Ukraine Liveblog Day 158: Savchenko Refused Bail by Russian Court

July 25, 2014
Nadezhda Savchenko appears at her hearing via video-link today. Photo: Roman Tsimbalyuk

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.

For the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: Evidence Review: Who Shot Down MH17?

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

What Happened On The Day MH17 Was Shot Down?

The Associated Press has published a very important summary of everything that they know about what happened on July 17th, the day MH17 was shot down. The opening paragraphs appear to be a summary of eyewitnesses — both residents of the town and the AP’s own journalists:

It was lunchtime when a tracked launcher with four SA-11 surface-to-air missiles rolled into town and parked on Karapetyan Street. Fifteen hundred miles (2,400 kilometers) to the west, passengers were checking in for Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

It had been a noisy day in this eastern Ukrainian town, residents recounted. Plenty of military equipment was moving through. But still it was hard to miss the bulky missile system, also known as a Buk M-1. It left deep tread marks in the asphalt as it rumbled by in a small convoy.

The vehicles stopped in front of journalists from The Associated Press. A man wearing unfamiliar fatigues, speaking with a distinctive Russian accent, checked to make sure they weren’t filming. The convoy then moved on, destination unknown in the heart of eastern Ukraine’s pro-Russia rebellion.

Three hours later, people six miles (10 kilometers) west of Snizhne heard loud noises.

And then they saw pieces of twisted metal – and bodies- fall from the sky.

The piece goes on to add a few more very interesting details. For instance, the Ukrainian government has now pinpointed exactly when and where the Buk entered Ukraine, when and where it traveled, and the exact time when townspeople report hearing a loud blast (or two) right before flight MH17 was shot out of the sky.

What is fascinating is that according to these details the Buk traveled from the Russian border into Donetsk, and then on to Torez and Snezhnoye. If you look at our interactive map about the crash site, we have already deduced that a Buk was seen 24 kilometers west of Torez, on the road between Donetsk and Snezhnoye.


These details, which we have pieced together from open-sourced information, matches precisely what reporters on the ground in these towns are learning.

Read the entire AP dispatch here, and read our UPDATED summary of what we know about the downing of flight MH17. Stringer Philips Reportedly Deported from Ukraine
The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has deported Graham William Philips, an stringer, from Ukraine and banned him from entry for 3 years, reported. The Interpreter has translated the news:

The journalist was questioned and deported with a ban on entry to the territory of Ukraine for a period of 3 years in the interests of ensuring state security, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

We were unable to confirm the report. cited an unnamed “source in the SBU.”

Philips was detained three days ago at during a battle at the Donetsk airport. stated that he was not on assignment for them at the time, and separatist Col. Igor Strelkov announced at the time that the area was closed to journalists for safety reasons.

Journalists reporting in southeastern Ukraine must obtain press passes from the self-declared “Donetsk People’s Republic,” and included in its news story a copy such a credential dated July 22, as well as his passport, which suggests they are sourced with the SBU.


5dd8fff4fbc763e418a05f37e0cef4de8c5505fb has posted the same report sourced to “local news,” promising “details to come.”

Supporters of Philips on Twitter are claiming that his Facebook has been defaced by unknown persons who have gained access to his account, but we have not verified that this was his account.

Evidence Review: Who Shot Down MH17?

We have posted a summary of the evidence which answers the question of who shot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.

We will keep the post regularly updated, but here is the current conclusion:

The evidence is piling up that the Russian-backed militants fired the
Buk at MH17. It seems likely that this was an accident since there is no
evidence that the militants knew that this was a civilian airliner they
were shooting at, initially they took credit for shooting down a
military transport plane, and it’s not clear how shooting down a
civilian airliner has helped their cause (the opposite is probably

But the evidence also suggests that Russia has becoming
incredibly reckless in his support of the separatists. Russia has been
supplying anti-aircraft weapons (including the Strela-10), has been
supplying more tanks and rocket launchers in recent weeks, and has been
caught firing GRAD rockets into Ukraine, a trend which has continued or
even sped up since the downing of MH17. Circumstantial evidence strongly
suggests that Russia supplied the Buk crews to the separatists, and
while there is circumstantial evidence that Russia supplied the actual
missiles to Russia, there is no evidence yet that the separatists
captured intact Buk missile systems from the Ukrainian government.

militants control the crash site and have reportedly tampered with the
evidence, so more definitive answers may never come. But while questions
remain, the culprits are clear, and those accused of mass murder
control the crime scene.

Read the entire article here.

We are not alone in this conclusion. Quoting the analysis in Vice News by our managing editor James Miller, the British embassy in Kiev agrees:

Could Russia Be Planning to Send BM-27 Uragan Rockets to Separatists?

As we reported yesterday, Marie Harf, a spokeswoman for the US State Department, told reporters yesterday that the US had evidence that Russia was planning to supply separatist fighters with more powerful rocket launchers than the BM-21 Grad systems we have seen them using.

Mark Galeotti, Professor of Global Affairs at New York University and an expert on Russia’s security services, has written on his blog today that the launchers referred to could be BM-27 Uragan systems.

The Uragan fires fewer, but far higher calibre rockets than the Grad. Galeotti suggests that the import of long range, heavy weaponry may be an attempt to change the course of the war, which has recently appeared to be going in Ukraine’s favour.

Noting that Ukraine’s chief military advantages are air power and long range artillery, Galeotti writes:

With systems such as the now-infamous Buk and the BM-27, Moscow is clearly trying to neutralise them (the BM-27 is a useful counterbattery weapon, able to silence Ukrainian guns). The idea is presumably to put Kyiv into the situation of facing a nasty-and higher-casualty-old-fashioned close-quarters battle in Donetsk if it wants to wipe out the rebels, hoping that Poroshenko won’t be willing to accept the costs. (Though I suspect he would, if need be.)

The recent arrival of Russian 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled guns also suggests this step-up in tactics.

Galeotti notes that the more advanced the equipment being supplied to the separatists, the more they will depend on Russia for training, spare parts and ammunition.

He suggests that the Kremlin may well be hoping to knock back, or at least suspend Ukrainian government advances so as to place the separatists (and Russia itself) in a stronger position to negotiate from:

A willingness to supply heavy hardware, coupled with the uncompromising rhetoric from the Kremlin, does suggest that Putin has chosen not to back away from his adventure in eastern Ukraine. However, it’s not impossible that the hope is that allowing the rebels to give Kyiv’s forces a bloody nose will allow Moscow to negotiate some terms for a ‘peace with honour’ extrication from the mess on stronger terms, given that at present, between the seizure of Slovyansk and the moral charge provided by MH17, the Ukrainian government is in unyielding mood. This can be disastrous (witness Russia clinging on in WW1 in the hope that “next battle” would provide one such victory), but can work.

Australia to Send 190 Police and Defence Personnel to MH17 Site

Reuters reports that the Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, has announced that a further 100 police officers and “defense force personnel” are being dispatched to Europe with the aim of securing the MH17 crash site in a joint operation with The Netherlands.

90 Australian Federal Police officers are already in London, awaiting the confirmation of an agreement between Australia, The Netherlands and Ukraine on security arrangements at the crash site.

Reuters reports that some of the personnel to be sent to Ukraine will be armed.

They note that:

On Tuesday, Abbott said that Russian-backed rebels who control the area were tampering with evidence on “an industrial scale” and argued that outside police or possibly military forces were needed to ensure that did not continue.

That same day (July 22), Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the OSCE, who was at the scene of the crash, told the BBC that there were signs that wreckage had been tampered with. He reported that large sections of wreckage had been cut into and moved. 

Separatists Seize Local Government Communications Office in Donetsk and Kidnap Two Workers

Donetsk news site reports that Yelena Davidovskaya-Malyutina, the acting manager of the Donetsk Regional Administration’s public communications office, has written on her Facebook page that her office has been seized by separatist militants.

