|A T-72BM tank photographed in eastern Ukraine|
as part of a tank convoy. Only Russia operates
this type of tank, BBC reports.
My Russian invasion timeline chronicles the latest stage in Russia's covert war on Ukraine. This post covers events from Aug. 25 to Nov. 3, 2014. For more recent events, see this post.
8 p.m.: Only 5 percent of Russians believe the Kremlin should send Russian soldiers to help the pro-Russian gunmen fighting the Kyiv government in Ukraine, says Russian daily Kommersant citing a survey of 1,000 Russians on Aug. 16 and 17.
1:49 p.m.: Twelve wounded Russian paratroopers from the 160th Guards Air Mobile Division have been flown for treatment to St. Petersburg's Kirov Military Medical Academy, Russia's TV Dozhd reports.
country... I consider this an invasion."
|One of several NATO satellite photos said to show|
Russian self-propelled artillery operating in Ukraine.
12:24 p.m.: Apart from over 1,000 regular soldiers, Russia has sent to Ukraine up to 100 main battle tanks, 80 armoured personnel carriers, 100 shoulder-launched missile weapons, 500 anti-tank weapons and more than 100 artillery pieces, The Guardian of London reports, citing UK's ambassador to the UN, Mark Lyall Grant.
Dann Fahrt in die Oblast #Lugansk . Wir erfahren, was der reale Zustand ist. Die Stadt ist voll von russischem Militär.
— Marieluise Beck (@MarieluiseBeck) September 6, 2014
|One of several satellite photos Amnesty|
International says show Russian artillery
in Ukraine "fuelling separatist crimes."
4:35 p.m.: Two assailants severely beat Ksenya Batanova, a host and producer at Russia's TV Dozhd, as she approached her apartment in Moscow, the independent Russian channel reports on its site.
combat... It's the professionals here now."
attire in Ukraine tells Reuters
1:27 p.m.: The Sept. 14 assault on TV Dozhd host and producer Ksenya Batanova in Moscow was one of 42 separate attacks on independent journalists, activists and opposition politicians in Russia in the first nine months of the year, Russian internet news outlet Slon.ru reports.
|Russia's sophisticated Pantsir air defence system,|
which Germany's Bild newspaper says Russia
has given Kremlin-backed militants in Ukraine.
|"Better to be active today... than radioactive tomorrow."|
Protesters at Moscow's "March for Peace" on Sept. 21
against the Kremlin's actions in Ukraine.
3:13 p.m.: Journalists in Russia investigating the deaths of Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine have faced violence, threats and arbitrary detention, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based press freedom watchdog.
9:30 p.m.: Top Putin foreign policy advisor Vladislav Surkov, said to be an architect of the Kremlin's covert war against Ukraine, "celebrated victory" over dinner in a Moscow restaurant with leaders of the Kremlin-backed militia fighting in Ukraine, writes former militia commander Igor Girkin in a social media post.
The diners were celebrating Ukrainian legislation that gives militia-held areas autonomy for three years, reported Russian online news outlet Newsru.com.
In other versions of this post, Girkin goes on to call Surkov a "modern-day Midas -- except that everything he touches (and that touches him) instantly turns to shit."
"Their bodies have been returned in recent weeks to loved ones who in many cases had no idea where they were sent to fight, have received little information about how they died and, in any event, are being pressured not to talk about it," says the story, which investigates how Russia is hiding the deaths of troops killed in combat in Ukraine.
"Some families have even been threatened with losing any compensation if they do."
Kremlin-backed militants plan to "reconsider" the Minsk ceasefire agreement this winter and launch an offensive against Ukrainian forces when rivers are frozen and "can't be an obstacle to the attacking side," says a post from the militia on its VKontakte social media page.
That's thanks to a constant influx of "volunteers" and unspecified "help" from Russia and "the possibility of virtually unlimited ammunition and fuel," says the post, titled "Perspectives of the army on a winter campaign."
"The army yearns for an attack on Kyiv...
"The influx of volunteers from Russia and other countries hasn't weakened. Through various 'methods,' Russia legalizes its help. Moreover, this help will be permanent through 'rotations,'" the post says, seemingly a reference to recently reported rotations of some Russian military units out of Ukraine and their replacement with fresh units.
"Readiness for a strategic offensive can be expected this winter... This will be the time to 'reconsider' the Minsk agreement."
Despite reports that the Kremlin has withdrawn some soldiers from Ukraine, nearly 300 Russian soldiers have died fighting in Ukraine since the Minsk ceasefire agreement came into effect on Sept. 5, Russian social activist Elena Vasilieva reports.
That brings the total Russian combat death toll in Ukraine to nearly 4,000, she says.
The total includes over 20 Russian soldiers from the 21st Motorized Rifle Brigade killed in artillery fire near the Ukrainian-held city of Debaltseve on Sept. 17, Vasilieva says on her blog. Nearly 40 members of the unit were wounded in the incident.
More details on how Russia is covertly sending soldiers to fight in Ukraine. Soldiers being sent to Ukraine are forced to sign an agreement saying they're voluntarily going on leave, without a specified starting date, Russian activist Elena Vasilieva tells Germany's Deutsche Welle.
"If they die, the commanders have a document they can backdate to say the person was on leave in an unknown location, and that's why the commanders aren't responsible for his whereabouts," she says.
Some soldiers also aren't told they're being sent to Ukraine, she says.
"Paratroopers returning from Ukraine told us they thought they were on a training exercise in Russian territory. They were tossed into a field, and it turned out they were in Ukraine, in the cauldron of a war."
Two blasts rocked Ukraine's second-largest city Kharkiv last night, The Interpreter Mag reports. The explosions -- one at the office of a local politician, the other at a bank ATM -- follow a grenade attack the previous night in Ukraine's largest port city, Odessa.
Both cities are well outside the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine. But The Interpreter Mag, which translates Russian-language media articles, reports videos and posters have appeared in recent days calling on Kharkiv residents to rally against the Ukrainian government.
Also this day, masked men calling themselves "Kharkiv partisans" appear in a YouTube video threatening the families of Ukraine interior minister Arsen Avakov and other government officials.
|Putin's "strategic goal" is to partition Ukraine, a|
former Putin aide says.
And Russian far-right leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the deputy speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament, candidly tells Germany's Bild newspaper that Ukraine "has no future" and will be largely partitioned by its neighbours by 2019.
Meanwhile, only 3 percent of Odessa and Kharkiv residents say they want their regions (where there are large Russian-speaking populations) to join Russia, versus 87 percent who want to stay in Ukraine, according to a recent Russian survey (English story on the results).
Also this day, Russian activist Elena Vasilieva says Russia used its so-called humanitarian convoys to transport back to Russia some of the bodies of the 4,000 Russian soldiers and mercenaries she believes were killed fighting in Ukraine.
At a press conference in Kyiv, she also says 8,000 Ukrainian soldiers died in the fighting -- far more than the confirmed death toll that Ukraine has reported.
At the height of the Russian intervention in late August, up to 30,000 Russian soldiers were in Ukraine, she says.
Seventy-four percent of Russian-language social media posts in Ukraine from Nov. 2013 to Feb. 2014 supported the Maidan protests against Ukraine's former president Yanukovych.
Fifty-two percent of social media posts in Russia backed the protests.
the fault of our government."
Also this day, two Ukrainian soldiers just released from militia captivity tell Reuters their unit was attacked near Ilovaisk, Ukraine, by troops from a Russian airborne assault battalion stationed in Kostroma, Russia, on Aug. 25.
Irena Timinu, wife of second lieutenant Zachar Timinu, says her husband "was not a volunteer" in Ukraine, but rather an active-duty officer.
"He was just following orders because there was no other choice, you understand," she says.
When a Russian TV channel called her saying they were investigating "Ukrainian media lies" about captured Russian soldiers who were actually alive at home, Timinu says she told the journalist: "I'd help you, but about the subject about Russian media lies... You've confused me with someone else. My husband died, and he died through the fault of our government."
Also this day, Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemiliev says "there is open discussion about the imminent start of military action against Ukraine from Crimea," the peninsula that thousands of Russian troops seized from Ukraine in March.
"We have observed a huge cluster of Russian military forces on the Crimean territory," he says.
|Source: The Washington Post.|
RBK compiled the list using reports of deaths of Russian servicemen in Ukraine. "There are a lot of holes in the official story that paratroopers died during training in (Russia's) Rostov district, while only volunteers went to (Ukraine's) Donbass," the story says.
"Russian soldiers on leave must inform their command where they will be, and going into a war zone in another country is illegal," RBK quotes a Russian human rights worker saying.
8:33 a.m.: Russian "howitzers, armored combat vehicles and multiple rocket launchers, which we believe may be destined for separatist forces, are continuing to depart from a deployment site near the Russian border," Geoffrey Pyatt, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, tweets.
Pyatt tweets satellite photos showing the heavy equipment at what is said to be a Russian training facility on Sept. 26, then gone two days later.
1/3 Howitzers, armored combat vehicles and multiple rocket launchers, pic.twitter.com/IcZF0qDAHj
— Geoffrey Pyatt (@GeoffPyatt) October 2, 2014
"A hundred went in (on the attack), 60 came back. The rest are dead or wounded," he says, blaming "ignorant commanders" in the militia for many of the losses.
Ninety percent of the gunman's unit is from Russia -- half from Siberia, the other half from the Ural mountain region. Only 10 percent are local residents.
The assault involved nearly 500 soldiers and gunmen, including a 60-man special forces unit, dozens of tanks and a huge artillery barrage launched from Makiyivka, a city 16 km to the east, he writes.
The first wave of attackers was beaten back with two tanks destroyed. In a second, larger attack, the paratroopers managed to seize the airport's old terminal, hotel, garage and part of a new terminal.
None of the paratroopers survived a Ukrainian counterattack, which managed to reestablish government control over the airport, the resident writes. "Not less than 200" attackers died. "No one returned alive from the new terminal. No one saw any of the special forces after that (their commander's body was later returned)."
Ukrainian forces have held the airport since the spring, fighting off near-daily attacks during the Minsk ceasefire.
.@OSCE_SMM statement ⬆︎ Photos in question: @OSCE_RFoM @mil_in_ua @DmitryTymchuk @hrw @HromadskeTV @NATOpress @NATO pic.twitter.com/wgOj5UFJk6
— Silver Surfer (@RobPulseNews) October 1, 2014
Meanwhile, Russian activist Elena Vasilieva advises Russians looking for missing soldier relatives to contact Ukrainian authorities and provide DNA to help identify their bodies in Ukrainian morgues.
|Russian military rations that Ukrainian|
volunteers say they found near
Thirteen have died (including seven civilians), and another 20 have been injured in the accidents. In a recent incident, on Sept. 21, drunken soldiers in an armoured vehicle fled from police for 4 km through the city of Rostov-on-Don, killing two local residents and damaging nine civilian vehicles.
Relatives have turned to social media for witnesses because the military hasn't investigated previous such accidents, RBK reports.
"A huge number of military vehicles" has appeared in the area, says a Russian taxi driver who lives on the border with Ukraine.
"Tanks, armoured vehicles, Urals and Kamazes (military trucks), artillery-towing vehicles, Grads (multiple-rocket launchers). Where it went and where it is now, I don't know. But almost every day from morning to evening you can see army vehicles going in both directions -- from the border and to the border."
Also this day, activist Oksana Gorelova from the group "Cargo 200 from Ukraine to Russia" publishes an updated list of 179 Russian soldiers killed in combat in Ukraine.
Most of the grave markers don't reportedly include a name and indicate the deceased as being aged 20 to 25 or 40 to 45, while the date of death is usually given as the summer or fall of 2014.
Also this day, Ukrainian officials and journalists are disputing the Kremlin's claims that it is pulling its 17,000 troops from the Ukraine border.
Meanwhile, UK journalist Oliver Carroll tweets that a Kremlin-backed militia official predicts the battle for the Donetsk airport will be over "within next few days" and that "new 'special divisions' [were] sent there."
He notes Russia may have sent the missing soldiers to fight in Ukraine and that they may have died in combat there.
Also this day, top NATO commander Philip Breedlove says Russia has not made any "major movement" to pull its troops from the Ukraine border and maintains a "very, very large force and a very, very capable force sitting on the border of Ukraine."
5:52 p.m.: Russian authorities have appealed to the country's supreme court to have Memorial, one of Russia's oldest human rights groups, "liquidated" due to alleged violations of the law and constitution, Reuters reports.
Memorial had spoken out about Russian soldiers' deaths in fighting in Ukraine.
7:58 p.m.: Russian authorities have searched the office of a soldiers' mothers group in St. Petersburg and detained its 73-year-old head on unspecified charges, Russia's TV Dozhd reports.
Lyudmila Bogatenkova's lawyer hasn't been able to reach her. Bogatenkova spoke out in August about Russian combat deaths in Ukraine (see above).
Bogatenkova is detained two days after signing a statement she won't leave town. She is hospitalized on Oct. 22 with heart trouble, The Moscow Times reports.
In September, Russia's Slon.ru internet news site documented 42 attacks on Russian journalists, activists and politicians this year -- many after criticizing Russia's covert war in Ukraine.
The BND rejects Russian claims that Ukraine shot down the plane and says the findings are "unambiguous," German newspaper Der Spiegel reports.
The Interpreter Mag offers this comment on the report.
Also this day, a Russian militant who has just returned from fighting in Ukraine tells Russia's Novaya Gazeta newspaper that 75 percent of Kremlin-backed gunmen are Russians.
Told that Russia claims not to be involved in Ukraine, he replies: "So who is sending the tanks and 'Grads' (rocket launchers) there? Are they appearing there all by themselves? Yes, the rebels are capturing some from the (Ukrainian) National Guard. But some still appear through another route."
The story also quotes a mother at the burial of her 18-year-old son near St. Petersburg, Russia. He died in Luhansk, Ukraine, fighting alongside Kremlin-backed militants on Oct. 10.
"I want more people to know how my son died -- how he was recruited, tricked, had his emotions played on... We won't keep this secret," she says.
"Maybe it will help other parents. Maybe it will save other children."
The family had to pay 20,000 rubles (USD $4,900) to transport the teenager's body from Rostov, Russia, the story says.
Also this day, Russian activist Elena Vasilieva estimates 4,360 Russian soldiers have died in combat in Ukraine, including virtually the entirety of two elite units -- the 22nd Guards Spetznaz Brigade and the 45th Separate Reconnaissance Regiment.
The death toll is nearly 1,000 higher than Vasilieva's mid-September estimate of 3,500 just after the Minsk ceasefire agreement was signed.
In a blog post, Vasilieva also links two "Cargo 200" interactive maps (and here) showing the communities the killed Russian soldiers came from.
Also this day, former Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski tells Politico.com that Putin tried to convince Poland to help dismember Ukraine.
"He wanted us to become participants in this partition of Ukraine," Sikorski says. "Putin wants Poland to commit troops to Ukraine. These were the signals they sent us... We have known how they think for years.
"This was one of the first things that Putin said to my prime minister, Donald Tusk, when he visited Moscow. He went on to say Ukraine is an artificial country and that Lviv is a Polish city and why don't we just sort it out together. Luckily Tusk didn't answer. He knew he was being recorded...
"We made it very, very clear to them -- we wanted nothing to do with this."
"We're Russian military servicemen," they say by way of introduction.
The men all wore identical recent-issue green camouflage Russian military uniforms -- unlike the motley dress of local gunmen, Weaver writes.
They had been in the city for about a month and were sent there to "train the local population," one soldier identifying himself as Maxim says.
"No one sent us here. We're volunteers," Maxim says. "They gave us an order: Who wants to go volunteer? And we put our hands up like this," he says, meekly raising his hand in mock compliance.
|Destroyed T-72s photographed in a militant-held |
area near Donetsk are evidence of Russian
involvement in Ukraine, Reuters reports.
One of the tanks is a Russian-made T-72BM, a variant of the tank that Russia is not known to have exported or operated outside Russia, four experts say.
The second tank is either a T-72BM or T-72B1, the experts say. The latter variant is also not believed to be in active service in Ukraine, undermining claims of Moscow-backed militants that they captured all their tanks from Ukrainian forces, the story says.
A similar photo has appeared before. On Aug. 27, the BBC published a photo of a T-72BM in a militant tank convoy in eastern Ukraine, saying it was evidence of Russian military involvement in Ukraine.
4:52 p.m.: Vladimir Putin has signed into law a bill granting a military pension equal to $350 a month to families of Russian soldiers missing in action, The Moscow Times reports.
A senior legislator says the Russian legislature is seeking to extend the benefits to "volunteers" fighting in Ukraine.
But the new law essentially allows pensions for the families of soldiers who disappear in Ukraine, "as long as those families keep silent that the soldiers may have gone missing in action in Ukraine," the story says.
"It's not a secret to anybody that leading Russian television companies resort to various falsifications when covering the Ukrainian crisis. The authors of those falsifications share the responsibility for the blood that is being shed in the brotherly country," the Congress of Intelligentsia Against War, Self-Isolation of Russia and Restoration of Totalitarianism says in an open letter.
armed forces to block Ukrainian
soldiers stationed in Crimea."
2:19 p.m.: Russian president Vladimir Putin acknowledges Russian troops blocked Ukrainian military units in Crimea before a rigged March referendum that Putin used to explain his seizure of the Ukrainian peninsula.
"I won't hide the fact that we used our armed forces to block Ukrainian soldiers stationed in Crimea," Putin is quoted saying on Russia's Gazeta.ru news site.
In the days before the referendum, Putin insisted that the thousands of heavily armed soldiers without insignia who had flooded into Crimea were "local self-defence units."
A reporter asked Putin if the people blocking Ukrainian army units in Crimea wearing what appeared to be Russian army uniforms were Russian soldiers.
Putin replied that such uniforms could be bought in a store.
"But were they Russian soldiers or not?" a reporter asked.
"Those were local self-defence units."
last two weeks."
The video, uploaded today on YouTube, coincides with Ukrainian interior ministry claims that Moscow-backed militants may stage attacks that can be blamed on Ukrainian forces.
The claims come amid reports of dozens of militant tanks and armoured vehicles massing in Donetsk near the Ukrainian-held airport, possibly in preparation for an attack to coincide with tomorrow's Ukrainian parliamentary election.
The columns include nearly 20 tanks spotted moving into Ukraine from the Izvarine border crossing, the site says. Russian military vehicles and troops have previously crossed here into Ukraine.
Another column of 100 military trucks was seen passing through Torez, closer to Donetsk.
A source close to the Moscow-backed militants tells the site they vow "a difficult Monday" for Ukrainian forces.
At #Donetsk-#Russia border today, slow flow of vehicles sans ID plates driven by camo-clad men, 20+ convoy of trucks pic.twitter.com/JYZ44tH958
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) October 27, 2014
Russian newspaper Novata Gazeta asks Oleg Tsariov, a leader of the Moscow-backed militants in Ukraine, if the Kremlin supports his goal of taking over additional parts of Ukraine
"If Moscow didn't support us, we wouldn't last two weeks," he says.
The warning is over an interview about the battle for the Donetsk airport with Los Angeles Times reporter Sergey Loiko and Echo Moscow reporter Timur Oleksy, who recently visited the airport.
The station was forced to remove a transcript from the site, but it's available here at Liga.net (Russian) and in an English translation here (scroll down to the ninth post).
A huge influx of Russian regular troops has been noted in eastern Ukraine, they say. The assault would begin after a "provocation" staged to make it appear as a Ukrainian attack, they add.
Russia has sent thousands of troops into Ukraine in the past two days along with hundreds of tanks, armoured vehicles and anti-aircraft systems, increasing by 10-fold the number of its forces there, Ukrainian security officials say.
"Almost all the Russian Federation forces that were near the border have entered Ukraine," the site Ukraine News Today reports, citing the Ukrainian government's anti-terrorist centre.
NATO said in late September 20,000 Russian troops were stationed near Ukraine's border (see above).
The news coincides with journalist and eyewitness reports today (see also here) of massive military convoys moving through areas held by Moscow-backed militants of eastern Ukraine toward frontline zones.
The Russian forces include 110 to 115 tanks, 250 to 280 armoured personnel carriers and 80 to 100 artillery pieces, he says.