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.
Visible in the video is what looks like a 9K35 Strela-10 (SA-13) surface-to-air battery, apparently guarding several pieces of artillery and supply trucks. We do know that the separatists have recently acquired such a vehicle, though no Strelas are reported missing by the Ukrainian military.
Earlier eyewitnesses reported a very large convoy moving toward Donetsk, but so far the only confirmed videos show much smaller convoys. These weapons, however, have not been filmed on the move today previous to this claimed video, as far as we are aware.
The head of Ukraine’s security services (SBU) says that there is “absolute proof” that Russia was directly involved in the shooting down of a military transport plane yesterday. VOA reports:
Valentyn Nalyvaichenko said Tuesday that the evidence Russia was involved in shooting down the AN-26 transport plane over the Luhansk region would be presented to President Petro Poroshenko and made public.
On Monday, pro-Russian separatists claimed responsibility for shooting down the plane and said four crew members had been taken prisoner.
However, the Defense Ministry said Monday the plane was flying too high to have been hit by conventional surface-to-air missiles.
As a direct result of that incident Ukraine says it has grounded its aircraft in eastern Ukraine. Because of this, Ukraine claims a Russian aircraft was able to conduct an airstrike, and we have been tracking a convoy (or convoys) of military vehicles that have moved from the direct vicinity of the Russian border all the way to Donetsk without coming under attack by Ukrainian aircraft.
What appears to be the same convoy is also visible in this video. Note the large container truck which appears to be part of the convoy as it’s in both videos. This video was reportedly taken in Makeyevka, east of Donetsk, which makes a lot of sense based on how we know the convoy has been traveling.
We have not geolocated the last two videos.
As we’ve been reporting, there is no indication the the separatists ever captured 2S1 Gvodzikas, the camouflage on these vehicles does not match the Ukrainian military, and videos posted in June show 2S1 Gvodzikas, the same color as the ones spotted on the move in Ukraine today, moving toward the Ukrainian border after being loaded onto Russian trucks (see previous updates for details).
The OSCE has released their latest report from Ukraine. One interesting excerpt from the report concerned the treatment of wounded soldiers:
The director of Dnipropetrovsk’s Mechnikov Hospital as well as the acting chief of the Regional Health Department informed the SMM that from 9 May to 13 July, a total of 128 wounded soldiers had been treated in the hospital, including 82 who had arrived between 11 and 13 July. They explained that Ukrainian military helicopters transport the patients from the conflict areas to hospitals in Dnipropetrovsk, as well as in Kyiv, Odessa and Vinnytsia. The interlocutors expressed their concern over a possible lack of beds in the near future and overworked staff. Indeed, the hospital has 1,200 beds and 70 beds are dedicated for intensive care, which are fully occupied.
Another interesting report involved Odessa, and the infamous fire at the Trade Union Building.
In Odessa the SMM observed approximately 60 persons in Kulikove Pole square on 13 July. They were commemorating people who had died on 2 May in the fire at the Trade Union Building. The mood was generally restrained, some activists called on the people to fight ‘fascism’. Several priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) blessed the crowd.
Also on 13 July, approximately 120 people gathered at Kulikovo Pole, chanting “Donbass, we are with you”. The mood was calm.
The last interesting detail has to do with press freedom in eastern Ukraine:
In Kyiv the SMM met with two journalists, who said that in June they had been held twice by ’LPR’ representatives against their will. The interlocutors said they had been accused by the ‘LPR’ of supplying ammunition to the Ukrainian army, although in their view they were held because they were Ukrainian journalists. According to both journalists, they were freed following pressure from influential Ukrainian politicians. Altogether the journalists estimated that there were 80-100 persons being held in Luhansk.
The Baltic Times reports that NATO has intercepted Russian aircraft near the Baltic borders up to 50 times a week:
A Russian reconnaissance aircraft flying near Latvian waters was intercepted this week by NATO fighters.
Latvian Defense Minister Raimonds Vejonis said that the increasing frequency of Russian military aircraft flying near Baltic borders shows that NATO must have a permanent presence in the region.
”The events in the recent weeks prove the alliance’s solidarity amongst allies, and demonstrates that our allies will protect our security,” he said.
While the Russian media freaks out about the discussion surrounding increasing NATO troops in eastern Europe and threats of new sanctions discussed by the United States Senate back in May, the bottom line is that Russia has given NATO every reason to increase its presence in the region, especially since NATO’s thinned presence in eastern Europe is being stretched by responding to all of these near-border intercepts.
Novosti Donbassa reports that unknown gunmen in camouflage broke down the front door of, and captured the administrative building of the Marinka police.
The seizure apparently took place yesterday at 17:00 (14:00 GMT). Marinka lies around 20 km to the west of Donetsk, where separatist fighters are preparing for an advance by government forces.
The Russian news agency Regnum, which has been been suspected of close links to Russian security services, has published a report in which it is claimed that the Ukrainian Air Force was responsible for the bombing in Snezhnoye today.
According to the press office of the Donetsk State Adminstration, the death toll of the bombing has now reached 11. 8 people are reported wounded, among them one child.
The Regnum report cites “Sergei, a local journalist,” who says that “two sturmoviks [Su-25s] of the Ukrainian armed forces” bombed the town today at 6:45.
According to ‘Sergei’, separatist militants managed to shoot down one of the Su-25s. The pilot of the stricken aircraft is claimed to have brought his plane away from the residential area of Snezhnoye before crashing near the village of Removka.
Regnum claims that there is other evidence from locals to support this claim. However the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council claims that no Ukrainian aircraft have flown in the area since yesterday’s downing of an An-26. Moreover, there has been no video or photographic evidence of the downing of an Su-25.
In a separate analysis, The Interpreter’s Andrew Bowen, who has recently returned from Moscow, argues that weak sanctions have only emboldened Putin in Ukraine:
The UK does not want to impose sanctions for fear of losing the massive amounts of capital that flow into the city each year (as evidenced when British deputy national security advisor Hugh Powell was photographed carelessly walking into No.10 Downing with documents stating that Britain would not support harsher sanctions against Russia or “close London’s financial centre to Russians.”); France is in the middle of completing a $1.7 billion deal to build Mistral class amphibious assault ships for the rapidly modernizing Russian military; Germany is reliant on Russia to provide it with a majority of its energy, to say nothing of its significant business interests with Moscow; and the U.S. is worried about pushing too far for fear of alienating the EU which, as above demonstrates, has significantly more ties with Russia than the U.S.
These ties have hamstrung efforts to apply harsher measures. Imposing weaker sanctions serves to only further embolden the Russian elite and Putin. Without the follow-through of the threat of significant and meaningful sanctions, and by only imposing token actions against individuals who have neither the assets in the West nor enough assets at all which would be impacted or threatened by sanctions, the actions that have been taken by the West serve to undermine the credibility and threat of Western commitment to stopping Russian support of separatists in Ukraine.
We have geolocated the convoy of Russian armoured vehicles seen in the video below:
The location is here:
We have identified the petrol station seen in the video as being the same as one photographed and tagged on Panoramio in both 2011 and 2012.
Screenshot from video.
The road signs also match the location — here is Enakievo:
And the road to the left of the junction has signs that lead to Donetsk, and to the right to Debaltsevo.
This means that the armoured column has come off the main road from Lugansk to Donetsk and may be heading towards Makeyevka, to the east of Donetsk. It is interesting to note that Aleksandr Khodakovsy, the leader of the Vostok battalion, is reportedly in Makeyevka rather than Donetsk itself.
It is also noteworthy that this road, and many of the other smaller routes in the area are narrow and lined by trees, which makes evading detection from the air easier.
A road sign places these vehicles in “Enakievo,” Yenakievo, in eastern Ukraine near the fighting near Donetsk, though we have not confirmed the exact location.
So far the evidence is compelling that these vehicles were not captured from the Ukrainian military (again, as explained below). The most unconfirmed part of the story is the size of the convoy, but we will continue to look for videos as they are posted.
LB.ua reports that there are eyewitness reports of Russian armoured vehicles heading towards Donetsk.
They report seeing two columns of separatist fighters with military vehicles manned by Russians. LB describes reports of 34 tanks, 34 self-propelled guns and 2 BTR armoured personnel carriers.
One witness told LB that the column had ground up the tarmac road covering in Perevalsk as they passed through.
The apparent route, from Lugansk to Yenakievo via Perevalsk matches that made clear by sighting of T-64 tanks on June 20. Those tanks were located travelling from Krasnodon (right on the border with Russia) to Gorlovka, just to the north-west of Yenakievo. It seems likely that these vehicles followed the same route across the border via Krasnodon and Lugansk.
Here is the video from Yenakievo:
We have not yet geolocated this video but it does reflect the description given to LB, and the vehicles not only carry Russian flags, but are also painted in the same blank green as seen on other separatist imports.
Of particular note is the appearance of the 2S1 Gvodzika self-propelled guns. These have, so far, not been seen in use by separatist forces.
However, on June 20 we noted their appearance, in the same drab green (and without numbering) while being transported by train near the Russian town of Millerovo, close to the Ukrainian border.
Note that the video preview image is unrelated.
It may also be relevant to note that the howitzer carried by the Gvodzika, a D-30, is the same gun that the Russian military claimed to have identified as responsible for shelling on June 22.
The town of Snezhnoye, which lies close to the Russian border in the Donetsk region, was bombed this morning, destroying two residential buildings and a tax office.
Novosti Donbassa reports that the press office of the Donetsk Regional Administration (DonOGA) has announced that the first reports of the collapse of a residential building came in at 6:35 (3:35 GMT) this morning.
12 flats had been destroyed in the building at 14 Lenin Street. Rescue teams are on the scene.
As of 10 am (7 GMT), the DonOGA reported that 4 people had been killed and another 4 had received injuries of varying severity.
The ‘Torez Snezhoe Portal’ Facebook page reported that residents had heard missiles being fired before a series of explosions. They also reported that a bakery had been damaged.
Video and photos of the aftermath were also posted on the Facebook page:
Dmytro Tymchuk of Information Resistance wrote on his Facebook page that “based on Information Resistance’s operational data,” the explosions were the result of an air strike.
He noted that, following the downing of a Ukrainian Air Force An-26 yesterday, all Air Force flights in the ATO zone had been suspended.
That decision was confirmed today in an announcement by Vladislav Seleznyov, the spokesman for the ATO:
“All aircraft have been grounded since yesterday. While the investigation is under way, there are several versions.”
Tymchuk also commented that, according to his groups data, the separatists lack any aviation capacity, despite recent claims to have captured a Ukrainian Su-25. We also note the lack of any separatist-held airstrips to launch aircraft from.
He concluded that the air strike on Snezhnoye could only have come from a Russian aircraft.
This suggestion was echoed by Andrei Lysenko, the spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council (SNBO).
According to Ukrainska Pravda, Lysenko told reporters at a briefing today:
“Today, at approximately 7 am, an unknown aircraft bombed the town of Snezhnoye in the Donetsk region. The bombs fell right on the central street of the town – Lenin Street.”
Having repeated Seleznyov’s announcement that all Ukrainian Air Force operations in the area had been suspended following yesterday’s loss, Lysenko said:
“Therefore this morning’s attack on Snezhnoye qualifies as a cynical and bloody provocation, aimed at discrediting the Ukrainian military.”