Ukraine Liveblog Day 182: Russian Aid To Enter Ukraine With Kiev’s Approval

August 18, 2014
Pavlo Klimkin, Sergei Lavrov, Laurent Fabius and Frank-Walter Steinmeier speak in Berlin.

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

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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.

Armored Convoy Geolocated Headed From Russia to Lugansk

UPDATED: Earlier today we posted video which was reportedly taken in the  town of Sukhodolsk and reportedly shows Russian vehicles, towing guns which look exactly like the ones spotted on the Russian side of the border yesterday, toward the city of Lugansk. The blogger for Ukraine at War has been looking at the video as well, and has helped geolocate it. According to him, that video was taken here (map):


In the video there is a square building on the left:


To the right the poles, the houses on the other side of the street, and the open space between the trees all seem to match perfectly, as does the small change in direction of the fence on the other side of the road:


A local news website also places this video in the same area, almost exactly.

There is a small problem, however. The small building where the green arrow does not appear on either Google’s or Yandex’s satellite images:


The Ukraine At War blogger was also noticing this, but believes that the building may be newer than the satellite images. This has happened before in recent geolocation exercises as well. Still, with the rest of the geolocation and,  a local newspaper both suggesting that this is the location of the video, this is the best theory we have at the moment.

This would suggest that these trucks are Russian military hardware and crossed the border sometime last night or this morning.

UPDATE: It does seem that the new part of the building is visible in Google:

Ukraine Says Intercepted Phone Call Proves Rebels Killed Dozens of Civilians

As we’ve been reporting all day, the Ukrainian government reports that rebel artillery fire has killed dozens of civilians. Here is the latest statement fromthe Ukrainian government via Kyiv Post:

Anatoly Proshin, a spokesman for the Ukrainian government’s north operational command, blamed the Russian-backed insurgents for opening fire on the convoy of refugees with rockets from a Grad multiple launch missile system near the cities of Khriaschuvate and Novosvitlivka. He said the convoy was flying white flags as it made its way out of town.

“The terrorists committed a bloody crime at 9:40 this morning. Near Luhansk, on the road between Khryashchuvate and Novosvitlivka, the mercenaries used Grad systems and grenade-launchers imported from Russia to shoot at a column of civilians attempting to leave the combat zone,” National Security and Defense Council spokesperson Andriy Lysenko said at a briefing in Kyiv. “Many people died, including women and children. The number of casualties is currently being determined.”

But the Ukrainian Security Services (SBU) have also released a leaked audio tape which they say shows that separatists also were behind a deadly incident where civilians were killed on August 15th:

An excerpt of the translation from Schindler’s website:

Korsa: Today they made a mistake in coordinates of roughly one minute, they claim. But I gave a range in seconds (i.e. coordinates).

Vovk: The fact remains the fact. Ok, nobody knows about it. The information has been thrown out there that it was the Ukrops (derogatory term for Ukrainian forces) who hit the civilians. I can tell you that nobody is secured here. It’s been done before. This is war.

Here is the Ukrayinska Pravda  article, translated by The Interpreter:

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has intercepted a telephone conversation between fighters from the Donetsk terrorist group which proves that the shelling of the civilian population of the village of Stepnoye was committed in fact by Russian mercenaries.

Andrey Lysenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian Council for National Defense and Security (CNDS), described the intercept at a briefing Monday, August 18.

The conversation cites proof that through the Russian mass media, the terrorists have tried to place responsibility for this shelling on the ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] forces.

In the audiotape published by the SBU, according to their information, “Volk” [Wolf], deputy head of staff of the “Ministry of State Security of the DPR” is speaking with “Kors,” the navigator for the Grad system.

Correction: We initially reported that the leaked phone call described today’s incident.

Ukraine’s Injured Rebels Travel To Russia And Are Greeted By FSB Officers
Journalist Joshua Yaffa makes some very interesting observations as he witnessed buses filled with injured Ukrainian rebels reach Russia:
MChS is the Emergencies Ministry.
Russian Military Vehicles Seen On Move Just Inside Ukraine

A YouTube video, purportedly shot today in the town of Sukhodolsk, just across the border and a little to the north-west of the Izvarino crossing, shows a large column of military vehicles on the move:

The vehicles seen include Kamaz trucks (some towing artillery,) military ambulances and, at the end, a BMD-2 infantry fighting vehicle.

The vehicles appear to lack number plates:


In fact, they closely resemble ones photographed yesterday in Russia by Polish journalist Wojciech Bojanowski:

Notice that the vehicles and the gun being towed look nearly exactly the same. In the video reportedly taken today, the towed gun is covered by a tarp, but in the picture from yesterday you can clearly see that a tarp is secured to the back of the gun. This could be the same vehicle, or it could just indicate that this vehicle and gun are the same kinds, being moved and secured in the same ways, as those spotted in Russia.

He also reported today, as we noted earlier, that another military truck, without plates, crossed the border into Ukrainian territory.

The BDM-2 seen at the end looks very similar to those seen waiting near the border crossing on August 15.

