Ukraine Liveblog Day 212: Donetsk Airport Under Attack Again

September 17, 2014
Burning block of flats on Vzletnaya Street, Donetsk, after being struck by shells today. Photo:

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.

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

Which MEPs Voted Against The Association Agreement With Ukraine?

Europe has today published
full details of voting by members of the European Parliament (MEPs) during the
ratification of the EU Association Agreement with Ukraine.

The Association Agreement, which was finally
ratified simultaneously by both the Verkhovna Rada in Kiev and the European
Parliament in Brussels yesterday
, was, almost 10 months earlier, the cause
for which the Maidan protests were called that toppled then-President Viktor
Yanukovych after he announced
the suspension of preparations for signing the deal on November 21, 2013

In total, 535 MEPs voted for the ratification, 127 against, and 34

The two political groups in the European Parliament from which the
most votes against the agreement came were the populist, predominantly
nationalist Europe
of Freedom and Direct Democracy
and the hard-left European
United Left/Nordic Green Left

The largest number of dissenting votes came from the Non-Inscrits,
MEPs from parties unaligned with wider European political blocs.

These included MEPs from France’s neo-Vichyist Front
, Italy’s right-wing, regionalist Lega Nord, Austria’s
far-right FPÖ,
formerly lead by the late Jörg
Haider, Germany’s neo-Nazi NPD, Belgium’s far-right, regionalist Vlaams Belang (formerly Vlaams Blok), The
Netherlands’ far-right PVV,
 Poland’s right-wing libertarian Kongres
Nowej Prawicy
, Hungary’s neo-Nazi Jobbik, and
Greece’s Communist
and the neo-Nazi Golden

Among the GUE/NGL dissenters were MEPs from hard-left and
communist parties in France, Spain, Greece, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic,
Cyprus, Portugal, and The Netherlands, as well as Sinn Fein MEPs from Ireland
and the UK.

The EFDD dissenters were made up, for the most part, by MEPs from
the populist and nationalist UK Independence Party (UKIP), the remainder by the
Eurosceptic, libertarian-leaning Party of Free
from the Czech Republic, and Sweden’s far-right Swedish Democrats.

of the MEPs who voted against the agreement, Aymeric Chauprade and
Tatjana Ždanovka,
to Crimea in March
to act as ‘international observers’ for the shotgun
referendum on unification with Russia, organised days after Russian soldiers
took over the peninsular.

is a geopolitical theorist and member of Front National, and Ždanovka, once a
member of the Communist Party, opposed Latvia’s independence from the Soviet
Union and is now a member of the Latvian Russian Union, a left-wing political
party that allies itself closely with Russian interests.

OSCE Reports on ‘Stakhanov People’s Republic’ Amidst Conflicting Local News Accounts

The OSCE monitors have reported on the formation of the “Stakhanov People’s Republic” which is reportedly splitting from the “Lugansk People’s Republic.”

A number of local sources are questioning whether this is a joke or disinformation, and a local news agency is discounting the report.

On the other hand, pro-separatists sources are reporting that the town of Stakhanov did secede from the “Lugansk People’s Republic.”

And a rally of Cossack fighters was held in Stakhanov today making clear that they wanted to take power.

Note that soon after the OSCE report was filed, fighting did break out in
Schastye as the LPR army, supported by Russian Federation armor and
artillery, attacked the city, as we reported early.

from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on
information received as of 18:00 (Kyiv time), 16 September 2014

situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions remained volatile. The SMM
observed a demonstration in front of the Ukrainian parliament in favour
of lustration, and received accounts about searches conducted in the
office of the Mejlis in Simferopol.

A high-ranking Ukrainian
official from a law enforcement agency, who talked to the SMM in
Starobilsk (96km north of Luhansk), claimed, consistent with information
also carried by local media, that an independent ‘Republic of
Stakhanov’ (60km west of Luhansk) had been proclaimed on 14 September,
thus ‘seceding’ from the area claimed by ‘Lugansk People’s Republic’.

commander of the checkpoint in Shchastya (23km north of Luhansk) did
not report any recent breaches of Minsk Protocol on ‘non-use of
weapons’. The local population of the town claimed, however, that
intoxicated soldiers of the volunteer Ukrainian battalion ‘Aidar’ were
shooting randomly in the nearby power plant nightly.

In Donetsk
the SMM saw evidence of shelling in two places in the Kuibyshevskyi
district of the city. Near the building of the local fire brigade unit,
branches of trees were lying, covering a crater of some 1.5 meters
breadth and 0.4 m depth, located about 25 meters from the building.
Marks of shrapnel were noticed on the walls of the building, both inside
and outside. Furniture inside the rooms was damaged. All windows from
two sides of the building were smashed. The chief of the fire brigade
unit stated that the building had been shelled on 15 September 2014, and
that two fire brigade trucks had been damaged but remained operational.
He also said that one guard from a neighbouring factory had been
injured – this claim was later confirmed to the SMM by the deputy
director of the factory.

Inside the factory yard, about 50 meters
from the main gate, the SMM noticed a crater caused by the explosion of
an alleged artillery shell, similar to the evidence near the fire
brigade unit. Again, shrapnel damage was observed on the walls of the
building. Six windows were smashed.

In another place in the
district, the SMM saw five craters in an area of 25 square meters, all
similar: 1.5 meters breadth and 0.4 m depth. People met by the SMM said
that three persons had been killed during the shelling, which they said
had occurred on 15 September at around 17:30. Marks of shrapnel were
observed all around the area. Windows of buildings, a garage and a
private firm were smashed. The SMM observed bloodstains near the main
door of a garage at the scene. Parts of a wall had fallen. The owner of
the car service located in the premises claimed that four of his cars
and six belonging to a private funeral service had been destroyed.

SMM, while observing a Ukrainian roadblock in Debaltseve (75km
north-east of Donetsk), heard single four to five rifle grenade launcher
shots towards the positions of the Ukrainian army. No casualties were
reported. In nearby Vuhlehirsk (62km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM
observed few people on the streets, together with several damaged
buildings and electricity lines.

The situation in Mariupol
continued to be calm, with people working and most shops well stocked
and open for business. The SMM conducted a patrol to the checkpoints
‘Skhidnyi’ (500 meters east of Mariupol) and ‘Staryi Shlyakh’ (2km
north-east). Checkpoint personnel described the situation as generally
calm, but claimed that sounds of shooting from the east had been heard
in the night.

The situation in Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv was calm.

deputy head of the Emergency State Services in the Odessa region
informed the SMM that 12,200 IDPs were currently registered in the
region; but the authorities estimated that the real number was three
times higher. He said that there was a rapid increase (by 60%) in
numbers of registered IDPs in the last three weeks – UNCHR reported
7,620 IDPs as of 28 August. The official explained this situation by the
necessity to register children for school enrolment. In addition, the
official estimated that between 28 August and 15 September, 2,770 IDPs,
both registered and non-registered, left the Odessa region.

SMM observed a demonstration in front of the Ukrainian parliament in
Kyiv of approximately 300 people, including members of the ‘Automaidan’
movement and Right Sector. The participants of the rally demanded
adoption of the law on lustration. Approximately 300 members of various
Ukrainian law enforcement structures – police, the Kyiv-1 Battalion, and
the National Guard – were present at the scene. During the afternoon
protesters remained but started expressing tougher messages, including
physical threats towards MPs, apparently with the intention to urge them
to pass the lustration law. The SMM saw that some of them were piling
up tires near the Parliament, and that the law enforcement agencies had
deployed additional personnel around the Parliament. The Parliament
successfully passed the Law on Lustration at the end of the day.

head of Crimean Tatars’ Mejlis confirmed to the SMM media reports that
the building of the Mejlis in Simferopol, and houses of two Mejlis
members, had been searched by the Russian Federation’s Federal Security

Fighting Continues Around Donetsk Airport And The Petrovsky District

The official website for the Donetsk city council has published a report on the situation in the city as of 18:00 (15:00 GMT).

As of 18:00, the situation remains tense in Donetsk. According to residents’ reports, repeated salvoes from heavy weapons have been heard in many districts. The epicentres of the fighting still remain the airport and the Petrovsky district.

The report notes that, despite the fighting, emergency repair crews continue to work to restore gas supplies to damaged areas. 1,351 homes remain without gas.

The airport, to the north of the city, which is held by Ukrainian forces, has been under regular attack throughout the ceasefire period, with heavy shelling reported this morning

Meanwhile the Petrovsky district lies on the south-western periphery of the city, and has been on the front line between Ukrainian forces which entered the Marinka suburb last month and Russian-backed separatist fighters.

Translation by The Interpreter.

Schastye, Novoaidar And Severodonetsk Without Power Following Shelling

Ukrainska Pravda reports that the press centre for Ukraine’s Northern operational command has announced that three settlements in the Lugansk region are without power after an electrical substation was struck by shells during an attack by Russian-backed forces on the government-held town of Schastye.

Shells from mortars and heavy artillery have continued to fall for almost two hours on the Luganskaya power station, which is located next to the settlement.

According to previous reports, one transformer substation is burning. As a result of the fire, electricity has gone down in Schastye, Novoaidar and Severodonetsk.  

Translation by The Interpreter.

Russian Foreign Ministry Says Without ‘Special Status’ For Donbass Confrontation Will Renew

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, as part of the ceasefire agreement which is currently in effect (though there are consistently breaches in the ceasefire), agreed to grant parts of Ukraine occupied by rebels “special status,” granting them some kind of autonomy while still maintaining Ukraine’s territorial integrity. A law passed yesterday codifies this agreement. The details of the law are foggy. What does autonomy mean if the regions are still part of Ukraine? What areas would be effected? How would those areas be controlled?

The Russian state-controlled media outlet ITAR-TASS describes the law as follows:

Under the legislation, the citizens of the eastern Ukrainian regions will have the right to use the Russian language freely. The local government bodies are ordered to encourage the use of the Russian language in the sphere of education, mass media, as well as the activity of the government bodies, courts and during cultural events.

The law also envisages the establishment of people’s police in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The police forces, to be created on a voluntary basis upon the decision of councils in cities and villages, are aimed at ensuring public order…

The Verkhovna Rada has also passed a law against persecution participants in the armed conflict in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The law was supported by 287 lawmakers out of total of 450 in Ukraine’s Verkovna Rada.

However, speaking earlier about the bill on the amnesty for participants of hostilities in Ukraine’s embattled eastern regions, Poroshenko said it would not be in force for certain types of crimes.

Those who committed crimes under Criminal Code articles stipulating premeditated murder, terrorism, attempts to assassinate a state official, a law enforcement officer, a judge, rape, looting, vandalism and some other articles designed to ensure state integrity, would not be subjected to amnesty, Poroshenko said.

But despite this explanation, many experts and journalists remain confused on the subject:

The “special status” law is also unpopular. Many separatist leaders have said that they will not accept it because it is not true independence, and many Ukrainians who voted for Poroshenko believe granting autonomy to parts of the east is equivalent of giving Russia control of some territories, breaking Poroshenko’s campaign pledge to fight for Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Yesterday there were protests outside the Rada, and many of the protesters were angry at the special status law. Some of them even turned violent.

So while separatist and Russian attacks continue at this very moment (see previous updates below) Ukraine’s military is not advancing, and its Rada has granted special status to Donbass. All of this could create a real political liability for Poroshenko, but Russia is making it clear that turning back on the law will bring more violence to eastern Ukraine:

ITAR-TASS reports that the Russian Foreign Ministry has released a statement on their interpretation of the law — and on what will happen if Ukraine deviates from that interpretation:

“We hope that all provisions of the law will be implemented in a responsible way,” the ministry said.

“It is evident that attempts by certain political groups in Ukraine to cancel it or change its essence will again throw the situation back to confrontation in the southeast and frustrate the efforts of the international community and reasonable politicians in the country to normalize the situation,” it said.

The ministry said “Russia considers the document as a step in the right direction, which is in line with the spirit of agreements mentioned in the Geneva statement of Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union of April 17, as well as the Berlin declaration of July 2,” the ministry said.

