The U.S. Department of State (DoS) has released a statement on its official blog, compelling Russia to engage in a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Ukraine and refrain from further assistance of agression. In the post, the State Department sees no evidence that Russia has waned in actively supporting the separatist factions, and compels the country to “stop destabilizing Ukraine and occupying Crimea, a part of Ukraine’s territory.”
[quote]We assess that Russia continues to provide them with heavy weapons, other military equipment and financing, and continues to allow militants to enter Ukraine freely. Russia denies this, just as it denied its forces were involved in Crimea — until after the fact.[/quote]
The statement goes further, expounding on and updating the situation in Rostov where previous reports by the Department and NATOexposed a buildup of main battle tanks and other heavy equipment being delivered to Russian militants in Ukraine.
The DoS says it is ‘confident’ that the Russian government is mobilizing even more tanks from old stock to the Rostov deployment site, and that tanks, artillery, and multiple rocket launchers have already been delivered – several of which were transferred this past weekend alone.
It also says that the number of vehicles at the site is ever increasing (roughly doubling) and that more advanced air defense systems are beginning to arrive. This of course would mark a departure from the previously listed Soviet-era stock. Separatist recruitment efforts have also stepped up, and are now seeking out volunteer operators to man these very air defense systems.
Recruitment of militants to fight in Ukraine is ongoing opposite its border, with the DoS explicitly stating that “Russia has allowed officials from the “Donetsk People’s Republic” to establish a recruiting office in Moscow,” while pointing out that many separatist leaders “hail from Russia and have ties to the Russian government.”
[quote]This all paints a telling picture of Russia’s continued policy of destabilization in eastern Ukraine.[/quote]
Tag this story #nofilter – over the weekend, social media was atwitter over images purportedly showing a Russian BTR-80 armored personnel carrier being waved through a border checkpoint.
What makes this story more interesting than usual (as dozens of heavy vehicles from Russia have bled through the border in recent weeks) is that the photos were allegedly snapped by the brazen Russian customs agent waving it through – who also thought it a good idea to snap a selfie for good measure.
The Instagram account under the name Artem_Karat (which has now been deleted or deactivate) indicated in its geolocation to be at the Donetsk border post (Donetsk, Russia; adjacent to Luhansk region), and description eluded it to possibly being uploaded by a co-worker (“My job while I’m on vacation”). Hashtags or the images included (translated for convenience): #Customs, #Border, #Putin, #Luhansk, #RostovOblast, #War, and #RussianFederation.
National Security and Defence Council (RNBO) spokesman Andriy Lysenko told reporters today that Russian military had entered 3km into Luhansk region, which he suspected was to establish a corridor into the region for mercenaries and equipment to pass. Troop movements were said to have traversed the village of Heyivka, in Stanytsia-Luhanska county, north of Luhansk city which remains occupied by Russian-backed militants. Lysenko’s account has not been independently verified at this time.
A public organization claiming to have eyewitness accounts verified to UNIAN the presence of troop movements elsewhere in Luhansk region, saying that a large column of personnel transports, armored vehicles and tanks flying Russian Federation flags and bearing the markings of the Russian armed forces passed through Sukhodilsk, dividing en route to Luhansk city in the north or to either Sverdlovsk or Izvaryne in the south – Ukrainian forces had recently retaken the Izvaryne border checkpoint.
A rocket strike has killed dozens of Ukrainian servicemen in the Armed Forces and State Border Guards in an attack that took place on the morning of July 11 near the Russian border in the southern Luhansk region.
At 4:30 am, Russian-backed militants unleashed a rocket salvo on Ukrainian forces, targeting a motorized brigade from Lviv near the town of Zelenopillia, located on a highway south of Luhansk city. The attack is said to have been conducted using BM-21 Grad multiple-rocket launcher vehicles.
According to preliminary reports, the militants unleashed the attack from a distance 15 km – Zelenopillia is located 9km from the Russian border. Ukrainian forces are said to have responded with an airstrike.
Conflicting death toll
The press service of the Ministry of Defense had initially reported that 19 were killed, while a Ministry of Internal Affairs advisor earlier stated that up to 30 had been killed in the attack. Vladislav Seleznev, spokesperson for the ongoing Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO), responded to these reports on Facebook, clarifying that that instead 23 had died and 93 remained wounded.
“For every life of our soldiers the rebels will pay with tens and hundreds of their own. Not a single terrorist will escape responsibility, each will get his comeuppance,” said President Poroshenko in response to the incident.
Russian-backed militants concentrated in Luhansk and Donetsk have shown an increasing display of armored vehicles, including tanks and surface to air missile systems in recent days as they prepare for the Ukrainian military advance to liberate occupied cities.
