Tag Archives: Ukraine crisis

Dmitry Tymchuk’s military blog: No doubt who shot down #MH17

Pro-Russian militants block the road behind Dutch and Australian forensic teams on their way to the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on July 28, 2014 in Donetsk. © AFPPro-Russian militants block the road behind Dutch and Australian forensic teams on their way to the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on July 28, 2014 in Donetsk. © AFP

Kyiv Post Editor’s Note: To counter Russian propaganda lies about the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula on Feb. 27, Dmitry Tymchuk has set up the Center of Military and Political Research in Kyiv. He served in the Army air defense from 1995-1998, the National Guard from 1998-2000 and in the Defense Ministry in subsequent years on missions to Iraq, Lebanon and Kosovo. His blogs are translated into English by Voices of Ukraine. The Kyiv Post has not independently verified his findings, but will correct any misinformation brought to our attention at news@kyivpost.com or 38-044-591-3344 or any of our contacts at http://www.kyivpost.com/contacts.

Brothers and sisters!

Here’s the Summary for July 28, 2014

The bad news:

  1. Nevertheless, “Putin’s distemper” is a very cruel thing. And it seems that the Head of the Russian Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov is somewhere at its penultimate stage.

It is difficult to say whether he still recognizes his wife or if he can defecate by himself, but he is absolutely sure that what is happening in Ukraine is directed against Russia. In particular, Lavrov claimed today that the Maidan that took place in Ukraine is a “geopolitical project against Russia.”

I understand that all the free-from-lying time Mr. Lavrov has, he spends shaking up cupboards and peeking under sofas looking for Banderites and CIA agents.

I think it is no longer possible to help him. It remains only to warn diplomats from other countries that they should be more careful with Lavrov at any international get-togethers. Fuck knows how this infection spreads.

  1. Today, Aidar Battalion reported: for the past 24 hours, the battalion has incurred serious losses. Four of our border control guards died yesterday as a result of the artillery shelling from the Russian territory. Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers and the National Guard keep dying.

These guys have fulfilled their duty to the very end. The freed land of Donbas must always remember this blood shed by patriots. Eternal memory to the heroes.

  1. Russia continues to build up the number of its troops near the state border with Ukraine.

In addition to the units previously concentrated at the border, [new] units from other regions of Russia are currently being deployed. Earlier, the movement of the divisions of the 32nd Motorized Rifle Brigade and the 24th Separate Brigade of the GRU of the General Staff were recorded from Novosibirsk Oblast [region].

This weekend, we documented the redeployment of units from the Russian 200th Motorized Rifle Brigade [MRB] to the state border with Ukraine. It looked strange, given that the Brigade’s permanent place of deployment is in the Murmansk Oblast [region] of Russia [in the northwest]. Today, however, these data have been confirmed.

The 200th MRB has tanks, BM-21 “Grad” and BM-27 “Hurricane” MLRS, 2SZ “Acacia” self-propelled artillery at its disposal. That is everything that Putin’s troops have unleashed on Ukraine in recent weeks.

The good news:

  1. The ATO forces took Debaltseve and the elevated Hora Savur Mohyla, and entered into Shakhtersk, Torez [Donetsk Oblast], and Lutugino [Luhansk Oblast]. Pervomaisk and Snizhne are currently being freed, Horlivka is next.

In fact, two strategic objectives are currently being resolved in the ATO. The first [objective] is to finally “separate” the DNR and LNR [Donetsk- and Luhansk People’s Republics]. The second [objective] is to fully unblock and fortify our divisions in the sector along the border, and to conduct the personnel rotation [in those units]. Not as fast as we would like [it to be], but still, these tasks are getting done.

  1. The Russian version of the Malaysian Boeing-777 crash, born in the depths of a Russian propaganda office under the name of the “General Staff of the Russian Federation,” is crumbling before our eyes.

Experts from the international commission that is studying the causes of the airplane crash reported: the data from the flight recorders of the aircraft indicate that a rocket blow was the cause of the destruction and the crash. And today, the chief designer of the Su-25 fighter jet Volodymyr Babak (since it is well-known that Russia insists that the “Boeing” was shot down by a Ukrainian Su-25) announced that the passenger airliner could not have been brought down by this fighter jet–and clearly explained why this was extremely unlikely in the technical sense.

Thus, the circle closes. It is obvious that the plane got struck by a surface-to-air missile system [SAM], and there is enough data regarding who had this SAM in their possession.

We have no doubts as to whose fault this is, but the international community demands concrete evidence. And this evidence does not keep you waiting.

  1. Five-party talks were held between the U.S., France, and the heads of government of Germany, the UK and Italy. The result–an agreement on new sanctions against Russia. Now, finally: sectoral sanctions. An informal assessment of the effect of these sanctions has already been publicized–up to 100 billion Euros over two years.

