Ukraine Liveblog Day 164: Rada Rejects Yatsenyuk Resignation

July 31, 2014
Russian tanks on the move near the Ukrainian border. Screenshot from video by don.kulagin on Instagram

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.

Separatist Leaders Fear Blame for Possible Chemical Plant Mishap; Ukrainian Defense Minister Says Rebels Mined

Col. Igor Strelkov, commander of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DPR) militia, and Vladimir Antyufeyev, recently installed in Donetsk as “Acting Commander-in-Chief” held a 9-minute press conference today for an “emergency announcement,” Pravda TV and other pro-separatist media reported.

Their purpose was to deny any direct connection to Moscow, deny their involvement in the downing of MH17, and also to warn that Ukrainian forces may stage an accident at a chemical plant near an area of armed conflict now, and pin it on the separatists.

Earlier this week, Ukrainian Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey warned
that separatists had already mined the Gorlovka (Horlivka) plant and he
feared an accident “on a continental scale,” Information Resistance and Euromaidan reported.

Antyufeyev called Strelkov “the Minister of Defense,” so he retains that title but his own title was not confirmed.

He outlined four main points. The Interpreter has provided a translation:

“1. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin has never called me. And I have never met with him.
2. Neither I, nor my comrades-at-arms are officers of the FSB [Federal Security Service].
3. The Boeing [MH17] was not shot down by representatives of the Donetsk People’s Republic or Russia.
4. Neither I or Igor Ivanovich [Strelkov] know anyone from the administration of the Russian Federation and have never met them.”

“We are counting precisely on help from Russia. And it is being provided, significantly, politically,” he explained, without elaborating whether Russia is supplying military assistance or personnel.

Antyufeyev did not mention the GRU [Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian Defense Ministry] — and it is the GRU where Strelkov was believed to work. He says that the DPR’s own military intelligence has informed him that the Ukrainian intelligence is “preparing a major provocation” whose purpose is to declare the DPR a terrorist organization, to label us terrorists destroying the civilian population.”

Then Strelkov proceeded to spend the rest of the press conference complaining that the Ukrainians are pinning atrocities on them, and blamed the Ukrainian forces for killing civilians and even using chemical weapons. No evidence was supplied, although he claimed to have made “expert technical assessments.”

Strelkov said that Tochka-U tactical ballistic missiles are being prepared for launch by the Ukrainian army, and that Kiev “will claim that militia are preparing terrorist acts, using chemicals at the ammonia plant in Gorlovka.”

The Stirol plant in Gorlovka, part of OSTCHEM holding AG, was already the site of a deadly leak a year ago where six people were killed.

Now, says Strelkov, Ukrainian forces may engineer an accident that they will blame on the separatists — which is why they wanted to make a statement today reiterating “that we will never commit any terrorism.” If a major accident occurred, “tens of thousands” of people could die, said Strelkov.

The separatist leaders quickly exited the press conference without taking any questions, and referred reporters “to the Ukrainians.”

We have no confirmation of any of these allegations.

Russian Armor Documented Only 2000 Meters From Ukraine
This video, uploaded today, reportedly shows Russian armored vehicles moving in the direction of the border. We have verified the location — these vehicles are moving north, and are less than 2000 meters from the border.

This is yet more evidence that Russia is not just sending armor to the border but over it.

While searching for videos today we’ve also found this video, which shows Russian armor headed south toward the border near Belgorod.

We now have significant evidence of Russian armor moving toward the Ukrainian border today and yesterday, evidence that a Russian Buk system was moving toward the border last night, and reports that this evening Russian convoys have actually crossed into Ukraine.
Russian Military Convoy Reportedly Crosses Border Into Ukraine in Lugansk Region

Roman Burko, a Ukrainian journalist, has posted the following report on his Facebook page today, 7 hours ago, in which he reports that Russian tanks have crossed the border near Sukhodolsk, near Krasnadon (translated by The Interpreter):

ANOTHER column of armored vehicles from the Russian Federation (passed through Sukhodolsk, ul. Shosseynaya).

Early this morning 31 July 2014 a large column of armored vehicles passed through SUKHODOLSK (about 50 vehicles – this is without exaggerations). As our local sources say “Such a thing has never happened even once before, there have been columns that have passed through before, but far fewer in number.”

Judging from this, we can already say that the Russian Federation without declaration of war has brought its forces into Ukraine. In our previous dispatches we warned about the urgent need to close the border of Krasnodon region and adjacent villages. This must be done not only in the area of the Izvarino checkpoint, where OSCE representatives are located, but in the villages of Parkhomenko, Popovka and especially in Severny [HERE on the map – The Interpreter].

We not only wrest back control over the highway through the village of Novosvetlovka and Novoannovka (before Lugansk) but reliably reinforce ourselves at that location. A simply checkpoint of the Ukrainian Army/National Guard cannot help against such large columns. This is already long since become not an ATO [anti-terror operation] but an undeclared war.

Local residents express bewilderment and sharply criticize the security leadership. For a greater understanding of the situation, we will cite the direct quotes of one of the local residents, who has been observing the flow of vehicles daily from the RF:

“There is such an impression that the military brass are interested in a prolonged battle, if for the third month they are not trying to close this source (note — Sukhodolsk, Severny, Popovka, Parkhomenko are *daily* passages for vehicles from Russia!) This is an inexhaustible flow of reinforcements for the terrorists! How to get in touch, to shout loud enough for the top brass to hear?! You can’t reach them on the telephone numbers put on their web sites — they are bugged. People write and warn them, but there is ‘zero’ reaction from the ministers and the president, likely they aren’t getting reports about such breaches [in the border], they are afraid of losing their seats, but the guys are getting killed! And then they will be surprised, from where the tanks, BTRs, Grads, Akatiays and vehicles with mortars and mercenaries will come through again?!”

We must emphasize immediately that this is far from the only report on vehicles passing through today, exactly with 50 items, in this region. Furthermore, there is information that this column is preparing to attack the ATO forces…

This information could match our own reports earlier today which showed large columns of Russian armor headed from Russia toward the Ukrainian border.

Meanwhile, Alfa News reports that Russian troops are shelling Ukraine from a brand new area, and more GRAD rockets and Ural trucks crossed the border last night (translated by The Interpreter):

a wooded location close to the village of Kozino in Kursk Region of the
Russian Federation, Russians were preparing firing positions to shell
the territories of Ukraine.

Two kilometers from the border line
with Sumsk Region, information signs with the words “Firing Line” were
noted in news dispatches.

Near the Russian village of Shramko, 25
meters from the borders, positions have been created for 8 paratrooper
military vehicles. In the area of the village of Seleznyovo, 50 meters
from the border, there are platoon com
manders of the RF Air Force
groups with armored vehicles. On the outskirts of the village of
Podol-Gora, 7 km from the border, an army camp has been set up.

Ukrainian Council for National Security and Defense (CNSD) has stated
that Russia is continuing to supply terrorists with heavy armored
vehicles and armaments. According to surveillance reports, on the
evening of 30 July 7 Grad systems and 11 Ural automobiles passed through
from the [Russian] city of Donetsk in Rostov Region to Lugansk Region.

a result of shelling of Ukrainian border guards in the area of the
village of Vasilyevka on the night of 31 July, 3 soldiers were killed,
and 11 were wounded.

Kozin is actually far
northwest of Kharkiv, not near the self-declared Donetsk or Lugansk
People’s Republics (DPR and LPR respectively), roughly here on the map.

We’re working to confirm these stories, and must stress that they are still unconfirmed, but Roman Burko is a respected journalist. Russia could be invading Ukraine with new armor at this very moment.

