Ukraine Liveblog Day 81: Fighting Breaks Out in Mariupol on Victory Day

May 9, 2014
Blood outside the Arbat cafe in Mariupol. Photo: Hromadske TV

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

A live stream from Mariupol is below:

Live streaming video by Ustream

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.

Defacing The Dead in Mariupol

One of the dead is seen in this video wearing a yellow and blue ribbon, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. Separatists berate him and one tried to remove the armband.

In another video that is extremely graphic the man who was shot in the head in the cafe appears to still have a pulse. It’s still not likely he survived his injury, however.
The City Council Building in Mariupol Reportedly On Fire
Some late-breaking news:
From the looks of it this is a significant fire.
Twelve Year Old Reportedly Shot In Slavyansk

According to the Voice of Russia, one the Kremlin’s news/propaganda outlets, a twelve year old boy wearing a St. George’s ribbon was shot in Slavyansk, and the city has been attacked again by Ukrainian forces:

“The child was simply taking a walk, when the shots were heard. He was shot in the chest and shoulder,” one of the victim’s relatives told RIA Novosti.

The boy was rushed to the hospital and is currently undergoing a surgery. Machine gun was fired near the flower market in the center of Slavyansk.

Earlier Friday the sounds of shooting were heard from the outskirts of the city. At about 17:00 Moscow time (13:00 GMT) forces supporting the coup-installed government in Kiev launched an assault on a roadblock near the village of Andreyevka near the city, held by pro-federalization protesters.

Local self-defense forces said they came under assault rifle fire. No casualties were reported so far.

Earlier there were reports of helicopters circling the city of Slavyansk, but we have yet to determine what has transpired there.

Who Fired First In Mariupol?

Looking again at that last video, which is GRAPHIC, there is something we missed. At 1:11, a gunshot hits near the ground where two Ukrainian soldiers (red arrows) and the protester on his knees can be seen. In other videos it looked as though the man on his knees fired a gun, but in this video you can clearly see that this puff of white smoke (red box) is actually an impact from a bullet.


But where did the bullet come from? The bullet hits dangerously close to two different Ukrainian soldiers, neither of whom fire a shot. Did someone in the crowd fire at the soldiers, which prompted the soldiers to shoot? Is there a sniper we can’t see in the video?

It’s also not clear from any of these angles how the man who was killed received his fatal shot to the head.

We know that some of the civilians in this street were armed, and some here and elsewhere were harassing the Ukrainian military convoys. We also know that all of this took place after a Ukrainian police station was attacked by gunmen, prompting the military response.

But in this street, who fired first? It’s still not clear.

Did This Soldier Shoot Unarmed Civilians?

Now yet another video shows that the men identified below as possible gunmen may not have been armed at all. In fact, those men appear to be challenging a Ukrainian soldier who could not be seen in the other angles.

The video is graphic.

In this video, one of the men crawls over on his knees to confront the soldier. Another man appears to show some sort of badge. Both are shot.


We still know that some in the crowd had guns and fired at the Ukrainian soldiers after the journalist was shot, but it’s not clear at all where the gunfire is coming from at the start of the video, and from the looks of things, at least two of the civilians who were shot were not armed.

Did the Crowd Shoot At Soldiers Before And After Journalist Was Shot?

In one of our updates, we point out that there is a white puff of smoke and a gunshot from the left side of where a journalist was shot today in Mariupol. We could not see what caused the smoke, but right afterwards the “man in blue” whom we believe is RT’s producer goes running. He then turns a corner and is shot. In our previous updates we established that it looks like he was shot by Ukrainian soldiers, but we also established that there were gunmen in civilian clothes near the journalist.

This video ties it all together:

First, we see the man in blue (red arrow) photographing Ukrainian soldiers, but also a group of possible gunmen in civilian clothes who are just to the right of this tree (not visible in this frame).


Later we see two possible gunmen, one crouched and the other standing (red square). There is shooting near these men, causing the smoke and making the man in blue run.


Just a fraction of a second before the journalist is shot, there is a gunshot and the possible  gunman who was down on one knee begins to fall down. Immediately after this, another gunshot hits the man in blue. If you watch carefully, debris can actually be seen exiting the man in the blue, confirming what we wrote earlier that the soldier we previously pointed out is the likely shooter. The point is, however, that the soldiers may have been already under fire when the man in blue runs around the corner and right into the middle of the firefight.