At the same time, Russia lost the court case at the Hague, initiated by former Yukos shareholders, and it will need to reimburse them $50 billion in damages.

In Russian literature, in these cases one uses the interjection, “Oh!”

In a Hollywood blockbuster [one uses], “Oops…!”

Kyiv Post.

More Civilians killed in eastern Ukraine amid fierce fighting

Ukrainian servicemen of volunteer battalions of Donbass walk past weapons captured from pro-Russian militants in the Ukrainian city of Lysychansk on July 28, 2014. © AFPUkrainian servicemen of volunteer battalions of Donbass walk past weapons captured from pro-Russian militants in the Ukrainian city of Lysychansk on July 28, 2014. © AFP.

(Reuters) – Intense fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine killed at least 19 civilians, local officials said on Tuesday, as Kiev pressed an offensive to close in on the separatists.

Ukrainian forces have been pushing rebel units back towards their two main urban strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk and have sought to encircle them in several places, including in the wider area where a Malaysian airliner crashed on July 17.

Officials said 14 people, including five children, were killed in fighting on Monday evening in the town of Gorlovka/Horlivka, one of several spots that saw fierce battles between the rival forces in the last few days.

In the city of Luhansk, officials said five civilians were killed when shelling hit a retirement home.

“The enemy is throwing everything it has into the battle to complete encirclement of the DNR,” rebel commander Igor Strelkov told journalists in Donetsk on Monday evening, referring to the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic”.

“We were astonished by how much amour they threw into this battle,” said Strelkov, a Russian national, sporting a camouflage T-shirt and trousers.

A rebel source in Donetsk said reinforcements including military equipment and fighters had crossed the nearby border with Russia into Ukraine. Reuters was not able to confirm that independently.

Rebel leaders insist publicly that Moscow is not supplying them. Russia also denies Western accusations that it is supporting the rebellion with arms and troops.

Leaders of the United States and major European powers agreed in a teleconference on Monday to impose wider sanctions on Russia’s banking, technology and arms sectors over its alleged backing for the separatists.

The rebels say 7,400 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or injured since Kiev launched what it calls its “anti-terrorist” operation against separatists in the east in early May. Kiev puts the toll at fewer than 1,500.

A humanitarian corridor was due to open in Luhansk for six hours on Tuesday to allow residents to flee the fighting, but officials said they could not guarantee full safety.

The United Nations says more than 100,000 people have already fled Ukraine’s tumultuous east.

A team of international experts including 38 Dutch and 12 Australian police will try to get to the plane crash site for a third day on Tuesday after fighting in the rebel-held area forced them to turn back on Sunday and Monday.

Armed pro-Russian separatists stand guard on the suburbs of Shakhtarsk, Donetsk region July 28, 2014.  CREDIT: REUTERS/SERGEI KARPUKHINArmed pro-Russian separatists stand guard on the suburbs of Shakhtarsk, Donetsk region July 28, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/SERGEI KARPUKHIN.

Fighting has impeded recovery of some of the remains from flight MH17 and undermined a probe that will be crucial as Kiev and the West trade recriminations with Moscow over the downing of the Boeing airliner. All 298 people on board were killed.

The international experts said if and when they get to the crash site, spread over a large area of fields, their first priority would be to recover any remaining body parts and then remove personal belongings from the area.

The Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe, the first international body to get several experts to the site after the plane went down, was negotiating an access corridor overnight with both rebels and Ukrainian troops.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets and Gabriela Baczynska in Kiev, Aleksandar Vasovic in Donetsk; Editing by Paul Taylor)


Enmity and Civilian Toll Rise in Ukraine as World’s Attention Is Diverted

A woman walks by an apartment complex in Snizhne, Ukraine, that was hit by a rocket attack on July 15. Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York TimesA woman walks by an apartment complex in Snizhne, Ukraine, that was hit by a rocket attack on July 15. Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

DONETSK, Ukraine — One was a retired cook. Another installed alarms in cars. Another was a cleaner in a grocery store who had gone out to buy ground beef to make her son meatball soup.

With international attention focused on the tragedy of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, the deaths of these three civilians — some of the roughly 800 who have been killed in the battle over eastern Ukraine — have gone virtually unnoticed by the outside world.

As the Ukrainian military has pressed its offensive against the pro-Russian rebels who have taken over its eastern edge, an operation now in its fourth month, it has diminished the territory the rebels control. But those advances have come at a steep human cost. According to a United Nations count released on Monday, 799 civilians have been killed since mid-April, when Ukraine began to battle insurgents here, and at least 2,155 have been wounded.

