Ukraine Liveblog Day 93: Akhmetov Tells Donbass to ‘Fight, Fight, Fight’

May 21, 2014
Rinat Akhmetov Appeals to the people of the Donbass. Screenshot from YouTube

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.

13 Out of 36 Local Election Commissions in Donetsk and Lugansk Oblasts Shut Down

Ukrainska Pravda reports:

As of Wednesday, 13 out of 36 commissions in the Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts are shut down.

This was reported to Ukrainska Pravda by the press secretary of the Central Election Commission, Konstantin Khivrenko.

In the Donetsk oblast, one District Electoral Commission [OIK] in Artyomovsk was liberated while another, in Donetsk, was seized. In total, 7 District Election Commissions in Donetsk have been shut down.

As of 10:00 on May 21, work has resumed at OIK number 46 in Artyomovsk. 

However at 9:30 on Wednesday, the premises of the 45th OIK in Donetsk were captured again and sealed off by representatives of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic.

The paper notes that the seven seized electoral commissions include 2 in Donetsk, one in Kramatorsk, two in Gorlovka, one in Enakievo, and one in Torez. The 44th OIK in Donetsk, the 55th in Shakhtersk and the 62nd in Starobeshevo, are now unlocked but remain under the threat of seizure.

Claims That Video Shows Russian Journalists Instructing Separatists To Fire Anti-Tank Missile
This video is being talked about because it is key to why Russian journalists have been detained by Ukrainian forces. The video, taken by LifeNews or LifeNews freelancers, appears to show Russian-backed separatists firing an anti-tank weapon in Slavyansk. The real reason it is being talked about, however, is that the journalists in the video appear to give orders to the soldiers to fire the weapon, which according to many would cross the line between recording the insurgency and being part of it. 

The weapon appears to show an 9k111 ‘Fagot’ anti-tank weapon, which, as we have previously reported, is in the hands of Slavyansk separatists, along with other sophisticated pieces of military hardware like the 9K115 Metis or 9K115-2 Metis-M missile which has been photographed and filmed in the hands of rebels many times, including by RT.

A screenshot of the weapon:


The 9k111:



LifeNews denies that the video shows their reporters doing anything wrong, but there are problems with their story. This is a cross-post of part of our entry on our Russian liveblog:

In an article today on its website, LifeNews refutes Ukrainian journalist Aleksandr Gorobets, who posted a story on Ekho Moskvy yesterday titled, “What in Reality are LifeNews Employees Doing Outside of Kramatorsk? Video Evidence.” He charges the pro-Kremlin reporters not only with “assisting terrorists” – as the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has done, but also accused them of actually commanded the separatist “self-defense”.

LifeNews pointed out that they had uploaded the video showing shooting near the village of Cherevkovka, between Slavyansk and Kramatorsk, on 19 May for a news story.

At that time, without citing any names of reporters, they wrote that the firefight lasted 40 minutes, and there were no casualties in that particular battle. They described the fighters as “a mobile group of self-defense” which had tried to take the checkpoint in Cherevkovka. Now they claim that the video was taken by the fighters themselves and LifeNews got it from them:

“Our journalists received this video from representatives of the militia, who battled soldiers from the National Guard near the checkpoint at the village of Cherevokovka, which is between Slavyansk and Kramatorsk.”

The only problem with that story is that their article posted 18 May doesn’t clearly establish this provenance, and there is no original separatists’ video without LifeNews’ logo on YouTube as far as is known. LifeNews say they routinely make use of citizens’ videos from dash cams and cell phones and also accept videos from fighters themselves in preparing their broadcasts.

To bolster their story, LifeNews cites Aleksandr Kots, a special correspondent from the pro-government Komsomolskaya Pravda covering the fighting in the region (and, we could add, reportedly one of the 300 journalists on a secret Kremlin list who were given special awards for their coverage of the Crimea annexation). Kots says he even knows the name of the separatist who took the video.

“The man who took this periodically shares his videos with us. He does not ask for money for this. He just wants for people to see what is happening in reality in the south east of Ukraine. This video was taken outside of Slavyansk. It was filmed by the commander of one of the units of the rapid-response group. I don’t know his name, but I know his handle – Motorola,’ says journalist Aleksandr Kots. ‘He’s this sturdy, cheerful guy. He has filmed a lot himself, he both commands and shoots videos. For example, he gave us a videotape of the night shelling of Kramatorsk.”

For more information read our liveblog entry here.

At the end of last week, two LifeNews journalists were arrested while traveling in a car with rebels who were in the possession of anti-aircraft missiles (MANPADS). Ukrainian authorities say that the journalists were assisting the ‘terrorists.’ Ukrainian authorities and their supporters have also complained that some Russian journalists have reported specific locations of the Ukrainian military forces and checkpoints.

LifeNews is a Russian news agency with close ties to the Russian security apparatus. They are often given tips by security forces, as evidenced by the fact that LifeNews documents many high-profile arrests and military/security operations. Again, a quote from our Russian liveblog:

LifeNews – which has run wild tales such as “Right Sector looting towns” and “hundreds if not a thousand Right Sector fighters” bused into Mariupol – now hopes it will be believed on this story.

Mayor of Mikolayiv Receives Dog’s Head with Grenade Stuffed Inside it in Parcel

Ukrainian news site Socialna Kraina reports that Yuri Granaturov, the acting mayor of Mikolayiv, received a parcel from an unknown sender today which contained the severed head of a dog, within which was a grenade. The Mikolayiv police department said that tests showed the grenade to be a fake.

Socialna Kraina provides this statement from the police (translated by The Interpreter):

“The police received a message from the attendant at the city council, saying that a parcel addressed to the acting mayor had arrived, from which came an unpleasant smell. An investigative team and an expert from the Interior Ministry’s regional forensics centre set out to establish all the circumstances at the scene. On opening the parcel, police officers discovered the remains of an animal’s head.”


While examining the contents of the parcel, officers found a device resembling a grenade inside the head. After being taken to a testing range, the device was declared a fake. The report says that officers are working to establish the identity of the senders of the parcel. They note that:

The official himself perceives the parcel as a threat from the opponents of a united Ukraine.


Ministry of Defence Spokesman says Separatists May Try to Establish Corridor to Russia

Vladimir Seleznev, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence, has written on his Facebook page that separatist fighters are attempting to establish a corridor between Slavyansk and the Russian border. He writes, (translated by The Interpreter):

On the 20th of May 2014, illegal armed groups, carrying out unlawful acts, set up 2 block-posts near the village of Dmitrovka, close to the Ukrainian state border. For this purpose around 30 armed men arrived on 2 KAMAZ vehicles. According to the operational data we have received, a corridor is being prepared for the withdrawal of the main separatist force, which is currently located in the town of Slavyansk, and the removal of the bodies of gunmen killed during clashes with Ukrainian security forces. There are also reports that the upper floors and roofs of blocks of flats in Slavyansk are being prepared as separatist sniper positions.

We note that Seleznev does not specify which Dmitrovka he is referring to. There are in fact two villages of that name within the theatre of separatist operations.

The first lies to the immediate south-west of Slavyansk and was the scene of a major ambush on Ukrainian forces. This is obviously in the wrong direction from Slavyansk to be closer to the Russian border.

The second Dmitrovka is in the Lugansk oblast and is about 25 miles from the border. This appears more likely to be the location of which Seleznev speaks.

Akhmetov Tells Donbass to ‘Fight, Fight, Fight’

Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest businessman, appealed today to the people of Donbass in a video statement. He urged the residents of the south-eastern region to fight against the separatists.

The Kyiv Post posted the following translated transcript:

First of all, I wish to express my deep gratitude to everyone who took part in the Voice of Donbass action.

I know that many more wanted to join but were intimidated by pistols and machine guns. Cars were smashed… In short, they acted as savages.

But I am deeply certain that you cannot feed people on guns nor can you ever build a strong economy without good jobs and salaries.

And in spite of everything, the voice of Donbass has sounded and will sound stronger!

Many ask what is next. Fight, fight and fight again for your happiness, your present and your future!

I believe that the Donetsk People’s Republic are deceiving the people of Donbass. They are imposters who have taken the entire Donbass hostage and are terrorizing it.

Who are they? What are those people? Where did those “geniuses” come from? What were they yesterday? They have not created a single job.

I have served and will continue to serve the people of Donbass. The people of Donbass are in my heart forever!

But that bunch of imposters terrorising Donbass… I believe they will be kicked out of here very soon.

If some of you believe that they are leading us to success, this is a mistake. It is a huge mistake. They are leading to collapse, poverty and hunger. Through their actions they are killing Donbass, not protecting it.

I wanted to tell my fellow countrymen again – I am always straight with you. Only time will show who was right and who was not; who said the truth, and who lied; who made a mistake and was under delusion.

We, the Donbass, and the Donetsk People’s Republic have different roads to go!

Akhmetov has been ambiguous in the past on his position with regards to the separatists, and the wider Euromaidan revolution. However in recent days he has made increasingly partisan statements against the separatists.

Steel workers from his Metinvest plants in Mariupol were organised into patrols to maintain order in the town while separatists withdrew. But even this move reflected an equivocal position as Metinvest had publicly signed a “memorandum on peace and security” with the local representatives of the separatists’ self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’, granting the rebel body a degree of recognition.

Moreover a report, published yesterday evening by The Financial Times, suggests that Akhmetov may have left it too late to galvanise effective support amongst his vast workforce in the area. The report describes a poor turnout for the anti-separatist rallies called for by Akhmetov:

At Enakievo Metallurgical Works, a factory outside Donetsk that employs 6,000, only a few hundred workers went to the ordered rally, which took the form of a team meeting and lasted less than 10 minutes.

Furthermore, the paper notes that Vladimir Sadovoy, the head of the factory’s worker’s union, had told their reporter that the vast majority of the workers were opposed to the government in Kiev, and that at least one of the men in his unit had taken leave to work with the separatist militias.