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.
SkyNews footage of Russian armor outside of Mariupol September 3.
A story that has widely been picked up and re-tweeted today is a claim that NATO will supply precision-guided weapons to Ukraine.
In English, it comes from Finbarr Bermingham, writing in the International Business Times, which is usually treated as a credible source.
The headline says, “Nato Summit 2014: Nato to Supply Precision-Guided Weapons to Ukraine.”
But even within the story, Bermingham contradicts the headline,
explaining that NATO as an institution does not have the capacity to
supply arms, and he does not supply a direct quote or source:
Nato member states are to provide Ukraine with precision-guided weapons, both lethal and non-lethal, which will be available to the country within 36 hours.
While the details are as yet unreleased, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko confirmed that “it concerns aid in military-technical cooperation, as lethal and non-lethal weapons, including precision guided weapons”.
The weapons will be provided on a bilateral basis, with Nato keen to stress that they do not have the capacity or wherewithal to provide arms.
The organisation will, however, provide support on cyber defence, logistics, command control and communications, rehabilitation of injured soldiers and advice over defence reform. It will also provide €15m in funding to Ukraine, for the modernisation of its military, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen confirmed.
The “details” hyperlink is dead.
The sources may have come verbatim from the Russian-language press and its English-language translations.
Here’s how a notorious Kremlin disinformation site which frequently slams the opposition and plants false stories, portrayed this story (translation by The Interpreter)
“Ukraine has reached agreements about the deliveries of high-precision weapons with a number of member states of NATO,” stated President Petro Poroshenko, adding that he received about €15 for modernization of the army and reinforcement of defense.”
Let’s see how a more honest independent Russian business newspaper, RBC.ru covered the same story:
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at a joint briefing with NATO Secretary General Anders Fog Rasmussen stated that “virtually all the countries of the Alliance” had expressed readiness to provide aid to his country.
According to Poroshenko, the discussion was about aid in military-technical cooperation in lethal and non-lethal weapon, including high-precision weapons.
That makes it clear that it’s one thing what Poroshenko asks for, and what a bilateral discussion may be about, but it’s another thing to get an actual pledge.
As many will still find the statements vague — although there’s no evidence that Poroshenko made the direct quote that politonline.ru claimed he did, let’s go to the videotape.
Here’s the NATO video of the briefing:
At about 15:00, here’s a transcription of what Poroshenko said:
“There are individual countries who undertook coordination and decided to be the lead nations within those funds and all the countries made their commitments to support the funds financially. Apart from that, basically each country spoke about the results of our bilateral consultations in the way of assisting Ukraine.
This primarily is related to military-technical cooperation, both in the area of lethal and non-lethal weapons, including high-precision weapons. Individual countries undertook to help Ukraine rehabilitate the wounded servicemen; some countries undertook to supply medical equipment and medication and as you can see, the scope of the cooperation on the bilateral level with individual allies is extremely broad.”
This should make it clear, again, that it’s one thing what Poroshenko might aspire to, and what the discussion is, but the actual pledges are another thing — he lists them.
There isn’t any evidence of any pledges from any individual NATO country to give precision-guided weapons.
If there were, it would be on President Poroshenko’s official website statement about the NATO meeting. It isn’t.
If there really were such solid offers made, every major newspaper in the world would have this headline, and there would be dozens of ambassadors to confirm it — there aren’t.
The notion that some individual NATO member, particularly the US or Poland, is going to supply these weapons, is going to die hard, however, as we noted earlier. Yet there isn’t any evidence for such pledges or plans.
That won’t stop Kremlin-supported media from claiming that NATO members are supplying such weapons, or pictures like these from being published in the Russian state media and Russian-backed separatist press, claiming that the guided Tochka-U missiles (SS21s) have landed in people’s gardens.
Translation: Truthful_Truth Militiaman Aleksandr Zhuchkovsky and a fallen Tochka-U of the henchmen.
Translation: 04.09.14 Khartsyzsk. Ukrainian Nazis continue to make strikes with Tochka-U missiles on the residents of Donbass.
No independent regional or Western press have ever reported these missiles, and curiously, they never seem to have caused any damage, but always land nearly intact in fields.
Translation: Near Snezhny. Tail end and propulsion system of a 9M79M missile (Tochka U). BCh (9H123 or cassette 9H123K).
The Ukrainian Crisis Media Center reports:
1) Freeing of hostages
2) Decentralization of power
3) Special status with respect to economic freedoms of some areas in Donetsk and Luhansk regions
4) Guarantees of free use of any languages in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, respect for their cultural traditions
The last point is likely a reference to amnesty for Russian-backed fighters in southeastern Ukraine for their military actions.
There were no reports of fighting at this hour.
Regnum.ru reported at 22:05 that there was no fighting in Donetsk, Makeyevka, Shakhtyorsk or Mariupol, all scenes of fierce battles in recent days.
RIA Novosti reported that Irina Gerashchenko, presidential commissioner for settlement of the situation in Donbass, had a statement on the Ukrainian TV channel about the exchange of POWS.
“We hope that the exchange will take place in the course of a week. I think that we’re talking about hundreds of people.”
There has been some confusion about the ceasefire time; it was reported originally as “6 pm (18:00) Minsk time,” which is the same as Kiev time, but one hour behind Moscow (Kiev and Minsk are GMT+3, Moscow is GMT+4)
The original 14-point plan is as follows, although at the end of the day in Minsk, the parties spoke of a “12-point plan”.
[Note: This screenshot disappeared from Twitter on this tweet and others, so we re-post it here.]
Regnum. ru reported at 20:56 Moscow time that Igor Plotnitsky, head of the self-proclaimed “Lugansk People’s Republic” made the follow statement about the agreement in Minsk (translation by The Interpreter):
“The majority of the points of this protocol accord with our demands. But the ceasefire does not mean changing course from secession from Ukraine. That is a compulsory measure.”
He emphasized that both LPR and the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DPR) intend to break off from Ukraine.
But 14 minutes earlier at 20:42, regnum.ru had reported that Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the appointed prime minister of the self-declared “Donetsk People’s Republic” said the status of the DPR and LPR can be discussed only after the end of bloodshed.
Zakharchenko has made it clear in the past, however, that DPR and LPR seek independence from Ukraine.
Both the Russian and Estonian governments admit that an Estonia Internal Security Service (ISS) agent, responsible for counterintelligence and anti-corruption activities, is now in Russian custody. As we’ve been reporting today, Russia says the agent was detained while on Russian territory, and Estonia says he was kidnapped by gunmen and brought across the border. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Estonia’s Internal Security Service, known as KAPO, said its officer Eston Kohver was “illegally detained” at gunpoint early Friday while on duty in southeastern Estonia. It said his abductors had come from Russia and had jammed radio communications and used a smoke grenade in the incident.
“It is unacceptable that people who have crossed the Estonian border kidnap an Estonian citizen from Estonian territory,” President Toomas Hendrik Ilves tweeted on Friday. “I expect the case to be solved quickly.”
Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, said Mr. Kohver had been detained on Russian territory as part of a counter-espionage operation. The Interfax news agency quoted the FSB as saying he was carrying a Taurus pistol, 5,000 euros, hidden-recording equipment and a document “that appeared to be an espionage assignment.”
KAPO said Mr. Kohver, who was tasked with preventing cross-border criminal activity and the flow of contraband, has been decorated for unspecified services to Estonia.
The director general of KAPO, Arnold Sinisalu, told journalists in the Estonian capital that there were footprints coming from Russia and going back to Russia at the crime scene. He said there had been no similar incidents since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Jammed communications? Smoke bombs? Estonia is a NATO member, and under Article 5 of the NATO charter, an attack on any NATO country is like an attack on all NATO countries. Since a cross-border incident like this is so rare, one has to assume that this is directly related to the crisis in Ukraine and the meeting of NATO members, including US President Barack Obama, in Estonia this week.
But how will NATO react? After all, while the goal of the NATO conference is to send a message that NATO is strong, the reality is that NATO has been working for decades to weaken its military positioning in eastern Europe. The BBC, for instance, publishes this picture to show how weak NATO in eastern Europe has become:
RFE/RL has published an interactive website which documents the weakening military strength of NATO countries:
Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, NATO has expanded eastward, integrating former Soviet satellites and republics. At the same time, the military capacity of both longtime and new member states has significantly diminished over the past 25 years.