Separatist Ambushes Near MH17 Crash Site Destroy Ukraine Convoys And Civilian Vehicles
Yesterday we explained just why the road between Torez and Shakhtyorsk is so important to separatists
because it is the main road between the DPR and the LPR and it is the
DPR’s fastest route (and perhaps only remaining route) to Russia. Today,
separatists, reportedly using GRAD rockets and other heavy weaponry,
ambushed Ukrainian convoys in both locations. This is the damage:
…and Shakhtyorsk:
These ambushes occur on a day when Ukraine says it has begun a one-day humanitarian ceasefire, but the separatists have repeatedly broken it.
Buk In Russia Has Similar Markings as Rebel Buk, Different from Ukraine’s
Picking up on our last tweet, Eliot Higgins notices that the Buk spotted in Donetsk on July 17th, which we believe was on its way to the area where MH17 was shot down, has similar markings as the one in the new video which shows a Buk in Russia. It does not, however, match a Ukrainian Buk spotted in April.
Is this proof that the weapon in Donetsk was also part of the Russian military?
Buk Spotted In Stary Oskol, Russia, Moving Toward Ukraine’s Border
This video, shared with us by Storyful’s David Clinch, shows several vehicles on the move in Stary Oskol, Russia. One of them is clearly a Buk.

The Buk, without missiles.


A file photo of a Buk from Wikipedia:


This video was taken in the Russian city of Stary Oskol, exactly here on the map. As you can see, a Google streetview image side-by-side with a frame from the video leaves zero doubt about the location:


The vehicles are driving southwest — toward the border with Ukraine. This vehicle is approximately a three hour drive from the border.

Earlier we posted video which showed Russian tanks moving toward the border as well. But those vehicles were header toward a different border crossing. We’ve been chasing other rumors of Russian troop movement as well.

Clearly Russian troops are on the move in multiple areas near the border today.

On July 20th, three days after the downing of flight MH17, a high ranking diplomatic source provided us with several videos (which were dated July 19th), including the one below, which show vehicles which look very similar to these towing covered objects in Stary Oskol. The source told us that the United States intelligence community believes that these may also be Buks.

Russia Could Invade Ukraine And Win Right Now

“In Ukraine, the farcical becomes reality.”

monitoring his response to the crash of flight MH17, the last hopes
that Russian President Vladimir Putin would resort to a peaceful
resolution in eastern Ukraine went up in smoke. Russia is definitively
not giving up its support for the Pro-Russian separatists. And so, the
future of eastern Ukraine will be decided by force. According to The Interpreter’s Andrew Bowen who writes in today’s Foreign Policy: “The only question remaining, is how deadly the fight will be.”

While Kiev’s weaponry and forces still predominate the capacity of the “increasingly fragmented and uncoordinated separatist movement,
estimating Ukraine’s military strength at around 35,000 ground
personnel, the battle has retreated from open farmland into a more urban
locality, “where no modern army was designed to fight.”

“An urban
battle reduces the advantage of Ukraine’s superior firepower and
increases the potential for civilian casualties, making further gains
for Ukraine a bloody and horrifyingly slow endeavor,” Bowen states.

But serious sources indicate that the guerrilla forces are not the only opponents that the Ukrainian army will be up against.

“The Pentagon and NATO military commander U.S. Gen. Philip Breedlove put the estimates of Russian troops at the border at 12,000 to 15,000.
These troops, according to Bowen, are highly modernized units, the
result of the military improvements that the Kremlin has undertaken
revamping the army over the last six years.

One of the developments is the “New Look” army that has positioned itself along the eastern Ukrainian border.

biggest difference between the New Look brigades and their predecessors
is that each was created with the intent that they would be able to
operate independently, with their own artillery, armor (tank), and
anti-air capabilities. This makes them much more dangerous and
maneuverable: Instead of individual infantry or tank units, these are
nimble, deadly, all-in-one brigades.”

The result of a
confrontation with these troops will be entirely different from the
‘Little Green Men’ that Crimea encountered. But what is the purpose of
all this power display?

