Ukraine Live Day 697: No Sign Of Ceasefire With Both Sides Reporting Shelling

January 15, 2016
Ukrainian troops training with 152 mm artillery near Mariupol. This morning separatist officials claimed that Ukrainian troops had shelled the village of Kominternovo, just east of the port city. Photo via @uacrisis

The ceasefire agreed upon in Minsk on Tuesday night looks no closer to realisation with both sides reporting heavy shelling overnight.

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

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EU Document Expresses Concerns About Pace Of Reforms In Ukraine

A group of major EU powers including Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and others have endorsed a document which expresses concern about the slow pace of economic and political reform in Ukraine.

RFE/RL has a write-up of the document, which they have seen. Here is an excerpt:

A discussion paper supported by nine EU member states and seen by RFE/RL declares that the government and parliament in Kyiv “urgently need to respond to public demands and reinforce their efforts to adopt and implement effective reforms, in particular in the area of anticorruption.”

The paper suggests that the establishment of a deputy prime minister for European integration could foster the creation of a “transparent and effective coordination structure for reforms.”

The document acknowledges that substantial progress has been made as regards the passage of new laws but highlights the many problems still facing the country.

“In some areas the actual implementation of reforms lags behind and is hampered by vested interests and lack of capacity,” the paper said. “The complex processes of change and perceived lack of tangible results create disappointment and frustration among Ukrainians.”

Read RFE/RL’s report on their liveblog.

James Miller

Reports That Vladislav Surkov And Victoria Nuland Will Discuss Ukraine In Kaliningrad Today

Russia’s Kommersant reports that Victoria Nuland, the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, is to meet today in Kaliningrad with Vladislav Surkov, one President Putin’s most important advisers and long suspected of close personal involvement with Russia’s operations in Ukraine.

Kommersant reports that the newspaper has been told this by two independent sources. The choice of the Russian Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad as a venue would make sense, the article notes, as Nuland has been at a conference in Trakai, Lithuania, where Surkov is barred from entry due to an EU travel ban.

Nuland and Surkov will discuss, the article claims, the implementation of the Minsk agreements, the deadline for which was extended at the end of last year due to the lack of progress.

On Wednesday night Presidents Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama discussed the need for implementing the Minsk agreements by telephone.

Meanwhile negotiations are still under way in Minsk between the members of the tripartite Contact Group, consisting of representatives from Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE.

On the same night as Putin and Obama spoke by phone, the Contact Group agreed on a call for a new, complete ceasefire to come into effect by 00:00 on January 14.

However the call has been met by two days of dramatically intensified fighting, with the highest numbers of reported attacks since mid-December.

If Kommersant‘s sources are accurate however, direct negotiations with Surkov, who is not only extremely powerful within the Russian state but also exerts considerable, personal influence on the separatist leadership in the Donbass, may prove more fruitful than the Minsk process, which has produced repeated failure.

— Pierre Vaux

No Sign Of Ceasefire With Both Sides Reporting Shelling

Fighting in the Donbass remains at an elevated level with the Ukrainian military reporting more than 60 attacks over the last 24 hours.

Anton Mironovich, a spokesman for the ATO Press Centre, told the 112 television channel this morning that 62 attacks had been recorded by midnight, with the majority taking place near Donetsk and Gorlovka. The attacks, he said, had continued into today.

Oleksandr Kindsfater, press officer for ‘Sector M’ reported that there had been 12 attacks on Ukrainian positions in Marinka, a suburb southwest of Donetsk.

To the north of Donetsk, Yevgeny Romanov, press officer for ‘Sector B’ reported attacks on Peski, Opytnoye, Avdeyevka and the Butovka mine. According to Romanov, 13 attacks took in the sector, which covers the north of the Donetsk region, between 18:00 and midnight, with another eight between midnight and 9:30 am today.

Colonel Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, claimed that Russian-backed fighters had used 82 mm mortars to shell Novgorodskoye, west of separatist-held Gorlovka.

According to this morning’s ATO Press Centre report, a Ukrainian defensive position near Luganskoye, on the highway between Artyomovsk and separatist-held Debaltsevo, was attacked with anti-tank missiles.

Further to the east, Russian-backed fighters are reported to have carried out attacks with heavy machine guns near Troitskoye, on the border between the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.  

Colonel Lysenko announced that two Ukrainian servicemen had been wounded over the last 24 hours, and that reconnaissance drones had been operating over the Donbass:

The pro-separatist Donetsk News Agency (DAN) reports meanwhile that Ukrainian troops shelled the village of Kominternovo, around 10 km east of Mariupol.

A DAN correspondent on the scene claimed that 10 houses had been damaged during last night’s attack with 82 and 120 mm mortars. One house had been completely burnt to the ground. 

An OSCE team led Alexander Hug, deputy head of the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, has arrived in the village to collect evidence. 

Yesterday afternoon one Twitter user relayed Facebook reports of shelling in Kominternovo, however another used, claiming they lived in the Vostochny neighbourhood on the eastern outskirts of Mariupol, said they couldn’t hear anything.

Translation: #Kominternovo 13:15 village is being shelled. Residents hiding in the cellars!

TranslationKominternovo. Shelling is still under way. Something is burning in the centre.

Elsewhere DAN cites a source in the separatist military ranks as saying that Ukrainian forces had shelled Donetsk Airport overnight with no fewer than 60 82 mm mortar shells. 

— Pierre Vaux