Ukraine Liveblog Day 207: EU Sanctions Come Into Effect

September 12, 2014
Russian T-72 tanks with separatist markings near Novoazovsk on September 11, 2014, six days after Minsk ceasefire is signed. Screenshot from YouTube video.

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.

Explosions Rock Donetsk Tonight After A Day Of Rocket Fire

Grad rockets and shelling have been reported in Donetsk all day today. From what we can tell, both incoming and outgoing fire could be heard, though it’s not clear which came first.

Tonight there are reports of more explosions:

Explosion Reported In Kharkiv
A large explosion is reported in Kharkiv:
Journalist Ollie Carroll is trying to sort the latest:
New Russian ‘Aid Convoy’ Headed Toward Ukraine
Yet another Russian ‘aid convoy’ is headed to the Ukraine border, and
this one appears to even be avoiding the air of international

Translation: Second humanitarian convoy should leave for Lugansk by September 13th.

Remember the last ‘aid convoy’ which entered Ukraine? It entered the country on August 22nd. Many things have changed since then:
Ukraine, Syria, ISIS, And Russia’s Foreign Policy

The Interpreter’s managing editor James Miller spoke to Tony Serve on Australia’s News Talk 6PR 882 Radio. The conversation starts about the latest news from Ukraine — the breaks in the ceasefire, new Russian humanitarian corridors, the new US and European sanctions against Russia, the reform efforts under way in Kiev, and the prospects for a permanent peace.

But the conversation then turns into nearly a 24 minute conversation about Russia’s role in foreign policy in other places. Russia’s is also involved in Syria, and just like in Ukraine it has not used its substantial influence to attempt to find a solution to the crisis, but rather has relentlessly pursued its interests by arming Assad and fueling the violence.

Readers can hear the entire 24 minute interview on Tony Serve’s blog, here.

EU, Ukraine and Russia Reach Compromise on Association Agreement
Ukraine has reached a compromise with the EU which will enable Ukraine to combine a free trade zone with the EU and a free trade zone within the Commonwealth of Independent States, the association of post-Soviet countries, UNIAN reports.

Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin told journalists in Brussels after the trilateral consultations involving the EU, Ukraine and Russia on implementing the EU Association Agreement that the EU would continue to keep in effect its autonomous preferences and leave the market open for Ukrainian goods until 2015. (Translation by The Interpreter).

“I want to say that the EU expressed readiness, and is now working on an important decision to extend until 2015 the autonomous preferences, such that access to the EU market for Ukrainian goods will remain open for the near future. After that, we found a resolution for how in the future we can work within the framework of the free trade zone in the CIS and thus combine these two positions.”

Klimkin said the agreement on the free trade zone would be ratified without any amendments.

“Thus, the Russian side has no grounds for applying restrictive measures to Ukrainian exports with regard to the application of the agreement. We will continue the trilateral cooperation on trade issues.”

The ratification of the agreement is expected to take place in both the Verkhovna Rada and the European Parliament on 16 September.

At first, Russia demanded the incorporation of some amendments into the agreements, because of the perceived risk to Russian economic interests, and that Kiev and Brussels should take out more than 20% of their goods from the free-trade zone, said UNIAN.

But on September 11, according to news reports, Russia dropped its demands for amendments, although it did propose that Ukraine change its implementation procedures.

Meanwhile, the Russia state media is reporting these events with a different emphasis today. A headline from RIA Novosti says “Temporary Application of EU Association Agreement Postponed until 2015,” and then quotes EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht:

“We have reached an agreement between Minister Klimkin, Minister Ulyukayev and myself. We have postponed the temporary application of the association agreement until 31 December of next year.”

RIA Novosti said that the EU-Ukrainian free trade zone was supposed to ensure the gradual integration of Ukraine into the EU’s economy.

Further Fighting Near Donetsk Airport

There are numerous reports on Twitter of continued shelling and gunfire near the government-held airport in Donetsk.