The killings have left the population in eastern Ukraine embittered toward Ukraine’s pro-Western government, and are helping to spur recruitment for the pro-Russian militias. In time, even if the Ukrainian military routs the rebels and retakes the east, the civilian deaths are likely to leave deep resentments here, and could complicate reconciliation efforts for decades to come.

The rising toll of the conflict in eastern Ukraine — the first open hostilities in Europe in 15 years — is a direct consequence of the nature of the war here. A significant portion of the fighting takes the form of low-tech airstrikes and artillery fired at a distance from aging weaponry, tactics that can inflict significant harm on civilians. (In comparison, 330 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed, the United Nations said. There are no estimates for rebels.)

In a report released on July 24, Human Rights Watch documented four instances of the use of unguided Grad rockets, which killed at least 16 civilians in and around Donetsk in nine days. While both rebels and Ukrainian forces use the rockets — descendants of World War II-era weapons — the investigation “strongly indicates that Ukrainian government forces were responsible” for the four attacks.

“Using these kinds of weapons in populated areas is a violation of the laws of war,” said Ole Solvang, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. “International allies of the Ukrainian government — the United States, the European Union — should condemn this use and urge the government to stop.”

Ukraine’s military strongly denies responsibility for any attacks that have caused civilian deaths. Vladislav Seleznyov, a military spokesman, did not comment on the report itself, but he said that soldiers were under orders not to harm civilians.

“We are prohibited from using artillery in residential areas,” he said. “Yes we have these weapons,” he said, referring to Grads, “but we never use them in civilian areas. No way.”

But the military’s campaign against the rebels has increased the likelihood of civilian casualties given how deeply the rebels have embedded into the civilian population.

As Ukrainian troops inched toward Donetsk and Luhansk, two regional capitals with a combined population of 1.5 million, residents feared the worst, looking to what happened in Slovyansk, a small city to the north that the military took by pounding rebel positions and flattening the neighborhoods where the rebels were.

Those fears were soon realized. One of the main rebel bases in Luhansk is in a military recruitment office next to the main bus station, and it drew intense shelling, leaving power lines scattered like string over the shrapnel-torn pavement.

And in Donetsk, where Ukrainian troops have pressed forward from the north and west for weeks, the Marinka, Petrovsky and Kuibyshevsky neighborhoods have come under heavy rocket fire. The barrages against all three areas, according to Human Rights Watch, originated from positions held by the Ukrainian military. Mr. Seleznyov said he could not comment on specific events.

On July 21 in Kuibyshevsky, in a leafy area near a dental office and a library, Sergei Yakshin, 41, the man with the alarm business, was walking to his car. He never made it. A rocket exploded nearby, killing him and another man instantly. A short walk away, a different rocket hit Valentina A. Surmai, a 72-year-old pensioner who worked at a local grocery store to support her blind husband. The cook, Alla A. Vasyutina, 60, bled to death in her kitchen after a piece of shrapnel penetrated the wall of her house.

“She wanted to make us soup,” said Ms. Surmai’s son, Sergei, standing in his underwear, his eyes red. “I told her, ‘Mom, don’t go out,’” he said. He barely recognized her body in the morgue. Half her face and her left side were gone.

Her death enraged Mr. Surmai. “If they give me a gun, I’m ready to go fight,” he said. “After this, it’s either us, or them. There’s no choice now. We have to go to the end.”

A friend of Ms. Surmai, Alexandra Rud, 74, said she, like her friend, hated the rebels, but she blamed the government for Ms. Surmai’s death.

“I want to shout to the whole world,” she said, her voice shrill, as artillery boomed in the distance. “Stop it! Get out! Leave us alone!”

The violence has rearranged habits and daily routines. Konstantin, a morgue worker in Luhansk who refused to give his full name for fear of exposing himself and his family to attention, said he and his wife now sleep on a mattress stuffed into a small underground space in a garage used for repairing cars. Teatime chatter was about what survival supplies to put in their cellars, which now double as bomb shelters.

Anatoly Leonidovich, the head doctor at the Luhansk morgue, said that after a particularly vicious battle two weeks ago, he received 15 bodies, all but one twisted and torn, consistent with artillery wounds. The next day, he was still getting calls.

“Who are you looking for?” he said, speaking into a Soviet-era phone. “Is he civilian or a rebel,” he asked. (Rebels collect the bodies of their comrades and do their own paperwork, he said.) “Ah yes, I have him. Sklyarov, Vladimir, year of birth, 1973.”

Establishing responsibility for civilian deaths has been difficult. The shelling in Luhansk, for example, touched off ferocious arguments: Supporters of the government in Kiev accuse the rebels, while those who favor Russia blame the Ukrainian forces.

“Idiot!” shouted a stout woman with fiery red lipstick. She was glaring at Boris Besarab, a bespectacled security guard in a Luhansk neighborhood called Peaceful that was hit on July 14. He had been explaining why he believed that the angle of impact meant that rebels had fired the shell. “Take your glasses off,” she fumed, stalking away. “This is why Ukraine is going to hell!”

