On 11 June Ukrainians officially gain visa-free travel to the European Union. On the eve of this day, President Petro Poroshenko has said that he believes Ukraine will become a member of both NATO and the EU, he welcomed the visa-free regime as a final “goodbye” to the Russian empire. But the empire doesn’t let go of Ukraine so easily. At least 11 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in hostilities in the first 10 days of June, four of them perished yesterday, hours before the visa-free regime came into effect. Two civilians wounded in a frontline town yesterday. Meanwhile, Lithuania continues to treat wounded Ukrainian soldiers and the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny wants to withdraw Russian troops from the Donbas but doesn’t consider Crimea to be Ukrainian.
“Farewell, farewell, unwashed Russia”
On June 10, during the ceremony of the visa-free regime introduction between Ukraine and the EU, President Petro Poroshenko said: “This is a final “goodbye” to the Russian empire and the words “back in the USSR” will be heard only listening to Beatles.” Later in the evening of the same day, Poroshenko, in Russian, lines from the famous Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov:
Farewell, farewell, unwashed Russia,
The land of slaves, the land of lords,
And you, blue uniforms of gendarmes,
And you, obedient to them folks.
However, the Russian forces are not willing to say goodbye to Ukraine.
Meanwhile at the frontline
In the Eastern Ukraine, hostilities escalated on June 6. Until today, clashes escalate and cease in both the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.
On 6 June hostilities escalated in Luhansk Oblast near the village of Zholobok on the Bakhmut road, P-66 highway. Before the war, this highway connected Luhansk with Pervomaisk and Lysychansk. According to the Minsk-2 agreements, Zholobok is Ukrainian territory. But having destroyed the 31st checkpoint of the Ukrainian armed forces on the Bakhmut road in January 2015, the Russian-hybrid army occupied the settlement. Since then the village became an “Luhansk People’s Republic” (“LNR”) stronghold at a salient of the frontline.
On June 5, hostilities in Luhansk sector started after 14:00 and continued till late night. Russian-hybrid troops used mortars six times and barrel artillery once in the Krymske-Novotoshkivske frontline. They fired over 50 mortar rounds from several positions at once.
On 6 June, Russians escalated hostilities in all sectors, actively using large-caliber weapons. Unusually many attacks were conducted on Ukrainian positions in the area of Krymske, a Ukraine-controlled village facing occupied Zholobok. The ATO Staff reported: “In the area of Krymske and Novotoshkivske, militants held several heavy shellings using 120mm mortars and powerful 122mm and 152mm artillery systems.”
On 7 June, the Trilateral Contact Group on Donbas held its another meeting in Minsk.
From 6 a.m. on June 7, the Russian-hybrid forces started pounding at Ukrainian positions using 152mm artillery, 120mm and 82mm mortars. AGS automatic grenade launchers and SPG-9 cannons, TOW, heavy machine guns and assault rifles were also actively used against Ukrainians, the ATO HQ reported. The situation in the area of Bakhmut road (P-66 highway) as of 17:00 of June 7:
Two Ukrainian soldiers were killed in June 7 clashes, 11 more were wounded.
Yurii Butusov, the editor-in-chief of CensorNet online newspaper, wrote in his post on Facebook, referring to soldiers of the 93rd Brigade who participated in the battle and SBU servicemen in Lysychansk, that 19 soldiers were wounded on that day. However, Butusov’s figures are unconfirmed.
According to Butusov and Russian media, the Ukrainian army assaulted Zholobok on 7 June. The ATO Staff refutes this claim, stating that “in the course of the day, Russian-terrorist illegal armed formations attempted to capture the strongholds of the ATO forces, expanding their bridgehead near Zholobok.”
On the next day, June 8, Ukrainian troops reportedly incurred no casualties in the Donbas. On the next day, 2 soldiers were wounded. On June 10, 4 servicemen were killed in mortar bombardments, 3 of them due to a direct hit of a shell. Four soldiers sustained gunshot wounds, 3 more were injured in action in 73 attacks on Ukrainian positions.