Military commander of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Russian operative Igor “Strelkov” Girkin has made a public plea to the people of Donetsk, calling to ‘severely punish’ his men for committing “serious crimes and banditry” in an attempt to save face following the city’s increased occupation by his militia.
“I ask the people of Donetsk for understanding of what people arrived here, who for months lived in a state of stress and deadly threat. Not all of the men were prepared to enter a peaceful city after being in the trenches,” he said.
[quote]”Perpetrators of such crimes will immediately be court martialed, regardless of their relationship to the militia.”[/quote]
After retreating en masse from Sloviansk and Kramatorsk and ceding the key cities to Ukrainian forces, Strelkov’s militia took up positions in Donetsk, the region’s largest city and capital. Looting had already been a problem in the past for Donetsk, with members of the Vostok Battalion from Russia seizing the Regional State Administration building and detaining offenders from the Donbass People’s Militia.
‘Strelkov’ has been described by Ukraine’s security service as a Russian colonel and resident of Moscow. He is currently a target of European Union sanctions, and was named by the EU’s Official Journal to be on the staff of the Russian foreign military intelligence agency (GRU), and a key figure involved in the military takeover of Crimea as an assistant on security matters to Sergei Aksyonov, Crimea’s self-declared prime minister.
[quote style=”boxed”]”It will be much more difficult to resume negotiations. Such are the laws of war.”[/quote]
“Having interrupted the truce, President Petro Poroshenko made a dramatic mistake. This will lead to new victims, but now he will be personally responsible for them,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev publicly posted today on his Facebook page.
Representatives of self-declared Donetsk and Lugansk People’s republics signed a joint document at a session of its Supreme Soviet, declaring the “Constitutional Act of the confederal merger of the DRP and LPR into a Union of People’s Republics.” Separatist leaders announced that their republics will be rebranded “People’s Union Republics,” acting in a new Soviet-styled “Union of People’s Republics.” The two ‘Union Republics’ would then form what they call “New Russia.”
“Today members of the DPR Supreme Council voted for a single constitution of New Russia. It means that the DPR and LPR will share the same constitution,” prime minister of the Donetsk Republic, Alexander Borodai, said. Borodai is a Russian citizen with ties to anti-semitic organizations.
Evidence over the past several days illustrating the motivations behind Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine has been mounting. While some have, indeed, been driven by revanchist ideology (with one famously telling TIME that they were simply conquering “historically Russian lands”), the source of these groups’ financing has been more difficult to trace than the source of their weapons in lieu of a paper trail. This week has, however, seen three illuminating examples of the financial motivations of those recruited.
On June 19, The Interpreter published an investigation, discussing the motivations of those involved in the battle for Donetsk International Airpot. The article discusses one, Yevgeny Korolenko, a rifleman and veteran of the Soviet war in Afghanistan:
He was a mechanic by training who had a job in some friends’ computer repair shop as a delivery man until they were unable to pay him. His wife speculated that perhaps his shortage of funds could have pushed him into volunteering for Donetsk, although he didn’t speak of it.
Two days later the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) published a video confession of a mercenary claiming to have been contracted by Russia’s KGB successor agency – the Federal Security Service (FSB). The man in the confessional says he was acting on a $1,000 bounty for every Ukrainian officer killed (and $300 for soldiers).
Today, the Moscow Times published an article citing well-known journalist Olga Romanova, describing another insurgent who was also killed in action during the same battle in Donetsk as Korolenko:
Four other young men from Ivanovo died with him. I asked his parents why he went there. Their reply was grotesque: ‘He wanted to pay off some loans …'”
While the number of professional, heavily armed Russian soldiers mounts in Ukraine, so too is the evidence behind the financial motivations of those fighting there – shaping the war to be less a result of ad hoc extremism, but instead rather that of a state-financed proxy war.
Ukrainian intelligence produced and presented a dossier of photographsto the OSCE last week. The images, and official accusations, point to Russian “sabotage-reconnaissance groups” being involved in the recent armed insurgency in eastern Ukraine – Donetsk region specifically. According to a New York Times article, the photos and their descriptions were “endorsed by the Obama administration,” but who are these men? With the power of crowdsourcing, but mostly with the power of social networking and public profiles, the identities of a series of Russian insurgents in Donetsk have been uncovered. Men have been comparing the size of their guns since the invention of gunpowder, and thankfully these few decided to flaunt just that. Publicly. On the internet.
Another point of interest is the insignia seen on a number of the gunmen. For clarity’s sake, the symbol is that of Andrei Shkuro‘s ‘Terek Wolf Company’, a detachment of White emigre Cossacks who fought for Nazi Germany during the second world war.
So who is involved in the Ukrainian invasion? Let’s take a look.