“18 armed DNR [Donetsk People’s Republic] fighters arrived at our headquarters an hour ago. We no longer have an office. They came to the office and took away our computers. They came purposefully looking for me. They want us to work for them,” she wrote.

Furthermore, Malyutina reported that Andrei Khaletsky and Yelena Garkusha had been seized by the militants. Their whereabouts is unknown. 

SBU Claims Tape Records Bezler Being Informed of Incoming Aircraft 2 Minutes Before MH17 Downing

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has released an audio recording which they claim comes from an intercepted phone conversation between Igor Bezler (a.k.a. Bes), a separatist leader, and another militant in which they discuss an unidentified incoming aircraft.

The tape is dated 17 July at 16:18 local time, reported as 2 minutes before the downing of the Malaysian airliner MH17.

The other speaker, whom Bezler addresses as Naymanets (‘hired hand’), tells him that the aircraft is above the clouds, and that he therefore can not verify what type of plane it is. Notably, ‘Naymanets’ addresses Bezler as “Nikolayevich,” his patronymic, suggesting familiarity

Naymanets: Nikolayevich. 4.

Bezler: Yes, Naymenets.

Naymanets: A “birder”…a “birdie” has flown toward you.

Bezler: A “birdie” has flown to us?

Naymanets: Yes, one, for now.

Bezler: A scout or a big one?

Naymenets: It’s not visible behind the clouds…it’s really high.

Bezler: That it’s, I understand..Got it.

Naymentets: Uh-huh.

Bezler: Announce up top.

The audio, with English subtitles added by the SBU, is below:

Although the last phrase said is subtitled here as “Report to the commanders,” a better translation is “report up top” or “report up the chain”.

It is critically important to remember that Bezler admitted that a previous audio recording released by the SBU is real, but he claimed he was discussing another aircraft, not MH17. This is the same voice, so there is no reason to think it is not real. In his last denial of responsibility for the loss of this aircraft, he accidentally admits that the separatists are shooting down aircraft from this location, and that they are coordinating with the Russian government. This admission lends credibility to other leaked audio tapes including one in which separatists claim to have shot down MH17 accidentally thinking it was a military transport, and one in which the separatists speak with a contact in Russia and confirm the receipt of the Buk (and Russian crews to go with it).

Russia Puts Out Arrest Warrant For Right Sector Leader

Dmitriy Yarosh, the leader of Pravy Sektor; otherwise known as Right Sector, the Ukrainian ultra-nationalist party; has been indicted by the Russian government which has issued an arrest warrant through Interpol. Here is the charge:

1) Public incitement to terrorist activities involving the use of mass media; 2) Public incitement to extremist activities involving the use of mass media

All Interpol members, including Russia, have the ability to issue arrest warrants through the Interpol system.

Ukraine is also investigating several Russian politicians. RFE/RL reports:

Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said he does not take seriously the accusations made against him by the Ukrainian Interior Ministry.

Zyuganov said on July 25 that he had always been for Russian-Ukrainian friendship and accused Kyiv of “killing its own people.”

Zyuganov’s statement came hours after Zoryan Shkiryak, an adviser to Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, said probes against Zyuganov and Russian ultranationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky had been launched.

The two are suspected of “financing activities aimed at changing Ukraine’s territory and its state borders.”

On July 22, Avakov announced a probe against Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and businessman Konstantin Malofeyev on suspicion of organizing illegal armed formations on Ukrainian territory.

No charges have yet been filed.

Human Rights Watch Report Condemns GRAD Rockets And Human Shields

Human Rights Watch is condemning the use of unguided rockets, like the multiple-launch GRADs which are apparently being used by both sides, against areas where a civilian populace is located. While the detailed report seems to focus on GRADs reportedly used by the Ukrainian government four time between July 12th and July 21st, the report also mentions that separatists have also used GRAD rockets:

Both Ukrainian government and insurgent forces have recently used Grad rockets. Although Ukrainian government officials and the press service of the National Guard have denied using Grad rockets in Donetsk, a Human Rights Watch investigation on the ground strongly indicates that Ukrainian government forces were responsible for the attacks that occurred between July 12 and 21…

