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A destroyed armored personnel carrier BMP-2, which presumably came from Russia, is pictured on a road near Starobesheve, controlled by separatists, in eastern Ukraine, Oct. 2, 2014. Maria Tsvetkova / Reuters
The burnt-out remains of dozens of tanks and armored vehicles in fields near this small village bear witness to the ferocity of a battle that turned the tide of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Most of the tanks were used by the government forces routed in August near Horbatenko, 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, a defeat so demoralizing that days later Kiev agreed a cease-fire with pro-Russian separatists.
But among the debris journalists found the blackened carcasses of what military experts have since identified as two Russian army tanks, supporting statements by Kiev and the West that the rebels were backed by troops and equipment sent by Moscow.
Moscow denies the accusations though the rebels had been on the brink of defeat until late August, when the Ukrainian government says they received an injection of soldiers and weapons from Russia.
Photographs of the two badly damaged tanks, one of which had lost its turret, were shown to four independent military experts, who said they were of a type used exclusively by the Russian army.
At least one, they agreed, was a T-72BM — a Russian-made modification of a well known Soviet tank. This version of the tank, they said, is not known to have been exported.
“It is operated by the Russian Army in large numbers, but crucially it is not known to have been exported or operated outside of Russia,” Joseph Dempsey, a military analyst for the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, wrote in late August when a tank like that was discovered on grainy footage of rebel convoy.
“The presence of this variant in Ukraine therefore strongly supports the contention that Russia is supplying arms to separatist forces,” Dempsey said.
Such remarks clearly undermine Russian denials of direct involvement in the conflict in Ukraine to ensure Moscow maintains some influence and make governing Ukraine difficult as Kiev charts a Westward political and economic course.
The military experts shown photographs of the two tanks said the second was either the same as the first, a T-72BM, or a slightly different model, a T-72B1.
More conclusive recognition is difficult because of the extent of the damage.
The Soviet-made T-72B1, Dempsey said, is not believed to be in active service in Ukraine, making it almost impossible that the separatists captured it in battle.
Ukraine’s Security Council, which groups the country’s top political, defense and security chiefs, said in June the separatists were using T-72 tanks that could not have been captured from the Ukrainian army.
Kiev also said in late August that Russian forces had entered Ukraine and occupied Starobeshevo, five kilometers (three miles) from Horbatenko.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for more details of the decisive battles that followed soon afterwards but Ukrainian soldiers caught in the battles say they were quickly overcome.
Alexei Koshelenko, who said he was captured on Aug. 24-25 near the town of Ilovaysk, said: “We were hit by [multiple rocket launcher] Grads and after that the troops just swept us away. We were completely defeated within 20 minutes. Many of us were killed, others are missing.”
“They were Russians,” he said after being released with other prisoners of war. Referring to a city 300 kilometers (200 miles) northeast of Moscow, he said: “They said they were an airborne assault battalion from Kostroma.”
The accounts of residents of Horbatenko, a village of a few dozen inhabitants which overlooks the fields that became the battlefield, also challenge Russia’s denials of direct intervention.
Valentina Ivanovna, 75, said she was slightly wounded by shrapnel when fighting became fierce in late August.
“We saw an armored convoy coming down here,” she said. “They had white circles on the armor and white flags but whose troops they were we don’t know.”
Neither the rebels nor the Ukrainian forces have white circles as their permanent recognized emblem. But another local resident, who gave her name only as Nina for fear of retribution, said she had been told the meaning of the white circles in conversations with passing soldiers who identified themselves as Russian.
“One of them told me: white circles mean this is Russians,” she said. “He came to the last house for some water to drink and I asked how you can tell the difference between a Ukrainian or Russian. He said that if it’s us, there are white circles on the tanks.”
The two damaged tanks were too badly burned to have any recognizable insignia but a destroyed Soviet-made BMP-2 armored personnel carrier a few hundred meters away also bore a white circle on its broken turret.
Residents of areas on the Ukrainian side of the border with Russia also reported seeing armored convoys marked by white circles on Aug. 26.
Two days later Reuters spotted an armored convoy with the same insignia on the Russian side of the border.
At the end of August, Ukraine accused Russian troops of crossing the border. To support the accusations, it released videotaped interviews with Russian paratroopers captured by Ukrainian forces in a village 15 kilometers (nine miles) from Horbatenko.
They said they served in the 98th division based in the town of Ivanovo in central Russia.
President Vladimir Putin said he believed they had lost their way and crossed the unmarked segment of the border unintentionally. The captured paratroopers were later sent back to Russia.
Anti-tank missiles fired near where the tanks were destroyed also appear to have originated in Russia because various used parts of Kornet anti-tank guided missiles were left there.
Photographs of the missile parts were shown to three military experts and two of them said Ukraine does not have anti-tank guided missiles of this type.
“The presence of the Kornet ATGM is noteworthy and while it has been exported widely by Russia this list does not include Ukraine. As such, it further supports Russian involvement,” the International Institute for Strategic Studies said.
Trenches near the tanks also provided what appeared to be more evidence of foreign troops — numerous empty boxes of ready-to-eat meals that are used by the Russian army. Each box contains meals for one day.
One reporter counted 124 packages of field rations with “not for sale” labels and notes that they were produced for the Russian Defense Ministry.
A spokeswoman for Voentorg, the company in Russia that produces such meals for the Russian Defense Ministry, confirmed they cannot be sold.
About 50 empty bottles of mineral water around the tanks bore labels identifying them as being produced in Russia’s Ivanovo province, the region where the division of the Russian paratroopers captured in August is based.
Although Moscow has denied any direct involvement in the conflict, graves have been found in Russia with the remains of Russian servicemen who relatives, friends and human rights activists say were killed in Ukraine.
Moscow and the rebels have said that any acting servicemen from Russia were volunteers. Asked about the presence of Russian arms and field rations in Ukraine a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry said: “We have the answer and it has been given multiple times.”
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry did not reply to a request for information about the losses near Starobeshevo.
Ukraine Government Responsible for Cluster Attacks on Donetsk
Remnants of a misfired Uragan cluster munition rocket lying in a field in territory controlled by the Ukrainian government near Novomykhailivka, Ukraine on October 14, 2014. © 2014 Ole Solvang/Human Rights Watch
Berlin — Ukrainian government forces used cluster munitions in populated areas in Donetsk city in early Oct. 2014, Human Rights Watch said today. The use of cluster munitions in populated areas violates the laws of war due to the indiscriminate nature of the weapon and may amount to war crimes.
During a week-long investigation in eastern Ukraine, Human Rights Watch documented widespread use of cluster munitions in fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels in more than a dozen urban and rural locations. While it was not possible to conclusively determine responsibility for many of the attacks, the evidence points to Ukrainian government forces’ responsibility for several cluster munition attacks on Donetsk. An employee of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was killed on October 2 in an attack on Donetsk that included use of cluster munition rockets.
“It is shocking to see a weapon that most countries have banned used so extensively in eastern Ukraine,” said Mark Hiznay, senior arms researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Ukrainian authorities should make an immediate commitment not to use cluster munitions and join the treaty to ban them.”
Cluster munitions contain dozens or hundreds of smaller munitions, called submunitions, in a container such as a rocket or a bomb. After launch, the container opens up dispersing the submunitions which are designed to explode when they hit the ground. The submunitions are spread indiscriminately over a wide area, often the size of a football field, putting anyone in the area at the time of attack, whether combatants or civilians, at risk of death or injury. In addition, many of the submunitions do not explode on contact, but remain armed, becoming de facto landmines. Any location contaminated with dud submunitions remains hazardous until cleared by deminers.
To date, 114 countries have joined the treaty that comprehensively bans cluster munitions because of the danger they pose to civilians. Ukraine has not joined the treaty.
There is particularly strong evidence that Ukrainian government forces were responsible for several cluster munition attacks on central Donetsk in early October, Human Rights Watch said. In addition to evidence at the impact site indicating that the cluster munitions came from the direction of government-controlled areas southwest of Donetsk, witnesses in that area said that they observed rockets being launched toward Donetsk on the times and days when cluster munitions struck the city. A New York Times journalist tracked down several rockets in that area, which appeared to have malfunctioned and fallen to the ground shortly after they were launched, clearly establishing the flight path of the rockets.
In the 12 incidents documented by Human Rights Watch, cluster munitions killed at least 6 people and injured dozens. The real casualty number from use of cluster munitions in the conflict is probably higher, Human Rights Watch said, since it has not investigated all allegations of cluster munition use. Also, in some cases, it was not possible to determine what weapon caused the death or injury because several types of explosive weapons were used at the same time in the same area.