After this, a man in the foreground fires at the soldiers. We previously posted two photos of this man as well.

It’s also worth noting that at the start of these videos several Ukrainian soldiers are on the near side of the street. Videos do suggest that these soldiers, who were fleeing, were possibly taking fire. One video shows a chair thrown at them as well.

Ukraine’s APCs Crash Through Roadblocks In Mariupol

A Reddit forum on this crisis describes this video thusly:

“VIDEO: Ukrainian APCs break through pro-Russian barricade in spectacular fashion.”

It’s worth noting two things:

1) APC 240, the one that broke down and was ultimately captured by separatists earlier, was not one of those vehicles.

2) The people go right back to rebuilding the barricades, though this time also using a long metal barrier that may be stronger than the initial building materials.

How Did a Journalist Get Shot Today in Mariupol?

Below is a translation of the video we posted in the previous update below, a video which may show, among other things, a stringer for RT being shot in the streets of Mariupol today:

and APCs, where a peaceful demonstration marking 9 May just went by
[gunfire]…There they are, those Nazis…the masks are thrown off…”

[More Gunfire]

Dialogue from crowd:

“Sasha, he’s fallen.”

“He’s shot.”

[Woman shouts] Shooting with guns! Naked Banderovites!

[Man shouts] Fuck! that’s just great!

[Inaudible shouts, gunfire]

Woman: Get out! Get out!

– Narrator?]: They are intimidating the local population.
[Sarcastically] They brought democracy to Mariuopol! The freedom they
promised! There it is, freedom! Look, they’re aiming at us! Go ahead,
shoot! Fuck! You’ll choke on blood! You’ll choke!

[Man] Hey, who are you aiming at, you there!

[Man] You beast!

[Man] This isn’t your town!

[Man] Occupiers!

[Man with ribbons on pants]: Get back! Get back!

All of this suggests that the gunmen in the video are indeed Ukrainian troops.

multiple screen shots, it does appear that a soldier who is standing apart from the others is the
person who shoots the “man in blue,” who may by the Ruptly producer
we’ve been discussing.


This picture was sent to us by Richard Vernalls, and it is a screenshot from one of the videos we posted earlier. Vernallls notes that the angle of the muzzle matches the description of the wound that the RT producer reportedly suffered — a lower-abdomen injury.

Re-watching the video from which this screenshot came, it does seem likely that this is the shooter.

But in our previous update we also noted that the soldiers may not have been the only ones shooting.

In this picture we see the soldier who may be the one who shot the “man in blue,” but we also see someone in the crowd with a gun (and the man on the cell phone has what appears to be a molotov cocktail). That matches exactly the picture below, a screenshot from yet another video:
Other pictures shared today reportedly show armed “protesters” in Mariupol. These pictures were originally uploaded to the Russian social network VK earlier today, though we can’t vouch for their authenticity.
People in the crowds had guns. The RT journalist ran around the corner and right into gunfire from a soldier. It’s understandable how innocent bystanders could have been shot today in Mariupol.
Key Video Shows Shooting of Two Civilians and Possibly a Journalist

The video quality is not great, but this video could be key in piecing together part of what happened today in Mariupol.

A few things in this video to note:

At 4:10, a man appears to challenge a crouching gunmen, but backs off when the gunman aims his weapon at the man. After this, the man runs into the street in front of the Ukrainian APCs which are traveling very fast. He is then shot. If he was shot by Ukrainian forces, his racing toward their APC could easily be considered a threat.

After this, there is more shooting down the side street. This is the same street where the journalist described in our last update is shot, and it is also where the man in the cafe is shot. We never see the man in the cafe receive his (presumably fatal) head wound.

At about 7 minutes in, the soldier who was crouching before runs to join his forces. Just after this, the man in the blue, who may be RT’s producer (again, see previous update), runs down the street near the left of the screen and is shot.This matches exactly what the video in the previous update below shows.

This is a screenshot from the new video. The man highlighted by the arrow may be RT’s reporter. Note, though, the puff of smoke in the red box. This appears to be smoke from a gunshot, though it’s unclear where the shot came from, and it appears to be what caused the man to run.


But he runs right into gunfire. Furthermore, this angle shows that if the man was shot by the soldiers ahead of him, as the video in the last update suggests, then he would have only briefly been visible to the soldiers who shot him. If they were the men who shot the reporter, there would have been little time for them to react. This picture shows the man right after he was shot.


