutor’s Office.

Poroshenko did not specifically address, however, any of the specific criticisms of Shokin, who is accused of “sabotaging” reforms and conducting politically motivated or ineffective prosecutions.

— Pierre Vaux

Despite New Ceasefire Agreement, Fighting Escalates Sharply

While delegates in Minsk agreed on Russian delegate Boris Gryzlov’s call for a new ceasefire, which was to come into effect at midnight, fighting has sharply escalated, with attacks reported throughout the night and today.

According to the Ukrainian military, Russian-backed forces conducted 70 attacks yesterday evening. This is a huge increase from the numbers reported in recent weeks.

The ATO Press Centre reports that the majority of attacks took place near Donetsk and Gorlovka.

Ukrainian positions near Peski, Opytnoye, Avdeyevka, Marinka, Novgorodskoye, Zaytsevo and Mayorsk were attacked with grenade launchers, heavy machine guns and small arms, with Opytnoye and Zaytsevo also shelled with 82 mm mortars.

Aleksandr Kindsfater, a Ukrainian military press officer, told that there had also been attacks near Krasnogorovka and on Aleksandrovka, west of Donetsk. 

The ceasefire agreed in Minsk was due to come into force at midnight, but the Ukrainian military reported at 13:10 (11:10 GMT) that there had been around 20 attacks since midnight “along practically the entire front line,” with heavy weaponry used.

At around 10:30 today, the military reports a clash near Vodyanoye, east of Mariupol, after Russian-backed fighters fired on the village, which lies in a small “grey zone” between the lines. Ukrainian troops responded with force and reportedly put a stop to the attack.

At noon Colonel Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, a military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, announced that two Ukrainian soldiers had been wounded within the last 24 hours.

The casualties occurred after a military truck struck a mine near Mariupol.

Andrei Oprishchenko, a commander of Russian-backed fighters in the Donetsk region, claimed meanwhile that one separatist fighter had been wounded after Ukrainian troops shelled the village of Sakhanka, east of Mariupol.

According to Oprishchenko, Ukrainian fighters shelled the village with 82 mm mortars yesterday evening, firing eight rounds.

The pro-separatist Donetsk News Agency also reported that the same weapons had been used to attack Russian-backed fighters’ positions near Donetsk Airport last night. 

There are reports from Donetsk residents today of continued fighting: 

Translation: Minsk 3 is so effective that the fire from small arms and mortars/tanks has become more intense than a month ago

Translation: #Donetsk , Kievsky district, a little battle and Minsk3 audible, blasts and machine guns 13:20

— Pierre Vaux