“Putin does not want to annex the large
and economically depressed region,” Bowen claims. “What the Kremlin
really wants in Ukraine is to foster anarchy and instability, putting
pressure on the new regime in Kiev and the West to acquiesce to Russia’s
dominance in the east and to stop what Putin and many in his circle
believe are EU and NATO incursions into Russia’s backyard.”

recent events have showed, in all probability, the worst that could
happen to Russia, is more sanctions. A measurement that hasn’t fazed the
Russian government up until this point.

Read the entire analysis here.

‘No Hard Evidence’ Russia Is Supporting Separatists?

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay,  says that there is ‘no hard evidence’ Russia is arming Ukrainian separatists. The Moscow Times reports:

The United Nations has not received any hard evidence that Russia supplied pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine with weapons, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said Thursday.

“We were unable to get hard evidence of the supply of weapons,” Pillay said in comments carried by ITAR-Tass.

At this point, however, there is enough evidence to make an argument that Pillay is simply wrong. Let’s briefly review some of the evidence:

– Russia is shelling Ukraine with GRADs, and this is a proven fact which does not rely on satellite photographs, though those photographs match exactly what we already know

– Anti-aircraft missiles confiscated by Ukraine appear to belong to the Russian military which took them from Georgia in 2008. A logbook traces another MANPADS system back to the Russian military.

– On many occasions tanks painted and outfitted differently than Ukraine’s military equipment has been documented moving away from the Russian border and into separatist territory. One occasion was on June 20th, and occurred as Ukraine was making significant military advances and as the (overt) Russian military was moving toward the border. In response to the sudden influx of armor, and the troops building on the border, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko entered into a ten-day ceasefire with the separatists.

– An advanced anti-aircraft system, the Strela-10, has been spotted many times in the DPR. The weapon does not have camouflage which matches the Ukraine military, nor, to our knowledge, are there any records of a Strela ever being captured by the separatists from the Ukrainian military.

– The separatists themselves accidentally admitted that they are coordinating with Russian military intelligence.

These are only a few bullet points (we could put many more), and do not even include any of the evidence that Russia supplied the separatists with the Buk missile system and its crew which was used to shoot down flight MH17. This also does not include the significant circumstantial evidence of links between the separatists and the Russian intelligence complex.

Video Shows Separatist Tanks – Marked With Russian Airborne Insignia

Military TV Ukraine has released a video reportedly showing Ukrainian troops on the front lines of the anti-terror operation (ATO). The troops have recently overrun an insurgent position and have captured a significant arsenal of small arms, RPGs, automatic grenade launchers, and armored vehicles. But the big prize shows up at about the 3:20 mark — a T-64, with a number painted on the side of it (095) marked with the insignia of the Russian Airborne.

Note that the armament of this tank and the numbering matches very closely the video we posted earlier today (below) which shows tanks on the move inside Russia. Those tanks are also numbered, so if any of those vehicles appear on Ukraine’s battlefields it would be further confirmation that Russia is directly supplying armored vehicles and tanks to the separatists (though at this point, due to overwhelming evidence, the only ones questioning this narrative are the Kremlin and their sympathizers).

International Experts Reach MH17 Crash Site During Humanitarian Ceasefire

As we’ve been reporting below, the Ukrainian government has instituted a one-day humanitarian ceasefire to allow aid to reach civilians and civilians to evacuate besieged areas. They say that they are not conducting any offensive missions but are defending themselves, and they say that the separatists have breached the ceasefire.

However, the ceasefire has been enough to allow international experts to reach the MH17 crash site and begin their investigation. RFE/RL reports:

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says its monitors, accompanied by Dutch and Australian experts, have reached the crash site of a Malaysian airliner in eastern Ukraine.

The pan-European security and rights body said on Twitter that “OSCE… monitors reach MH17 crash site for first time in almost [a] week, accompanied by four Dutch, Australian experts. Used new route to access.”

