Ukraine Liveblog Day 146: Prelude To a Border War?

July 13, 2014
Screen grab from LifeNews video 10 July 2014 of Strela driven past separatist checkpoint in Donetsk, believed to have come from Russia.

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 Says Ukraine Shelled a Russian Village

We start with a cross-post from our previous liveblog:

A shell has reportedly fallen on Russian territory from Ukraine,
prompting a harsh denunciation from the Russian Foreign Ministry, reported.
The incident follows a day of recriminations from the Ukrainian
government against Russia for allegedly firing from Russian territory on
to Ukraine. The Interpreter has translated the story:

A shell has fallen from Ukrainian territory into the
Donetsk District of Rostov Region of Russia into the back yard of a
private home. The incident occurred in the village of Dvadtsatka. As a
result of the explosion, a man died, and two more people were injured,
area law-enforcement agencies reported. Among them was an 80-year-old
woman who was thrown by the wave of the explosion. She was taken to the
hospital in critical condition, doctors are fighting for her life.
Investigators of the Investigative Commitee are working at the emergency
cite, Rossiya 24 reported.

Local medical personnel said that the
man who was killed had his arm ripped off.  At that time one of the
victims was in her home which was situated across [from him]. Another
woman was leaving work, when the shrapnel from a shell hit her in the
leg. Two private homes suffered damage from the explosion, Aleksandr
Tito, representative of the regional government reported.

Russian Foreign Ministry has made a sharp protest in connection with the
incident. According to Girgory Karasin, deputy head of the foreign
policy department, “our demarches will be harsh and specific.”

Shells have landed on Russian territory before. But this is the
first time when such a landing led to deaths and injuries. Donetsk is
also the name of a Russian city within Rostov Region with a population
of 49,000 people. The Donetsk-Izvarino border crossing into Ukraine is
located in this city.

Since we posted that, an extremely graphic video reportedly showing the village has been posted online. The video shows a group of dead villagers, and the fire and destruction in the immediate vicinity. The videos are closeups, with no landmarks, any other identifiable locations, though a street sign says “Chugayeva Lane, No. 12.” It’s not clear what kind of weapon was used or where the weapon came from. Three minutes into the video the narrator says, “we see these are shards from a Grad, shrapnel not characteristic of other types of systems.” As of now we have not identified the shrapnel so can neither confirm nor deny this claim.

Ukraine denies that they have fired into Russian territory and have offered to join a joint investigation into the incident (translation by The Interpreter):

“Ukrainian soldiers have never shelled, are not shelling, and will not shell the territory of a neighboring state and its residential quarters,” said a statement from the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry.

The Foreign Ministry expects objectivity and impartiality from the Russian authorities in their evaluation of the tragic incident in Donetsk, Rostov Region and is prepared to cooperate in its investigation. The Foreign Ministry expresses condolences in connection to the death and injuries of citizens of Russian in Donetsk, Rostov Region.

“We would like the Foreign Ministry of Russian in the final analysis to note and also express condolences regarding the murders by terrorist armed formations of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians in the eastern  regions of Ukraine, and condem the criminal actions of terrorists, and force them to cease their violence,” says the statement.

The Foreign ministry also expressed protest regarding attempts to invade from RF territory by military vehicles and mercenaries in the area of the Ukrainian settlement of Izvarino, which took place on the night of 12-13 July.

The Foreign Ministry urges Russia to cease its provocations, to influence the terrorist armed formations to stop their violence, from which the citizens of the RF are also suffering, and to conduct a thorough investigation of the numerous incidents of violation from the territory of Russia of the Ukrainian-Russian border and to bring those guilty to account

Since Friday, when a Ukrainian armored convoy was destroyed very close to the border with Russia, there have been claims that not only is Russia sending more fighters and equipment across the border, but that Russia has also launched rocket and artillery attacks against Ukrainian positions. Podrobnosti reports (translated by The Interpreter):

The shelling of Zelyonopole was made from the latest Russian weapon Tornado-G, says Podrobnosti journalist Roman Bochkal.

“Several sources which I trust have reported to me that this is not a Grad, but a Tornado-G, which was added in 2011 to Russia’s arsenal. It is not distinguishable from the Grad. But its effectiveness is higher. The Tornado can fire 90 km.”

In Bochkal’s opinion, the armament could have been located rather far from the border. Moreoever, scouts constantly were reporting to soldiers in Zelyonopole about possible shelling.

“The scouts reported several times about a possible Grad. There was no reaction,” said the journalist.

That is why the soldiers were in an open space in tents, and not in trenches.

The “Tornado G” is possibly the  9A52-4 Tornado multiple launch rocket system, but its use in this conflict is unconfirmed.

Here is what we know:

In the last week there have been a rash of reports of Russian armor, tanks, advanced anti-aircraft weaponry, mercenaries, and even incoming GRAD and artillery fire which have all reportedly crossed the border from Russia into Ukraine. There is compelling evidence that much of the heavy equipment seen in this wave did in fact come from Russia, as it does not match descriptions of equipment captured by separatists, and it does not share the same camouflage as weapons used in the Ukrainian military as far as we have been able to establish. During this period in time, to our knowledge, no significant stockpiles of weapons have been captured by the Russian-backed separatists which could explain the new influx in weapons.

On this issue we have asked the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense for more information, but our inquiries have not yet been answered.

We do not have definitive evidence that either Ukraine or Russia has taken the extra step of actually firing across the border. However, it is possible that if Russia is firing across the border with unguided multiple-launch rocket systems like the GRAD or Tornado, then one of these weapons went off course and struck a Russian village. It is also possible that the Ukrainian government, possibly responding to incoming rocket fire, returned fire and hit a Russian village. Right now, there is simply not enough evidence available for us to analyze.

What is clear, however, is that the fighting near the border is once again escalating, the amount of heavy equipment being used by the separatists has exploded, and Russia is once again increasing its rhetoric against Ukraine.