Human Rights Watch identified the cluster munitions by the distinctive crater and fragmentation pattern that submunitions create when they explode, by remnants of the submunitions found at the impact sites, and by remnants of the rockets found in the vicinity. Several of these remnants included markings that allowed for positive identification of the weapon.
Human Rights Watch found evidence of surface-fired 220mm Uragan (Hurricane) and 300mm Smerch (Tornado) cluster munition rockets. Human Rights Watch researchers observed and photographed the remnants of the cargo sections of 16 Uragan and 6 Smerch cluster munition rockets. Altogether, these 22 rockets would have contained 912 individual fragmentation submunitions. The total number of cluster munition rockets used so far in the conflict is unknown.
The government of Ukraine has neither confirmed nor denied using cluster munitions in eastern Ukraine. It has not responded to a letter sent by the Cluster Munition Coalition in July or a letter sent by Human Rights Watch on October 13.
Ukrainian forces should immediately make a commitment to not use cluster munitions and to investigate and hold accountable any personnel responsible for firing cluster munitions into populated areas. Ukraine should accede to the treaty banning their use, Human Rights Watch said.
While not conclusive, circumstances indicate that anti-government forces might also have been responsible for the use of cluster munitions, Human Rights Watch said.
Human Rights Watch also called on Russia to make an immediate commitment to not use cluster munitions and to accede to the cluster munitions treaty.
“Firing cluster munitions into populated areas is utterly irresponsible and those who ordered such attacks should be held to account,” Hiznay said. “The best way for the Ukrainian authorities to demonstrate a commitment to protect civilians would be an immediate promise to stop using cluster munitions.”
Documented Cluster Munition Use
At least five Uragan cluster munition rockets containing submunitions struck central Donetsk in early October 2014, based on evidence Human Rights Watch gathered. The evidence overwhelmingly indicates that these rockets were fired from government-held areas near the village of Novomykhailivka, southwest of Donetsk.
At the time of the attacks rebel forces were in control of Donetsk, and government and rebel forces were officially observing a truce agreed on September 5. Nevertheless active fighting continued around the airport, approximately 6 kilometers from the cluster munition impact sites. Rebel forces were also present around various government institutions in Donetsk, and all the cluster munition attacks in Donetsk took place within one kilometer of a government institution apparently in use by rebels. Rebel fighters on guard did not allow Human Rights Watch to enter the zone around the institution building. Human Rights Watch observed a vehicle with a twin-barreled anti-aircraft cannon mounted on the back in the zone around the institution but has no evidence as to whether rebel forces were ever firing from this location.
Rebel forces, as any party to a conflict, are required by the laws of war to take all feasible precautions to avoid deploying in densely populated areas. This does not however change the indiscriminate, and unlawful, nature of the use of cluster munitions in populated areas. Violations of the laws of war by one party to the conflict do not justify violations by the other party.
Shortly after 5 p.m. on October 2, submunitions hit three areas southwest of Universitetskaya street in central Donetsk. The location of the submunitions in three separate areas indicates that they came from three different rockets. Human Rights Watch previously documented that rebel fighters were using a nearby dormitory, but did not determine whether this was still the case at the time of the attack.
One payload of submunitions struck the roof and surrounding area of a supermarket at 80A Unversitetskaya street. Human Rights Watch identified 15 impact sites on the supermarket roof and 9 impact sites adjacent to the supermarket. A larger crater on the northern corner of the supermarket was probably caused by a piece of the weapon such as the rocket motor.
Thirty-eight-year-old Laurent DuPasquier, a Swiss employee with the International Committee of the Red Cross who was standing outside the organization’s office in the same building complex as the supermarket, was killed during the attack in which cluster munition rockets were used. An investigation has reached no final determination as to the exact causes of his death. Human Rights Watch documented the presence of two craters, about three meters apart, in front of the ICRC office, which appeared consistent with cluster submunition explosions. DuPasquier’s body was found between the two craters. Human Rights Watch also found pre-formed fragments of a 9N210 submunition and a piece of the ring that attaches the stabilization fins to the submunition about 20 meters from the ICRC office.
At about the same time as submunitions hit the supermarket, submunitions from a second Uragan cluster munition rocket struck a paved road just southeast of the building at 94 Universitetskaya street. Human Rights Watch documented one large crater at the site and about a dozen craters nearby. The proximity of the craters indicates that the munition had malfunctioned, opening up the cargo section of the rocket later than normal and therefore spreading the submunitions over a much smaller area than normal. A New York Times journalist who examined the area the day following the attack photographed an unexploded submunition and numerous remnants of submunitions, including the characteristic black plastic liner that holds the 2-gram pre-formed fragments inside the 9N210 submunition.
Submunitions from a third rocket hit on and around the building at 100B Universitetskaya street. Human Rights Watch documented at least three submunition impact craters close to the building and discovered the cargo section of an Uragan cluster munition rocket, the part of the rocket that holds the submunitions before they are dispersed, lodged into the ground among bushes close to the southeastern side of the building. Local residents said that many of the submunitions had hit the roof, but Human Rights Watch was not able to access it.
Submunition impact craters close to buildings in the three sites make it unlikely that the cluster munition came from the west, north, or east. The large crater in the second location indicated that the rocket had come from the southwest. This is the only direction consistent with all the impact craters, and therefore points to use by Ukrainian forces.
Two witnesses corroborated that the October 2 cluster munition rockets were fired at Donetsk from the southwest. A local resident who was driving through the village of Novomykhailivka in the late afternoon of October 2 said that he saw several rockets fired from south of the village. Shortly afterward, he said, his wife called him from the city saying that rockets had hit central Donetsk.
A local resident in Solodke, a village southwest of Novomykhailivka, told Human Rights Watch that she saw rockets fired from a position northwest of Solodke. From their different vantage points the two witnesses appeared to describe the same launching position inside an area under the control of Ukrainian government forces.
Also on October 2, submunitions from another Uragan cluster munition rocket struck the building of the Mountain Rescue Service, at 157 Artem street in Donetsk. Human Rights Watch inspected remnants of the rocket outside the building, including one with the markings for an Uragan cluster munition rocket that delivers 9N210 submunitions, as well as several impact craters of submunitions. A part of the rocket penetrated the roof, lodging in the floor in a third-floor office.
In the morning of October 5, at least two Uragan cluster munition rockets struck the fifth subdistrict of the Kyivskyi district in central Donetsk.
Submunitions from one rocket struck the intersection between Raduzhnaya street and Zvyagilskogo street.
Human Rights Watch documented 11 submunition impact craters on Zvyagilskogo street and fragment patterns on nearby fences consistent with the use of Uragan cluster munition rockets. Human Rights Watch also found remnants of submunitions at the site.
The attack injured a 37-year-old man who was working in his backyard. He is still recovering from his injuries in a hospital. He told Human Rights Watch:
At first I did not even realize what happened. I heard a loud bang, my ears were blocked. I felt a jolt in the back, and was thrown forward two or three meters. I was covered with dust and earth. It was like a wave. When my hearing recovered, I began to rise slowly. And then I felt something sticky running down my back and leg. I realized that it was blood.
At the hospital, doctors discovered fragments in his leg, back, and hand. One fragment penetrated his lung. He showed Human Rights Watch an X-ray showing three identical fragments in his chest and shoulder. Human Rights Watch identified the fragments as the 2-gram pre-formed fragments of a 9N210 submunition, which are only delivered by Uragan cluster munition rockets.
A second cluster munition struck the residential area between Parkivska street and Kosiora street, about 500 meters west of the first impact site. Human Rights Watch identified several impact craters and local residents showed Human Rights Watch submunition remnants they had found after the attack. At least one civilian was injured in his leg by a fragment.
At the same time as those two attacks, there was an attack nearby on Kalmana street, setting at least two houses on fire. Human Rights Watch was not able to conclusively determine that this attack was with cluster munition rockets.
A video of a rocket remnant lodged in the ground near 22 Kosiora street indicates that the cluster munitions were fired from the southwest. Supporting this finding, a local resident in Novomykhailivka, southwest of Donetsk, told a New York Times journalist that he had seen rockets launched from a position south of village in the morning of October 5.
A New York Times journalist tracked down a location south of Novomykhailivka where residents had discovered rocket remnants in a field. During a visit to the field, Human Rights Watch researchers and the journalist discovered the remnants of three Uragan cluster munition rockets and one Smerch rocket that had apparently malfunctioned shortly after launch. Two of the Uragan rockets still contained their payload of 9N210 submunitions. The presence of these misfired cluster munition rockets clearly establishes the flight path of the attack, confirming that the rockets were fired form a government-held area south of Novomykhailivka.
