Tag Archives: #UnitedForUkraine

#Ukraine: 5 Ukrainian troops killed; fierce battles reported


Ukrainian soldiers gather at a point close to Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. Ukrainian troops made a significant push into rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, claiming control over a large part of Luhansk and encircling the largest rebel-held city, Donetsk, in fighting that has left at least 43 dead. (AP Photo/Petro Zadorozhnyy)Ukrainian soldiers gather at a point close to Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. Ukrainian troops made a significant push into rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, claiming control over a large part of Luhansk and encircling the largest rebel-held city, Donetsk, in fighting that has left at least 43 dead. (AP Photo/Petro Zadorozhnyy)

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Five troops were killed and two civilians died in the past 24 hours in rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine as government troops pressed to recapture more territory from pro-Russian separatists.

Ukrainian troops have made significant advances into rebel-held territory this week in a conflict that has already claimed more than 2,000 lives and forced over 340,000 people to flee their homes. Ukraine celebrates Independence Day on Sunday and reports are rife that the government is aiming to achieve a breakthrough by that date.

Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security Council, told reporters Thursday that government troops were still fighting separatists in and around Ilovaysk, a town near the rebel-held city of Donetsk, even though he said Ilovaysk was under government control.

At least two people were killed and an unspecified number wounded Thursday in an artillery strike on a suburb of Donetsk, the mayor’s office said. Once home to 1 million, the largest city still held by the rebels has seen one-third of its population flee. Over 50 people and troops were killed Wednesday in shelling and fighting in the Donetsk region.

Fierce fighting also continued in Luhansk, a rebel stronghold 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Russian border, Lysenko said. The city has been under siege for 19 days, lacking basic amenities like running water or electricity.

Ukraine has accused Russia of arming and supporting the separatists since fighting began in mid-April, a charge Russia has always denied. AP journalists have seen a significant number of Russian fighters among the rebels, but Moscow says they are individuals who chose to go fight on their own.

Ukrainian troops claimed Thursday to have seized two Russian infantry vehicles outside of Luhansk. Photos provided by the defense ministry showed one infantry vehicle and an array of Russian civilian and army IDs.

Moscow denied the reports. A spokesman for Russia’s defense ministry told Russian news agencies that the armored personnel carrier in the photos did not belong to Russia and the kind of documents found in the vehicle had not been used for five years.

“This is already the hundredth piece of ‘evidence’ among the daily ‘revelations’ of a Russian presence on Ukrainian territory,” Interfax quoted spokesman Igor Konashenkov as saying.

Laura Mills contributed to this report from Moscow.


Associated Press.

An #American #Donbas #Battalion member dies in fierce fighting near #Donetsk


By Mark Rachkevych.An American-Ukrainian known only as An American-Ukrainian known only as “Franko” died on Aug. 19 while fighting with the Donbas Battalion in an attempt to free the city of Ilovaisk in Donetsk Oblast from Russian mercenaries and Kremlin-backed guerrillas. © Maks Levin

An American has reportedly become the first foreign casualty on the Ukrainian side of the military conflict against Russian mercenaries and Kremlin-backed forces in eastern Ukraine. 

Identified only under his nom de guerre of “Franko“, he reportedly died from heavy artillery fire while trying to free the town of Ilovaisk in Donetsk Oblast on Aug. 19 while serving in the volunteer Donbas Battalion, Liviy Bereg photographer Maks Levin stated on Facebook, citing another photographer, Maks Dondiuk, who has embedded himself in various Ukrainian service units.

According to the photographer, the Donbas Battalion, had come under heavy fire by various barrages of GRAD, Fagot and other types of artillery, in addition to tank and sniper fire.

“There is no way for them to get out of Ilovask,” wrote Levin. He added that two other volunteer battalions, Azov and Dnipro, managed to leave the area earlier in the day.

News reports on Aug. 19 earlier stated that one Donbass Battalion member died and four were wounded in heavy fighting to free the Donetsk Oblast city. Battalion leader Semyon Semenchenko was one of the four wounded.

In a Vice News report in which he featured prominently, Franko said he was a private in a six-man squad within the battalion, while claiming to have “professional military experience.” His code name apparently was inspired by the famed Ukrainian writer Ivan Franko. In the video, he speaks with what sounds like an east coast American accent and appears to be aged in his 60s. He emphasized in the interview that he had taken on Ukrainian citizenship before joining the fight in the east. According to photographer Levin, Franko owned property in Ukraine and may have lived in the country.

Max Dondiuk told Vice News that he assumed Ukrainian citizenship before joining the Donbas Battalion to fight against the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine. (Maks Levin)Max Dondiuk told Vice News that he assumed Ukrainian citizenship before joining the Donbas Battalion to fight against the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine. (Maks Levin)

He was a “cheerful diaspora (member)…who beautifully cursed in Ukrainian,” remarked Levin. He added that Franko wished to “enter Donetsk (as a liberator) and to return to Kyiv, sell his apartment in Lviv and settle somewhere in the calm Carpathian Mountains.”

The Donbas Battalion was formed early in June. At least 80 percent of its members are from eastern Ukraine. According to the Interior Ministry to which the irregular volunteer battalions are subordinated, 25 battalions are currently engaged in the war zone in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.

(Kyiv Post editor Mark Rachkevych can be reached at rachkevych@kyivpost.com).


Kyiv Post.

Andy Hunder: Hand back #Donetsk its original #British name


By Andy Hunder.
Welsh businessman John Hughes founded modern-day Donetsk at the end of the 19th century. © CourtesyWelsh businessman John Hughes founded modern-day Donetsk at the end of the 19th century. © Courtesy

“Donetsk is a British city! God Save the Queen!” – so an online social media referendum campaign, slightly tongue-in-cheek, promulgated earlier this year.

The link with Britain comes from John Hughes, a Welsh businessman, the city’s founder, who launched the first iron-works at the end of the 19th century and subsequently built a steel plant and opened several coal mines in the region. The town was consequently named Yuzovka, or Hughesovka (“Юз” being a Cyrillic approximation of Hughes).

Today, the eastern Ukrainian city of 1 million residents is seeing intense military confrontation, where Ukrainian troops are fighting off and closing in on the Russian backed and funded mercenaries and terrorists.

During the 19th century, Hughesovka received numerous immigrants from Wales, especially from the town of Merthyr Tydfil. By the beginning of the 20th century its main district was named English Colony, with the British origin of the city reflected in its layout and architecture.

John Hughes, a Welsh businessman who lived from 1814 – 1889, found modern-day Donetsk as an iron-making town.John Hughes, a Welsh businessman who lived from 1814 – 1889, found modern-day Donetsk as an iron-making town.

During Soviet times, the city’s steel industry expanded and in 1924 it was renamed Stalino. In 1961, Nikita Krushchev, in order to distance it from the out-of-favour former leader Joseph Stalin, gave the city a new name – Donetsk, named after the Seversky Donets River. Apart from today being twinned with Sheffield in the UK, it is also twinned with the US steel city of Pittsburgh.

During the 21st century, a number of Donetsk natives have left the City of a Million Roses, as it is known locally, for the shores of Britain. Ukraine’s richest man and owner of the Shakhtar Donetsk football club purchased the most expensive penthouse in London for over $200 million. During the EuroMaidan Ukrainian revolution protests, his One Hyde Park property in Knightsbridge became a venue for demonstrations against the corruption of the Yanukovych oligarchic regime.

Russia’s hybrid war in Donetsk will soon come to an end. The people of Donetsk should be given a chance to shed themselves from the city’s past kleptocracy and corruption brought on by Viktor Yanukovych and his cronies, who have since deserted their hometown.

The time has come, once again, to take on a new name, this time restoring that of its founder – John Hughes. The city of Hughesovka can have a bright future, by turning its back on the years of terror and decay, initially brought on by Stalin, and later Yanukovych, and start afresh by returning to its British roots.

(Andy Hunder is director of the Ukrainian Institute in London).


Kyiv Post.

#Ukraine: Volunteer Yuriy Biryukov, newly appointed presidential adviser, keeps supporting army


By Olena Goncharova.Yuriy Biryukov (L), a EuroMaidan Revolution activist who is leading a volunteer drive to support Ukraine’s army, was appointed as an adviser to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. © yuri.biriukov/facebookYuriy Biryukov (L), a EuroMaidan Revolution activist who is leading a volunteer drive to support Ukraine’s army, was appointed as an adviser to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. © yuri.biriukov/facebook

Days after his appointment as an adviser to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Yuriy Biryukov, a EuroMaidan Revolution activist who is leading a volunteer drive to support Ukraine’s army, is in Mykolaiv helping out the local 79th Airmobile Brigade.

His routine hasn’t changed much after Poroshenko signed a decree on Aug. 13 appointing Biryukov, citing his “consistent and efficient volunteer work.” The president said that “there is no more important cause than providing our servicemen with everything necessary to protect their lives.”

As a presidential adviser, Biryukov will focus on coordinating the volunteer groups supporting the army and the government and pointing out on corruption schemes he faced while working as a volunteer with Ukraine’s armed forces.

“Those who stole and who continue to steal should be punished. All corruption cases against certain military officials were passed to court, no one will escape punishment for their crimes. We need to urgently address corruption in the army,” Poroshenko said during a meeting on Aug. 13.

However, the conditions of the service turn out to be №1 duty for Biryukov.

He ensures that he “never stopped and keeps supporting the army,” Biryukov said by the phone from Mykolaiv.

In March, he created the Wings of the Phoenix (Fund for Assistance to the Country) Facebook page that aims to help Ukrainian army. During the nearly six-month Russian war against Ukraine, in which nearly 600 servicemen have been killed and more than 2,210 wounded, Phoenixes helped to raise more than Hr 10 million from the activists all over the world for Ukraine’s army. Most of the donations come from Ukraine, the US and Canada.

Biryukov also keeps track of all money transactions and post it to the group’s Facebook page which adds to the financial transparency.

“I live in the army, I travel to the anti-terrorist zone myself to deliver the equipment to the soldiers, so I know the situation from inside,” Biryukov explains. “I can tell what is going on there, all corruption schemes, so that’s probably the reason why I was appointed – because I’ve seen it all (in the east) and  it is better than to have someone sitting in the office.”

Biryukov along with his team of nearly 30 volunteers risked their lives to deliver hundreds of bulletproof vests, helmets, ballistic eyewear to the anti-terrorist zone in the country’s east. “Phoenix” volunteers also managed to raise money to repair Ukraine’s transport jet AH-26 and to build a headquarters for technical equipment near the city of Mykolaiv city in southern Ukraine.Kyiv Post+ logoKyiv Post+ is a special project covering Russia’s war against Ukraine and the aftermath of the EuroMaidan Revolution.

He also stressed Phoenixes work with Ukraine’s regular army only (which doesn’t include volunteer batallions) and mostly with 79th brigade.

Biryukov, 39, a native of Mykolaiv, has lived in Kyiv for the last 20 years. He used to work for a privaet tourism agency during the EuroMaidan Revolution that toppled former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22 after starting on Nov. 21. Days later, Biryukov started bringing food and medicine to the activists on Kyiv’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti and volunteered to work in a medical unit.

After his appointment, Biryukov promised “to talk to all those who used to spend budget money,” reads his post on a Facebook page on Aug. 13.

(Kyiv Post staff writer Olena Goncharova can be reached at goncharova@kyivpost.com).


Kyiv Post.

#Ukraine: Eastern Ukrainians start rebuilding walls, rebuilding lives..


Photo — by Anastasia Vlasova, Lily Hyde.A man rebuilds a wall of a rehabilitation center in Sloviansk on Aug. 15. © Anastasia VlasovaA man rebuilds a wall of a rehabilitation center in Sloviansk on Aug. 15. © Anastasia Vlasova

SLOVIANSK, Ukraine — For 10 years, the rehabilitation center run by the Good News Church in Krasny Molochar in Sloviansk sheltered lost souls: people made homeless as a result of drug and alcohol addiction or other personal disasters, who wanted to rebuild their lives again. 

On May 20, Alexander Pugach, one of the remaining residents still there after three weeks of fighting around Sloviansk between the occupying Donetsk People’s Republic and the Ukrainian army, watched Russian-backed insurgent fighters drive up outside. They began firing machine guns and grenade launchers at the Ukrainian army position.

A man rebuilds a wall of a rehabilitation center in Sloviansk on Aug. 15. © Anastasia VlasovaA man rebuilds a wall of a rehabilitation center in Sloviansk on Aug. 15. © Anastasia Vlasova

The Ukrainians, of course, fired back.

“The army didn’t know there were civilians here,” Pugach says. He recalls how all the windows blew out. “The sky just exploded, it seemed like the end of the world, as if the sky was about to break open and Christ was going to appear.”

As soon as there was a break in the firing, Pugach and the others fled. Three days later a shell scored a direct hit, blowing a huge hole in the building.

A volunteer cooks lunch for the workers and dwellers of the center. © Anastasia VlasovaA volunteer cooks lunch for the workers and dwellers of the center. © Anastasia Vlasova

Nearly three months on, with Sloviansk under Ukrainian control since July 5, it is hard to believe the extent of the destruction — and reconstruction.

The roof has been completely repaired by volunteers, and new walls are going up rapidly. The center is providing shelter again for another kind of lost soul in search of new beginnings: people made homeless by eastern Ukraine’s disastrous collective conflict.

Sloviansk may be peaceful now, but the men sitting round the table in the center’s makeshift kitchen one day in August come from towns where fighting still rages, destroying lives and livelihoods.

Volunteers and workers eat lunch. © Anastasia VlasovaVolunteers and workers eat lunch. © Anastasia Vlasova

Ukrainian activist Bohdan Novak fled Donetsk when he was warned that he was on the separaists’ list of enemies to be tracked down and got rid of.

Alexander Syulokov spent four days in the cellar after a mine landed in their yard in rebel-occupied Krasny Luch. When the family escaped they had to beg for petrol as they reached Ukraine-controlled territory, because they had no money left. Alexander had left Horlivka the day before, driven out not so much by daily shelling as by the need to find work as he too ran out of money. And Roman, half his face obscured by cuts and bruising, had escaped militants in Donetsk who cut off his finger, stole his passport and threatened to press-gang him to dig trenches.

A wall inside the rehabilitation center in Sloviansk. © Anastasia VlasovaA wall inside the rehabilitation center in Sloviansk. © Anastasia Vlasova

These men tell their stories in breaks from labor.

Refugees from all over Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts arrive in Sloviansk daily, independently or evacuated by volunteers supported by local churches and foundations. Some move on to accommodation elsewhere; others are housed temporarily in holiday camps and hostels around Sloviansk. Many Ukrainians complain that these displaced people do not want to do anything to help themselves. But Novak, Syulokov, Alexander and Roman have come to the rehabilitation centre because they want to work.

“I’m here to learn what we will have to do later, in Krasny Luch,” says 22-year-old Syulokov, who says he hopes to start with rebuilding the family home, damaged when the mine blew up their car outside. “I hope Krasny Luch will be liberated soon and will be able to get back to life, just as Slovyansk was liberated and is a live, working town again.”

A volunteer cooks lunch for the workers and dwellers of the center. © Anastasia VlasovaA volunteer cooks lunch for the workers and dwellers of the center. © Anastasia Vlasova

Alexander from Horlivka did not want to give his last name for fear of reprisals from separatists in the prevalent atmosphere of suspicion and blame as fighting sets “separatist” against “nationalist,” neighbor against neighbour.

A 59-year-old miner, mostly he talks about his fears that the network of mines in Horlivka and Shakhtyarsk will flood and collapse if fighting continues. He went on working as long as he could, until his mine was forced to close because there was no electricity. Workers like him have received no salaries or pensions for months.

“I left because I had nothing to live on and I can’t rely on my mother, I have to pull my weight,” he says. His mother, son and divorced wife remain in the besieged town, where all post offices, banks and ATMs have long since closed. “I’ll stay here for now because people need to be helped, but all the same I’ll look for paid work too, because I’ve got to keep up with credit payments. If I’d had money, I wouldn’t have gone anywhere,” he says. “I’m a Horlivka patriot.”

