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.
Roman Burko’s map of separatist checkpoints and positions in southeast Ukraine:
While in Vienna for the latest round of talks with Iran and world powers over its nuclear program, Russia Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov gave a very insightful interview in which he stated that Russia would examine and learn from Iran’s experience with sanctions.
“It is very unfortunate that the US and the European Union are continuing their very illegitimate policy on sanctioning countries around. And Russia, since it also became subject of these illegitimate sanctions, will definitely benefit from the Iranian experience. So we will learn from your experience in this regard”
He was also asked about the referendum in Eastern Ukraine which he stated was, “organized, well-organized and democratic polls should be respected.” You can read the full interview here.
Against a January prediction of 2.5% growth in the Russian economy, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (A bank created in 1991 to help with the transition from Central and Eastern European countries from centrally planned to market economies) has released a report stating that the best outlook is one of stagflation, or high inflation and little to no growth for the rest of the year. The EBRD chief economist Erik Berglof stated:
“We wouldn’t be surprised if Russian growth goes below zero…We’re worried about the potential escalation of sanctions.“
But the Russian economy is not the only casualty of the continued violence, Ukraine’s economy is expected to contract by 7%, along with other countries who are connected to Russia are also expected to witness lower growth forecasts.
UPDATE: Ukrinform reported today that kidnappers had released Aleksandra Shevchenko, director of School No. 42 in Lugansk.
The Department of Public Affairs of the Interior Ministry Main Directorate in Lugansk confirmed the story, but had no further details.
Lugansk City Council Member Igor Lisko reached Shevchenko by telephone and commented on his Facebook that her condition was “normal,” if that could be said “after an abduction and threat.”
UNIAN reports (translated by The Interpreter):
In Lugansk, four armed men in masks and camouflage have kidnapped the director of School No. 42, Aleksandra Shevchenko.
UNIAN was told by the Interior Ministry’s public relations department that violence was used against the woman, and that she was taken out of the building at gunpoint, put in a car and driven off to an unknown destination.
An investigative team has set off for the scene. Steps are being taken to establish the whereabouts of the victim.
Earlier, 0642.com.ua quoted the blogger Nikolai Levchenko reporting on the attack:
At 14:00 [11:00 GMT] the director of grammar school number 42, Aleksandra Vitalevna Shevchenko, was taken away from work by an armed group of ‘Lugansk guards’. The militants seized her phone, laptop and digital media without responding to questions from teachers. The mother of a child, who had slandered Aleksandra Vitalevna, was supposed to come in today, but instead she offered an apology on social media. In place of mama came sub-machine guns.
Novosti Donbassa reports on a the kidnapping of an electoral official in Kramatorsk:
Gunmen have kidnapped the chairman of the regional election commission for 48th territorial constituency, Sergei Shandyba. As a Novosti Donbassa journalist reports from the scene, gunmen in masks entered the premises of the commission. Having suspended a meeting, they removed office equipment and documents. The gunmen also took the chairman hostage.
Obschezhiznie, a Ukrainian news site, has been covering the theft of an armoured engineering vehicle from a Novokramatorsky Mashinostroitelny factory (NKMZ) in Kramatorsk.
An official statement from NKMZ says that earlier today, a minibus carrying eight unidentified armed people, accompanied by a transporter truck, arrived at the factory. The armed men demanded that they be given an IMR (Inzhenernaya Mashina Razgrazhdeniya – a combat engineering vehicle based on a T-55 tank chassis fitted with a bulldozer blade and a grabbing arm). The statement said that the vehicle was out of action and had been written off as scrap. The company referred to the act as ‘expropriation’.
Obschezhiznie notes that previously, on April 26, armed men had arrived at the NKMZ site demanding the IMR, but that on that occasion they had failed to leave with it.
Another post on the news site says that the vehicle is now located, still on it’s transporter bed, on Shkadinova Street in Kramatorsk.
Another photo of the vehicle was posted today on the Euromaidan Twitter account:
Russia says imperialism is the reason why Western governments, and
the Western media, back the ‘coup’ in Kiev and paint Russia in such a
In this week’s podcast, Boston College Professor Matt Sienkiewicz and Interpreter Magazine’s managing editor James Miller discuss imperialism, propaganda, NATO expansion, and, ultimately, moral equivalence.
The OSCE has released their latest SMM (Special Monitoring Mission) report from Ukraine, updated as of 1800 (Kiev time) yesterday.
A few notes – in Lugansk (Luhansk) pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian crowds were very eager to talk to the SMM, and appear to operate in close proximity:
Around 40 people participating in a small rally in support of the so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic” also heatedly – but peacefully – communicated their views to the SMM. After 15 minutes of discussion, the SMM left the town, promising to return in order to discuss the situation more fully. The SMM observed Ukrainian symbols (flags, banners in the Ukrainian language, trees painted in Ukrainian colours) in the northern part of Luhansk region on the way to Svatove (150 kilometres north of Luhansk, near the oblast boundary with Kharkiv), and two checkpoints manned by the Ukrainian Army and National Guard, one of which was new.
In a meeting with the spokesperson of the “South-Eastern Army”, a paramilitary unit of the separatist “People’s Republics” of Luhansk and Donetsk, the SMM learnt that the self-declared ‘People’s Governor’, Valeriy Bolotov, had been lightly wounded in an assassination attempt on 13 May.
And in Lviv, the Jewish community has apparently been discriminated against, but is losing confidence in the police.
In Lviv a representative of the Jewish community told the SMM about recent and ongoing cases of apparent discriminatory practices by local authorities. The SMM learnt that in most cases the alleged claimants did not report cases to the police either out of fear or lack of confidence in law-enforcement institutions.