If the purpose of the NATO summit was to send a message that the NATO alliance is strong, Putin did not wait to test the hypothesis. And NATO’s response could send a powerful message that Russian aggression will not be tolerated. But Russia has once again placed the rest of the world in a Catch-22 — if the world stands up to Putin, it will escalate the crisis, but if the world does not then Putin will push harder and escalate the crisis on his own.
Ukrainian and Russian-backed fighters declared a ceasefire as of 18:00 Kiev time, 19:00 Moscow time (15:00 GMT).
It’s not been easy to tell if it is holding both because some reports of earlier shelling were delayed, and not everyone got the memo.
There were still reports of gunfire in Donetsk hours after the ceasefire.
Translation: Donetsk, firing heard in the Kiev district, who is shooting is not known. There was a flash rocket before that.
OSCE published yesterday’s report of September 4 today:
The security situation in Donetsk remained volatile. Intense shelling in Donetsk city continued. In Mariupol local inhabitants fear possible attacks by irregular armed groups. Reportedly, the “Aidar” battalion occupied the main power plant in Shchastya.
In Kharkiv the situation remained calm.
In Donetsk city, in the early hours of the day, the SMM heard explosions and shooting for about half an hour coming from the north and west of the city centre. Reportedly, the water supply for the whole city appeared to be experiencing difficulties, since the filtration plant had been without electricity from the evening of 3 September due to ongoing fighting. No precise information was available on when repair work would start.
The SMM visited the Donetsk central railway station and saw workers starting repair work on the shelled roof.
Due to several rounds of outgoing mortar shelling coming from the direction of the airport, the SMM observed the inaccessible airport from a distance of 1 kilometre.
The SMM Chief Monitor met with the mayor of Donetsk, Oleksandr Lukyanchenko, in Kyiv who confirmed that considerable parts of the city had been heavily damaged. He said that enormous funds would be needed to restore the destroyed infrastructure. According to the mayor, the city is facing serious problems with water supply and electricity. The mayor was concerned about the forthcoming winter and the fact that authorities would not be able to provide central heating. He said that 35 schools had been destroyed during the conflict and subsequently 75,000 students could not go to school in Donetsk. The mayor suggested that the OSCE should initiate the formation of a commission comprised of Ukrainian, Russian and European parliamentarians in order to visit Donbas and assess the damage caused by irregular armed groups.
In Mariupol residents expressed fear because of possible attacks by irregular armed groups. Heavy fighting was reported in the area of Shyrokyne (24 km east of Mariupol city) and Bezimenne (34 km east of Mariupol). The SMM visited Shyrokyne and monitored the situation (see Spot Report of 4 September).
The SMM went to the Mariupol bus station and observed a bus departing to Novoazovsk. The bus station duty officer said that bus traffic was running according to the regular schedule.
The SMM met with the acting head of Mariupol railway station who said that due to the large number of students, train traffic to Kharkiv had been reintroduced. Since 30 August trains have been departing on a daily basis from Mariupol to Kharkiv. After taking into consideration customer demands, the railway management may modify the schedule on 6 September.
The SMM observed that the volunteer “Aidar” battalion had occupied the main power plant in Shchastya (24 km north of Luhansk city), currently the only one providing electricity to the entire region. The SMM was prevented from accessing the location and could see physical barriers and sandbags placed around it. No police forces were present. A Ukrainian military official confirmed the occupation by the “Aidar” battalion, but indicated that the move was intended to ensure that the plant was not taken by anyone else.
The SMM visited Pobeda (70 km northeast of Luhansk city) and spoke to the mayor who said that at least ten rockets had struck the village. The SMM saw several unexploded rockets as well as shell holes.
In Dnipropetrovsk, Odessa, Kherson, Chernivtsi and Ivano-Frankivsk the situation remained calm.