The four attacks took place close to the front line between insurgent and government forces. Impact craters on the ground and on buildings investigated by Human Rights Watch were characteristic of rocket attacks, not shelling. In all four cases, the angle and shape of the craters, and the fact that they were on the side of buildings facing the front line, strongly suggests that the rockets came from the direction of Ukrainian government forces or pro-Kiev armed groups. The attacks’ proximity to the front line also makes it unlikely, and in some cases impossible, that insurgent forces were responsible for the attacks. In two of the attacks, rockets hit on or near insurgent bases and checkpoints at the same time as they hit residential areas, indicating government forces were responsible…

Human Rights Watch said that insurgent forces have failed to take all feasible precautions to avoid deploying in densely populated areas, thereby endangering civilians in violation of the laws of war. In one case, separatist forces moved their base closer to the center of the town when Grad rockets struck their base and a nearby residential area. Violations of the laws of war by one side to the conflict do not justify violations by the other side.

Yesterday some reporters inside Donetsk were reporting more GRAD rocket attacks.

The Human Rights Watch report did not mention recent GRAD rocket attacks further east of here, where GRAD rockets, at least some but possibly all of which appear to have been launched from inside Russia, have hit areas closer to the border. On July 16th, the day before MH17 was shot down, The Interpreter confirmed that a GRAD rocket attack was launched from inside Russian territory. Since then there have been reports of more attacks from Russian positions every day for the last nine days.

Read our initial investigation here:

Ukrainian Military Reports Repeated Shelling From Russia

Ukrainska Pravda writes that the press centre for the Ukrainian government’s Anti-Terrorism Operation (ATO) has reported several instances of shelling from across the border. 

From 20:40 to 21:30 artillery shelled Ukrainian military positions near Dyakovo from the Russian Federation.

At 23:50 a mortar bombardment of checkpoint close to Dyakovo was carried out from the direction of the Russian Federation.

From 20:55-22:40 the Marinovka border crossing was shelled with artillery from the direction of the Russian Federation.

We have previously reported  on a number of incidents of cross-border shelling, and have verified video footage of Grad rockets being fired towards Ukraine from positions near the town of Gukovo in Russia. This has also been reported by US defence and diplomatic officials.

Nadezhda Savchenko Refused Bail

Nadezhda Savchenko, a Ukrainian military officer who was abducted by separatist militants and taken across the border to a jail Russia, has been refused bail at a hearing today in her trial. She is accused of murdering two Russian journalists who were killed when the separatist checkpoint at which they were standing was shelled by Ukrainian forces on June 17.

UNIAN reports that the court in Voronezh rejected Savchenko’s lawyers’ applications for bail at 500,000 rubles. She will remain in detention until the end of August. 

Savchenko appeared at the hearing via video-link from a detention centre. Her lawyers, Nikolai Polozov and Mark Feygin, complained to the court that her detention in Russia was, itself, illegal, as she had been kidnapped and illegally ferried across the border. 

Furthermore, her lawyer Polozov stressed that from June 30, Savchenko had been forcibly and illegally held in Russia and had been illegally transported from Ukrainian territory. She was interrogated without a lawyer or consular assistance from Ukraine, but with the use of a polygraph machine.

It was also pointed out that, according to the wording of the law suit, the ‘crime’ had been committed on the territory of the ‘Lugansk People’s Republic’ “which is a terrorist organisation, and is not subject to international law.”

Despite this, the prosecution said that the question of Savchenko’s abduction, was “closed.” 

There were also issues regarding language:

Feygin: The defence considers the court has, in the first instance, infringed on Savchenko’s right to acquaint herself with the presented evidence in her native language.

Polozov: Nadezhda says that she was abducted from Ukraine. The translator is writing it down as “caught in Ukraine.” How can this not be retracted?

Polozov: The court has refused to remove the translator, even though Nadezhda maintained her challenge on the grounds that her words had been mistranslated.

Polozov has posted photos of the court papers on Twitter:

All translations by The Interpreter.