But where did the shot that started the man’s running come from? Were the soldiers down the street taking fire?

It’s still not 100% certain that the camouflaged gunmen in this video are Ukrainian troops, though the evidence is building that suggest that they are.

An Important Video From Mariupol May Show Shooting of a Journalist

One of the stories we’ve been covering is the shooting of a producer for Ruptly, a video production service of the Russian state-owned news and propaganda outlet RT. This video may show the shooting. At about 24 seconds in, you can see a man in blue, holding a camera, running around a corner and toward the armed men. At about 28 seconds in he appears to get shot.

Are these Ukrainian soldiers? We can’t say with certainty because both sides may have been wearing camouflage. We also can’t confirm that this man is RT’s stringer. An earlier RT report suggested that the gunmen were masked men in uniform, and several details between that report and this report don’t seem to match. He does not appear to talk to the gunmen before he is shot, though he does, as the first report says, “abruptly” cross the street.

More Russian Anti-Tank Missiles in Slavyansk
Earlier we posted a picture of a Russian-backed separatist staring down the sights of a 9K115 Metis or 9K115-2 Metis-M advanced anti-tank missile. A reader finds another video of separatists with an anti-tank missile:

The video was taken by the Russian news outlet LifeNews, which has close ties to Russian security forces, back in April. And the reader is not being fresh — the operating name of this weapon is the 9K111 Fagot, a slightly older weapon than the Metis but one that is still in use today. To be clear, this is a totally different weapons system than the one we posted earlier.

Where did the Russian-backed separatists get these weapons? While they are Russian-manufactured systems, many countries use these weapons, but they are military weapons. Where did they come from? We’re not aware of Russian-backed separatists having captured any military arsenals except in Crimea, which is controlled by the Russian government.

Condition of RT Producer Worsens After Being Shot in Mariupol
Earlier we reported that a producer for Ruptly, a video service of the Russian state-operated news/propaganda outlet RT, was shot by masked gunmen in Mariupol. His condition appears to have taken a turn for the worse.
Picture Reportedly Shows Separatists Using Advanced Russian Anti-Tank Missile

This picture appears to show a man, wearing a St. George Ribbon and dressed in the classic garb of Russian-backed separatists (or perhaps Russian Spetsnaz in eastern Ukraine), hiding behind a barricade. Ridus, a Russian citizen-journalism outlet, reports (translated by The Interpreter):

A few kilometers from Slavyansk, outside of Semenova, militia are putting up a new checkpoint made out of concrete blocks. They will guard it with the help of anti-tank weapons, Andrei Krasnoshchekiv, a Ridus correspondent reports.


But that’s not an RPG he’s looking through. It appears to be a 9P151 launcher, which could fire either a 9K115 Metis or 9K115-2 Metis-M missile, an advanced Russian anti-tank weapon.


Is the picture real? We’ve seen the Slavyansk separatists use heavy construction equipment to construct barriers like these. The man is wearing a St. George ribbon. The picture does not appear to have been uploaded before now.

So it’s possible that this is one of Slavyansk’s Russian-backed separatists, using a highly advanced piece of Russian military weaponry. Where did he get it?

Separatists Capture APC In Mariupol
Some interesting reports — we’ve been tracking videos and pictures of an APC was was apparently disabled. The separatists appear to have captured it.
But the same vehicle does appear to be working.

It’s not clear what has happened or who started the shooting, but the locals are clearly very unhappy with the presence of the Ukrainian forces in the town. In one of the videos we posted in our previous update, civilians call the Ukrainian soldiers “aliens” and “occupiers.” They call them “pederasts,” and yell that they shout get out of the town. Many can be seen wearing St. George’s ribbons, particularly in the video where the civilians stand in front of the tank.

But who were the civilians who appear to have died, and who killed them?

Video Shows Intense Gunfights In Mariupol

This video shows what appears to be a Ukrainian soldier firing an RPG today in Mariupol, likely at the police station that had been captured earlier by separatist gunmen:

More video taken from the streets. At the end of the video, several people can be seen after having been shot, including the man, who may have been killed, at the Arbat Cafe.

This video clearly shows men dressed in civilian clothes who block a government APC. After the civilians block the vehicle, tires are thrown in front of it to block its movement. Then men climb on top of the vehicle and appear to try to block the sightlines with a tarp of some kind. Eventually it breaks through. There were no apparent injuries.

RT Reporter Shot In Mariupol
This video was reportedly taken by the stringer not long before he was shot.