Something is burning in the direction of the airport. Donetsk 19:33 12/09/14

Donetsk. Visually observed a Grad volley from the Yasinovata post in the Yakovlevka district towards the airport.

Donetsk. From the airport towards the railway stretches an enormous cloud of smoke.

Donetsk. Pounding in the airport area and smoke from the direction of the railway, people are going to the basements.
Ukrainian Border Service Reports Russian Forces Rotating And Consolidating Position

The State Border Service of Ukraine has published their report on activities in the border zone between Ukraine and Russia over the last 24 hours.

Notably, they claim that Russian forces appear to be rotating positions with their separatist proxies and are continuing to reinforce and train them.

The Interpreter translates:

There have been no armed confrontations between State Border Service detachments and terrorists or Russian mercenaries over the last day.

At 8:00 on September 11, a car exploded at a checkpoint on the south-western outskirts of Stanitsa Luganska, killing the female driver. One border guard also received wounds.

Within the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, the concentration and re-grouping of terrorists and Russian armed forces continues. They are being supplied with weapons, heavy armoured vehicles, artillery, ammunition and fuel. They are also carrying out active reconnaissance activities.

A special purpose vehicle, that carries out electronic jamming and listens to mobile phone users is constantly roaming around the Novoazovsk area.

We have recorded the withdrawal of Russian military forces from Shirokino towards Novoazovsk. At the same time, the number of militants from the so-called DNR has increased in areas and checkpoints captured earlier by Russian troops.

Officers from the GRU of the Russian armed forces are providing training for terrorist scouts at a special camp near Markino (Ukraine). According to operational information, Russian military instructors from the Russian armed forces are training crews for tanks, which have been handed over to the terrorists, at a tank range near Vodino in the Rostov region of Russia.

In the Rostov region, facing the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, Russian military units are continuing engineering activities on firing positions and command posts. In addition, military tent cities are being deployed and they are searching for buildings in border towns to house personnel.

The Russian humanitarian convoy, which is purportedly intended for the residents of south-eastern Ukraine, is sitting motionless near Kamensk-Shakhtinsky (in the Rostov region), not far from the Ukrainian border.

Guardian Finds Definitive Evidence Of Russian ‘Peacekeeping Forces’ Inside Ukraine

The Guardian posts new evidence that Russian armored vehicles, marked with “peacekeeping” emblems, have indeed been spotted deep inside Ukraine:

The armoured personnel carrier was well inside Ukraine, in Lutuhyne, a town near Luhansk, where a Ukrainian military convoy was destroyed by artillery and Grad missiles last week.

Amid the remains of the destroyed Ukrainian column, three soldiers stood by an intact armoured personnel carrier on Tuesday afternoon. The men, who refused to be photographed, said they were from Russia and were not regular soldiers, saying they were paid mercenaries. They did not say who was paying them.

Their vehicle was marked in three places with a blue circle and the yellow Cyrillic letters MC – the Russian abbreviation for “peacekeeping forces”. Many of these have been seen moving on the other side of the border in recent weeks, and the vehicle’s presence was yet more evidence of what Moscow has continually denied – that its soldiers are active in east Ukraine.

This picture, taken by The Guardian’s Maria Turchenkova, reportedly shows “a pro-Russia soldier seen near an APC with the mark of peacekeeping troops in Lutuhyne, near Luhansk.”


The Interpreter spent weeks tracking Russian vehicles marked with the same peacekeeping emblem on the Russian side of the border, but this is, to our knowledge, the first confirmed evidence that these specific vehicles have crossed into Ukraine.

New US Sanctions Against Russia Hit Defense Industry — And Offshore Drilling

The United States Treasury has released a statement explaining the new sanctions against Russia’s financial, energy, and defense sectors:

Due to continued Russian efforts to destabilize eastern Ukraine, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew today determined that persons operating within Russia’s defense and related materiel sector may now be subject to targeted sanctions under Executive Order 13662.  In addition, the U.S. Department of the Treasury today extended targeted financial sanctions to Russia’s largest bank, deepened existing sanctions on Russian financial institutions, expanded sanctions in Russia’s energy sector, and increased the number of sanctioned Russian entities in the energy and defense sectors.   

The sanctions also limit U.S. persons who are seeking to do business with the affected industries and companies. Besides restrictions on Russia’s defense industry, one key restriction is on the oil and gas industries:

Treasury has also imposed sanctions that prohibit the exportation of goods, services (not including financial services), or technology in support of exploration or production for Russian deepwater, Arctic offshore, or shale projects that have the potential to produce oil, to five Russian energy companies – Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil, Surgutneftegas, and Rosneft – involved in these types of projects.  This measure complements restrictions administered by the Commerce Department and is similar to new EU measures published today.  U.S. persons have until September 26, 2014 to wind down applicable transactions with these entities pursuant to a general license that Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control issued today. 

• Treasury has also imposed sanctions that prohibit transactions in, provision of financing for, or other dealings in new debt of greater than 90 days maturity issued by two additional Russian energy companies – Gazprom Neft and Transneft.  

Then, an explanation:

“Today’s actions demonstrate our determination to increase the costs on Russia as long as it continues to violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen.  “The United States, in close cooperation with the European Union, will impose ever-increasing sanctions that further Russia’s isolation from the global financial system unless Russia abandons its current path and genuinely works toward a negotiated diplomatic resolution to the crisis.” 

Despite the severity of these actions, Treasury maintains significant scope to expand these sanctions, and impose additional sanctions, against individuals and entities under the authorities of Executive Orders (E.O.) 13660, 13661 and 13662 should the Russian Government not take steps to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine.

Read the entire press release here.

USA Adds Gazprom, Lukoil, Sberbank And More To Sanctions List

Following the enforcement earlier today of expanded EU sanctions, the USA has followed suit with a widely expanded range of sectoral sanctions.

Most notable of the additions is Gazprom. The EU added the oil division of the company, Gazprom Neft to their sanctions list earlier today, but refrained from including the strategically vital main gas business, due to the dependency of many eastern European states upon Russian gas.

The USA has previously included Gazprombank, the company’s financial wing on sanctions, but this is the first sanction applied by any state to the main company itself, one of Russia’s most important entities, both financially and politically, given its incredible weight in foreign relations.

The full announcement and detailed list of additions is available to read here on the Treasury website

In addition to Gazprom, the following companies and banks were added:

AK Transneft


Gazprom Neft 




Further financial controls were also imposed on several previously sanctioned companies, including Rosneft, VTB bank and Vnesheconombank.

Several Russian defence and manufacturing companies were also added to the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s ‘Specially Designated Nationals List.’ 

Shelling In Donetsk

While attention centres on diplomatic efforts and political reform, shelling has continued in separatist-held Donetsk today, despite the ceasefire.

The BBC’s Paul Adams reports mortar bombardment and gunfire in the west of the city:

Donetsk news site published photos of the aftermath of shelling today in the Kievsky district in the north of the city, to the south-east of the government-held airport.


Several residential buildings were severely damaged by artillery shells:




Fortunately, reports, there were no casualties.

Dmytro Tymchuk of Information Resistance wrote on his Facebook page that he had received reports that Donetsk Airport was attacked 4 times last night, once with Grads, once with mortars and twice with heavy artillery.

He also reported that there had been attacks on Ukrainian positions near Peski, immediately to the west of the airport and Artyoma, further to the north of the city. 

Meanwhile UNN reports that Andrei Lysenko, the spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council, has told reporters that separatist fighters in the Donetsk area had, during the ceasefire, accidentally shelled their allies.

Lysenko said (translated by The Interpreter):


“In the last 24 hours, a failed bombardment was recorded, which fell on a housing estate where part of the Vostok battalion was stationed. Several dozen people were killed. We have this information, but we cannot yet give the exact number.”