The SMM was informed by the director of the Russian cultural centre in Lutsk (150 km north of Lviv city) that her private vehicle was defaced. The SMM was shown pictures of the damaged car with front and rear windows on the driver’s side smashed. Yellow and blue paint were visible on the car. The interlocutor claimed that this was a planned action against the life and health of herself and her family. In a meeting with the police in Lutsk, the SMM was told that the police were aware of the incident and patrols in the area would increase.
In Kyiv the SMM monitored several protests. One protest, by approximately 150 people, was held in front of the regional administration court against ongoing legal proceedings initiated to ban the Communist Party. No incidents were reported.
Another demonstration, held in front of the presidency building in Kyiv, gathered about 400-500 people, supporting Ukrainian soldiers serving in the security operation in Donbas. Dissatisfaction about the conditions Ukrainian soldiers were serving in the conflict zone, was expressed. Namely, the lack of heavy weaponry was criticized. The SMM could see “Right Sector”, “Maidan Self-defence” as well as flags of other political parties. More than 20 uniformed police officers were guarding the entrance gate to the presidency building. After two hours the crowd dispersed. No incidents were reported.
At the Ministry of Defence in Kyiv, the SMM observed about 15 women mainly from Lviv who demanded information about their relatives sent with the Ukrainian army to Donbas. Some claimed their relatives had been detained in Luhansk as prisoners of war by irregular groups. The SMM saw that a representative of the Ministry of Defence spoke to the protestors and provided them with a contact number within the Security Service (SBU) in order to seek information about the whereabouts of their relatives.
A demonstration in front of the Parliament in Kyiv gathered approximately 600 people. The SMM could see “Volya” and “Svoboda” party flags. The demonstrators focused on the lustration process and expressed support for Ukrainian soldiers in Donbas. About 150 security personnel, including the volunteer battalion “Kyiv” and National Guard in fragmentation vests and helmets, were securing the demonstration. No incidents were reported and the crowd dispersed after two hours.
Nataliya Vasilyeva, the Moscow correspondent for the Associated Press, has been reporting from the Minsk summit as negotiators concluded this week’s talks:
The Russian state-owned news agency ITAR-TASS reports (translated by The Interpreter):
An employee of the Estonian Security Police has been detained in the Pskov region while conducting an undercover operation, says the Public Relations Centre of the Russian FSB to ITAR-TASS.
“An employee of the Tartu branch of the Security Police department of the Estonian Interior Ministry, Eston Kohver, has been detained in the territory of the Russian Federation. From the intruder were seized a Taurus pistol with ammunition, cash amounting to 5,000 euros, special equipment for making secret recordings as well as other materials characteristic of intelligence operations,” said the FSB PR centre.
While outside of Ukraine, this news may well indicate a dramatic escalation in the Kremlin’s belligerence towards the West, even as ceasefire reports are welcomed by NATO leaders meeting in Wales today.
Business Insider reports:
The officer was part of the Internal Security Service (ISS), the national agency in Estonia for counterintelligence and corruption investigations. The officer was leaving a security checkpoint after investigating an incident on the Estonian side of the Luhamaa border checkpoint with Russia when he was taken on the morning of September 5th.
According to ERR Estonian Public Broadcasting, communications on the Estonian side of the border were jammed and smoke grenades were used during the abduction.
Arnold Sinisalu, director general of the ISS, said there were signs of a violent struggle.
Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet has released a statement saying that “this is a very galling incident. We expect full assistance and cooperation from Russia in resolving the incident and bringing the Estonian citizen back to Estonia.”
Estonia has summoned Russia’s ambassador to the country, Yuri Merzlyakov, to explain the incident.
Only two days ago, US President Barack Obama visited Estonia and spoke on the crisis in Ukraine and reaffirmed NATO’s commitment to the defence of its eastern members.
Although the ceasefire, announced earlier today in Minsk, went into effect a few minutes ago at 15:00 GMT, there are already reports of explosions in the north of Donetsk:
Two BBC journalists have just tweeted that they have received emails, apparently from separatist sources, inviting them to attend a press conference on Tuesday next week, the subject of which is Ukrainian violations of the ceasefire, which has only just (at 15:00 GMT) come into effect.
