Ukraine Liveblog Day 105: Ukrainian Border Guard Camp Under Assault

June 2, 2014
A screenshot from a video published by the Ukrainian Border Guard Service showing the attack on the base this morning. Screenshot taken from The Kyiv Post.

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

Please help The Interpreter to continue providing this valuable information service by making a donation towards our costs.

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.


Ukraine Relied on Air Power To Defeat Separatists in Lugansk

While the evidence seems nearly airtight that a Ukrainian jet conducted an airstrike against the Regional Administration Building in Lugansk, it’s important to not forget that the airstrike was part of a Ukrainian counteroffensive after separatists launched a significant attack earlier.

Kyiv Post has a blow-by-blow description of what happened in southwest Lugansk:

Around 4 a.m. local time, a group of some 500 insurgents hit Ukrainian border guards in the town of Mirny, Luhansk region — about 12 miles from the Russian border — with a barrage of bullets from Kalashnikovs and heavy machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, the Ukrainian state border guard service reported.

The insurgents fired from forested positions around the border guard base and from the rooftop and upper floors of a nearby apartment building, according to border guard service report. They also used a DShK heavy-machine gun in the fight. Amateur video published on YouTube appears to show the machine gun being transported by truck from the scene.

The report goes on to explain that the primary weapon used to defeat the separatists were airstrikes. The entire report, and the videos, can be seen here.

RT also documented the fighting, adding to the narratives that we’ve already pieced together using amateur video and eyewitness reports.

Weapons seen in this video:

– RPG-7

– AK-74s, several variants include the M (military variant) and possibly the S, at least one of which is equipped with a GP-34 grenade launcher and scope.

What seems clear is that Ukraine, continuing a trend which began last Monday in Donetsk, is beginning to rely more on its airforce to deal defeats to the Russian-backed separatists–separatists who are increasingly well armed.

The danger, of course, is obvious. If the separatists are so well equipped that Ukrainian officials believe that airstrikes are the best way to deal with them, the risk of civilian casualties could mount in places like Lugansk, Donetsk, and Slavyansk.

Video May Show Ukrainian Jet Conducting Airstrike in Lugansk

The smoking gun? This video reportedly shows a Ukrainian jet firing rockets today in Lugansk. What is compelling, however, is that the trajectory of the plane matches very closely the video of the attack we posted earlier. Near the State Administrative building, to the east where the attack struck earlier today, is a communications tower (map) which places this plane at the scene of today’s attack. Here is a screenshot from the video, which shows the communications tower, and a geotagged photo taken east of today’s attack:


This is compelling evidence that an airstrike, in fact a rocket strike, was conducted against the State Administrative Building, a building which has been occupied for months by Russian-backed separatists. This also matches the theory that while Ukrainian forces were defending against a separatist attack at the southwest corner of Lugansk, at least one aircraft made an attack run against the separatist headquarters a few kilometers away.

The video below is very graphic, as noted in the tweet, but some important pieces of data can be taken from the video.

First, the damage is very widespread. No RPG or similar weapon could cause this level of damage.

Second, the epicenter of the damage in the video is the 4th floor window of the state administrative building. In the video, a firetruck is putting out the fire through one of the windows. The damage in the window is consistent with an explosion that started on the outside of the building.

Also important, however, is the point that the significant damage down below could not have all come from the explosion on the fourth floor of the building. In one video we’ve posted below, however, we see one of the cars explode, a car which is parked across the street from the admin building. The building could not have suffered the kind of damage, on the fourth floor, as a result of the explosion on the street. Again, this supports the hypothesis that there were multiple explosions, perhaps a combination of a rocket/missile and autocannon attack from a low-flying Ukrainian aircraft.

Another video, which is not graphic, shows some of the damage, but it doesn’t give the sense of the scale of the effected area.


More Aircraft Spotted Over Lugansk
There is now lots of video evidence to suggest that Ukrainian aircraft, including possibly an SU-25 and an SU-27, were in the area of the attack in Lugansk. Besides video we have already posted from our very first update onward, there is this video showing what appears to show an aircraft flying near the border guard building:

The team at the Open Newsroom has geolocated various videos showing the fighting in Lugansk today, and their interactive map (which has links to videos of the fighting) matches a map that we posted earlier this morning.

This video is unverified, but claims to show a Ukrainian helicopter. There is a lot of noise in the video, but the low rumble at the start could be an autocannon from this helicopter or from another Ukrainian aircraft.

The separatist headquarters, the state security building that was hit by today’s explosions (map),
is three to four kilometers away from the area in southwest Lugansk
where the fighting occurred. There is evidence that this attack was an
airstrike (even if the specific weapon is in debate), and if it was an
airstrike, it was not likely an accident.

More Video From Explosion in Lugansk
Not everyone is convinced of our theory that the video posted below shows a rocket or missile impact. This video is compelling:

Theiner has a point. The impact craters in that video absolutely do look like rounds from a Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-30-2. The problem, however, is that the object in the video in our last update is clearly visible, the trajectory of its flight path matches exactly where the explosion occurs, the object is clearly subsonic (autocannon rounds travel at nearly three times the speed of sound), and the explosion suggests that there was a payload, though only a small one, in the weapon that caused the initial explosion.

The likely explanation is that there was an airstrike, where perhaps both a rocket or missile AND autocannon rounds were used. The vehicle that did the firing, however, is still unknown.

