Ukraine Liveblog Day 119: Russia Moving Military Convoys Toward Ukraine’s Border

June 16, 2014

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

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For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.

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Protests Outside Russian Consulate in Odessa

There have been protests outside the Russian consulate in Odessa today.  At least one person has been injured during scuffles as protesters demand for the Russian tricolour to be taken down.


UNIAN reports that around 200 people arrived outside the consulate at around 15:00 (12:00 GMT). Both the Ukrainian flag and the black and red flag of the Ukrainian nationalists were seen amongst the crowd. The organisers told journalists that they wanted to lay a wreath in memory of Ukrainian soldiers killed in the east at the door of the consulate. 

Several hundred law enforcement officers arrived and formed cordons. Attempts by some of the protesters to bring tires (presumably to set on fire or build a barricade) to the consulate were prevented. 


At least one man was injured in the crush between the protesters and camouflaged men in body armour who protected the site along with the police. The man sustained a head wound.

Ukrainska Pravda reports that four protesters had been arrested. The governor of the oblast, Igor Palitsa, announced that explosives and a knife had been found. One of those arrested is not a resident of Odessa. They were allegedly operating “under the guise of being Praviy Sector activists”. An official said that:

“This was an obvious provocation, which the police have stopped.”

Two Ukrainian Scouts Reportedly Captured in Snezhnoye

Ukrainska Pravda reports that Dmytro Tymchuk of Information Resistance has told reporters at a briefing today that two Ukrainian scouts have been captured near Snezhnoye in the Donetsk region.

Ukainska Pravda‘s own sources report that the two were captured following a fire-fight. According to their report, the scouts were only captured after running out of ammunition. Their source told them that there was one person killed during the confrontation. 

Vladislav Seleznev, the spokesman for the government’s Anti-Terrorism Operation, told Ukrainska Pravda that an investigation was underway:

“If these really are our boys then we will make every effort to save them.”

Donetsk Regional Treasury to Return to Work

A post
on the website of Oleksandr Lukyanchenko, the mayor of Donetsk, announces that work at the Donetsk regional treasury will resume tomorrow. Work at the treasury had stopped following the occupation of the regional branch of the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) earlier today

The report says that the agreement to allow work to recommence tomorrow came after negotiations between Lukyanchenko and the representatives of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ occupying the NBU building.

NATO Says Satellite Images May Prove Russian Tanks Crossed the Border

While we are following breaking news of Russian military convoys moving toward the Ukrainian border, NATO has provided evidence, including satellite images, which they say may prove that Russian tanks have already crossed the border last week and joined the fight against Ukraine’s military. The following is from their press release:

The imagery shows that on 30 May in Rostov-na-Donu, a Russian unit was deployed, but no tanks were present at the time the image was taken.  

Imagery from the 6th of June shows the Russian unit departing, which we believe was part of a Russian announcement to pull troops back from the border region.  In the context of this overall withdrawal, 8 main battle tanks are shown to have arrived.

On the 11th of June, 10 main battle tanks can be seen at the site.  3 of these are parked, 4 are in the training area, and 3 are loaded heavy equipment transport trucks that are normally used to move tanks, likely indicating imminent movement by road.  

On the 12th of June, Ukrainian officials report that 3 main battle tanks and several armoured vehicles crossed the border at the Dovzhanskyy border crossing, which was under the control of pro-Russian elements of the so-called “People’s Republic of Luhansk.”  Sightings of these tanks were later reported in open sources in Snizhne and then Makiivka, near Donetsk.  The tanks do not bear markings or camouflage paint like those used by the Ukrainian military.  In fact, they do not have markings at all, which is reminiscent of tactics used by Russian elements that were involved in destabilising Crimea.

Their conclusion:

These images raise significant questions concerning Russia’s role in facilitating instability in eastern Ukraine and its involvement in the movement of military equipment from Russian territory into Ukraine.   Russian officials have been repeatedly misleading and evasive regarding their roles in both Crimea and eastern Ukraine.  It is important to bring relevant facts to light in an effort to ensure Russia remains publicly accountable for its actions.

If these latest reports are confirmed, this would mark a grave escalation of the crisis in eastern Ukraine in violation of Russia’s Geneva commitments.

See the satellite images here.

Evidence That Russian Military Is Mobilizing Toward Ukraine Border
Ukraine’s government is involved in a large-scale offensive to surround the separatist rebels and to cut them off from the border. However, the following videos reportedly show that the Russian military is mobilizing its own armed forces toward the border in response. This first video reportedly shows a Russian military convoy moving in the Rostov region, near Ukraine’s southeast corner. It was reportedly uploaded yesterday, and while we cannot verify the date or exact location, the topography of the land and the layout of the highway is very similar to what would be seen in that region.