“We note that the mentioned law determines the temporary procedure of organizing a local self-government and its bodies’ activities in certain districts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” it said.

“It is called upon to create required conditions for restoration of normal life in the region, to ensure that the citizens’ constitutional rights and freedoms are respected,” the ministry said.

“In particular, a positive assessment can be given to the law provisions that will guarantee the right of language self-determination for each resident of certain areas in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, development in certain regional districts of cross-border cooperation designed to deepen good-neighborly relations with the Russian Federation’s administrative and territorial units,” it said.

The Russian foreign policy department said “all this creates a basis for the launch of substantial constitutional process in Ukraine, including the start of dialogue aimed at contributing to national reconciliation and accord in that country”.

Let’s read between the lines. Among other things, Russia believes that the agreement allows for the establishment of local, temporary, and therefore legitimate governments in affected regions. Those governments will have the obligation to guarantee the restoration of normality as they see fit, and those governments will be expected to work closely with Russia to make sure that this happens.

Does this mean that the self-appointed separatist leadership which has been waging war in eastern Ukraine has been codified into law, and that leadership has the ability to establish a police force to continue its mission, and whatever assistance — perhaps even military assistance — Russia provides to that leadership is also codified into law?

And what happens if the citizens of Ukraine don’t support this law? Does that mean that Russia has also codified into law a legitimate excuse to invade in the elected Ukrainian government cancels the law?

Schastye Under Attack – Ukrainian Journalist

Vsevolod Filimonenko, a Ukrainian journalist in government-held Schastye, north of Lugansk, reports that an attack has begun on the town.

On his Facebook page, Filimonenko wrote (translated by The Interpreter):

30 minutes ago the LNR [Lugansk People’s Republic] army, with support from Russian armour and artillery, began attacking Schastye. A battle is under way.

Shortly afterwards, Filimonenko posted a photo of smoke rising near the Luganskaya power plant in Schastye


He wrote (translated by The Interpreter): 

Following the assault on Schastye by militants, the Russians carried out a heavy artillery strike on the power station. The whole Lugansk region has been left without electricity. 


Filimonenko’s assumption that the Luganskaya plant being knocked out would cut power to the rest of the Lugansk region, may however be incorrect.

On September 6, Marieluise Beck, a German politician and a member of the Bundestag Committee on Foreign Affairs, tweeted, following her visit to Lugansk, that Russian military engineers were laying power cables towards Russian territory.

It is therefore possible that separatist-held Lugansk has been, or will shortly be, furnished with electricity from Russia itself, sparing them from any blackouts following the destruction of power plants supplying government-held areas.

Cuts to US Airforce In Europe May Be Delayed Over Russian Threat

While Russia consistently blames NATO escalation for its more aggressive stance in Eastern Europe, in reality the US air force deployment in the region, like much of NATO’s presence in the region, was set to decrease. But because of Russia’s aggressive actions in the region cuts to the air force may be delayed. Stars & Stripes reports:

“Currently there are changes to overseas forces on the books,” but “I have talked to leadership here about a function to re-address those decisions because those … decisions were clearly made before” Russia sent its forces into Ukraine, the commander of U.S. European Command told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday.

“I see this building now moving towards a review of those decisions,” Gen. Philip Breedlove said.

Defense Department leaders have been pulling troops out of Europe in recent years in the face of fiscal pressures and force requirements in other parts of the world.

In March, the Air Force announced it intended to retire 21 F-15C fighter jets based overseas in fiscal 2015 because of budget constraints. There are 21 F-15Cs assigned RAF Lakenheath, England, and the cuts were expected to come from there.

But on Tuesday, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said she hopes to keep the aircraft in the region, at least for a while, in light of the new security environment.

Crimean Tatar Mejlis Given One Day To Vacate Premises By Russian Occupiers

RFE/RL’s Crimean service reports that, following a second raid by police and gunmen at the Crimean Tatar Mejlis in Simferopol, the occupying Russian authorities have given the Tatar representative body one day to vacate their premises.

Other organisations based in the same building that are being ordered to leave include the Crimea Fund charity and the Advet newspaper.