The local disputes mirror those on a larger scale, with Russia and Ukraine blaming one another for attacks that kill civilians. Civilian deaths have been at the heart of Russia’s narrative against Kiev, though rarely mentioned is the fact that that rebels cause them too.

In one case, Ukraine claimed that Russia carried out an airstrike on an apartment block in the city of Snizhne, suggesting that a plane traveled from across the border, more than 12 miles to the south. But the angle of the 10 holes punched by the bombs and the direction of the damage indicated that the bomber was flying from west to east. Some residents suggested that the target might have been a rebel base just a quarter of a mile away.

War is as much about perception as reality, and in some ways truth is powerless against what people want to believe. Most people interviewed at attack sites accused the Ukrainian forces, a pattern that bodes ill for Ukraine’s government as it tries to put the country back together again.

“Look, there’s your Poroshenko!” yelled Viktoria Y. Iotova, referring to Ukraine’s president, Petro O. Poroshenko, and pointing to 14 Lenin Street in Snizhne, where at least 11 civilians were killed.

“Who will answer for these human lives?” she added as she began to cry.

Piles of personal items were strewn through the streets around her. A sewing machine lay between a teacup and an old Samsung laptop. One wall of a corner apartment remained intact, shielded from the blast wave. It told of life before the bombs: potted plants on a shelf, a red teakettle atop the cupboard and a neatly ordered spice rack with two rows of six jars apiece.

There, amid the debris, a 4-year-old boy, Bogdan Yasterbov, was trapped. As a yellow crane lifted concrete blocks from the wreckage, local residents sat in shock, and the blue-eyed Bogdan screamed. It took hours before anyone heard him.

Then, as a cellphone video shows, red-faced rescue workers noticed him and yelled: “Children! Be quiet!” Men began digging. Bogdan came into view, face down in a pocket of space under the rubble.

He was carried out and laid on a stretcher, limbs limp. His bright blond hair was darkened by the dust.

Bogdan survived, but his mother, Daria, did not.

David M. Herszenhorn contributed reporting from Kiev, Ukraine.

The New York Times.

‘Massive Explosive Decompression’ brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight #MH17

One of the two black boxes recovered from the crash site of the MH17 jet in Donetsk on July 22, 2014.  © AFPOne of the two black boxes recovered from the crash site of the MH17 jet in Donetsk on July 22, 2014. © AFP

(Reuters) – Analysis of the black box flight recorders from a downed Malaysian airliner show it was destroyed by shrapnel coming from a rocket blast and went down because of “massive explosive decompression”, a Ukrainian security official said on Monday.

The spokesman for Ukraine’s Security Council, Andriy Lysenko, told a news conference in Kiev the information came from experts analysing the recorders from the plane that came down in rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine on July 17.

Britain was tasked with downloading the data from two black boxes recovered from the crash site and handing that information over to international investigators for analysis.

Kiev and the West accuse pro-Russian rebels of shooting down the plane. Moscow says the Ukrainian government is responsible for the crash, which killed all 298 people on board.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Alison Williams)


Lavrov Says Russia Not Planning Tit-for-Tat Sanctions Against West

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov looks on during a news conference in Maribor, Slovenia.Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov looks on during a news conference in Maribor, Slovenia.

Russia will not impose like-for-like measures or act “hysterically” over Western economic sanctions, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday, trying to stake out the high ground amid growing tensions with the West.

Speaking at a news conference, Lavrov said he hoped that an investigation into a downed Malaysian jet liner, which Western leaders say was almost certainly shot down by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, would be objective.

He said sanctions could only make Russia more economically independent as Europe prepared new measures over Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis, which has plunged Russia’s ties with the West to their lowest since the Cold War.

“I assure you, we will overcome any difficulties that may arise in certain areas of the economy, and maybe we will become more independent and more confident in our own strength,” he said.

“We cannot ignore it. But to fall into hysterics and respond to a blow with a blow is not worthy of a major country.”

By far, oil major BP has the largest exposure to the Russian economy with its 19.75 percent holding in Russian top oil producer Rosneft.

The Kremlin-controlled oil producer also has agreements with ExxonMobil, Eni and Statoil to tap Russia’s Arctic offshore oil and gas.

Members of the European Union, angered by the MH17 downing on its way from Amsterdam, were expected to reach a final decision on Tuesday on measures including closing the bloc’s capital markets to Russian state banks, an embargo on arms sales and restrictions on dual-use and energy technologies.

The EU added new names on Friday to its list of individuals and companies facing travel bans and asset freezes over their alleged involvement in Ukraine and could agree to extend the list further as early as Monday.

The Moscow Times.