Ukraine Live Day 341: Russian-Backed Forces Continue Push into Ukraine

January 24, 2015
Victim of Russian-backed shelling in Mariupol January 24, 2015. Photo via InformResist

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Smerch Geolocated in Makeyevka from Two Recent Videos

A Smerch (“whirlwind”) rocket launching system has been spotted in Makeyevka outside of Donetsk on January 22, 2015.

A video  was uploaded January 22 titled “Russian occupiers’ Smerch, city of Makeyevka. Generala Danilova St. in the direction of Zelyony micro-district. 22.01.2015

That description would mean the video was taken here, near Donetsk in Makeyevka:


UPDATE: The account that uploaded this video was removed.

Another copy of the same video is available:

 At 0:10, the Smerch is visible.


This looks to be a 9T234-2 transporter like this one:


The blogger @5urpher found the exact location in Makeyevka:

The location here on Yandex maps was also confirmed by @DajeyPetros.

But the geolocation has been debated because the buildings don’t look quite like in the video. Some found it “good enough”:

We could add that additional confirmation of the location comes from the camera view toward the end, when the camera man in the wooded area swings up to the right, and a rounded yellow building in the distance in the middle, and a building with a lettered sign can be seen on the right.


The street view on Yandex looks like this:


Another video uploaded the same day, January 22, is also labeled “Smerch in the center of Makeyevka” and is near the same location, so that confirms that the Smerch was indeed in Makeyevka.


This is located a little further east from the last location, on Moskovskaya Road here on Yandex. maps.

The slag heap visible from Makeyevka and seen in the video gives us an orientation, and shows us the Smerch is likely to have been filmed here on Moskovskaya Street, not far from the first video’s location (Moskovskaya  St. runs into Generala Danliova Road.)


The curved roof to the underground passage, the stop light, the roof, and the house can be seen in Yandex street view.




There have been a number of reports of Smerch systems in the past.

Back in August 2014, Semyon Semyonchenko, the commander of the Donbass Battalion and now a member of parliament, said on his Facebook page that Smerch rockets were fired by Russian invaders.

On October 22, the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council provided a photo of a Smerch cluster dispenser, which they said was used by the Russian-backed separatists.


But until now, there hasn’t been evidence of an actual Smerch on the move.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick and Pierre Vaux

OSCE Official Statement Says Rockets Which Killed 30+ Civilians In Mariupol Came From DNR Territory

Typically the statements from the OSCE’s special monitoring teams are a bit ambiguous and avoid directly blaming one side or other for a specific attack. However, in their spot report on today’s shelling in Mariupol, the statement could not be any more clear — the rockets came from territory held by the self-declared ‘Donetsk People’s Republic,’ the territory of the Russian-supported forces:

At approximately 09:15hrs on 24 January, the SMM in government-controlled Mariupol heard at its location incoming massed Multi-Launch Rocket System (MLRS) attacks from a north-east direction, consisting of an extremely heavy barrage lasting 35 seconds. Twenty minutes later the SMM received information from the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) in Mariupol and other sources, that shelling had occurred in the area of Olimpiiska Street, in Ordzhonikidzevskyi district, 8.5 km north-east of Mariupol city centre, approximately 400 metres from a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint.

At 10:20hrs the SMM went to Olimpiiska Street and saw seven adult civilians dead. The SMM observed in an area of 1.6 km by 1.1 km, including an open market, multiple impacts on buildings, retail shops, homes and a school. The SMM observed cars on fire and windows facing the north-eastern side of a nine-storey building shattered. The SMM was able to count 19 rocket strikes and is certain there are more. Four hospitals and the emergency service in the city informed the SMM that at least 20 people died and 75 people were injured and hospitalized. Ten of the wounded were in a critical condition, according to a hospital representative.
The SMM conducted a crater analysis and its initial assessment showed that the impacts were caused by Grad and Uragan rockets. According to the impact analysis, the Grad rockets originated from a north-easterly direction, in the area of Oktyabr (19 km north-east of Olimpiiska Street), and the Uragan rockets from an easterly direction, in the area of Zaichenko (15 km east of Olimpiiska Street), both controlled by the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”).

