Ukraine Liveblog Day 112: Border Checkpoint Attacked Overnight

June 9, 2014
Shelling in Slavyansk this morning. Photo: @Sloviansk

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

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Pro-Russian Patrols Have Replaced Police As Enforcers of Law In Donetsk

While in places like Slavyansk the Russian-backed separatists may be in control, the situation in Donetsk, Ukraine’s fifth largest city with a population of over one million, is far more complicated. While the city is technically in the hands of Ukrainian authorities, parts of it are controlled by the separatists, and as a result there is a palpable power vacuum in parts of the city. AFP reports (courtesy of RFE/RL) that pro-Russian citizens have organized patrols, a make-shift law enforcement that lacks the kind of accountability and training that one would hope to see in a city this large.
Poroshenko Learning To Live With Russia

Ukraine’s new president Petro Poroshenko has given an interview to Time Magazine where he expresses the difficult position that Ukraine finds itself in at the moment. On one hand, Poroshenko is outraged by the interference by Russian president Vladimir Putin. On the other hand, however, Putin is still in a position of power as Ukraine’s closest and most powerful neighbor:

Ukraine’s new President Petro Poroshenko wants to see Russia punished for what he calls the “tragedy” that befell his country this year. But even as Russia has annexed one region of Ukraine and encouraged a violent rebellion in two others, Ukraine does not have the option of breaking off ties with the Kremlin, Poroshenko told TIME in his first interview since taking office. His government has no choice but to seek “an understanding” with Russia, he says, even if for no other reason than the hard reality of Ukraine’s geography.

“Maybe some Ukrainians would like to have Sweden or Canada for a neighbor, but we have Russia,” he said on Monday inside the Presidential Administration in Kiev, fidgeting with a set of rosary beads throughout the interview. “So we can’t talk about a firm sense of security without a dialogue and an understanding with Russia.” That is why Poroshenko spent the first full day of his tenure on Sunday in marathon talks with the Russian Ambassador to Ukraine, Mikhail Zurabov. Their positions remain miles apart, at best leaving Poroshenko room for “cautious optimism” for restoring civil relations with Russia, he said.

The interview can be read here.

Bodies Of Dead Separatists – Evidence The FSB Is Behind Funneling Eastern Ukraine Fighters

Thirty-one bodies of separatists killed in eastern Ukraine are now headed back to Russia. But the effort to repatriate the bodies offers an important clue to the Russian government’s involvement in the “uprising” in eastern Ukraine. The Atlantic Council reports:

Maria Turchenkova, a Russian reporter for the Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) radio station, this week offers one of the most poignant accounts of the Russian soldiery in this war. Tragically, she and a few colleagues got fleeting access to thirty-one Russian fighters in southeast Ukraine only by escorting their bodies back to Russia. Like the Russians’ mission in Ukraine, their return in death was wrapped in secrecy. No officials would show Turchenkova the list of the dead.

But as she reports the bizarre, sad repatriation of these warriors to Russia, Turchenkova does snag the details of one fighter from the paperwork: Sergey Zhdanovich, born in 1966 and, according to Russian website posts that are not officially confirmed, a retired instructor in special operations for Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) – the successor agency to the Soviet KGB. Zhdanovich’s story is the latest to indicate that a major Russian channel for funneling fighters into Ukraine is the FSB, working through the city of Rostov in southern Russia.

Turchenkova titles her report “Cargo 200,” the military code used by the Soviet Union to label transport operations that carried the bodies of Soviet soldiers home from Afghanistan.

The Atlantic Council has translated the entire report, which can be read here.

On The Interpreter’s Russia blog, however, we point out that there are several problems with The Atlantic Council’s interpretation of the Ekho Moskvy article.

Ukraine’s President Says He’s Reached Mutual Understanding With Russia

Ukraine’s new president Petro Poroshenko has vowed to meet with a trilateral commission each day. Representatives for Russia, the EU, and the OSCE are reportedly part of those meetings. Today, after only the first meeting, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry has indicated that there may have been a breakthrough:

“As a result of the work, the sides reached a mutual understanding on key stages of the implementation of the plan and on a list of priorities which will contribute to a de-escalation of the situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said.

Moscow did not immediately comment and Poroshenko has made few details of his plan public.

The talks are being mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a security and human rights watchdog. At the first talks on Sunday, with Russian envoy Mikhail Zurabov, Poroshenko said violence must end this week.

Yesterday Poroshenko said that this needs to be the last week of fighting, and it was imperative for all sides to come to an agreement to restore peace. 

But Russia and Ukraine have reportedly been on the same page before, only to find that Russia had a very different understanding of the facts on the ground than the rest of the parties involved in negotiations. Is this time different? This is the first time such a diplomatic breakthrough has been heralded since the inauguration of Poroshenko in an election that Moscow seems to be recognizing. Time will tell if Moscow is satisfied by the agreement, and whether the pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine abide by any agreement brokered by Kiev and Moscow.

Separatists Reportedly Attack Gay Nightclub in Donetsk

There are reports that on Saturday night, separatist militants attacked Babylon, a gay club in Donetsk. 

Munitsipalnaya Gazeta, a Donetsk-based newspaper, reported (transated by the The Interpreter):

Details of the incident were posted on a Ukrainian LGBT portal. Drag artist Norma Pospolita claimed on his Facebook page that around 20 people took part in the attack.

“They beat up the patrons, fired shots, grabbed money, jewelry, and took off with alcohol and some of the equipment. They maimed several people but it doesn’t look like they killed anybody. At the time of the attack there were around 30 patrons inside,” he wrote. 

According to Romana, a frequent guest at the establishment, “a couple of nights ago 15-20 people came in through the front door with assault rifles… they even beat the girls.”

Local drag artist Evelina wrote: “It was an attack by [people from the Donetsk People’s Republic] and an act of looting!  They fired at the club and bullied us for 2 hours! But we are all alive thank god.”

The moderator of the VKontakte group for the gay club also confirmed the fact of the event.

With far-right Russian politicians such as Zhirinovsky and Barshakov openly supporting separatist groups, the emergence of groups such as the separatist ‘Russian Orthodox Army’ and the growing level of homophobia and anti-LGBT violence that has flourished in Russia, with apparent state support in the form of the ‘gay propaganda‘ ban, this is a worrying development from the Russian-backed separatists.

Poroshenko Is Sworn In As Ukraine’s New President

This Vice report includes a highlight real, with English subtitles, of Poroshenko’s swearing-in ceremony on Saturday.

Poroshenko spoke Ukrainian, until he addressed the east. Many foreign dignitaries, including U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, were at the ceremony, The President of Belarus was also present, which was a surprise to some observers as Belarus is seen by many as a staunch ally of Russia’s. 

The video is a good snapshot of both the speech and the pomp-and-circumstance of the inaugural ceremony.

Simon Ostrovsky goes on to interview many people, from Euromaidan activists to the Belorussian President, about the rise of Poroshenko:

Russian Human Rights Leader Dr. Liza Glinka Missing In Donetsk

Dr. Elizaveta Glinka, a prominent Russian human rights activist and philanthropist, and a member of Russia’s Presidential Human Rights council, has gone missing in Ukraine:

Below is the article in TV Rain, translated by The Interpreter:

Dr. Elizaveta (Liza) Glinka, head of the Just Assistance Foundation, has
gone missing in Donetsk long with her assistant, colleagues told TV

Lana Zhurkina, Glinka’s press secretary, wrote on her
Facebook page, “Hello everyone. Connection with Dr. Liza is lost. We do
not know where she is. We ask journalists not to bother us. We don’t
know what to answer you.”

According to TV Rain, Dr. Glinka was
supposed to take children from Donetsk to Russia today. Her telephone
stopped answering at 10:00 am Moscow time this morning. The doctor had
been active earlier in bringing humanitarian assistance to the combat
area and had announced the opening of a humanitarian corridor to bring
wounded out of Slavyansk.

Ukrainian media reports that communications are down in the region where Dr. Glinka disappeared.

Avakov Announces All Interior Ministry Units Will Join ATO

Arseniy Avakov, the Ukrainian Interior Minister, has written on his Facebook page that all units, both combat and patrol, of the Interior Ministry will be deployed as part of the government’s Anti-Terrorism Operation. 

In a post titled “DIGNITY AND COWARDICE“, Avakov wrote of the dismissal of 21 patrol officers who had volunteered for the new Chernihiv Battalion but refused to participate in combat duties, apparently telling the superiors that they had come for the 4500 hryvnia a month but did not wish to risk their lives. 

Avakov then wrote (translated by The Interpreter):

I have taken the decision that all 100% of the Interior Ministry’s combat and patrol units will participate in the ATO. This is not only out of necessity, this is also a test of competence, genuine spirit and patriotism. The tempering of units under real threats and challenges is one of the factors for the creation of a new police, to be trusted by society. 

All those who think they can slip through the net and sit it out doing paperwork will be fired. 

Anyone who passes the test with honour, fulfilling their duty, will win respect and opportunities. 

Separatists Steal And Restore Soviet-Era Armoured Amphibious Vehicles

According to Vostochny Variant, a regional news site, unknown gunmen threatened the guards at the Luhanskteplovoz engineering works in Lugansk and stole three PTS-2 amphibious armoured personnel carriers on June 3. 

This video from reports on the efforts of efforts by separatist militiamen to get the vehicles, long held in storage, back into working order. 

Video copy of original which was deleted.

Evidently, at least two of them were successfully restored as they have been filmed driving under their own power in the area. In both the following videos, two PTS-2s are part of a convoy headed by a police car. 

Video copy of original which was deleted.

The PTS-2 is an armoured amphibious carrier which entered Soviet service in 1973. It can carry one or two armoured vehicles or 75 troops.


Meanwhile today, noting the theft of the PTS-2s, reported that separatists in the Lugansk region had stolen ammunition and equipment from a police training school in the town of Schastye

According to the regional press office for the Interior Ministry, 10 armed men, wearing camouflage and carrying automatic weapons, entered the school on June 8 and stole body armour, radio equipment and both 5.45 and 7.62mm ammunition.

Gunfire In Areas Where President Poroshenko Was Set To Visit

In a dispatch published on Saturday, Simon Ostrovsky reports from Izyum, a town near Kharkiv and a place that Ukraine’s new president was supposed to visit — but the town was still rocked by gunfire just before his arrival.

Ukraine’s military officers whom Ostrovsky interviews are now asking for lethal military aid from the United States and Ukraine’s other allies. He also finds that ordinary Ukrainians are pitching in to supply the military with the non-lethal tools it needs to fight the battle for eastern Ukraine:

The Last Week of Fighting? Poroshenko Meets With Trilateral Contact Group

Ukraine’s new president, Petro Poroshenko is already putting together a plan to bring peace to his country. Part of that plan is to bring together representatives from Russia, Europe, and the OSCE to settle the conflict.

Yesterday, at the first meeting, Poroshenko said that the fighting must end by the end of this week:

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko opened the meeting of trilateral contact group on the implementation of peaceful plan in the east of Ukraine submitted by him on June 6, in the course of the visit to France.

In the course of the meeting attended by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the Federal Republic of Germany Pavlo Klimkin, Special Representative of the OSCE Secretary-General Heidi Tagliavini and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation Mikhail Zurabov, the Head of State emphasized that the parties must work over the implementation of the arrangements achieved in Normandy in the course of the meeting with Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Angela Merkel, President of France François Hollande and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.

“We must cease fire this week. Each day when people die, when Ukraine pays such a high price is inadmissible for me. That is why we must first of all restore the work of the state border of Ukraine in order to guarantee the security of all Ukrainian citizens living in the Donbas irrespective of their political views,” the President of Ukraine noted.

The Head of State suggested holding the meeting of trilateral contact group every day in order to analyze what has been done and coordinate further actions on the implementation of the plan for peaceful settlement in the east of Ukraine.

Russian Zvezda Journalists Released and Returned to Moscow

Ukrainian news agency UNN reports that two Russian journalists, Andrei Sushenkov and Anton Malyshev, who had been detained by Ukrainian security forces, have been released and returned to Russia.

The journalists, working for the Zvezda (star) television channel, were detained by National Guard troops at a checkpoint near Donetsk on June 6. Zvezda is a television channel owned and run by the Russian Ministry of Defence. UNN writes that they were detained on suspicion of monitoring and collecting information on security activities at the checkpoint.

Malyshev and Sushenkov, who had been transferred to the SBU, were released last night at 23:30 Kiev time (20:30 GMT). On arrival in Moscow, having flown on a Russian Defence Ministry plane, they described their detention (translated by The Interpreter):

“We were hungry; it was hot, dirty and occasionally, painful. They didn’t torture us as such, but they roughed us up when on the subject of whether we were working for any special services, if we were spies.”

Reports of Separatists Attempting to Seize Electronic Warfare Equipment to ‘Send to Russia’

Dmytro Tymchuk of Information Resistance writes on his Facebook page that armed militants are attempting to remove electronic warfare equipment from a factory in the Donetsk region to take out of the country.

He writes (translated by The Interpreter):

According to Information Resistance’s operational data, a group of up to 20 terrorists, armed with automatic weapons, are attempting to remove special and technical vehicles from the grounds of the Topaz factory in Donetsk.

In particular, the militants are preparing to send off several (according to preliminary data – 7) Mandat electronic warfare systems. According to the terrorists they are “to be shipped to Russia”.

The militants also declared the “expropriation” of 4 KrAZ personnel transport vehicles and 1 Mercedes minibus belonging to the enterprise. 

Here is a photo of the Topaz factory taken from Wikipedia:


The Ukrainian exporter of the Mandat system, SpetsTechnoExport, describes the system as follows:

Radio-communications jamming complex Mandat-B1E is an automated data acquisition and data procession system. It gathers data on emission sources and radiates aimed barrage jamming signals within an area of monitoring.

The complex allows to reveal enemy grouping in operational and tactical depth, to define a disposition of military units, divisions, their terrain co-ordinates and relocation based on enemy radio command lines and radio networks.

Within the whole controlled / covered area (60km depth and 90km front) and within the whole operating frequency range (1,5-1000 MHz) the complex effec­tively jams up to 80 fixed frequency radio links or up to 6 radio links with FH technique – that allows to ruin the enemy forces con­trol.

Attack on Border Checkpoint in Lugansk Region

Ukrainska Pravda reports that the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service (SBGS) has announced that the Izvarino border checkpoint, in the Lugansk region, came under attack last night.

They quote the SBGS (translated by The Interpreter):

“Militants drove up to the checkpoint in several vehicles. During the attack they fired several bursts with small arms at the checkpoint and also fired one shot from a grenade launcher, which exploded nearby.”

Ukrainska Pravda added that the border guards repelled the attack by returning fire. The attackers disappeared, retreating towards the village of Izvarino. They reported no casualties among the border guards.