On the morning on August 24, cluster munitions struck Starobesheve, a town about 35 kilometers southeast of Donetsk. At the time of the attack government forces appeared to be in control of most of the town. Employees at the town hospital, which received the injured, said that the attack had killed 3 civilians and injured 17.
Among those killed was 80-year-old Raisa Lefterova. Her husband told Human Rights Watch:
In the morning, Raisa went to the store and then the bomb fell. The bomb exploded and shattered the window. And she was standing next to the window. The fragments broke the window, which cut her carotid artery. People shouted: “Uncle Vanya! Uncle Vanya! Aunt Raya was killed!” I was thinking – that’s not possible because she was resting at home. But it turned out she went there. And was killed.
Another local resident, Ivan Borlov, who was injured in the attack, said:
There was a rumbling sound. And then the bombs began to fall down – boom, boom, boom. The wave of the bombs moved across my house. We found many of them around here, unexploded. They were stuck in the ground. There were some in my neighbor’s garden. One struck the roof of my neighbor’s house.
Human Rights Watch inspected submunition impact craters at the sites where Lefterova was killed and where Borlov was injured. Human Rights Watch also found remnants from the submunitions at both sites and the tail section of a Smerch rocket near the local administration building, establishing that it was a Smerch cluster munition that struck the town.
At the time of the August 24 attack, government and rebel forces were battling for control of the town, which had been controlled by Ukrainian government forces up to that point. One local resident told Human Rights Watch that rebel forces started pushing out the government forces on August 26 and 27. The pro-Russian rebels announced on August 26, two days after the cluster munitions attack, that they had established control of the town.
The rocket tail section stuck in the ground in front of the local administration building shows that the rocket came from the southeast. With a maximum range of 70 kilometers and the Ukraine-Russia border 30 kilometers away, the cluster munitions could have been fired from Ukrainian territory southeast of Starobesheve, which was controlled by Ukrainian government forces at the time, or from Russian territory. The press center for the Ukrainian authorities’ counterterrorist operation claimed at the time that the cluster munitions had been fired from Russian territory. Human Rights Watch was not able to conclusively attribute responsibility for this attack.
At a rebel base in the town, Human Rights Watch observed seven unexploded 9N235 submunitions, the cargo section of an Uragan cluster munition rocket rocket with all the submunitions still inside, and the cargo section from another Uragan cluster munition rocket. Rebel fighters told Human Rights Watch that they had destroyed three Uragan rockets with submunitions still inside on the day Human Rights Watch visited, indicating that there had been numerous attacks with Uragan rockets in the area. “The fields are full of these weapons,” one local resident said. “It is making it impossible for farmers to do their work.”
Human Rights Watch was not able to establish who had fired the Uragan rockets and submunitions collected by the rebels or when they had been fired.
A local first responder in Makiivka, a rebel-controlled town bordering Donetsk to the east, told Human Rights Watch that they had found remnants of submunitions and rockets in at least three places.
He said that cluster munitions had killed two people on August 19 and 20 near a train station in the town and that they had found submunitions remnants there. A second cluster munition attack took place near a rebel checkpoint northeast of the town, suggesting a government attack. Human Rights Watch observed the cargo section of an Uragan cluster munition rocket at the checkpoint.
The third cluster munition attack in Makiivka took place in the village of Khanzhenkovo, which was also controlled by rebel forces at the time of the attack. Human Rights Watch visited the village and confirmed that it had been struck by cluster munitions. Local residents showed Human Rights Watch remnants of submunitions collected from the site.
Human Rights Watch documented the use of cluster munitions outside of Hruzka-Lomivka, a small village outside of Ilovaisk. The tail sections of three Uragan rockets were lodged in the ground by a road approximately two kilometers northwest of the village.
Human Rights Watch also accompanied a demining team to a field west of Ilovaisk where they destroyed an unexploded submunition that had been found by a local resident.
A New York Times journalist showed Human Rights Watch a photo of the tail section of a Smerch rocket lodged in a shed on the northwestern edge of Ilovaisk. Local residents said that the rocket had struck in the period between August 25 and 29, when rebel forces were wresting control of the city from government forces. The angle of the tail section indicated that it came from the northeast.
Novosvitlivka, Luhansk province
In Novosvitlivka, a village in Luhansk province south of Luhansk city, Human Rights Watch documented the use of at least six Smerch rockets and two unidentified cluster munition rockets.
Ukrainian forces entered the village on August 13, but were forced to retreat around August 28. The village suffered extensive damage from the fighting and more than 100 people from the village were killed in the fighting, according to medical personnel at the local hospital.
An employee at the agricultural college in Novosvitlivka said a cluster munition rocket struck behind the college in the morning around August 8-10. No students were there because of the summer vacation so nobody was injured. Human Rights Watch documented dozens of submunition impact craters in the ground and found multiple remnants from submunitions. Human Rights Watch also found and marked an unexploded submunition in the grass behind the college buildings.
In the village, Human Rights Watch found a cargo section from an Uragan cluster munition rocket and multiple submunition impact craters, as well as a stabilization fin from a submunition. The apparent angle of impact of both the Uragan rocket cargo section and two of the submunition impact craters indicate that the attack originated from the northwest.
Human Rights Watch documented remnants of at least six Smerch rockets that had landed in a field southeast of Novosvitlivka. Two unexploded 9N235 submunitions were nearby. The tail sections stuck in the ground showed that the rockets had come from the northwest, but Human Rights Watch was not able to determine who fired the rockets because both government and rebel forces were within the minimum and maximum range of the rockets.
At each location suspected to have been attacked with cluster munition rockets, Human Rights Watch researchers conducted a detailed surface search of the impacted area. Researchers located remnants of the weapons, collected remnants of submunitions, and interviewed numerous residents including those present at the time of attack. Researchers also took directional readings with a compass where they found intact remnants of the weapon to determine the apparent direction from which the attack originated. Researchers took photographs and made video recordings at each site, especially of the individual submunition impact points. They also took GPS coordinates at each strike location.
At each submunition impact point, there is a distinctive small crater and “splatter” pattern in the ground where the submunition detonated – this pattern is quite distinctive on asphalt surfaces where many of the impact points were found. There is also a discernible fragment impact pattern on surfaces like metal doors, trees, and walls that are perpendicular to the detonation of the submunition.
At nearly all of the locations examined where submunitions impacted and detonated, Human Rights Watch researchers collected submunition debris such as the rectangular black stabilization fins, the metal parts of ring that attach these fins to the submunition body, and the metal pre-formed fragments (including .5 gram, 2 gram, and 4.5 gram fragments), either in the ground at the point of detonation or on surfaces perpendicular to the impact location. Researchers also collected two pieces of the black plastic fragmentation liner, both with pre-formed 2.0 gram fragments still suspended in it, and an intact metal ring that is present where the impact fuze and submunition body meet. The only way to distinguish between the impact of an 9N210 and an 9N235 submunition is by the size of the pre-formed fragments, as all other components are common to both.
Both the Uragan and Smerch rockets are “designed to engage manpower and soft-skinned materiel in concentration areas,” according to its manufacturer, Splav SPRA, based in Tula, Russia. The Uragan rocket delivers 9N210 and 9N235 submunitions to a minimum range of 10 kilometers and a maximum range of 35 kilometers; the Smerch rocket delivers 9N235 submunitions to a minimum range of 20 kilometers and a maximum range of 70 kilometers, according to its manufacturer.
The 9N210 and 9N235 submunitions contained in these rockets are identical in size, shape, and color. Each submunition has six rectangular black metal pop-up stabilization fins at the end opposite its impact fuze.
The 9N210 submunition is only delivered by the 9M27K Uragan cluster munition rocket and contains 370 cylindrical pre-formed metal fragments each weighing 2 grams. These fragments are suspended in a matrix of a thick black plastic material that lines the inside of the cylindrical body of the submunition and are dispersed in all directions upon impact and detonation. A total of 30 9N210 submunitions are in each 9M27K rocket and they are designed to self-destruct after one minute after being ejected from the rocket.
The 9N235 submunition, delivered by a variant of Uragan and all Smerch cluster munition rockets, contains 95 pre-formed metal fragments, each weighing 4.5 grams, and 300 fragments each weighing .5 grams. These fragments are contained in a similar black plastic liner as that of the 9N210 submunition. A total of 30 9N235 submunitions are delivered by a 9M27K1 Uragan rocket, and 72 9N235 submunitions are contained in 9M55K Smerch rockets. The 9N235 submunition is designed to self-destruct two minutes after being ejected from the rocket.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko delivers a speech as he visits the Khortytsia Island near the Dnieper River to meet with servicemen, who take part in the military conflict in eastern regions of the country, while marking the Day of Ukraine’s Defenders in Zaporizhzhia region, Oct. 14, 2014.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Mikhail Palinchak/Handout via Reuters.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has signed a law granting three-year limited self-rule status to certain territories in the separatist-minded Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
According to a statement posted Thursday on the presidential website, the law was signed to create the “conditions for the prompt normalization of the situation, restoration of legal order, constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens.”
Ukrainian legislation will still be applicable in these territories “with consideration of peculiarities,” the statement said. People’s militias will be created to maintain order on the ground, while local government bodies will govern these territories after local elections scheduled for Dec. 7, the statement added.
After the ouster of former President Viktor Yanukovych in March, rebels in the east of Ukraine refused to acknowledge Kiev’s pro-Western government and established self-proclaimed republics in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
In accordance with the law signed Thursday, insurgents who participated in the eastern conflict against Ukrainian army forces will be immune to criminal prosecution.
Alexander Zakharchenko, the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, told state-run news agency RIA Novosti on Friday that its government would not recognize the new law, as it was signed by a foreign state.
“Kiev is still under illusion that it governs us, but in reality this is not the case,” he said.
In addition, Zakharchenko said Donetsk’s insurgents, who lost ground following a Ukrainian army offensive in July, were planning to return to the rest of the Donetsk region, which is “currently occupied” by Ukraine.
A first-grade pupil looks back at her mother while walking to a school building after a festive ceremony to mark the beginning of another academic year in Makiivka, eastern Ukraine, in this Oct. 1 file photo. Shamil Zhumatov / Reuters
MAKIYIVKA, Ukraine — On the first day of school outside the east Ukrainian rebel stronghold of Donetsk, 11th-grade teacher Yelena Sepik tells her class to get out of their seats to clap and sing along to the Soviet military music playing over the speakers.
“Louder!” she yells, theatrically clapping in rhythm to the music coming from a classroom CD player in front of about 30 unamused 15- and 16-year-olds in the town of Makiyivka.
“We have witnessed the formation of a new state,” she says. “The Donetsk People’s Republic, New Russia.”
Half a year into the republic, proclaimed on territory held by pro-Russian separatists since April, the region’s new rulers are trying to create a sense of normality and the trappings of a functioning state, not least in the education system.
But there is much that is not “normal.”
For one thing, there has been an exodus of Ukrainian-speakers and others reluctant to live in Russia’s orbit under an armed rebel administration. Schoolteachers say their classes have shrunk to as little as a third of their pre-insurgency sizes.
Shelling in the city, which has killed scores of civilians, delayed the opening of schools from Sept. 1, the traditional start of term across the former Soviet Union, to Oct. 1.
Although a cease-fire has been agreed between Kiev and the separatists, the crash of distant artillery fire still carries as far as Sepik’s third-floor classroom, where three classes have been combined into one, making seating scarce.
For the children who have stayed, a new curriculum awaits, with mentions of Ukraine carefully avoided, and a new focus on the history of Russia and the separatist regions.
Moscow vehemently denies accusations from Kiev and the West that it has backed the separatists with weapons and soldiers, but its influence is never far away from the classrooms, where teachers openly praise Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Much of the former Soviet Union shares the same school traditions, including a first lesson of the school year devoted to broad morals or civic values.
In communist times, this might have meant lessons on Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, or international Socialism; more recently perhaps on peace, or social skills.
But in this school year, children in the rest of Ukraine are focusing on “national unity” for the first period of their year, and those in the secessionist east are learning about the history they share with Russia.
In the Matviyivka class, that means World War II, known in Russia and Ukraine as the Great Patriotic War.
The students watch a black-and-white documentary about the region’s battles, with a voiceover that drifts between the city’s current name of Donetsk and its Soviet name of Stalino, after wartime leader Josef Stalin.
History teacher Natalia Kudoyar expects more changes to her curriculum.
“World history will be studied in depth, Russian history,” she says. “But our priority is the history of Donbass [the industrial region around Donetsk]. Because it is our region; we are proud of our region.”
The idea that this region is at the very least culturally part of Russia, and far removed from a Ukraine whose rulers are routinely labelled fascists, is as pervasive in the classroom as it is in the rebel administration’s public statements.
Irina, a teacher in a Ukrainian-language school who declined to give her last name, said all Ukrainian national symbols had been removed from the classrooms.
“We still use the old curriculum, but the school principal said that, in my 9th-grade class, the number of hours for Ukrainian language and literature will be reduced,” she said.
On Putin’s birthday on Tuesday, a video was posted on YouTube showing children in another school in Donetsk being asked who had done the most for peace in their region. “Putin,” said the teacher. “Putin!” the children repeated.
Pressure to Use Russian
Unsurprisingly, language is a central part of that cultural struggle. While everyone in the region is fluent in Russian, some speak Ukrainian as their first language.
Before Donetsk’s municipal administration building was occupied by protesters in mid-April, the Donetsk region had a roughly equal number of Russian- and Ukrainian-language schools, and parents decided which to send their children to.
On Monday, Kirill Baryshnikov, spokesman for the Donetsk People’s Republic’s Ministry of Education, said: “We don’t make anyone study in Russian or in Ukrainian. We have two state languages.”
But the pressure on everyone to speak Russian rather than Ukrainian is growing. On Thursday, the same ministry issued an order making Russian the official language for all education.
It said the only exception would be primary or secondary schools where 90 percent of parents requested teaching in “another language” — there was no direct mention of Ukrainian. Schoolbooks written in Ukrainian would continue to be used until new Russian-language ones could be issued.
A teacher of Ukrainian named Marina, who also declined to give her surname, said she saw “no future” for Ukrainian-language schools in Donetsk. “It hurts so much,” she said.
Maria Ivanitskaya, a mother who has left Donetsk for Kiev with her 12-year-old son, said she feared that Ukrainian-language schools could attract violence from people sympathetic to the rebels, and had no desire to return.
“I got a call from my son’s teacher. She asked if we were going to attend school this year,” she said.
“But our school is Ukrainian, and I’m scared of provocations. I called my husband in Donetsk, and he said: ‘Whatever you do, don’t come back.'”
A woman holds the hand of Prime Minister of the rebels’ self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic”, Alexander Zakharchenko during a ceremony to honour the World War II defenders of Donetsk from Nazi forces Sept. 8. Marko Djurica / Reuters
Allison Quinn reporting,
Infamous former rebel commander Igor Girkin, a Russian better known by his nom de guerre “Strelkov,” alienated his troops while fighting in eastern Ukraine through a ruthless disregard for the local area and unrealistically lofty goals for the battlefield, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said in an interview published Wednesday with Russian Reporter.
“He was a person who fought alongside us. But 90 percent of his troops did not support his views on how to conduct military activities,” Alexander Zakharchenko, prime minister of the rebel republic, said in the interview.
Strelkov, a former colonel for Russia’s Federal Security Service shot to fame in mid-May when he began leading rebel fighters in Donetsk. He eventually took on the role of defense minister of the makeshift republic, but resigned from that position in mid-August and moved to Moscow. Upon his arrival, he declared Moscow the new front line in a battle being waged against President Vladimir Putin by the West.
Despite Strelkov’s prominence as one of the top fighters in the Ukraine conflict, however, Zakharchenko implied he was generally not regarded highly by his fellow fighters.
An example of Strelkov’s ruthlessness involved a plan to destroy nine-story buildings in Slovyansk, a strategy that Zakharchenko said triggered a “wild scandal.”
“For me, destroying nine-story buildings on the outskirts of Donetsk is insane,” Zakharchenko said, noting that Strelkov had proposed such a plan during a battle there.
In response to the interviewer’s question on whether Strelkov had wanted to destroy buildings due to his own dabbling in historical military re-enactments — a hobby that many have said motivated his activities in Ukraine — Zakharchenko said Strelkov simply viewed war differently.
“In his opinion, it would have been more convenient to defend ourselves from among ruins. Because he doesn’t live here,” Zakharchenko said, adding that Strelkov had focused on “tactical moves aimed at strikes and fierce defense” that weren’t suitable to the situation in Ukraine.
For what Strelkov wanted to do, he said, “we would have needed a minimum of 20,000 fighters. But since he only had 6,000, we had to arrange it differently.”
While Strelkov’s fellow fighters respected him, Zakharchenko said, “we would have done things differently when it came to trying to resolve certain issues at the expense of the lives of our fellow countrymen.”
Signs of a rift between pro-Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine were apparent throughout the summer, with several Russian commanders resigning. In August, documents surfaced purportedly showing orders given by Strelkov to execute his own fighters for looting, Reuters reported at the time.
Strelkov stepped down around the time reports broke of the alleged execution orders, though his representatives said he was quitting because he had found a new job.