Ukraine Liveblog Day 127: Ukrainian Control Over Border Weakening

June 24, 2014
Remnants of a bridge blown up yesterday in Zaporozhye. Photo:

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.

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.

Go back to our front page:

Medvedchuk Denies He Represents Pro-Russian Separatists

Viktor Medvedchuk, President Vladimir Putin’s chosen negotiator in peace talks in
the Donbass, has denied that he represents the pro-Russian separatists’ interests.

As we reported earlier, Medvedchuk, a prominent pro-Russian Ukrainian businessman, has been placed on sanctions lists by Western governments for his support of Putin’s military action in Ukraine.

The Interpreter has provided a translation of Medvedchuk’s Facebook post:

Neither in Donetsk or earlier, have I ever represented the interests of the DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic) and the LPR (Lugansk People’s Republic). We have been conducted, and are continuing to conduct negotiations with representatives of the DPR and LPR as part of a mediators’ negotiation group for achieving a peace settlement to the conflict in the East of Ukraine. The information which was supposedly disseminated on behalf of the OSCE is unreliable.

Donetsk and Lugansk ‘People’s Republics’ Unite in Union

The self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Lugansk People’s Republic” have now united and proclaimed a “unified constitution of Novorossiya,” using the term for a long-sought utopian ideal of a “new Russia” incorporating territories of Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus.


The unification was announced at a press conference by Aleksandr Boroday, the self-proclaimed “prime minister” reported on Twitter by the “Donetsk People’s Republic” account, and by the Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy.

The new confederaiton is to be called “the Union of People’s Republics.”

There was no word on what happened to Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the Slavyansk “people’s mayor” who was reported arrested and executed last week, although the information was not confirmed.

The “Union of People’s Republics” is also growing more “democratic” as it has now proclaimed a list of deputies to serve in a “parliament”.

Translation: At a session of the Supreme Council of the DPR, a Constitutional Act was passed on the Confederative Unification of the DPR and LPR into the Union of People’s Republics
Reports of Gunfire in Donetsk

The office of the mayor of Donetsk, Oleksandr Lukyanchenko, has posted a warning of a report of gunfire in the city (translated by The Interpreter):

At around 17:00 [14:00 GMT] gunfire was briefly heard near the Putilovsky flyover.

According to unconfirmed reports, the shooting came from DNR supporters towards Donetsk airport, which was expecting an attack that has not come. A team of investigators, led by the chief of the city department of the Interior Ministry, Yuri Sednyev, has left for the scene of the incident.

No details of casualties have been reported at this time.

Meanwhile, Aleksandr Boroday, the self-declared prime minister of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), has said that Putin’s request for the Russian Federation Council to rescind approval for Russian military action inside Ukraine does not apply to the territory claimed by the separatists:

Tymchuk Reports 9 Dead on Downed Helicopter

Dmytro Tymchuk of Information Resistance has posted more information on the downing of the Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter on Karachun hill near Slavyansk.

He reports that the helicopters was shot down by separatist fighters using MANPADS.

According to preliminary reports, 9 servicemen were killed, including the 3 crew members. 

Report of Downed Ukrainian Helicopter Near Slavyansk

Ukrainska Pravda reports (translated by The Interpreter):

A Ukrainian Mi-8 military aircraft has been shot down on Karachun hill outside Slavyansk by terrorists.

This was reported to Ukrainska Pravda by National Guard troops, who are stationed at one of the checkpoints near the town.

According to them, the helicopter was shot down while taking off from the hill.

One of the sources added that the site from which the helicopter had been fired on had been identified.

Military vehicles have been sent there.  

The incident is strongly reminiscent of the downing of another Mi-8 on May 29 that killed fourteen, including General Volodymyr Kulchitsky. The helicopter was taking off from the same hill when it was struck by a surface-to-air missile.

FSB Raid Crimean Tatar Madrassa

There are reports today that FSB agents stormed a Tatar Madrassa in Simferopol, Russian-occupied Crimea.

QHA, a Crimean news agency, reported:

According to our correspondent, men in camouflaged uniforms searched everything in the building, including children’s personal belongings. As a result of the search, doors were broken and windows were smashed in the madrassa. 

Nonetheless, the siloviki [security officers] found nothing suspicious and sized several computers. They took the director of the madrassa, Aider Osmanov, away with them.

Children were asleep in the madrassa when the camouflaged men visited. The search began at 6 am and lasted for about 6 hours.

Overall, around 30 people took part in the search, including Berkut, OMON, and FSB officers, a well as police.

QHA noted that there were 13 students and 2 teachers present at the madrassa at that time.  

They also reported on a raid on a Crimean Tatar home in the village of Bulganak. 

ATO Spokesman Says Separatists Violating Ceasefire
Ukrainska Pravda reports that Vladislav Seleznev, the spokesman for the government’s Anti-Terrorism Operation, has written on his Facebook page that, while ATO forces have complied with the ceasefire the separatist militants are repeatedly violating it.
“The militants are not ceasing their attacks on the positions of Ukrainian troops. For example, over the last 24 hours a checkpoint, at the intersection of roads leading to Krasny Liman and Slavyansk, has come under fire several times”, says Seleznev.

According to him, “the militants opened fire from settlements bordering Slavyansk. During the bombardment they used AGS-17 automatic and rifle-mounted grenade launchers, and twice shelled the checkpoint with mortars.”

“A checkpoint on the road from Severodonetsk to Starobelsk was fired on last night by separatists with small arms. The attack was repelled by returning fire. “
Seleznev reported no Ukrainian losses at either site.
Blasts Hit Donetsk Railway and Bridge in Zaporozhye Region

Interfax-Ukraine reports:

A single-track section of the Donetsk Railway was damaged in two places between the stations Kondrashevska Nova and Horodniy (959 km) at 05:30 [2:30 GMT] on Tuesday and between the stations Krasnozerivka and Horodniy at 06:00 [3:00 GMT] on Tuesday. Three and one meters of the railway were damaged, respectively.

No one was hurt in the explosions and traffic was expected to resume on the railway by 11:00 [8:00 GMT] on June 24, the Donetsk railway press service told Interfax-Ukraine.

The train connecting Moscow and Luhansk, which runs on the section of the railway, may be delayed, the Donetsk railway said.

“The Donetsk railway is extremely concerned about the situation with the explosions and calls on the law enforcement agencies and all security and defense structures to ensure safe operation and integrity of the Donetsk railway infrastructure,” the press service said.

According to earlier reports, unidentified individuals blew up the section of the railway between the stations Ilovaisk and Kuteinykove on June 22. A cargo train was moving in the section of the railway at the time of the explosion. Fourteen cars derailed. The locomotive brigade was not hurt.

Meanwhile, a railway bridge near the town of Orkhiv in the Zaporozhye region was damaged by another blast last night.

Russia’s Dozhd TV reported that police received reports of the incident at 2:30 (23:30 GMT). The blast appears to have compromised the structural integrity of the bridge. Passenger train services in the area have been stopped. There were no injuries resulting from the blast.

Putin Asks Senators to Rescind Approval of Use of Russian Forces in Ukraine

The Russian state-owned news agency ITAR-TASS reports that President Vladimir Putin has proposed that the Federation Council withdraws the approval it granted on March 1 for the use of Russian armed forces in Ukraine. 

ITAR-TASS were told by Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, that the President had proposed that senators rescind their decision:

The President proposed to the senators that they rescind their decision of March 1 2014, on the use of Russian armed forces, following the start of trilateral talks on the resolution of the situation in the eastern regions of Ukraine, said Peskov. 

On Tuesday, before his departure for Vienna, where he is headed for an official visit, the President sent a corresponding letter to the chairwoman of the Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko. The Russian leader’s proposal made a case for the need to normalise the situation in the region.

The Federation Council is the upper house of the Russian parliament and is composed of 170 senators. It remains to be seen whether the announcement will make any difference to Russian covert activities such as supplies for separatist fighters, or indeed result in a withdrawal of forces from the border.

Ukrainian Border Guards Have Lost Control of Izvarino Crossing reports that Oleh Slobodyan, the head of the press office of the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service (SBGS), has announced that Ukrainian border guards have lost control of the Izvarino border crossing

The post has come under attack numerous times in recent weeks, however Slobodyan said that no such attack came last night despite reports to the contrary. We assume from this report that Slobodyan means that the checkpoint itself is still manned by the SBGS, but that the border guards have no ability to impose control on the surrounding area. reports (translated by The Interpreter):

“No, we have no control”, said Slobodyan. In addition, commenting on media reports that the border post had been fired on and captured by militants last night, the head of the SBGS press office said: “No, this was drawn from old reports. It has been fired on more than 21 times”.

The following video has been uploaded and purportedly shows separatist fighters near Izvarino at a self-established border checkpoint. The location is certainly not in the immediate vicinity of the state border checkpoints but may be near by on a parallel road. We have not been able to geolocate this video so far.