The following video was reportedly taken in Novoshakhtinsk, but we have definitively been able to verify the location (here). It was uploaded today. Below are screenshots from Google streetview that verify the location:


The video:

The are group of videos uploaded over the last 24 hours that all claim to show the same thing.
The volume, and the fact that at least one of them has been geolocated
specifically, and the fact that we don’t remember seeing these specific
videos all combine to form fairly compelling evidence of Russian troop
movement toward the border.

Here is yet another video uploaded yesterday:

During previous periods of time when the Ukrainian military has intensified its anti-terrorism operations Russia has responded in a similar way, sending its own troops and armor to the border. Like a game of chicken, in previous instances Ukraine was the first one to blink, quickly withdrawing its troops and halting its ATO.

In recent weeks, Russian-backed militants have been winning a series of victories, and they have been able to do that partially because they have secured the border, allowing fighters, supplies, and even vehicles (and possibly tanks) across the border and to the fight. Ukraine may now be in a position where it cannot afford to blink because militarily it needs to secure the border in order to continue its momentum against the separatist militants.

Parubiy Says Russian Forces Moving Near Border

Andriy Parubiy, the Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine (SNBO) has spoken at a press conference today on Russian movements near the border. Ukrainska Pravda reports:

“In just the last 24 hours, despite the statements from President Putin, we have evidence that the Russian armed forces have relocated detachments of the 76th Pskov Air Assault Division to points near the border with Ukraine.

According to him, around 150 paratroopers from this brigade were transferred, along with hardware, by air to Millerovo, which is 20 kilometres from the Ukrainian border.

Parubiy said that there are reports that they are planning to transfer a battle group battalion from the coastal defence troops of the Russian Northern Fleet to the Ukrainian border.

“The numerical strength of the Russian armed forces on the Ukrainian border is estimated at 16 thousand troops, up to 22 thousand in Crimea and up to 3.5 thousand in Transnistria”, said Parubiy.

Parubiy said that the Ukrainian armed forces and border guards had succeeded in fighting back 7 military convoys and had re-established control over a significant portion of the border. 

“Today, we have fought our way to Biryukove (from the south – ed.). In the north, they have moved to Novokievka, along the border, from Horodyshche, where our forces our located. In such a way, we are closing the line of containment.”

Parubiy also discussed the numbers and origins of the separatist fighters in Ukraine:

“According to our operational data, there are now between 15 and 20 thousand in those areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions (which are under the control of the militants – ed.).

Parubiy said that, according to the security services’ operational data, “around half of this number of fighters came to Ukraine from the Russian Federation.” 

“Among them, there are said to be Chechen militants from the Caucasus and fighters from Russian army spetsnaz groups”, said the secretary of the SNBO.

“There is also significant evidence that when towns are captured, forced mobilisation occurs. According to our data, more than half are Russian fighters, the rest are local residents, often forcibly mobilised, who are used as human shields”, he said. 

All translations by The Interpreter.

Armed Men Seize National Bank of Ukraine Building and Akhmetov Company Office in Donetsk

There have been reports of seizures of buildings by separatists in Donetsk today.

OstroV reported that the Donetsk police had confirmed that unidentified, armed men had occupied the offices of the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU). The armed men entered the building at 8a Miru Prospekt. They were not letting anyone enter or leave.

Later on, the press office of the Donetsk Regional Administration issued a statement by the governor, Segei Taruta. In the statement, Taruta said that by occupying the regional offices of the NBU, the militants had effectively shut down the regional treasury. He said that the gunmen were from the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’. Taruta warned that, due to the occupation, all salaries and pensions for state employees in the Donetsk region were frozen, saying that while the separatists claimed to be protecting the rights of citizens, they were in fact endangering pensioners, the disabled and mothers by depriving them of their income. 

The website of the Donetsk mayor, Oleksandr Lukyanchenko, reported that the seizure had taken place at around 12:00 (9:00 GMT) today.

Meanwhile, Novosti Donbassa reported that gunmen had occupied the offices of DTEK, to the south of the NBU building. Workers from surrounding buildings and offices in the same premises were evacuated.

DTEK is an energy holding company founded and owned by Rinat Akhmetov,  Ukraine’s richest oligarch, who has had a somewhat murky relationship with the separatists. He has been accused of backing them in the past before turning on them publicly (after having made a security deal with them in Mariupol).

Russia to Cut Gas Deliveries to Ukraine

Gazprom has announced that no further deliveries of gas will be made to Ukraine until the country pays its debt. The announcement has come after talks in Brussels ended in failure. 

The BBC reports:

“Gas supplies to Ukraine have been reduced to zero,” Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuri Prodan said.

Russia’s state-owned gas giant Gazprom said Ukraine had to pay upfront for its gas supplies, after Kiev failed to settle its huge debt.

Gazprom had sought from Kiev $1.95bn (£1.15bn) – out of $4.5bn it says it is owed – by 06:00 GMT.

The Russian firm said it would continue to supply gas to Europe.