Of course, if what Lysenko says is true, then the possibility remains that this might not have been an accident but an incident of infighting between separatist groups. The Vostok battalion has had public confrontations before with the leadership of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.   



Poroshenko – Special Status For Donbass Is Decentralisation, Not A Threat To Sovereignty

The press office of the Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, has published a report of the president’s comments today at the start of the Yalta European Strategy (YES) meeting in Kiev.

Poroshenko stresses that the legislation he plans to introduce on the special status for the Donetsk and Lugansk regions will not compromise Ukraine’s sovereignty or territorial integrity. Instead, he insists that the move is part of a wider decentralisation of the Ukrainian state. Over-centralisation has been a acute problem in former Soviet states, so the aim is laudable. However the details of the plan, and the feasibility of its implementation in regions still occupied by Russian-backed separatist fighters, have yet to be seen.

The report says:

“I’d like to assure everyone who is worried about the content and essence of the law on special status of several districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions that there is no danger for territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine,” the Head of State said in the course of the discussion at the 11th annual Yalta meeting.

According to him, local communities will receive the authority in the issues of their own regions. They will decide what language to use, what cultural holidays to celebrate, how to spend money from the local budget for the bigger share of funds will remain in it. “To create a reasonable model of decentralization of power, Ukrainian experts studied the experience of other countries, particularly Poland,” Petro Poroshenko noted.

At the same time, the President emphasized, nationwide issues will be resolved at the highest level. “The main issues of the state – international policy, security, strategic items and vectors of development – will be in the hands of central government,” he said.

“Early local elections are necessary to build dialogue with local communities of Luhansk and Donetsk regions. It is the only way to resolve the crisis. We need people with whom we can talk and they must represent Donetsk and Luhansk residents. I am confident that the government must be formed not with a machine gun, but with a voting ballot,” the President stressed.

The president said that Ukraine cannot be reunited by military means alone:

“We must understand that there is no military solution to the given crisis. We must keep Ukraine united. For this end, we must carry out decentralization.”

This echoes comments he made in response to a question from Vice‘s Simon Ostrovsky in Mariupol on September 8, when Poroshenko said that:

“We should be responsible and understand that it is impossible just to win the conflict by only military means. The more we increase the pressure, the more Russian troops there are on our territory.” 

Poroshenko’s comments in Mariupol, and those of the governor of Donetsk, Serhei Taruta, can be seen in the video below.

Opening the YES meeting today, speaking alongside Presidents Poroshenko and Ilves of Estonia, the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, reiterated this point:

First, there is no military solution to the crisis. All sides are well advised to restrain themselves and abstain from warmongering and inflammatory rhetoric. History teaches us that too often conjured-up spirits can easily run out of control. In the words of Martin Luther King, “the old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind”. Thus, all parties and the international community must do everything in their power to prevent the situation from spiraling completely out of control. There is only one solution and that is a political solution in full respect of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Second, like it or not, there will be no political solution without Russia. We have no choice but to keep on talking to Russia while making it very clear that there will be no return to “business as usual” with Moscow before a sustainable solution to the crisis is found. The trilateral talk on trade and gas is one important channel of communication; also to ensure that we have no bad surprises this winter.

The sanctions the EU agreed on the eighth of September and coming into force today give a clear signal: We Europeans are united on this and we are serious about this.

We are so serious about this that we are even willing to accept the negative consequences of sanctions for our own economy. I am convinced that it was a wise decision by our foreign ministers to decide on sanctions but to put them on hold until today to allow the ceasefire agreed in Minsk last Friday to be implemented.

We welcome the ceasefire hoping that it will create the space for a political settlement. And I can only commend you, President Poroshenko, for your resolve to do everything to end this conflict.