Initial local support for the  when it appeared in April along with its Luhansk equivalent the LNR, was often a desperate protest at the closure of industry that left people here without any income or jobs to take pride in. But the DNR and LNR regimes have not provided jobs other than as fighters, either for their supporters or for those who tried not to take sides. Roman, who says he is one of the latter, was punished with utter brutality by the DNR for his simple desire to work and support his family.

Volunteers Ania and Sasha serve lunch. © Anastasia VlasovaVolunteers Ania and Sasha serve lunch. © Anastasia Vlasova

Roman, who was afraid to give his last name, worked in a Horlivka garage until DNR militants paid a visit to his boss in May. The boss closed the garage immediately and fled town. With two children to feed, Roman found a job in a garage in Donetsk.

Militants frequently ‘borrowed’ cars without paying. When Roman objected, he was taken to the DNR security headquarters. In the basement, the people who questioned him cut off his finger before letting him go.

Incredibly, Roman stayed in Donetsk and went back to work. He stopped going home at weekends, because he didn’t want his wife to know what had happened. “I understand there’s a war going on but I had to feed the family somehow,” he says. “I worked to the last, as long as I could I worked.”

‘The last’ came when militants paid a second visit. When Roman did not give them the keys to two cars, they beat him and said they would return next morning and take him to dig trenches.

He did not wait to find out if they would make good their threat; as soon as he regained consciousness he left. As well as the cars, the militants had taken all his documents; somehow he managed to get through a dozen DNR and Ukrainian army road blocks on his way to Slavyansk without being checked. Now he fears his stolen passport will be used to frame him for the theft of the cars.

No one can offer Roman or Alexander paid jobs so far in Slovyansk, where the economy is as damaged as the infrastructure. But at the rehabilitation centre there is plenty of work rewarded with food, accommodation, and friendship. “I don’t want to just hang around, I want to do something; help out,” Roman says. He hasn’t seen his family for two months; his children are in a camp in central Ukraine but his wife is still in Horlivka where she too is working, baking bread in one of the only supermarkets still open.

The rehabilitation center occupied the second floor of a former collective farm administrative building; the dilapidated first floor rooms – still adorned with murals of Marx, Engels and Lenin – were used for storage and workshops. As well as the structural damage, the building was completely looted of all furniture and appliances. Now both floors are going to be refurbished with funding from the Good News Church, providing accommodation for up to fifty refugees as well as the rehabilitation centre.

“Unhappiness helped us to happiness,” says Nona Sokolenko, quoting a Russian proverb as she describes how the restored building will be better than ever before. One of the rehabilitation centre’s original residents who survived the shooting on May 20, Nona came back to cook for the volunteers. Her room is a small airy oasis for plants salvaged from the wreckage and for a rescued kitten curled up on the bed. The gaping hole where the window should be looks out through trees to the highway where armoured vehicles drive past, Ukrainian flags flying.

With fierce fighting to the south around Donetsk and north in Luhansk region, the centre provides a refuge for ordinary people caught up in a war they cannot comprehend. When asked the reason for the conflict, or why neighbours who lived alongside each other all their lives suddenly took sides against each other, their only explanation is to blame distant ‘politics’ and ‘oligarchs’. But they are clear that they don’t want to take part in any more destruction.

“War is never good for ordinary people; no normal person wants war,” says Alexander. “I’m too old to be called up but I wouldn’t want to go and fight anyway. We’re all Slavs: Russians; Ukrainians. I’m Russian although I was born here and lived here all my life.”

Instead, they want to work towards rebuilding their region.

“I don’t know why I was on the (separatists’) wanted list; I’m not important, I don’t represent anything,” says Bohdan from Donetsk.

When the war started, fellow activists who fled Donetsk founded the emergency organisation Donbas SOS, or went to Kyiv and to Europe to speak out about the situation. “I decided my words couldn’t really influence anything, or other people can do that better than I can,” says Bohdan. “So I volunteered to work here. I’d never done building work before but I’m ready to learn new skills and do whatever needs to be done.”

Kyiv Post.