We are awaiting more information on these emails.
If genuine, it would appear that the Russian-backed separatists have erroneously revealed plans to disregard the ceasefire before having ensured a provocation of some kind.
We are, however, highly sceptical of the provenance of these emails. It is perfectly plausible that this is a hoax of some kind.
The BBC reports that the British prime minister, David Cameron, has announced that new sanctions against Russia will still be implemented, despite the announcement of a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron tells journalists that the Nato summit has delivered a clear message that Russian actions in Ukraine are “indefensible and wrong”.
He says new sanctions against Russia and plans to support Ukraine are being prepared.
Mr Cameron says the ceasefire in Ukraine is “good news”. But he says he will have to look carefully to check it is backed up by a proper peace plan.
The UK prime minister adds that sanctions against Russia will go ahead.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has made an official statement on the ceasefire agreement between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists today.
An English translation has been released by his office:
My international negotiations in Brussels and Minsk demonstrated a powerful request for peaceful political-diplomatic settlement of the conflict in the Donbas. The same mood dominated during my meetings with global leaders at the NATO Summit in Wales.
The entire world strives for peace, the entire Ukraine strives for peace, including millions of Donbas residents.
The highest value is human life. We must do everything possible and impossible to terminate bloodshed and put an end to people’s suffering.
Taking into account the call for ceasefire of President of Russia Vladimir Putin addressed to the heads of illegal armed groups of the Donbas and the signature of the protocol at the meeting of Trilateral contact group on the implementation of the Peace plan of the President of Ukraine, I order the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine to cease fire starting from 18:00, September 5.
I also instruct the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine to ensure jointly with the OSCE an efficient international control over the compliance with the ceasefire regime which must be exclusively bilateral.
I hope that these agreements, including ceasefire and liberation of hostages, will be strictly observed.
The NATO Secretary General Andres-Fogh Rasmussen has welcomed the announcement of the ceasefire with caution.
The ceasefire is due to come into effect within the next few minutes at 17:00 local time (15:00 GMT).
Reports from Mariupol suggest that shelling has, for the time being, ceased:
The ceasefire is due to come into effect at 17:00 Kiev time (15:00 GMT).
Interfax-Ukraine reported that a source close to the negotiations had told them that:
“The protocol consists of 14 clauses which include all the aspects of monitoring, the exchange of prisoners and other issues.”
Meanwhile, shelling continues near the port city of Mariupol, where Russian and Russian-backed forces are threatening to attack from the east, having captured the town of Novoazovsk.
Censor.NET reports that the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council (SNBO) has announced that Russian military equipment is being moved to the port of Kerch in Russian-occupied Crimea.
The SNBO believes that this equipment will be subsequently headed for the Ukrainian border with the Rostov region of Russia.
As evidence the SNBO linked to this dashcam footage showing 5 artillery pieces and 10 military trucks on a road in Crimea:
Following a lull, the shelling that awoke Mariupol residents this morning has resumed:
Ukrainian reinforcements have arrived in the town with fresh arrivals of armoured vehicles and reports that the Ukrainian Air Force has finally entered the fight for the town.
Semyon Semyonchenko, the commander of the Donbass volunteer battalion, wrote on his Facebook page that he was headed to Mariupol along with his fighters to assist the Azov battalion.
He also reported that the Donbass battalion, now numbering 700 fighters, had been accorded the status of a battalion task force:
We’re rapidly filling up with recruits. We’re starting training. Waiting to receive new heavy equipment: tanks and BTRs. There will be a special forces company to combat diversionary groups.
Notably, Tetyana Chornovol, the anti-corruption activist who was driven off the road and brutally beaten by suspected government thugs in December last year, is among the Azov battalion volunteers defending Mariupol:
Chornovol’s husband, Mykola, was also an Azov battalion volunteer. He was killed in combat near Ilovaisk on August 8.
On August 19, Chornovol resigned from her post at the head of the new government’s anti-corruption body citing frustration with lack of progress in dealing with the endemic corruption and theft in Ukraine’s power structures, and the failure to pursue former Yanukovych officials who stole money from the state.