RT reports:

RT’s stringer in Mariupol has been injured while trying to film and is now in hospital. Doctors say that in spite of his bulletproof vest he has sustained an injury to the stomach.

“Your employee was on [Georgievskaya] street,” Andrey, a Mariupol resident, told RT. “He was showing the armed and masked people in uniform that he is unarmed, that he was a journalist. But then he decided to abruptly cross the street. A shot was heard and he fell… He could not have provoked [the attack]. As I understood, he showed that he was a journalist and wanted to come closer to get a good picture.”

After he fell, “he crawled to a car and hid behind it. We stopped a passing car for it to deliver him to a hospital for emergency help. We asked for traffic police officers who were close by for their help. One of them helped to drag your journalist and put him in a car.”

Another Russian Show of Force — In Moldova

Putin is in Crimea, nuclear weapons are in Moscow’s Red Square, Russian-backed militants are parading APCs through Slavyansk, but there is another message Russia is sending — Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin is celebrating Victory Day in the Breakaway Moldovan region, Transnistria. RFE/RL reports:

Rogozin, the Russian president’s special representative for Transdniestr, said in Tiraspol May 9 Russia would do everything possible to guarantee the security of the self-declared republic.

He suggested that the government in Kyiv posed a danger to Transdniestr, which is between Ukraine and Moldova.

“On the borders of Transdniester a genuine blockade is being set up,” Rozogin said, referring to Ukraine. “They don’t allow men 16 and 60 years old into neighboring Odesa, this speaks of the fear the fascists there are experiencing.”

Rogozin arrived May 8 after a delay he said was caused by Ukrainian authorities denying his plane access through Ukrainian airspace.

Putin Arrives In Crimea Among a Show of Russian Force

Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Sevastopol, Crimea, and has taken part of the Victory Day parades that mark the Soviet Union’s victory over Germany in World War II. Not only is Putin’s visit to Crimea, which the West does not recognize as part of Russia, a show of defiance, but the military equipment accompanying him was, according to the Russian media, historic. CNN reports:

In Sevastopol, which hosts a key Russian naval base, crowds packed the shores to witness the show of Russia’s military might.

Besides the warships, dozens of military aircraft roared overhead, in what Russian state news agency ITAR-Tass said was the first such aerial display in the city’s history of Victory Day events.

Putin paid tribute to Sevastopol’s long military history as he addressed servicemen in the harbor, and said he was sure that 2014 would become known in history as the year Crimea’s people decided to return to Russia and the memory of their ancestors.

“There is a lot of work to be done but we will overcome all the difficulties because we are together — this means we have become even stronger and I congratulate you on the great victory,” he said.

Putin shook hands with many of the servicemen after his remarks, before walking over the barriers where he was greeted by screaming crowds.

In Moscow, another show of force was taking place.
US State Department Warns Citizens To Stop Non-Essential Travel to Ukraine

Sometime yesterday the US State Department issued a new travel warning for Ukraine:

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Ukraine.  In addition, the Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all travel – both essential and non-essential – to several regions of Ukraine, including the Crimean Peninsula, the eastern regions of Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Luhansk, and the city of Odesa, due to the possibility of violent clashes between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian groups and the presence of Russian military forces in the Crimean Peninsula and on the eastern border of Ukraine.

The report goes on:

The Russian Federation has positioned military forces along the border of eastern Ukraine while armed militants in several eastern Ukrainian cities have staged demonstrations, seized government buildings, set up checkpoints, and attacked police and pro-Ukrainian counter-demonstrators. There was also a violent confrontation between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian protestors in the southern city of Odesa on May 2.  Armed militants have threatened, detained, or kidnapped some journalists and international observers in eastern Ukraine for hours or days. The situation in Ukraine is unpredictable and could change quickly. U.S. citizens throughout Ukraine should avoid large crowds and be prepared to remain indoors for extended periods of time should clashes occur in their vicinity.  

Ukrainian Forces Reportedly Kill 10-20 Gunmen In Mariupol

Arsen Avakov, the acting Interior Minister, has posted an update on Facebook. According to the statement, 60 men, whom he describes as terrorists, armed with automatic weapons, attacked the Mariupol police department. The fight began when the police tried to repel the attack. 20 of the “terrorists” were killed and four were captured. The Ukrainian forces have suffered one death and 5 of their men have been wounded.