The team arrived at the crash site after days of fierce fighting, which had prevented them from reaching the area.

Logbook May Prove Anti-Aircraft Missile In Ukraine Belongs To Russian Military

Thomas Grove and Warren Strobel have written a very interesting article for Reuters in which they are shown direct evidence that 9K38 Igla anti-aircraft missile confiscated by the Ukrainian government was given to insurgents directly from the Russian military:

On the last day of May, a surface-to-air rocket was signed out of a military base near Moscow where it had been stored for more than 20 years.

According to the ornate Cyrillic handwriting in the weapon’s Russian Defence Ministry logbook, seen by Reuters, the portable rocket, for use with an Igla rocket launcher, was destined for a base in Rostov, some 50 km (31 miles) from the Ukrainian border. In that area, say U.S. officials, lies a camp for training Ukrainian separatist fighters.

Three weeks later the rocket and its logbook turned up in eastern Ukraine, where government troops seized them from pro-Russian separatists.

The logbook, which is more than 20 pages long, records that rocket 03181 entered service on May 21, 1993, and had regular tests as recently as 2005 to make sure it was in fighting form. The seal of the Russian Defence Ministry has been stamped over the signature sending the weapon to Rostov.

In May, Armament Research Services (ARES) investigated Polish PPZR Grom surface-to-air (MANPADS) missiles captured by Ukrainian forces and found that while some components were only manufactured in Russia the main weapon itself may have been captured by the Russian military during its invasion of Georgia in 2008.

Russian Tanks on Move Near Izvarino Border Crossing

Video was uploaded yesterday onto Instagram which shows a number of Russian tanks on low loaders on a dual carriageway.

Here is a YouTube copy of the video:

A photo was also uploaded to the same Instagram account:

The vehicles seen from behind do look to us like T-64s, given the shape of the rear of the turrets, however the still photo looks much more like a T-72 given the placement of the lamp. Usually, tanks delivered to the separatists have been T-64s, as these are also used by the Ukrainian army, thus aiding in maintaining plausible deniability (Ukraine does not use T-72s). 

As such, we are still studying these images.

We have, however, geolocated the video footage.


We have matched this location via Google Steetview:


The location is here. The tanks are heading south along the M4 motorway. This location is just north of the junction that would take them a short distance west to the Izvarino border crossing. This crossing, from Donetsk in Russia to Krasnodon in Ukraine, appears to be the route taken by most previous imports of Russian armour into Ukraine.

Rada Rejects Yatsenyuk’s Resignation

News is emerging that the Verkhovna Rada has voted against accepting the resignation of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Ukraine Announces Humanitarian Corridor and Claims Separatists Violating 1 Day Ceasefire

UNIAN reports that the press centre for the Ukrainian government’s Anti-Terrorism Operation says that separatist fighters are not observing a “day of peace” proposed by the Ukrainian side. 

The ATO press centre wrote (translated by The Interpreter):

“On July 31, troops taking part in the active phase of the ATO are carrying out no combat duties except defending their own positions against attack. However, the mercenary Russian terrorists are not adhering to any international agreements or demands.”

The press centre says that at 9 am separatist fighters fired on the village of Peremozhnoye, to the south of Lugansk Airport, with two BM-21 Grad launchers.

According to the press centre, the ‘day of peace’ had been intended to allow international observers free movement to inspect the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, as demanded by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon.

Ukrainska Pravda reports on another announcement by the ATO press centre, that of the creation of a ‘humanitarian corridor’ through which civilians can pass the front line. Civilians can take personal items but no weaponry. They must carry either a white flag (for a group) or a white band (for an individual). 

The corridor reportedly extends from the city of Lugansk along Sovetskaya street, Frunze street, Shevchenko street and then along the Lugansk-Schastye highway via Metallist. 

A fire-free zone extending either side of this corridor for 200 metres will be in effect from 10:00 until 16:00 every day, claims the ATO press centre.