NATO leaders displayed solidarity to President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine at the NATO summit in Wales yesterday, September 4.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that Allies have established “a comprehensive and tailored package of measures”
to help Ukraine.
NATO said it will allocate about 15 million euros to help in four
areas: rehabilitation for injured troops, cyber defense, logistics, and
command and control and communications.
It also condemned Russian actions:
Thursday’s NATO-Ukraine Commission strongly condemned Russia’s violations of international law. “Russia
must stop its aggressive actions against Ukraine, withdraw its
thousands of troops from Ukraine and the border regions, and stop
supporting the separatists in Ukraine,” said the Secretary General.
He also called on Russia to reverse its illegal and illegitimate
self-declared “annexation” of Crimea, which Allies do not recognise. Mr.
Fogh Rasmussen added that an independent, sovereign and stable Ukraine,
firmly committed to democracy and the rule of law “is key to Euro-Atlantic security.”
Despite widespread paranoia and lurid conspiracy theories by pro-Kremlin Russians and Russian-backed separatists claiming that NATO is providing military assistance to Ukraine, either as an institution or through individual members, there isn’t any evidence of this at all.
For example, a widely-discussed deal dubbed “the helicopter swap triangle” involving Ukraine, Croatia and the US, repeatedly reported in Russian and separatist media, has not taken place yet — and it’s not clear when or if it will:
Croatia’s 14 upgraded Mi-8 MTV-1 helicopters would be given to the
Ukraine, in exchange for 20 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from US Army
stocks. Those helicopters would likely be UH-60Ls, rather than the
newest UH-60Ms. If the deal goes through, the UH-60 Black Hawks would
serve beside a smaller force of 10 new Mi-17-1Sh helicopters that
entered Croatian service in 2008, and 8 Bell 206B-3 Jet Ranger
helicopters used for training and light utility duties.
Another story often circulated in Russian media is that supposedly Hungary is supplying arms to Ukraine.
Press coverage of this issue indicates, again, that Hungary has only contemplated selling tanks to Ukraine — but has not done so. RIA Novosti and other state media routinely accuse Hungary and other NATO members of selling arms to Ukraine, but they have never produced evidence of this.
Conspiracy blogs continue to claim that Ukraine supposedly purchased T-72s from Hungary in order to frame Russia as supplying the separatists, although Hungary does not produce the modern version seen in Ukraine.
And at this point there is so much ample evidence of the latest Russian T-72s coming directly across the border from Russia into Ukraine– as in this video which we have geolocated — that these conspiracy theories just don’t hold up.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) has examined the video and confirmed that these are tanks from Russia — blowing a hole in Russia’s denial of military presence in Ukraine.
The IISS analyzed the footage and concluded that one of the tanks visible here is a T-72BM, a modern variant that has never been exported outside Russia and is in service with Russia’s armed forces.
President Barack Obama and other Western leaders met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko yesterday September 4 in Wales in a show of support for Ukraine, whose territory of Crimea was occupied by Russian forces in March and whose southeastern regions have been invaded in recent months by Russian tanks and troops.
The leaders met both in a group meeting and one-on-one.
Obama earlier invited Poroshenko to visit the White House September 18.
Last night September 4, Grad fire continued to be reported on the eastern outskirts of the city of Mariupol.
There were also reports of shelling on the road to the southeast.
The Grad fire then continued this morning, September 5, to the east.
A group called “We Are Patriots” had this report (translation by The Interpreter)
In Shirokino, near Mariupol there is a a battle with artillery and armor. Explosions can be heard to the east of Marik [Mariuopol]. Grads are being used. A whole armada of tanks — from 2-5 — left Bezymyonnoye. People are already saying 100 on the web. Our guys are reading to repel an attack, everything is in place, the Grads away their hour. This photo is of Berdyanskoye outside Mariupol.
Ukrainian armor was reported on the streets of Mariupol again this morning, ridus.ru reported.
Yesterday, SkyNews published footage taken September 3 of a Russian convoy with white circles painted on the vehicles near Mariuopol.
There was also an unconfirmed report by Komsomolskaya Pravda of 6-7 Ukrainian soldiers killed and buried.