Ukraine Liveblog Day 72: Russian-Backed Separatists Make Gains in Gorlovka

April 30, 2014
Russian-backed fighters outside the Lugansk police headquarters yesterday. Photo: Reuters / Vasily Fedosenko

As Russian-backed fighters seize the city council building in Gorlovka, consolidating their gains yesterday in Lugansk, Oleksandr Turchynov, President of Ukraine, has announced that the Ukrainian armed forces are on “full combat alert”.

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

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An interactive map of the situation:

View Ukraine: April, 2014 in a larger map

For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.

Below we will be making regular updates. Be sure to check back often and hit refresh.


IMF Approves $17 Billion Aid Package For Ukraine

Some late-breaking news:
The Battle For Truth In Eastern Ukraine – Our Latest Podcast

In this week’s podcast, Boston College Professor Matt Sienkiewicz and Interpreter Magazine’s managing editor James Miller discuss the latest news from eastern Ukraine, and how media narratives play a role in what happens next. How does The Interpreter work to sort truth from fiction and help combat Russia’s disinformation campaigns?

Click here to listen to the podcast in a new window and see links to previous podcasts.

Russian-Backed Rebels Increasingly In Control of Donetsk
A pro-Ukraine rally in Donetsk was attacked by pro-Russian thugs on Monday. Today another pro-Ukraine rally has been cancelled.
And now there are reports that militants, possibly Russian-backed separatists, are storming a government office in the city:
Kiev Says It’s Helpless Against Russian-Backed Gunmen

Ukraine’s interim president, Oleksandr Turchynov, says that his forces are “helpless” against the Russian-backed gunmen who are capturing territory across eastern Ukraine:

“I will be frank: Today, security forces are unable to quickly take the situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions under control,” Turchynov said at a meeting with regional governors.

“The security bodies … are unable to carry out their duties of protecting citizens. They are helpless in those matters. Moreover, some of those units are either helping or cooperating with terrorist organizations.”

Turchynov instructed the governors to try to prevent the threat from overtaking more central and southern regions.

“Mercenaries and special units that are active on Ukrainian territory have been tasked with attacking those regions. That is why I am stressing:  our task is to stop the spread of the terrorist threat first of all in the Kharkiv and Odessa regions,” Turchynov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

Separatists Seize Town Hall in Alchevsk, Lugansk Region, a Lugansk-based news site, reports that separatists have seized the town hall in Alchevsk:

Today at 11 o’clock a group of pro-Russian activists, numbering around 30, entered the Alchevsk city council building. They were later followed by a number of protesters. 

They held negotiations with the authorities and a second flag appeared above the town hall. However this was not the Russian flag, but that of Alchevsk. The Ukrainian flag was removed. Most of the employees of the executive council went home after lunch while the management remains at their workplace. A pro-Russian rally is expected for 14:00 [17:00 GMT].

Here is a video of the Ukrainian flag being removed from the town hall today:

Russian Economy Already in Recession

According to the International Monetary Fund, Russia has officially entered a recession as it has seen negative economic growth for two quarters in a row. Russia’s economy reportedly shrank .5% in the first quarter of 2014 compared to the previous three month period. Associated Press reports

As a result, investors pulled about $60 billion from Russia in the first quarter of the year — more than in all of 2013. The IMF expects the capital outflows at around $100 billion this year, Spilimbergo said.

While analysts keep cutting Russia’s growth forecasts, the Kremlin denies it faces recession, insisting that the economy will pick up in the second quarter.

The MICEX index saw significant losses in the month of April, and in a day of light trading stayed stable today, gaining .09%. Though the benchmark has been rising slightly since the newest wave of sanctions was announced, that momentum may have already been lost.


Rebels Reportedly Attacking Sports Stadium in Donetsk
According to the Ukrainian outlet News of Donbass, separatists are reportedly trying to gain control of the main football stadium in Donetsk.
This is an unconfirmed report and a developing story.
Ukrainian President Says Army on Full Alert, Warns of Separatist Expansion

RFE/RL reports that the acting president of Ukraine, Oleksandr Turchynov has told a meeting of regional governors in Kiev today that the Ukrainian army is on ‘full combat alert’ and that “the threat of Russia starting a war against mainland Ukraine is real.”

Turchynov also warned that the Russian-backed separatist campaign may spread to other regions, as Ukrainska Pravda reports. The acting president said that separatists had been tasked with destabilising the Kharkiv, Odessa, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, Kherson and Mykolaiv regions over the May holiday.

The president admitted that the government is no longer in control of the situation in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. But he stressed that for now:

 “…the essential task is to prevent terrorism from overrunning other regions.

I am addressing the leaders of these regions and law enforcement officers on the need to strengthen their work. We’re predicting subversive acts. According to our intelligence, they are being prepared, but we mustn’t create panic. We need to create peace and relaxation for our citizens.”

Russian-Backed Fighters Seize City Council Building in Gorlovka

Local news site reports:

Today, April 30, at around 5 o’clock [02:00 GMT] in the morning, the Gorlovka city council building was seized by armed men in camouflage and masks.

According to employees from the city hall, who had arrived to work at their scheduled time (7:30 am [04:30 GMT]), there were four uniformed men with Kalashnikov assault rifles at the entrance to the building and several more inside the lobby. The rear entrance was barricade with three vehicles, including a Volkswagen van, which looked like one of the stolen PrivatBank collection vans. Later on, police cars drew up to the executive committee.

As workers at the executive committee told, negotiations on various options for the council’s work have been under way at the city hall since the early morning. No decision has been reached yet.

However some employees have managed to get in to work, they are in the building now and are awaiting further instructions from the head of the city council.

Here is an image from the scene from the Russian state-funded TV channel LifeNews