— Liveuamap (@Liveuamap) June 11, 2017
Besides everyday attacks on Ukrainian positions in all sectors, residential areas of frontline cities were also attacked.
On 6 June about 18:30, the Russian forces attacked households in the village of Novoluhanske at Svitlodarsk bulge near the road to occupied Debaltseve using an anti-aircraft gun Zu-23-2. Reportedly, a household outbuilding was damaged on Kosmonavtiv Street. A barn, garage, and fence were hit on Michurina, roofing slate was broken. On Serhiyenka Street, a home and a cattle-shed were hit, some livestock was killed. No local resident was injured.
On 7 June, a residential house was hit on Manuilskoho Street in Zaytseve, a Ukraine-controlled settlement in north Horlivka. Shrapnel broke the roof. No one was injured.
Mariinka and Krasnohorivka
Ukraine-controlled southwest suburbs of Donetsk regularly come under shelling. Russian-hybrid forces attack Ukrainian positions near both towns every day. Sometimes the towns are also attacked amid hostilities.
On June 7 at 22:30, several shells hit the area of the school no.1 came in Krasnohorivka. Also, a household on Heolohichna Street was hit. Fortunately, civilians were not injured.
On June 8 about 13:00, residential neighborhoods of Mariinka came under fire, a 50-year-old woman got a shrapnel wound.
Overnight into June 10, a residential house on Zhovtneva Street in Marinka was hit, a 52-year-old man and 53-year-old woman got wounded.
— Glasnost Gone (@GlasnostGone) June 11, 2017
About 1 a.m. on June 10, four 122mm artillery shells hit Krasnohorivka.
In the evening of June 8, residential area of Sartana came under fire amid escalated hostilities. A grain truck and garages of state-owned agricultural enterprise Illich-Agro were damaged in a shelling. A gas pipe and gas distributing station were hit. Several projectiles hit the local cemetery. The building of the Border Service office was also damaged. Reportedly, no one was injured.
On June 11 about 18:00, tanks of DNR illegal armed formations shelled positions of the ATO forces near Avdiivka, residential neighborhoods also came under shelling. An explosion of 125mm shell has damaged 3 houses on Ostrovskoho Street. No one was injured.
Friends and foes behind the war
President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė met with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko in Kharkiv on June 9. According to Poroshenko, Lithuania was the first country to provide lethal weapons, ammunition, demonstrate its solidarity with Ukrainian people. 153 wounded Ukrainian servicemen underwent treatment in Lithuanian medical institutions. “Ms. President invited additional 50 Ukrainian warriors to receive high-quality and timely assistance in Lithuania,” Petro Poroshenko said. Grybauskaitė confirmed the position of Lithuania on the European sanctions imposed on Russia over its aggression against Ukraine, “The situation on the eastern borders is deteriorating, [Russia’s] demonstrative aggressive behavior is still retained, so there are no grounds for easing any sanctions,” the Lithuanian President said.
Meanwhile, on the same day, leader of Russian opposition Alexei Navalny said in his interview with Dozhd TV channel that two Ukrainian-Russian conflicts, Donbas and Crimea, are not adjacent issues for him. Becoming the president of Russia, he wants to fulfill the Russian part of Minsk deal to resolve the conflict in the Donbas, returning control of the Ukrainian border to Ukraine and withdrawing the Russian forces. But “there is no simple solution for the Crimean issue,” according to Navalny, he wants to hold another “normal, fair” referendum at the annexed peninsula. This is Mr.Navalny’s steadfast position since the occupation of Crimea by Russia. In one of his 2014 interviews, the Russian opposition leader said, “I think that despite the fact that Crimea was seized with egregious violations of all international regulations, the reality is that Crimea is now part of Russia.” Navalny emphasized then, “Let’s not deceive ourselves. And I would also strongly advise Ukrainians not to deceive themselves.”
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- Three years after sham referendums in Donbas, no Russian Spring
- Stages of Russian occupation in a nutshell