The report is somewhat vague, but does not suggest that the police were pro-Russian. Instead, it seems that the police building was captured, and the Ukrainian armor and troops then had to attack the building.

Why attack this building and not so many others that have been captured. Avakov suggests that there may have been a large weapons stockpile inside, and many of the weapons escaped along with some of the gunmen who fled, according to Avakov, to residential neighborhoods.

The Ukrainian military expert Dmitry Tymchuk reports that 10 gunmen were killed and 48 wounded. He also reports that the gunmen used automatic weapons and grenades to capture the police building, and sniper rifles to defend it, and more separatists attempted to block the National Guard troops that were deploying to the town to recapture the police headquarters.

Eight People Reportedly Killed in Mariupol

The death toll in Mariupol may have risen to eight. Reuters reports:

In Mariupol, the region’s main port on the Sea of Azov, a member of Ukraine’s parliament said Ukrainian forces attacked the police headquarters in an attempt to drive out pro-Russian militants, and the building caught fire.

Oleh Lyashko said eight rebels had been killed in fighting. Interfax-Ukraine news agency said eight people were killed.

But Donetsk medical authorities said three had been killed in fighting and 25 wounded.

A local photographer at the scene told Reuters the building was ablaze and that two bodies were lying in the street outside.

“One of them is definitely a police officer,” he said.

Attempts to Seize Ukrainian IFVs in Mariupol
Here is video showing a crowd attempting to stop a Ukrainian BMP-2 IFV in Mariupol today.

The crowd, some of whom are seen wearing St. George’s ribbons (the orange and black emblem of the pro-Russians), force the armoured vehicle to stop. One man climbs atop to throw a sheet over the viewing ports while another places a large metal can of some kind between the wheels of the BMP-2’s tracks. Others throw tires at, and in the path of the IFV.

The driver manages to overcome these obstacles eventually, lurching forwards until they get away at speed, forcing the man on the back of the vehicle to leap off as the crowd pursues. reports that separatists have captured a tank

Translation: 14:21 – At the intersection of Lenina and Torgovoy agents of the Donetsk People’s Republic have captured a tank.

This tweet refers not to the BMP-2 in the video above (numbered 205), but another shown on the following two videos (numbered 240):

Russia’s Pravda claims that this YouTube video shows the capture of the vehicle. However the following video shows the same vehiicle being towed away by a third BMP-2 (numbered 204):

From these videos, we are unsure what happened to the crew of 240, but the vehicle has clearly not been seized by separatists. It does appear, however, to be incapacitated, though we are unsure how.
Police Building in Mariupol Burns

The State Police building in Mariupol, which was has been the scene of fighting between Ukrainian government and separatist forces today, is now on fire. Ukrainian forces appear to have assaulted the building and have now left.

John Angier from ITV news is in the city, as is ITN camerman and journalist, Daniel Demoustier. reports that, according to eye witnesses, the body found outside the police building is that of a man with a yellow and blue armband. A bullet-proof vest was found alongside him. The report says that the victim had received a gunshot wound in the side.
Fighting in Mariupol

Ukrainian Army and law enforcements units are engaging separatists in Mariupol, where Russian-backed fighters are, according local news site, attempting to seize a police building and a military site. Shooting has been reported outside the Interior Ministry Building. The site reports that medics say that there have been 2 killed and 8 wounded. Numerous Ukrainian armoured vehicles have been seen in action in Mariupol.

At 12:28 local time (9:28 GMT) 0629 wrote:

2 people have been seriously wounded in the head and stomach on Lenin Prospect. There is a huge pool of blood outside the Arbat cafe. It’s not known whether the wounded survived or not. According to eyewitnesses, they were taken away in a private car, Fighting is going on around the state police building. Machine-gun fire has been heard.

The photo above shows Ukrainian BMP-2 IFVs in Mariupol.

Here is video from Mariupol today showing Ukrainian BMP-2s rushing down the road followed, towards the end of the video, by the sound of gun fire.

We have embedded a live stream from Mariupol above these updates.

At the City Council building, which was reoccupied by separatists on Wednesday, following a brief recapture by government forces, there are reports, according to Ukrainska Pravda, that tires have been set on fire. They also report, citing posts on social networks, that the first floor of the building may be on fire. This is a photo from Novosti Donbassa:

Photo: Novosti Donbassa

Novosti Donbassa has posted this video from YouTube, which appears to show armed men attempting to remove a roadblock in Mariupol today: