Ukraine Liveblog Day 217: Russia Says OSCE To Monitor Buffer Zone As Donetsk Airport Attacked Again

September 22, 2014
T-72 tank with separatist flag, reportedly filmed near Makeyevka today. Screenshot from YouTube

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.


Russian Court Upholds Ruling To Seize Property Allegedly Owned By Ukrainian Governor

In early September, Russian authorities seized a piece of property in Moscow that they say belonged to Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky on grounds that Kolomoisky’s profits could be used to finance “illegal activities” (or, in other words, efforts to resist Russia’s invasion) in Ukraine. Despite the fact that other investors contest the decision, a Russian court has upheld the decision today. RIA Novosti reports:

The Elit-Holding company that owns the building has been seeking to reverse the property arrest, saying that Dnipropetrovsk Region governor Kolomoisky, ranked Ukraine’s fourth richest person, has no relation to the company and its assets.

The company’s representative in court, Natalya Soboleva, said Kolomoisky has never been a co-founder and held no shares in the company since 2008.

An investigator in the case said the information is currently being verified and will be considered in due course.

Kolomoisky is the governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, and he has been credited for saving the eastern city from the Russian-backed separatist movement, in part by funding efforts to militarily resist Russia. Several of his properties in Russia have been confiscated as a result.

Ukrainian Soldier Killed, Teenage Boy Wounded In Mariupol Attack

Mariupol news site reports that a group of separatist saboteurs opened fire on a residential area of Mariupol with mortars yesterday.

Soldiers reported that the group had been made up of 5 people, and that attempts to capture them had failed. They were seen travelling in a GAZelle minivan.

One 20-year-old National Guard soldier was killed during the attack. 

A 15-year-old boy was wounded in the head while cycling. He is in an “extremely serious” condition in hospital, and a 36-year-old steelworker, who had been bringing water to the checkpoint was wounded in the thigh.

Full Text Of Minsk Ceasefire Memorandum

Interfax-Ukraine has published an English translation of the full text of the Minsk ceasefire memorandum, the Russian-language original of which was released by the OSCE on September 20.

The text, dated September 19, is below:

1. The ceasefire is to be considered mutual.

2. Subdivisions and military formations of the sides along are to stop in their juxtaposition as of September 19, 2014.

3. There is a ban on the use of all types of weapons and any form of offensive action.

4. Within 24 hours after the approval of this memorandum, all lethal weapons more than 100 millimeter caliber are to be moved back from juxtaposition by at least 15 kilometers (with the exception of those indicated below), including from residential areas, which will allow to create a zone from use of weapons of no less than 30 kilometers in width (the safety zone).

At the same time, artillery systems of more than 100 millimeter caliber are to be moved back from their juxtaposition by the length of their maximum range, in particular:

100 mm MT12 canons – by 9 kilometers; 120 mm mortars – by 8 kilometers; 122 mm howitzers D30 (2S1 Gvozdika – by 16 kilometers; 152 mm 2C5 Giatsint-S (2C3 Acacia, 2C19 Mcta-C, 2A65 Mcta-B) – by 33 kilometers; Multiple Rocket Launch System (MRLS) 9K51 Grad – by 21 kilometers, 9K57 Uragan – by 36 kilometers; 9K58 Smerch – by 70 kilometers; MRLS Tornado-G – by 40 kilometers; MRLS Tornado U – by 70 kilometers; MRLS Tornado-C – by 120 kilometers; tactical rocket systems – by 120 kilometers.

5. A ban is to be introduced on deployment of heavy weapons and military equipment in the district limited by the towns of Komsomolske, Kumachove, Novoazovsk, Sakhanka, with OSCE monitoring.

6. A ban is to be introduced on installment of new mines and explosive barriers within the limits of the safety zone.

There is an obligation to dismantle previously installed mines and explosive barriers in the safety zone.

7. A ban from the moment of approval of this memorandum is to be introduced on flights of military aviation and foreign drones, with the exception of drones used by the monitoring mission of OSCE, along the line of juxtaposition in the weapons-free zone of 30 kilometers width.

8. The OSCE monitoring mission made up of observers of the organization is to be deployed to the cease-fire zone within 24 hours from the moment of approval of this memorandum. The abovementioned zone should be divided into sectors, the number and limits of which should be agreed in the course of preparation of the OSCE monitoring mission for work.

9. All foreign militarized formations, military equipment and militants and mercenaries are to exit the territory of Ukraine under OSCE monitoring.

Participants of the trilateral contact group: OSCE Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini, Second President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma, Ambassador of Russian Federation to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov, chairman of the Donetsk People’s Republic Alexander Zakharchenko and chairman of Luhansk People’s Republic Ihor Plotnitsky.

Donbass Battalion To Receive Training From Non-Active US Military Personnel

Semyon Semyonchenko, the commander of the Ukrainian Donbass volunteer battalion, who has recently returned from a visit to the United States, has written on his Facebook page that an arrangement has been made for non-active US military personnel to train his unit, according to the same standards used for US special forces training.

Semyonchenko writes (translated by The Interpreter):

Yesterday I signed a contract to organise training for fighters and officers of the Donbass battalion by mobile groups of instructors from the USA by servicemen who are not currently active. They will work according to the traditional training system used by the Navy Seals and Delta Force.

Standards have been precisely developed for each department (reconnaissance, special forces, security, etc.) and each position from sergeant through to the commander of the battalion. Particular attention is paid to individual training as well as teamwork. The maximum number of practical exercises are used. Another important point is the training of sergeants (non-commissioned officers) in acting independently and managing a team.

The instructors will also be used to prepare internal security forces, and such training is one of the forms of indirect assistance Ukraine is receiving. The training begins in 10 days. After running through the training system, we will be ready to share our experience and help deliver the training system to other volunteer and regular units.

Lysenko – Almost 1200 Ukrainian Servicemen And Civilian Personnel Freed

Interfax-Ukraine reports that Andrei Lysenko, the spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council, has told reporters at a briefing in Kiev today that almost 1200 Ukrainian prisoners have been freed as part of the Minsk peace plan.

He said that over the last 24 hours 28 Ukrainian soldiers had been released from separatist captivity.

However Lysenko also reported that over the same timespan, 2 Ukrainian servicemen had been killed and another 2 wounded. 

German Cruise Ship Violates Ukrainian Law, Sails To Russian-Occupied Crimea

Some of the unanswered questions around new sanctions against Russia (and all territory Russia occupies, like Crimea) concern whether sanctions will be heeded by European companies used to doing business with Russia, and whether there exists the political will to enforce the sanctions or the penalties against those who break them. 

But another question is whether companies will simply skirt the sanctions, regardless of the political implications. The international community recognizes that Ukraine, not Russia, is the rightful owner of Crimea, and Ukraine has banned cruise liners from stopping over at Crimean ports. That ban, however, is being disregarded by at least one cruise liner:

The Moscow Times reports that this action may not technically breech European sanctions, though it does breech Ukrainian law:

The docking comes after the Ukrainian government in June issued a directive “On the Closure of Sea Ports,” according to which the Crimean ports of Kerch, Theodosia, Sevastopol, Yalta and Yevpatoria have been closed to international vessels.

In line with its own sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the EU has subjected the Sevastopol and Kerch commercial ports to asset freezes, though the port of Yalta does not appear on its blacklist.       

Many Areas Within The ‘Buffer Zone’ Were Controlled By Ukraine’s Military Just 4 Weeks Ago
Here is the summary of the latest news from Ukraine from the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (NSDC) and the Ukraine Crisis Media Center. According to NSDC spokesperson Colonel Andriy Lysenko, prisoner exchanges continue, as to separatist attacks and Ukrainian military casualties. Despite all of this, Ukraine says it is still preparing a withdrawal to conform with the agreement to establish buffer zones:

Above, this is the map released each day by the NSDC. Compare it to the map of the proposed buffer zones we published earlier, and you’ll notice that there is still fighting along the western edge of separatist territory. Compare these two maps to battle maps released just four weeks ago (below), and you’ll see that the large infusion of Russian battle tanks, APCs, artillery, fighters, and supplies have all led to a rapid and significant expansion of territory held by Russian-backed militants.


So why is Ukraine agreeing to grant a buffer zone around areas that they controlled only four weeks ago? Because before the ceasefire, Ukraine was hemorrhaging territory to Russian troops and Russian-backed separatists, and was suffering significant casualties at the hands of Russian artillery and rockets. Since that time, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has asked the United States and other countries for military assistance, and thus far he has yet to receive substantial assurances that this assistance is forthcoming. In fact, the message out of Washington has been the opposite. If Ukraine is looking for direct military support, it is on its own.
Aksyonov – ‘No Such Organization As The Mejlis’

RFE/RL reports that Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian-backed ‘prime minister’ of occupied Crimea, has told Kommersant that the Mejlis, the representative body of the Crimean Tatar people, does not exist.

The Mejlis has been ordered to vacate its premises in Simferopol amid a wave of repressions against the Crimean Tatar people, including numerous armed raids of homes and enterprises, exiles and the closure of the Tatar library in Simferopol.

RFE/RL reports:

In an interview published in the Russian daily Kommersant on September 22, Aksyonov said “there is no such organization as the Mejlis.”

He said the assembly “has never been properly registered.”

Aksyonov said he would “expel from Crimea anyone who incites ethnic hatred.”

Russian-Backed Fighters Attack Donetsk Airport, Debaltsevo And Mariupol

Ukraine’s TSN reports that Russian-backed fighters mounted yet another assault on Donetsk Airport last night with Grad rockets. Further attacks were reported elsewhere near Debaltsevo and in Mariupol.

TSN reports (translated by The Interpreter):

According to Donetsk residents, a fresh attack on Donetsk Airport began at 10 in the evening. They attacked several times through the night. Residents in neighbouring areas heard salvoes from heavy weapons. Grads were fired out out of the city and into the airport.

The previous day,  several private homes in the Kuybyshevsky district of Donetsk were destroyed by mortars. A shell also fell on a water main, leaving several districts of the city without water.

In addition, militants attempted to attack ATO forces outside Debaltsevo. According to operational data, the night attack was repelled by Ukrainian soldiers.

Residents from the outskirts of Mariupol report shelling. Terrorists are shelling Ukrainian military checkpoints,

Several shells fell on the Illich sinter plant. People were evacuated form the site. The manager of the enterprise said that no critical lines of communication had been damaged.

MinProm reported that Metinvest, operator of the Illich facilities, and owned by Rinat Akhmetov, had announced that there had been no casualties or serious damage. 

Later today, TSN reported further on shelling near Mariupol, speaking to Nikolay Krasikov, the head of the village of Talakovka, just outside the city.

Krasikov reported mortar fire today from the direction of Kominternovo, to the east. 

The shelling was reportedly directed at a Ukrainian checkpoint, with shells damaging two houses and a gas pipeline.

Krasikov said (translated by The Interpreter):

“Fortunately, there were no casualties. People had got out of their houses beforehand, leaving the village. We’re now waiting for a repair team from Mariupolgaz to turn the natural gas off.”

Russian Ambassador To OSCE Says Buffer Zone Will Be Divided Into Five Sections

Russia’s state-owned ITAR-TASS news agency reports that the buffer zone agreed upon at the Minsk talks will be divided into five sections and monitored by the OSCE.

The Russian ambassador to the OSCE, Andrei Kelin, told ITAR-TASS that:

“The plan to divide the zone into sectors is in place: in Luhansk and in Donetsk will be working 90-100 inspectors in every city; in Kramatorsk, Mariupol and Antracit – 50 in each city.”

Kelin added that Germany is prepared to send around 10 drones and 100 personnel for the monitoring mission.

On September 15, the press office of the Ukrainian president reported that Austria was also prepared to provide 10 drones for the OSCE monitoring mission.

Today, the Russian Kommersant newspaper published a diagram depicting the area of the proposed buffer zone:


The dashed lines indicate the 15 km distance from the front lines, behind which heavy artillery is to withdraw.The dotted area to the east of Mariupol is designated as an area, “where deployment of heavy weapons or military equipment is prohibited.”