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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Day 1083: February 4, 2017

Publication: Ukraine Liveblogs
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
3 Ukrainian Soldiers Killed, 7 Wounded in 115 Attacks by Russia-Backed Militants; Lugansk Army Chief Killed

Russia-backed forces attacked Ukrainian positions today 115 times,and 3 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 7 wounded, reported, citing reports from the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) Facebook page.

On the Donetsk line, Russia-backed militants fired Grad mssiles on Galitsinovka. They used 152-mm and 122-m artillery as well as 120-mm and 82-mm mortar-launchers on Avdeyevka, Luganskoye, Troitskoye and Zaytsevo.

Tanks fired on Peski, Kamyanka, Avdeyevka, and Luganskoye; small arms were used on Zaytsevo.

On the Mariupol line, militants fired from Grads, 122-mm and 152-mm artillery on Talakovka. In attacks on Vodyanoye, Krasnogorovka, Novotroitskoye, Lebedinskoye, Pavlopol, Shirokino, Maryinka and Chermalyk, 82-mm and 120-mm mortar-launchers were used.

Militants fired on Gnutovo with grenade-launchers and a sniper fired on Pavlopol. A Bamp was used in an attack on Vodyanoye and Lebedinskoye; an anti-tank missile system was used to attack Chermalyk; and a BMP and tank were used on Shirokino.

On the Lugansk line, militants fired from 122-mm and 152-mm artillery and 82-mm and 120-mm mortar launchers on Troitskoye, Popasnyaya, Novoaleksandrovka and Novozanovka. Grenade-launchers and small arms were used on Krymskoye and Katerinovka. Grenade-launchers and a sniper fired on Stanitsa Luganskaya and Valuysk.

Anti-aircraft systems were used to fire on Troitskoye.

Shelling by the Russia-backed forces struck a 5-storey building in Avdeyevka were a mother with 5 children lived.

o Briefing in English on the Week's Battles by JCCC Rep 

The ATO has published a briefing from Maj.-Gen. Anatoliy Petrenko, the chief of the Ukrainian side  of the Joint Center for Coordination and Control, a body of Ukrainian and Russian military which has monitored the war zone. These aren't available so often in English, so the Ukrainians are conveying a serious turn for the worse.

Petrenko says that "extremely kinetic activity" began on the side of the Russia-backed forces on January 29 with attempts to penetrate Ukrainian defenses but Ukrainian forces were able to hold the line.

He noted the use of artillery and MLRS systems that are in "blatant" violation of Minsk agreements, with "massive use of tanks" in Peski, Spartak and environs, also a violation of the Minsk agreement. There was "extensive shelling of the town itself", he noted; Avdeyeva "is without electricity, running water, and heat for the 5th day in a row". A total of 9 civilians have been killed in the five days of fighting.

Authorities have been evacuating civilians from the town of some 20,000 people.

o Situation in Avdeyevka Quieter Today 

Anastasia Magazova, a reporter for Deutsche Welle (DW) described the situation in Avdeyevka today as "stable" in the sense that there was less shelling but "there is no electricity or water" and the heating in the morning "was weaker". 

"The night before and today have been quiet by comparison with the past five days," she said. 

Ситуация в Авдеевке стабильная.... - Anastasia Magazova | FacebookDetails... →
Feb 04, 2017 19:55 (GMT)

Magazova posted some footage of a Ukrainian woman playing her violin by the window, looking out on a snowy landscape with fighters on the horizon; she was reminiscent of the cellist in Sarajevo.

Radio Svoboda, the Ukrainian language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, said there was enough water to last 3-4 days from the local plant, according to the local state administrator. After that, the emergency services administration will have to begin supplying the area. Repairs have been under way but hindered by shelling.

Translation: militants fired on the Ukrainian electricians repairing the power line in Avdeyevka. 

Today, the Russian representatives in the JCCC issued a statement that the separatist side would abide by a ceasefire while the water line was repaired, reported, citing Pavel Zhebriskiy, the local administrator.

In Avdeyevka, 114 homes, 22 apartments and 4 garages have been damaged in shelling in the past week, along with the rail station.

o Shelling in Makeyevka

Meanwhile, in separatist-held Makeyevka adjacent to Donetsk, there were reports of armor on the move.

There were reports today of shelling and the aftermath of impacts in Makeyevka, a town to the east of Donetsk. These may have come from Ukrainian positions to the west although there was no confirmation.

Translation: #Makeyevka , Donetsk Ring Road, 18-41k "to the norther, more than 3 BTRs moving."

Translation: Makeyevka, 19.41 "pretty loud booms on the northern village.

There were reports of shelling there which may have come from Ukrainian positions: 

Translation: #Makeyevka , Chudskaya St., aftermath of shelling.

Translation: Khlebnikova St.

There have been reports on Twitter of townspeople in Makeyevka forcing the Russia-back militants to leave their housing areas as this was making them a target.

Translation: Yesterday morning, the orcs were in the center of a large housing complex 300 meters from a school, 300 meters from a hospital.
Translation: #Makeyevka #Vostochny Monolit district 02.02/17 -- but people worked amazingly, they really did force the militants out.

o How Fighting in Avdeyevka Started 

Ukrainska Pravda published an article today describing how the fighting began in Avdeyevka on January 29, citing a source in Ukrainian intelligence.

While placing mines near their positions, Ukrainian soldiers encountered a Russia-backed diversionary and reconnaissance group and fighting broke out. Capt. Andrei Kizilo, age 23, deputy commander of the mechanized battalion of the 72nd Separate Motorized Brigade, was forced to lead his men forward and take up a position the militants had held. He was killed in battle and awarded the Hero of Ukraine medal posthumously by President Petro Poroshenko.

The source said that the militants are now trying to get this strategic position back from Ukrainian forces  which they call "Almaz-2", since from this position, the roads from Donetsk to Lugansk and from Donetsk to Gorlovka can be controlled. published a map of this position

Set as default press image
2017-02-04 23:33:14
They also published a marked screenshot from Google maps here:
Set as default press image
2017-02-04 23:46:11

The source also said that another reason for the escalation in fighting was that the militants were trying to force back Ukrainian army from the borders of Donetsk. They also continue to try to seize the Donetsk water filter plant which Ukrainian forces hold.

The militants are also trying to shell the coke plant because the infrastructure not only of Avdeyevka but the operation of crucial plants in Mariupol and Zaporozhya depend on this coke plant.

He also noted that the militants are directly led by the Russian Federation and that the escalation began after the inauguration of US President Donald Trump.

The Ukrainian General Staff has also published a time-line for the events that began on January 29 at 4:30 am when 30 militants tried to storm the Ukrainian observation post, and were repelled. The ATO occupied the Almaz-2 position at 6:30 am that same day.

What followed then were numerous other attempts by the militants to storm Ukrainian positions. 

An article on a military discussion site describes the events somewhat differently, but it's important to understand the context leading up to that point: on January 29, the Ukrainian Army had lost at least 10 soldiers that week, and had suffered an offensive by Russia-backed militants, so they decided to mount a counter-offensive.

According to the account, the Ukrainians took control of the three highways joining Donetsk and Gorlovka and created a staging area for a possible offensive on Yasynovataya. The separatists then realized that they would not be able to get through these roads and would have to route around through Yasynovayata.

On the night of February 2-3, Ukrainian forces responded to Russia-backed shelling of Avdeyevka by striking an artillery nest hidden in Donetsk, apparently successfully. This would supposedly put the forces in a position to "storm Donetsk".

As points out:

In the situation which has formed today at the front, every hill taken back from the enemy, every stronghold or checkpoint is not only a place d'arms for further offensives but above all the opportunity to push back the occupation forces further to the East and to reduce thereby the intensity of the shelling of the front towns

Russian commentators believe the Ukrainian actions were "deliberately staged" to create a "show" for Poroshenko's visit to Germany to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel, although a step-up in attacks and the Russian offensive occurred before this and Poroshenko was forced to cut short his trip and return to Kiev due to the escalation of fighting.

o LNR Army Chief Killed in Car Bombing

Oleg Anashchenko, head of operations for the so-called "people's militia" or armed forces of the self-declared "Lugansk People's Republic" (LNR)  was killed today in a car explosion, Ukrainska Pravda reported

The  pro-Russian DNR News reported the explosion of a Toyota at 8:52 am Moscow time early on February 4 but had no information about casualties yet at that time:

o Phone Call Between Trump and Poroshenko

A scheduled phone call today between President Donald Trump and President Petro Poroshenko was eagerly awaited by those watching Ukraine to see if Trump would mention sanctions on Russia.  He didn't.

As with the read-outs by the White House and the Kremlin on the Trump-Putin phone call last week, the read-outs differed.

The White House press release doesn't say anything about "calling for an immediate cease-fire".

But Poroshenko stressed that this was discussed in the Bankova version of the phone call:

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick