Ukraine Liveblog Day 142: Ukraine Condemns Illegal Rendition of Captured Officer to Russia

July 9, 2014
Nadezhda Savchenko while detained by separatists in Lugansk. Photo: Nikolai Varsegov

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

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View Ukraine: April, 2014 in a larger map
For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.

Below we will be making regular updates so check back often.

Russia’s Top 60 Lies About Ukraine

Examiner has posted its newest installment in a series of fake news posted by Russian media outlets, and Putin’s favorite trolls. Some of our favorites:

– RIA Novosti, a Russian state-run outlet, continuously publishes graphic photos of people whom they say were killed by the ‘junta’ in Kiev. Of course, not only are the photos often from different conflicts, many of the people shown in the photos were actually killed by the Russian military in previous conflicts, or by key Russian allies (like Assad), or in conflicts that Russia opposed ending (Bosnia). We spot-checked the articles, and RIA Novosti does not seem to have pulled down any of the fake information.

– The entire fake news conference between State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki and AP reporter Matt Lee (we’ve written about this too).

– Pictures of Russian atrocities in Chechnya passed off as mass graves in Ukraine.

– A joke headline on a joke website (a la “The Onion”) passed off as real news.

– False claims posted by RT about a non-existent report, supposedly written by the RAND Corporation, suggesting that the government in Kiev impose imhumane and Draconian laws — RT never wrote a retraction (they never do) but pulled some of the documents backing their allegations (which is somehow worse in this case. Typically when RT retracts something, they do it quietly, very late, and only when under heavy scrutiny).

Read the entire list here:

Ukraine Military Moving Towards Donetsk Tonight?
Is Ukraine’s military preparing to strike Donetsk as early as tonight? Throughout the day we’ve seen more evidence that Ukraine’s military is redeploying significant forces toward Donetsk:
The video shows a significant column on the road.
And whether or not a strike comes tonight, the city appears to be bracing for it.
EU Sanctions 9 Separatists And 2 Russians Over Ukraine Crisis

While the full details of today’s new sanctions announcement are not yet know, Today Online offers these details:

The European Union agreed to add 11 new names on Wednesday to the list of persons targeted with asset freezes and travel bans over the Ukraine crisis and the sanctions are likely to take effect on Saturday, an EU diplomat said on Wednesday.

“The list consists mainly of Ukrainian separatists; there may be one or two Russians there as well,” the diplomat said after a meeting of EU ambassadors that addressed the issue.

OSCE Condemns Attack On Newspaper In Kiev

The office for the Vesti newspaper in Kiev has repeatedly come under attack, most recently on July 5th. The incidents have been condemned by the OSCE:

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović today condemned a recent attack on the editorial office of the Vesti newspaper in Kyiv.

On July 5, a group of individuals wearing masks attacked the editorial office of Vesti newspaper in Kyiv with smoke grenades and stones. The office guard was assaulted and sustained injuries, windows were shattered and some of the newspaper’s equipment was damaged.

“I condemn this attack and call on the authorities to carry out a full investigation to identify and bring those responsible to justice,” Mijatović said, welcoming the law enforcement’s immediate launch of an investigation into the matter.

Earlier, in late June, a group of individuals attempted to make their way into the premises of Vesti’s editorial office, but were stopped by the police.

Breaking News: EU Adds New Names To Sanctions List Over Ukraine Crisis
Some breaking news:
Details when we have them…
Putin’s Popularity Is Slipping For Lack of War

Two very interesting updates on Paul Goble’s Windows on Eurasia column. The first, published yesterday, suggests that Putin’s failure to go to war in Ukraine is actually dragging his otherwise-soaring public support back down to earth:

Such speculations, of course, do not mean that Putin inevitably faces such an outcome, but they do have the effect of calling into question the depth of the support that polls show he currently enjoys. Indeed, those poll numbers themselves call to mind the initial enthusiasm Russians had for some previous wars and their subsequent disillusionment.

But perhaps more important in this regard are three other data points reported in the Russian media over the last two days. First, polls show that large shares of Russians do not want to fight in Ukraine and are not prepared to boycott Ukrainian goods to bring Kyiv to heel.

Second, divisions about Ukraine are beginning to appear in the political elite. Mikhail Kasyanov, who served as Putin’s prime minister between 2000 and 2004 but later broke with him, says that Kyiv will never agree to recognize the pro-Moscow separatists as “a legitimate side in any negotiations,” something Putin has been seeking.

And third, anger about Moscow’s spending on the occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea is now spilling into the streets of some Russian cities. In Novosibirsk today, there was a demonstration scheduled against spending money that protesters say should go to Russians at home.

Read Having Failed to Stage ‘Short Victorious War’ in Ukraine, Putin Faces Problems at Home

A second article, published today, further debates how much damage the crisis is going to do to Putin’s domestic standing. 

Aleksandr Dugin, the Eurasianist leader who has beaten the drums for intervention, says that “many people feel themselves deceived as a result of [Putin’s] refusal to use force” in Eastern Ukraine and that some “Russian patriots are close to turning away” from the Kremlin leader.

But as Aleksey Polubota of Svobodnaya Pressa points out, while everyone agrees that the events in Ukraine have cost Putin support, there is great disagreement as to just how much he has lost and how long whatever loss he has sustained may continue, especially given his ability to manipulate public opinion by shifting the debate.

Mikhail Aleksandrov, a researcher at Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO), says “the consequences of the non-interference of Russia in the military conflict in Ukraine really could be catastrophic. Having lost the support of the patriotic camp, the Kremlin remains one-on-one with the fifth column” because “Putin’s support by a significant part of society was based on his defense of national interests.”

Read Ukraine has Cost Putin Domestic Support But How Much and for How Long?

Ukrainian Military Reportedly Staging To Strike At Donetsk
Earlier we posted video that apparently shows Ukrainian armored convoys in Mariupol, south of Donetsk. There are more reports that the Ukrainian military is massing near Donetsk, the fifth largest city in Ukraine. Another video reportedly shows the convoy:

Any strike on Donetsk may be messy, however, since the separatists are digging in and have essentially promised to use the civilians in the city as human shields.
We should caution, however, that over the last few months there have been many instances of significant troop movement inside Ukraine. Very few of those equated to a significant offensive strike, so we’ll have to wait and see if there are other indications that an attack on Donetsk is imminent.
Separatists Release 8 Prisoners From Ukrainian Prison in Torez

OstroV reports (translated by The Interpreter):

Gunmen freed eight prisoners from the 28th Correctional Colony in the town of Torez on Wednesday, July 9. This report was confirmed to OstroV by the press office of the Donetsk oblast prosecutor’s office. 

The group of gunmen appeared on the grounds of the 28th Correctional Colony in Torez today at around 17:00 [14:00 GMT]. They took workers at the colony hostage, in particular, the accounting staff, and demanded the release of eight prisoners.

“The hostages have now been released. Eight prisoners, the release of whom was demanded by the gunmen, have joined up with the terrorists’ group and fled together with them,” said the press office.

OstroV notes that all eight of the freed prisoners “have experience of participating in military operations in the territory of other states.”

Separatist Fighters Report Ukrainian Airstrikes Near Lugansk Airport

The Russian state-owned news agency ITAR-TASS reports that the press office of the self-declared Lugansk People’s Republic has reported Ukrainian airstrikes.

This corresponds with Ukrainska Pravda‘s report earlier this afternoon.

ITAR-TASS reports (translated by The Interpreter):

A Ukrainian Air Force aircraft has appeared in the sky above Lugansk. According to the press service of the authorities of the self-declared Lugansk People’s Republic (LNR) to ITAR-TASS, the aircraft conducted a strike on militia positions near the airport.

The LNR press service reports that there are “no casualties” among the militia. Due to the appearance of the Ukrainian Air Force aircraft in Lugansk airspace, air-raid sirens alerted civilians to the threat of attack.

Divisions Among The Separatists?
Earlier today Andriy Parubiy, Chairman of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, answered questions during a discussion hosted by the think tank The Atlantic Council. During the talk, The Interpreter’s Andrew S. Bowen was able to ask a question about the reports of increasing tensions among the separatists in Donetsk. 
Mr. Parubiy spoke on several points. The first was that there was increasing tension among the leaders of the various groups as they all vied for political and monetary support from Russia. Mr. Paribuy spoke about the presence of the various separatist leaders at varying times in Moscow in attempts to gain Putin’s backing and favor, with each leader presenting themselves as the most able leader to fulfill Putin’s plans and machinations. 
Additionally, Mr. Paribuy mentioned that there were strained relations among the various leaders and Igor Strelkov, Commander in Chief of the Donetsk People’s Republic and GRU operative. Mr. Paribuy stated that the source of the tension was that Strelkov had received large amounts of money from the Kremlin and was not appropriately sharing it with the various other leaders. This tension has become highlighted as it seems that Russia may be quietly ignoring please for more help from separatists holed up in Donetsk.
Separatists Using Tanks and Grad Rockets in Airport Attack

Ukrainska Pravda reports (translated by The Interpreter):

Over the course of the day, militants have been mounting a massive assault on Lugansk airport, which is under the control of Ukrainian security forces.

This was reported to Ukrainska Pravda by one of the soldiers at the airport.

“A massive attack is under way,” he said.

“The afternoon brought shelling from two tanks and mortars. This was at 1 pm and 3 pm on Tuesday,” said the source in the ATO to Ukrainska Pravda.

“There was a report that 2 BM-21 Grad launchers were on the move,” said the source.

Meanwhile, Ukrainska Pravda’s source at the airport, when asked if the militants were using Grad launchers against them as of 17:20 [14:20 GMT], replied:

“They’re using everything. There is no air support.” 

As of 17:30, it was revealed that the Ukrainian air force had struck the militants. 

Russian Economy Weaker On Energy Prices Than Ukraine News

In an analysis yesterday we discussed the fact that the Russian stock index MICEX had reached a 9-month high, erasing losses it suffered during the crisis in Ukraine. Today the MICEX took a dip, losing .22% of its value. But, as Business Week notes, the drop has little to do with sanctions threats or fighting in Ukraine, but rather the drop in oil prices:

Brent crude sank for an eighth day in London to $108.68 per barrel, the lowest level on a closing basis since June 6. Oil and natural gas account for about half of Russian government revenue. Lukoil climbed to the highest in three weeks yesterday. Together with Rosneft, it accounts for about 19 percent of the Micex weighting.

“People are selling energy shares after seeing the oil price drop,” Andrey Verkholantsev, head of research at Kapital Asset Management LLC in Moscow, said by phone. At the same time they are “taking profits on the stock-price growth,” he said.

OAO Bashneft slumped 1.9 percent to 2,565 rubles, while the company’s preferred shares declined 2 percent to 1,789.90 rubles. Bashneft filed to list as many as 45 million shares on the London Stock Exchange, it said in a regulatory filing after the market close yesterday.

Simon Ostrovsky Returns To The Site Of His Kidnapping
With the fall of Slavyansk, the separatist headquarters that was recaptured by the Ukrainian military after the separatists fled the advancing ATO, journalist Simon Ostrovsky has returned to the city — and the basement — where he was held captive for days.

Ukraine Armor Reported In Mariupol, Moving Toward Donetsk

A series of videos reportedly show a convoy of Ukrainian armor moving through the town of Mariupol. Some of the reports suggest that the convoy is headed toward Donetsk.

This first video has been geolocated by a microblogger who is following this crisis.

A video reportedly taken from the road.

Ukraine Interior Minister Arrested In Russia — In Absentia

To recap, already today a Ukrainian military officer appears to be in Russian custody and is being charged with murder. Russia is claiming that Nadezhda Savchenko crossed the border and was then arrested, but that is highly unlikely as Savchenko was reportedly being held by separatists.

Now, a Moscow district court has arrested, in absentia, Ukraine’s Interior Minister. RFE/RL reports:

Moscow’s Basman District Court has charged Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov in abstentia (sic) with involvement in murders and other crimes.

Judge Natalya Mushnikova ruled on July 9 that Avakov must be held in pretrial detention for two months if he is ever brought to Russia.

Avakov is accused of organizing murders, the use of banned methods of warfare, kidnapping, and the obstruction of journalists’ activities.

The same court arrested in absentia the governor of Ukraine’s eastern region of Dnipropetrovsk, Ihor Kolomoyskiy, on July 2 on the same charges.

Reports of Attack on Lugansk Airport

There are a number of reports of a separatist attack under way on Lugansk airport.

Dialog, a news site for south-eastern Ukraine, reports that separatists shelled the airport yesterday morning, seriously damaging communications equipment. claims that a battle between separatist fighters and ATO forces broke out at around 11:30 GMT. They describe initial reports of the destruction of a truck carrying ammunition for the separatists by Ukrainian paratroopers.

The Lugansk News Today Twitter account reported on events:

 Translation: #Lugansk. Right now. Booming again. They’re shelling the airport again.

Translation: #Lugansk. They’re firing at the airport from the village of Vidnoye, or very close to it. From the sounds of it, they’re using three different weapons. As is traditional, the locals are hiding in their cellars.

Translation: #Lugansk. It looks like the terrorists firing at the airport missed and hit a house on the outskirts of the village of Vidnoye. Black smoke is belching from that direction.

Translation: Reports from followers. They’ve hit the airport office building. It’s burning now. The remains of boiler tubes and mobile antennae have collapsed.

UNIAN reports that Dmytro Snegiryov of the Prava Sprava ‘civil initiative’, has told them that he has received numerous reports on the attack. He claims that a gas main has been fractured by the shelling and that the separatist fighters are continuing to fire on the area despite the risk of a gas explosion.

We have not been able to confirm any of these reports so far. 

Russia Claims Savchenko Crossed Border as a Refugee

The Russian state-owned news agency ITAR-TASS reports that Vladimir Markin, the spokesman for the Investigative Committee, has announced the charges to be brought against Nadezhda Savchenko, a Ukrainian military officer captured by separatists and then taken into detention in Russia.

Markin claims that Savchenko was arrested on Russian territory, rather than transferred from captivity in Ukraine:

“Savchenko, as it has emerged, crossed the Russian border without papers, under the guise of a refugee. And during a document inspection in one of the settlements, she was detained so that her identity could be established. After which, it was revealed that Savchenko is a suspect in a criminal case of the murder of Russian journalists,” said Markin.

He added that “the arrest was carried out in strict accordance with Russian legislation.”

Markin said that Savchenko would be charged under Part 2 of Article 105 of the Russian Criminal Code – murder- as an accomplice in accordance with Part 5 of Article 33.

The relevant articles of the Criminal Code are below, taken from this English translation:

Article 33. Types of Accomplices of a Crime

5. A person who has assisted in the commission of a crime by advice, instructions on committing the crime, or removal obstacles to it, and also a person who has promised beforehand to conceal the criminal, means and instruments of commission of the crime, traces of the crime, or objects obtained criminally, and equally a person who has promised beforehand to acquire such objects, shall be deemed to be an accessory.

Article 105. Murder

2. The murder:

    a) of two or more persons;

    b) of a person or his relatives in connection with the official activity by this person or the discharge of his public duty;

    c) of a person who is known by the killer to be helpless state, and also murder attended by the kidnapping of a person or the seizure of a hostage;

    d) of a woman who is known by the killer to be in a state of pregnancy;

    e) committed with especial cruelty;

    f) committed by a generally dangerous method;

    g) committed by a group of persons, a group of persons under a preliminary conspiracy, or an organized group;

    h) committed out of mercenary motives by hire, or attended by robbery with violence, racketeering, or banditry;

    i) committed maliciously;

    j) committed with the purpose of concealing another crime or facilitating its commission, and also murder attended by rape or violent sexual actions;

    k) committed by reason of national, racial, or religious hatred, or enmity or blood feud;

    l) committed for the purpose of obtaining the organs or tissues of the victim;

    m) committed repeatedly –

shall be punishable with deprivation of liberty for a term of eight to 20 years, or by death penalty or deprivation of liberty for life.

Ukraine Condemns Illegal Rendition of Captured Officer to Russia

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement in response to the illegal rendition of Nadezhda Savchenko, a Ukrainian military officer captured by separatists in the Lugansk region, to Voronezh in Russia.

The full statement follows:

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine expresses its strong and categorical protest against the illegal trafficking to Russia of Nadiia Savchenko – officer of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, who had been previously captured by the terrorist armed groups operating in eastern Ukraine. This is yet another proof that terrorists are planning and committing their crimes on the territory of Ukraine in close cooperation with the secret services of the Russian Federation. 

By kidnapping of Ukrainian citizens in our country, the Russian side violates not only all the norms of the international law, but also the basic rules of decency and morality. Such actions of Russia will not remain without adequate response from Ukraine and the international community.

Ukraine demands from Russia to provide the Ukrainian officials with all and complete information about the circumstances of illegal trafficking to Russia of Nadiia Savchenko, conduct objective investigation and bring to justice those responsible for her illegal trafficking. Immediate access to Nadiia Savchenko is requested for the Ukrainian consular officer to provide her with necessary legal assistance.

We expect the Russian side to take steps to unconditionally release Nadiia Savchenko from custody so that she could return back home soon.

We call on the international community to condemn unlawful actions of Russia aimed at systematic violation of the rights and freedoms of citizens of Ukraine and to increase pressure on the Russian leadership, whose impunity makes it a real threat to the civilized world.

TSN, a Ukrainian television channel, reported last night that Savchenko was detained in the southern Russian city of Voronezh.:

The journalists were able to ascertain that the woman is currently in a pre-trial detention facility in Russia’s Voronezh. She is suspected of having murdered Russian journalists. Her first court hearing will be held tomorrow [July 9]. 

Courageous Savchenko’s Russian lawyer says that she has not yet been presented with her charges, and gave assurances that Nadezhda is well and that the conditions of her detention are satisfactory.

Savchenko was captured by separatist fighters near Schastye while she was fighting with the volunteer Aidar battalion on June 18. 

In an interview with Nikolai Varsegov, of the Russian tabloid Komomolskaya Pravda on June 24, Savchenko said that she was captured while coming to the aid of wounded Ukrainian soldiers after two of their BTR armoured personnel carriers were struck. 

While a fighter in the volunteer battalion, she has been a long-term career soldier, serving for the past 10 years. A senior lieutenant, she has served both in the airborne forces and as a gunner/navigator on Mi-24 Hind gunships. Some other sources, including, describe her as Ukraine’s only female Su-24 strike jet pilot, though we cannot find the source of this claim.

Photo: UNIAN

She is accused of responsibility for the deaths of two Russian journalists on June 17 by shelling by acting as a spotter who coordinated firing on an separatist checkpoint at which two journalists from Rossiya 24 were killed.

A video of the incident is below:

Following her capture by militants from the self-declared ‘Lugansk People’s Republic’, a video of Savchenko being interrogated was uploaded onto the internet.

Savchenko refused to give any information to her captors on strategic plans, saying that she had not paid attention to strategic plans and that even if she did know, she would not give this information to her captors.

In her Komosmolskaya Pravda interview, she said that she thought she would most likely be murdered rather than released:

“They won’t release me, they will kill me. Moreover your Russian authorities will kill me for those charges they’re ascribing to me.”

Today, UNIAN reports that Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, told reporters at briefing today that the OSCE was unable to assist in the matter:

To a question concerning Savchenko’s detention in a pre-trial facility in Voronezh (in the Russian Federation), Bociurkiw replied:

“Our mandate currently extends only within Ukrainian territory, and therefore investigation and monitoring outside Ukraine is, at this time, impossible.”