Ukraine Liveblog Day 238: Outgoing Defence Minister Says Russia Withdrawing Troops

October 13, 2014
Smoke rising from the direction of Talakovka, outside Mariupol. Photo: @audrius1977

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-Backed Separatist Leader Gubarev Reportedly Regains Consciousness After Assassination Attempt, But Car is Missing

As we reported earlier, Pavel Gubarev, former “people’s governor” of the self-declared “Donetsk People’s Republic” reportedly suffered an assassination attempt and was hospitalized last night in Rostov Region.

This evening there were reports that he had regained consciousness.

Translation: Urgent Pavel Gubarev has regained consciousness after the attempted assassination.

Translation: Pavel Gubarev, leader of the “Novorossiya” movement has regained consciousness after the attempted assassination.

Yet Gubarev’s wife Yekaterina has not confirmed this on his Facebook page, where she has already posted a message on his condition 12 hours ago, saying he was still unconscious.

And now dozens of “newbie egg” low-follower Twitter accounts have appeared saying Gubarev is not conscious — a typical disinformation phenomenon on stories related to both Russia and Russian-backed separatists.

Another odd fact about this story is that now Gubarev’s car is missing, according to

That means it is difficult to prove there were gunshots made at the vehicle, or how it crashed.

In yesterday’s message on Facebook, Gubareva said the accident occurred between 11 and 12 pm and said her husband ran into a cement pillar. She said her husband was unconscious and doctors said he had suffered a traumatic brain injury with a hematoma but it was mild and he was expected to recover. He had no gunshot wounds or other serious injuries. She denied rumors on social media (which have tended to claim that Gubarev was intoxicated and tried to convert the incident into an assassination attempt) (translation by The Interpreter):

They try to lend any incident a political coloration. On the eve of the first democratic elections in the republic, this is to the advantage first of all to former Donetsk oligarchs and the Ukrainian government. They could not beat us by force, now they try to split us with internal quarrels. Everyone who disseminates panic on social media and supports groundless accusations is now pouring water on the mills of the Kiev fascists.

Gubareva added that members of the “Novorossiya” movement would participation in the elections to parliament in the “Free Donbass” bloc, which was registered by the DPR.

Yesterday, Gubarev’s followers picked the the DPR Central Elections Commission complaining that their leader was denied participation in the elections.


The details of Gubarev’s accident have not been confirmed outside the DPR press and some sympathetic Russian media.

Citing a broadcast from the radio station Govorit Moskva, Obozrevatel’ reported that the Rostov Health Ministry denied that Gubarev was being treated in any regional hospitals.

The Interior Ministry of Rostov Region also said they had no information about the hospitalization.

Obozrevatel’ ran a photo of Gubarev standing, with his arm in a cast, but it was taken earlier this year in March when he also had a broken arm.


Komsomolskaya Pravda (KP) reported that Gubarev had suffered a broken arm and numerous bruises.

At first the DPR’s Central Elections commission announced that Gubarev’s party “Novorossiya” could not take part in the elections because representatives of the CECE had not been at the party’s founding congress.

But Gubarev’s last post was that this statement was “fake” and that he intended to submit his documents to run for head of the DPR. Meanwhile, Roman Lyagin, head of the CECE, said that the deadline for submission had passed.

A friend of Gubarev’s, Yevgeny Orlov told KP they left Rostov, headed for Donetsk about 9 or 10 pm, and he was driving. Another car overtook them and shoot at them, causing Pavel to run into a telegraph pole. His details thus differed from the story told by Gubareva’s wife.

Another eyewitness told KP that he saw a dark-colored jeep cut off Gubarev’s car and open fire.

The blogger Colonel Cassad said that the purpose of the assassination attempt was to intimidate, not kill Gubarev; he compared this incident to the methodical murder of Gubarev’s advisor, Yevgeny Prosyolkov, killed in Lugansk while bringing humanitarian aid to the rebels. Colonel Cassad (who is Boris Rozhin, editor of Golos Sevastopolya) also reported that Gubarev had awakened this evening and was out of danger.

Making reference to the leaders of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Lugansk People’s Republic,” respectively, Colonel Cassad said the elections were a means to “legitimize [Aleksandr] Zakharchenko and [Igor] Plotnitsky, and the Moscow political technologists who work with them came to Novorossiya hardly so that Gubarev, with all his shortcomings, would become head of the DPR.”

He said that while many were knocking Gubarev know “for pay or out of stupidity,” they owed it to him for the fact that “the virtual Novorossiya began to take on an unexpected form with its content” and that he was the right person who “lit the flame of rebellion” at the right time.

Former Separatist Governor Survives Assassination Attempt

As we’ve been reporting, Pavel Gubarev, the former separatist ‘people’s governor’ of the Donetsk region and well-known Russian neo-Nazi, has reportedly survived an assassination attempt. His wife has posted an update on his Facebook page. She says that Gubarev is in intensive care, on a ventilator, and is in stable condition. The update says he still has swelling on the brain, but it is expected to come down within the next day.

As we reported, earlier reports claimed that his wife was denying that Gubarev had been shot.

Separatist ‘Minister of Culture’ Reportedly Demands Execution Of Cartoonist Who Mocked Her

The self-appointed Minister of Culture for the self-declared Lugansk People’s Republic is a colorful woman by the name of Irina Filatov who is infamous for having appeared online wearing a bikini (and sometimes less).



Once again she is making headlines because she reportedly has demanded the execution of a cartoonist who recently mocked her:

The cartoon is not in English, but it doesn’t have to be to be understood on so many levels.

National Guardsmen Mutiny And Protest In Kiev

Over three hundred Ukrainian National Guardsmen have mutinied and are protesting outside the presidential administration in Kiev. They are demanding that they be discharged from service as their tours finished six months ago and they are receiving inadequate remuneration and support. reports, translated by The Interpreter:

According a source in the National Guard leadership, 350 soldiers at the Novi Petrivtsi National Guard base outside Kiev have mutinied and set out on foot for the capital.

The column made its way to the presidential administration, chanting slogans against Petro Poroshenko.

According to the source, the guardsmen had demanded for the past four days that they be paid the salaries that they have long not received. 

The guardsmen also demanded that they be given winter uniforms and gear, and be treated “as people, not cattle.”

The soldiers intend to achieve the dismissal by the president of the unit commanders who have permitted this state of affairs.

Before leaving the grounds of the base, the soldiers locked their commanders up in their utility rooms.

The officers, having broken out, tried to catch up with the troops and talk them out of marching to Kiev, but they were unsuccessful, says the source.

The group have since arrived in Kiev and are protesting outside the presidential administration,

RFE/RL have a live feed from the scene:




Ukrainska Pravda reports that the men are demanding demobilisation. The protest is reportedly peaceful with no confrontations between the guardsmen and the assembled police.

They report (translated by The Interpreter):

As the soldiers told Hromadske [TV], their service tour ended almost ended half a year ago, but they are still not allowed to go home. Meanwhile, they are only paid 154 hrynia a month overtime while they should be paid such an amount each day.

They insist that they are demanding not money, but discharge from service. From time to time they chant ‘demob!’ and also “one for all and all for one!” Some of them are dressed in body armour and carry batons.

Why Donetsk Airport Is Important To Both Ukraine And Russian-Backed Separatists

Donetsk Airport is currently in control of a small group of Ukrainian soldiers (that may change today, or very soon) who have been completely surrounded and cut off from reinforcements for months. It is now a small island under Kiev’s control surrounded by an ocean of Russian-backed troops who have been hammering at the base with snipers, rockets, tanks, mortars, and machinegun fire for over a month.

It’s importance is deeper than this, however. Hromadske TV has a complete explainer of why the airport is so symbolically important. One reason is that the physical airport, which is now in complete ruins, was a symbol of Ukraine modernization. Hromadske explains:

The Sergei Prokofiev International Airport was once hailed as a potent symbol of Donetsk’s transformation from a gritty post-Soviet industrial town to a vibrant, modern city. Completed in time for the European Football Championship in summer 2012, the Donetsk airport was projected to host more than 5 million visitors in 2015. Its facilities and slick glass exterior matched any in Europe for its aesthetics and comforts.

The main airport terminal now:


And why are the rebels so bent on capturing it? One reason is one of the bloodiest battles in this conflict was waged for control of the airport. The terminals of the airport, like many other buildings in Donetsk, were initially captured by the Russian-back rebels last spring, but in May the Ukrainian military captured the airport in a raid. At least 46 separatists (most of them Russian citizens) were killed in the fighting. Helicopters and fighter jets were used by the Ukrainian military to great effect (one might argue that this is one reason why there was an influx of anti-aircraft weapons from Russia in June and July).

Many of the Russian-backed militants felt betrayed by their commander, Aleksandr Khodakovsky, whom some supporters of the Kremlin’s cause in Ukraine have described as a defector. Khodakovsky claims that he negotiated a truce with the Ukrainian soldiers to allow the militants to withdraw, but then they were ambushed anyway.

Whether Khodakovsky negotiated a truce which was broken or not, many of the Russian-backed separatists fighting in Ukraine have vowed to avenge their fallen comrades. 

As the summer drew on, the Ukrainian government was making gains around Donetsk and it looked as though the city might be recaptured. In August, Russia dramatically increased direct military support for the militants in eastern Ukraine and many of those gains were erased. The troops defending the airport were soon hopelessly encircled and stuck deep within enemy territory. Since a ceasefire was agreed upon at the end of August, Russian-backed separatists have pounded the airport, ensuring that any Ukrainian military rescue or escape attempt is impossible.

Civilians have been killed in the crossfire, and both Ukrainian military and Russian-backed fighters have suffered heavy losses, but the airport has not fallen yet. Again Hromadske reports:

Ukrainians have fixed their attention to the last remaining hot spot in the country’s east, one which threatens to unravel a fragile ceasefire. The Ukrainian forces’ defense of the airport has earned them hero status among many, but are called “cyborgs” by their enemies.

Read the entire article here for more back story, pictures, and video: Ukraine’s Last Flash Point: Donetsk Airport
Heavy Fighting Around Donetsk Airport

Donetsk news site reports that fierce fighting is under way for control of Donetsk airport with heavy armour being used.

According to the site, there were reports from residents on social media of a column of Grad rocket launchers, anti-aircraft guns and a support group travelling towards the city centre. reports (translated by The Interpreter):

The ‘cyborgs’ [nickname for the Ukrainian defenders of the airport], supported by tanks, have pushed on to the old terminal. The terrorists are desperately trying to hold out there.

Volleys of mortar and Grad fire have been heard in the Oktyabrskiy area. Tracer fire can be seen. The day before, the building housing the Dolphin swimming pool was damaged.

Machine guns were fired at a drone in the Pobeda area of the Kirovsky district.

Captured Ukrainian Officer Held By Russia Undergoing Psychiatric Evaluation

Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency reports that Nadezhda Savchenko, a Ukrainian military officer who was captured by separatist fighters and then illegally rendered into Russian detention and put on trial of the alleged murder of two Russian journalists, is now undergoing psychiatric evaluation in Moscow, despite her and her lawyers’ objections.

Interfax-Ukraine reports that one of Savchenko’s lawyers, Mark Feygin, has told them that the evaluation has begun before an objecting claim filed by their legal team was held. 

They report:

“It’s an absolute procedural violation, which we believe is illegal and groundless. Regarding this, the reaction of the court is unclear,” Mark Feygin, a lawyer for Savchenko, told Interfax on Monday.

Feygin recalled that in late September a district court had rescheduled the hearing to October 13, granting the complaint filed by Savchenko’s defense lawyers about the actions taken by the investigators, who had ordered her to undergo a psychiatric and psychological evaluation, to ensure her presence in court.

“If we imagine that the Basmanny Court grants our claim and reverses the mental evaluation order, it will become unclear why she was hospitalized. It may give the impression that the investigators knew what the court decision would be ahead of time,” the lawyer said.

Feygin said the court hearing of his client’s complaint scheduled to be held in Basmanny Court on Monday will be closed to the press and Savchenko will not attend.

Feygin called the investigators’ actions “political maneuvers” that are due to the broad public response drawn by the pilot’s case.

Gubarev In Critical Condition In Russian Hospital

Pavel Gubarev, the former separatist ‘people’s governor’ of the Donetsk region, upon whom an assassination attempt was made yesterday, is now being treated in a hospital in Rostov-on-Don, Russia.

Gubarev, who is also a former member of Russia’s neo-Nazi Russian National Unity Movement, is reportedly unconscious and in a critical condition.  

Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency reports that Gubarev’s wife Yekaterina has said that he was not struck by any bullets but was injured when the car he was travelling in crashed into a tree following the attack.

The attack reportedly came while Gubarev and several others were travelling along the highway between Rostov-on-Don and Donetsk, occurring in territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

National Guard Head Poltorak Nominated As Defence Minister

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has nominated the commander of the National Guard, Colonel general Stepan Poltorak, for the post of defence minister of Ukraine, which was previously held by Valeriy Heletey, who resigned yesterday.

Translation: I have submitted the commander of the National Guard Stepan Poltorak’s candidacy for the post of defence minister of Ukraine to parliament.

Interfax-Ukraine reports that Poroshenko had noted Poltorak’s organisational abilities and the authority afforded to him in his role as commander of the National Guard.

The president told Poltorak (translated by The Interpreter):

“The most important thing for me is your professionalism and patriotism, your integrity, your decisive steps to build a National Guard system from the ground up, the discipline of the troops and their firm morale.”

Shelling Reported On Outskirts Of Mariupol

There are reports of shelling this morning in the village of Talakovka, just to the north-east of Mariupol.

Translation: Looks like Talakovka is being shelled. Can see black smoke.

Ukraine’s UNIAN news agency reports that the headquarters for the defence of Mariupol have announced that checkpoints near Talakovka, the neighbouring village of Sartana and the eastern fringes of the city itself.

Local news site reports that residents of Talakovka have written on social networks that they are now sheltering in basements due to the bombardment. According to soldiers, fighting has broken out at one of the checkpoints in Talakovka and heavy artillery has been brought to bear on them by the Russian-backed forces.

There were also reports from residents of the villages of Zarya and Kalchik, according to 0629, of shooting near the highway north to Donetsk.

Outgoing Ukrainian Defence Minister Says Russian Troops Withdrawing

Valeriy Heletey, who resigned from his position as Ukraine’s defence minister yesterday, has, according to Interfax-Ukraine, said that Russian troops are withdrawing from Ukrainian territory.

Interfax-Ukraine reports:

“Today we’re witnessing how the Kremlin makes relative orders regarding the withdrawal of the Russian Armed Forces from the territory of Ukraine, regarding their deployment to the barracks on the territory of Russia,” the minister said in Kyiv on Monday.

He said that this is an evidence of efficient actions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, who halted Russia aggression not just near Ilovaisk (Donetsk region), but near Luhansk as well.