The armed search this morning was conducted by bailiffs on the court orders brought against the head of the Crimea Fund, Riza Shevkieva. If staff do not vacate the building, all remaining property left inside will be seized and no-one will be allowed in..

The prosecutors’ office of the occupying authorities has ordered that the Fund is not allowed to administer or dispose of any of its assets, including the building housing the Mejlis and several other locations in Crimea.

According to the prosecutors,

“in defence of the interests of an indeterminate number of individuals in the Crimea Fund charitable organisation, the accounts of the organisation at Vladikombank have been seized.” The Fund has also been prohibited from opening new accounts.

Speaking to RFE/RL, Shevkieva said that their lawyers are reviewing the situation, noting that there was little chance of their premises being returned to them, while they had no desire to hand over their building to the occupying authorities.

RFE/RL notes:

The goings-on around the Riza Shevkieva of the Crimea Fund and the Mejlis are linked to the low voter turnout in the recent September 14 ‘elections’ for the ‘State Council’ and the munciple bodies of the ‘authorities.’

“The Crimean Tatar people now embody the role of an evil threatening the rest of the population of Crimea. They will create the image of an enemy and they will actively repress us. By such means they will seek to raise support and improve their ratings in the eyes of voters who have turned away from them,” says Shevkieva.

Translations by The Interpreter.

Crimean Tatar Mejlis Raided For Second Time In 2 Days

The Crimean Tatar Mejlis in Simferopol, Russian-occupied Crimea, has been raided by armed men for the second time in two days, having been raided by police and masked gunmen yesterday.

Ukrainksa Pravda reports, citing a source in the Mejlis:

According to him, the Russian Federal Bailiff Service turned up at the Crimea charity fund, which is located in the Mejlis building.

The bailiffs told the director of the Crimea fund, Riza Shevkieva, that the fund does not have the right to administer assets belonging to him, referring in particular to the building in which the Mejlis is housed.

They have begun to confiscate property. The source suggests that the bailiffs intend to shut the fund down.

RFE/RL’s Crimean service reports that armed searches were also conducted in Tatar homes outside Simferopol early this morning. 

Residents of the village of Kolchugino told their correspondent that four homes were searched, ostensibly in connection to criminal charges brought in response to a meeting between Tatar representatives and their exiled leader Mustafa Dzhemilev at the border on May 3.

Six police cars and one GAZelle van carrying men armed with automatic weapons arrived in the village. The house searches went on for 2-3 hours. They were looking for weapons, drugs and Islamic literature banned in the Russian Federation.

The residents say that nothing was found in the homes. Nonetheless, law enforcement officers took 4 people away with them, one from each house that had been searched.

According to the witnesses, one woman was taken to hospital with heart pains, having become distressed as a member of her family was taken away. 

Police officers were reportedly interested in Ukrainian currency found in one house, asking why such currency was being kept as “Crimea is already in the ruble zone.”

Translations by The Interpreter.

Donetsk Airport Under Attack Again

Donetsk Airport, which defended by Ukrainian forces, is under attack once more by Russian or Russian-backed separatist fighters. 

This live stream, provided by Ruptly, a video news agency owned by RT, shows the skyline towards Donetsk Airport. Smoke has been frequently seen rising from the direction of the airport this morning.

Donetsk news site has been reporting on the shelling today, citing social networks.

According to their first report, Donetsk residents heard shelling in the Putilovsky area, immediately to the south-east of the airport. 

15th quarter. We’ve heard powerful blasts, followed by machine-gun fire.”

“10-15 minutes ago, heard a Grad at work, a couple of minutes later – mortar fire. There are only 3 seconds between the launch and the landing of the shells.” later reported that shells had struck residential areas near the airport. According to reports on social networks, shells had left at least 5 residential buildings on fire to the east of the airport. 

A 9-storey block of flats at 11a Vzletnaya Street, immediately south of the airport, was struck and is now burning. Two women are reportedly wounded. 


This footage, purportedly filmed by Ukrainian soldiers at Donetsk Airport, was uploaded today. The destruction of the site is clear with at least one wrecked airliner visible in the distance.

Translations by The Interpreter.