Here is a screenshot from the video above:


Here is one of the BMDs on August 15, reportedly only 10 km from the Ukrainian border: 

The position and style of the numbering and military insignia appear to match, though it looks as if a very basic attempt has been made to whitewash or smear out the markings on the vehicle filmed today.

Even more interesting is the purported location of the column, Shosseynaya street in Sukhodolsk. This street runs straight to the village of Severny, right on the border with Russia. From there, one can turn south and follow a road straight across the border and into the Russian town of Donetsk.

Google maps lacks some detail in this area, so we’ll point out this route via Yandex maps:


While vehicles have been seen crossing the border at Izvarino, no-one has been watching this potential crossing. We have not yet precisely geolocated this video, but the location does resemble that seen in the video. If this is accurate, then this may well be the route by which Russian arms have been entering Ukraine while avoiding scrutiny on the well-known, and now watched, border crossing at Izvarino. 

More Russian Vehicles Cross Into Ukraine, More Tanks Headed To The Border

TVN24 (a Polish network) Foreign Correspondent Wojciech Bojanowski reports from the border crossing at Izvarino where he says more Russian armor has crossed into Ukraine. These reports start last night and continue until now:

That appears to be a 9k35 Strela-10 with its missiles locked in place, like this.


The trucks are brown because, as we’ve been reporting, Russian soldiers reported last week that they are really Russian military transports which have been painted white, and the men driving them are really Russian soldiers.
Vostok Battalion Using T-72 Tank Near Yasinovataya

The YouTube channel Sut Vremeni, a news channel for the Russian nationalist Essence of Time movement, which has close links with some separatist factions, has uploaded a video purportedly filmed yesterday in Yasinovataya

In the video, a tank, clearly a T-72, is parked with the flag of the separatist Vostok Battalion.


The T-72 is not currently in use by the Ukrainian army, though a number are held in reserve stores.

Either this vehicle was captured from raided stores, which we have not seen reported, or this came from Russia, where T-72s are still used in great numbers.

Fleeing Civilians Hit By Shells On Road Where Aid Convoy Expected To Travel

Earlier we translated statements by the Ukrainian government which announced that a convoy of civilians fleeing the fighting in eastern Ukraine was hit by rebel artillery attacks. Women and children were reportedly killed in the incident. If the separatists are planning on blaming the Ukrainian government then they are late, because as we also pointed out the separatists claim that they have no knowledge of the incident though they acknowledge that there is an artillery duel in the area.

The AP points out that the area where this attack reportedly took place is the same road that is supposed to be used to deliver Russia’s aid convoy, under the aegis of the Red Cross, into eastern Ukraine (here on a map):

That road is likely the one that a convoy of Russian humanitarian aid would take if Ukraine allows it into the country.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which is to take responsibility for the aid convoy when it enters Ukraine, has demanded security guarantees from all sides, including the rebels, for the mission. As of midday, there was no indication that the guarantees had been given.

Russia’s foreign minister earlier said he expects the extensive humanitarian aid mission for eastern Ukraine to enter the country in the near future.

Speaking at news conference in Berlin, where he met a day earlier with his counterparts from Ukraine, France and Germany, Sergey Lavrov said Monday that all questions regarding the mission had been answered and that agreement had been reached with Ukraine and the ICRC. It was not clear if Lavrov was referring to the security guarantees.

What if a ceasefire can’t be negotiated? After all, in previous ceasefires while Ukraine has halted its offensives its positions have been regularly attacked. What happens if the aid convoy comes under attack by either side or by forces unknown? Will Russia use that as an excuse to militarily intervene? So far, the amount of violence in this area is not building confidence that an aid mission in this area will go smoothly.

Russian Military Trucks Reportedly Spotted Returning From Ukraine
While the Kremlin keeps denying it, Western intelligence agencies, Russian and Western journalists, The Interpreter and Russian separatists all agree that Russia is sending armored vehicles, trucks, troops and supply trucks across the border into Ukraine to support the separatists. What’s interesting today is the claim that supply trucks, possible having already delivered their cargo to the Russian troops already in Ukraine or their separatist allies, have been spotted returning back across the border at the Izvarino checkpoint, the same place where the aid convoy is supposed to cross the border, and the same place where Russian armor was spotted last week rolling into Ukraine.

Translation: Izvarino. 7:25-7:43. 50 BTRs, 20 URAls with tarps, 10 KAMAZes with tarps, 2 GAZ66, 1 UAZ “tablet

Translation: At 20:30 convoy from the direction of Izvariono, through Vlasovka to Nikishevka back to the RF. 20 URALs with tarps and KAMAZes + 4 trucks

We have not confirmed or geolocated this picture yet, but it’s the first credible report we’ve heard.

It seems that the increased attention focused on the Izvarino crossing is exposing new Russian activity at this location with nearly every passing day. It’s hard to tell if cross-border activity is increasing or if there are simply more eyes in the area to witness it.

Ukraine Says Separatists Using Uragan MLRS

Dmytro Tymchuk of Information Resistance has written on his Facebook page that separatist fighters are now employing BM-27 Uragan multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS).

He writes (translated by The Interpreter):

The first reports of enemy use of Uragans were received by Information Resistance last week, however were unable to confirm them then. Now these reports have been fully confirmed.  

Moreover, it has emerged that the militants are using cluster munitions against our units while firing with Uragans, as demonstrated by this photo, taken near to our shelled positions last week:


The warhead above does indeed closely resemble those identified on July 11 by Armament Research Services (ARES) as 9M27K cargo rockets, fired from Uragan launchers. The weapons identified by ARES had been found in the then-occupied town of Slavyansk. It was considered at the time as being likely that the munitions had been launched by Ukrainian forces, who do possess and use the Uragan:

The use of Uragans by separatists, as Tymchuk suggests, was suggested on July 25.

Mark Galeotti, Professor of Global Affairs at New York University and an expert on Russia’s security services, wrote on his blog at the time that shipments of heavy rocket systems from Russia to the separatists, which had been warned of the day before by the US State Department, could include the BM-27 Uragan.

Tymchuk’s claim has been repeated by both the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council (SNBO), and the ATO press centre.

According to Interfax-Ukraine, Andrei Lysenko, the spokesman for the SNBO said (translated by The Interpreter):

“Last night, the positions of ATO forces near Novokaterinovka (in the Donetsk region) were fired on. The shelling came from 9P140 Uragan launchers.”

Heavy Shelling Reported Near Makeyevka As Fighting Intensifies

Video has been uploaded onto YouTube, which appears to show shelling in the Khanzhenkovo area, just to the north-east of Makeyevka. 

The video was uploaded today and, while we have not geolocated it yet, the first section does look like Khanzhenkovo to us:

Meanwhile fighting continues shortly to the west in Donetsk.

Local news site reported that separatist militants are assaulting a Ukrainian military checkpoint in the Marinka suburb.

According to the report, the separatists are attacking the checkpoint, at the entrance to the suburb, from the Trudovskaya mine area in an attempt to regain control of the Marinka district. 

Yesterday, video was uploaded to YouTube which shows a column of separatist tanks, purportedly entering Donetsk. At least three T-64 tanks and minibus are visible. Once again, this video has not been geolocated:

Ukraine Says Separatists Shelled Refugee Convoy

This morning, Anatoliy Proshin, the head of the press centre for the Northern Operational Command, told Ukrainska Pravda that separatist fightes had shelled a convoy of buses carrying evacuees in the Lugansk region.

Proshin said (translated by The Interpreter):

“At around 9:40, during the evacuation of from the settlements of Khryashchevatoye and Novosvetlovka, this convoy was struck by militants with a massive bombardment of mortars and Grad rockets.

There were a large number of fatalities as a result. People were burnt right there in the cars they were driving. They simply had no time to get out of the vehicles in which they were travelling. 

This refugee convoy had been transferred to our command, so that the people could avoid harm as there is intense fighting going on in those towns.”

Later on, Leonid Matyukhin, a press officer for the Ukrainian government’s Anti-Terrorism Operation (ATO), confirmed the report and told Interfax-Ukraine that the number of fatalities was yet to be announced.

Reuters reported on separatist reactions to the reports:

A spokesman for the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said she had no information about the case. A rebel news outlet, however, said that separatists and Ukrainian forces had exchanged heavy artillery fire where the buses had been travelling.

However ITV News now reports that Andrei Purgin, the ‘deputy prime minister’ of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, has said that separatist forces lack the capability to conduct such an attack.

His claim that does not tally with the widely documented use of such weapons by separatist fighters, who regularly fire on nearby Lugansk Airport with Grads. 

Russian Aid To Enter Ukraine With Kiev’s Approval

This morning it was announced, following talks in Berlin between the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France, that Ukraine will accept the entry of Russian aid via the Izvarino-Donetsk border crossing.

The aid will be inspected by border guards and customs officials before being transferred, in batches, to representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Interfax-Ukraine reports that the head of the Ukrainian State Fiscal Service, Anatoliy Makarenko, had commented on the news on his Facebook page:

“As agreed with the Red Cross mission, the cargo will arrive in the Izvaryne-Donetsk (Rostov region) international checkpoint in batches and will be transferred only to official representatives of the Red Cross, who will be accompanying it, and only after it passes border and customs control,” Makarenko wrote on Facebook.

“We are expecting official representatives of the Red Cross tomorrow [on Monday] for conducting relevant customs procedures [inspection, cargo identification, processing and so on],” Makarenko added.

Ukrainian Social Policy Minister Liudmyla Denisova also signed an order recognising the Russian cargo as humanitarian aid.

According to Interfax-Ukraine, Pascal Cuttat, the head of the ICRC delegation in Moscow, has sent a letter to the Ukrainian government which finally gives a detailed list of the contents of the convoy. The report says that the goods will be moved across the border by ICRC representatives.