Let’s hope that all parties are fully sincere and that words do translate into actions. For the moment, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic: It has been widely reported that Russia started withdrawing its troops from Eastern Ukraine. A large number of captured Ukrainian servicemen have been freed. It would be an encouraging sign if Russia would now use its influence on the rebels to force them to lay down their weapons. Even more so, because these rebels continue to shell Ukrainian troops and residential areas.

As a powerful player and Security Council member Russia has a key role and responsibility in de-escalating this crisis and ensuring that international law is again respected.

Third, the European Union is in to support Ukraine for the long-run. I have made Kyiv my first destination and my first official visit in my second mandate as President of the European Parliament, to show our solidarity with the Ukrainian people. The European Parliament stands by your side in this difficult time. As we have done in the past.

EU Sanctions Come Into Effect

New EU sanctions against Russia, announced on September 8, have come into effect today.

The additions to the sanctions lists were published in the official journal of the European Union this morning.

Chief among the extensive new measures is a ban on the export of services and deep-water drilling equipment to Russia’s oil industry.

The document notes that:

It shall be prohibited to provide, directly or indirectly, the following associated services necessary for deep water oil exploration and production, arctic oil exploration and production, or shale oil projects in Russia: 

(i) drilling, (ii) well testing, (iii) logging and completion services, (iv) supply of specialised floating vessels.  

Access to European financial markets will be restricted for three key Russian oil companies: Rosneft, Transneft and the oil division of Gazprom, Gazprom Neft. The strategically vital gas operations of that company are, however, not targeted in this round of sanctions.

Russia’s state owned banks will also be barred from obtaining loans with a maturity over one month.

The BBC reports that:

The EU has also added another 24 names to a list of Russian officials and rebel leaders in Ukraine who are subject to visa bans and asset freezes.

Most of the new names are pro-Russian separatist leaders in Donetsk region and prominent Russian MPs.

Among the most influential are: Sergei Chemezov, an ex-KGB associate of President Vladimir Putin who now runs a big arms firm, Rostec; nationalist leader and MP Vladimir Zhirinovsky; 76th Airborne Division Gen Alexei Naumets; Donetsk separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko; Luhansk separatist leader Gennady Tsypkalov.

‘Dual use’ exports are also restricted, with some exemptions for the space and aeronautics industries:

1. The direct or indirect sale, supply, transfer or export of dual use goods and technology as included in Annex I to Regulation (EC) No 428/2009 to any person, entity or body in Russia as listed in Annex IV to this Decision by nationals of Member States or from the territories of Member States or using their flag vessels or aircraft, shall be prohibited whether originating or not in their territories. 

2. It shall be prohibited: 

(a) to provide technical assistance, brokering services or other services related to goods and technology set out in paragraph 1 and to the provision, manufacture, maintenance and use of these goods and technology, directly or indirectly to any person, entity or body in Russia, as listed in Annex IV; 

(b) to provide financing or financial assistance related to goods and technology referred to in paragraph 1, including in particular grants, loans and export credit insurance, for any sale, supply, transfer or export of these goods and technology, or for the provision of related technical assistance, brokering services or other services, directly or indirectly to any person, entity or body in Russia, as listed in Annex IV. 

3. The prohibitions in paragraphs 1 and 2 shall be without prejudice to the execution of contracts or agreements concluded before 12 September 2014 and to the provision of assistance necessary to the maintenance and safety of existing capabilities within the EU. 

4. The prohibitions in paragraphs 1 and 2 shall not apply to exports, sale, supplies or transfers of dual-use goods and technology for the aeronautics and for the space industry, or the related provision of technical or financial assistance, for non-military use and for a non-military end user, as well as for maintenance and safety of existing civil nuclear capabilities within the EU, for non-military use and for a non-military end user.’. 

The BBC notes that US President Barack Obama has announced that

his country would join the EU in imposing tougher sanctions on Russia, targeting the defence, finance and energy sectors. He said he would provide details on Friday.

The full EU document, which goes into considerable detail with regards to financial measures, is available to read here.