In light of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and after what amounts to a soft invasion of eastern Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia have been trying to expedite their move toward the European Union. The generally feeling in both places is that Putin’s hammer will hit them next no matter what they do, and so some in both places see greater ties with the West as the only way to sure up their economies and possibly secure greater aid from Europe and the United States.
Today, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy announced that both Georgia and Moldova will sign EU association agreements in June. Reuters reports:
Rompuy spoke in the Georgian capital after visits earlier this week to Moldova and Ukraine, where he backed the Kiev authorities in condemning a makeshift referendum by pro-Russian rebels in the east that threatens to dismember the country.
Since the early 1990s Russian troops have shielded breakaway statelets in a sliver of Moldova and two provinces of Georgia, and the crisis in Ukraine has heightened anxiety in both nations about Moscow’s approach to its former Soviet-era vassals.
One of the lightest and most entertaining aspects of this crisis (and there have been precious few of those) was the now infamous “Darth Vader,” a man dressed as a Star Wars character who tried to run for President of Ukraine. His bid was (some would say sadly) rejected by the Central Electoral Commission. But the incident highlighted the fact that there is a sizeable group of voters who, after two revolutions in a decade, are disenchanted with the political process. Some Ukrainian politicians raised concern that Vader was discrediting the entire political process. BBC reports:
At least one commission member suggests Darth Vader’s campaign could be an attempt to discredit the upcoming election – possibly by Russia, which does not recognise the Ukraine’s interim government. “It may seem like an innocent joke, but someone paid 2.5m hryvnyas ($227,000) for this joke,” says Ihor Zhydenko, referring to the deposit that must be given along with the application.
Zhydenko adds that Darth Vader might run for the presidency in Russia, where he has received extensive media coverage. “They already have little green men,” he says, referring to Russian troops in the Crimea region. “Such a commander-in-chief would be appropriate.”
Now, Vader is back. This time he’s running for mayor. NBC reports:
Voters in Odessa and Ukraine’s capital Kiev will be given the chance to vote for “Darth Nikolayevich Vader” in mayoral elections scheduled for May 25, according to a representative of the Sith Lord’s party.
Darth Vader is standing for the Internet Party of Ukraine, whose goal is to fight bureaucracy in state institutions.
“The registration is finished — the first step towards victory has been made. The power goes to my hands by itself and I am not ready to object,” a statement on Darth Vader’s website quoted him as saying.
Say what you want about the perils of having a candidate who appears to be running for office as a joke, but clearly the force is with his campaign team.
Armed separatist fighters have blocked the entrance to a Ukrainian Interior Troops base in Donetsk. OstroV reports that around 20 fighters arrived at military base number 3037 in Donetsk and blocked the gates with KAMAZ trucks.
Here is an screenshot of the entrance to the base, taken from Google Streetview:
OstroV reports, citing the Media and PR office of the Eastern Territorial Command of the Ukrainian Internal Forces, that the fighters demanded that the Ukrainian troops swore allegiance to the self-declared ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’.
The separatists said that, according to a decree issued by the self-styled government of the DPR, all law enforcement and security forces must swear allegiance to the DPR or leave the Donetsk region.
The Interior Ministry’s media centre reported that the base commanders had refused to swear allegiance to the separatists’ proclaimed state. They reported that the internal troops continue to carry out their duties in accordance with the law.
The DNR representatives reportedly said that “action will be taken”. Troops at the base do not know what this action will be.
According to the report, Alexandra Vitalyevna was an outspoken critic of the local separatists. She was seized by Russian-backed gunmen during school. The Russian-backed gunmen took her phone and laptop, and took her to the SBU building for questioning.
So far, this is a single-sourced story, so we will look to find more information to verify the report.
The Ukrainian Security Service has confirmed that the death toll of yesterday’s attack is now 7. One of the seriously wounded survivors of the attack died while being taken to hospital.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces’ YouTube channel has a number of videos online today showing the arrival of reserve troops, the clearing of the site around the burning BTR, and the evacuation of wounded:
A burnt out GAZ-66 truck carrying an artillery piece.
The Kyiv Post reports on statements made at a press conference yesterday by Andriy Antonyshchak, a member of the 1st Special Battalion of the National Guards.
Antonyshchak, a former Maidan self-defence unit leader, said that “sniper nests are situated in the upper floors of residential buildings, and the city center is heavily fortified”. The paper reports:
After spending two weeks manning a checkpoint on the outskirts of Sloviansk in a unit that was formed with other ex-EuroMaidan security personnel, Antonyshchak said the men in addition to possible house-to-house fighting, face “an enemy that has up to twenty years of combat experience consisting of mostly Russian military intelligence, Chechens, and mercenaries.”
He said the Kremlin-backed militants are armed with the latest weapons that include up-to-date Russian-made AK-100 series rifles, mortars and anti-aircraft missile systems.
Antonyshchak stressed the difficulty and importance of winning over the local population:
When the group first arrived in a village three kilometers from Sloviansk, local residents were hostile towards them. “By the third day, though, we walked around the village unarmed after explaining to them that we were there to protect them.”
Antonyshchak added that many residents “are brainwashed by Russian media and there are some who are paid to spread disinformation among them,” part of the reason why Ukrainian forces have faced stiff resistance in the region.
Meanwhile, Ukrainska Pravda reports on the efforts by journalist Roman Burko to collect and map local data on separatist checkpoints and positions. In a Facebook post, Burko said:
I’m asking for anyone who can help identify terrorist sites, upload coordinates, photos or videos posts on the number of militants and if possible, the types of weapons. Any information that will help anti-terror groups neutralise the militants and occupiers.
Burko has been compiling these reports on Google Maps. The resulting map is displayed below these updates.