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An interactive map of the situation:
View Ukraine: April, 2014 in a larger map
For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.
Below we will be making regular updates. Be sure to check back often and hit refresh.
On his Window on Eurasia column, Paul Goble describes the bleak prospects of the seemingly promising increase in fertility rates in Russia. Nationalist demographer Anatoly Antonov explains that such optimism, coupled with rising rates of adult male morbidity and mortality and declining access to healthcare, is misplaced. Even with the current level of 1.6 children per woman, the country’s population would still decline.
Russia’s stock market has held another rally today, and is (nearly) at its highest point since the Yanukovych government in Ukraine was toppled. Bloomberg reports:
Gazprom added 1.6 percent and the Micex rose the most since May 19 after Morgan Stanley upgraded the shares on optimism the election of Petro Poroshenko as president of Ukraine will ease tension between the two nations. Poroshenko’s win is an “important step” toward de-escalation in Ukraine and Russian stocks will rise as further steps are made to resolve the standoff, Morgan Stanley said in an e-mailed note.
The chart tells the tale.
While the MICEX is still down 3.67% since the start of the year, it has recovered 85.4% of the value it lost between the fall of the Yanukovych government and its lowest point on March 14, right before the Crimean referendum.
The markets reacted poorly when they believed that Putin was driving Russia towards war. Now Putin is seen by investors as deescalating the crisis. With Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles knocking Ukrainian aircraft out of the sky, and with well-armed separatists still in control of large parts of eastern Ukraine, one has to wonder if Putin is really being rewarded by the markets for being more subtle. If sanctions were designed to halt a major Russian invasion, they may have worked for now, but if sanctions were designed to bring stability to Ukraine, one has to wonder whether deescalation is simply a Pyrrhic victory.
In today’s Window on Eurasia column, Paul Goble summarizes a balance sheet on Russia’s losses and gains from the Ukrainian adventure written by Novaya Gazeta’s deputy chief editor Andrey Lipsky. Massive losses in international and regional trust and cooperation have not been offset by gains in territory in the Crimea. Putin’s aggression against Ukraine has led to witch-hunts of critics at home even if propaganda campaigns emphasizing patriotism have boosted Putin’s popularity.
Here’s a screenshot from that livestream which shows the barricade and a sign saying “Donbass only with Russia!”
Here’s another screenshot from that livestream showing a fighter in front of their barricade saying that this is the Yugo Vostok (south east) battalion. He gives the cameraman a long explanation about how this isn’t just “Vostok battalion” because “there’s South-East. South. And East. Both!”
He was speaking with a Ukrainian accent and kept reiterating that he was Ukrainian.
More reporting from the scene:
RIA Novosti, the formerly-respectable but recently reorganized Russian state news agency, has published a serious of ridiculous statements from the self-proclaimed ‘Slavyansk People’s Mayor’ that claim that Russian-backed separatists have inflicted massive amounts of casualties in Slavyansk alone:
“According to our information, the Ukrainian army has the following losses and damages: 1,200-1,300 people were killed, eight helicopters, 15 armored transport vehicles, and three [artillery] weapons destroyed. They are suffering huge losses. I’m speaking only about Slaviansk,” Ponomaryov said in an interview with the Latvian radio station Baltkom…
The people’s mayor also noted that the self-defense forces of Slaviansk had lost about 200 people.
“About 200 were killed and 300 wounded,” Ponomaryov specified.
Ponomaryov also mentioned that several civilians died and eight people were wounded yesterday.
The troops involved in the military operation in southeastern Ukraine began firing mortars at Slaviansk Tuesday at around noon local time. Several private homes were razed, including houses in the villages of Andreevka and Sergeevka in the city’s suburbs. Several dozen people were killed.
While we are not sure what the official casualty number is, based on news reporting some have put the number of dead Ukrainian soldiers at 68, nationwide, before today’s downed helicopter that led to the deaths of 14 Ukrainian military. That’s a far cry from 1200-1300 in Slavyansk alone.
Our editor-in-chief, Michael Weiss, put the question to the press attache for the Ukrainian ambassador to the United Nations, Yegor Pyvovarov. His response was as clear as it could get:
Michael, stop reading Russian propaganda web pages! Of course, it’s a lie!
Kyiv Post reports:
Marauders looted a Metro Cash & Carry hypermarket located near the Donetsk International Airport sometime after May 26 when management temporarily closed the store for customer and employee safety reasons, Olesya Olenytska, a spokeswoman for the German company’s Ukraine office told the Kyiv Post…
Citing Vkontakte social network messages, Segodnya.ua reported that the store robbery was carried out overnight on May 29 by members of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, a group that wants to secede from Ukraine.
Law and order is virtually absent in the city where pro-Russian groups have occupied several government buildings. Many in the police force have either joined the Kremlin-backed movement or have quit.
Is Vostok afraid that incidents like this will spoil their relationship with local residents? Or is there more to it?
Vostok is claiming they were simply conducting a campaign to arrest looters, but clearly there is much more going on — perhaps, as was guessed earlier, a kind of military coup.
But what is the motivation for removing the barricades around the administrative building? One would think that Vostok, a military group, would want to be building barricades instead of taking them down.
Approximately 50 separatists were killed in Monday’s failed attack on Donetsk airport. As we’ve been reporting, the separatists across the region appear to be using increasingly powerful military-grade weapons, and many shipments of serious firepower have been intercepted on the borders, reportedly coming from both mainland Russia and from Crimea. Yesterday, a report The Interpreter translated claimed to have proof that Russians, and Chechens, were among those killed in Donetsk.
Any suggestion that these separatist gunmen are a home-grown phenomenon is likely just propaganda.
So why are separatists storming their own headquarters today? Many of the pro-Russian civilians are ethnic Russians, but many (and certainly not all) are from Ukraine. Here’s one theory:
A number of journalists in and around the separatist occupied Regional Administration Building in Donetsk are reporting that fighters from the Vostok Battalion have arrived and appear to be engaged in some sort of confrontation with their fellow separatists from the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’.
The Administration building or ODA has been used as the headquarters of the self-declared ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’. Vostok (East) Battalion appear to be composed, at least in part, of Russian and Chechen fighters, and may well be under separate control.
Here are tweets from journalists on the scene:
Translation: The Vostok Battalion has surrounded the ODA [Regional Administration Building] in Donetsk to find the looters who ransacked the Metro supermarket
The BBC reports that the outgoing president of Ukraine, Oleksandr Turchynov, has confirmed that General Volodymyr Kulchitsky was among 14 killed when separatists shot down a Mi-8 helicopter near Slavyansk this morning. The president also said that the helicopter was shot down using a Russian-made anti-aircraft system.
Russian-made MANPADS were used to down two Ukrainian helicopters over Slavyansk on May 2.
The report was also tweeted by Ukraine’s acting foreign minister, Andrii Deshchytsia:
There are reports this morning that a Ukrainian military helicopter has been shot down over the separatist-occupied town of Slavyansk in the Donetsk region.
Associated Press reported that one of their photographers had witnessed the downing of the helicopter but
“It wasn’t immediately clear what weapons the rebels used to shoot it down, exactly where the helicopter fell or what happened to its crew.”
Novosti Donbassa, a regional news site, provided more coverage of the events in Slavyansk this morning. They report that the downing was reported by both eyewitnesses and separatist radio chatter. Witnesses report a battle under way in the Krasnolimansky area to the north-east of Slavyansk, near the villages of Andreyevka and Chernovy Molochar. Smoke has been seen rising from the scene while an intense fire-fight rages.
Translation: Slavyansk right now May 29 at 11:50 [8:50 GMT].
Arkadiy Babchenko, a Ukrainian journalist, reported on the incident on his Facebook page. Babchenko says that, according to his sources, the helicopter had flown to Karachun hill, a regular scene of fighting where Ukrainian forces are positioned around a TV tower, and unloaded. Shortly after taking off again, the helicopter was shot down.
He writes (translated by The Interpreter):
It appears they were being tracked. There were two explosions – one in the air, the second during their fall. As far as I can tell there were no survivors. Such shame for the pilots! They were good men. Polite and gracious. A shame.