At 13:02hrs and 13:21hrs the SMM heard again incoming MLRS salvos lasting for eight seconds, from an easterly direction. At a distance of 300 metres the SMM saw smoke above the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ checkpoint number 14 (8.9 km north-east of Mariupol city centre), just several hundred metres away from where the shelling had hit in Olimpiiska Street. 

This matches pictures and reports from journalists in the town, and a statement by Human Rights Watch.

James Miller
NATO Releases Statement on Escalation of Violence in Ukraine

Below is a statement from the NATO Secretary General considering the escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine. The statement firmly blames Russian involvement for the fighting:

Fighting in eastern Ukraine has sharply escalated, with indications of a large-scale offensive by Russian-backed separatists at multiple locations in the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts as well as against the city of Mariupol. This is in utter disregard of the ceasefire. The shelling of residential areas in the city of Mariupol from separatist-controlled territory has cost the lives of at least 20 civilians, and injured many more.

For several months we have seen the presence of Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, as well as a substantial increase in Russian heavy equipment such as tanks, artillery and advanced air defence systems. Russian troops in eastern Ukraine are supporting these offensive operations with command and control systems, air defence systems with advanced surface-to-air missiles, unmanned aerial systems, advanced multiple rocket launcher systems, and electronic warfare systems.

I strongly urge Russia to stop its military, political and financial support for the separatists, stop destabilising Ukraine and respect its international commitments.

The issue should be clear, however. The NATO countries, particularly the United States, continue to call on Russia to abide by its international agreements while continuing to point out that Russia is in violation of its international agreements. There is no plan that we are aware of that is likely to change Moscow’s “calculus” on this matter.

James Miller

Russian Troops in Unmarked Uniforms Apparently Join Separatists – New York Times

Says the New York Times:

Unexpectedly, at the height of the Ukrainian winter, war has exploded anew on a half-dozen battered fronts across eastern Ukraine, accompanied by increasing evidence that Russian troops and Russian equipment have been pouring into the region again.

shaky cease-fire has all but vanished, with rebel leaders vowing fresh
attacks. Civilians are being hit by deadly mortars at bus stops. Tanks
are rumbling down snowy roads in rebel-held areas with soldiers in
unmarked green uniforms sitting on their turrets, waving at bystanders —
a disquieting echo of the “little green men” whose appearance in Crimea
opened this stubborn conflict in the spring.

Zakharchenko Announced Attack on Mariupol – Video

Russian-backed separatists and even Prime Minister Aleksandr Zakharchenko himself of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” are claiming they did not shell on Mariupol.

But not only does the evidence suggest otherwise, Zakharchenko himself was caught on tape early today speaking at a memorial service for fallen DNR fighters, admitting the offensive was underway.

Translation by The Interpreter:

I will say the following: today the offensive against Maripuol begins. God willing…

[Crowd chants: Hurray! Hurray! Glory to Russia!]

God willing…In a few days we will close off the Debaltsevo Kettle

[Crowd: Hallelujah!]

On January 15, Zakharchenko said that DNR forces would re-take Slavyansk and Kramatorsk.

He complained that Ukraine was not really part of the Minsk talks because former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma was not recognized as an official interlocutor representing the government of Ukraine.

Zakharchenko said he was for a “united Ukraine,” but he envisions it differently than the current Kiev government. For him, “Kievian Rus'” — the cradle of Russian civilization
— is Russian and therefore the modern city of Kiev is “Russian.”

Zakharchenko said their Soviet ancestors shed blood fighting the fascists and they view it as their land that has been “usurped” by the “junta”.

claimed there were already “torches, swastikas, and soon there will be book burning,” referring to one march in Kiev to commemorate Bandera. Reports of book-burning so far have involved pro-Russian separatists burning Ukrainian books..

He also made a number of exaggerated statements that are a staple of the separatist mindset and typical of
their propaganda. He said 1,500 Ukrainians were killed in Ilovaisk, although the official number of soldiers killed is 107, volunteer battalions claim 150 more, and estimates including Russian Federation soldiers are at most 1,000.

He claimed “500 million euros” were given by German for restoration of the Donbass but the DNR had seen “none” of it. He said “25% of the  ministries” in Ukraine are filled with foreign officials although the number of foreigners recruited to fill Ukrainian ministerial posts is actually 3.

Zakharchenko also claimed there were American machine guns and foreign sniper rifles found at the airport, specifically M-40 rifles and German-made sniper rifles, but when journalists asked for evidence, he referred them to an aide who seemed to have then disappeared. He then said he was “afraid to lie” and added that likely they were possibly purchased by the Ukrainian military.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Grad Rockets Came From The East, Residents Of Mariupol Fleeing
A series of important tweets from photojournalist Patrick Wells:
Ukraine is already hinting at a new wave of mobilization, though we may not know the full extent of Kiev’s response to this attack for some time:
30 Civilians Killed, Death Toll Still Rising After Mariupol Hit By Grad Rockets
Journalist Christopher Miller says that the death toll in Mariupol is now at 30, with at least 97 civilians wounded. Those numbers could rise:

Miller adds this chilling detail:

All of the dead were reported to be civilians. Two of them were children, according to Secretary of the Mariupol City Council Andriy Fedai, as cited by Interfax news service.

While a military attack on Mariupol by Russian-supported forces was not a surprise, the level of destruction in a civilian district of the city is shocking. In fact, The Interpreter has been theorizing for days that Mariupol could be one of the main targets for Russian-backed forces:

The city, however, has been heavily reinforced by the Ukrainian military since the Minsk agreements brought a respite to the city in September. Mariupol was supposed to be a kind of “this far and no further” stalwart against impending Russian invasion. In other words, the stakes could not be higher:
— James Miller
‘Russian Aggression is At Hand’ – Mariupol Mayor

Shyirokyne is a town about 23 kilometers from Mariupol, on the road to Novoazovsk, near the Russian border.


In this video uploaded by the Mariupol City Council at 13:46 Kiev time, Mariupol Mayor Yuri Khotlubey says eyewitnesses saw 6 Grad systems fire on Mariupol from Shyrokyne, and then leave the area and head toward Novoazovsk.

The Interpreter has translated his comments:

The shelling came from the side of the militants. Russian aggression is at hand, which has brought such such terrible losses for the residents of the eastern part of our city.

According to the information from the emergency services, there are 15 crews and 49 ambulances working in this zone; we have about 70 wounded.

At the time of the video, the mayor estimated 10 people had been killed, but since then the figure has risen to 27 (and it continues to rise)

The blogger @DaJeyPetros has posted a story about the shelling of the marketplace in Mariupol on Ukraine@War.

The mayor says in the video that the Kievsky Market and the Denis Market and adjacent buildings have been hit.

He said that the Orzhonikidze and eastern regions of the city were hit. Numerous high-rise apartment buildings have lost their windows.

Translation: 50 highrises suffered in Mariupol, four schools and two day-care centers.

A number of local pharmaceutical companies and oligarch Rinat Akhmetov’s philanthropic
foundation are supplying medications and
medical supplies.

Khotlubey also said the Housing Department was
supplying plastic wrap to residents to close off their broken windows
and trying to relocate those whose homes were destroyed. The gas and
electric companies are trying to get the power restored but some
infrastructure was destroyed. Emergencies Ministry is removing
unexploded ordnance.

Heavy Shelling in Mariupol; 27 Civilians Reported Killed

As predicted, Russian-backed fighters are continuing their push into Ukrainian territory — with deadly results.

With the Donetsk airport fallen, Pisky, Avdeyevka and the towns around it where Ukrainian
forces were defending the front line severely challenged; with
Checkpoint 29 lost and Krasny Partizan fallen to the forces of the
self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR), Mariupol now fights
for its life. 

Mariupol has long been a place of battles, which
grew particularly fierce after the Russian invasion last August.
Ukrainian forces managed to hold this town where there is significant
support for Kiev, but now with other victories behind them, the DNR has
put this strategic town in its sites.

As the map shows, the seaside town of Mariupol is vital for Russian to clear a land route to Crimea, which they forcibly annexed in March.


Once again, as they often have in this “hybrid war” of overt and cover action, the DNR is denying that they are involved in the killing of civilians, but evidence points in their direction:
At least 46 civilians have been wounded by shrapnel, says the Ukrainian Interior Ministry.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick