Ukraine Liveblog Day 263: Ukraine Claims Russian Tank Column Has Crossed Border

November 7, 2014
Ukrainian artillery fire on Russian-backed forces attacking Donetsk airport. Screenshot from TSN 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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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.

Protesters Move To Topple Dzerzhinsky Statue In Zaporozhye

There are reports on Twitter that a crowd of activists has gathered in Zaporozhye to tear down a statue to Feliks Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Cheka.

Translation: Zaporozhye now. The demolition of the statue of Dzerzhinsky.

Feliks Dzerzhinsky became the first director of the All-Russia Extraordinary Commission to Combat Counter-revolution and Sabotage, known as the Cheka, in December 1917.

Under Dzerzhinsky’s leadership, tens of thousands were executed without trial, many of them in mass killings during the civil war. Hundreds of thousands were imprisoned or deported.

Pierre Vaux

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry Sends Alarming Tweets About New Russian Invasion Underway
While the Ukrainian government has been repeatedly warning about an increasingly aggressive Russia for the last two weeks, none of their tweets have looked as alarming as the ones just sent by Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

The Izvarino border crossing (map) is on the road that leads from Krasnadon through Lugansk. It is the location where Western journalists repeatedly saw Russian troops and equipment crossing the border during the late summer, and while we cannot yet independently confirm Ukraine’s claims here, it is not a surprise that this is the area which Russia would choose to use to cross more equipment into Ukraine.

Those tweets have been sent within the hour, but are perhaps not surprising based on this morning’s report from the National Security and Defense Council:

Intense Shelling In Lugansk Region

Novosti Donbassa reports that Hennadiy Moskal, the governor of the Lugansk region, has written on his official website that there has been intense shelling in the Lugansk region in the past day.

Moskal writes that a shell struck the grounds of School No. 15 in the village of Ivanovka on the outskirts of Gorksoye (Hirske in Ukrainian) this morning.

Fortunately, Moskal writes, the shell did not exploded and there were no children on the site at the time.

The shelling came, he says, from Pervomaysk, as separatist militants fired 30 rounds of artillery after 9:00 this morning. Three private homes on Oktyabrskaya Street were reportedly destroyed.

Later in the day, at around 15:00, Gorskoye came under bombardment again, this time with around 40 rounds from Grad MLRS. Moskal says there were no casualties.

Yesterday, Moskal claims, there were attacks with Grads, mortars and artillery on the settlements of Zolotoye, Popasnaya, Krymskoye, Olkhovaya and Stariy Aidar, The most intense shelling was directed at the Gorskoye and Popasnaya areas.

The site has created the following graphic illustrating attacks in the area (note that Ukrainian rather than Russian place-names are used):


Ukrainska Pravda reports that the ATO Press Centre has also reported the Grad attacks last night on Ukrainian positions near Krymskoye. The report says that Ukrainian forces returned fire at the enemy firing positions.

The ATO Press Centre also announced that 7 Ukrainian paratroopers were wounded near Sokolniki, just to the east of Krymskoye, when one of them stepped on a landmine. All 7 reportedly received medical assistance.

Pierre Vaux

Kremlin, Somewhat Confusingly, ‘Respects’ But Does Not ‘Recognise’ Separatist ‘Elections’

Russia’s state-owned RIA Novosti news agency reports that Yuriy Ushakov, an aide to President Putin, has said that Russia “respects” but does not “recognise” the November 2 separatist ‘elections’ in the occupied areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

On November 3, the state-owned TASS news agency reported that the Russian Foreign Ministry “considers the elections in eastern Ukraine valid.”

They quoted a statement from the ministry:

“The elections in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions were held in an organized way in general and with high voter turnout,” the ministry said.

“We respect the will expression of the citizens of the south-east.”

“The elected representatives have received a mandate to solve political tasks to restore normal life in the regions,” the statement says.

Now, however, Ushakov claims that this statement does not amount to recognition of the vote, RIA Novosti reports:

“Russia’s official position on the results of the elections is expressed compactly, but liberally. The word “respect” was used,” Ushakov said.

When asked if the terms “respect” and “recognize” could be used equally with regard to the recent elections in eastern Ukraine, Ushakov said that “these are different words.”

“The word “respect” was chosen on purpose,” Ushakov stressed.

The fact that the state news outlet had used the word “valid” is not addressed by Ushakov. The semantic difference between “respecting the will expression” in the elections and recognising them as valid appears to be extremely thin.

Pierre Vaux

TV Channel 112 Shows Unrelated Footage As Russian Journalist Claims Shell That Killed Teens Came From Donetsk Airport

As we’ve just reported, a Russian television reporter speaking to Ukrainian TV Channel said that the shell which killed two teenagers in Donetsk came from the direction of Donetsk Airport, held by Ukrainian forces. He made this claim right before saying that some civilians had called on Putin to intervene, which resulted in him being pulled off the air (see details in our previous update below).

The report also sparked some confusion. While the report was running there were pictures of a building which had been damaged by shelling. This picture appears to be unrelated to this story. The caption on the building says that it is somewhere in the Kyivsky neighborhood, while the school is in the Kuybyshevsky neighborhood. More definitively, the video of this building do not match other videos taken from the school, nor does this match any of the surrounding buildings. In the image below, the report we’ve been discussing is on top, another video from the school is below that, and to the right is the Google satellite view of the area.


It is common for news agencies like 112 to show stock footage that is unrelated, but the important point here is that there is no additional empirical evidence which relates to the school shelling for us to assess in this report.

— James Miller

Russian Reporter Challenged by Ukrainian Official, Cut Off the Air As He Reports on Donetsk Shelling

A Russian reporter in Donetsk describing the shelling of civilian areas in recent days for the Ukrainian TV channel was cut off as he was speaking, and then the video of the broadcast was put on “private” on YouTube and made inaccessible.

A screenshot of the broadcast shows that it existed:


We happened to see the original broadcast, and also found a copy:

In it, Roman Gnatyuk, a Russian-language speaker reporting from Donetsk, says the following (translation by The Interpreter)

I was at School No. 63 now sadly famous and there it is very clearly visible from which direction the shells flew, they flew from the direction of the airport, that is, from behind it, most likely. So in this case, we can surmise that the shell came from Avdeyevka.

Avdeyevka is a suburb of Donetsk to the north where Ukrainian forces are positioned.

In our report on the shelling of School No. 63, we said that given the available evidence from videos and pictures of damage at the scene, the shells were more likely to have come from the east, from the separatists’ position in Makeyevka, not from the north (the airport or Avdeyevka). Russian-backed separatists have said the missiles came from Peski, in the northwest, which is another base of Ukrainian forces. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has also charged that the shelling came from Makeyevka, from separatists’ positions.

Gnatyuk went on to say that some of the Donetsk residents he had interviewed were so distraught at the frequent shelling of civilian areas that they asked him, “When will Putin bring in forces to protect them?”

Foreign Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko, who was in the 112 studio at the time, interrupted the anchor to ask Gnatyuk if he supported Putin bringing in forces to Ukraine. Gnatyuk replied that he was for an end to shelling. Asked repeatedly if he had interviewed any other residents in Donetsk who might have a different opinion than one supporting a Russian invasion, Gnatyuk said that some people were willing to make an agreement with anyone just to stop the shelling.

Then Gnatyuk was cut off the air, and the anchor said they had lost contact with him.

The video of the news cast then was put on “private” on YouTube so it could not be seen.

The  cut-off of Gnatyuk and then the removal of the video has led to a hashtag campaign in Russian on VKontakte #pravda112 which means “truth 112”.

Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Nadezhda Savchenko In Court

Nadezhda Savchenko, a Ukrainian military officer who was captured by separatist militants and then illegally rendered to the Russian authorities and is now on trial for the alleged murder of two Russian journalists, has appeared in court today for the first time since she was forced to undergo a “psychiatric examination” in the notorious Serbsky Centre in Moscow.

Translation: Right now: Nadezhda Savchenko is in the Basmanny Court.

Savchenko was brought into court under escort by 10 armed police officers, some of them, her lawyer Nikolai Polozov tweeted, were even armed with sub-machine guns rather than their normal service pistols.


Savchenko refused to answer questions in Russian, speaking only in Ukrainian. Despite the requirement under article 18 of the Russian Criminal Procedural Code, an interpreter was not provided.

Russia’s Interfax news agency reports on two developments: Firstly that Savchenko has filed her resignation from the Ukrainian Armed Forces so that her duties as a parliamentarian (elected in the October 26 elections) are not compromised. Secondly, Savchenko’s lawyers intend to ask the International Committee of the Red Cross to assign her the status of a prisoner of war, which would oblige Russia to return her to Ukraine under the Minsk protocols:

“Nadezhda Savchenko has filed her resignation from the Ukrainian Armed Forces because she has been elected to the Verkhovna Rada. Her command should make a decision within twenty days,” lawyer Mark Feygin told Interfax on Friday.

The lawyer said Savchenko’s resignation will be signed by December 1. He said service in the Armed Forces may interfere with his client’s work as a parliamentarian.

Feygin also said the pilot’s lawyers will turn to the International Committee of the Red Cross to seek Savchenko’s official designation as a prisoner-of-war.

“If she is recognized as a POW at least for the June 17-23 period, the rest doesn’t matter. This status will make it possible to exempt her from criminal prosecution and hand her over to Ukraine,” the lawyer said.

If officially recognized as a POW, Savchenko has to be returned to eastern Ukraine and handed over to the Ukrainian authorities in accordance with the Minks agreements. After that, according to the Vienna Convention, Russia has to request her extradition from Ukraine due to her criminal prosecution, he said.

Pierre Vaux

‘NATO sources’ Reportedly Confirm Entry Of Russian Column

Sky News reports that:

NATO sources have confirmed the Russian military invasion of Ukraine after a column of 32 tanks entered the country from Russia.

The report then cites the same statements from the spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council, Andrei Lysenko, that we reported on earlier.

There is no further mention in the report on the confirmation from NATO sources, however, if true, we expect to hear more on this in due course.

Pierre Vaux

Ukraine Says 32 Russian Tanks, 16 Howitzers And 30 Trucks Have Entered Ukraine

Ukrainska Pravda reports that Andrei Lysenko, the spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council, has told reporters at briefing in Kiev today that a column of Russian tanks and artillery has entered Ukraine.

Lysenko said (translated by The Interpreter):

“The supply of military hardware and manpower from the territory of the Russian Federation into the area where the anti-terrorist operation is being conducted is not stopping.

For example, yesterday, military vehicles, including 32 tanks, 16 D-30 howitzers and 30 Kamaz trucks with troops and ammunition, were recorded moving from Russian territory in the direction of the town of Krasny Luch in the Lugansk region.

This location suggests that the column entered from the Izvarino area, passing through Krasnodon as many previous Russian convoys have done. From Krasny Luch, the column can then proceed along the H21 route to Donetsk via Makeyevka:


Pierre Vaux