The force of the explosion blew debris into the rooms, indicating that the explosion came from the outside.

We have not seen evidence (yet) of cluster bombs, which leave exploded (and sometimes unexploded) bomblets, but a combination of a missile/rocket attack, along with an autocannon attack, could be the reason why the damage was so widespread.

Another video, which we have not verified, reportedly shows an aircraft firing what appears to be its autocannon. We have not been able to verify the location or date of that video, however.

A Missile/Rocket, Not a Bomb, Behind Lugansk Explosion

This video is an edit, done by The Interpreter, which slows down a Youtube video which reportedly shows the explosion in Lugansk. The unedited original is here.

Keep your eyes on the flagpole. In the middle of the video, before the explosion, a flaming object can be seen (arrow). The red line is the trajectory of the object.


The object appears to be a missile, or maybe a rocket, but not likely a bomb. The weapon appears to be moving under its own power because the flash at its base suggests that it is burning some sort of propellant. If you look carefully at the video, you can see it traveling from right to left toward the site of impact.

The weapon appears to have been fired from an elevation, perhaps from an aircraft, though the angle of attack is very low, perhaps suggesting that the weapon was fired from a rooftop of one of the surrounding buildings. From this video, a car bomb, or a weapon fired from the ground, can likely be ruled out.

Kidnapped Batkivshchyna Member Freed

According to, a Mariupol-based news site, Alexei Sergeyev, a member of the Batkivshchyna party who had been abducted on May 26, was released yesterday.


Sergeyev was abducted while receiving polling results from volunteers in Mariupol on the day after the election. The Mariupol headquarters of the party told 0629 that Segeyev had been held in Donetsk after his abduction.

Alexandrer Yaroshenko, a former member of Batkivshchyna wrote on his Facebook page that the volunteer Azov Battalion had taken part in the operation that freed Sergeyev. 

Explosion at Lugansk Administration Building

There are reports that the Regional State Administration Building in Lugansk has been struck by a large explosion. Initial reports suggest that a missile hit the building. It’s uncertain at the moment whether it was fired from a Ukrainian aircraft or a separatist-launched surface-to-air missile that went off course.

This image from shows a casualty from the blast lying face down amidst debris in front of the building:


Another photo from Twitter user @Realuran shows damage to the front of the building:


The building is currently occupied by separatists and has been used as the headquarters of the self-declared ‘People’s Republic of Lugansk’. Ukrainska Pravda reports that militants have cordoned off the site while firefighters and paramedics attend the scene. 

The Ukrainska Pravda report says:

Some of the eyewitnesses, who were present at the scene, told a correspondent for Radio Svoboda that an SU-25 ground attack jet had allegedly been circling the city shortly before the explosion. This report is unconfirmed.

However, Ukrainska Pravda reported that a spokesman for the government’s anti-terrorism operation had suggested that the explosion had been caused by mishandling of explosives within the building:

According to Alexei Dmitrashkovsky, a press officer for the Anti-Terrorist Operation, the explosion occurred inside the building, there was no shelling from the outside.

“The most likely cause of the explosion was careless and clumsy handling of small arms and explosives”, he said.

Major Assault on Border Guard Base in Lugansk

Separatist fighters mounted an assault on a Ukrainian State Border Guard camp in Lugansk this morning. Dmytro Tymchuk of Information Resistance wrote on his Facebook page:

According Information Resistance’s operational data, 7 border guards have been wounded during the terrorist assault on the Lugansk Border Guard detachment. There is no information on losses among the militants. 

The terrorists are using mortars and heavy machine guns. In addition, reinforcements are continuing to arrive. The number of militants is currently reaching 500.

Ukrainska Pravda reported that the State Border Guard Service had announced that around 100 armed men had arrived at the base at around 00:30 (9:30 GMT) encircling the base perimeter. The first attack came at about 4:00 (1:00 GMT) and lasted about 40 minutes. Despite coming under heavy fire from grenade launchers and machine guns, the border guards managed to successfully repel this attack.

However the report says that the militants then regrouped and attacked from positions in nearby residential areas. Separatists fired from sniper positions in high rise buildings.  The Border Service also noted that the fighters had blocked off entry and exit to the residential buildings, making it impossible for government forces to return fire for fear of killing civilians.

The Ukrainian Border Guard Service posted this video on YouTube showing the attack in the early hours of the morning:

The following video purports to show fighting under way in the Zarechny residential area of southern Lugansk. 

Translation: Just been on the phone with people in Lugansk. The terrorists are sitting right in residential buildings and around them.

Vladislav Seleznev, a spokesman for the government’s Anti-Terrorism Operation, said that ATO forces, including air assets, had been committed to repel the attack. 

Tymchuk then reported that 5 of the separatist fighters had been killed and 8 wounded. The following video purports to show a number of scenes of fighting today. The video appears to show one wounded man crawling away from the perimeter by the church. A Ukrainian SU-27 fighter is also seen popping flares and manoeuvring over the city. Not all of the sections of this video are confirmed. 

Blogger Sergei Ivanov reported that the fighter had fired one missile, the target unseen, and then flown off. 

This video is purported to show footage of street combat around the base today. Once again, this video is unconfirmed:

At 11:14 GMT, reported that:

According to eyewitnesses at the scene of the events, negotiations are under way now. This has given an opportunity to evacuate wounded.